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Overview

Spread out over 380,000 acres, Bangkok can be a navigational challenge, and not just because it lacks hills, natural landmarks, or a definitive downtown: Spellings also vary by map, streets change names along the way, and it's more common to use familiar sights to find your way than addresses. Divided into 50 districts in principle, the city can be loosely broken down into a few sections worth visiting. Most of what Bangkok has to offer lies east of the Chao Phraya River, starting with the manmade island of Rattankosin (a.k.a. the Old City), where you'll find the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and the National Museum. Today, the royal household is located further north in Dusit, with its wide avenues, refined buildings and scenic park. Bordering the Old City is Banglamphu, site of backpacker hub Khao San Road and artsy Phra Athit Road. Further south are the foreigner's quarters: Chinatown with its winding, narrow streets and small shops, Little India, and the former European enclaves Bangrak and Sathorn (also known as Silom), where you'll find commercial buildings, elegant hotels like the Oriental, and nightlife, including a happening gay scene along Soi 2 and Soi 4 and the famously seedy red-light district, Patpong. Shoppers head further east to Pathumwan, where the Skytrain connects Bangkok's massive shopping malls. Venturing even further out, you come to the Sukhumvit area, arguably the most cosmopolitan of Bangkok, and a place to find high-end shops, restaurants and entertainment.

WHEN TO GO


Avoid the rainy season, between June and October, when the humidity can be unbearable. Bangkok is wonderful for winter sun during the months of November through January, when temperatures are at their lowest (68-90 ºF). Starting in February, the humidity starts to swell again and the heat climbs back up into the nineties.

HOW TO GET THERE


Suvarnabhumi International Airport is about 15 miles north of the city (66-2-132-1888; www2.airportthai.co.th). Most flights leave from either Los Angeles or New York. Thai Airways runs the only nonstops; other airlines connect through Hong Kong, Beijing, or Tokyo. Taxi is the best way into the heart of the city and fares run about $12 plus expressway tolls. There is also a car rental service counter at the airport's Public Transportation Center and buses that run to the city—just be aware that not all of them are air-conditioned (66-2-460-973; www.bmta.co.th/en/index.php).

GETTING AROUND


Most folks get around by taxis, which are cheap (about $1 for the first 2 miles, fifteen cents for every half mile thereafter), or the little three-wheeled tuk-tuks, which are even cheaper, though very noisy (and, since the sides are open, a great way to suck in plenty of Bangkok's thick pollution. Agree upon tuk-tuk fares in advance and avoid those that claim to be free or sponsored by the "tourism ministry"—they're part of an elaborate scam and instead of bringing you to your destination, they will take you disreputable jewelry shops where they receive commissions from the owners. If you're looking for a way out of a traffic jam (and if you're up for an adventure), motorcycle taxis are also an option, and the cheapest one at that—once again though, bargain before you jump on board.

River taxis and ferries ply the waters of the Chao Praya River from 6 a.m. until 6:40 p.m. and, given the city's torturous roads and snarled traffic, are often the quickest way to get from one neighborhood to the next. To explore the back canals, or khlongs, hire a long-tailed boat (66-2-623-6143; www.chaophrayaboat.co.th).

There are also Sky Train and subway routes which run from 6 a.m. until midnight. Sky Train is a fast and safe way to get around Sukhumvit and Silom (66-2-617-7340; www.bts.co.th/en/btstrain.asp), and the subway also connects many top attractions, hotels, markets, and business districts (66-2-354-2000; www.bangkokmetro.co.th/en/home.asp). Buses provide another transportation option, including limited all-night circuits (66-2-246-0973; http://www.bmta.co.th/en/index.php).

TOURIST INFO


TOURIST INFO

Bangkok Tourist Division
17/1 phra Athit Road
Phra Nakhon
Bangkok
10200
Thailand
Tel: 66 2 225 7612
Fax: 66 2 225 7615
info@bangkoktourist.com

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
1600 New Phetchaburi Road
Makkasan
Ratchathewi
Bangkok
10400
Thailand
Tel: 66 2 250 5500
Fax: 66 2 250 5511
center@tat.or.th

Closes at 4:30 p.m. daily.


4 Ratchademnoen Nok Road
Pom Perb Sattru Phai
Bangkok
10100
Thailand
Tel: 66 2 283 1500 x1620

Closes at 4:30 p.m. daily.


Suvarnabhumi Airport Arrival Floor, Domestic
Tel: 66 2 132 1888

Closes at 10 p.m. daily.


Suvarnabhumi Airport, Arrival Floor, International
Tel: 66 2 132 1888

Closes at 10 p.m. daily.

View Thailand Factsheet
Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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