Bangkok is renowned among backpackers for its crowded streets, cheap souvenirs, wild nightlife, and insane traffic. Many backpackers travelling Southeast Asia will visit Bangkok and are somewhat overwhelmed due to the pollution and crowds, however, compared to many big Asian cities, Bangkok is actually quite beautiful.
Give the city time and you will definitely come to love it. I’ve spent over three months backpacking in Bangkok, across a dozen visits over ten years, and it’s a city I still love to visit… While the initial chaos and, at times, admitted seediness can initially throw newcomers off, there is a lot to fall in love with should you give Bangkok the chance.
So, today, I’m going to breakdown beautiful and bombastic Bangkok! We’re going to talk about where to stay amongst Bangkok’s eclectic neighbourhoods, and what to do amongst it’s hidden bars and steaming hole-in-the-walls eatery. Most of all, we’ll talk about how to backpack Bangkok on a budget.
After all, this is Thailand, and Thailand is baby’s first budget backpacking Asia adventure. I’m bringing you the best travel tips as it all starts in Bangkok.
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It all depends on your style of travelling. If you’re staying at fancy hotels and not eating locally, it will add to your travel costs in Bangkok very fast. Plan ahead, don’t spend money left and right and you’ll have an enjoyable and affordable trip.
Dorm rooms start at around $3 but you can get a cheap double room for just $4 if you look around. Dorm rooms in prime locations will set you back at least $10. Private rooms near Khao San start at around $10 but if you walk ten minutes outside of Khao San the price will drop by a few dollars. Chana Songkram is a good road to find cheap accommodation, it is just a five minute walk from Khao San and has loads of budget hostels, the Merry V Guesthouse is one of the cheapest.
In Bangkok, you can eat street food for under a dollar! The food is delicious, nutritious and great value. A meal in a restaurant will see you back a fair bit more, perhaps $10 a person including a couple of drinks.
City buses tend to be very crowded and can be quite confusing but they cost as little as $0.25 a journey. The Skytrain and Metro usually cost under a dollar a trip and are a great way to get around. Taxis throughout the city usually cost between $3 and $5 but make sure your driver puts the meter on. If you are travelling by yourself and don’t want to use public transport try out the famous motorcycle taxis, these are good value, especially during rush hour.
Daily Travel Budget in Bangkok Breakdown
Dorm bed in a hostel: $3-$6
Small basic room for two: $7-$14
Nice accommodation (Airbnb, hotel, etc.): $15+
Street eat: $1-$3
Sit-down meal: $7-$14
Bus ride: <$1
Metro/Skytrain ride: <$1
Taxi fare: $3-$6
Bangkok Budget Backpacking Tips
Travelling Thailand is relatively cheap, but there are some tips you can use to keep your daily spending budget lower. To keep your spending to an absolute minimum whilst travelling in Bangkok I recommend sticking to these basic budget backpacking tips…
- Use Public Transport – Bangkok has an extensive system of buses and metro lines (not to mention the countless taxis, moto-taxis, and tuk-tuks that line the streets). So make use of this and save up to do better things!
- Couchsurf: Couchsurfing is an excellent idea while backpacking Bangkok.
- Cook your own food: Get together with your amigos at the hostel and cook up a meal. You can save some pennies doing this.
- Haggle: Know how to haggle, and do it as much as you can. You can always get a better price for things especially while in local markets in Bangkok.
- Pack a travel water bottle: Save money – and the planet – every day!
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For me, one of the most exciting things about being on the road is meeting new people and staying in new places. Bangkok is the starting point for many backpacking adventures, and there are some fantastic hostels to check out. These backpacker meccas are great for meeting fellow travellers, exchanging travel stories, tapping into the backpacking grapevine and just chilling the fuck out.
Hostels may be your best entry point for meeting fellow travellers, however, there are way more accommodation options! Swanky Airbnb apartments, family guesthouses, and authentic homestays secreted away amongst the vibrant neighbourhoods of Bangkok. Whether you’re looking for the insanity of nights trawling the city, or just a new home to live your digital nomad dream, you’ll find a place to stay in Bangkok to suit your needs.
Best Backpacker Hostel in Bangkok – Diff Hostel
This one’s definitely a great catch (though maybe on the higher end of your budget). Diff Hostel is located in the heart of Bangkok and its location lets you get around quite easily. The staff are great and the hostel itself is pretty cozy.
In particular, the design of the hostel is gorgeous, and with free breakfast and free towels. Diff Hostel gives you a lot of bang for your buck and is clearly one of the best hostels in Bangkok. Defo one of the best hostels Bangkok has to offer.
Best Hostel for Solo Travellers in Bangkok – Mad Monkey Bangkok
Located on Koh San road, No matter if you are traveling solo, with a partner, with friends, as a digital nomad, or just in search of the craziest parties in town, Mad Monkey Bangkok is one of the best Bangkok hostels.
Just a few minutes from Khao San, Mad Monkey is among the best Bangkok backpackers hostel – it’s cheap, it’s fun, and it has a great swimming pool! There are plenty of hostels near Khao San Road but this one is amongst the best for meeting fellow travellers (and it helps that this is such an infamous hostel).
Best Party Hostel in Bangkok – Playground Hostel
What do you say about spending a night (or three) at the coolest party hostel in Bangkok? Apart from their extremely budgeted rooms and solid deals, Playground has a fully-stocked bar and an amazing party vibe. Think beer pong, flip-cup, drinking Jenga.
Chances are you’ll be partying like crazy no matter where you go in Bangkok. However, if you want to start every night with the vibes dialled up to eleven, stay at the Playground
There is loads to do in Bangkok is absolutely stacked with awesome activities and attractions. Don’t miss out!
1. Receive the Sacred Sak Yant Tattoo
Many travelers visiting Thailand express an interest in learning about the fascinating practise of holy Sak Yant tattoos, find out more about these amazing works of art and get your own tattoo from a monk – I strongly recommend reading up on what the Sak Yant tattoo is to find out if it’s is right for you…
2. Learn About Thai Elephants Before You Buy “The Pants”
Open from 8:30 to 4:30, the Royal Elephant Museum is well worth a visit to learn more about elephants in Thai culture.
3. Try Some Authentic Market Shopping
You can buy almost anything in Bangkok’s huge markets, the best is probably the huge Jatujak Weekend Market. Tour a night market with a local in Bangkok and really discover the hidden gems of the city.
4. Or Some Less Authentic Modern Shopping
There are tons of shopping malls in Bangkok and if you have the cash these are great places to find relatively cheap clothes, electronics and designer knockoffs.
5. Visit the Grand Palace and Wat Po
Wat Po is home to the fantastic reclining golden Buddha and is definitely worth visiting. When you get to the temple touts may tell you it is closed, ignore them and go straight inside. Better yet, pre-purchase your ticket for Wat Po!
6. Explore the Infamous Khao San Road
The epicenter of Bangkok’s backpacking scene, Khao San is definitely worth checking out. This is a fantastic place enjoy a few beers or get your first taste of a Thai bucket! Beware that a night out on Khao San will empty your wallet.
7. Relax a Day in Lumpini Park
If you end up staying a while, one of the best places to see in Bangkok is this fantastic park with jogging trails, free weights and rowboats.
8. The Underbelly of Bangkok
A lot of travellers are keen to explore Bangkok’s famous sex scene; Soi Cowboy is supposed to be the more high-market place to hang.
9. Learn How to Cook a Proper Thai Feast
Booking a cooking class in Bangkok is an excellent way to get to know the legendary Thai cuisine flavors. Plus, you get to take some pretty awesome skills home with you.
10. Sample the Street Eats
The street food in Bangkok is some of the best street food in the world. It is cheap, plentiful and super tasty. It is also very safe and unlikely to make you sick. If in doubt, buy food from a stall frequented by local Thai people, that way you can be sure the fare is of good quality.
Best Time of Year to Visit Bangkok
The peak tourist season in Thailand is November to February when the weather is beautiful across the country but there’s a high chance you’ll run into a ton of tourists in Bangkok. The really popular guest-houses fill up fast so this is a country where it can definitely be worth making reservations. This way you can find cheaper accommodation which is difficult to find during peak season.
The local people are a really friendly bunch and keen to help so if you have any problems don’t be afraid to ask for directions from the locals. And Bangkok is a wonderful city to get lost in, there is SO much to explore.
If you want to give the other tourists a miss, head over there in the non-touristy season. You can still do most things your planning for your trip to Bangkok even at the quiet times. It is just as much fun, maybe more!
Getting In and Out of Bangkok
Bangkok is the beating heart of the backpacking scene in South East Asia and most travellers end up starting their Southeast Asia backpacking trip by flying into Bangkok. You can, of course, also arrive via road or rail from:
- Or Cambodia.
Many nationalities can receive a thirty day, free, visa waiver on arrival (if arriving by air, it’s currently 15 days if you arrive overland). You can generally extend the waiver once, to receive an additional thirty days, for a fee. If your nationality requires a pre arranged visa or you want to sort out a Thai visa in advance, particularly for a longer stay, it is fairly simple to receive one a Thai embassy at home or abroad.
From Bangkok, you can travel to a ton of really beautiful islands and some cool cities as well. Some islands are very crowded and others only have just a few bungalows on them. Some of the best (well… best-known) are:
- Koh Samet
- Koh Tao
- Koh Phangan
- Koh Samui
- Joh Lanta
- The Similan Islands
Chiang Mai is one of my favourites destinations in Thailand and is popular with the digital nomad crowd. If you’re unsure where the heck to go after Bangkok, check out this epic 3-week Thailand itinerary from my amigo Dave.
How to Get Around Bangkok
If you are super stoked by the prospect of riding in a tuk tuk, go for it but be sure to negotiate a price before you get in Keep an eye on your shit when in a tuk tuk. The local bus system is another great way to get around Bangkok and I also frequently use the Skytrain for longer distances. To get into the city from the airport, catch the Skytrain and then catch a Grab or a taxi from Thonburi or Bearing.
Grab (similar to Uber) is now readily available in several countries in the region including Thailand! Grab a great way to find taxis and the price is locked in on the app. However, Grab can often prove to be more expensive than regular taxi’s. Follow the link for some free Grab credit!
Need to travel to Bangkok on the cheap? Use Bookaway to find the best deals on bus, plane, train, and ferry tickets. It’s easy to use and saves you time and money. Once you’ve arrived, why not use what you’ve saved to treat yourself to a cold beer and a bite to eat?
Book your transport on Bookaway now to guarantee your seat and for the right price.
Best Nightlife and Parties in Bangkok
The best party streets in Bangkok are:
- Royal City Avenue
- Khao San Road
- Soi 10
- Sukhumvit Soi 11
- Silom Road
Khao San Road’s reputation as the ultimate backpacker party hub is known across Southeast Asia, and has been for decades. Internet cafes, bars, restaurants, massage parlours, tattoo shops and hawkers line the 1km stretch of absolute mayhem. You’ll see people eating, drinking and dancing on the streets.
I would definitely not advise staying on Khao San road even though the cheap prices might be tempting as it’s damn noisy and you won’t catch any sleep. If you want to party stay nearby, just not on the actual road.
Safety in Bangkok
While having earned a reputation for its wild nightlife, tuk-tuk scams, and incorrigible ladyboys, Bangkok is safe – or at last a fairly safe destination to visit. You definitely stil need to keep your wits about you – especially if youre new to this part of the world – but you’re still looking at a safe trip to Bangkok. The main thing to stay aware of is knowing how to get loose safely and, crucially, not getting too loose.
Even though drugs are free flowing in the half moon and full moon parties, Thailand has very very strict laws against possession of drugs including imprisonment and the death penalty. My advice is to be extra cautious when it comes to drugs. While it’s easy to pick up weed on the Thai islands, finding something in the cities can prove trickier and despite wandering along Khao San whilst absolutely smashed and asking every Thai person I met, I was unable to score.
A lot of the time, the weed is low-quality brick weed. Every now and again, unfortunate backpackers do get roofied so be careful with your drinks and don’t accept random shit from strangers. Read Blazed Backpackers 101 for tips on how to stay safe whilst partying in Bangkok.
Tinder is awfully common in Bangkok but more as a hookup app than a dating app. If you are a white lad rocking up into South East Asia for the first time, you’re in for a treat as you will suddenly be about ten times more attractive to the local girls than you are back home. Don’t be surprised if the girl you’ve been chatting up turns out to be a ladyboy… it happens.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Travel Insurance for Bangkok
Traveling without insurance would be risky so do consider getting good backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure.
I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable. They may also let you buy or extend a policy once you’ve started your trip and are already abroad which is super handy.
If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. To find out why I use World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Books to Read on Bangkok
- Lonely Planet Bangkok Travel Guide – Plenty of useful info on bus routes and where to go.
- Bangkok Tattoo – While Bangkok is rich in history, crowded with temples it is also a city shrouded in shadows with pollution, corruption, and the touted sex capital of the world. This book is a narrative of this dichotomy.
- Bangkok Eight – Bangkok is a strange city where Buddhist monks in saffron robes walk the same streets as world-class gangsters. Mystery ensues when a US marine sergeant is killed.
- Miss Bangkok: Memoirs of a Thai Prostitute – Miss Bangkok is a vivid and extremely moving memoir of a life of prostitution in Bangkok. Her confessions will make you laugh and cry, cringe and applaud but she will definitely change your perception of prostitution forever.
- Bangkok Haunts – This book is about the underbelly of Bangkok- District 8 and the story of Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep who has seen just about everything on his beat there.
- The Damage Done: Twelve Years Of Hell In A Bangkok Prison – In 1978, Warren Fellows was convicted in Thailand of heroin trafficking and was sentenced to life imprisonment and what he went through for those years is beyond your worst imagination. It is an essential read.
Final Thoughts from this Bangkok Travel Guide
Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking Bangkok
Traveling in Bangkok long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring the city?
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Volunteering in Bangkok
Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Florence whilst making a real impact on local communities look no further than Worldpackers. Worldpackers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.
In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.
Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project.
Worldpackers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs, and eco-projects around the world. We’ve tried and approved them ourselves – check out our Worldpackers in-depth review.
If you’re ready to create a life-changing travel experience and give back to the community, join the Worldpacker community now. As a Broke Backpacker reader, you’ll get a special discount of $10. Just use the discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and your membership is discounted from $49 a year to only $39.
Being a Responsible Backpacker in Bangkok
Backpacking in Bangkok will bring you ample opportunities to participate in debauchery, and it is very important to have fun, let loose, and get a bit wild at times. Most backpacking trips I have been on across the world have included at least a few mornings where I wake up knowing I went too far.
There are some things that will put you in the category of a straight up jackass if you do them. Being super loud and obnoxious in a tiny hostel at 3 AM is a classic rookie backpacker mistake.
Everyone in the hostel will hate you when you wake them up. Show your fellow travelers respect whilst backpacking in X and anywhere else for that matter!
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough and cool travel water bottle. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, pick up a water bottle here.
Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
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