Bangkok is one of the most popular destinations in the world, and for good reason. The city is the natural starting point for travelers looking to make the most of their Southeast Asia adventure. In addition, it helps that you can see and eat your way through the city for less than $40 a day.
What to see
With the exception of the The Grand Palace (500 baht), most of Bangkok’s attractions won’t cost you much at all. Below you’ll find some of the city’s top attractions as well as a few that are off the beaten path.
Jim Thompson House – In 1967, an American silk merchant, Jim Thompson, vanished while in Malaysia. He had set up shop in Bangkok in the 1950’s and built a home which combined six traditional Thai-style houses. These days, the house is a monument to traditional Thai architecture and a must-see for many visitors.
Cost: 150 Baht entrance fee
Wat Arun – Located on the other side of the Chao Phraya River and opposite of the Grand Palace, Wat Arun is best approached by boat. From a distance, the towers appear to be made of stone, but once you get close, you’ll realize that their made from broken Chinese Porcelain. Head up the main prang (spire), and you’ll get a sweeping view of the city.
Cost: 50 baht entrance fee
MBK Fight Night – Thailand’s most famous export is arguably Muay Thai (kickboxing). The sport has gained immense popularity around the world, but in the country where it was born; you can catch fights for free outside of the mall. That’s right! Every Wednesday at 6pm, a ring is set up in the open outside of MBK. There are five matches in total, starting with a kids fight before ending the night with the most experienced fighters.
Wat Mahathat meditation classes – Built during Ayutthaya period, Wat Mahathat is one of the 10 royal temples in Bangkok. Since this is a highly religious site, you’re more likely to come across locals than a crush of tourists. The temple offers daily three-hour meditation classes for the price of a small donation, and these classes can provide a perfect break from the crowds of the city.
Cost: A small, undetermined donation
Chao Phraya Express Ferry – The best way to see Bangkok is on a ferry over the Chao Phraya River. If you’re already by the main temples, head to Tha Phra Athit pier where you can catch the express ferry. Many people end up getting off at Tha Ratchawong since it’s just a few minutes away from Chinatown.
Chatuchak Weekend Market – Bangkok is full of markets, but they’re nothing compared to Chatuchak. The weekend market is practically the size of a small city. You’ll literally be able to buy everything here from tacky souvenirs to custom suits. Keep in mind that haggling is expected.
What to Eat
Let’s be realistic, one of Bangkok’s top attractions is the food. There are over 50,000 places to eat in the city, so how do you choose the right place? Start by going local.
It’s easy to do Bangkok on a budget when street food is everywhere. Just walk a few steps, and you’ll come across a vendor selling pad thai or fried rice for $1. If you’re not sure about the quality, look for a stall where locals are lining up. That’s a guaranteed way to tell that the food is authentic. Alternatively, you could take a food tour through Chinatown.
Local markets and food courts in the mall shouldn’t be ignored either. Prices will be slightly higher ($2 – $5), but you definitely won’t leave hungry. Restaurants that cater to tourists (that have English menus) are expensive by Thai standards, but it’s unlikely you’ll pay more than $10 a meal. The districts of Sukhumvit and Chinatown has the best food, but if you’re staying near Khao San road, Thip Samai is said to have the best thai in the city.
Where to stay
Accommodations in Bangkok vary greatly. You can get a basic room for less than $15 a night, but you definitely won’t be comfortable. You’re better off paying a little more for a room with a fan. For just $40, you’ll get you a mid range hotel, and a name brand one will hover around $100.
Bangkok City Hotel – Located right near Ratchathewi BTS Station, the Bangkok City Hotel is a warm, clean, and cheap option. The hotel is pretty basic, but breakfast is included and rooms can be found for less than $40 a night.
Red Planet Asoke – If you’re looking for something closer to the action, the Red Planet Asoke hotel is situated two-minutes away from Sukhumvit Rd. and Terminal 21 Mall. The beds are comfortable, blackout curtains are in every room, and there’s free WiFi. Rooms average just $40 a day.
Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 – Those who want a brand name property won’t need to worry about breaking their budget. The Aloft Bangkok Sukhumvit 11 averages $80 a night and comes with all the conveniences of the the Aloft brand. The hotel has spacious modern rooms, free Wi-Fi, a rooftop pool, and a gym.
Looking for more ideas when doing Bangkok on a budget? Check out Lonely Planet’s The Best Things in Life are Free book where Bangkok is one the featured cities. From massages on the cheap to picking the right market, Lonely Planet has you covered. If you plan on travelling beyond Bangkok, This Thailand guide will show you how much to budget.
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