Bangkok is a fascinating intertwining fusion of two worlds, combining the traditional local life with a fresh cosmopolitan vibe.
There’s a constant buzz and energy floating through the streets of Bangkok at all hours of the day, giving it the name of the city that never sleeps!
It’s no surprise that Bangkok is the most visited city in the world. It’s a melting pot of palaces, temples, markets, street vendors, huge shopping centres and dynamic nightlife.
The city’s nightlife is a significant draw for travellers, whether it be a backpackers first introduction to Southeast Asia via Khao San Road, or sophisticated rooftop bars offering panoramic views of the bustling life below.
Don’t get us wrong, we know it can be hard to look past the somewhat overwhelming noise, smells and vast number of people that float around the city. Once you do, Bangkok will offer you an amazing and safe experience that serves as a perfect gateway to the rest of Southeast Asia.
Your initial thought may be to always stay in the centre when visiting a city, but for Bangkok it’s hard to determine what the centre is.
The area you stay in Bangkok will heavily influence what you get out of your visit. Covering nearly 1600km² and offering over a thousand accommodation options, it can be slightly daunting picking where to stay.
Basically what we’re saying is – make your decision wisely!
Location #1: Khao San – a backpacker’s party haven
We’ll start with the Khao San area as you’ve probably already heard about this legendary place.
Alex Garland, the author of ‘The Beach’ described Khao San as ‘the centre of the backpacking universe’. This couldn’t be more accurate!
Like bees to honey, backpackers can’t help but be enticed by the promise of an unforgettable party! Khao San Road is bursting with bars, food vendors, flashing neon signs and if we’re honest, craziness.
Here you’ll find mainly budget hostels, guesthouses and mid-range hotels. The area is great for anyone on a budget due to the cheap food, alcohol and accommodation. If you’re travelling solo to Bangkok, you’ll be able to meet people in no time as the place is packed with other backpackers.
However, even if you’re not out partying, you won’t be able to escape the noise. That’s why we recommend staying on one of the roads nearby Khao San Road rather than on the actual road itself. Don’t expect this to provide you with an authentic Thai experience though.
Location #2: Sukhumvit Road – great transport, dining and nightlife
The area of Sukhumvit has a more relaxed nightlife, centred around sophisticated restaurants and rooftop bars as opposed to travellers dancing on tables.
It’s also a great jumping-off point to explore the jam-packed city, thanks to the good connections to the rest of Bangkok through its public transport. For example, the Skytrain (BTS) runs along Sukhumvit Road and the Subway (MRT) line crosses it.
Without even leaving the area, you’ll be treated to great shopping, diverse dining options and excellent bars. There’s also plenty of highly rated hotels for all budgets.
The nightlife is arguably as good as Khao San Road, albeit slightly more sophisticated. Soi 11 (soi means side-street in Thai) has a high volume of bars and restaurants whilst Soi 55 boasts trendy clubs that are popular amongst young Thais.
However, though it depends on what you consider good nightlife, there are some streets in Sukhumvit to avoid. Nana Plaza is Bangkok’s red-light district streaming with go-go bars, pole dancing and ‘special’ shows. We’ll leave you to decide on this one!
Location #3: Riverside – an area steeped in history, culture and luxury
Along the Chao Phraya river, Chinese migrants founded one of the first settlements that unbeknownst to them would grow into the Bangkok we know and love today.
The Riverside area is rich in history and culture, hosting many of the popular sights of Bangkok, including the Royal Palace and Wat Pho – the Reclining Buddha.
Despite being close to these significant landmarks, the riverside is an escape from the tourists, traffic and noise. You can avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed and instead take in your surroundings whilst gliding up and down the river on a ferry.
The area does come with a higher price tag though, especially when it comes to accommodation. Here you’ll find the most luxurious hotels including Four Seasons Bangkok and the Mandarin Oriental, so if you’re a backpacker on a budget this area may be more suitable as a day trip.
How to get around Bangkok
Bangkok is a transport hub seemingly offering every form of transport you can think of; trains, tuk-tuks, taxis and even boats. Luckily for us, it makes moving around this vast city easy!
There was so much we could write about to help you navigate yourself around Bangkok that we’ve written a separate post on it, but here’s a quick summary of the options available:
Skytrain (BTS) – an elevated train system that runs above the city. It’s a good choice for longer distances especially during peak times when traffic is crazy!
Metro (MRT) – similar to the Skytrain but runs underground. The current system covers 70.6km, reaching a large proportion of the city.
Taxi – an easy and convenient way to travel around the city but it can also be the most expensive, especially if you get stuck in rush-hour traffic.
Motorbike taxi – one of the fastest ways to move around the city due to their ability to dart between the traffic, however it isn’t the safest option.
Tuk-tuk – are better for short distances as they’re not the most comfortable form of transportation, but they are relatively cheap and perfect to whizz you around on a full day temple tour.
Bus – Bangkok has a mixture of local buses which can be hard to navigate and a high-speed bus route that has its own dedicated bus lane to avoid the traffic.
Boat – the Chao Phraya Express boat service lets you explore the landmarks in that area from a different perspective without compromising on convenience.
As a heads up, there are a few tricks (scams) in Bangkok to watch out for when using tuk-tuks and taxis!
One being that some drivers may take you on an unplanned trip to a jewellery shop so they can gain commission from whatever you feel pressured to buy. Another is that a driver will tell you an attraction is closed but they are your knight in shining armour to take you to another attraction for a small price!
If you’re looking for a fun social atmosphere then Here Hostel is the place for you! Enjoy relaxing by the pool in the garden area or enjoying a drink with travelers from around the world. Why take the stairs when you can use the indoor slide to travel between floors, this place is full of fun, energy, and laughter. Located less than 1km from Khao San Road, this is the perfect hostel if you’re looking to have a great time in Bangkok!
Located in the heart of downtown Bangkok, between Nana and Ploen Chit BTS stations, this hostel is the perfect location in the Sukhumvit area. The hostel offers a garden area, a rooftop terrace and an on-site kitchen for guests to cook their own food or take part in the daily cooking classes. There is also a restaurant and bar on-site if you’d prefer someone else cook for you, as well as buffet breakfast included each day. Extremely clean and very friendly staff are top priorities for this hostel.
If you’re looking to be near the excitement of Khao San Road but still enjoy some peace and quiet, this guesthouse is absolutely perfect. A delicious breakfast is included in your stay and the restaurant is open 24/7 for your convenience. A lovely garden area to relax in the afternoons and very comfortable beds in rooms will make for a great stay. Just 300m to Khao San road, this guest house is walking distance to many sights including the Grand Palace and the Golden Mountain Temple.
Just 700m from Khao San road and sitting along the river is Mam’s House. The staff here will welcome you with open arms and help you in any way that they possibly can. The rooms are huge, the beds are comfortable and it’s extremely clean. There is a cafe on the ground floor of the hotel, street food along the riverbank and countless restaurants, bars and shops just steps away. Locally owned and operated by Mam, this hotel is all about customer service and making sure you have the best stay possible. Perfect location, great views and all the comforts you need!
Cozy, comfortable, and ideal location! This guest house is less than 1km from Khao San Road and offers all the comforts you need. It is within walking distance to numerous Temples, Wats and attractions throughout Old Town. On-site bar to enjoy a drink while taking in the sights from the terrace or a lovely garden area to enjoy to relax in if you need some quiet time. The staff is known to be exceptionally welcoming and happy to assist with all guest requests. Located in a quiet area so you will be sure to get a good night's rest after exploring the Capital City!