Last updated: January 2019.
Heading to Bangkok!?
I have returned to this city over and over since my first visit back in 2013. It is stunning.
However, it does take a little while to get used to, and first timers are often intimidated by the place. The truth is, getting the most out of Bangkok is difficult if you’re unfamiliar with the city.
But with just a few pointers you can totally transform your experience. You’ll stay in a better neighbourhood, eat better food, save more money and just having a freaking awesome time.
In this guide I’m going to help you do that. After visiting Bangkok for many years now, I’m confident I can give you all the first timer tips you’ll need to fall in love with Bangkok, just like I have.
Bangkok is anything you want it to be
The most amazing thing about Bangkok is, it’s a city of many colours.
You can have any kind of holiday you want in Bangkok.
If you want to party every single night and get drunk and go wild until the morning, this could be one of the best cities in the world.
But if you want to just spend the day eating delicious food and sightseeing and go to bed by 8pm, this could also be one of the best cities in the world.
If you want to shop all day and spend all your money on fancy clothes – well, this probably is the best city in the world.
And if you’re on a honeymoon and want a luxurious, relaxing holiday with beautiful sunsets…you get the point.
By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly where you should be staying, exactly how to get around, exactly where to the find the best eats, the best attractions, the best parties, and more. This is the only Bangkok guide you’ll ever need, I promise!
In this guide:
- Map Of Bangkok
- Sukhumvit (Good for expats, upper end living)
- Khao San Road (Good for singles!)
- Bangkok Riverside (Perfect for couples)
- Siam (Shopping shopping shopping!)
- Silom (Local living)
- Chinatown (Budget, indie, hipsterish Bangkok)
Where to stay in Bangkok?
Your Bangkok experience is very dependent on where you choose to stay.
Bangkok is hot so long walks are uncomfortable and traffic jams are common. If you stay in the wrong part of town, you’re going to be spending hours per day commuting, sweating and sitting in traffic. NOT ideal.
In fact, I’d say where you stay in Bangkok is the most important thing to consider for an enjoyable trip. Therefore this section is going to be extremely detailed and the key focus of this guide.
So, what’s the best place to stay in Bangkok? There’s no right answer.
It all depends on what you’ve come to do in this great city.
Below I’m going to break down six of the main areas of Bangkok so you can decide the best place to stay in Bangkok for you. Of course there are many more areas, but these six are the main ones and for a Bangkok first timer, I highly recommend staying in one of these.
What I’ll do is give you a quick intro to what each area is about, then share some places to stay that I can vouch for. I’ve stayed all over Bangkok, and while I’m a budget traveller at heart, I’ll give you options for every price range. Whether you’re looking to pinch pennies or splurge on a fancy honeymoon, I’ve got you covered.
A map of Bangkok
Here’s a map with the areas we’ll be talking about. As you can see Bangkok’s airport is quite a way out, but it’s easy enough to reach central Bangkok – the trains leave from right within the airport terminal and will only cost a few dollars. Super easy.
The areas marked above are then all easy reachable once in Bangkok’s centre. Again, there is no one best place to stay in Bangkok. All have their different quirks and things to love and hate. Let me take you through each of them:
This is my favourite area to stay in. Sukhumvit is a developed and trendy area of central Bangkok, packed with hotels, bars, restaurants, clubs, shops, malls and everything else you could want on your doorstep. While many tourists stay in and visit this area, it’s not exactly “touristy” in the traditional sense. There are many Thais that live and work in the area too, which gives it a local feel, despite the clear western influence.
As an added bonus, the Skytrain runs right through the middle of Sukhumvit, meaning if you want to go anywhere you can simply jump on the platform and get anywhere in just a few minutes. There’s no need for taxis in Sukhumvit!
The Sukhumvit line starts with the more tourist-oriented areas, such as Nana and Asok. Here you’ll find a lot of things like massage houses, Irish pubs, western restaurants, bars, street sellers and so on. It’s pretty hectic but fun too, maybe the best place to stay in Bangkok for one or two nights. As you move further down the line towards Thong Lor, you start to get a more high-class Thai vibe, and near the end of the line is well and truly local territory where you will hardly see any foreign faces or hear any English. You can stay absolutely anywhere on the Sukhumvit line, but I’d probably stay somewhere between the Asok and Thong Lor stations. That way you’re right in the centre of the action, and just a few stops from both worlds.
You should stay in Sukhumvit if:
- You want a mix of everything (nightlife, street food, western comforts)
- You want easy access to public transport
- You want a mix of tourist and local oriented areas.
- It’s your first time to Bangkok
Where to stay in Sukhumvit?
There are lots of options between Asok and Thong Lor; in my opinion, this might be the best place to stay in Bangkok for a first timer. Here are some recommendations:
For the backpacker
Try the Pixellar Hostel. This quirky hostel is super clean, modern, and walking distance to the Asok BTS station. For less than ten bucks a night, it’s a total bargain. You’ll find the best rates here.
For the budget traveller
I’d stay at the Adagio Bangkok. Will only run you around $40 a night and the rooms almost feel like those of a top Bangkok hotel. Bangkok hotel prices are already great but there are very few places in the world you can get this level of flash at this price! It’s also just a few steps away from the Phrom Phong BTS station – a big bonus. You’ll find the best rates here.
For the high roller
Sukhumvit is full of luxury, and the best part is, it’s not even that expensive. If you’re on a romantic holiday and looking to splurge, this is a great city to go all in. If you’re staying in Sukhumvit, I’d take the Sofitel Bangkok. It’s one of the best Bangkok hotels there is (that’s saying something) and has everything you’d expect in a lavish hotel – gym, pool, room service, a zillion floors, incredible furnishings. Will run you $150 a night and up, but it’s fit for royalty. Five minutes walk to the Nana BTS. You’ll find the best rates here.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is the backpacker mecca of Bangkok, and tailored for the young, university-aged party crowd. This is hands down the best place to stay in Bangkok for backpackers: Cheap drinks, cheap food, bars and loud music, and general all night craziness. It’s also arguably the best place to stay in Bangkok for singles, especially if you’re looking to meet someone. Lots of solo travellers frequent Khao San, so you’ll be right at home.
If that sounds like you, this is your spot.
There are many backpacker hostels both on and around Khao San Road, and in all honesty you could probably just show up and find something as long as you’re not right in the middle of peak season. However it’s always a good idea to book ahead.
You should stay in Khao San road if:
- You love to party
- You’re a backpacker and looking to meet people
- You’re looking for cheap drinks and cheap food
- You’re a solo traveller
- You’re on a tight budget
Where to stay in Khao San Road?
For the backpacker
Nitan Hostel is a funky, modern hostel right on the centre of Khaosan Road. If you want to be in the middle of the action this is your spot. Beds will run you about $12-$15 per night. There are a ton of other cheaper hostels around Khaosan Road, but I think it’s worth paying a few extra dollars for something that’s not ridiculously crowded. Best rates here.
For the budget traveller
I’d go with Baan Kachitpan.
It’s about a ten minute walk from Khaosan Road (which might be a good thing) and the rooms are gorgeous and chic.
Only ~$20 per night! Absolute steal. Get the best rates here.
For the high roller
Not many upper end places around Khaosan road as it’s mostly a backpacker area, but for something flash try the Ibis Styles at Khaoson Viengtai.
It’s about a five minute walk from Khaosan Road (just a couple of blocks) and has all the makings of a high end hotel.
If you’re lucky you’ll get a room for around $50 USD, depending on season. The best rates here.
Looking for something different? Search all Bangkok hotel deals here:
Riverside is a slightly more trendy and expensive area, away from the hustle bustle that Bangkok is often known for. It’s full of expensive hotels and pretty views. I don’t spend much time out here personally, but it’s definitely the best place to stay in Bangkok for couples looking for flash and romance. If you’re in Bangkok on your honeymoon, this is your place! The area is also known for its many temples and shrines and other tourist attractions.
Another cool part of staying by the Bangkok riverside are the boat rides! There are ferries going up and down the river all day – the easiest place to get them is from the Central Pier. Some of the upper end hotels will offer free rides to and from the Central Pier, so look out for that.
You should stay on Bangkok Riverside if:
- You’re looking for something romantic
- You’re after a nice hotel with all the frills
- You’re not on a tight budget
- You’re looking for a quieter side of Bangkok (but still with lots to do)
Where to stay in Bangkok Riverside?
For the backpacker
For the budget traveller
You can’t go wrong with Hansa Bangkok House.
The rooms are gorgeous and it’s on Rama VIII road, just a few minutes from the riverfront. Many popular attractions in the area are within walking distance. At $40 a night it’s a gem. Best rates here!
For the high roller
There is no better place than the riverfront to experience luxury accommodation in Bangkok. The area is overflowing with extravagance. I’m going to recommend the Riva Arun. Both the rooms and the views are going to blow you away here. At $350+ per night it’s not cheap, but if you’re in Bangkok to live large this won’t let you down. Best rates here.
Siam is Bangkok’s retail district and definitely the best place to stay in Bangkok for shopping fiends. Truthfully, even the biggest shopaholics can’t outshop Siam. Bangkok has some of the biggest and best malls in the world and many of them are clustered here on one strip – Siam Square, MBK, Centralworld, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery and Siam Center. Get through those and you’ll still have street shopping and boutique malls to get through.
One thing I did notice about Siam is it feels a lot less “Thai” then other areas of Bangkok – meaning the malls are full of western brands, wealthy teenagers and foreigners. Things like Thai street food and regular locals are not seen as much. Nothing wrong with that of course, just something to take note of.
You should stay in Siam if:
- You love shopping!
- You want somewhere central
- You’re looking to spend a lot of time at the malls
- You want to stay in the more developed/modern areas of Bangkok
- You want somewhere tourist friendly, but still with lots of locals around
Where to stay in Siam?
For the backpacker
Diff Hostel is a great choice.
It’s a newly opened hostel, fun, quirky, social, and the beds are great. Ratchatewi Station is 100m away. Private rooms available, and ten bucks a night for a dorm bed! You’ll find those rates here.
For the budget traveller
I’d go with Nine Design Place.
It’s a boutique guesthouse, very modern and stylish with a great location. Rooms are excellent, five minutes walk from public transport, around $50 per night. Best rates here.
For the high roller
Lots of high-end places to choose from, but I’d recommend the Siam Kempinski. Will probably run you about $300 per night, but the rooms are absolutely lavish and the location can’t be beat. Facilities are incredible too – with the gym and pool they have, you’re never going to leave! You’ll find the best rates here.
Silom is a much more vanilla area of Bangkok. Not so wild, not too touristy, just your regular city vibe. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, there’s still plenty of beautiful places and things to do around here! I’d say it’s one of the best neighborhoods to stay in Bangkok for a long term stay.
It’s actually considered the city’s central business district, so you’ll see lots of working Thais around in office clothing, locals going about their day, elderly exercising and strolling through the enormous Lumphini park. One thing that can be a downside here is the ridiculous traffic during rush hour, but if you’re using the Skytrain you’ll be fine!
Of course one thing you should note is the infamous Patpong area is here, which is notorious for sex tourism, ping pong shows, girly bars and late night shenanigans. Of course if that’s your thing you’re in the right place! Note there’s nothing dangerous about this area at all, it’s just somewhere to steer clear of if you don’t want that sort of thing in your face, which is not hard to do at all.
You should stay in Silom if:
- You want a taste of local but modern life in Bangkok
- You’re ready to sample endless restaurants and bars
- You want some GREAT nightlife
- You want somewhere central with access to public transport
Where to stay in Silom?
For the backpacker
Silom is one of the best places to stay in Bangkok on a budget. If you’re strapped for cash, I’d stay at iSanook. It’s a funky, colourful, modern hostel in a great location. If you’re lucky you’ll get a room for less than six bucks a night. You should find those rates here.
For the budget traveller
Go for the Lullaby Inn. It’s a cosy, beautifully furnished guesthouse and a seven minute walk to public transport. Rooms are excellent and you’ll get a private room for around $35. Bargain. Get the best rate here.
For the high roller
Lots to choose from in Silom, but I’d suggest the Le Meridien.
Not too expensive, but still all the flash you’d expect from a five star hotel. Get the circular bed room – might cost you, but what’s a Bangkok holiday if you don’t treat yourself a little? Splash out – you won’t regret it 😉 You’ll get the best rates here.
Looking for something different? Search all properties in Bangkok:
Chinatown is a good budget area of Bangkok with a lot of history.
It’s not the prettiest place in Bangkok but is completely safe and full of interesting characters, chic bars, street food, rustic streets and just good old Bangkok ruggedness.
When Khao San Road started becoming infamous for its partying ways, Chinatown became somewhat of a backpacker alternative. There are a lot of cheap places to stay around here, and a lot of cheap food and shopping too. One could even argue it’s the best area to stay in Bangkok for food (yes, really).
It tends to attract the young traveller more interested in a quiet beer and a good plate of noodles than an all night rave at the club.
You should stay in Chinatown if:
- You don’t mind being out of the centre (but it’s not that far!)
- You LOVE food and want to eat your face off
- You’re on a tight budget
- You want to a place that’s not filled with tourists
Where to stay in Bangkok Chinatown?
For the backpacker
Tiger Lily Hostel is a great choice. It’s about a 15 minute walk to public transport, but it’s a super chic and fun hostel, beautifully decorated and cheap! Shouldn’t run you more than $7-8 per night. Get the best rate here.
For the budget traveller
For the high roller
There isn’t too much flash around Chinatown, at least not compared to the rest of Bangkok, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do things in style here. The Hotel Royal has everything you’d expect in a top level hotel (gym, lap pool, beautiful reception and rooms) and will be quite a bit cheaper than the rest of Bangkok’s top selections. Around $120 per night will get you a room here. Save that extra cash for all the ridiculous food you’re going to be eating! Find the best rate here.
If you’re only in Bangkok for a quick overnight you can still stay close to the centre, as getting to the airport is as easy as a quick BTS ride (at least from Suvarnabhumi). However, if you want to stay by the airport there are lots of good options out in those areas too.
When it comes to Bangkok airport hotels, I’d say the Amaranth Suvarnabhumi Premier is the one you’re looking for (if you’re flying from Suvarnabhumi airport). It’s very snazzy and they do free airport transfers 24 hours a day. If you’ve got a long flight the next day, this place will certainly recharge your batteries in style. Click here to get the best rate.
If you’re flying out from Don Mueang, stay at D House. Usually the Don Mueang flights are shorter flights so you may not need something so luxurious to recharge. The rooms at D House are very cosy and the rates are so low you might need to look twice. It’s also literally 1km from the airport, so you can even walk if you want to skimp on the 60 baht cab ride. You’ll get the best rates here.
Where to eat in Bangkok
Of all the great foodie cities I’ve been to, few (if any) come close to Bangkok. This is easily one of the best cities in the world to stuff your face.
Honestly, I probably don’t even need to recommend anything to you here, because as soon as you walk out your door you’re going to be running into delicious street food on every corner.
BUT, there are some places that are better than others. Let me introduce you to a few of the top dogs that you may not find on your own:
Victory Monument is one of Bangkok’s best street food spots for foreigners due to its central location and the large variety of food available there.
There isn’t exactly one main street here for food, rather, all the sois (side streets) that run off the roundabout will have a selection of food carts for you to try.
One thing I recommend trying are the famous boat noodles, of which there are several. These are small bowls of noodle soup, which are purposely given in small servings so you can eat a lot of them! Many people challenge themselves to stack their bowls ten or twenty high, which always leads to an afternoon of satisfied stomachs.
How to get there: Jump on the BTS and get off at the Victory Monument stop. You’ll recognise the big roundabout immediately – make your way around it and enjoy!
Rangnam is also around the Victory Monument area. This is a slightly trendier street but still has an awesome selection of street food vendors to feast away on.
My advice: Search for Kuang Seafood on Google maps, then keep walking down Rangnam until you reach it. You’ll find a delicious selection of Thai food on offer there from a few different places.
Most Rangnam vendors come out later in the day, so make sure you head there in the evening to ensure you get the full lineup!
How to get there: Head to the Victory Monument BTS stop, head to Exit #4.
Chinatown is one of the BEST and also most overlooked places to eat in Bangkok. The food quality is always super high; I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad meal here in all my years of visiting.
One reason people pass on Chinatown is because it’s a little far out of the main areas and isn’t serviced by the BTS. However, a short Uber ride should get you there and if you’re a food lover it will certainly be worth it.
My first piece of advice is to head there in the evening. This is the time for eating and all the popular vendors should be firing their woks by then. My second piece of advice is go with an empty stomach and a lot of time! Chinatown is huge and every little alley has something new to try. Chinatown is safe during the evening hours, so don’t be afraid to turn into every small alley and side street in the search for deliciousness.
How to get there: Take the MRT to Hua Lamphong station, then Uber or taxi to Chinatown. Alternatively you can walk, it’s around 10-15 minutes.
Ratchawat and Sriyan markets
Ratchawat and Sriyan are two separate markets that are very close together, and one that most tourists never hear about.
One reason is it’s a little difficult to get there (you’ll need to Uber or taxi) and when you arrive you’ll likely be surrounded by hungry locals without many foreigners in sight.
The road is named Nakhon Chaisri – walk down and you should come across the Ratchawat market first. This is a small and traditional food market, very different to the tourist-friendly markets you might find around the rest of the city. This particular market is well known for Thai desserts, but you should find no shortage of delicious Thai dishes as well. The famous Radna noodles are located here, which will almost always have a long queue waiting. If you’ve got time, try it, it’s amazing.
Just a few minutes walk from here is the Sriyan market. This is another very traditional market that might not look all that interesting on first glance, but take the time to explore and you’ll find many interesting Thai dishes here. It’s a good idea to go with a local as English isn’t widely spoken here, but pointing and Google translate will suffice if you’re adventurous enough. Again, these places aren’t frequented by tourists, so be ready for a very local experience!
How to get there: Head to the Victory Monument BTS stop, then take a taxi (around 6-8 minutes) to Nakhon Chaisri.
Petchaburi Soi 5
This is a very local area, which is great just to get a feel of Bangkok outside the commercial districts. And of course, there’s food everywhere.
Soi 5 is where all the action is at, where many restaurants and food carts come alive in the evenings to feed people on their way home from work. I’ve had some of the best noodle soups in my life around here, mostly from unassuming places that look like nothing more than a hole in the wall.
PA’Or is also now Youtube famous – of course I made it a point to visit and it was every bit as delicious as they said it would be!
Come in the late afternoon/evening and give yourself some time to wander, it’s an interesting spot.
How to get there: First you need to get to the Ratchathewi BTS station. Go to Exit #3, you should be on Petchaburi Road. Head left on Petchaburi until you reach Soi 5.
The Wang Lang market is situated right on the Chao Phraya River and even has its own pier (the Wang Lang Pier). That’s good news for you because if you’re in Bangkok for the food, this is one of the few must visit places in the city.
Wang Lang is huge – you can spend a whole day eating here. Definitely come with an empty stomach and empty schedule, with lots of pocket change to try all the Thai snacks you’re going to pass by.
This place does get quite a few foreigners but the crowds can also make it quite intimidating. Don’t be put off – get in there and try everything! There’s almost nothing you can’t find at Wang Lang – if you’ve seen it on a Thai food menu you’ll likely find it here somewhere.
How to get there: Go to the Saphan Taksin BTS stop. From there, you need to take the public boat from Saphan Taksin (yes, boat!). This will take you straight to Wang Lang pier.
Sukhumvit Soi 38
This is an honorary mention, as it used to be one of my favourite food spots in Bangkok. It has since been closed down due to a real estate development, but in its heyday it was one of the most accessible street food options for newcomers to the city.
There are still a dozen stalls here, located right at the foot of the soi, and the quality of food is still very good. It’s probably not somewhere you’d come just for the food, but if you’re in the area it’s a great place to have a meal.
How to get there: Head to the Thong Lor BTS stop. Head to Exit #4, it will be on the street directly underneath.
Final tip for eating in Bangkok
Some of you may be concerned about food safety when eating street food in a place like Southeast Asia. Bangkok is actually one of the safer places in the region to eat street food, and while it’s not perfect getting belly problems here is far less likely than places like India or China.
I personally have never had an upset stomach in Bangkok and I’ve eaten in ever corner of the city. As long as you take the right precautions you should have no problems. If it’s your first time in the region, I highly recommend reading my guide on preventing food poisoning and traveller’s diarrhea.
Things to see in Bangkok
There are endless guides online for things to do in Bangkok, so in this section I’ll try to throw in some offbeat places you might not hear about elsewhere. Even a year living in Bangkok wouldn’t be enough to see all the interesting things, so here are a few that the common tourist would be most likely to appreciate:
You could think of this as Bangkok’s version of Central Park – a haven of greenery in the centre of Bangkok’s concrete jungle. Pollution is a big problem in Bangkok, so Lumphini offers residents a place to enjoy a little nature and get away from the bustle and traffic.
This is actually a favourite place for runners, with paths winding all through the park. It’s also an amazing place to jog (or stroll) as you never know what you might come across – some seniors doing tai chi, kids playing basketball, families having a picnic, people meditating under the trees, even a few street food stalls near the entrances.
The place is huge, so don’t try and drop breadcrumbs. Just go enjoy yourself, and try navigate your way out with the signs when it’s time to leave.
How to get there: Grab the BTS to Saladaeng or the MRT to Lumphini, both will drop you right beside the park.
Channel 7 Fights
Channel 7 Stadium was once a traveller’s secret in Bangkok, but the secret came out quickly once Instagram arrived on the scene. Now it’s packed to the rooftops every Sunday.
Still, it’s an awesome place to catch some Muay Thai fights, which is an absolute must when in Bangkok!
Muay Thai is one of Thailand’s national sports, which is a vicious style of kickboxing, known for its relentless kicks and elbows. Muay Thai used to be a sport for poorer members of society, but has since grown into a global phenomenon with a lot of money to be made.
The Channel 7 Stadium is popular because entrance is free. The fights are televised so the aim is to get a large and enthusiastic crowd and ensure the stands are full. A few years ago it was rare to see tourists, but nowadays they make up a large percentage of the crowd. However, the fights are still of high calibre and many up-and-coming stars get scheduled to fight here. To get, come early – fights start at 2pm, so get there at 12 for the best seats. Alternatively you can also come late, around 3:15pm – by that time 3 fights will have finished and many tourists will have left after getting their Instagram photos.
How to get there: Head to the Chatuchak station on the MRT, or the Mo Chit station on the BTS, then catch a taxi to the stadium. Alternatively you can walk (15ish minutes).
Rod Fai Market
Rod Fai Market is insane and you’ll surely be blown away by how diverse and huge this place is. I actually chanced upon it on the way home with a friend and we spent hours walking around laughing at all the cool things they had.
Technically Rod Fai is three markets.
The Warehouse Area is for all kinds of hard-to-find household items and accessories – think old appliances, second hand clothes, collectible toys – things like that.
The Antique Area is a huge abandoned building full of legitimate antiques such as old model motorcycles, furniture, antiques and other vintage items. There’s a lot of rare and valuable stuff and a collector (with a healthy bank account) would be in heaven here.
Lastly you have the Market Area, which is the main shopping zone and selling everything you can think of. Haggling is the norm, so come prepared to drive a hard bargain. There are literally thousands of stalls here, so don’t pull the trigger too quickly – there’s lots to see!
How to get there: Take the BTS to On Nut, then catch a taxi to the markets. Market is open from 5pm, Thursday to Sunday.
Papaya Vintage Store
This is a store on the outskirts of Bangkok, which I’m only half recommending because it really depends on what kind of person you are. Some people will love this place and some people will wonder why on earth you’d spend that taxi money to go look at something so ridiculous.
Explained simply, Papaya Vintage is an antique store. But it’s not your usual antique store – it’s huge, and filled with many odd things that most people wouldn’t even take for free. Think broken appliances, old mannequins, and pieces of literal junk.
However, just walking through the place is an experience in itself, and you’re guaranteed to find things here you won’t find in any other shop on earth.
If you’re a collectible lover or take a liking to weird and wonderful things, make the trip out there and see what you think. Otherwise, head to Rod Fai, it’s likely to be a more enjoyable experience.
How to get there: Take the MRT to Lat Phrao, then get a taxi to Lat Phrao Soi 55. You’ll find Papaya Vintage on the intersection of Soi 55 and 55/2.
Taling Chan / Khlong Lat Mayom
There are over a dozen floating markets in and around Bangkok, but in my opinion this is the best one.
Taling Chan is 15km outside of Bangkok and has everything you’d expect in a floating market – wooden boats, shops, music, and lots of seafood! It’s not an extravagant market, but that also means it’s not crowded, expensive and glamorized like many of the more popular markets in Bangkok now are.
Spend a morning here eating som tam, some fresh seafood and taking a short boat ride around the khlongs (canals).
Just a short taxi ride from Taling Chan is Khlong Lat Mayom. This is smaller than Taling Chan but is still a very fun and charming market to wander through. Not much of the market is “floating”, it’s more of a riverside market with just a few boats, however it’s still beautifully laid out and worth visiting if you’re already in the area. One side is dedicated to produce like fruits and vegetables, the other is dedicated to cooked food where you can try all kind of Thai snacks and dishes. There are also souvenirs, clothing and other trinkets to ensure there’s something for everyone.
How to get there: Get the BTS to Wongwian Yai Station, then catch a taxi to either market. They’re very close to each other.
Rama IX Park
Rama IX Park is the largest public park in Bangkok, and is a better option than Lumphini for those who really want to escape the noise of the city.
It’s located 15km from Bangkok’s centre and costs 10 baht to enter. Inside is 200 acres of tranquility which is perfect for spending a lazy Sunday or a quiet afternoon with your significant other. There are various gardens to enjoy, usually themed after different countries, plus a giant lake to sit by and relax the day away.
Of course it has all the other things you’d expect, such as exercise areas, running paths, decorative buildings, and they also host events there from time to time.
How to get around Bangkok
The best way to get around Bangkok is to use the BTS.
The BTS is an above-ground subway system that runs on two connected lines – the Siam line and the Sukhumvit line. Both are areas you are likely to be visiting during your stay in Bangkok.
Fares on the BTS range from 15 baht (50 cents) to 60 baht ($1.80) for a one way trip. It’s an extremely affordable and efficient way to get between these two main areas of Bangkok. You can also get a one-day unlimited pass for 120 bath ($3.60) if you plan on moving a lot in one day.
Simply look for this logo as you’re walking around the streets – it’s easy to spot:
More information can be found on the BTS website.
MRT (Mass Rapid Transit)
The Bangkok MRT is the city’s underground system.
It’s handy because it connects you to many of the city’s popular tourist attractions such as Chatuchak market, and also connects to the BTS at certain stops.
Look for the blue subway entrances. Fares are anywhere from 16 to 70 baht. You can purchase a day pass for 120 baht or a 3 day pass for 230 baht.
More information on the MRT can be found on their website.
Grab operates in Bangkok and is excellent.
The fares are very cheap, rarely more than $10. It’s much safer and cheaper than using taxis, especially at night, as taxis in Bangkok are notorious for trying to inflate fares on tourists. For example, they may ask for 100 baht for a ride that should only be 40 or 50, saying that it’s the “nighttime fare” or something similar.
Grab removes all these issues and gives you a safe and cheap way to get to places the BTS can’t take you. In fact, if you’re not on a really tight budget, there’s nothing wrong with using Grab to go everywhere – it won’t be as cheap as the BTS, but it will save you a lot of walking in the hot sun, and allow you the convenience of having all your transport go to your credit card.
Local Bangkok taxis are pink and yellow cars that are abundant everywhere. You shouldn’t be waiting more than a couple of minutes for one to drive by. They are usually clean and well maintained.
Taxis in Bangkok are usually fine to take, and I’ve never heard any horror stories like robbings or kidnappings.
However, more common are stories of drivers running up the fare by taking the “scenic route”, or like I mentioned before, trying to hustle a higher price and avoiding using the meter.
Don’t be afraid to take taxis – they are definitely convenient and inexpensive and 95% of them are good and honest drivers. Just have your wits about you.
The bus system in Bangkok is a little confusing for foreigners, and it helps to have a local advise you on which bus to take and where to get off.
Bus drivers and operators in Bangkok will most likely not speak English so you’ll need to have your destination saved on your phone or written on a piece of paper. It’s also a good idea to follow where you are on Google maps so you don’t get completely lost.
Uber and the subway usually can get you anywhere you need to go in Bangkok, so there’s not many reasons to use the bus unless you’re on an extremely tight budget or just want to do it for the experience.
Walking around Bangkok is an experience for the senses, especially early in the morning as the city wakes up, and late at night when the madness starts. Everywhere you go will be a mix of car fumes, delicious food sizzling, beeping horns, chattering crowds – this is a Southeast Asian metropolis that never sleeps!
The one downside is the heavy humidity, which will have you sweating within minutes of stepping out your door. My advice? Bring lots of light clothing and a good pair of walking shoes and just embrace it! There’s nothing wrong with a good healthy sweat out, especially while feasting on delicious spicy Thai food and staying hydrated on mango shakes and fresh coconuts.
Getting a sim card in Bangkok
Definitely get a sim card when you land in Bangkok. You can usually get one right inside the arrivals section at the airport, and shouldn’t cost you more than $10 to get connected with internet for your trip.
I usually get the AIS traveller sim, which is a good option for up to a month. Any longer than that and you probably want to get a local prepaid plan. People that work in these phone stores usually speak at least elementary English, so it’s not difficult to get everything sorted.
Where to PARTY in Bangkok
Bangkok is a fantastic place to enjoy some nightlife – some might argue it’s the best in the world. I won’t go that far, but I’m sure any party fiend will not be disappointed here.
Khao San Road
As I mentioned earlier, this is the infamous kilometre-long backpacker street where you’ll find nothing but street food stalls and bars lined up one after the other. Young travellers from all over the world come here every night, many also choose to stay on the street itself.
The nightlife style here is dominated by the “cheap drinks in plastic cups” type vibe so if you’re a backpacker or a group of young’uns on a partying trip this is going to be your ground zero.
A good way to start the night is to pick up some cheap cocktails at the drinks carts (they’re everywhere), then migrate into the bars blaring nineties pop music, and finally finish the night in the street’s most popular nightclub, aptly named THE CLUB (get in early to avoid the cover charge).
How to get there: People like to catch the boat from Sathorn pier (get the BTS to Saphan Taksin) to Phra Arthit pier, although it’s only a little more expensive and much faster to catch an Uber. Uber or taxi is your best option at night.
Royal City Avenue
Commonly known as RCA, this is probably Bangkok’s most established spot for ‘pure’ nightlife. I’m talking international DJs, concerts, huge clubs with bottle service and light shows, and many special events.
The first time I came here, I felt so out of place as everyone was dressed in their finest and the crowd was very local. It’s probably not the best place for a Bangkok first timer (especially if you can’t speak Thai) but if you’re game then I say go for it!
The two main clubs here are Route 66 and Slim and both are high end clubs that attract young, wealthy Thais and expats. Don’t come here expecting cheap drinks and shenanigans, most people come here to sit and enjoy bottle service and be seen, but with the right crew it can be an awesome experience.
How to get there: RCA is quite far out of the centre, so taxi or Uber is the way to go. It also kicks off very late – if you arrive before midnight it will be quiet.
Sukhumvit Soi 11
This might be one of my favourite nightlife streets in Bangkok as no matter what your mood, you’ll find something to suit your night.
This street is right in the heart of Sukhumvit and busy every night of the week. Wind down with the latest football game at the Australian Bar or go for a full-on night of raving at Levels or Sugar (they’re 3 minutes walk from each other).
There’s also a nice collection of restaurants and street food along the street, so if you ever get hungry some grub is never far away.
How to get there: Soi 11 is right on the doorstep of the Nana BTS station.
Silom is probably the most diverse nightlife area in Bangkok – its venues range from gay bars to strip clubs to go-go bars to high end clubs, plus many innocent bars for those just wanting to have a beer and soak in the atmosphere.
Start with a few drinks at O’Reilly’s the Irish pub, which never fails to bring in its fair share of interesting characters. I’ve spent many nights of laughs in here, usually in the early hours of the evening before it gets a little too wild.
From there you’re spoiled for choice – DJ Station is ground zero for the gay community, the Sky Bar is the bucket list item for knocking down beers 63 storeys high, Patpong is the forbidden paradise for those dreaming of pretty young Thai girls, and Maggie Choos provides a place to spend all your money on snooty but delicious cocktails.
For the grand finale, head to Twilo to mix with the young and beautiful and dance the night away.
How to get there: Get the BTS to Sala Daeng station. O Reilly’s will be right underneath it.
Sukhumvit is also home to two of the most famous red light districts in the world:
Soi Cowboy is a short street lined with countless go-go bars and strip clubs, where young Thai girls sit outside in skimpy outfits trying to lure customers in for drinks and maybe more. You’ll notice the street instantly by the crowd of tourists, the music and a flood of neon lights, which makes this look like some kind of mini Vegas in the heart of Bangkok.
If you’d like to just see what all the hype is about, go right ahead – it’s an extremely safe and protected street and very popular with foreign visitors. It’s totally fine, even for the ladies, to go in for a drink and nothing more!
Just a short taxi ride away is Nana Plaza, which is set up more like a go-go bar shopping mall (yes, Bangkok just keeps getting stranger!). Other than the location, it’s not much different than Soi Cowboy – lots of pretty women, lots of neon lights and lots of shenanigans!
How to get there: Get the BTS to Asok station, look for the Terminal 21 mall. Look for Soi 23, Soi Cowboy is the next street over. As for Nana Plaza, head to the Nana BTS station, it’s right beside it.
Safety tips for Bangkok
Despite the wild reputation, Bangkok is a safe city.
Unprovoked crime is rare. If you’re polite and treat people with basic respect, you should have no problems at all.
Always take official taxis or Ubers. Dress modestly and keep to the populated areas at night.
If you’re a male, you’ll likely get propositioned by females if wandering around late at night, especially around Soi Cowboy, Nana, Patpong and Sukhumvit Soi 11. Always follow your gut instinct and treat every interaction with caution, especially if you’ve been drinking.
Keep a copy of your passport and visa stamp on your phone, as police can sometimes ask for it.
Most of all, just use your common sense! Bangkok is a very developed and foreigner-friendly city. Don’t do anything silly and you’re sure to have a great time.
Any questions? Leave them in the comments! 🙂
Photo credit: volvob12b@Flickr