Bangkok City Guide

Regarded as the financial, political and party capital of Thailand, Bangkok, home to over 10 million people, certainly is a unique city! It’s full title is ‘Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahinthara Yutthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udom Ratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukamprasit’, which means City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Visvakarman at Indra’s behest. Bangkok is best known for its nightlife, ancient temples, and wealth of shopping malls.

Bangkok Quick Links

Getting Around Bangkok
What To Do in Bangkok
Where To Eat in Bangkok
Where To Stay in Bangkok


Bangkok To Do List

  • Have a massage at Wat Pho (birthplace of the Thai Massage).
  • Watch a muay Thai match at the Rajadamnern stadium (Monday, Wednesday & Thursday from 6pm, and Sunday at 3pm).
  • Go shopping at one of the huge megamalls around the centre – Siam, Terminal 21, MBK, CentralWorld, or visit the huge Chatuchak Weekend Market with over 15,000 stalls.
  • Grab a drink at ‘The Hangover Bar’ at Lebua sky bar (1055 Silom Road) – the world’s highest open-air bar, made famous from its appearance in The Hangover II.
  • Party all night long in infamous Khao San Road.
  • Make your way all the way up to the floating market.
  • Pick up some durian, to find out why locals go so crazy over this stinky fruit.
  • Take a day trip to the ancient city of Ayutthaya.


Getting Around Bangkok

Within the city, buses are the cheapest method of transportation. Google Maps provides relatively accurate public transport information, though you may want to check with locals at the stand as to which bus to catch. Bus fares are fixed regardless of the distance. Prices should be printed on one of the windows on the inside of the bus, or on the inside of the roof above the driver. Some buses are free (identified by a ‘ฟรี’ symbol on the front of the bus, but otherwise you’ll be looking at paying 6.5฿ (0.14 GBP/0.19 USD) if the bus has no AC or fans (usually identified by open windows), 9฿ (0.20 GBP/0.26 USD) for a bus with fans attached to the roof and 14-19฿ (0.36 GBP/0.46 USD) for a bus with AC on board.  The only exception to this rule are the A1 and A2 bus from the airport which are fixed at 30฿ (0.67 GBP/0.86 USD) for any distance. Buses are cheap, frequent and run through the night, but it should be noted that there are no dedicated bus lanes, and they stop frequently so they can be very slow, especially during peak hours.

The MRT is Bangkok’s underground link. It is more expensive in comparison to the buses, but provides a much faster alternative. Given its speed versus the roads, the train can get very busy, especially during peak commuter times. Fares are charged based on the number of stations you pass through – 16-42฿ (0.36 GBP–0.93 GBP/0.46 USD–1.21 USD). A route planner can be found on Bangkok MRT

Tuk tuks are fun to ride but will often overcharge you. Although taxis certainly aren’t as cheap as they used to be, they are still very affordable. Both Uber and Grab are available in the city, but as it is illegal for cabs not to use their meter, you should get a fairly consistent rate regardless of which one you flag down. Pink, green & yellow and blue cabs are all different companies, but rates across the board are the same. Use Uber or the Bangkok taxi fare calculator to work out how much your fare should roughly be before setting off. The meter will start at 35฿ (0.78 GBP / 1.01 USD) for the first 2km and then you should be looking at about 10฿ per km if the traffic is steady. If you find your fare significantly more than this you may be being stung by a Bangkok taxi con and should ask the driver to stop and threaten to call the tourist police. As with the bus, you’ll find the traffic in Bangkok makes journey times significant during busy periods.

Such a huge modern city, it’s hard to remember that this city was once referred to as ‘the Venice of the east’ due to it being built upon a network of rivers and canals. One of the most ‘local’ and exciting ways of exploring the city is on an canal boat along the Chao Pharaya river. These speedboats (called klong taxis) run like buses, ferrying people along the picturesque (but smelly) river for between 8-20฿ (0.18 GBP–0.44 GBP/0.23 USD–0.58 USD) a ride depending on the distance travelled. Stops can be found at TransitBangkok

If you are heading to or from the airport, there is a cost effective airport rail link, which starts from just 15฿ (0.33 GBP / 0.43 USD). It doesn’t stop at a whole lot of places, but will at least get you into the heart of the city, and you can work a way out from there. The ARL currently only stops at Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK), but if you are flying out of Don Muang (DMK airport) there is a free shuttle bus from BKK for ticketed passengers which takes 1-2 hours depending on traffic. Alternatively you can catch the A1 or A2 bus for 30฿ (0.67 GBP/0.86 USD) to and from DMK, the route can be found on ExitTheAirport.


What to do In Bangkok

Historic Sights

Make sure to wear sleeved tops that cover your shoulders, and bottoms that cover your knees when visiting temples.

Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) 100฿ (2.22 GBP / 2.88 USD) is a 46 meter long Buddha statue and is a very impressive sight up close. Wat Pho is also the birth place of the traditional Thai massage (Pronounced ‘Nu-at Thai’ in Thai). 8am-9pm, on Th Sanamchai.

Golden Buddha is the world’s largest solid gold statue of a buddha, weighing almost 5.5 tons, means it’s value is around $215,000,000. Entrance for foreigners is 50฿ (1.11 GBP / 1.44 USD), and it is located at the top of Wat Traimit on the corner of Th Yaowaear & Th Charoen Krung, open 8am-5pm.

Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), as featured on the back of a 10฿ coin is a group of 82m tall chedis made up of broken porcelain. Access it by taking the river ferry across from Th Tien. Entrance is 50฿ (1.11 GBP / 1.44 USD), open from 8.30am-4.30pm

Wat Saket (Golden mount), 20฿ (0.44 GBP / 0.58 USD), has an absolutely stunning view of Bangkok at the top of it’s 344 stairs, 8am-5pm off Soi Borommabanphot.

Grand Palace is the old residence of the Royal family, and also has Wat Phra Kaew, a mass of mosaic-encrusted pillars and stupas. Also contained within the walls is the greatly-respected emerald Buddha. Entrance is expensive at 500฿ (11.12 GBP / 14.40 USD), and in my eyes not great value for money, but there are always flocks of tourists and so if you feel you need to do it – tick it off the list. 8.30am-3.30pm, on Th Chang.

Included in the entrance price of the Grand Palace is Vimanmek Palace, a little far out, on Ratchawithi Rd, but a great wooden teak building if you do have the time to see it. It is also situated next to a relatively large zoo, Dusit Zoo – 500฿ (11.12 GBP / 14.40 USD).

The giant swing outside Wat Suthat in Phra Nakhon is a modern version of the swing where men used to come to an annual Brahmin thanksgiving celebration to swing 25m in order to try and catch a bag of silver coins in their mouths. The ceremony was discontinued in 1932 following a number of deaths, but the swing still stands today following numerous restoration projects.

Jim Thompson’s house, 100฿ (2.22 GBP / 2.88 USD) is the old residence of Jim Thompson, the American entrepreneur who introduced Thai silk into the Western market. The house is decorated with Thai art and exquiste furniture. 9am-5pm, take a boat (klong taxi) to Tha Hua Chang.

The National Museum of Royal Barges is located on Arun Amarin Th, across Chao Phraya river holds a large collection of Royal Barges, most of which are still used on Royal Ceremonies today, open 9am-5pm.

Shopping

The floating market of Damnoen Saduak, is about 2 hours west of central Bangkok. As seen on the James Bond movie, the market, which is only open until noon can be reached from the south bus terminal, but remember, you’ll need to leave the city really early (6-7am) to be there with enough time to visit before the marktrainet closes.

Chatucak weekend market is a huge mass of over 15,000 stalls. Find everything from antiques, through to trinkets, textiles and handicrafts, Friday-Sunday 6am-6pm, and the night market is on from 10pm-7am.

Talat mai and talat kao in Chinatown contain a huge variety of market stalls selling fresh fruit, ingredients and spices.

Phahurat market is the ‘Little India’ of Thailand. It sells textiles, rugs and traditional dresses. Open 10am-6pm (closed on Monday).

Pak khlong market is a huge flower market in Bangkok, open 10am-10pm.

For those that want western shopping, the megamall complexes of MBK, Siam Paragon and Siam Centre are all located next door to each other and will over all the usual chain stores Westerners are used to, from US clothing shops, through to multi-national restaurant chains.

Nightlife

Head to the rooftop bar at Lebua Sky bar for a sunset to remember from the 64th floor of this building. Prices are on the expensive side (690฿ / 15.35 GBP / 19.87 USD for a cocktail), mainly due to the fact that this bar became infamous due to being feautred in The Hangover II.

Khao San road, the backpacker hangout, with bright lights, late night bars, and scorpions on sticks – this place needs to be visited to be experienced, even if you’re not a ‘party goer’, and don’t forget to snack on a 40฿ (0.89 GBP / 1.15 USD) scorpion on a stick!

Soi cowboy and Patpong are the main red light areas of Bangkok, both featuring dozens of gogo bars, again a fascinating world that is incredible to witness.

Food is life in Bangkok, and at night, street food really comes alive. Head to Chinatown, Phetchburi soi 10 or the train night market (Rod Fai) to experience some of the best dishes Thai street food has to offer.

Off-the-beaten Track

Bangkok forensic museum at the Siriraj hospital is a fascinating collection of bodies, and parts of bodies that have been embalmed and put on show. 200฿ (4.45 GBP / 5.76 USD), 10am-4pm.

Queen Saowapha snake farm is a 5-storey building featuring over 35 species of snakes, and a number of exhibitions on the life cycles of snakes. Located on Rama IV Rd, entrance is 200฿ (4.45 GBP / 5.76 USD), and includes a venom extraction show Monday-Friday at 11am.

Mae Klong Railway market, about 40 miles West of Bangkok, is a traditional Thai market, offering mainly food items, with a twist; it is built on a train track. Several times a day, the stallholders and visitors have to breathe-in as a train comes rolling through, inches from the market stall tables.

Bridge over River Kwai. This infamous 258-mile bridge has even had a film made about it, and was built using POW during World War II, and resulted in the deaths of between 100,000-120,000 Asian labourers and prisoners of war. Located about 2 1/2 hours west of central Bangkok.

Cooking with Poo is the infamous Thai cookery class run out of a nearby Thai slum, that teach budding chefs how to cook traditional Thai meals. Classes are 1,500฿ (33.37 GBP / 43.20 USD) and run from around 8.30am-1pm.

Siam Niramt is a Thai variety show, featuring over 100 performers. The show includes the story of the history of Thailand through dance, a fantasy segment and a grand finale. Tickets range from 1,500-2,500฿ (33.37 GBP–55.61 GBP / 43.20 USD–72.00 USD), and run daily from 8pm.

Wat Pho Traditional Thai Massage School. Learn how to give a traditional Thai massage at this top massage school off Soi Pen Phat, 5,000฿ (111.23 GBP / 144.00 USD).

Watch a Thai boxing match at the iconic Rajadamnern stadium. Tickets are priced at 500-2,000฿ (11.12 GBP–44.49 GBP / 14.40 USD–57.60 USD), or even learn how to fight yourself at The Fighting Spirit Gym (572/1 Silom Road).

Go indoor surfing at Flowhouse off Soi Athakravi, 750฿ per hour (16.68 GBP / 21.60 USD), open from 11am-10pm.

Take a look at the abandoned airplane graveyard just north of Ramkhameng. Please note, this is private property and not an ‘official’ attraction, and has recently been taken over by locals living in some of the planes. It is therefore advised you take care and seek advice before heading out to the graveyard.

Visit the vintage Scala cinema, which has been frozen in time but it’s owners, and offers a 1,000 seat single-screen theatre nested inside a retro-looking exterior, tickets are just 100฿ (2.22 GBP / 2.88 USD). If you’d rather go to a modern multiplex, try visiting the cinema on Wednesday when tickets are half price at 79-100฿ (1.76 GBP–2.22 GBP / 2.28 USD–2.88 USD). Alternatively, if you’re feeling particularly wealthy, why not head to the Central Embassy Diplomat screen, where tickets will set you back upto 1,200฿ (26.70 GBP / 34.56 USD), but include pillows, blankets, all you can drink minibar, phone chargers and a concerige button.


Eating In Bangkok

Thai food is one of the most exciting cuisines in Asia, if you haven’t already, check out my blog post on The Top Thai Dishes.

Street Food in Bangkok

Budget travellers will enjoy the many street stalls that line the streets of Bangkok, open every day except for Monday (street cleaning day). Meals will vary in price and quality depending on where you are, but you will be looking at 35-60฿ (0.78 GBP–1.33 GBP / 1.01 USD–1.73 USD). The most exciting street food markets in Bangkok for me, are unarguably Yaowarat (Chinatown), the train night market (known locally as rod fai), and Victory Monument.

Doy Kuay Teow Reua in Victory Monument serves some of the best boat noodles in the capital.

Kuay Jab Nay Lek in Chinatown has some fantastic pork bone soup.

Tom Yum Goong Banglamphu is just a few blocks down from Khao San Road and makes a gorgeously thick tom yum soup.

As far as street food goes, this is prehaps not the cheapest, with dishes setting you back between 200-250฿ (4.45 GBP–5.56 GBP / 5.76 USD–7.20 USD), but Somsak Pu Ob has some of the most reputable seafood dishes, I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. Despite it’s fame, the owner still cooks as a one man band to ensure quality, so expect a wait. I recommend the shrimp filled goong ob woon sen, or crab version of pu ob woon sen if you really want to push the boat out.

Budget Restaurants in Bangkok

There’s a lot of debate as to where the best pad Thai in Bangkok is, but in my opinion, you’ll be hard pushed finding somewhere better than Thip Samai, the other side of the river to Wat Saket (golden mount) on Maha Chai Rd.

Ka-Long is one of the hardest to find restaurants, but is virtually unknown, it’s located on 2 Si Ayutthaya Rd, and serves some of the nicest food I have had in the capital, but has been virtually unfound by internet hype (yet).

For casual diners, Siam square will offer you the best range. With meals ranging from 100-350฿ (2.22 GBP–7.79 GBP / 2.88 USD–10.08 USD). Fare includes a complete international range from Japanese, Western and Korean.

Luxury Restaurants in Bangkok

Those looking to treat themselves will find a number of high end boutique restaurants in Ekami. Prices here start from around 300฿ (6.67 GBP / 8.64 USD) and rise up to 1,000฿ (22.25 GBP / 28.80 USD) for imported steaks. Some of the best quality restaurants in Bangkok are Baan Khanitha and Seven Spoons. Bo.Laan and Those looking to really treat themselves, should look at the 5* Fireplace Grill at The Intercontinental Hotel.

Quirky Bangkok Restaurants

Quirky restaurants include Dine in the Dark, where you are served your food in complete darkness. The idea is to really heighten your senses as you rely on simply your taste buds to enjoy the food your served. This quirky restaurant near Terminal 21, features blind waiters, and gives guests the opportunity to reflect on the misfortune those who live in blindness 24/7 experience. This four-course set meal will set you back around 1,800฿ per person (40.04 GBP / 51.84 USD). Cabbages & Condoms is the second quirky restaurant in Bangkok, where all the decor is dressed in condoms.


Where to Stay in Bangkok

Given the good transport links within Bangkok, most places are good to stay in, however, you may find yourself attracted to the Bangkapi area (backpackers and nightlife lovers) or Siam (shopping central). Areas nearer the airport may find long and cramped commutes to get into the city centre each day.

Hostels in Bangkok (250-600฿)

Bangkok, and in fact all of Thailand, have a very high standard when it comes to accommodation, unlike many of its neighbouring South-East Asian countries, so you get a suprisingly good value out of even the most budget of hostels.

  • Flying Cow HostelValue Choice
    Generally regarded as one of the ‘best middle ground’ hostels in Bangkok. Reasonable quality, one of the lowest prices in the city, yet a decent location just north of Khao San Road. Rooms start at 245฿ per night (5.45 GBP / 7.06 USD).
  • Nap Park HostelSocial Choice
    If you’re intent on staying near Khao San Road (party area of Bangkok), then Nap Park is your best bet. Not the most comfortable of beds, and up to 22 beds to a room, but the people that stay here more than make up for it and it’s definitely the most social hostel in Bangkok, 499฿ per night (11.10 GBP / 14.37 USD).
  • Lub D, Siam Square – Travel Bloggers Choice
    Recommended by multiple travel bloggers, and for a good reason, this good value hostel is in an excellent location, and has very comfortable beds. 380฿ per night (8.45 GBP / 10.94 USD).
  • The Quarter Coworking BangkokDigital Nomad Choice
    Super-fast internet, bright open areas, on site restaurant, roof hammocks and super comfy breakout areas. Perfect if you need to get some work done while you explore the city. Sells out often. 600฿ per night (13.35 GBP / 17.28 USD).
  • Niras Bankoc Hostel – Location Choice
    Set just outside Wat Saket (Golden Mount), means this hostel is just 20 minutes walk from Grand Palace & the surrounding Wats, 15 minutes walk from Khao San Road, and right next to Phanfa Bridge khlong stop which will get you to Siam in 15-20 minutes. 450฿ per night (10.01 GBP / 12.96 USD).
  • Siri Poshtel – Comfort Choice
    This Bangkok poshtel is the perfect place to stay if value your comfort. Mattresses are super thick, and clean throughout. 500฿ per night (11.12 GBP / 14.40 USD).
  • Hom Hostel & Cooking ClubQuirky Choice
    A quirky new hostel with a twist, they offer on-site cooking classes. Comfortable and spacious beds. Located in between Sukhumvit and Siam, 450฿ per night (10.01 GBP / 12.96 USD).
  • Heyyyy BangkokOut of Town Choice
    This all round ‘cool’ hostel has it all, and is further outside the main tourist parts of Bangkok, near the Ramkhameng university area, for those wanting to mix with the local and students from all over Thailand. 350฿ per night (7.79 GBP / 10.08 USD).

Basic Hotels in Bangkok (990-2,950฿)

Its not all that expensive to stay in a hotel in Bangkok, and there are some surprisingly good value options out there.

  • Sakura Sky ResidenceValue Choice
    There are a lot of ‘cheap’ hotels from 600฿ in Bangkok, where the quality and location are less than idea. Clean, comfortable and not far from Phrom Phong BTS, Sakura Sky offers some good value rooms. 990฿ per night (22.02 GBP / 28.51 USD).
  • Shanghai MansionTravel Bloggers Choice
    Located in Bangkok’s Chinatown, Shanghai Mansion recreates 1930s Shanghai, in this refurbished building that dates back to 1892. 1,990฿ per night (44.27 GBP / 57.31 USD).
  • Oneday SukhumvitDigital Nomad Choice (For Those Starting Out)
    Also a hostel, but it is the private rooms that really shine here. Just outside of Phrom Phong station. Huge coworking areas. Doubles start at 1,350฿ per night (30.03 GBP / 38.88 USD).
  • The Residence on ThonglorDigital Nomad Choice (For Those Raking It In)
    This apartment style room gives nomads the perfect balance of work and relaxation, with comfortable in-room sofas, desks and a meeting room to get to work, and then a putting green, fitness centres and swimming pool overlooking the green trees below, for once work is over. Studios at just 2,250฿ per night (50.05 GBP / 64.80 USD).
  • Arun ResidenceLocation Choice
    The stunning views of Wat Arun, just 1,000 feet away, give you reason to get up early and watch the sunrise over Bangkok city from the comfort of the balcony bar. From 2,900฿ per night (65.63 GBP / 84.96 USD).
  • Tenface BangkokComfort Choice
    The beds here are made of unicorn feathers – or something like that – all I know is I didn’t want to leave! 2,050฿ per night (45.60 GBP / 59.04 USD).
  • PlayHaus ThonglorQuirky Choice
    This quirky Bangkok hotel has each floor themed with theatre show designs – from Aladdin through to Mary Poppins. 1,990฿ per night (44.27 GBP / 57.31 USD).
  • MeStyle Place – Out of Town Choice
    With an entrance that is Instagram-worthy, this recently opened hotel, is located a little outside the main tourist parts of Bangkok, nestled in amongst the large townhouses in Ratchada. The location means you’re able to feel close to the locals, but are also just a 20 minutes MRT ride from the busy Westernised business centre of Sukhumvit. 1,100฿ per night (24.47 GBP / 31.68 USD).

Luxury Hotels in Bangkok (3,800-7,500฿)

When you mean business in the city of angels, Bangkok certainly offers some high rolling 5* hotels that can fit the bill.

  • Pullman Bangkok Hotel GValue Choice
    A genuine 5* hotel for just over $100? In Bangkok anything is possible. From 3,800฿ per night (84.53 GBP / 109.44 USD).
  • SO Sofitel, BangkokTravel Bloggers Choice
    If you’ve read any article on Bangkok, you’ve no doubt seen a bikini clad woman standing at a full length window overlooking incredible views of Bangkok, or laying by the infinity pool of this iconic 5* Bangkok institution. Starts at 6,000฿ per night (133.48 GBP / 172.80 USD).
  • The Okura Prestige BangkokLocation Choice
    If you’re looking for luxury that steps out into the heart of Bangkok, The Okura Prestige is for you. They play to this fact, with infinity pools, sky decks and even beds overlooking the buzzing city. From 7,500฿ per night (166.84 GBP / 216.00 USD)
  • The Sukhothai BangkokComfort Choice
    It’s hard to find an ‘uncomfortable’ luxury hotel – but Sukothai go above and beyond to ensure your comfort. With its’ top class massage centre, and their swimming pool that will blow your mind, you’ll quickly forget that one of the busiest cities in the world is just a few streets down. From 5,300฿ per night (117.90 GBP / 152.64 USD)
  • The Peninsula, BangkokFamily Choice
    With huge suites, The Peninsula offers spacious rooms, gorgeous views and fine quality cooking. From 6,000฿ per night (133.48 GBP / 172.80 USD).
  • W BangkokQuirky Choice
    This incredibly detailed hotel has an exceptionally grand manor house exterior, but inside is where the real fun begins. Each room has been individually created and decorated from ceiling to floor with playful art and colour throughout. From 5,700฿ per night (126.80 GBP / 164.16 USD)
  • Bangkok Tree House – Out of Town Choice
    Quirky, tree top rooms offer stunning views in the ‘green lung’ of Bangkok, just a short hop across the river, making the sights still readily accessible, while offering a wilderness feel. Prices vary from 3,900฿ per night (86.76 GBP / 112.32 USD) out of season, through to 9,500฿ (211.34 GBP / 273.60 USD)  for a family room in season.