My first time in the city of angels was back in 1996, over 20 years ago. I absolutely had no idea on where to stay in Bangkok, which area was better to visit or sleep and most important how long to stay.
One thing I understood straight after few hours was that Bangkok was amazing fun city, certainly impossible to get bored, especially in the night 🙂
On my second day I was already re-planning my trip to spend more days in the Thai capital and once back home I started looking for jobs there.
Did I move to Bangkok?
I will talk later about that.
I have spent a considerable amount of time in this city and I have enjoyed it so much. The first thing I suggest you once you land at the airport is to buy the local newspaper in English called Bangkok Post. This is a great source of what is currently happening around, including some local advertising that may help if you need to buy something.
Should I book the accommodation in advance?
10-15 years ago I would have said NO. Just book as you go. Nowadays it is all on internet and prices are so competitive that the best hotels, hostels and guest houses get (over)booked well in advance.
To cut it short, what is the best area to stay in Bangkok?
Easy question, easy answer. There are many. It all depends on what you are looking for, your type of travel and how important is public transportation.
This is a summary list of the areas, more information below
Transportation may drive your choice on the area where you decide to be based, where your guest house or hotel is located.
As an example, far cheaper transportation can be found outside the city centre however it may take hours to get into the core of Bangkok as traffic is notoriously an issue.
I usually use a local website called Transit Bangkok. They have a beautiful map with all the trains and metro station. They include as well one of my favourite way to move around, through the khlong (water canals).
I discovered this way few years back and I can’t stop myself using them, whenever possible. They are like a metro line, but much more fascinating. I am usually one of the rare tourists using these boats which is incredible considering how cheap, easy and romantic is this transportation.
Alternatively you can book a motorbike taxi. Unfortunately in May 2016 the government decided to stop Uber and Grab however the remaining mototaxis are still a great alternative being so quick through the traffic. My experience has been always good. It is not my favorite transportation as accidents happen.
The tuk tuk is another alternative especially in the central area of Bangkok however I would not consider it during the day as they can’t get through the traffic. They are great in the night.
As a last resort you can take a taxi but it will take ages to go anywhere, because of the traffic congestion.
The closer you are to any of the above stations the easier will be to move around and enjoy Bangkok. Unfortunately it usually comes at a higher hotel price.
Banglamphu is the Bangkok as it used to be, an artistic area based on teak house and magnificent backyard. This is the area of Bangkok that, although being central to the capital, has still vast areas dominated by trees, more than the huge buildings you get soon used to see in the city.
This is the district where you will experience more monks than any other in area you stay or visit in Bangkok. Still lots of street markets where to buy your local fruit and eat some glorious street food.
In the late 18th century the Royal Court was transferred from Ayutthaya to Bangkok and Banglamphu was the district where most of the farmers and merchants decided to move, making every lane and street an open air 24/7 market.
With the time Banglamphu has developed as a commercial area by day and an entertaining district by night, something that you can still notice when walking around.
However the most famous part is certainly Khao San Road, the backpacker enclave of Bangkok. In the 80s and 90s this was the place where you could find the cheapest accommodations.
In the last 10 years the full area has opened to different style of flashpack and boutique style hotel. You will certainly not get disappointed, whatever you are looking for
For most of the young generation this is the where to stay in Bangkok the first time.
There are lots of tourists and plenty of options for food and drinks. Party party and again party
My first time there 20 years ago I had a great fun. Most of the shops, bars and restaurants were run by locals.
Surely there was, even at that time, a massive amount of tourism however I had still the feeling I was in Thailand.
I was back lately in the area and I must admit the soul is not as Thai as it used to be.
In saying that, on some side streets I found some lovely places to have a drink, a juice and some fancy boutique accommodation at a great price. My tip here is to visit the area of Banglamphu and not just Khao San Rod.
The easiest way to arrive here is via khlong, a 15 minutes walk from the last stop called Phan Fa Lilat
From Khao San Road you can walk to some of the main Bangkok attractions as the Grand Palace, the Democracy Monument, Golden Mount or Wat Pho. China Town is also not that far away by mototaxi.
If interested in Travel Photography you may look into my Bangkok Photography Guide, click here for a full list of great photography places, best shops and tons of suggestions.
If you stay too close to the the main road you run the risk to not be able to sleep, it can be quite noisy.
The Canal Hostel is by far my favourite choice in the area. It has a boutique style and a unique relaxing area right on the canal. So close to Khao San however so far from the hustle and bustle of the backpacker area. It’s like stepping back in time. They really have implemented a great design.
The Rang Kha Mhin Home Stay is an affordable alternative in the area which I have suggested to many friends wanted to spend some time in Khao San on a budget. Clean and fantastic people working there
The Born Free Hostel is one of the cheapest, but still reasonable in quality and service, alternatives in the area. Again in a side street it is a good alternative when on budget
Where are the wealthiest residents in Bangkok? Easy answer, in the Sukhumvit neighbourhood.
Sukhumvit is actually the name of the road that will take you directly to the Gulf of Thailand, after a 20km drive that may take longer than expected though, as this is one of the busiest part of the capital.
This is a famous exclusive residential area with expensive apartments blocks, luxurious shopping centres, spas , hospitals (hopefully you will not need them), restaurants and obviously plenty of hotels, including some of the best ones in the city,
It is another area popular with many tourists and probably the main reason is the proximity to the BTS Metro station that will take you everywhere in Bangkok, as easy as that.
If you take the train on business hour you will notice lots of expats going to work. Sukhumvit Road is in fact popular with western people living or staying long term in Bangkok.
Some of the stations you may need along the BTS route:
You can check other things to do around this area directly on the BTS website.
I definitely suggest Sukhumvit for a short stay (less than a week). It is so practical with transportation!
The Amari Boulevard Bangkok Hotel is still one of my favourite in Sukhumvit for the combination of affordable price, location, outside area and swimming pool, which is nice to have after a long day out walking. Awesome breakfast. The furniture tends to be dated and this is why this hotel is cheaper than similar ones in the area. I can live with that. My first time in this hotel was in 1996!!
The Maduzi Hotel is a small boutique accommodation a stone away from both the BTS and the MRT metro stations. This is super practical as you can visit most of Bangkok using the quickest available transportation. The interior design is just beautiful.
The Little Pig is a great economical option close to the Ekamai station. If you are planning to take any early bus to Cambodia or the eastern islands, like Koh Chang, you probably want to sleep nearby the Bangkok Bus Terminal (Eastern), just behind the Ekamai BTS station and The Little Pig is a great affordable place to be
Take your time time for some shopping. There are so many shopping centers that sometime it is difficult to understand when one ends and the next one starts
Siam square (and the area around) is synonym of shopping-place-to-be. Definitely well served by any kind of transportation system with the BTS train stopping here every 7 minutes or so.
Walk here and you will experience the Thai modern consumerism with super-malls offering all you need or anything you wish to have. Think a brand and you are very likely that you will find it here. Need anything? Come around here.
If you are on a shopping day, than start in Siam square right at the BTS Skytrain station.
What malls to visit?
Head on the 77th floor of the Baiyoke Tower II for an amazing view of the city. Try at sunset on a nice day.
The Siam Kempinski Hotel is positioned just in the perfect place for any shopping addicted, next to the Siam Paragon mall. It is one of the most luxurious hotels in Bangkok with a park (not just a garden) within the premises and several swimming pools around. Free WiFi and private restaurants and spa centers. You can get lost here. There are some amazing deals on-line.
The Siam Kempinski Hotel is also so close to the Siam BTS Skytrain Station which makes it the perfect place to visit Bangkok.
The VIE Hotel – MGallery by Sofitel is the pretentious, although boutique style, choice in Bangkok. It’s not the average Joe accommodation with a well thought design, down to the details in all the areas. If you are not sleeping here you can have a visit at the restaurant for dinner, expensive however really unique.
The Mellow Fellow Hostel is my choice on the budget. So close to Jim Thompson House and walking distance to the BTS station, right in the heart of Bangkok.
Around Siam station there are plenty of shopping malls as well as along other stations. The train is very quick and it usually comes every 10 minutes or so
Navigating the Chao Phraya river is super easy and, at the same time a beautiful experience. You may also add that that is amazingly cheap.
I usually plan a visit either at sunrise, with the sun rising from the city, or sunset. In both cases you will experience awesome colours.
I lately found an incredible hotel, which is now my base, whenever I am in Bangkok. It was used as a set for an 18th century movie. I will talk more about it later.
If you are not staying/sleeping along the river you can grab the BTS metro and jump off at Saphan Taksin. From there you can take the boat at the central pier, just below the elevated metro station, direction the Grand Palace.
The Chao Phraya river is the romantic option, the place to visit and experience. If in Bangkok you can’t really miss a few minutes, or hours, of navigation. Booking the accommodation close to the water will take you back to the 18th century.
Now it’s time to reveal the best secret of Bangkok accommodations?
When I get asked what is my favourite hotel? Where do I usually go?
I have no doubt. That is the Loy La Long Hotel. As soon as you step in, you think you have gone through a time machine and suddenly you are in a typical stilt house of the Kingdom of Siam in the fifteen century. Beautiful rooms with windows to the river which becomes magical on sunset and during the night.
I love the common area, used also for breakfast, open to the river
The guest house Inn a day is just as amazing. The rooms with the river view to the Wat Arun are really magical, although usually fully booked. If you find it take it straight away. The Loy La Long is probably more intimate and that’s why I prefer it, however it’s really more of a personal choice.
If you prefer a bit of solitude, but still a step from the city, stay on the other side of the river. The Ibrik Resort by the River is the perfect choice. This is a small 3 rooms bed & breakfast with a real family atmosphere in an area of Bangkok where you will hardly meet any western people
All of the above accommodations are in the boutique category and they come with a price tag. In saying that, they are all unique and you will remember them forever as a special stay in Bangkok.
This is a list of suggestion on few stops, some of the unique and unusual:
I still remember my first time there. Oh boy, it was really intriguing.
It happened that I visited the area in the night and my nose was happily screaming by all the street cooking smell. I could not stop myself eating…and eating…and eating.
The architecture in the area is more Chinese than Thai. The roads have sign in Chinese. People have a Chinese background. Food is mainly Chinese….it really seems suddenly to be in a Chinese city.
The lanes can be very small. Add the fact that in the night they get packed with street markets. One word, beautiful!
I still remember I was there one night when someone improvised a street cinema with a very old, if not antique, projector. A Bruce Lee movie and all the kids open mouth. It will stay forever in my memory.
Chinatown is a must visit once in Bangkok, definitely not to be missed.
I love so much walking in this area. There is always a surprise, an opportunity for some photography
Hotels and guest houses are usually on the cheap side, with some boutique style exceptions.
I always preferred to visit this area and I personally never slept in Chinatown. I was suggested by some local friends a couple of options:
My favourite Loy La Long Hotel is technically in Chinatow however it is miles away from the hustle and bustle . It’s a peaceful place on the river
Walking in the tiny streets is by itself an activity 🙂 discovering small shops, hidden corners and surprises for every corner you pass.
If it is true that a visit to Rome has to include the Vatican City then a visit top Bangkok should have Ko Ratanakosin in the bucket list.
Many of the city holy sites are located here. The area can be easily explored by foot and/or boat starting from the Grand Palace to finish in Wat Arun on the opposite side of the river.
Are you wondering why so many temples and sites are concentrated in Ko Ratanakosin?
There is an easy answer, King of Siam Rama the First wanted to re-create the glory of the than sacked Ayutthaya, capital of the Siamese country in the late 1800. The design is in fact pretty similar, with most of the sites in an area delimited by water, an artificial island.
In this area you will find also some of the most luxurious hotels with an incredible view to the river. This is where you can probably have the best sunset in Bangkok
On the opposite river side of Ko Ratanakosin there is Thonburi, a residential area where you can experience the local life in the Thai people.
Thonburi can be visited also using a long tail boat and navigating through the many khlongs (canals). An amazing area for some photography.
Long tail boats will be offered to you everywhere you walk. Just remember to bargain the price, at least 50% down (it’s normal practice).
If bargaining is not your thing or you just want to have it now booked it, you can check this half day tour which includes a English speaking guide, very useful if you want to go deeper in the Thai culture, something you will not have when booking locally.
The Riva Arun Bangkok is well located opposite the Chao Phraya River. The view to the Wat Arun is just magnificent and worth the price of this hotel. The open-air restaurant is also facing the river making this hotel a perfect place for a stay and dinner.
The Chakrabongse Villas has a majestic location. You can walk to all of the sites of interests and take a 30 seconds ferry to the Wat Arun. However it is not just that. When you step in you suddenly forget you are in Bangkok. This is such a peaceful oasis immersed in a beautiful garden and an handy swimming pool. The interior design is so Thai, you will definitely love it.
The Royal ThaTien Village is the option on the budget. Location is again fantastic, so close to all the main atractions. The hotel in front of the Wat Pho and next to a 7eleven. Just a 5min walk to Tha Tien pier from which you can cross the river with only 2 baht Wat Arun. 10 minutes walk to the Royal Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Comfortable bed. Hot shower. Staff extremely nice and available for any need.
These are the six macro areas I would suggest to anyone visiting this amazing city.
How long to stay in bangkok?
To a first timer I usually suggest 4-5 days. You may want to add also a visit to Ayutthaya, the old capital of the Kingdom of Siam.
On a repeated visit I suggest even more, to settle down and enjoy the everyday life, especially on the other side of the Chao Phraya.
Sometime I take a boat on a khlong till an unknown destination and walk back towards the center. When tired I can get a boat or a metro/bus back. Getting lost is always lovely in Bangkok.
Again, I suggest to at least book a night at the Loy La Long Hotel, really you will not be disappointed (and do not worry, I do not have any affiliation with the hotel owner ;), it’s just a beautiful place to stay )
Enjoy the city of angels!
….and yes, I was forgetting, I ended up working and spending more time than expected in Bangkok. This is still my favourite Asian capital city with lots of memories.
None of the above suggested accommodation have ever given me any freebie. I wish LOL or they have paid to be in this list, that would be awesome too LOL. It’s just a genuine list. If you book through the links we get a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you. This is how we partially run this website together with a great amount of coffees. Thank you so much for your support!