Looking for a Bangkok itinerary to help you get the most out of your visit to the city? With so much to do in the Thai capital, it can be hard to know where to start. Although we here at South East Asia Backpacker are definitely advocates for the ‘no-plan’ backpacking strategy, if you’re limited on time, it can help to have a rough idea of the what the best places are and how to get to them!
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An Introduction to Thailand’s Crazy Capital: Bangkok
Many travellers heading off on the Southeast Asian backpacker route begin and end their travels in Bangkok. The city is located in the centre of Southeast Asia which makes it a great transport hub for the surrounding countries and it boasts some of the cheapest flights from Europe and the US.
Whilst many backpackers simply just change planes here, we think it’s worth spending at least a few days in the capital to explore this diverse, metropolitan city.
It’s fair to say that Bangkok is an assault on the senses! From the moment you step off that plane you know you’re in a new vibrant city that has plenty to offer. And, that is not just shown by the people shouting ‘TAXI’ at you! (If you’re happily exploring the city on foot you’ll get used to that… it happens all over Thailand.)
Wondering where to stay in Bangkok?
- Check out our list of the best hostels in Bangkok!
- Also, check out our guide to Bangkok Neighbourhoods for an idea of the best place to base yourself.
How many days should you spend in Bangkok?
Only 1 Day in Bangkok?
If you are super short on time but still want a taste of the city, we would recommend doing the first day of the Bangkok itinerary listed below. This way, you will hit all the major sights and still find time for a cheeky Pad Thai and beer on the famous Khao San Road. Not bad for 24 hours or less in the city!
2 or 3 Days in Bangkok?
If you only have two or three days to spare don’t fear, you can easily adapt our 4-day Bangkok itinerary below to suit your needs. We’ve noted opening times where possible so the schedule can be changed, or, if you’d rather, you can simply miss out one of the days. In 2 days you can see the highlights Bangkok has to offer but make sure you’ve got clothes that cover your knees and shoulders (more on that below), good walking shoes and some water in your daypack. This way, you’ll be ready for anything – pretty much!
4 Days in Bangkok – Our Recommendation!
The Bangkok itinerary that we have put together is aimed at travellers spending four days in the city. This will enable you to see the majority of the attractions and sights but it will also give you the chance to experience different off the beaten track areas to get an alternative view of the city.
5 Days in Bangkok?
If you can squeeze in an extra day in the city, you may be ready for a break from the traffic and noise, that’s why we’ve added a cool eco-friendly suggestion at the bottom of this article for what to do if you have 5 days in Bangkok! 😉
The Definitive Bangkok Itinerary for Budget Travellers!
Day 1 – Sightseeing and Temples
Day 1 – Morning – Start with the main attractions!
Once you’ve settled into your accommodation and got your bearings, it’s time to get started with the most popular and spectacular sights that Thailand’s capital has to offer; The Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew. These attractions are amongst the busiest in Bangkok with thousands of guests descending on the grounds each day. However, it’s worth braving the crowds (and the heat!) to see these beautiful iconic structures.
The magnificent Grand Palace was once home to the King of Thailand and Wat Phra Kaew (situated on the same site as the Grand Palace) is home to the famous Emerald Buddha. It’s guaranteed that you’ll be in awe of the incredible colours and beauty of these landmarks.
- Costs: 500 THB entrance fee.
- Opening hours: 08.30 – 15.30.
- Time: We suggest you give yourselves a good few hours to see these, you don’t want to rush! Three hours is our recommendation.
Scam warning! When venturing through Bangkok you may come across a local tuk tuk driver or street vendor going about their day who wants to offer advice. While the vast majority of Thai people are super friendly and genuine, as with any major city, always err on the side of caution.
Some of these characters are actually touts and they may tell you that the sight is closed or only open for Thai people at this time. They may suggest that you go with a taxi driver (who will conveniently appear) who will take you to another great place, a boat trip perhaps or other temples which are open. Don’t do it!
The Grand Palace is only closed around four times a year so always check online before venturing out and stick to your plan. It is also advisable to wear your backpack on your front, to avoid pickpockets. It may not be stylish but its much safer!
Day 1 – Afternoon – Temples and Massages
Just a short walk away (10 minutes) from the Grand Palace (tuk-tuk drivers will try to say it is further and offer you a ride but you should only accept if you struggle to walk that far!) sits WatPho; which houses the famous Reclining Buddha.
Need a quick thirst quencher along the way? Grab an iced coffee or tea from one of the many restaurants lining the streets from the Grand Palace to Wat Pho.
The Reclining Buddha stretches out 46 metres and is 15 metres tall. It is covered in gold leaf. I’d recommend coming to Wat Pho after the Grand Palace because even though many visitors choose to visit the Reclining Buddha first (be prepared to queue), many don’t explore the rest of the site allowing for a more relaxing experience.
To give your feet a rest, Wat Pho also offers traditional Thai body and foot massages starting from 300 THB. A Thai massage can feel like you’ve had a small beating by the end but it’s worth it for the experience!
- Costs: 200 THB entrance fee.
- Opening hours: 08.00 – 17.00.
- Time: With fewer crowds, you won’t need as long as you did at the Grand Palace but it’s always good to take things slow. We recommend 1 – 2 hours but this will be longer if you decide to have a massage.
Wat Arun is the final stop of the day and is a short ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River from the Grand Palace. Also known as the Temple of Dawn, you can climb to the top of the narrow staircase for incredible views of the city.
- Costs: 50 THB entrance fee.
- Opening hours: 08.30 – 17.30.
- Time: 1 hour plus the boat ride.
Traveller Tip: Make sure when visiting temples in Thailand that you are wearing (or you have in your backpack) clothing that will cover your legs and arms. If not, you will have to either rent them from a shop at the attraction or buy from street vendors. Most places where modesty is a requirement will allow you to rent garments for roughly 20THB per item. This is much cheaper than buying them from the street vendors.
Day 1 – Evening – Khao San Road
By now you’re probably ready to rest those weary feet and crawl into bed! But before you do, grabbing a drink and some street food at the famous Khao San Road is a rite of passage. Pick up a cold beer and some cheap Pad Thai (roughly 80 THB) to finish off your day.
Khao San Road isn’t for everyone as it’s a bit like the Benidorm of Bangkok (only Brits will know what I’m talking about here!). However, there’s no denying that the street is full of life and a great place to meet new people and try new things… Perhaps it is time for your first fresh coconut or bug on a stick? (More weird Asian food is available!)
Traveller Tip: If you want to see how Khao San Road used to look before the backpackers took over, explore the greater surrounds of the Banglamphoo area, which has a much more local feel with lots of Thai hipster bars. Soi Rambuttri and Pra Athit Road are just a short walk from Khao San Road and they couldn’t be more different in terms of atmosphere! Also check out our guide on the best Bangkok neighbourhoods for some more info.
Day 2 – Boat Trips, Chinatown and Shopping!
Day 2 – Morning – Relaxing Boat Trip
After exploring the historical sites yesterday, it is time for a more leisurely day today! If you’ve made it to day two, it’s time to take your foot off the gas and recharge your batteries. A boat trip with Chao Phraya River Cruise will do just that! This trip allows you to hop on and off at various stops. It’s a great way to see the city from the river but also quicker transport than you will find on land as the roads can often be congested with traffic.
We’d recommend stopping off and visiting Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, Museum Siam and the Flower Market. Then, make your final stop Yaowarat (Chinatown), located close to the Ratchawongse pier.
- Cost: 200 BHT (All Day River Pass) 60BHT (Single Journey Ticket).
- Time: 1 -2 hours.
Day 2 – Lunch – Chinatown
Once you’ve made it to Yaowarat, it is time to explore! In Chinatown, you will be met with plenty of places to eat and drink. Be sure to venture into the small narrow side streets as the market twists and turns to try some local delicacies!
Day 2 – Afternoon – Creatives and Coffee
The south of the city offers a more relaxed Bangkok which travellers shouldn’t miss. Warehouse 30, located around a 20-minute walk from Chinatown, is a row of urban warehouses that have been turned into creative spaces such as art galleries, coffee houses and independent sellers selling various handicrafts. We recommend taking a book or downloading your favourite podcast and heading down for a chilled hour or two to hang with the trendy locals!
- Cost: Free
- Opening hours: 11.30 – 20.00.
Bangkok is home to some of the biggest shopping malls around so head over to Siam Paragon for a bit fo retail therapy or just to look at how much stuff you can cram under one roof! We were amazed that there were entire car garages inside! Treat yourself and grab some fluffy pancakes in the food court at The Pancake Café – we’d highly recommend the Nutella ones!
Day 2 – Evening – Sunset Sights!
It’s time to take in the sights of the city from above and head out to the new King Power Skywalk for sunset (you can find the sunset times online). From Siam Paragon, take the BTS Silom Line from Siam to Chong Nonsi. The skywalk is Thailands highest observation deck standing at 314 meters with indoor and outdoor viewing for all weathers! It also has a glass walkway for all you adventurers brave enough to want a Birdseye view of the city!
- Costs: 700 THB entrance fee
- Opening hours: 10.00 – 0.00.
- Time: 1 hour. We recommend going later on in the day to experience the sunset.
Day 3 – Culture and Pad Thai
Day 3 – Morning – Traditional Dance Show
If you’ve been to the Grand Palace, hold on to your ticket as this gives you free entry into Sala Chalermkrung Theatre’s Traditional Khan Dance Show which runs on weekdays (you have to redeem it within 7 days of entering the Grand Palace). Grab an iced coffee and arrive around 10 minutes before the performance starts.
The show introduces you to traditional Thai Mask Dancing and is definitely something worth seeing. I was a little sceptical beforehand however, it was great entertainment and the handy English subtitles explain the story (which has no speaking, just dance) making it easy to understand and enjoy this local ancient art form.
- Opening times: weekdays at 10.30, 14.30, 16.00, 17.30.
- Time: The performance lasts around 30 minutes in total.
Day 3 – Afternoon – Mysterious Silk Tycoon
A short taxi or tuk-tuk away is famous architect Jim Thompson’s house although originally he was not known for this. After settling in Thailand after WW2, Jim was the driving force behind reinvigorating the Thai method of silk weaving, eventually introducing it into fashion houses all over the world. The design is stunning and fewer tourists go here which means you’ll feel less like a sardine in a can! (Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia in 1967.)
- Costs: 200 THB entrance fee.
- Opening hours: 09.00 – 17.00.
- Time: We suggest spending around two hours here to give yourself time to take in the landmark.
Day 3 – Evening – Pad Thai Heaven at Thipsamai
Hailed as the best Pad Thai in Bangkok (and even Thailand!) Thipsamai don’t take reservations. Be prepared to queue but don’t let that put you off. We waited for around 30 minutes for our food and let me tell you, it was worth waiting for! Whilst you wait you can see the outside kitchen at work. Each staff member is in charge of one part of the Pad Thai and they are the people that make sure that it’ll taste out of this world. Dishes range in price from 120 THB- 500 THB. We suggest going for the cheapest as to me, it didn’t seem any different from the most expensive.
- Opening hours: 17.00 – 02.00.
- Time: Depends on the length of the queue but be prepared to wait!
Day 4 – Street Food and Markets
Day 4 – Morning / Lunch – Bangkok Food Tour
Yes, we’ve all heard of Pad Thai, but what about Thailand’s lesser known dishes? A street food tour is a great way to sample a variety of dishes that you might otherwise never have heard of, and at the same time, explore different neighbourhoods of the city! We highly recommend the Bangkok Street Food Tour with A Chef’s Tour where you’ll visit a food market that’s over one hundred year’s old, and get to explore an authentic local side to the city that many tourists do not see. Plus, you get to eat lots of delicious food and learn a bit of the local language which will assist you in your further travels in Thailand.
Day 4 – Afternoon – Market Wanderings
If your trip falls at the weekend, a visit to Bangkok’s most famous weekend market: Chatuchak Market (also known as JJ Market). This market is not for the fainthearted! As the heat of the day sets in, thousands of visitors descend on this Saturday market with over 15,000 stalls to choose from. Get lost by wondering in the aisles of the market and sniffing out a bargain from Thai art to ornate chopsticks and clothing, there is something here for everyone! It is also a great place to grab lunch. When heading here, don’t forget to go armed with some (lots of cash) and a bottle of water!
- Opening hours: every Saturday all day.
- Nearest BTS Station: Mo Chit to MRT Kamphaeng Phet.
- Time: A few hours should be enough here.
Day 4 – Evening – More Rooftop views Now your adventures in Bangkok are coming to a close, it’s time to round it all off by venturing to the top of the city with a drink in hand. Octave Rooftop Bar, located in the Marriott Hotel, is the place to go! With stunning 360-degree panoramic views of the city, this is the place to sit back relax and enjoy the views. We definitely recommend going as the sun sets, it is a magical experience that will round off your time in Bangkok!
Day 5 – Do you have 5 days in Bangkok?
Do you have an extra day in the city? We recommend getting away from the traffic and noise and heading to a very special part of the city known as Bangkok’s ‘Green Lung’, known as Prapadaeng locally. This green and leafy area is unlike any side of the city that you’ve already seen and many locals head out here for some fresh air! You won’t believe that you are still in Bangkok…
To get here, take the ferry over the Chaophraya River to reach Klong Toey Pier (20 THB). Once in Prapadaeng, hire a bicycle (very conveniently located when you get of the ferry) for less than 100 THB and cycle along the tree-lined pathways and across the little bridges over the canals. Ride by local houses and ancient temples and enjoy a smog and concrete free environment! In Prapadaeng, as well as the beautiful and enormous Bang Krachao Park, don’t miss the very unusual attraction of the Siamese Fish Fighting Gallery! (We’ll let you google that one.)
Traveller Tip for getting around Bangkok
Download the Southeast Asian version of Uber (called Grab) for journeys you can’t take by Skytrain (BTS) or Metro (MRT). We used it a lot in Bangkok but always check the city you are in because in some places in SE Asia this app is banned. WIFI is easily accessible in almost all restaurants and coffee shops which means Grab is easy to arrange. Grab gives you a set price and you can pay in cash directly to the driver. We found it was often 50% cheaper than a tuk-tuk or local taxi.