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When I landed a house sit in Bangkok through TrustedHousesitters, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew Bangkok was a huge city with a reputation for great food, culture, and nightlife, but it turned out to be so much more than that. This Bangkok Travel Guide will cover the best things to do, places to eat, and places to stay to help you plan your trip!
This post was originally published September 2018.
About Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is electric. History buffs, architecture gurus, party seekers, and foodie fanatics will all find something to love in Bangkok. In my travels around Thailand, I was surprised to hear that so many other travelers just gave Bangkok a day or two before jetting off to the mountains or beaches. For me, a month wasn’t enough.
I put together this quick Bangkok City Guide to get you started as you plan your trip. Well… kind of quick. We’re coming in hot at around 4000 words. So maybe get a cup of coffee before settling in. And pin it so you can find it again. You’ll thank me later.
How To Get To Bangkok
If you’re flying internationally into Bangkok, you will most likely arrive at Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
There is a metro line that runs from the airport to the city center called the Airport Rail Link. The Airport Rail Link takes about half an hour and costs 45 THB ($1.30 USD).
You can also take a taxi from Suvarnabhumi. A taxi costs about 500 THB ($15 USD) and takes an hour because of traffic.
Where to stay in Bangkok, Thailand
During my stay in Bangkok, I stayed in Sathorn, the central business district. I really liked living in this area because it was safe and quiet but still very close to everything.
Cloud on Sala Daeng Hostel
If you’re looking to stay in the Sathorn area near Lumphini Park (which you should be, because Lumphini is awesome), check out Cloud on Sala Daeng Hostel. This hostel was in the perfect area of Sathorn on a quiet street – a great option if you want clean, calm, and close to the park.
Sathorn is one of the best areas to stay for a quieter and comfortable experience. Bee from It’s all Bee has some fun Bangkok Airbnb suggestions in this area you can check out too.
The Landmark Bangkok
Many people prefer to stay in the neighboring Sukhumvit Road area. Sukhumvit is packed with exciting nightlife and attractions, but it can be a bit busier and noisier. For a more lively, luxurious experience, check out The Landmark Bangkok, one of the best Bangkok hotels according to guest reviews!
Mad Monkey Hostel
If you’re looking for a major party atmosphere, stay near Khao San Road (but not right on it unless you actually don’t want to sleep). If you want to be close to that infamous Bangkok nightlife but not right in the Khao San Road madness, check out Mad Monkey Hostel. They have a cool bar downstairs and regular events like Karaoke. Even better, there’s a pool!
How to Get Around Bangkok
Bangkok is a sprawling city! Unless you’re used to running a few marathons per day, you’re going to need to use some form of transportation to get around.
BTS – Bangkok Skytrain
There aren’t words to express my love for the Bangkok Skytrain. It’s clean. It’s fast. It’s inexpensive. It takes you to all the main Bangkok city attractions. And when I got dehydrated and nearly passed out on it, the staff made sure I was taken care of and safe. Huge thanks to the BTS folks!
There are two main lines, the Silom line, and the Sukhumvit line. This makes it easy because there are only four possible directions to go. You can’t get too lost. And that means a lot coming from me because trust me, I can usually figure out how to get lost.
The two lines connect at Siam where you’ll find several attractions and shopping malls. The ticket cost depends on how far you’re going but usually ranges between 1-2 dollars. You can buy tickets at the vending machines in every station.
If you plan to take it often during your trip, buy a refillable Rabbit Card at the office and add money to it at the manned ticket counter. The Rabbit Card will allow you to blaze quickly through the turnstile like a pro without having to fumble for spare coins at the ticket machine like all the other *scoff* tourists. The BTS is open from 6:00 am to midnight.
MRT – like the Skytrain but underground.
Like the BTS, the MRT is easy to use and gets you around the city quickly. To buy a ticket, go to the automatic machines in the station and select your destination. Put in your money and you will be given a plastic token. This token will let you into the MRT and let you out on the other side.
Don’t do what I did and think “oh this token must not mean anything” and leave it in the machine. You will be chased by a very nice and concerned man who will explain to you that you just walked away from your ticket. You’ll wonder what you are doing with your life and feel probably think “geeze, how have I not had more travel disasters?”
The MRT is also open from 6:00 am to midnight.
The taxis in Bangkok are everywhere and quite easy to use. Just make sure your driver runs the meter. I’ve never had issues with this but I’ve heard stories of drivers wanting to negotiate instead of running the meter. The meter is your best bet and legally required so insist on this. Taxis are pricier than the BTS and MRT but sometimes that airconditioned door to door service is just what you need.
These open back trucks are a fun and inexpensive way to get around the city! SongThaew’s drive specific routes all day. When you see one coming, flag it down like you would a taxi and hop in the back. It costs 7 THB to ride ($0.21 USD) and you can get off any time along the route.
This was my FAVORITE way to get around Bangkok. Motorbikes are much faster than taxis because they can get through traffic jams easier. Plus, they’re just really fun to ride. Look for the motorbike drivers with orange vests. Tell them where you’re going and negotiate your price. Make sure to request a helmet and wear it! Even though lots of locals don’t, there is no reason to risk it.
Also, for those of you who are awkward like me, there are handles under your seat for you to hold onto while you fly down the interstate with your new orange-vested BFF. You don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) wrap your arms around your driver like you’re on a romantic date. They’ll think you’re weird. Everyone will be uncomfortable. Trust me, just go for the handles under the seat.
If you take the BTS to Saphan Taksin you can catch the riverboat. This is a great way to get from downtown to the Grand Palace, Khao San Road, or to Asiatique without the traffic.
There are two boat options: the local boat and the tourist boat. The local boat stops at every pier along the river and costs 10 – 20 THB ($0.30 – $0.60 USD). The tourist boat only stops when passengers request and there are English speaking guides on board to help you figure out where to get off. It costs 40 THB ($1.22 USD) for one trip or 100 THB ($3.00 USD) for an unlimited day pass.
What to eat in Bangkok
Bangkok is one of my favorite foodie cities in the world. With excellent and abundant street food, fabulous restaurants, and markets that seem to stretch for miles, you definitely won’t go hungry in BKK. In this Bangkok food guide, we’ll travel from street food stalls to fine dining establishments, and everywhere in between.
Bangkok Street Food
If you want to find good street food, take about twenty-five steps outside the door of your accommodation and you will probably find, like, the greatest Thai food you’ve ever tasted.
It only took a day or two for me to find a few favorite street food vendors, like the woman who kept me regularly stocked on mango sticky rice and the guy who did fire tricks while he made my vegetarian fried rice.
Tip: Veggie people! To order vegetarian in Thai, say “Mang Sa Wirat.”
- Pad Thai – Pretty easy to find and order, consistently delicious
- Som Tum – Green papaya salad, spicy and fresh!
- Fried Rice – Once again, consistently amazing
- Veggie spring rolls – Simple, classic, and out of this world when dipped in that sauce
- Fried bananas – It took me forever to figure out what these were but when I did, man oh man.
- Fresh Fruit – I’m getting spoiled by the amount and quality of fresh fruit here. Eat your fill of mangos, pineapples, papaya, and watermelon at one of the many fruit carts.
- Mango sticky rice – It’s sweet but not too sweet. The mangos are fresh and delightful and the rice… yum. Don’t even get me started.
Weekend Markets and Night Markets in Bangkok
If you want to be truly overwhelmed by street food options, check out the night and weekend markets.
- Chatuchak Weekend Market has outstanding coconut ice cream (served in a hollowed-out coconut, no less) and pretty much any street food you could want. Visiting this market is one of my favorite foodie activities in Bangkok Thailand. To get there, take the BTS to Mo Chit and follow the crowds. It is only there on the weekends though.
- The Rot Fai Weekend Night Market has some of the best variety and it just seems to go on forever. Blended smoothies served inside hollowed out watermelons for two dollars, veggies on skewers, whole salted fish, fried things, broiled things, sweet things, banana roti – it’s basically paradise. To get there, take the MRT To Thai cultural center and again, follow the crowds.
Bangkok Mall Food Courts
Mall food courts are a big thing in Bangkok and they are a nice step between street food and restaurant food. The mall food courts have seemingly endless options. Whether you’re looking for spicy curries, fancy mango deserts, delicious international cuisine, or some of the best ice cream shops in Bangkok, mall food courts won’t disappoint!
When you get to the mall food court, go to a cashier and buy a little card loaded with money. You use this to buy all your food and drinks in the food court. When you’re finished, return the card and get whatever money you didn’t spend back. Usually loading 200 THB (or about $6.00 USD) is more than enough for a meal and a drink.
- MBK Food Island – MBK is one of the most well-known Bangkok malls. Inside MBK take the escalators up to the top level. BTS National Stadium
- Siam Paragon – Basically the whole lower level of this mall is food heaven. They even have a Mexican restaurant and a grocery store! Make sure to check out the “After You” Cafe for downright insane desserts! BTS Siam
- Siam Center – Good options, though not as big as MBK or Siam Paragon. They have this awesome little mango stand that sells delicious mango mochi on the third floor! BTS Siam
- Terminal 21 – This San Francisco-themed food court is on the upper level of the Terminal 21 shopping mall. It has great options and it’s less expensive than the other three listed. I got several dishes and desserts for less than 100 THB ($3.00 USD). Plus for dessert, they have these cool shaved ice with jelly things that I’m super into now. BTS Asok
Best Restaurants in Bangkok
Bangkok has some fantastic restaurants too! In fact, this city is home to one of the top five restaurants in the world, Gaggan! When I learned this, I immediately went to their website to book their 25-course tasting menu (I had to do it for the blog, you know!!) but unfortunately they were booked solid a month in advance. Next time, I’ll be more prepared.
Luckily, you don’t have to be in the world’s top five to be amazing. Here are a few of my favorite places to grab a bite (in air conditioning!)
- Naga – Nice Thai food with tons of curries and varieties. The atmosphere is calm and quiet and they have a nice patio for dining outside in the evenings. They have an English menu and can make dishes vegetarian on request. BTS Chong Nonsi
- Jumping Bean Cafe – Cute and super family-friendly European Cafe in Sathorn. I highly recommend the broccoli and chickpea salad and the coconut mango chia pot. Healthy food and a friendly staff and tons of activities and games for little ones if you’re traveling with kids.
- Hong Teong Long – This is an unassuming, family-run Chinese restaurant with delicious food and low prices. Buns and dumplings are the main deal. BTS Sala Daeng
- Il Bolognese – A delicious Italian place because sometimes you just need a pizza. Outdoor seating and family atmosphere. BTS Chong Nonsi
- Veganerie Concept – It’s vegan! It’s amazing! And I highly recommend one of their smoothies to accompany your delicious vegan meal in Bangkok. Just look at this food! I tried the teriyaki cauliflower and a huge smoothie and it was bliss. BTS Phrom Phong
- Roots – They have great food, a cool ambiance, and a nice ladies night special on Thursdays. Buy food and you get four drinks free. Four. Found in K Village
Best Things To Do In Bangkok Thailand
I lived in Bangkok for over a month and never ran out of things to see and do. It’s a diverse city that you could spend a lifetime exploring, but this list of places to see in Bangkok will help you make sure you don’t miss the highlights.
Visit the Grand Palace
No Bangkok guide would be complete without mentioning the impressive Grand Palace! This gorgeous palace complex is one of the most popular things to see in Bangkok and it’s definitely worth a visit. The cost is 500 TBH (about $13.00 USD) and it closes at 3:30 pm, so make sure you go early so you have time to see everything.
When you visit, wear long pants (I know it’s hot, but there’s no getting around it) and a shirt that covers your shoulders. If you aren’t in dress code, you will have to buy appropriate clothing from the vendors who are conveniently located right outside the palace walls.
The best way to get to the Grand Palace and avoid traffic is to take the Chaophraya Express Boat to the Chang Pier and follow the crowds.
Tour Wat Pho
The temple of the reclining Buddha is near the Grand Palace so you could see them together. This was a favorite of my house sit host and pretty much everyone I met who lives in Bangkok. It costs 100 THB ($3.00 USD). Make sure to take a half-day to see this impressive Bangkok temple.
Explore the National Museum
This museum is huge! The grounds are filled with gorgeous temples, historical artifacts, and even the royal chariots. This is definitely one of the best places to see in Bangkok for history enthusiasts.
I highly recommend the free walking tour that starts every day at 9:30 am. The cost for the museum is 200 TBH (about $5.00 USD) and it is open Wednesday – Sunday.
See Lizards in Lumphini Park
Who doesn’t love a little greenery in a big city? Lumphini Park is located in the Business District of Bangkok but you would never know once you’re inside. It is so quiet and peaceful, making this one of the best areas to visit in Bangkok for a relaxing day.
There are lakes where you can rent paddle boats, running and cycling paths, and even a full outdoor gym that is free for anyone to use if you want to get your workout on. But I wouldn’t know anything about this since my daily workout usually consists of walking to the nearest pad thai food cart.
The best part about Lumphini isn’t the serene beauty, or the opportunities to work off all that mango sticky rice, or even the beautiful little temples that dot the running paths.
No, the best part about Lumphini is the Lizards. Giant Monitor Lizards. Everywhere. Sunbathing, swimming, barbarically eating whole fish. They are fascinating to watch and if you’re a reptile enthusiast (I am), you will walk through Lumphini with a huge stupid grin on your face.
Visit the Jim Thompson House
Architecture and mystery buffs, this way! The Jim Thompson house is the beautifully preserved home of an American architect who fell in love with Thai culture.
He built this house in the traditional style and collected beautiful Thai art pieces to fill it. The gardens are fabulous as well. Then, on a trip to Malaysia many years ago, the Jim Thompson went for a walk and was never seen again. His disappearance remains a mystery. Spooky!
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple
Looking for amazing places in Bangkok? Then you need to add the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple to your list.
One day, I just happened to walk past this and I thought I was dreaming. Surely, temples this beautiful have to be hidden away behind huge protective gates or something, right? Nope.
This Hindu temple is fascinating to look at from every angle and one of the most colorful buildings I’ve ever seen! All around the temple are great food options as well.
Go Shopping (and Eating!) In Bangkok Chinatown
If you need anything while in Bangkok, anything at all, you can probably find it in Chinatown. This is shopping to the next level. The streets are tight and crowded so if you’re claustrophobic, maybe skip this one, but it is definitely a spectacle to behold. There is also delicious street food in this part of town.
Explore the Malls
I know it sounds silly to go to a mall while you’re abroad. You want history! You want culture! You want gold-gilded temples! I get it. But at some point, you’ll probably also want air conditioning. And one of Bangkok’s many malls is where you’ll find that. These malls aren’t just regular malls.
Some of them are fancy beyond belief, like Siam Paragon which has Aston Martin, Rolls Royce, and Lamborghini showrooms inside. They also have some of the coolest movie theaters in these malls. At some movie theaters, you can watch a film in a recliner with a butler service.
Asiatique is an upscale night market located right along the river. It has shops, restaurants, and carnival rides if you’re feeling really crazy. To get there, take the BTS to Saphan Taksin and walk down to the pier. There is a free riverboat shuttle from the pier to Asiatique, just follow the Asiatique signs.
Visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market
As the name implies, this market is only open on the weekends, but it is definitely worth a visit. It is huge, with thousands of stalls selling clothing, gadgets, and delicious foods. To get to this market, take the BTS to Mo Chit and follow the crowds.
Eat Everything at the Rot Fai Market Ratchada
Okay this night market absolutely blew my mind. I love the Rot Fai Market Ratchada so much. It was incredible!
It is open on weekends (Thursday – Sunday) from 5:00 pm – 1:00 am. There are thousands of stalls selling clothes, trinkets, and food, glorious food. There is so much food here! Around the edges of the market are bars and sit down restaurants with amazing views.
The craziest part? This is the smaller of the two Rot Fai Markets! There is another one just like this one but much bigger. It’s pretty far out in the suburbs, so if you want night market awesomeness without a 45-minute cab ride, the “little sister” Rot Fai Market is your move. Take the MRT to Thailand Cultural Center and follow the crowds.
Take a Thai Cooking Class
The cooking class I took at Pink Chili Cooking School was one of my favorite things I did in Bangkok. This cooking class started in the morning at the local market. Our instructor showed us how to pick out the right ingredients and explained the history of Thai cuisine.
Then, we walked to the cute (and air-conditioned) cooking school to cook Pad Thai, Green Curry, Coconut Chicken Soup, and Mango Sticky Rice. The food was excellent and since the menu changes each day of the week, you can learn to make tons of different Thai dishes. You can read my full cooking class experience here!
Get your Instagram on at the Unicorn Cafe
You heard me right. There’s a unicorn cafe and it’s exactly what you’re thinking. This glittery, rainbow-filled cafe is the perfect place to channel your inner fairy princess, complete with rainbow desserts and adult-sized unicorn costumes available to rent. Take the BTS to Chong Nonsi to get in on the magic.
Hang out at a board game cafe
I recommend Ninive Games for all your board game cafe needs. This board game cafe has tons of games to choose from, endless beer, and really good pizza.
If you want to find out who your real friends are, start a game of Pandemic and order a few rounds of french fries. You’ll be there, solving all the crises, until the wee hours of the morning. To get here, take the BTS to Phra Khanong.
Ladies Night Specials
If you’re a lady, Bangkok clubs and restaurants offer some sweet deals.
- At Ce La Vi in Sathorn (also called Koi), Champagne is free for ladies from 9:00 pm – 12:00 pm every Wednesday. This is bar has an amazing view of the city and it’s decorated to feel like you are in an enchanted jungle.
- Looking for a cool spot to do dinner and drinks? Roots in K Village has a special every Thursday night where ladies get four free drinks with each food purchase. Four. The food is good and the outdoor ambiance is quite peaceful. Also, Four.
- Sway Urban Eatery has a free drink for ladies on Thursdays and it’s located in a really cool area with lots of other restaurants and bars called Area 10.
Okay, you know a bar is going to be good when you enter through a telephone booth! Havana is a Cuban themed dance bar with live music and Latin rhythms. The bar is beautifully designed and it feels like you are walking into a different era. The drinks are fantastic here as well.
The cover is 300 TBH (about $9 USD) and that includes a welcome drink. I recommend the mojito.
No, this isn’t an Escape room. Escape is a rooftop bar at the top of Emquartier. It is beautifully designed and very laid back. There are lots of places to sit and enjoy drinks while taking in the city views.
You’ve probably heard of this rooftop bar. It’s the one from the Hangover 2 and that means it’s become a huge tourist attraction. The drinks are quite expensive but it’s worth going at least once to see the city all lit up at night.
(Pro tip – if you go around sunset, you can get pretty pictures of the city in the day as well as at night.)
Khao San Road
Everyone traveling to Bangkok should see Khao San Road at least once. This is one of the biggest backpacker party places in the world and the streets are crowded with tourists, party-goers, food vendors, and all kinds of other mayhem.
Drinks are cheap on Khao San Road and the dress code is casual. While there are some bars and clubs, most people just dance in the street.
Best Bangkok Day Trips
If you need a break from the big city, these easy Bangkok day trips will show you another side of Thailand.
The Ancient City
The Ancient City is a bit far from central Bangkok so visiting will probably take the better part of the day. Still, it is worth every moment to see the fantastic restorations and recreations of famous Thai monuments. This park is huge – you need to rent a bike or golf cart to explore the whole thing – and beautifully maintained.
Inside, historians and artists have lovingly recreated some of Thailand’s most important pieces of architecture to educate people about Thai history. There is a detailed and entertaining audio guide that tells you what you’re looking at and the whole park just feels so peaceful. Here you can read my full story about the Ancient City.
Real talk, when I made plans to go to the ancient city I thought it was the same thing as Ayutthaya… oops. It’s not. Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam from the 14th century to the 18th century.
Now, the archaeological remains are preserved as a UNESCO world heritage site. Ayutthaya is about 50 miles north of Bangkok and you can get there by Taxi, Train, Minivan, or Bus. Some of the temples at Ayutthaya have entrance fees of 50 tbh and some are free to visit. If you love history, Ayutthaya Bangkok day tours will be the perfect addition to your trip!
Read more about planning a trip to Ayutthaya in this post by PolkaJunction.
Maeklong Train Market
You may be thinking, “Nic, haven’t you just recommended like a billion markets to me? Why should care about another market?” Because this market is special. This market has an active train line running right down the very middle.
Trains pass through several times a day and vendors pull their products out of the way for the trains, then live just resumes like nothing ever happened! This market is a bit outside of Bangkok so you will have to take a taxi, train, or van to get there. More on how to get there here.
Looking to go even farther outside of Bangkok? I get it, we all need breaks from busy city life from time to time. Check out these Must-See Attractions in Northern Thailand or discover the best things to do in Chiang Rai!
Bangkok Travel Tips
- It gets hot in Bangkok. Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid almost passing out on the Skytrain like I did.
- Bottled water in restaurants can be pricey. Grab a bottle from one of the many 7/11s before going out to eat to save a few baht.
- Carry a shawl or scarf in your day bag in case you want to enter a temple or sacred site. These places don’t allow exposed shoulders.
- Carry cash – street vendors and even some restaurants only take cash.
- Carry an umbrella with you if you’re traveling during the rainy season. monsoon rains can come out of nowhere leaving you trapped in a gazebo in Lumphini park for like an hour (but don’t worry I got to watch lots of awesome lizards).
Planning a trip to Thailand?
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So so so many beautiful pictures! Your photos always amaze me—you have a great eye for taking great pictures! And I love reading all of your adventures!
Wow, that’s quite the guide. I pocketed it to save it so I can return later and find some of these places you mentioned here. The first question that came to my mind while reading what you wrote about the rail service, BTS and MRT, the tickets you got from the machines, do the machines have titles or instructions in English so you know what you are getting?
I’m sure I could probably mimick what the others are doing after watching them a few times but I don’t know if it’s a simple matter of tapping one or two options and feeding the machine a couple hundred bhats. Obviously they would have instructions in Thai but is that the only language offered on these machines?
(Like an USA ATM offers English or Spanish.)
Hi Mark! That’s a great question! The machines have an English option which makes it easier to know what you’re getting. There is also an illustrated MRT/BTS map next to the ticketing machines that shows you where you are and how much money to put in to go to each location. So if you were at stop A and wanted to go to stop D, for example, you would look at the picture and find the amount of bhat next to stop D. Put that in and you’re good to go! 🙂 Hope this helps!