Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, is a huge city! Home to 8 million people, most of whom often seem to be on the road creating terrible traffic jams, and thousands of hotels, hostels and guesthouses, it’s tricky trying to decide where to stay in Bangkok.
Prior to staying in the city, I read through this great guide from Nerd Nomads, to help decide where I should stay. However, the 8 areas that they discuss are still hard to get your head around.
To make it simpler, I’ve divided the city into two main areas: Khao San Road (and surrounds, i.e. Rattanakosin) and Siam/Silom/Sukhumvit. I’ll disregard the hotels near the International Airport (you know if you need to stay close by, otherwise discount it) and I’m largely ignoring the luxury hotels along the river.
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Staying in the Khao San Road Area of Bangkok
You’ve probably heard about Khao San Road already, whether through reading “The Beach” or just due to its reputation as a backpacker mecca that precedes it. It’s a very popular place to stay in Bangkok for those on a budget, especially if you’re looking to party. If you’re like me, you may have discounted staying on Khao San Road. You may have thought that you’re too old/too sophisticated/want to get a good night’s sleep. But don’t be so quick. After firstly staying in Sukhumvit, I ended up moving to the area (although on Rambuttri Soi), for a final few nights of cheaper accommodation. Here’s why you should consider it…
- It’s close to biggest attractions in Bangkok, namely the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. They’re not that easy to reach by public transport (requiring either a sky train and ferry, or else being stuck in traffic in a taxi or bus). While from Khao San Road it’s less than a 15 minute walk.
- Most of the cheapest day trips to destinations such as Ayutthaya and River Kwai leave from Khao San Road only. Slightly more expensive ones (like the one we took with Canary Travel), may pick up from hotels outside of the area, but then will drop you only at Khao San.
- Likewise, many long distance bus trips (such as those heading up from the southern islands), drop you as Khao San Road.
- There’s plenty of cheap street food (such as pad thai for 50 baht or less) and cheaper restaurants to choose from. And cheap accommodation, cheap massages and cheap market stalls, too! There’s a reason it’s popular with the backpacker crowd!
- It’s not close to any Skytrain (BTS) or Metro (MRT) stations, the best ways of getting around the rest of Bangkok and avoiding the traffic jams. You’ll need to take the ferry south to Sathorn Pier to connect with the Skytrain. Alternatively, take a taxi to Hua Lamphong MRT station (near Chinatown). But beware that most taxis picking up in tourist areas (especially those sitting and waiting) will try to charge an expensive fare than use the meter.
- Make sure you read up on the reviews for your accommodation, to find out whether it’s noisy. It’s probably best to stay off Khao San Road itself if you’re not intending on partying.
Tip: From Khao San Road, it’s only a 25 minute walk to Wang Lang Market, the best food market in Bangkok.
Recommended Hotels in the Khao San Road Area
Recommended by Meldrums on the Move: “Khaosan Palace is very beautiful and is a great hotel to stay at whilst exploring Khaosan Road, [yet] noise from the partying on Khaosan Road won’t interrupt your sleep. One of our favourite parts of the hotel was the rooftop pool. The rooms are very luxurious for the price and the rooms also come with a stocked fridge.”
Recommend by Travelling Book Junkie: “It is the perfect location in the heart of Old Town Bangkok, close to historical monuments, great eateries and world-famous nightlife. Whilst we are inspired by the old, we also love a bit of the modern, so where better to stay than a hotel that promotes a luxurious boutique stay influenced by rich Thai arts and culture.”
Staying in the Siam/Silom/Sukhumvit Area of Bangkok
Okay, this is a huge area to group together, and does differ throughout the different locales. But there are many factors in common, that makes it distinct from the Khao San Road area. It also covers most of other affordable hotels that are popular with tourists. This is where I initially stayed in Bangkok, but there’s both pros and cons to staying here.
- Either a BTS or MRT station will be near your hotel, making it easy to travel to many places in Bangkok, without sitting in a taxi in a traffic jam. (Being a taxi driver in Bangkok must be one of the worst jobs in the world!) Peak hour is still best avoided (with both queues to buy tickets and get onto the trains, then crowded trains). I stayed just near Asok Junction, meaning both a BTS and MRT station were a short walk away.
- Excellent access to shopping malls, whether close to your hotel or just a train ride away. These are the air-conditioned paradises of Bangkok, and usually have great food courts, too. My favourite were the themed levels of Terminal 21 and the cool vibe of Siam Center.
- Easy access via BTS or MRT to must-see sights, such as Jim Thompson House (National Stadium BTS), Chatuchak Markets (Mo Chit BTS) and Chinatown (Hua Lamphong MRT).
- And easy access to the Suvarnabhumi Airport rail link trains (via Phetchaburi MRT or Phaya Thai BTS).
- There’s cool little pockets like Sukhumvit Soi 11 (at least until it’s redeveloped in 2017), that are popular with expats and have reasonably priced, fun bars.
- The main disadvantage was getting to and from the area with the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Khao San Road. It’s possible to take the BTS (to Saphan Taksin) then a ferry, but is quite slow. The main alternative is a taxi, which can be even slower. Plus it’s very difficult to find a taxi to return with that will use the meter. Most taxis will want you to pay a set fare (up to double the metered rate), and you’ll need to walk away and keep asking, before probably getting stuck in a traffic jam on the way to your destination. Not fun!
- Additionally, many of the cheaper day tours won’t pick up from hotels in these areas, just the Khao San Road area.
Recommended Hotels (and Hostels) in the Siam/Silom/Sukhumvit Area
Cooper Bangkok, Silom
Recommended by MapTrotting: “Located on Silom Road, right next to the beautiful Sri Mariamman Hindu Temple, the Cooper Bangkok hostel sits in a prime location for discovering fantastic street food, local attractions and the largest green space in the city. It’s clean and stylish, but the best thing about it is the friendly owner, May, who will go an extra mile to make your stay here as comfortable as possible.”
Dream Hotel, Sukhumvit
Recommended by Travel with Maria: “Located in Sukhumvit area near the BTS, you can get here quick directly from the airport by taking a subway or MTR. Dream Hotel Bangkok is surrounded by shopping centers, restaurants and bus stations, away from the rowdy backpacker crowd in Khao San Road.”
Good One Hostel, Silom
Recommended by Girl, Unspotted: “Good One Hostel is every solo traveler’s dream— strategic location, clean environment, budget-friendly rates, happy people to keep you company, plus a cozy cafe as a lobby perfect to get some work done.”
Majestic Grande, Sukhumvit
Recommend by Universal Traveller: “Majestic Grande is a stylish boutique hotel just a 5 minutes walk away from the nearest BTS station and close to many good restaurants and shopping malls. Besides the great location, the hotel offers an excellent breakfast and lunch buffet including delicious house-made bread and pastries, a nice outdoor swimming pool on the 7th floor and modern rooms and suites.”
My Overall Advice on Where to Stay in Bangkok?
Decide what you want to do in Bangkok (whether visiting the Grand Palace, taking day trips, or going shopping) and then make your choice based on that! Or else if you’ve spotted a hotel you’d like to stay at, plan your trip around that.
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