For many first time backpackers and travellers, Thailand is their first stop in Asia. Well known as a backpacker haven, it’s one of the best countries in the world to begin your adventures and most likely you will arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. The capital city itself has a reputation for having vibrant nightlife, thousands of tuk-tuks, amazing street food and some of the most magical historical sites throughout Asia. This ultimate Bangkok travel guide will give you a run down of what to expect whilst exploring the city, places to stay from budget hostels all the way up to luxury hotels, how to get around, the top attractions and where to eat.
Bangkok travel guide
– FAQ’s –
- Capital of Thailand: Bangkok.
- Currency: Thai Baht. Check the exchange rate compared to your home currency here.
- Language: Thai is their first language, however most tourist attractions, hotels and food outlets will speak fairly good English.
- Climate: Bangkok is hot and very humid throughout the year. Rainy season occurs between May and October, but don’t be put off by visiting around this time as prices are usually cheaper and it isn’t usually as hot (great for visiting the main attractions).
- Power Adaptors: 2/3 pin plug – Type A, B, C or O (Click here for full information).
- ATM’S: are very common throughout the city, you’ll be able to get cash out at the airport when you arrive. Do be careful which ATM’S you use, as some have been known to swallow cards. All ATM’S also charge a fee of 180 baht to get money out, so try and get larger bulks of cash out, instead of paying every time.
- Best Skybar: If you’re wanting a high-class and pricey skybar, The Lebua Tower is the one for you. You may recognise it from The Hangover II. However, we personally think it’s a bit over-rated, and instead highly recommend the Anantara Sathorn Skybar, you can read our full post about it here.
- How long should you spend in Bangkok?: That’s really up to you, but we recommend anywhere from 3-5 nights in order to see all the main attractions, especially if it’s your first time and you arrive on a late flight into Bangkok.
– Where To Stay –
Bangkok without a doubt has the largest amount of affordable luxury hotels in the world. A 5* hotel in the city can cost just US$50 for 2 people in low season! Putting that in perspective, you would pay that price for just 1 person in a dorm room in Sydney! Even the most luxurious and finest hotels, including the Banyan Tree, Sofitel SO and Millennium Hilton are great value compared to what they would cost elsewhere in the world.
However, we know many travellers especially solo backpackers come to Bangkok to meet others and stay in dorms. Thus, we’ve created accommodation recommendations in our Bangkok travel guide, from budget hostels all the way up to the finest hotels.
– Best Budget Accommodation In Bangkok –
- Nitan Hostel:The perfect location for backpackers, right in the middle of Khao San Road where you can enjoy yourself with Bangkok’s famous street food, bars, and night clubs. It is also within walking distance or a short tuk-tuk ride from the Grand Palace and Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Nitan Hostel has free breakfast, free wifi, lockers, air conditioning (very important) and clean dorm beds it’s the best place to stay if you’re wanting to be near Khao San.
- US$13.65 for a 10 bed mixed dorm.
- US$16.09 for a deluxe 10 bed mixed dorm.
- The Blocks Hostel: A beautiful, modern and new hostel in Sukhumvit (the centre of the public transport system, great for getting to any part of the city), with free wifi, air conditioning, lockers and security this is a great choice for a more relaxed stay. The Blocks Hostel also has a rooftop bar to hang out with other guests and a wide range of dorm rooms available.
- US$9.62 for a 6 bed mixed dorm.
- US10.20 for a 4 bed mixed dorm.
- US$9.91 for a 5 bed mixed dorm.
- Once Again Hostel: If you’re seeking for an authentic local experience, learning more about Thai culture, and meeting fellow travellers, then Once Again Hostel is the perfect place for you. If you don’t want the buzz of being right on Khao San Road but near to it and all the other attractions, this is a great location for you. It includes free breakfast, free wifi, towels included, lockers and security. Once Again Hostel is a great place to chill by day and be close to all the bars and clubs by night.
- US$11.37 for a 12 bed mixed dorm.
- US$16.04 for a 8 bed female dorm.
- US$13.12 for a 8 bed mixed dorm.
- US16.04 for a 6 bed mixed dorm.
– Best Mid-Range Accommodation In Bangkok –
- X2 Vibe Bangkok Sukhumvit: A modern, 4* hotel located in the heart of Sukhumvit – the centre of fashion, entertainment and nightlife. With free wifi, free parking, a spa, pool, fitness centre and a free area shuttle X2 Vibe is a great choice. In addition, you can pay just $4 a night extra for breakfast!
- From US$43 a night for 2 people.
- Casa Nithra Bangkok: This luxury boutique hotel located right in the heart of Bangkok old town, just a 10 minute walk from Khao San Road and where traditional Thai culture meets modern lifestyle. The spacious rooms in Casa Nirthra are meticulously decorated with Thai-inspired reminisces of the Siam wall arts and crafts. Amenities include: free wifi, an outdoor pool and shuttle services to nearby attractions.
- From US$56 a night for 2 people.
- Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit: Is just steps from the best shopping, nightlife, and dining destinations, and a quick 5-minute stroll to Nana BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway stations for easy access to Bangkok’s biggest attractions. The modern Aloft hotel offers rooms from chic to urban to breezy, with to die for views of the Bangkok skyline. Amenities include: free wifi, free parking, free tuk-tuk shuttle, outdoor pool and gym.
- From US$45 a night for 2 people.
– Top Luxury Hotels In Bangkok –
- Banyan Tree: One of the most iconic hotels in Bangkok, with world-class hospitality and the epitome of opulence. Located in the heart of the city, The Banyan Tree has wonderful views of the city from their skybar, rooftop restaurant, luxury suites and their outdoor pool. With a variety of rooms available at the Banyan Tree, from their horizon room to their Spa Sanctuary Suite you’ll be spoilt for choice.
- From US$160 a night for 2 people.
- SO Sofitel: Probably the most modern and swanky luxury hotel in Bangkok. The SO Sofitel has themed accommodation created around the Five Elements, and is an inspiring collaborative showpiece by Thailand’s top five designers and world renowned fashion designer Monsieur Christian Lacroix. Amenities include: an outdoor pool, full service spa, 2 bars and restaurants, fitness centre and a free shuttle.
- From US$140 a night for 2 people.
- Millennium Hilton: A spectacular luxury hotel located right on the Chao Phraya River with stunning views of the city from every room and a free shuttle boat across the river to the public river boat network. If you’re a Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond member you’ll gain access to the executive lounge at the Millennium Hilton, if you’re not you can book an executive room. This gives you free alcoholic drinks, snacks and a light evening meal. Amenities include: pool, fitness room, rooftop bar, spa & sauna and available sightseeing tours. Read our blog post on: Why Hilton Honors is the best loyalty program to join!
- From US$90 a night for 2 people.
– Public Transport –
For many first time and even frequent travellers, Bangkok never fails to impress with its vast volume of traffic at all times of the day. With taxis available on nearly every street corner, there is certainly no short supply throughout the city. Because of the huge number of vehicles in the city, make sure to allow plenty of time when departing for the airport as it can easily take more than an hour. Friday night rush hour got us stuck in traffic for 3 hours once, that’s Bangkok for you!
However, with excellent and modern public transport systems in place, Bangkok is surprisingly easy to navigate your way around, including:
- Taxis are to date the cheapest we have seen anywhere in the world, the average ride inside the city will usually cost you no more than US$4, and being easy to find as they appear on virtually every corner at almost any time.
- Most taxis are new and spacious. In addition to the traditional green-yellow and red-blue colours, they also come in funky colours like bright orange, red and even pink. Don’t worry fares and features are the same.
- Watch out for an over-eager taxi driver who offers to take you to ‘good’ places, skip it or decline! Trust your intuition. If you don’t get a good feeling about a taxi driver, rather wait for the next one. Again taxis standing in front of hotels can be suspicious and charge more.
- Don’t be surprised if they haven’t heard of your hotel or hostel. On both occasions when we stayed at the Banyan Tree and Millennium Hilton (both of which are well-known hotels in Bangkok) the taxi drivers did not know where this was. Make sure to carry a map or address of the place you are staying at.
- Tipping taxi drivers is not required, though rounding the fare off to the nearest 5 or 10 baht is common practice. Also, taxi drivers commonly pretend that they do not have the correct change if you give them larger notes, so make sure to carry small change with you before getting into a taxi.
- Top Tip: Before getting in the taxi, always ask if they will put the meter on, most likely some will just drive on but it won’t be hard to find a driver that will agree. They might suggest a fixed price which they say will be cheaper than the meter, which 99% of the time won’t be, but even if that is true it might lead to a scam where they stop at a shop along the way and get money from the shop keeper if you buy a product.
- Tuk-tuks, were once a big Bangkok attraction before taxis and skytrains were introduced. Now they are slowly disappearing in favour of more comfortable transport, but are still worth a ride at least once. You can’t visit Bangkok without going in a tuk-tuk.
- Fares vary depending on the distance travelled, the time of the day, the amount of traffic, and even the mood of the drivers. Normally a very short trip will cost around 30 baht.
- Fare negotiating and haggling is a must because the price named by the driver is always an ‘inflated rate’ (especially if you’re a tourist). The trick is to start low and work it from there, and take it from there. In the past we’ve halved our tuk-tuk fare just by haggling, just be bold and sound like you know what you’re taking about.
- Tuk-tuks are most ideal for short trips. Sometimes it would cost the same, or even cheaper, to take a cab to the same destination. Which is one of the reasons why they’re slowly fading out.
- Avoid taking a tuk-tuk during peak times. As it’s all open air you don’t want to be stuck in traffic for hours, sweating and breathing in the hazardous fumes from engines all around you, not to mention the humidity.
- Like taxis, be careful of the shady looking tuk-tuks around touristy areas, who often boasts privileged knowledge of ‘secret’ or ‘special’ shopping places. Some of them may offer sightseeing tours and help to take you ‘good’ places. A short and sweet “no, thanks” will save you from their scams.
- The BTS is undoubtedly the quickest way to get around, and can whisk you right where you want to be in no time at all, avoiding rush hour traffic which could take hours in a taxi.
- It’s a cheap, air conditioned, clean, fast and scenic way to enjoy Bangkok.
- Major shopping malls, Chatuchak Weekend Market, all Sukhumvit Road’s attractions, and even the riverside are accessible by Skytrain.
- Fares start at 15 baht per one stop. A one-day pass may be a good option for those planning to do a lot of hopping on and off for one full day costing just 120 baht. But if you plan to be in Bangkok for a while, it might be a good idea to buy the BTS Smart Pass.
- Service runs between 06:30 and midnight, and the trains can be packed during peak hours (07:00 – 09:00 and 16:00 – 19:00).
- Top Tip: If you arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport between the skytrain service hours, unless you have a lot of luggage to carry we suggest taking the skytrain instead of a taxi. It usually runs every 10 minutes, easy to get on and off without getting stuck in traffic and is cheaper than a taxi. For getting to your hotel/hostel, you will usually get off on one of the last three stops to grab a short taxi ride, this costs 35-45 baht.
Exploring Bangkok by boat is a great way to catch a glimpse into the cultural charm and beauty of the city, as well as witness Bangkok’s many waterways in and around the city, that have played a huge role in connecting the city.
Taking a boat is the easiest and most scenic way to see the historical sites such as The Grand Palace and Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
- However, using the extensive network of boats and ferries might appear complicated and requires research a bit of research.
- There are 5 different river taxis (also called Express Boats) on the Chao Phraya River.
- No flag (Local Line) – Stops at every Pier
- Blue Flag Line (tourist boat) – Stops when you want
- Orange Flag Line – Stops at the main piers
- Yellow Flag Line – Large express boat for commuters
- Green Flag Line – Express boat for commuters
- The tourist boat is probably your best option: it stops wherever you request and provides access to attractions like Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn) the Grand Palace, Wat Po and the Royal Barge Museum. Great value, considering that it includes a guide! Which costs just 40 baht/trip or 100 baht for all-day pass.
– Top Things To See & Do –
Bangkok is home to many wonderful historical sites, great markets, huge shopping malls, and adventurous activities. Let’s go explore in this Bangkok travel guide!
- The Grand Palace & Wat Pho: Undoubtably the city’s most famous site to see in Bangkok is The Grand Palace, built in 1782 for the home of the Thai King it is indeed very grand and a beautiful piece of architecture. Within the complex there are several impressive monuments including The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Do be aware, a strict dress code applies: men must wear long trousers, shirts with sleeves and no flip-flops. Women also wear clothing below the knees, no see-through clothes, bare shoulders or flip-flops. Wat Pho is next to the Grand Palace and costs significantly less to enter and is also home to the famous 46m Reclining Buddha.
- Khao San Road: Before even arriving in Bangkok, you’ll most likely to have heard of Khao San Road. Arguably the most famous street in Bangkok for backpackers, party-goers and those wanting a good time. Full of bars, clubs, street food and pop-up stalls selling a variety of good from fake iPhones to somewhat controversial shirts. If you’re wandering where all the backpackers are just head here, everywhere you turn you’ll be surrounded by them. During the day it’s pretty much deserted so wait until the evening to head down to Khao San Road.
- See a Muay Thai Boxing Match: Famous throughout the whole of Thailand, Muay Thai boxing is their national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. It uses an amazing array of martial arts and fighting techniques which are held in many locations throughout the city. It is not uncommon to watch a match against a Thai boxer and a European/Australian/American fighter, but of course everyone wants the Thai boxer to win! If you’re wanting to learn the basics there are also classes on offer throughout Bangkok.
- Chatuchak Weekend Market: Comprising over 15,00 market stalls, this expansive market is one of the largest in the world and offers everything both locals and travellers desire. From clothing to food to souvenirs you’ll find it here at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. With over 200,000 visitors each day, make sure not to get lost! Opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday 8am-8pm, despite it being called a weekend market!
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market: The most famous and popular of the floating markets, great for photo opportunities, food, and for giving you an insight into a traditional way of life. Arriving in the early morning is worth it to avoid the heat and catch Damnoen Saduak at its liveliest. It is around one hour outside Bangkok, the easiest and cheapest way is by public bus which leaves from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal to Damnoen Saduak every 40 minutes from 6am. The fare is around 50 Baht one way.
- Lumphini Park: This is the largest park in Bangkok, with large open public spaces and playground it’s a great place to relax and chill away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Lumphini Park also contains an artificial lake where you can rent boats, join free aerobic dance lessons or have a picnic amongst the tropical surroundings.
– Where to Eat & Drink –
Bangkok is a food lovers paradise, if you love Thai food already just wait until you try ‘real’ Thai food in Bangkok. Whether you’re wanting cheap but tasty street food or a fine dining experience, Bangkok has it all.
- Chinatown (budget): Head to Yaowarat Road in the evening which transforms into one of the greatest street food locations in the world. With a huge range of street stalls spread over a dubious street that is over a kilometre long, this is where all food lovers must come to try the amazing range of dishes on offer at very cheap prices.
- Thip Samai Restaurant (budget): This famous restaurant should be on everyone’s list when visiting Bangkok. Commonly known as Ghost Gate (Pratu Pee), it is widely considered to serve the best pad Thai in Bangkok, which pretty much makes it the best in the world! Also try the delicious 100% fresh orange juice brought direct from the countryside every day. Expect a queue and take any table you can find, either inside the open faced restaurant or on the stainless steel benches outside.
- Sukhumvit Soi 33 (budget): Offering superb Thai street food at a great price, this vibrant district of the city is where many of the city locals mix with visitors to grab a bite to eat before hitting the town. The whole area is full of fantastic and cheap eateries so take your pick!
- Unicorn Cafe (mid-range): There’s unicorn wallpaper, unicorn carpet, unicorn statues, powder blue and pink furniture, and unicorn dolls and toys everywhere. Oh, and there are unicorn onesies you can wear while you’re there too. The Unicorn Café menu goes just as hard on the unicorn theme, with rainbow-coloured spaghetti carbonara, unicorn burgers with french fry horns, and frozen rainbow ombré galaxy drinks. It may not be your usual style, but it’s definitely worth the experience!
- Steve Cafe and Cuisine (mid-range): A great riverside location with no tall buildings blocking the view, thousands of fish swimming around as locals feed them, and a constant wave of old-fashioned boats passing by. Not to mention the delicious food, which of course is very Thai, using quality ingredients and cooked with passion. The menu even says that no dishes are cooked in advance, therefore some dishes can take time to prepare and when the restaurant is full, which is pretty much every night, it can be a bit slow, but hey when you have that view it doesn’t matter!
- Nahm Restaurant (high-end): Highly ranked among the finest restaurants in the world, and with a Michelin star chef cooking up aromatic dishes, Nahm serves Thai cuisine prepared according to ancient recipes with a focus on how the flavours and textures of premium quality ingredients interact together. Whether you are a longstanding visitor to Bangkok or it is your first time eating traditional Thai food, Nahm will both surprise and delight you with fantastic dishes.
- Iron Fairies Bar: Designed like a ruin bar in Budapest, this dark and mysterious setting expands across the two-level bar, and with exposed pipes, a wrought iron staircase and worn-down timber/brickwork surfaces it helps to create a definite industrial, ironsmith’s theme. Drinks aren’t badly priced with local beers from 120 baht, and signature cocktail costing around 300 baht.
- Brown Sugar Bar: Just a stone’s throw away from the craziness of Khao San Road is Brown Sugar, a long running, sleek and stylish venue that has become famous for being one of the best bars in Bangkok for live music. With its theme more on the live jazz music than anything else, the food and drinks list isn’t as extensive as some of our other picks, but you can still get a Martini for 250 baht or local beer for around 120 baht.
- Maggie Choos: Both Maggie Choos and Iron Fairies are similarly designed, and has become one of the most talked-about cocktails bars in Bangkok since its opening in 2013. Cocktails, whilst a bit pricey: around 350 baht, are amongst the best in the city. However, their served stylishly with plenty of dry ice, garnish and even candy floss!
- Zoom Skybar Anantara Sathorn: Our personal favourite skybar, first of all due to its fairly low price level especially for happy hour, and secondly due to its location just outside the cities skyline, which means you can actually see all the whole city towards one side instead of being surrounded by it. Read our full blog post on how to get there, tips and more information on why it’s the best in Bangkok!
- Lebua State Tower Skybar: Becoming the most famous skybar in the world after the Hollywood movie: The Hangover II, The Lebua Skybar has seen its popularity and of course prices soar. The round bar juts over the edge and at 63 stories high, it is the place to be when the sun is setting over the Chao Phraya River. However, prices are so expensive, we suggest just popping up for the experience and heading to a cheaper skybar for drinks.
- Moon Bar Banyan Tree: The stylish setting fuses fairytale romance and cosmopolitan chic. Indulge in some of the world’s finest champagne, exotic cocktails, wine-by-the-glass or non-alcoholic beverages. However, if there is the slight chance of rain this skybar will not open (first hand experience whilst we were staying at the Banyan Tree), so make sure to look up the weather before travelling to this bar.
Good stuff guys. We are in Chiang Mai and shockingly, are missing a day in Bangkok as we fly back to NYC. Manila and then Vancouver layovers this time with only a few hours in BKK so we need to simply go from Don Mueang to Suk. BKK is an inspired city. We chill by Khao San Road but need to see more during our next pre-flight-back-home stay in BKK as is our custom. 2-5 days in Bangkok usually, although sometimes we just glide through.
If you’ve been to Bangkok before, I’ll let you off 😛 Vancouver is one of my favourite cities! Have a safe flight back to NYC.
Great post on Bangkok! Came to your blog via some other sites and am loving what I am seeing here. Great work!
Thanks so much! Enjoy our blog 🙂
I haven’t been to Thailand, but have heard great things! I hear it’s quite inexpensive.
Yes it’s definitely one of the cheapest countries we’ve visited, you must travel to Thailand!
Looks like you love Bangkok as much as I do! Great post and very informative especially for first-timers 🙂
We sure do! Thanks 🙂