Finding where to stay in Bangkok for the first time visitors can be a serious challenge. Bangkok is a city of contrasts, towering skyscrapers punctuate the horizon, while life and tradition thrive on the streets and winding canals below. Bangkok welcomes visitors in the millions from every city in the world to the vibrant, densely populated streets that are packed with attractions. Tuk-tuks and rickshaws hurry along the crowded roads, temples gleam in the sunlight, and longtail boats stream along the floating markets. The food here is famed for its variety, diversity of unique flavours and of course, the price. In Thailand, you can eat like a king and still have a pocket full of change. Or treat yourself without breaking the bank at some of the worlds biggest and best malls. Thai hospitality is second to none and welcomes anyone and everyone into the vibrant nightlife and culture of Bangkok.
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Where to stay in Bangkok
Bangkok has a plethora of accommodation options for the intrepid traveller. As one of the biggest and most lively cities in Southeast Asia, the "City of Angels" has it all. For a first-timer, it can be difficult to figure out where to start in a city where life moves like a carousel. Depending on your needs, there are a number of things to take into consideration when researching the best place to stay. Do you want to everything on your doorstep or are you happy to walk or travel around to discover the sights? Do you want to stay in the best boutique 5-star hotel in the land or are you happy with a cheap guest house in the heart of the city? Do you need access to office space and stable wifi? Are the markets on the top of your bucket list? Finding the right place to stay in Bangkok can help kickstart your perfect holiday; making it your trip, your way. The titles of neighbourhoods give nothing away, so we're here to shed some light on the right place for you.
Each neighbourhood has its pros and cons. Some could be better suited than others, depending on your budget, interests, and of course, personal preference when it comes to sleeping arrangements. Below we outline each area of Bangkok and the reasons to stay there or avoid it.
Sukhumvit - A hub of nightlife, dining, and shopping
Why stay in Sukhumvit
If you're looking to be central but don't mind a bit of walking, Sukhumvit is a great choice.
Located in the centre of Bangkok, Sukhumvit has something for everyone. An 18km road bursting with shopping, dining, and nightlife. Activity beats like a drum around the streets and alleys. Although Sukhumvit has a distinctly cosmopolitan vibe, there are small hints of cultural Thailand on every corner. Many expats and Westerners live in Sukhumvit as it's well connected with great facilities, and has a calm vibe. Complete with lots of atmospheric cafes and lounges suited to work, study, and relaxation. You'll find restaurants catering to tastes from all over the world, and a variety of spas, bars, and traditional Thai street food in between. Popular attractions in the area are Benjasiri Park; an open grassland with views of the city, Khlong Saen Saeb canal, Soi Arab alleyway with numerous Arabic restaurants and shops, WTF Gallery and Café; an institution of art and alcohol, and Cheap Charlie’s Bar; offering all drinks for 80 baht. Getting around Sukhumvit is easy and it's accessed by both the Skytrain and the subway MRT.
Why avoid Sukhumvit
Traffic is heavy and the hotspots are quite spread out. It can take time to get from one place to another and a lot of walking. Sukhumvit has two light districts; Nana Plaza on Soi 4 and Soi Cowboy, just off Soi 23. Prostitution on the street is a common sight in Bangkok but can be alarming to first-time visitors. Sukhumvit is lacking in traditional attractions itself but it's easy to access other areas by Skytrain and Subway.
Where to stay in Sukhumvit
Siam - Shop till you drop
Why stay in Siam
If you're looking for a world of shopping in Bangkok, Siam is the place for you. The cities best and biggest air-conditioned department stores MBK, Siam Paragon, Central World, Siam Discovery, Siam Center and Central Chitlom are all here. The BTS Skytrain Station is the main hub for the entire city, so getting around is a breeze. Making Siam a great place to pick if you're looking to stay somewhere central that has easy access to all the sights in Bangkok. The busy Siam square is full of small sois selling books, records, and antiques. It's also a safe place to enjoy some of Bangkok's most coveted attractions such as the massage parlours. One of the world's biggest aquariums - Siam Ocean World, can be found in the basement of Siam Paragon shopping mall.
Why avoid Siam
Siam can get incredibly busy, especially at the weekend, and the traffic is crazy. The shopping and dining in Siam are fabulous, but it's difficult to find anything authentically Thai as all the best restaurants are Western style. If it's Bangkok's famous nightlife you're after, you'll have to look elsewhere. Siam is more family-friendly and the few bars here offer little of the thriving Thai culture that everyone should experience once the moon rises.
Where to stay in Siam
Silom - Wall street by day, brothel by night
Why stay in Silom
Silom is a great choice to stay if you want to see the real contrast of life in Bangkok.
The triangular shaped Silom is Bangkok's answer to Wall Street in the day, and an institution of debauchery, delicious aromas, and vibrant life after dark. There’s a bit of everything here and it’s one of the best places to gain a well-rounded experience of life in Bangkok. Silom is home to Lumphini Park, Bangkok's biggest and greenest park that offers a relaxing spot to take in the sights and sounds of the city over the water. In the daytime, take a stroll around the park and get a taste of the cities industrial boom as the high rise buildings tower around you. After dark, a more decadent side to the neighbourhood comes to life. Silom is where you'll find Bangkok's infamous Patpong, otherwise known as the main red light district. Wind in and out of stalls checking out the wares whilst touts and ladyboys try to entice you into the parlours to enjoy ping pong shows and late night thrills. The accommodation in Silom is widely varied, from budget to pure luxury; so you can easily find the best place to suit your needs. Popular attractions in Silom are the Patpong night market, the Bangkokian Museum (Folk Museum); two charming traditional houses preserved in perfect condition, and the SkyBar; one of the world's highest rooftop bars providing breathtaking views over the city of Bangkok from the 63rd floor.
Why avoid Silom
Silom is a big tourist hotspot, which makes it a fun place to start and discover some of the more obvious traits of Bangkok. If you're searching for a more authentic side of Thailand and local traditions and cultures you'll need to travel further afield. Patpong is a party all day and night kind of place, which can be a bit loud and distracting when you're not looking for go-go bars and pole dancing. The rest of Silom is has a family-friendly atmosphere. If you take accommodation out of the Patpong area, Silom can provide the best of both worlds.
Where to stay in Silom
Pratunam - Bangkok's best and most authentic street food
Why stay in Pratunam
Pratunam is the best place to stay if want 24-hour access to food and be close to the shopping malls in Siam.
The 24-hour market is the main draw in Pratunam, as well as the cheapest accommodation close to the centre of Bangkok. It's busy, full of young travellers and has a bustling heart that never sleeps. With plenty of cheap stalls serving everything from Thai fish cakes to fried chicken to kueh, a tasty bite size cake made from glutinous rice. Pratunam has cheaper quality accommodation than Siam but It's still within 15-minute walking distance to the shopping districts and the main BTS Skytrain station. The street food and market vendors at Pratunam Market are also more authentically Thai and fashion here can be found at wholesale prices. Pratunam is also home to the iconic Baiyoke Tower. An 88-floor skyscraper boasting the tallest and most epic views over Bangkok, particularly at magic hour when Thailand’s famed sunsets burst over the city.
Why avoid Pratunam
Pratunam is very crowded, and a little more unkempt than places like Siam. Traffic is heavy at all times due to the 24-hour market.
Where to stay in Pratunam
Riverside - Romantic river rides and five-star hotels
Why stay in Riverside
If you're looking for more luxury stay in Bangkok, Riverside is the best choice.
Riverside is the cultural heart of Bangkok and considered the most romantic neighbourhood. Possibly the most scenic place to stay and most high-end accommodation offers stunning views over the river. Here you'll find historic temples and palaces glittering in the midday sun, set against luxury five-star hotels and the concrete jungle of Bangkok's modernising lifestyle. Riverside is a constantly evolving scene of colour and movement. Water taxis and rice barges chug up the river ferrying tourists and produce to the markets. The stylish neighbourhood is a hotspot for luxury travellers, and families looking for a resort style vacation in the heart of everything. You can easily arrange a day out on one of the riverboats to enjoy the beauty and personality of everyday life in Bangkok. Visit the opulent Buddhist temple Wat Arun, (Temple of the Dawn.) Or explore the colourful Flower Market (Pak Klong Talat), and the Asiatique riverfront market complete with a giant Ferris wheel.
Why avoid Riverside
Riverside is expensive and there are few options for budget travellers. It's a little far out from downtown and the main Skytrain, with only one connection to the station.
Where to stay in Riverside
Chinatown - The oldest town in Bangkok
Why stay in Chinatown
The busy Chinatown is a gastronome paradise and one of the oldest districts in Bangkok. Established in the early 1780s when Chinese merchants moved to the East bank of the Chao Phraya River. Delicious aromas exude from every corner as the stalls cook up some of the most delectable street food in Thailand. Save your appetite for the evening and head down after sunset to try a bit of everything on offer. Everyone is welcome here and the vibrant atmosphere paints a wondrous picture of old Bangkok. The hectic streets are a way of life for the Chinese settlers and are always packed with people selling and buying food, gold, tea and spices.
Why avoid Chinatown
Chinatown is a thriving Chinese neighbourhood where people live and work. It's more of a shopping destination for tourists so there are fewer accommodation options, and the area is incredibly busy. But there are some wonderful boutique accommodations restored from old Chinese style buildings and everything is super cheap.
Where to stay in Chinatown
Old City/ Khao San - The centre of the backpacking universe
Why stay in Old City/ Khao San
Old City and Khao San is best for backpackers and those looking for an introduction to Bangkok.
Old City is bursting with rich history and authentic Thai lifestyle. The illustrious neighbourhood is home to a spectacular array of traditional sites and historical attractions. Among them are some of the most famous and sacred temples in Thailand. The magnificent gold flecked Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew; Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and Wat Pho; the giant reclining Buddha. Popular attractions in Old City are Bagdad cafe, where the shisha pipes are prevalent and conversation flows, and Santichaiprakarn Public Park on the East side of the river.
Have you heard of the infamous Khao San Road? It's a mecca for backpackers and travellers of all kinds. If you've ever seen The Beach, this is the place where Leonardo Dicaprio starts his wide-eyed journey. As the book aptly describes it, “Khao San is the centre of the backpacking universe“. Packed with budget accommodation, guest houses, late night street food vendors and spirited bars and clubs. If good, cheap food, a lively atmosphere, and parties are at the top of your list in Bangkok, Khao San is paradise.. Here 'Happy Hour' is every hour. Nearby Soi Rambuttri runs parallel to Khao San Road but has a heavily different vibe. Prettier and more fastidious than Khao San, Rambutti gives a different sense of Bangkok from before the evolution of the skyscraper city. The street is shaded by banyan trees and is more popular with the locals.
Why avoid Old City/ Khao San
The Old City is not as well connected as other parts of town and travelling to other parts of the city can be tricky. There is no Skytrain connection so transport is limited to tuk-tuks, taxis, buses or a ferry across the river. Staying on Khao San Road can be very loud from the music and rowdy partygoers, making it difficult to get a good night sleep. Staying in accommodation along one of the side streets is a friendlier option.
Where to stay in Old City/ Khao San
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Becky Alice Coe is the founder of Findingsummersend.com, where she writes about her travel adventures and disasters. She's lived in England, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand but is still looking for the perfect home. She loves Harry Potter, cats, and discovering charming little secrets from around the world.