A quick guide on where to stay in Bangkok, how to get around this incredibly vibrant city and to the best places to eat, drink and visit.
Places to Stay
There are several areas in Bangkok that I would recommend, each with a different vibe and proximity to certain things.
If you want to be close to the temples, Grand Palace and major tourist attractions, I would choose to stay in Old Town. This is where we stayed and getting around early in the morning to visit the popular spots was easy.
Sukhumvit is the upmarket area filled with fancy hotels, rooftop bars and big shopping malls. This area is more pricey and further away from the temples and big tourist spots but if you want to spend your evenings eating and drinking with the best views of the city then this is the area for you.
Khao San – this is the first area that pops into my head when someone mentions Bangkok. The famous Khao San Road is full of scorpions on sticks, bars selling buckets and other drinks, at affordable prices whatever your budget, and adverts for ping pong shows by night but during the day it’s a great place for shopping and grabbing cheap food. This area is popular with party goers and backpackers and is probably the best place to stay if you’re on a budget.
Note: there are many other areas in Bangkok that I’ve not mentioned, however this is only a quick guide and is meant to cater for all budgets.
Food and Drink
There are vendors selling street food everywhere! From fruit shakes to chicken, pancakes to ice cream rolls – Bangkok street food is all you could imagine. And it’s cheap! You haven’t been to Thailand if you haven’t tried the street food and it’s surprisingly delicious.
Streats Bar and Bistro at the Ibis Styles Khao San has an incredible menu of over 90 dishes including Thai food, burgers, chicken wings, ribs, hot dogs and veggie options along with a great selection of drinks and live music to accompany your meal. All this and you’re right in the heart of the Khao San area so you can continue the party when you leave.
Octave Rooftop Bar and Lounge located at the Marriott hotel in the Sukhumvit area has an impressive signature cocktail menu along with delicious food options and an impressive view on the side. Situated on the 43rd and 46th floors of the hotel with 360 degree views, it’s definitely worth booking a table here to treat yourselves one evening.
Temples and Tourist Hotspots
Wat Pho – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha – opens at 8am-5pm and costs 200 Baht which includes a voucher for a free bottle of water. The temple complex is huge with many sections to explore and it’s crown jewel is the 46 metre long and 15 metre high statue of the Reclining Buddha which is completely covered in gold leaf, with mother of pearl embedded into the Buddha’s 5 metre long feet. It’s an extremely impressive statue. I recommend visiting when the temple opens to beat the hoards of tourists that descend on the place after visiting the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace is found across the road from Wat Pho. Entry is 400 Baht per person and is the most expensive of the three must-see places in this section. Here you can see the Emerald Buddha, whose robes are changed with each season by the King of Thailand. This is Thailand’s most sacred site and so you must be appropriately dressed with your shoulders and knees covered. Remember to bring some socks with you as bare feet are also forbidden.
Wat Arun – the Temple of Dawn – opens at 8:30am-5:30pm and costs 100 Baht per person. This ticket also comes with a voucher for a bottle of water. It’s best to visit as it opens so that you can beat most of the crowds but even at 8:30am you won’t be alone. Here you can walk up the steps onto the different sections of the temple and the carvings and colours are extremely intricate and beautiful. Some sections of the steps are quite steep so be careful if you do decide to walk up. This place used to be home to the Emerald Buddha, until it was moved to the Grand Palace.
Please note that you must ensure your shoulders and knees are covered at all of these sites (women AND men) and so vests and shorts won’t be good enough. If you arrive underdressed you’ll either have to buy a scarf to cover up or you won’t be allowed inside so bear that in mind before you leave your hotel.
Lesser Known Places to Visit
Wat Samphran – the Dragon Temple – is about an hour’s drive to the west outside of central Bangkok but it’s the most unique temple I’ve seen in Thailand and is absolutely not one to be missed. Entry is free but I recommend making a donation when you arrive. You can also make a donation to receive a red ribbon on which you write your name and tie to the top of the temple and receive good luck in return. The highlight of the temple complex is the 19 storey pink tower around which is wrapped a life-sized dragon, whose head rests at the top. To reach the top of the tower, you actually walk around inside the body of the dragon and the views from the top are spectacular. There is also a giant tortoise whose mouth is open to allow you to walk inside, along with a giant statue of the Buddha and other smaller animal statues. We spent quite a while here taking the place in and because our driver had never visited the temple before, we invited him in with us and he loved it too!
The Airplane Graveyard is situated in the middle of Bangkok but you could easily drive past and miss it, however a simple search on Instagram or Google Maps will take you to the exact location. Technically this place isn’t owned by the people who live here but they look after the place and make sure it’s safe for you to visit so its worth the 200 Baht entry fee to get some cool, eerie travel photos. I’ve heard a story of a guy who tried jumping the fence to not pay and he wasn’t allowed in even after offering to pay extra so don’t make his mistake. If you visit, make sure you wear closed sturdy shoes and cover as much of your skin as possible. We made the mistake of wearing shorts and it took a full roll of duct tape to remove the fibreglass from my legs. If you’re looking for something different to do in Bangkok, this is the place for you.
Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuks and for a quick journey of 100 Baht or to dash through the 5pm rush hour traffic its worth it for the experience ,right? However, the tuk tuk prices are often highly overpriced and a complete rip off and I wouldn’t use them for all of your journeys. The drivers can be quite pushy and every single one of them tries to sell you a trip to one of the floating markets – I assume because this is a good fare for them. If this keeps happening, just tell them you’ve already been and they will stop. Also, be careful of your valuables when inside tuk tuks – I’ve read stories of people having their items snatched by people on mopeds and motorbikes who can then shoot off through the traffic leaving you stuck behind. This also applies to when you’re just walking around – this is is big city after all and there are pickpockets and crime in all major cities worldwide. We had no issues during our 5 day visit.
To save money, use the taxis which say “Taxi Meter” on the top. The fare should start at 35 Baht and should go up by 4 Baht per km. We had no troubles with our drivers and they all spoke great English (one even taught us ,loads of Thai words and phrases and gave us a tour of all the places we passed on our journey!) although I have heard that some can try to scam you. Just keep an eye on your map on your phone to make sure you’re not being taken wildly off course to make the fare higher. Always request to use the meter and don’t agree a fare first – this will be higher than the meter price (unless the pre-agreed fare is cheap enough that it doesn’t matter).
You can also use Grab in Bangkok (it works in the same way as Uber) however it’s a similar price to the Taxi Meter taxis and you’ll be expected to pay any toll road fees. It’s worth noting that we didn’t use Grab during our visit and so I can’t comment much more but I wanted to let you know that it is an available option.