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.
Walking in Chinatown_ small lanes and local shops
Transportation and where to stay in Bangkok
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).
Map of transportation in Bangkok, including the fascinating khlong [source : Transit Bangkok]
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.
Navigating the khlong, the most romantic transportation in Bangkok
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.
Tuk Tuk depot in the Si Phraya area
Khao San Road, the backpacker area
For most of the really young generation this is the where to stay in Bangkok the first time.
There are lots of tourists, it’s probably the cheapest area for hotels 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.
Lights strips at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok (Khao San Road area)
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 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.
Khao San Road map – best area of Bangkok for backpacking
Accommodation in Khao San area
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
Rang Kha Mhin Home Stay
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
Born Free Hostel
Sukhumvit Road to Siam Square, easy transportation
This is another area popular with tourist. The main reason is 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.
One of the really few traditional places to visit in the area is the Jim Thompson House, in walking distance from the last BTS station, National Stadium.
Jim was one of the first 007 residing in Bangkok at the start of the last century. Once retired, with a great passion for the local architecture, he refurbished his traditional Thai house. Just beautiful.
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.
Traffic in Sukhumvit Road
Ekkamai station is meters away from the Bangkok Bus Terminal (Eastern) where you can catch the bus to locations in the east of Thailand, as Koh Chang.
Nana station was, and still partially is, the red area. Nowadays, however, it is also the place to go for pubs and drinks, especially after office hours, when the temperature cools off.
Asok is right in the business district, where most of the international companies are located. This area has plenty of restaurants, although they are more dedicated to the new Thai middle class, which means more expensive than you would expect being a tourist in Thailand, however far cheaper than home LOL
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!
Sukhumvit area map
Accommodation in Sukhumvit area
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!!
Amari Boulevard Bangkok Hotel
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 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.
Mellow Fellow Hostel
Along the Chao Phraya river
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.
Sunset on the Chao Phraya river
My suggestion on few stops:
- Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn): an amazing Buddhist temple, my favorite in the city
- The Jam Factory: they defined themselves as “the idea, the place, the community”. What is it actually ? It’s an office space for architects and an art gallery and a cafe’ and a fabulous restaurant and a bookstore too. Simply, it is a unique place to visit
- Speedy Grandma Gallery: it’s a bit of hit or miss, based on the exhibition. Have a look at the Facebook page and, if you are in the city during an opening, make a favour to yourself and mix with the arty crowd, it will be a memorable evening
- Wat Kalayanamit: the quietest and most hidden, but still awesome, Buddhist temple
- The Grand Palace: a must see, not too much to add here
- The flower market
- One Pho Massage: right at Tha Tien stop, almost in front of the Grand Palace. Another stop that will help you to keep going through the day. I just loved my time there. And it’s really at a good price too. This is a real traditional massage
Map along the Chao Phraya river
Accommodation close to Chao Phraya
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
Loy La Long Hotel Bangkok
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.
Inn a day
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.
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.
Watching a movie in the Chinatown markets
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
Accommodation in Chinatown
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:
These are the four 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 I get a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you. This is how I partially run this website together with a great amount of coffees. Thank you so much for your support!