Always surprising and refreshing, Bangkok is a must on most people’s South East Asian trips. Attracting a whole host of different tourists from all over the world with its depth of history, culture and traditions, the Thai capital remains a buzzing destination on many backpacking itineraries, but also a great place for those looking to soak up Thai culture during a vacation.
Bangkok is truly a city with something for everyone, whether you are looking to stay among the nuances of local Thai life, or wanting to drink in the city’s late night bars and clubs. The city has undergone much modernization over the past few decades, transport links have developed and improved with the skytrain and the metro; buses and taxis – although less reliable – are still easy to comeby.
Map of Bangkok
1. Siam · 2. Sukhumvit · 3. Khao San & Banglamphu · 4. Bang Rak & Si Lom · 5. Yaowarat & Phahurat · 6. Thong Lor · 7. Dusit · 8. Ratanakosin · 9. Thonburi
The accommodation on offer in the city is often fantastic value for money with many hotels offering a high standard of service, too. There has never been a better range of great hotels to stay in from upmarket 5-star extravagance, to clean and modern budget hostels. This wonderful city is ready for your next adventure, so read on to find out where to stay in Bangkok.
This is the area of the city that has the highest concentration of shopping malls. It is in the fashionable and modern Siam where you will find Bangkok’s big cinemas, trendy restaurants and sizable entertainment centres. All the big global retail names can be found inside the air-conditioned walls of places such as Siam Paragon, Siam Centre and Siam Discovery, to name just a few. Once you’ve had enough of the designer brands, you can head to the Siam Square where the on-trend kids spend their cash in the smaller boutiques that offer quirkier styles.
The area also has some interesting cultural sides; Jim Thompson’s House gives visitors a glimpse of a Bangkok of the past, or you check out one of the biggest aquariums in the world at Siam Ocean World – you can even have a go at ice skating on an Olympic size rink, or watch a Thai boxing match for free outside the MBK shopping mall. Siam is where Bangkok locals come to shop and spend time with friends which means that at the weekend the area gets busy and pretty congested with traffic, but it also means it has great transport links to other parts of the city. The hotels on offer in the district range from the more high-scale to budget hostels, meaning there really is something to suit everyone’s price range.
A popular expat hangout, the central district Sukhumvit is as cosmopolitan as it is fun and boasts a whole load of choice when it comes to entertainment. There isn’t a lot of traditional everyday Thai life in this district, and it lacks tourist attractions, but it is connected to the skytrain and the metro, which means it is easy to get around the city. This is a great area to stay in if you like food from all over the world: just a short walk along the street in Sukhumvit and you will find Lebanese food being sold next to Italian pizza, and then some Thai street food to tempt you further.
If you like spending your evenings eating, drinking and dancing, then Sukhumvit is the area for you, and there are a lot of great hotels to choose from, so you can rest your head after a night out partying, whether it be in a dorm room or in a queen size bed at a luxury hotel.
Khao San road has a notorious reputation all over the world: most know it from the famous opening scenes of the movie The Beach which still attracts many travelers looking for the same euphoric experience of finding adventure in a tropical land. The area today is a mecca for many backpackers – this is where travelers head if they want to drink cheap alcohol, eat strange food and get tempted in awe by the infamous ping pong shows. But, there is still more laid back fun to be had in the area. Neighboring Banglampou offers up a glimpse of Bangkok of the past (before the revelry took over), with its interesting markets and quaint traditional shop houses.
Khao San has become part of the patchwork that makes up Bangkok and, although rowdy, there are some good and reasonably priced hotels and hostels to stay in, some with swimming pools and roof terraces. It is also well connected and great if you plan to travel to other parts of Thailand as many of the buses pick up and drop off passengers in the area.
The perfect area to stay in Bangkok if green spaces are important to you, Bang Rak and the adjoining Si Lom district are close to Lumpini Park, where you can sit and soak in the everyday lives of Bangkok locals as they exercise together and spend time with their families. The food is also delicious around these areas as many eateries serve up more traditional Thai cuisine for very reasonable prices.
The skytrain threads its way through both of the districts and the Si Lom metro stop adds to the easy transport to other areas in Bangkok. Evenings in the area are buzzing, with the Patpong night market in Si Lom, which will offer you the chance to try out a plethora of Thai street food – you can then finish off your night sipping cocktails at a glitzy rooftop terrace and take in the lights of the Bangkok skyline at one of the 5-star hotels in the area.
Chinatown, known as Yaowarat, is an old area of the city where the first Chinese traders settled and still remain to this day, a warren of wonders where anything and everything Chinese is sold and bought along the small streets and inside the strange shops. Phahurat is similar to Yaowarat except it is where Indian immigrants have come to settle over the years and is where you will be able to buy all sorts of strange and wonderful things. The depth of culture and history in the area is a testament to the strength of Thailand’s cultural influence and is a fantastic base in the city if you want to shop for oddities and get lost in the various cultures that make up Bangkok.
The sheer wealth of food being cooked and sold in these district will make your taste buds explode, and with many of Bangkok’s big sites in walking distance these Asian areas offer some good accommodation for those on a budget.
A trendy and hip area, Thong Lor is where you will find a selection of Bangkok’s many swanky bars, fashionable nightclubs and a whole range of restaurants serving delicious cuisine from around the world. This is the place to come if you are into chic boutique shopping and classy hangouts where you will be mingling with Bangkok’s hip, young and affluent crowd. The area has become more popular with foreign tourists recently, attracted to the district by the sophisticated nightlife and flourishing international dining scene.
Thong Lor has great public transport links with the BTS Skytrain stopping off at Thong Lo at the start of Sukhmvit Soi 55 which is the name of the main street in the area. With the boom in upscale establishments spreading through the district, the streets around Thong Lo station such as Ekkamai have started attracting trendy new business ventures. Accommodation in Thong Lor is not the cheapest in Bangkok, but the hotels are often elegantly decorated in a contemporary style and have a range of facilities for guests, such as swimming pools and yoga classes. More affordable accommodation can be found in the area in guesthouses that offer rooms that are more down to earth but comfortable and clean.
Since the 1900s Dusit has been known as a place of luxury when King Rama V build Dusit Palace. With its decadent royal residences and intricate European inspired architecture the Grand Palace is the heart of Dusit and many of the buildings in the surrounding streets were developed alongside the Palace and as a result are now beautiful wide, leafy avenues. Public transport around the Dusit area is fairly simple with the river ferries serving the district as well as buses.
There are many museums, parks, monuments and temples around the area for visitors to spend days exploring and learning more about Thai history and culture. This is not an area to stay in if you want nightlife on your doorstep, but the rowdy Khao San road is a walk or a short taxi ride away. There is not a huge range of hotels to choose from, however there are some smaller guest houses in the area that offer great value for money.
This is the district where many of Thailand’s most iconic historic monuments can be found, so Ratanakosin is the place to stay if you have a few days in Bangkok and want to learn more about the culture and history of Thailand. It is here that you will find the iconic Grand Palace and the very important Wat Pho among the wealth of museums, parks and monuments that can be found around Ratanakosin.
The river is important in Bangkok for transport with many locals commuting by river ferry. Using the ferry service is a fantastic way to get around the city, and Ratanakosin is well connected by river ferry services and also main buses frequently run through the area. If you like boutique hotels this is the area for you with small, quirkily designed hotels nestled in historic buildings.
The Charming Thonburi district stretches along the west bank of the Chao Phraya River which differs from the rest of the capital in its peaceful, laid back atmosphere. Once the site of the original settlement of Bangkok, Thonburi has seen modern development in recent years but traditional life still remains here. This is where you will find Bangkok’s famous floating markets along Thonburi’s network of canals. The area is also great for exploring museums to learn about Bangkok of the past, Thonburi is perfect for those who are watching the pennies, as the food in the locals’ markets is affordable and delicious.
Riverside hotels and luxury lodgings are the top places to stay in the neighborhood and, although it is not the best connected neighborhood in Bangkok for public transport, the river ferries are frequent and remain the easiest way to reach Thonburi.