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Bangkok is often planned as a destination at the start or end of one's vacation in Thailand. Most travel here during the Northern Hemisphere winter, when the weather back home is dark, cold, and/or snowy. Conveniently enough, this is when much of the country has entered into its dry season, which lasts from November through February.
Outside of this time, the weather is either quite hot (March to May) or wet (June to October). Hotel and hostel prices fall at this time, as the weather is less than ideal for many visitors to the region, and conditions back home are improving or ideal. A notable exception to this rule is during Thai New Year, or Songkran. Held in April, this festival of purification draws foreign visitors to join in one of the world's biggest water fights, causing occupancy rates to increase, and with it, prices as well.
However, while prices might be at their highest in the dry season (especially around the holiday season in December and early January), prices in Bangkok compare favorably to most other major centers around the world. This means your wallet will take less of a hit than you may be anticipating, as a room in the glitzy Shangri-La Hotel can be had for as little as $133 USD in the midst of high season.
Travelers looking to save a few baht will love this city (and this country for the most part), as accommodations that would go for at least double the price in many other parts of the world can be found across the city with ease.
In general though, most bargain hunters congregate around one of two places – Banglamphu and the Khao San Road area, while those looking to stay in the newer parts of Bangkok will find many great deals in the vicinity of Silom Road.
Hotels like the whimsically named Queen Suriya's Castle and Penmark Place are only a five minute walk from Khao San Road. Those those looking to get in some serious shopping downtown can drop off their bags at the For You Residence Hotel, and within ten minutes of walking and riding the BTS Skytrain, they can be at the doors of famous Bangkok shopping malls like MBK Centre, Siam Paragon and Central World.
Anyone staying in the downtown area has great access to attractions like the Chatuchak Market, Sukhumvit Road, and Lumphini Park, as the Skytrain and the MRT (subway) provide quick and consistent access to the parts of the city where they are situated.
Accessing major cultural attractions like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun is a bit tougher, as they are located in the older sectors of Bangkok, but using the city's water taxis that ply the Chao Phraya River from 6am to 7pm daily will allow you to get to all of the aforementioned attractions with relative ease.
If your travels to Thailand are serving as your introduction to the Far East, the mere act of walking around the neighborhood where you are staying will yield many intriguing discoveries, with no cost except for maybe a bottle of water to sip as you go. Bangkok has the highest annual mean temperature of any city on Earth, so drink up!
Once you're ready to do more than simply putter around the area surrounding your hotel, start by checking out Lumphini Park, Bangkok's answer to NYC's Central Park. With 58 hectares of green space amidst the nearly unbroken concrete jungle that dominates Thailand's capital city, local Thais flock here to go jogging, participate in energetic aerobics classes, and paddle on its centerpiece lake.
Shopaholics looking to snag a unique piece of Thailand that can't be found easily at a Khao San merchant stall should make time to hunt around at Chatuchak Market. Held on Fridays from 6pm to midnight, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 6pm, there are over 8,000 stalls here divided into 27 discrete sections, selling everything from t-shirts to toilet seats. If you can't find what you are looking for here, it may not exist!
As mentioned earlier in the article, the Thai New Year, or Songkran, is celebrated in April. With the traditional ceremonial pouring of water over one's head to cleanse one's soul morphing into an all-out nationwide water fight, it is a relatively affordable holiday that will deliver max value for what you'll have to buy (a Super Soaker water gun + a bit more than normal for a hotel room).
Those traveling in November will have the chance to participate in Loy Krathong, which is a festival in which Thais light candles on tiny floating rafts called krathongs, or they light paper lanterns and release them into the air, in order to bid their bad luck and misfortunes farewell for another year. The cost to participate in this cathartic festival is minimal (lanterns cost no more than $1-$2 apiece), and you'll get to connect with the locals in a very meaningful way on your holiday in Bangkok.
Over the past decade, getting to and from the airport in Bangkok has been greatly simplified. With the opening of the Airport Rail Link from the center of the city to Suvarnabhumi International Airport, getting to and from the airport throughout most of the day has become less stressful.
For only 190 baht ($6.30 USD), you can glide across rice fields and suburban communities on the edge of Bangkok on your way to the Phraya Thai in the city's center. If you are traveling light and have a good sense of direction, this service will be your best option.
If you arrive after the train has shut down, have lots of baggage, or are less sure of yourself in a city as big and exotic as Bangkok, then taking a cab is your other option. Ignore anyone asking you if you need a taxi (they are touts looking to overcharge you), and proceed to the taxis on level 1.
They will write down your destination in Thai, and after exchanging it outside with the drivers, you'll be shown to your ride. Ensure that they turn the meter on, as some will try to “forget” in a bid to overcharge you at the end. With highway tolls, a ride into Bangkok should cost no more than 400 baht ($13.30 USD).
If you want to wait until the rail link opens in the morning instead, there are a wide array of hotels within a short taxi ride of the terminal, like Regent Suvarnabhumi, which is in nearby Lat Krabang, costing no more than 100 baht ($3.30 USD) to reach by cab. While the quality of the airport hotels in the area is quite high in most cases, be aware that cheaper hotels are more likely to have a traditional Asian bathroom, in which the shower and toilet are in the same place.
The condition of hostels has improved dramatically over the past decade, as increasing competition between operators has forced many dingier operations out of business, and others to shape up their properties to avoid losing customers to flashy new digs with similar prices.
That being said, be sure to monitor online reviews to avoid unpleasant surprises after checking in to your hostel after a long flight from the other side of the world. Like the budget hotels referenced earlier, hostels have been popping up all over town, but they are generally concentrated in two areas – around Khao San Road and the Silom Road area downtown.
Boutique hostels come with a wide variety of amenities that can be had for no more than 450 baht ($15 USD), while clean but basic dorm beds can be obtained in older parts of town like Banglamphu for as little as 180 baht ($6 USD)
Airbnb has enjoyed widespread acceptance across Bangkok, with more than 1,000 listings available for private rooms and entire houses that are going for less than $65 USD per night. From luxury condos with spectacular pools on the premises, to homes located within walking distance to many of Bangkok's attractions and mass transit stations, those looking to enjoy the comforts of home while in a distant foreign land will have an abundance of options at their fingertips.
In many cases, the quality of accommodations delivers more value than comparable hotels in the same sector of the city, as many of them are located in the super-modern condo towers that have been cropping up across the city in the past decade.
After getting settled in the city, you'll want to figure out how to move around without having to take a cab if possible, as Bangkok traffic is infamous for becoming snarled at any given time during the day. This map of mass transit routes, anchored by the Skytrain, will help you get around town without having to set foot in a car (http://www.bts.co.th/customer/en/02-route-current_new.aspx), which will please those concerned with their carbon footprint during their travels.
Being a city of 13 million people, there is always something going on around Bangkok, so if you have seen all the major sights, but yearn to truly get under the skin of this city, looking into Timeout Bangkok (http://www.timeout.com/bangkok/) will keep you on top of events from week to week, as well as providing a list of local favorites when it comes to restaurants, nightlife, shopping, and other forms of entertainment.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.
© 2015 Hipmunk, Inc. Hipmunk is a trademark of Hipmunk, Inc.