Bangkok, nicknamed the ‘City of Angels’ is an exhilarating, fast-paced Asian city with enough buzz to knock your flip flops off! Glamorous shopping malls, bustling markets, great restaurants, awesome bars and some fantastic street food; Bangkok is the perfect introduction to South East Asia and a great starting point for your backpacking adventure! Apart from hanging around the famous backpacker hub, The Khao San Road, what else is there to do in Bangkok? ER… A LOT! If you’re only here a few days, be sure to make the most of them with these essential tips!
Places to Stay in Bangkok
- The Khao San Road: Where East Meets West, it’s the travel hub of South East Asia, if not the world. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying there’s a certain air of excitement on any given night in the Khao San Road. Once described as the ‘shortest street with the longest dream in the world,’ it’s a place you’ll find many a backpacker about to set forth on or leave behind an exciting adventure. There’s a variety of accommodation from flea-pit ‘The Beach’ type digs to swanky, luxurious hotels with roof top pools. Here you can drink vodka buckets, get a fake driving license, buy copy CDs, DVDs, get dreadlocks, have a fish massage, eat bugs, get a cheap pad thai and fulfil any other backpacker desire you may have!
In our recent Readers Poll, the Khao San Road was voted the 9th worst place to visit in South East Asia. So why do travellers still choose to stay here? The truth is that many first-timers just don’t know where else to stay! Get informed about the city’s neighbourhoods. Read our article ‘Avoiding the Khao San Road! Our Guide to the Best Bangkok Neighbourhoods’ now!
- Banglamphu Area: Within walking distance of the Khao San Road there are some quieter side streets if you don’t fancy staying on the main drag. The entire area around the famous strip has now spread and there are cheap and decent places all around. Rambuttri Road is a lively strip, with cafes, bars and chilled out restaurants. Walk straight out of your hotel and get a foot massage for 100 baht!
- Sukhumvit Road, Silom & Thong Lor: Although many rookie backpackers think the Khao San Road is the centre of Bangkok, (some – even Thailand!) the city centre is actually located about a half hour taxi ride away. Downtown Silom, Sathorn, Victory Monument and Din Daeng are great areas to base yourself if you fancy being smack bang in the middle of the action. There are some gorgeous hostels, which cater for a more mature crowd than your ‘Khao San Roaders’ and from here you are within walking distance of fancy shopping malls, great restaurants, bars and some wicked nightlife.
Best Backpacker Hostels in Bangkok:
Clean, spacious and well-designed hostel located in the authentic Thai neighbourhood of Din Daeng, with delicious street food and a buzzing night-scene around Huai Khwang Night Market. The fun and free social events and fantastic facilities will leave you wanting for nothing at this hostel that clearly understands the needs of travellers. We loved this place!
One of our favourites! You can’t go wrong with a night (0r seven) in this Bangkok hostel, voted recently the cleanest hostel by Hostel Bookers! Social activities every night, great common area, comfy beds and power showers. Highly recommended. Lub d Hostel has two branches in Bangkok, one in Siam Square and Silom.
Silom: Located on a quiet side street of Silom in an unassuming building containing bright colours and industrial design, housing 98 beds in over 36 rooms! There’s also a fantastic little restaurant opposite the front door.
Siam Square: Located on the doorstep of shopper’s heaven, with MBK, Central World and Siam Centre in walking distance.
3. Rambuttri Village Plaza
Two minutes from the famous, backpacker hub, the Khao San Road, located on the (slightly) quieter Soi Rambuttri, this hotel offers a really good deal for backpackers or flashpackers! Very decent rooms starting at 600 baht (for two people) and the bonus of this place is the rooftop pool where you can relax away from the bustle of the streets below.
Bed Station is a quirky, arty and friendly hostel located in the heart of Bangkok. It’s a chic, boutique and arty place with huge bathrooms, comfortable dorm rooms and free tea and coffee!
5. Nap Park Hostel
Award-winning hostel, beautifully designed and a wonderful place to stay for budget-minded travellers who prefer a little bit of luxury! Near Khao San Road, you’re also close to the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Po. A retro-style Thai house, charming and cosy stay.
6. HI Sukhumvit Hostel
A popular choice, YHA affiliated, is located on Sukhumvit Soi 38, walking distance to Bangkok’s trendy area Thong Lor, famous for its street food, quirky bars and nightclubs, just 2 minutes from the BTS stop. Dorm rooms start at 350 baht, with single rooms too.
Something for the Flashpacker:
If you’re looking to stay long-term in Bangkok or want something a bit more fancy, why not check out the iSanook Residence in Silom. The hostel / apartments is located in a very authentic Thai neighbourhood, yet within walking distance of the major shopping districts of Siam Square, MBK and Central World. With a rooftop jacuzzi, swimming pool, bar, restaurant, gymnasium and beautiful rooms – you’d expect to pay more than 1,275 THB per night for this right? Check out our review of iSanook Residence here.
Ideas For Things To Do in Bangkok
Visit the Grand Palace: The sparkling palace is a must see in Bangkok and the dazzling Wat Phra Kaew houses the precious 14th Century Emerald Buddha. At 250 baht for entry it’s quite steep but worth it. Make sure you cover up when you visit or you might not be allowed in.
China Town: Wander down the little back streets, browse the Chinese medicines and herbs, sample some unusual street food and visit an incense filled Temple to get your fortune read. Read more about Chinatown here.
See the Reclining Buddha: 46 metres long and 15 metres high, the enormous Buddha lies in the oldest and largest Wat in Bangkok, Wat Pho, in the same grounds as the Palace. The Buddha was designed to illustrate the passing of Buddha into Nirvana.
TIP: When getting in a taxi in Bangkok, always ask the taxi driver to use the meter. In Thai say: “Dit meter dai mai, ka / kaap? (for women / men).
See a Muay Thai Boxing Fight: A visit to Rachadamnern Stadium is the perfect way to finish off the Bangkok experience. Even if you’re not into boxing it’s a great atmosphere and can get a little heated if you’re sat with the locals. Tickets set you back 1,000 baht and you’ll see about 10 fights.
Visit Bangkok’s 24-hour Flower Market: Rush hour at this unique Bangkok market s midnight! A delight for the nostrils, Bangkok Flower Market is a cultural phenomenon as you observe florists making garlands for temples, weddings and other religious events throughout the night!
Take a boat trip on the Chao Phraya River: Great way to get around and try to catch a bit of a breeze in this sweltering capital. From twinkly temples to scruffy shacks to river-side markets you’ll get to see the diversity of Bangkok without the foot work. Cheap too.
Outdoor Aerobics Lumphini Park – A great work out free! Blend in with the fitness fanatic locals around sunset as the park pumps with dance music and bouncing bodies.
Take a Meditation course: Get some spiritual enlightenment in the city with a one-day Buddhist meditation course. Visit Wat Mahathat for information.
Take a Thai Massage Course: Wat Pho is home to the most famous massage school in Thailand, where you can take a short massage course to learn this ancient art of healing. Wat Pho is also a beautiful temple to visit after dark when crowds are less and the temple is lit up in the night sky.
Visit Wat Arun: Located in Thonburi, on the quieter side of the Chao Phraya River, beautiful Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) is an iconic landmark of Bangkok.
Cycle along the canals: Despite the traffic of Bangkok, cycling is a great way to get around the city. You can hire a bicycle for around 100 baht / day and discover a quieter side to the city, sticking to the awesome canal network that once gave the city the name ‘Venice of the East’.
Shop at Chatuchak Market: With over 15,000 stalls selling everything from retro cowboy boots to puppies, you’ll spend hours wandering around one of the world’s biggest markets.
Visit the Aeroplane Graveyard: Are you interested in Urban Exploration? Did you know that there’s a graveyard for abandoned aeroplanes near Ramkamhaeng Station in Bangkok? It’ll cost you a few hundred baht to bribe the kid who lives there in order to get in, but it’s worth it for some surreal photos!
Ping Pong Show: We don’t recommend it!
The Sky Bar (Vertigo): Dig out your least creased clothes and mix with international business folk at this awesome bar. Rock up in your flips and they’ll give you a fetching pair of men’s loafers to wear and a pair of slacks or skirt for ladies. No matter how silly you look, it’s worth it for incredible views of the city, even if at 240 Baht you can only afford 1 beer! (Banyan Tree Hotel, 21/100 Th Sathon Thai).
Trips & Tours that take in Bangkok…
Getting to Bangkok
For many travellers, Bangkok is the starting point for their backpacking adventure across South East Asia! International flights land at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport and from here it’s around a 30 minute taxi drive to the city centre, costing approximately 400 baht. (Find cheap flights here).
Airport buses also depart every hour from taking you into the city centre, where you can catch the wonderful Bangkok ‘Sky Train,’ (The BTS) the Underground (MRT) or take a ride with one of the millions of tuk-tuks, taxi’s or motorbike taxi’s straight to your hotel.
The Airport link is now open in Bangkok, which takes you direct from Suvarnabhuni Airport to the centre of Bangkok in 15 minutes.
Where to go next?
- Ayutthaya: (An hour and a half bus journey from Bangkok) Explore old Buddhist temples at this ancient city which became the second capital of Thailand after Sukhothai, founded in 1350. Ride a bicycle around the ruins and see the famous Buddha head submerged between the roots of a tree.
- Koh Chang: (A five hour trip from Bangkok, including bus and ferry) This beautiful natural island is the perfect beach getaway and it’s only 5 hours from Bangkok. Beaches, national parks, waterfalls, diving and a great ‘backpacker vibe’ this is the place to relax after a few hectic days and hard core nights in the city.
- Koh Samet: (A two-hour journey from Bangkok including bus and ferry) More of a ‘flashpacker’ getaway, this tiny island is a favourite amongst ‘weekenders’ from Bangkok, meaning prices can be higher than other islands and hard to find a room Friday and Saturday. With white sands, turquoise waters and some amazing seafood restaurants it’s Bangkok’s tropical island paradise just two hours away!
- Kanchanaburi: (A two hour bus ride from Bangkok. Minibuses depart daily from the Khao San Road, Victory Monument.) The town that is famous by the River Kwae Bridge is just a two hour bus ride from Bangkok. With lovely mountainous countryside all around, there’s biking, trekking, visits to waterfalls and rafting adventures to be had.