A Beginner’s Guide To Bangkok, The Buzzing Thai capital
Bangkok is the main hub in Southeast Asia, and a buzzing destination city full of amazing food, Thai culture and history, and amazing places to explore. If you have a layover or are just passing through, extend your stay for a few days and see just how much Bangkok has to offer you.
Lost on where to start? No problem, as we’ve created a guide to introduce you to Bangkok. In under 3 days, you can eat at some of the city’s best restaurants, hit up the city’s best sights, and learn just where to find where the best party is at.
No matter where you eat, you would be remiss not to try and enjoy as much Thai style food as possible. Bangkok’s prominence in Southeast Asia has made it a fusion haven for foodies, with the best of Thai, Chinese, Indian, and Japan style cuisine all within a few doors of each other.
Where to Eat Breakfast in Bangkok
Some of the hostels and hotels in Bangkok offer breakfast with them, which if you’re on a budget tour is definitely the way to go. But if breakfast isn’t included, or you have the extra funds to splurge on some grub, there’s some great places you can fill up and start your day off right.
For the comfort food addicts, Black Box Cafe & Bar is the best place to fill up on breakfast standards, like potatoes, eggs, sausages, pancakes, and even bacon. The largest platter breakfast costs 350 Baht and includes enough food to fill up even the most starving of backpackers.
Lazy Brunchers who didn’t make it out the door in time for breakfast will appreciate the laid back atmosphere and long breakfast hours at La Creperie. Surrounded by a muted color scheme of grays and yellows, you could easily spend an hour or two drinking coffee out on the terrace garden. There are dozens of different crepes to enjoy on the menu, from sweet lemon custard to more standard breakfast fare like ham and eggs.
If you’re on a tighter budget, or just want to fit in as much of Bangkok as possible, you can always take to the streets and buy your breakfast from the food vendors that line the labyrinth of streets of Thailand’s capital. If you take to the streets for your first meal of the day, the best suggestion is just to try some of Thai’s amazing traditional breakfast fare. When in Bangkok, do as they do, right?
Thai Breakfast Dishes:
Breakfast is a great meal to get from street vendors. It leaves you more time and less of an interruption in the rest of your day. If you do plan on grabbing your meals from street vendors, try to avoid Mondays, when the citywide street sweepers are out in full force. Lots of street vendors skip out, and there aren’t as many options for food choices.
Joke is like the Thai version of grits or oatmeal; it’s a warm porridge that can be served with a variety of garnishes, including egg, liver, ginger, pork, and some sort of greenery, usually cilantro. It’s rice based, unusual, but pretty addicting; try it once and it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be eating for every breakfast in Thailand.
Another great option is khao kai jeow (aka omelette with rice). They are pretty common at restaurants around the city that offer Thai style cuisine, and there are entire food carts dedicated to making just khao kai jeow, so it’s pretty easy to find. The omelettes are a great blend of protein and carbs, and are a good Thai style dish for travelers who are somewhat hesitant from branching out and trying new things.
When you’re done with breakfast, be sure to buy a bag of Patongo to take with you for a snack along the way. Patongo is the Thai version of donuts, with a salty taste that pairs perfectly with a coffee to go for a great Thai style snack to keep you going throughout the day. They’re tiny, lightweight little balls, fluffy on the inside and fried crisp on the outside.
Where to Eat Lunch in Bangkok
BKK Bagel Co is a must stop for anyone visiting Bangkok for a few days. The restaurant is quite literally the only bagel shop in Bangkok, and is a fantastic blend of East meets West. There’s a great selection of sandwiches to choose from, from the traditional tuna melt to the corned beef with salmon salad and egg combo. If you’re in need of a pick me up, they also serve great coffee, and offer free wi-fi to paying customers.
Soi Polo Fried Chicken is a Bangkok classic, and a traditional spot to enjoy some fantastic Thai style fair. The building isn’t anything to look at, but the food is fantastic and cheap enough to guarantee crowds every day at noon; if you want to avoid the rush, try to hit up the place earlier or later during the lunch hour.
If you dream of living the elite high life without breaking your budget, Le Normandie should be on your hit list. While dinners there are allusively expensive and crowded, during lunch you can enjoy a 3 course meal with the same quality of service and food for just under $30 US dollars. French master chefs, mouth watering dishes, and being able to enjoy eating at one of Bangkok’s most infamous restaurants all make it worth the stop.
Where to Eat Dinner in Bangkok
If you’re still in the mood to stay in the streets, the best street vendors and a practical party on the street can be found in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown. The main two streets, Yaowarat road and Charoen Krung road, are lined with fantastic street vendors, but you can find great ones on nearly every alleyway and street in Chinatown. The entire mini city of Chinese culture and shops comes alive at night, and you won’t be the only one eating outside. There’s rice, curry, noodles, and even more out there food choices like bird’s nest soup.
Bangrak is quite possibly the hippest place you’ll eat in Thailand, and the awesome atmosphere is only the beginning; the restaurant serves some of the best Thai food in the country, including dishes like Pad Thai and bacon wrapped shrimp. If you’re in the mood to sit and relax, it’s a great place to catch a free live concert with dinner and drinks.
If you want to eat outside but still have the full blown restaurant experience, Somtum Der combines the best of both worlds. The outdoor seating area is intimate and inviting, the prices are cheap, and the food is authentically Thai in every way. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, and eating here is a great way to wrap up a day in Bangkok.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
With a little over 6 million people living in Bangkok, there’s plenty of places to stay in within the city’s districts. Bangkok is a central hub for flights in the area, so there’s a lot of accommodation styles for a variety of price ranges. While you can find alternative options for places to crash for a night, like Airbnb.com, couchsurfing, or house swapping, the main two options most travelers have are between Bangkok’s hostels and hotels.
Hostels are no longer just limited to the backpacking crowd; families, long term stays, single women, etc. can all find hostels that cater toward serving their specific travel needs. Hostels are great if you just need a cheap place to stay and are willing to have a bunch of random roommates; you get to meet fellow travelers, make new friends, and cut down on costs in exchange for sharing a shower and room. Bangkok sees plenty of budget travelers, which means there are a ton of great hotels all located within the city and easy access to the city’s amenities.
1. Smile Society Boutique Hostel
Located in the heart of Bangkok, this hostel is focused on providing a green experience for all of its guests, the environmentalism edge of Smile Society means your the rooms and facilities are filled with plants and small trees in every corner, helping you to relax- and breathe better! There’s specific areas suited for relaxation purposes, like yoga, reading, or napping. If that’s not enough, this boutique hostel is guaranteed to make you smile with their complimentary breakfast served every morning!
2. Fab Hostel Bangkok
If you’d like to escape the tourist crowds at the end of your day and stay somewhere quieter, the Fab Hostel Bangkok is the perfect mini-getaway that’s still close enough to have all of Bangkok within easy distance. There’s plenty of things to do inside and outside of the hostel; the facilities include games like badminton, ping pong, and there’s free wi-fi available as well! No children under 14 are allowed, so it’s not a hostel for families, but if you’re a young traveler who wants the option to escape the party scene, this hostel is a great place to get away without actually leaving Bangkok.
3. Siam Journey Guesthouse
If you want to socialize, meet other travelers, and get in first hand on the cultural exchange that occurs in highly visited and densely populated cities, check out the Siam Journey Guesthouse. This hostel prides itself on its libertarian and welcoming views, and encourages developing friendships and swapping stories within its ever changing small community. There’s a common room and a rooftop terrace for communing, and the hostel offers dorm rooms to encourage engagement with others. It’s also located right in the center of Bangkok, so you can easily get around and hit up the city markets for a late night dinner with new-found friends.
4. Bodega Bangkok
Bodega Bangkok places an emphasis on experiencing the fun side of Thai culture. They know how to relax, and how to have fun, and encourage their guests to do the same by providing a safe haven in the middle Bangkok’s nightlife scene. It’s a great hostel for solo women travelers, as they have female only dorm rooms and guest lockers. The Bodege Bangkok’s cafe showcases local artists, coffee and authentic Thai food, so you can really experience the best of Bangkok culture.
5. The Blocks Hostel
The business name may say hostel, but The Blocks feels a lot more like luxury hotel than a hostel only 2 minutes away from the Skytrain. Besides offering full linen and towel service, which isn’t always available for free at hostels, there’s also free wi-fi, washers and dryers, and even a kitchen for guest use! You can also find plenty of places to cozy up at the hostel, including a rooftop terrace, a common room, and computer room. It’s a great hostel for those who don’t want to slum it but still want to stay budget friendly.
As with any large metropolis area, Bangkok has plenty of the mainstream, world wide name brand hotels that are scattered across the globe. If you are going on the hotel route, don’t pull out your Hilton Hhonors card just yet, though. There’s plenty of other hotels in Bangkok that offer plenty of first class amenities that are also easy on the wallet.
1. Mercure Bangkok Siam
The Mecure Bangkok Siam Hotel is almost a destination in and of itself, with plenty of shopping, restaurants, clubs and coffee bars surrounding the hotel. It’s located in the heart of the shopping district, and you can easily walk to some of Bangkok’s best malls from your hotel room. The rooms have a distinctly modern Thai inspired vibe; it’s a great place to stay if you want to feel like a millionaire in Bangkok.
2. Mode Sathorn Hotel
If you’ve never been able to afford the high life of an elite world traveler before, now’s your chance. The Mode Sathorn Hotel is the coup de grace of all luxury budget hotels, with floor to ceiling windows that offer you the best view of the city lights without leaving your room. The hotel serves an amazing breakfast, and you can start your day off right by taking a swim in the rooftop pool while watching the city come to life from the sky. The rooms are spacious, the amenities are first class, and the price is about half of what a 2 star hotel will cost you in the United States. What’s not to love?
3. Furara Silom
The furniture isn’t as modern as many other hotels of the same class in Bangkok, but the location of the Furara Silom is hard to beat. It’s a good alternative for families traveling through Bangkok; the hotel offers childcare, a family friendly pool, and the rooms are huge, with plenty of room for pack n plays and all the gear that comes with traveling with kiddos in tow. It’s within walking distance to many of the city’s trains and subways, which makes getting around Bangkok a breeze.
4. The Tawana Bangkok
The Tawana Bangkok is one of the cheapest hotels in Bangkok, and a great budget find for business travelers. The hotel’s Business center offers a conference room and a secretary for business or boardroom meetings, and is in a very accessible location in Bangkok. You can access the free Wi-Fi throughout the building, and there are plenty of business and corporate traveler appropriate restaurants in the area.
5. Hotel Icon Bangkok
Staying at the Hotel Icon Bangkok is just as much of an experience as actually visiting Bangkok. The architecture and decor are modern and vibrant, and the rooms are incredibly cheap for the level of comfort and amenities the hotel provides. If you’re traveling with family or as a group, the hotel offers several families rooms with dual suites. The hotel even offers a complimentary shuttle from the hotel to nearby attractions, and has a fitness center as well as a rooftop pool.
How to Get Around Bangkok
Bangkok is a huge city; there’s just over 6.5 million people and over 600 square miles to explore. But despite it’s massive size, it’s a relatively easy city to navigate and explore, thanks to plenty of cheap public transportation methods and a few unique alternatives that help visitors get around.
If you’re centered in Bangkok and want to explore in center of the city, the Skytrain is a safe, convenient, and economical choice. It runs above the city that goes through the main districts of the city. It doesn’t get you everywhere, but it’s a cheap option to help you leap over to the other side of town, and then you can either walk or use other more costly methods of public transportation to navigate around on. There are two lines that dissect the city; the Silom Line runs south to west, while the Sukhumvit Line runs north to east. They both connect at Siam Station, and you can buy a pass and recharge it as often as you need to help save time waiting line.
The Airport Rail Link is the best way to get from the airport into Bangkok’s downtown districts. The trains leave 3 times every hour, and cost under $2 to travel from one end to the other. They stop at every stop along the way, which means less walking but slightly longer ride times.
Want to avoid some of the Bangkok congestion at rush hour? Head to the river, where you can hop aboard a Chao Phraya Express boat for about 50 cents, or 20 Baht. The boats leave every 5 to 20 minutes, depending on time of day. It’s a great activity in its own right, and the boats are a great way to get directly to almost every major destination in Bangkok. Different boats take different routes, but you can check online at their website and see the schedule and route maps. Neither the Skytrain nor the Express boats operate after certain hours at night, but they are a great way to get around Bangkok during the day and evening.
There are parts of the world where taking a Taxi is the most expensive way to get around, but not so in Bangkok. The fares are insanely cheap, and it’s a very economical way to get around, especially at night when most of the other public methods of transportation are shut down. There’s plenty of them around the city, and thanks to the bright vivid colors, ranging from the traditional yellow to lime green and even pink, they are very easy to spot.
As with all cities, you still need to be aware. In Bangkok, insist on the ride being metered. If the driver tries to insist on a fixed price, find a different car. Try to avoid taxis sitting in front of hotels, and rounding up 10 Baht for a tip is suggested, many taxi drivers will insist they don’t have change, so always travel with small amounts of money to cover your fare, or you may find yourself stuck having to over pay.
There are also plenty of motorcycle taxis in Bangkok, but due to heavy traffic at nearly all times of day, lack of proper gear, and a reputation for overcharging tourists, it’s best to avoid the motorcycles.
No trip to Bangkok is complete without taking a ride in the infamous 3 wheeled Tuk Tuks. They’re not the most practical or cheapest method of transportation, but even if you’re planning on walking everywhere you should still take a ride in one around the block. Make sure you haggle for a price and don’t just settle for what you are offered; set the price and make sure they take you directly to your destination before hopping in one. Many of the Tuk Tuk drivers are paid on commision to take tourists to certain stores or businesses, and it’s best to avoid this trap.
The subway is a very convenient and fast way to get around Bangkok. You can buy and recharge a card pass as often as you need, and the subway intersects with the Skytrain and offers more stops and routes, which means you can combine the two to get pretty much anywhere around the capitol.
Things to Do in Bangkok
Thailand’s capital city is overflowing with vibrant life, culture, and history at every corner. We’ve found the best of the best in Bangkok as well as the perfect places and activities to fill up your trip in Thailand's capital.
Tour the Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is located in the heart of Bangkok, and has been the heart of Bangkok culture and politics for centuries. It has been the home to the King since the late 18th century, and has every element of Thailand that is a great introduction to the culture, religion, politics, and aura of Thailand. There is a dress code to visit and tour the complex, so be sure to wear a hat and appropriate clothing when you visit.
Visit Wat Arun
There are over 30,000 temples in Thailand, but Wat Arun is one of the most famous and definitely worth seeing. It’s located right along the Chao Phraya River, and you can get a great view of the blend of ancient meets modern by climbing the steps. The history and significance of the “Temple of Dawn” are what makes Wat Arun so special; you can easily join a tour to learn more about the temple and see all details and colors of the temple up close.
Go boating at Lumpini Park
In the middle of a city that is overflowing with people and crowds of rush hour traffic, Lumpini Park offers a bit of a natural sanctuary in the middle of the metropolis landscape. There’s plenty of green spaces to walk and enjoy, and in the middle of the 142 acres lies a lake where you can rent boats and spend the afternoon soaking up the sun and enjoying the natural scenery.
Watch a Puppet Show
Puppet show may be synonymous with kids shows in most of the world, but in Bangkok a Puppet Show is like watching a live artpiece in the making. You can watch some of the world’s greatest puppets come to life for free by visiting the Artist’s House on the western riverbank every afternoon. You can also tour the building, and even grab some coffee at the coffee shop located there as well.
Walk Around Wat Pho
The “Temple of the Reclining Buddha” is one of the most impressive monuments and temples in Thailand. The Buddha statue is huge, and attracts a large crowd, so the best time to see it is either early or late in the day. As with any other temple in Thailand, arms and knees must be covered, but there are scarves available for sale next to the temple if you forget to pack appropriate clothing.
Learn to Meditate at Wat Mahathat
There are many bigger and more iconically famous temples in Bangkok, but the best part of Wat Mahathat are the free class offerings that are open to the public. You can learn the art of meditation at several of the free meditation classes offered at the temple, and get the chance to meditate in some of the most ancient places in Thailand.
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