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  • gold-Buddha-Bangkok - A golden shrine to the Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Thailand-floating-market - The floating market in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Azamara-Bangkok-ThaiShow - Take in new cultures with the Bangkok Thai show aboard an Azamara cruise ship.
  • Azamara-Bangkok-ThaiShow-2 - Elegant dancers offer a glimpse into Thai culture with the Bangkok Thai show on board an Azamara cruise.
  • bangkok-restaurant-sala-rim-naam-dancers - Dancers perform at the Sala Rim Naam restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok.
  • bangkok-restaurant-riverside-terrace - Watching the action along the Chao Phraya river at dusk at the Riverside Terrace, part of the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok.
  • bangkok-restaurant-le-normandie - The dining room at Le Normandie, inside Mandarin Oriental, offers scenic views of the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok.
  • bangkok-ban-noi-free-standing-pavillion - The Baan Noi River Lounge at Oriental Mandarin in Bangkok.
  • Dhammakaya-Pagoda - The Dhammakaya Pagoda at Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Just north of Bangkok, it's the world’s biggest Buddhist temple.
  • Thailand-temple-of-the-emerald-buddha - The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • bangkok-at-night.jpg - Bangkok at night, as seen from the top of the Banyan Tree Hotel.
  • Bangkok1.jpg - Downtown Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Bangkok2.jpg - Getting around downtown Bangkok by rapid transit is easy.
  • Hua-Hin-Thailand.jpg - Hua Hin Beach in northern Thailand.
  • Sukhothai-Thailand.jpg - Sukhothai Historical Park in Sukhothai, Thailand.
  • Wat-Arun-Bangkok.jpg - Wat Arun (known as Temple of the Dawn) in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Thailand-ko-racha-phuket - Koh Racha Island in Phuket Province, Thailand.
  • Thailand-diving - A school of red-tailed butterfly fish in Thailand.
  • Thailand-golf-1 - A lush golf course in Thailand.
  • Thailand-surin-beach_phuket - Surin Beach on Phuket, Thailand.
  • Thailand-patong-beach_phuket - Patong Beach on Phuket, Thailand.
  • Thailand-diving-3 - A lionfish is spotted while scuba diving in Thailand. They're gorgeous — but a menace to local sealife.
  • Thailand-diving-4 - A scuba diver finds a coral garden off the coast of Thailand.
  • Thailand-Star-Clipper.jpg - The Star Clipper in the waters of Phuket, Thailand.
  • beach-Patong-Phuket-Thailand.jpg - Patong Beach, Phuket, in southern Thailand.
  • beach-Koh-Samui-Thailand.jpg - Samui Beach near Koh Samui, Thailand.
  • Azamara-Bangkok-ThaiShow - Take in new cultures with the Bangkok Thai show aboard an Azamara cruise ship.
  • Azamara-Bangkok-ThaiShow-2 - Elegant dancers offer a glimpse into Thai culture with the Bangkok Thai show on board an Azamara cruise.
  • Thailand-golf-1 - A lush golf course in Thailand.
  • Thailand-golf-8 - Thailand is renowned for its scenic golf courses.
  • Thailand-ko-racha-phuket - Koh Racha Island in Phuket Province, Thailand.
  • Thailand-mayabeach_krabi1 - Maya Bay in Krabi Province, Thailand.
  • Thailand-mayabeach_krabi2 - Maya Bay in Krabi Province, Thailand.
  • Thailand-pra-that-doi-suthep - Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a Theravada Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai Province, Thailand.
  • Thailand-surin-beach_phuket - Surin Beach on Phuket, Thailand.
  • Thailand-patong-beach_phuket - Patong Beach on Phuket, Thailand.
  • gold-Buddha-Bangkok - A golden shrine to the Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Dhammakaya-Pagoda - The Dhammakaya Pagoda at Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Just north of Bangkok, it's the world’s biggest Buddhist temple.
  • dragon-figurine-Thailand - A golden dragon figurine in Thailand.
  • Thailand-temple-of-the-emerald-buddha - The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • bangkok-at-night.jpg - Bangkok at night, as seen from the top of the Banyan Tree Hotel.
  • Thailand-Star-Clipper2.jpg - The Star Clipper sails in a gorgeous bay in Thailand.
  • Thailand-Star-Clipper.jpg - The Star Clipper in the waters of Phuket, Thailand.
  • Thailand-Star-Flyer.jpg - Star Flyer in Thailand.
  • Bangkok1.jpg - Downtown Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Bangkok2.jpg - Getting around downtown Bangkok by rapid transit is easy.
  • Hua-Hin-Thailand.jpg - Hua Hin Beach in northern Thailand.
  • Buddha-Koh-Samui-Thailand.jpg - Wat Phra Yai golden Buddha in Koh Samui, Thailand.
  • beach-Patong-Phuket-Thailand.jpg - Patong Beach, Phuket, in southern Thailand.
  • beach-Koh-Samui-Thailand.jpg - Samui Beach near Koh Samui, Thailand.
  • Sukhothai-Thailand.jpg - Sukhothai Historical Park in Sukhothai, Thailand.
  • Wat-Arun-Bangkok.jpg - Wat Arun (known as Temple of the Dawn) in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • Thailand-diving-2 - Harlequin shrimp found in the waters of Thailand.
  • Thailand-diving - A school of red-tailed butterfly fish in Thailand.
  • Thailand-diving-3 - A lionfish is spotted while scuba diving in Thailand. They're gorgeous — but a menace to local sealife.
  • Thailand-diving-4 - A scuba diver finds a coral garden off the coast of Thailand.
  • Thailand-floating-market - The floating market in Bangkok, Thailand.

Thailand travel guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

 
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With its golden temples, monks in marigold robes and taxi cabs in candy-colored hues, Bangkok, a teeming city of 11 million, is a visual kaleidoscope. Its high-rise buildings, traffic congestion, intense heat and naughty nightlife do not immediately impart a warm welcome, but don't let first impressions mislead you. Bangkok is one of Asia's most cosmopolitan cities, with magnificent palaces, navigable canals, busy markets, fabulous food and a vibrant nightlife that has something for everyone.

There's plenty for visitors to see outside of Bangkok, too. Phuket, the country's largest island, on the southwest coast of Thailand, has become an international tourist magnet, with great beaches, diving and golf. 

Cruise ships that call on Bangkok (Laem Chabang)

Cruise ships generally call on the port of Laem Chabang two hours south of Bangkok, and travelers reach Bangkok by bus or shuttle. Smaller ships dock at Klong Toey on the Chao Phraya River on the outskirts of Bangkok. 

River cruise ships that call on Bangkok

Top reasons to go

  • Fabulous Buddhist temples adorned with priceless statues, murals and other art
  • Intriguing shops and markets
  • Delicious Thai fare, including street food
  • Thai culture!
The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.
Courtesy of Tourism Authority of ThailandThe Temple of the Emerald Buddha is on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.

Top things to do & see

Wat Phra Kaeo

Wat Phra Kaeo, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is Bangkok’s most sacred site. It is guarded by fantastic, enamel-encrusted statues of fearsome creatures, while its interior is a marvel of gold work and murals. Its focal point is a small green Buddha carved of priceless jade and adorned in golden costumes that change according to the season.

Wat Arun

Wat Arun, Temple of Dawn, is a landmark on the Chao Phraya River that bisects Bangkok. It is visited on most river tours. 

Dam Saduak Floating Market

Long-tail boats are piled with produce in the highly photogenic Damnoen Saduak Floating Market outside of Bangkok.

Jim Thompson House

The Jim Thompson House museum belonged to its namesake, an American businessman who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s, raising thousands out of poverty and popularizing the deep jewel tones, color combinations and patterns that are still the signature of textiles that bear the company name. Thompson disappeared in Malaysia in 1967. The house is made up of several historic Thai structures and furnished with art treasures.

Bangkok National Museum

The Bangkok National Museum features a top collection of Southeast Asian art and many items pertaining to Thailand’s history and culture.

Chinatown

Chinatown is Bangkok’s oldest residential neighborhood. It features an intriguing maze of alleyways, temples, herb shops and markets such as the Thieves Market and Flower Market.

Shopping 

Bangkok is a shopping wonderland where you can find jewelry, silks, textiles, lacquerware, bronzes, baskets, masks and a host of other handicrafts from villages throughout Thailand. On Saturdays and Sundays, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is the place to be, with its 35 acres of stalls brimming with everything from antiques to live birds. The city’s most popular shopping areas are along Silom and Surawong roads and around Siam Square. If you'd like a custom-made piece of clothing, bring a pattern with you from the U.S. 

The floating market in Bangkok, Thailand.
Courtesy of Tourism Authority of ThailandThe floating market in Bangkok, Thailand.

Best bets for dining

Bangkok presents myriad ways to enjoy Thai cuisine, which is distinguished by pungent flavors derived from spices, curry pastes, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chiles and other ingredients. Some of the best eateries are casual and inexpensive. At Lek Seafood, for example, you’ll find dishes like spicy crab salad and catfish with toasted rice. Ban Khun Mae is  known for its water-chestnut dumplings in coconut syrup. For regional specialties served in a century-old house with a lovely outdoor terrace, head to The Local

Family-friendly options

Dusit Zoo is a small, charming zoo that features such rare creatures as the Komodo dragon and Sumatran rhinoceros. It also has Thai elephants that children can ride.

Don’t miss

Wat Pho, Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is Bangkok's largest temple. Its focal point is a massive, 150-foot sculpture of a reclining Buddha covered in gold and inlaid with mother of pearl. The temple is part of a compound that includes a school of traditional massage where visitors can book appointments. 

Best time to go

Bangkok is nearly always hot, with the highest average temperatures of any city in the world, according to the World Meteorological Association. The coolest and driest period is between November and February, when temperatures average about 85° F. The hottest period is between April and August, and the rainy season is between June and October.

Fun facts

  • It is against the law to not wear underwear in Bangkok.
  • The King of Thailand is so respected (and apparently self-serious) that it is illegal to say anything negative about him or to laugh at one of the pictures of him displayed throughout Bangkok.
  • Bangkok is the world’s most visited city, according to the Global Cities Destinations Index. It receives about 16 million visitors a year.
Elegant dancers offer a glimpse into Thai culture with the Bangkok Thai show on board an Azamara cruise.
Jenna Lynn Pimentel / Courtesy of Azamara Club CruisesElegant dancers offer a glimpse into Thai culture with the Bangkok Thai show on board an Azamara cruise.

When you arrive

Docking information

When calling at Bangkok, cruise ships usually dock at Laem Chabang, about two hours south of the city. Most lines offer a round-trip transfer into Bangkok via motorcoach. Smaller ships sometimes dock just outside the city at Klong Tey.

Getting around

Taxis are plentiful in Bangkok and can be hailed from the street. The motorized, three-wheeled vehicles called tuk-tuks are another option, but the ride can be unpleasant and nerve-wracking in Bangkok’s heavy, pollutant-laden traffic. A good way to visit sites along the river is by taking the Chao Phraya Express Boat, which offers hop-on, hop-off service.

Need to know

Documents: Foreign visitors will need a valid passport. A visa is not required for stays of 30 days or less.

Language: Thai is the official language, but English is usually understood in the major tourist areas.

Currency: The baht is the official currency. Major credit cards are widely accepted, but local money will come in handy in market stalls.  

Your take

Have you been to Thailand? Please share a story, tip or discovery. What was the highlight for you? Please share in the comments below.

See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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Maria Lenhart
I am a veteran travel writer who has enjoyed reporting on destinations far and near for many publications. My favorite way to travel is on board a ship, no matter where it's going. 

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