Bangkok Travel Guide
Bangkok is known around the world for its chaotic, crowded streets, cheap prices, wild nightlife, and traffic. Many travelers come here and either love or hate it. I used to hate it because of its pollution, noise, and crowds, but when I got to know it more, I changed my mind and even lived here for a while. Underneath the surface, Bangkok has a lot to offer travelers. It’s a city that slowly reveals its secrets and if you spend a little extra time here, you’ll find that this seemingly ugly city has a lot of beauty.
Hostel prices – Dorm beds start at $3 USD, but nicer dorms in prime locations can cost up to $14 USD. Private rooms in small guesthouses, especially those in the backpacker area of Khao San Road, start at $9 USD. Accommodation is cheap in Thailand.
Budget hotel prices – Budget hotels costs between $15-30 USD per night. Rooms with private showers and air conditioning cost on the higher end. My favorite is Suk 11 guesthouse (it’s got a lot of character and is in a fantastic location).
Average cost of food – In Bangkok, you can eat from the street vendors for as little as $1 USD per meal, purchase a bag or freshly cut fruit for $0.60 USD, or eat in a fancy restaurant for under $25 USD including a drink or two. Like the rest of Thailand, if you eat at the street vendors like the locals, you’ll be hard-pressed to spend a lot of money on food.
Transportation costs – Although city buses can be very crowded, they are convenient and inexpensive. For $0.25 USD on the non-air conditioned buses and $0.50 USD on the air conditioned buses, you can travel pretty much anywhere in the city. The Skytrain and Metro cost $0.50-1.50 USD per trip. Taxis throughout the city cost under $5 USD, and one from the airport to Khao San Road will set you back $12-15 USD.
Money Saving Tips
Eat from the street stalls – Food from street vendors in Thailand is some of the best Thai food I have ever had and so cheap it is ridiculous. You can easily have a soup noodle bowl for $0.75 USD or even a bit fancier pad thai dish for only around $0.75 USD.
Make sure your taxi turns on their meter – All taxis are required to use a meter when they have passengers with them. However, most will want to charge a higher ‘flat rate’ (instead of using the meter), especially if there’s traffic. If this happens, just walk away and see if a different taxi will turn on their meter for you.
Negotiate with the Tuk Tuk drivers – Unlike taxis, the Tuk Tuk drivers do not have meters, so be sure and set the fixed price before you take off. They are very friendly, but if you are going to play the naive tourist, you will get taken advantage of!
Use public transportation – Locals use the extensive bus and BTS systems to get wherever they need to go in Bangkok. To save money, you can do the same. A 20-minute taxi ride might cost you $3.50 USD, while the same ride in a bus might only cost $0.25 USD.
Avoid drinking on Khao San Road – While fun, a night out in the backpacker area of Khao San Road will leave your wallet empty.
Top Things to See and Do
Visit the Grand Palace and Wat Po – The palace was built over the course of three years at the end of the 18th century by King Rama I and is the official residence of the current monarch (though he doesn’t live there any more, it is just used for ceremonies). This is also where you will see the temple of Wat Pra Kaeo which house the 15th century Emerald Buddha whose robes are rotated three times a year by no less than Thailand’s king himself. Moreover, you’ll find Wat Po to have the famous golden reclining Buddha statue. It costs $15.50 USD to enter the Grand Palace and $3 USD to enter Wat Po.
Explore Lumpini Park – Outdoor enthusiasts will find it hard to tear themselves away from Bangkok’s Lumpini Park. Jogging paths, bicycle roads, picnic, and chess tables, Tai Chi classes, plenty of trees, weight-lifting, and rowboats for rent on its pair of lakes offer plenty to do and all the time in the world to do it.
The Royal Elephant Museum – Elephants have long played a significant role in the lives of the Thai people. The museum is located within the parliament compound and is a visual testament to the value of the largest land animal and to the beliefs surrounding its participation in religious ceremonies. The museum is open to the public every day from 8:30am to 4:30pm and is free with a ticket to the Grand Palace (or $3 USD when purchased separately).
Visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market – The weekend market is an ideal place to buy anything and everything. This football-stadium sized market place offers the best place to get gifts, find knock-offs, barter, or have some good food. Definitely come here.
Temple hop – Bangkok is full of history, temples, and Thai ruins. There are about 10 main temples in the city, and you can easily just hire a guy to take you to all of them in one day. They are all have different architecture and layouts. It will take about five hours to see them all.
Hang out on Khao San Road – Khao San Road is the infamous backpacker/tourist street in Bangkok. All travel roads lead in and out of here. However, it is more than just a transit hub for travelers. Here, you can find nightlife, great food, great shopping stalls, tons of people watching, and activity all day and all night. Here’s a video:
Visit the floating market – The floating market is just outside of Bangkok, and while mostly for tourists, I like visiting. The tours that come here are about half a day and leave early in the morning. It’s not a great place to shop but the area is good for photography and eating, two things I love a lot.
Go shopping – Bangkok has so many malls that in the center alone, I can count 12 in a four-block radius. Bangkok has everything you could ever need and at great prices. Make sure you check out Siam Paragon (for designer clothes), Platinum (for cheap, trendy clothes), Pantip (for cheap electronics), and MBK (for cheap knockoffs).
See Jim Thompson’s house – Jim Thompson was a silk merchant who disappeared under very mysterious circumstances back in the 1950s. His house across from MBK is a traditional teak style house and very informative about life in Thailand. Proceeds from the $3 USD entrance fee go to help orphaned children.
Take a day trip to Ayutthaya – Just a short ride away, you’ll find the old capital, which is home to the summer palace, tons of breathtakingly unique temples.
Catch a performance at Patravadi – This theatre which lies on the river was founded by a Thai actress. It is a trendy place, and offers a variety of performances: acrobatics, drumming shows, theatre, and dance.
Visit Chinatown – First, wander among the lilies, birds of paradise, and orchids at Pak Klong Talad, the flower market at the north end of Chinatown. From there, grab a bite to eat at one of the main enticing food stalls.
Watch a puppet show – A huge aspect of Thai drama revolves around puppetry. Two types are common – Nang (shadow puppets) and Hun (marionettes). If you’re lucky, you can see a show at an outdoor festival; otherwise, head to the Thai Puppet Theatre.
Get My Complete Guide for Budget Travelers!
Looking for more in-depth coverage on Bangkok? I used to live in this city and know it like the back of my hand. My detailed guide to enjoying one of the most fun, chaotic, lively, and interesting cities in the world will help you plan the perfect trip. This guide cuts out the fluff and gives you the practical information you need to have the most fun on the least amount of money. You’ll get suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, ideas on what to see and do, off-the-beaten path activities, and authentic, non-touristy restaurants and bars. This guide contains the essentials you need.
(Don’t have a Kindle? You can get the PDF here.)