What to expect in Bangkok
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.
Also read: Top 12 Things to Do in Bangkok
Where to stay in Bangkok
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 1600 km² 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!
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 70.6 km, 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 – 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!
How to get to Bangkok
|Leaving from||Duration||Prices from||See details|
|Chiang Mai||1-14 hours||from 530 THB ($14.50)||Chiang Mai to Bangkok|
|Don Muang Airport||30 minutes-1.5 hours||from 5 THB ($0.10)||Don Muang Airport to Bangkok|
|Hua Lamphong Railway Station||5 minutes-1 hour||from 10 THB ($0.20)||Hua Lamphong Railway Station to Bangkok|
|Koh Chang||1-9 hours||from 600 THB ($16.50)||Koh Chang to Bangkok|
|Koh Lanta||4.5-20 hours||from 875 THB ($24.00)||Koh Lanta to Bangkok|
|Koh Lipe||5-25.5 hours||from 1,330 THB ($37.00)||Koh Lipe to Bangkok|
|Koh Phangan||2hr 45m – 16.5 hours||from 965 THB ($26.50)||Koh Phangan to Bangkok|
|Koh Phi Phi||4.5-22.5 hours||from 1,220 THB ($34.00)||Koh Phi Phi to Bangkok|
|Koh Samui||1hr 15m – 18 hours||from 750 THB ($20.50)||Koh Samui to Bangkok|
|Koh Tao||4.5 hours – 16.5 hours||from 1,150 THB ($32.00)||Koh Tao to Bangkok|
|Krabi||1.5-18.5 hours||from 605 THB ($16.50)||Krabi to Bangkok|
|Mae Sot||1hr 10m – 9 hours||from 465 THB ($12.50)||Mae Sot to Bangkok|
|Pattaya||2-3.5 hours||from 30 THB ($0.80)||Pattaya to Bangkok|
|Phuket||1.5-20.5 hours||from 700 THB ($19.50)||Phuket to Bangkok|
|Siem Reap||1hr 05m-9.5 hours||from 600 THB ($16.50)||Siem Reap to Bangkok|
|Sukhothai||1hr 20m-9.5 hours||from 340 THB ($9.00)||Sukhothai to Bangkok|
|Surat Thani||1hr 10m-14.5 hours||from 670 THB ($18.50)||Surat Thani to Bangkok|
|Suvarnabhumi Airport||30 minutes-1.5 hours||from 35 THB ($0.90)||Suvarnabhumi Airport to Bangkok|
|Vientiane||1hr 10m – 12 hours||from 1,250 THB ($34.50)||Vientiane to Bangkok|
Did you know?
Bangkok isn’t actually the real name of this capital city of Thailand. The official name is made up of 21 words and is the longest name of a city in the world!
Here we go:
“Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”.
Bangkok is a big and bustling city with each neighbourhood offering something different to the next. Covering nearly 1600 km² and offering over a thousand accommodation options, it can be slightly daunting picking where to stay. Here is a quick rundown of our favourite areas to stay in Bangkok:
- Khao San Road — is one of the most famous areas in Bangkok, known for its party reputation. This area attracts a lot of backpackers that are looking for cheap accommodation and a place to party.
- Sukhumvit — has a more relaxed nightlife, centred around sophisticated restaurants and rooftop bars as opposed to travellers dancing on tables. It’s a great jumping-off point to explore the jam-packed city, thanks to the good connections via public transport.
- Riverside — along the Chao Phraya River, you’ll find an area rich in history and culture, hosting many of the popular sights of Bangkok, including the Royal Palace and Wat Pho – the Reclining Buddha.
Check out our favourite accommodations in Bangkok:
Greenery Hostel - Budget Friendly
As you’ve probably already guessed, Greenery Hostel has a green theme both inside and outside. It actually creates a really tranquil vibe inside a busy city.
The rooms are simple but great value for money. Plus there are nice chill-out spaces throughout the hostel with a swing, games and comfy chairs. It’s in a great location, close to lots of Bangkok’s attractions.
- Great value for money
- Relaxing chill-out areas
- Good location
- Free cancellation
Private rooms start from $21 per night.
Phranakorn-Nornlen - Mid Range
It will be hard to find another hotel in Bangkok like Phranakorn-Nornlen. This hotel is like a piece of art, with every room decorated differently and boasting a unique theme. Make sure to pick your room wisely.
The staff takes your stay here to another level. They are incredibly friendly and helpful. They’ll give you great recommendations for the local neighbourhood which is full of cosy cafes and local restaurants.
- Unique design and rooms
- Incredible staff
- Nice local neighbourhood
- Very clean
Double rooms start from $33 per night.
Naga Residence - Mid Range
Naga Residence feels less like a hotel and more like a home — just a very beautifully designed home that’s exceptionally clean. The rooms are very spacious and all of them have a private balcony overlooking the city.
There’s also an onsite gym, garden and terrace area for you to enjoy. And when you venture out of the hotel there are plenty of restaurants, shops and cafes nearby.
- Huge rooms
- Exceptionally clean
- Private balcony
- Onsite gym
Double rooms start from $37 per night.
The One Smart Living - Treating Yourself
The One Smart Living offers incredible value for money. The rooms are beautiful and feel extremely luxurious. You won’t want to leave your room it’s so nice!
It’s a great choice if you want to be close to the airport, but not so close that you’re constantly hearing planes above your head. The staff are incredibly helpful and super friendly. It’s hard to fault this place.
- Great value for money
- Close to the airport
- Helpful staff
- Beautiful rooms
Double rooms start from $50 per night.
dusitD2 Samyan - Treating Yourself
dusitD2 Samyan is one of the most unique hotels in Bangkok with its tiered appearance overlooking the city. You can take a refreshing dip in their sky swimming pool and enjoy the panoramic views. Or head to the gym and take them in whilst working up a sweat.
The floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the hotel create a bright and modern feel. The rooms are stunning, and decorated to an extremely high standard. This is one of the best hotels in Bangkok.
- One of the coolest buildings in Bangkok
- Rooftop swimming pool
- Onsite gym
- Bright and modern rooms
King rooms start from $110 per night.
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Kate is a writer, (ex)Management Consultant and avid traveller. She recently returned from a 2-year career break exploring the world and decided corporate life wasn’t for her. She’ll soon be testing life as a digital nomad. She’s visited over 40 countries and fell in love with Latin America in particular. Her travelling has inspired a passion for yoga, salsa, hiking and Spanish.
Based in Bali, Maarten’s passion for travel is undeniable. In 2016, he decided to quit his job as a stock analyst and started doing what he always dreamed of: travelling through South East Asia and helping other people plan their trips. When he is not working on Gecko Routes, you’ll find him surfing in the ocean or exploring the best gems of Indonesia.