Last updated on November 7th, 2018 at 12:18 pm
I have had just recently in 2018 another trip to the city of angels, however, my first time was 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 importantly how long to stay.
One thing I understood straight after a few hours was that Bangkok was an 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.
To cut it short, before getting into the best places to stay in Bangkok, I like to introduce the top areas to stay in the city.
My suggestion here is to select first the area you want to stay, and then the hotel (there is such a great choice).
This is a summary list of the most famous Bangkok areas, more information below.
Keep in mind that this is a huge city, organised in 50 districts. This post covers only the most popular areas to stay in Bangkok, where you will be likely to spend all of your time unless you have some business elsewhere.
If you have only a few seconds to spare then just scroll down this section to see my picks for each category.
I suggest however to read the full post as it provides more information, alternatives and also a list of attractions around the accommodation
My favourite options are
Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 swimming pool
Pool with a view at the Mayfair Marriott
Loy La Long Hotel Bangkok – From my bedroom
Here below the 3 coolest things to do in Bangkok. Just to experience the city in a different way.
Once in Bangkok, I also suggest visiting Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and the Maeklong Train Market, however, unfortunately, they are both so popular that you will share the experience with many many other tourists.
If you can, try to catch a tour or just a driver, and start your trip from Bangkok at 5:30-6am. This will avoid most of the operators leaving the city at 7am.
Banglamphu is the Bangkok as it used to be, an artistic district based on teak house and magnificent backyard. This is one of the Bangkok areas that, although being central to the capital, has still vast zones 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 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 zone has opened to a 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 where to stay in Bangkok for 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.
Lights strips at the Democracy Monument in Bangkok (Khao San Road area)
I was back later 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, 15 minutes walk from the last stop called Phan Fa Lilat.
Alternatively, the closest BTS stations to Kho San Road are Siam, National Stadium and Ratchathewi. From there you would need a tuk-tuk.
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 moto taxi.
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
If you stay too close to 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
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 parts 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 Sukhumvit BTS Skytrain stations that will take you everywhere in Bangkok, as easy as that.
If you take the train in business hours 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.
Here you will find the widest selection of the best places to stay in Bangkok, mostly in the $50-$250 range.
Traffic in Sukhumvit Road
Some of the stations you may need along the Sukhumvit BTS Skytrain 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!
Sukhumvit area map up to Siam Square
The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 has, first of all, a fantastic location, steps away from the BTS Metro station and with direct access to Terminal 21, one of the biggest shopping centres in Bangkok. Great service as expected and fabulous swimming pool with view to the city.
Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 swimming pool
The Little Pig is a great economical option close to the Ekamai station. If you are planning to take an 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
The Little Pig
Take your time for some shopping. There are so many shopping centres that sometimes it is difficult to understand when one ends and the next one starts
Siam square (and the area around) is the 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 then 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 centres. 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 Siam Kempinski Hotel swimming pools
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 to the restaurant for dinner, expensive however really unique.
VIE Hotel – MGallery by Sofitel
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
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.
Sunset on the Chao Phraya river
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 at sunset and during the night.
I love the common area, used also for breakfast, open to the river
Lay La Long Bangkok Hotel
The guest house Inn a day is just as amazing. The rooms with the river view of 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 to stay on the other side of the river, in probably the most exclusive hotel in Bangkok, then you should check The Peninsula Bangkok. You will feel like a celebrity with a view of the water and the city skyline
All of the above accommodations are in the boutique or luxurious 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.
Map along the Chao Phraya river
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 from eating…and eating…and eating.
The architecture in the area is more Chinese than Thai. The roads have the 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 were 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
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 Chinatown however it is miles away from the hustle and bustle. It’s a peaceful place on the river.
Another option is to stay close to Sathon Road, just outside Chinatown and steps away from the BTS Metro line. There are few options there, of which the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn is one of the most awarded hotels in Bangkok. Luxurious at an affordable price and walking distance from the river. Perfect for families with kids as they have a playroom as well.
View to the river from the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn
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 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 of the river. This is where you can probably have the best sunset in Bangkok
On the opposite riverside 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 30-50% down (it’s normal practice).
If bargaining is not your thing (it’s definitely not mine LOL) or you just want to have it now booked it, you can check one of these tours, including a English speaking guide, very useful if you want to go deeper into 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 of 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 a 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 attractions. 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.
The first time in the Bangkok can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time in all of Asia. Traffic is chaotic, to say the least. Humidity can be quite high and, of course, another language is spoken although English is well known everywhere you go, especially in the tourism sector.
Surely it is something different if you come from the western world. I personally love it! Honestly, it’s hard to find any cons to this city, well maybe the traffic LOL
My personal suggestion is to book at least a couple of nights in a nice place and take it from there. Don’t go too much under budget otherwise you may end up with bad surprises, something you want to avoid the first time in Bangkok. Allocate around $60-$90. This is a list of suggestions:
These above are the options I like to suggest to friends going to Bangkok for the first time. I think that the ibis Bangkok Siam is the perfect option for someone looking more for the modern side of the city. Navalai and Nouvo are for the romantic and flashpackers that are more into a traditional food experience and still walking distance to all the attractions.
If you are just spending a night in the city and you are looking for a memorable experience I suggest a stay at the Amari Watergate Bangkok next to the Ratchaprarop Train Station, 25 minutes from the Airport.
I have no doubt in saying that the Siam area is the place to be. It’s just amazing to actually have such a huge concentration of shopping malls, street markets, small family shop and really all you need to get tired of it….maybe 🙂
You can either book a hotel close to Siam Square which is actually quite handy for both shopping and public transportation or along Sukhumvit.
With the train, you can also reach the biggest market in Bangkok that runs only on weekends, the Chatuchak Market. Check first the website to plan on the map the areas you want to visit. Saying that it is vast is actually an understatement with 200,000 visitors each weekend.
Most of the nightlife connected to the tourism, and the tourists, runs around Khao San Road. Originally this road was mostly dedicated to the backpackers but nowadays it offers a much wider choice.
Around the Khao San Night Market you will experience mostly cheap eateries and drinks. Unfortunately, they are not always the best of quality. I would personally suggest walking a bit towards the end part of the road, direction Wat Chanasongkhram Ratchaworamahawihan. The options there are so much better.
You will find some cosy bars and a great choice of food at a reasonable price too. You will also find some nice bars that in the later part of the night becoming popular with a young crowd.
Take care with booking any accommodation close to the Bangkok nightlife. The problem is that you may not be able to sleep at all, either in the night or the day.
The options I listed in the Khao San section are both great in price and lack of noise, which make it a great stay and experience.
The city is big and I would not give a preference to one area as such. My preference would go to a place close to public transportation, possibly the metro line, trying to avoid noisy districts as the one around Khao San Road (there are some nice corners in this area but it can be quite confusing for kids, especially if small……personal experience LOL)
Sukhumvit Road is most definitely one of my favourites. The main reason is the proximity to the BTS Skytrain which can literally take you everywhere in the city.
True, the main attractions like the Grand Palace, Wat Arun etc are not close to the metro stations, however, there is an easy trick to get there, with lots of fun for the kids too.
Get the SkyTrain to the Saphan Taksin BTS station on the Silom Line. Once off, walk down towards the river where you find a tiny platform to get the small ferry that navigates along the Chao Phraya river (ferries run very frequently during the day and you can buy the ticket directly on the ferry).
If unsure about the direction just ask for “Grand Palace”, everyone understands a bit of English. I suggest taking the “Tourist Boat”. It’s slightly more expensive (less than $2 and kids free) however it is not packed, as the commuter boat.
You will need to step out at these stations:
About the place to stay in Bangkok with family now. I may suggest looking for an accommodation with some facilities or possibly self-contained, especially with small kids.
My favourite place is the Mayfair, Bangkok – Marriott Executive Apartments. I recently stayed there and I had such a great experience. We arrived at 7am with a kid and 6 hours jetlag, they were so welcoming. They offered us a lounge and a temporary room to relax until ours was ready. The apartment had a kitchen which was perfect with a small kid as we could organise our milk and some food. The swimming pool was fantastic, on the rooftop, with a nice breeze and mostly in the shade and so safe too. The great breakfast was the real bonus to start the day. Only 3 words: see you again
The Boulevard Executive Residence Hotel is the alternative, hotel facilities in self-contained units. And it’s only 15 minutes walk to the BTS train.
A completely different alternative is the Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn, one of the most awarded hotel in Bangkok including the usual swimming pool and, most important, a kid playroom, perfect for that hot days. It’s located close to Chinatown and the Surasak BTS station.
Transportation may drive your choice on the zone 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
I discovered this way a few years back and I can’t stop myself from 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 favourite 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
Uber is also available in the city, just download the app before you arrive and you are set to go. They are always available in most of the areas to stay in Bangkok
The last question you may have, especially if visiting for the first time, is how far is downtown Bangkok from the airport.
The Suvarnabhumi International Airport is around 30 minutes from the centre and the easiest way is to just take the train. You can always change to the Metro line at the ASOK Station. Keep in mind you need a 5-10 minutes walk and there is no air-conditioning.
Alternatively, stop at the closest train station to your hotel and take a taxi from there, so quick and easy.
And how much does it cost for a taxi from Bangkok airport to the city, just in case the train goes too far away from the hotel? Budget in USD15-20.
These are the six macro areas I would suggest to anyone visiting this amazing city.
How long to stay in Bangkok?
For 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.
Sometimes I take a boat on a khlong till an unknown destination and walk back towards the centre. 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)
If you are after some daily jogging try to book an accommodation close to the Lumpini Park, probably the biggest park in Central Bangkok. The Dusit Thani Bangkok is a great option, steps away from the metro station and next to the park.
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.
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Stef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.
Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry.
Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world.