The Perfect 3 Day Bangkok Itinerary: Temples, Shopping & Food

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Bangkok is one of my favorite cities in Southeast Asia. There’s something about this city that absolutely makes me fall even more in love with Thailand every time I visit it. I lived as an international school teacher in Laos for two years and Bangkok was always a convenient weekend retreat for me if I needed a bit of shopping, or wanted to feel a bit of city life.

For most first-time visitors to the region, it’s usually their first port of call on their travels around Thailand. With my Bangkok Itinerary, you’ll discover areas of the city to explore, which temples to see, and some of the best places to eat and shop before heading off to the islands or other fantastic destinations within Thailand.

Bangkok Itinerary 3 Days

  • Day 1: Temples – The Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Wat Pho & Wat Paknam (Big Buddha)
  • Day 2: China Town & Food Tour
  • Day 3: Shopping

Bangkok Day 1

During your time in Thailand you’ll find a lot of itineraries include a lot of temple activities. Now there is a thing of being templed-out when visiting Southeast Asia and they do get a bit tiring (much like once you’ve seen one church in Italy, you kind of get the idea). However, in Bangkok, one of the most popular tourist attractions is to visit the gorgeous temples that for the most part are based along the Chao Phraya River.

MRT Stop: Blue Line exit at Sanam Chai. Tuk-Tuk’s are waiting outside the station. Haggle with them for a price. Walking from Sanam Chai to the Grand Palace is a 20-minute walk.

Tip: You’ll see the term ‘Wat‘ used throughout Thailand. This is the Thai word for a place of worship or a temple.

Wat Arun

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace has the largest complex of temples and is the home to the Thai Royal Family. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Bangkok and is worth arriving early in the morning to avoid the heat as it builds. The Grand Palace closes early at 3.30 pm so make sure you time your visit accordingly.

The entry requirements are the strictest of all the temples in Bangkok, which means that men have to wear long pants when entering the Grand Palace (typically shorts are usually ok for men to enter a temple in Bangkok), so it’s worth purchasing a cheap pair of ‘Elephant Pants’ that are the traditional uniform of backpackers traveling Southeast Asia.

The Grand Palace is a gorgeous complex to walk around and experience the strong Buddhist presence in the shape of statues, stupas, and temples. The Grand Palace is hugely popular and there are a lot of people who visit it from 11 am until close, so try to arrive as it opens up to enjoy it without a lot of crowds.

The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is sacred and no photography is allowed. I’ll admit that the Grand Palace is probably the least favorite of the Bangkok Temples. I think it’s incredibly impressive, however, I prefer the smaller more intimate temples like Wat Paknam & Wat Arun.

Wat Arun

I love Wat Arun. I’m not sure if it’s because of the fun little ferry that you catch to get across to Wat Arun. Or that from the other side of the river it’s lit up so beautifully. Or that every time I visit photoshoots are happening where local Thai men and women are dressed in traditional Thai dress taking couple and solo photos.

Take your time to walk around the complex and you can even climb the main pagoda, it is steep so be weary. You can expect to spend around 40 minutes in Wat Arun before heading off to lunch or your next temple. Head back across the river to Rongros for views across to Wat Arun and excellent food. The views here are the best.

Entrance to Wat Arun is 200 Baht and there is an opportunity to take photos in traditional Thai dress if you like in the temple grounds.

If you are planning on visiting Wat Arun from Wat Pho, the easiest way to is take a local ferry across the river. You’ll enter this rickety little corridor (and you’ll doubt yourself) that has a few shops lining the path and after 100 meters or so you’ll find the entry point for the Tha Tian Pier ferry terminal. The cost for a one-way crossing is 5 Baht. The ferry leaves every 10 minutes from 5 am until 7 pm.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho is home to the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand. It’s not a large complex and once you’ve visited reclining Buddha you can wander around the grounds before heading across the river to Wat Arun.

The opening hours for Wat Pho are from 8.30 am until 19.30 and an entry ticket is 300 Baht.

Big Buddha Bangkok

A new addition to the skyline of Bangkok and only recently opened, it is so worth visiting the Big Buddha (Wat Paknam) to get off the beaten path and see something truly remarkable. I’ve written a detailed guide on how to visit Big Buddha here and recommend you spend an early morning visiting the Wat and nearby Hindu temples. You can visit Big Buddha by long-tail boat. I love Wat Paknam the best of all the Bangkok temples, and it shouldn’t be skipped.

Tips for Visiting Temples in Thailand

It’s important to acknowledge that when you visit a temple in Thailand that you will need to wear appropriate clothing. Shoulders must be covered as well as knees.

Wear shoes that you can slip easily on and off.

Try not to talk too loudly or shout. Be respectful.

Buddha is a sacred image in Thailand and you will see signs everywhere to avoid taking pictures or having the image tattooed onto your body. There are certain sights in the temples in Bangkok where photography is forbidden such as the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace.

Respect the monks and nuns. It should go without saying, but please don’t touch them? You’ll find across the country that in local Wats there is a language exchange with monks that you can participate in. If you have the time, you can spend an hour with a monk who wants to practice English etc.

Bangkok Temple Scams

One of the most popular scams that gets tourists every single time is when visiting a temple you’ll see an ‘official’ looking person outside the temple entrance who will advise you that you are wearing inappropriate clothing. They’ll tell you that there is a tailor shop close by that will sell you trousers for you to enter the temple. All you need to do is get into the tuk-tuk (waiting nearby) and you’ll be able to enter the temple afterwards.

Unfortunately, so many people get caught up in this trap, as it does sound really convincing. If you enter the temple you’ll be able to ask the people behind the counter what the entrance guidelines are.

As tempting as it is the tell the person trying to scam you to ‘get lost’, it’s important not to get angry and lose face. It’s unfortunately one of the negative things I have to say about Bangkok but once you have your wits about you, you can just politely tell the person no thanks and continue inside.

Most temples will have cover-ups (if you are wearing a skirt or shorts) that you can tie around your waist. The only place where this is not available is the Grand Palace.

Bangkok Day 2

The largest Chinatown in Southeast Asia and one of the oldest, this part of Bangkok is remarkable. Here you’ll find some of the best street food and wandering around the streets and getting lost is all part of the charm. There is a lot to see and do in Chinatown and if you are visiting Thailand or Bangkok for the first time, you have simply got to do a walking food tour.

I did a 4-hour walking food tour of Chinatown on my last visit to Bangkok and loved it. Our guide took us to 10 different places to sample 16 different dishes. You’ll wander the backstreets of Chinatown and really see a side to the city that very few tourists actually get to experience. Everything I ate was delicious and there were dishes that I had never heard of let alone tried before. An absolute must when visiting any new city for the first time.

Even if you decide not to do a food tour in Bangkok (a shame really), you should spend some time exploring Chinatown. You never know what you’ll find down any of the side streets, a hidden cafe, a cool store or local Thai’s hanging out. The area is reportedly about to undergo a massive gentrification so see it before it loses its character and essence.

Wat Mangkon is the closest Metro stop and you’ll emerge immediately into the hustle and bustle of Chinatown. Yaowarat Road is the main thoroughfare but splinter off and you’ll uncover something unique. Head down to the river after a day of exploring and eating to Naam 1608 for a sundowner on the Chao Praya River.

Bangkok Day 3

The shopping in Bangkok is fantastic. There are so many malls to spend your days and evenings in (they’re also a welcome respite from the Bangkok heat).

The Bangkok Malls are conveniently just off the BTS Skytrain line, so you can easily move between the malls by the covered walkways or hop on the train to the next mall. Some of my favorite malls to visit in Bangkok are: Terminal 21 (Asok BTS Station), Central World (Chit Lom BTS Station), Siam Paragon (Siam BTS Station), MBK Center (National Stadium BTS Station).

The IconSiam is the newest and most opulent mall in Bangkok. I haven’t been yet, but I’m excited to visit it on my next trip to Thailand. You can hop on a free ferry from Si Phraya Pier or Sathorn Pier. Otherwise the nearest BTS Skytrain stop is Charoen Nakhon Station.

If you are visiting Bangkok on the weekend, you’ve simply got to visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market which is the world’s largest outdoor market. It’s so large that you could visit 2 weekends in a row and never see the same stall again.

Best Time To Visit Bangkok

From April through to September/October the rainy monsoon season starts. With rainy season you can expect heavy rain showers that can last from 5 minutes to an hour. The rain is heavy and it’s best to take cover in a cafe or shopping mall when they happen. You’ll also experience incredible thunder and lightning storms during this time. The temperatures can get pretty hot during this period.

The weather from November – February is the loveliest time of the year. The temperatures are perfect and sometimes January & February can drop to around 22 – 25 degrees (which is chilly when you do get acclimatized). Rain is rare during this period of the year, but the temperatures do start to climb as April approaches.

April traditionally marks the beginning of the hot seasons. The water festival known as Songkran occurs at the end of March to the middle of April depending on the year. It’s an extremely busy time for local tourism and a major holiday in the Thai calendar. You’ll find a lot of people escape to quieter islands to avoid the crazy traffic and shenanigans that take place during this festival. Laos has a similar festival known as Pii Mai and I would typically escape to a hotel in Koh Samui for some well-needed relaxation and break.

Getting Around Bangkok

BTS SkyTrain

The BTS is a great way to get around Bangkok if you are staying in areas like Ekemai, Silom, Nana, Chit Lom & Sala Daeng. The rail line sits above the city’s buildings and covers the areas that tourists frequent for shopping and eating. A ride on the BTS depends on your starting and ending destination. You can purchase tickets from the tellers in each station or from a vending machine.


The MRT is a fantastic way to get around Bangkok underground. You can buy tickets at the machines in each station, or even easier is to tap on with your visa card. I use Revolut Banking when traveling overseas as I can set up a Thai currency account that makes spending money in Thailand incredibly easy and it’s connected to my bank account.

Otherwise, you can purchase single-use tickets in the station at the vending machines with coins or notes.

Metered Taxi

Every time I get into a metered taxi in Bangkok they turn off the meter. So I never use them. I hate being scammed and it boils my blood. If you do get into one make sure the meter keeps ticking over and that they don’t turn it off. You can report them on the government hotline by calling 1584 and take a picture of their ID. But what a hassle.

GrabCar or Bike

Grab is one of my top apps for visiting Thailand, and especially in Bangkok. It’s one of the easiest ways of getting around the city, and I personally always get a Grab Bike when traveling longer distances in Bangkok that aren’t easily accessible by MRT or BTS. There is an option on GrabBike that ensures that the bike rider has a spare helmet for you when they arrive to pick you up. It’s a cheap and efficient way of getting around the city.

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuks are a novelty way of getting around Bangkok. You must be prepared to haggle the price of where you want to go. And just be mindful that it’s ok to say no and walk away, they’ll usually either lower their prices or not bother you anymore. I love to get a tuk-tuk around Bangkok and the rest of Thailand when I can. And if they offer to take you to a stop before your destination (tailor or pearl store), just tell them no.

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