The Ultimate Guide – Bangkok on a Budget
WHERE IS BANGKOK?
Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand located in the Chao Phraya River Delta with a population of approx 8.2 million people – it is served by two of Asia’s busiest international airports and hosts expats from all over the globe.
HOW TO GET THERE?
Bangkok has 2 international airports – the newer Suvarnabhumi Airport and the older Don Mueng Airport (considered to be one of the world’s oldest international airports and Asia’s oldest operating airport…for those travel buffs out there).
Suvarnabhumi Airport is on popular flight routes and stopovers through Asia and is 30km from Bangkok CBD. You can also arrive in Bangkok via popular tourist bus routes from nearby Cambodia. Don Mueng Airport is home to Air Asia who sell some of the cheapest flights around Asia.
Navigating the Taxi’s of Bangkok – Getting a taxi from the airport is a much debated topic across the internet with overpricing scams prevalent – locals say a ride to downtown Bangkok should be approx 300-400thb. While some drivers will regularly charge tourists 900thb+.
It is recommended to avoid any drivers approaching you at the exit of the terminal and instead queue for the ticketed taxi’s – here you take a ticket from a designated booth and your taxi meets you at a allocated space opposite – still here at the official taxi rank drivers will try and quote high prices. Some regular Bangkok visitors recommend insisting the driver turns on the meter before getting in, if they refuse be prepared to get in to a different taxi.
We paid 500thb for our ride (we arranged this price with the driver when we got in) which although a little over priced was reasonable to us and given we arrived late and we were tired after our flight we were happy to be on our way – there is a toll road and airport surcharge that you are also required to pay which is normal.
The drive from Suvarnabhumi airport to Bangkok CBD is approx 35-45 minutes depending on traffic.
Airport Bus – The S1 bus offers 60thb tickets for BKK airport to Bangkok city and the A4 bus for DMK airport for 50thb.
Gleeming Temples, amazing Street Food and Cheap Accommodation are just a few reasons many travellers flock to Bangkok.
Take long tail boat rides to local floating markets and temples, tuk tuk rides to bars and restaurants, enjoy a cheap local massage and beer while watching the bustling city come alive or shop til you drop in its many malls. Bangkok has something for everyone.
It is the starting point for most backpacker and travellers South East Asian adventures but it is much more than just a stop before venturing further a field.
£1.20 for a Pad Thai dinner or Fresh Coconut Ice Cream in a real coconut husk! Bangkok and Thailand in general is also a great place to visit for the budget traveller. This also means for the luxury travellers out there you get more bang for your buck on hotel stays too.
Bangkok’s Temples should be on everybody’s list of must do’s while visiting the city – Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho are the most popular choices.
Wat Pho Temple – Wat Pho is close to the Grand Palace and was our choice for the day, the entrance fee was only 200thb per person. The Lonely Planet guide does need updating with regards to some prices in Bangkok if you are using these as a reference.
The 46 metre long Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is the most popular attraction here and one of the largest in Thailand. Be sure to check out the Buddha’s soles, these alone are 3m high and 4.5m long! They are inlaid with stunning mother-of-pearl patterns depicting elephants, tigers, dancers and flowers.
Most of the stunning grounds were fairly quiet allowing for plenty of photo opportunities with the fantastically detailed buildings and temples. Bring sun screen and water!
Ladies take something to cover for your shoulders and knees as is customary in all Thai Temples. My husband wore longer board shorts down to his knees (didn’t cover them) and this was ok. I also wore flip flops with no problems.
Getting Here – To get to Wat Pho we took a river boat from Phra Arthit pier (only 15thb!) It is far quicker and cheaper than taking a taxi or an expensive tuk tuk.
TOP TIP – make sure you get off at Wat Arun and swap boats to cross the river (4thb) to Tha Tian pier if you are going this direction. Here you can walk to the temple very easily. It’s also really close to the Grand Palace which is 500thb per person entrance fee but we opted out of this due to our tight budget. There are plenty of other incredible temples that are free or cost very little to visit.
Khaosan road – busy, loud, touristy and included in most tour books as a must see. It is certainly the centre of Bangkoks backpacker communities and has many bars lining the street, however a short stroll away is the ‘C’ shaped road of Soi Rambuttri. This is a quieter road but still a lively enough alternative to Khaosan Road with many street food vendors and restaurants where the vibe is a little more relaxed. This is actually where we frequented for the cheapest and most delicious Pad Thai street food and enjoyed happy hour beers whilst sitting curb side.
Most proper sit in restaurants around here (not plastic tables and chairs on the street) offer mains from 150-300thb minimum and large beers for 150thb. For comparison basic street stall bars will sell you a large beer for 90thb or 60thb in the 7-11 Stores.
Massages – you can only walk a few metres between shops before you encounter street side massages being offered on reclining chairs. 150thb for 30 mins or 300thb 1hr. If you walk to the end of Soi Rambuttri away from Khaosan Road they offer them for 100thb for 30 mins and these are a popular and great way to people watch or relax after a long day of walking around the many stunning temples.
Chinatown – at just 1km long the area is packed with vibrant street food stalls and restaurants. Busy and bustling as soon as night falls this is a great place to soak up the atmosphere and try some tasty and cheap cuisine.
4 delicious freshly cooked Gyoza for only 50thb and 10 chicken satay sticks for just 60thb. They were freshly grilled on the BBQ but they were also very busy and one of mine was still a little raw on the end. I didn’t get sick luckily but just make sure you check before you tuck in. It’s extremely busy so be prepared to queue for the most popular snacks.
TOP TIP – Getting a taxi back to your hotel from here can be a little bit of work, (as with most of Bangkok) so we walked a short distance away from the busy taxi and tuk tuk area to flag our driver down because they are known for largely inflated tourist prices right next to the market.
As previously mentioned, taxi drivers in Bangkok are notorious for not wanting to turn on the meter or for using the excuse ‘it is broken’ or cover them up. We managed to get a taxi home on the second attempt – the first one said no to the meter being turned on but the second honest taxi driver said yes. Only 50thb back to Soi Rambuttri.
*Many people opt to Tip the honest Taxi drivers a little extra – even with the tip it is likely to still be 50% cheaper than the cost of some of the tourist taxi scammers. Don’t feel bad for asking for the meter to be turned on as legally they are required to and just go onto the next taxi if you are not successful.
WHERE TO STAY?
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We were visiting Asia on a backpackers budget and luckily Bangkok has accommodation to suit every budget from shared dorms to 5 star luxury. Location is always high on our list and is worth researching when visiting Bangkok.
We opted for the well reviewed Khaosan Art Hotel. At just £15 (615thb) per night for a private en suite double with air con it was an absolute bargain. (not a sponsored post we just enjoyed our stay)
There was no lift (common in Asia) and we were on the 5th floor which was quiet enough for us because it was further from the busy street and bars below. If you are staying in a busy area in Bangkok it is worth asking for a high floor so it’s not too noisy. Downstairs had a lively bar with restaurant and provided guests with 20% off their bill. We didn’t eat here as we were busy working our way through Bangkok’s street food delights but it was busy and popular every night.
We pre-booked our stay as we were arriving late and wanted somewhere arranged for a good rate. We ended up extending our trip for an extra two nights for same price at reception with their helpful and friendly staff.
The hotel is right on Soi Rambuttri and is just a few steps away from plenty of street stalls selling Pad Thai for 40-50thb and also budget friendly breakfast options. On the corner of Soi Chana Songkhram and Soi Rambuttri the restaurant sells fruit salad, yoghurt and muesli for 35thb which was perfect for a thrifty traveller and opposite here was my favourite Pad Thai and smoothie vendor.
One thing worth mentioning is the proximity to the bus stop servicing the Airport – the S1 bus stop opposite the hotel serves a bus that offers 60thb tickets for BKK airport and the A4 bus stop for DMK airport for 50thb. This was a big plus for us travelling on a tight budget.
How Long to Stay?
A minimum of 3-4 days for your first time in Bangkok would be enough to tick off the main sights and experience a taste of what the city has to offer. And with more sights and attractions you could fill a few extra.
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