Coming: Bangkok is a huge travel hub.
Flying- Don Mueang (DMK) airport mostly services domestic and SE Asian international flights while Suvarnabhummi International (BKK) is a massive international airport that services the entire world.
Train- There is a train from the north in Chiang Mai or from the south in Surat Thani.
Bussing- Bus into Mo Chit- Bangkok’s huge bus station, from Cambodia or anywhere in Thailand. There are also many other bus stations if you’re coming from less touristy parts of Thailand, however Mo Chit is the main one.
Once in the city there are a number of ways to get around. There is a cheap shuttle that will bring you from the airport to the BTS if you want to save on grabbing a taxi. The BTS is their amazing sky train that services much of the city. It is fast, efficient and clean. There is also an underground Metro, but I never used it. Taxis and Tuk Tuks are available from anywhere.
Beware- Hailing a taxi can be a pain. They can refuse your service and will not hesitate to do so if they deem your journey to be too short, too far, or too inconvenient for them. Get in the taxi and close the door before you tell them where you’re going and try to be on the same side of the street as your destination. I had taxis refuse me because they didn’t feel like turning the car around. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS use the meter. If they refuse, get out and find someone who will. If they ask you about taking the highway, you’ll be expected to pay for the tolls. Sometimes it’s much faster than dealing with Bangkok traffic, though. When it comes time to pay many times they will claim to not have the correct change. Try to have smaller bills because otherwise they’ll make you pay and keep your change.
I do not like to promote Uber, however, if taking a cab in Bangkok it can save you a lot of hassle and will most likely be cheaper.
Tuk tuks will take you on detours to shops of their friends who pressure you into buying things before bring you to your destination. Always decide on a price beforehand.
Sleeping: To be honest I’ve only ever stayed with friends in Bangkok. I always felt very safe in the city, though. To me, the most important thing you’re going to want to look for in a hostel (besides price) is location. If you’re by the BTS you’ll be just fine!
Eating: Bangkok has everything! If you’re using it as an escape from rural life, go to brunch, eat pizza, burgers, Mexican and fro yo. Head to Chinatown for dinner to find some great cheap eats and Chatachuk market has some good street food. Go find the giant dude selling paella! Don’t be scared of the hole-in-the-wall places! This is where you’ll get the cheapest and most authentic Thai food.
Doing: Chatachuk Market, Art box, go to the mall, party on Khoa San Road
Chatachuk is a MASSIVE market that has everything you’d ever dream of. Markets in Asia can start to run together after a while, as they’re everywhere- but this is a memorable one. Decide a time and meeting place beforehand because it can be easy to lose people in the chaos and impossible to find them again. Take the BTS to Mo Chit stop (the last one) and follow the crowd. It’s a short walk to the entrance and you can’t miss it.
Price- BTS ticket prices vary depending on distance traveled+ anything you buy; only open on the weekends
Art Box is an awesome thing in Bangkok. Check online because it is always moving but it’s got food trucks, music and local vendors selling trinkets, sweets, beer, etc. It’s a lot of fun!
Price- Free + food etc.
Malls- Going to a mall on vacation sounds weird, but the malls in Thailand are a huge part of the culture. Terminal 21 is travel themed and Emporium and Paragon are a little more upscale.
While you’re there, go see a movie if you’ve got the time. There are usually many offered in English and make sure not to skip the previews because standing for the king’s song before the movie is something to experience. Plus, it’s always a nice escape from the heat.
Khao San Road- If you’re looking for a crazy night out, this is the spot for you. Khao San Road is THE place to party in SE Asia. It’s a street full of bars, nightclubs, vendors, street food and backpackers. People will try to sell you things every 15 seconds, so be ready.
Temples- I didn’t visit any of the temples here. There are beautiful temples all over Southeast Asia that don’t cost nearly as much. But the big ones to see here are The Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun.
Staying: 2-3 days is enough. You’ll want to spend most of your time in Thailand elsewhere. I think it’s an excellent ex-pat city but nothing special for backpackers.
Going: Head north to Chiang Mai or South to the islands. Bordering countries include Myanmar to the east, Laos to the north and west, Cambodia to the west and Malaysia to the south. But you’ll be able to find flights (usually cheap) to anywhere in SE Asia and plenty of routes to reach the rest of the world.