What to do in Bangkok: Unique and Cheap Things You Won’t Want to Miss

Back in 2012, I traveled to Asia for the very first time and Bangkok was my first stop. From day one, its messy and unapologetically chaotic demeanor intrigued me.

The sounds of tuk tuks honking and weaving through traffic rang in my ears and the smell of meat being grilled in alleyways mixed with potent burning incense made my head spin. In a good way. It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. 

I’ll be honest, Bangkok isn’t a city most people fall in love with right away. It takes a bit of time to get used to and to figure out the best places to visit. And truthfully, it has taken me 5-plus visits to be able to say I really like Bangkok. During each visit, I seem to discover little bits and pieces that make me like this city more and more. 

In this article, we’re sharing our favorite things to do in Bangkok as well as tips for this city that will make your visit so much more enjoyable.

Whether you’re headed to Thailand for your very first time (yay!), or are just looking for something to do in Bangkok during a quick layover, you’ll surely find a few of these unique activities and cheap things to do that strike your fancy. After reading this, you’ll hopefully like Bangkok right off the bat.  



1. Take a Food Tour and Experience Real Thai Cuisine

If you’re a fan of food, you’re going to want to read this – trust us. 

Bangkok is a perfect place to delve further into Thai cuisine and go beyond the typical Pad Thai and Green Curry you order at home. 

When we heard about Expique, a company that offers all sorts of food tours in Bangkok, we were super intrigued. From cooking classes to fruit-carving workshops, there is no shortage of unique options to choose from. 

We decided to take the Evening Tuk Tuk Food Adventure that promises to introduce guests to many different Thai dishes. 

We’ve spent quite a bit of time in Thailand, and have tried many different dishes (or so we thought!), but much of what we tried on this 4-hour tour was new to us.

This tour mixes a bit of sightseeing with lots of eating, and takes you to a couple of Bangkok’s most interesting markets – including the Flower Market, a local Muslim market and, of course, to Chinatown!

Culture is strongly tied to food, so to really understand life in Thailand, getting to know the cuisine is super important. Our guide, Bee, told us snippets about what life is like in Bangkok and answered all of our questions (whether they were stupid or not!). 

Part of what makes this tour special is that the menu changes depending on what is in season or what’s being served at some of the food stands, and some of the adventure comes from not quite knowing what you’re about to try. But we also understand wanting to have an idea of what will be served…

Here are just some of the things we tried on our tour (but remember, they can change daily depending on what’s available):

  • Chicken satay skewers
  • Juice in a bag, like the locals drink! (We liked Butterfly Pea – a sweet and tangy tea, as well as Rosella – a tart and refreshing juice made from the hibiscus flower).
  • An assortment of chili dips with local vegetables
  • Crab stuffed omelet
  • Sweet fried chicken
  • Sting beans and shrimp
  • Miang kham wraps – one of the more interesting dishes on the tour!
  • Fried flat noodles with chicken (from a hidden street stand in a back alleyway)
  • Crispy crickets! This was the most “adventurous” food on the tour, and it actually tasted pretty darn good!
  • Hot ginger soup and rice balls filled with sweet sesame (a super interesting dessert from Chinatown)
  • Ice cream!

How to do it yourself:

Book an Expique food tour in Bangkok today! They also have tuk tuk adventures, walking tours, market experiences and cooking classes. Their friendly staff is very responsive if you have any questions and will send you a confirmation of your tour once you book. 

BONUS: Expique also offers Thai cooking classes at The Market Experience, their cooking school in the flower market!! If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know we’re obsessed with taking cooking courses while we’re visiting different countries. Read more about why we love cooking classes when we are traveling. 


Whenever we are traveling in Asia, we always book hotels with Agoda.com. They always have the best hotels and guesthouses at incredible prices, and they give you discounts the more you book with them. Search here for the best hotel deals in Bangkok

2. Experience an Authentic Floating Market

Floating markets are not what they once were in Southeast Asia. Today, many of these markets are more for tourist photo ops than for locals to buy produce. Can you say "tourist trap"?! 

Damnoen Saduak is perhaps the most famous floating market in Thailand, and by all accounts we have heard, it is a big touristy mess. Not really our style. Plus, it’s located 62 miles (100 km) outside of Bangkok, so it takes the better part of the day to get there and back. 

We wondered if visiting a floating market near Bangkok would be worth it. After doing a little research, we found one market that people consistently said was more authentic and less touristy than the other floating markets near Bangkok. 

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market is just 17 km from the city center and is easy to visit during even a short stay in Bangkok. When we arrived we noticed we were basically the only tourists in the whole market. The market has many sections seperated by a few canals where you can buy fruits and other snacks.  

How to do it yourself:

Hop in a taxi and tell them Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. Be sure they know where it is and they don't try to take you to the other floating markets. A fair price from the city center is 200-250 baht and will take about 25-35 minutes depending on traffic. 


3. Explore the Grand Palace and Reclining Buddha

The Grand Palace is, as the name implies, nothing short of grand. The detailed architecture, with precious gem inlays and gold leaf designs, is awe-inspiring and worthy of a visit. 

What time of day should I go to the Grand Palace?

Plan on spending a couple hours exploring, and try to arrive early if possible, as the heat of the day will set in quickly. Most of the big tour groups arrive around 9 a.m. so try to sneak in before then if possible. 

There are free English tours at 10:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. You can also purchase an audio guide for 100 baht at the ticket counter. 

Scams near the Grand Palace

Near the Grand Palace, there are tuk tuk drivers that will tell you the Palace is closed for a religious ceremony. They will offer to take you to other temples and show you around the city for cheap. 

We encountered this scam during one visit in Bangkok, and luckily we kept walking and soon saw the line of people entering the palace, so we knew it was not closed. Simply ignore anyone who tells you the palace is closed and keep walking toward the entrance.

Dress code for Bangkok's Grand Palace:

There is a strict dress code enforced at the Grand Palace, and you will not be allowed inside if you are not dressed appropriately. 

  • Shoulders must be covered: This means no tank tops or sleeveless shirts for men or women. You may wear a tank top, but cover up with a cardigan before entering. T-shirts are okay. 
  • Knees must be covered: This means you must wear pants or a dress/skirt that falls below your knees. And guys, your 90's style shorts that sag down past your knees are not acceptible... for many reasons. 
  • No tight clothing: Don’t wear leggings or a tight dress/skirt that could be seen as inappropriate. Dressing in loose clothing will also keep you cooler.
  • No see-through clothing: This is pretty self-explanatory.
  • No flip-flops allowed: You can wear sandals, but they must have a back strap to be acceptable. 
  • Hats are okay to wear and can provide you with a bit of shade.
Tip: Wear shoes that are comfortable and are easy to slip on and off. There are some places within the grounds that you will need to remove your shoes in order to enter. There are racks to store your shoes, but beware that sometimes shoes are stolen, so don’t wear your favorite, most expensive designer shoes!  

Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha are just south of the Grand Palace, and are pretty cool sight to see. The Buddha measures 150 feet long (43 meters) and is housed inside a building so you see it in small sections. A visit here doesn’t take more than perhaps a half hour.

How to do it yourself:

All taxi and tuk tuk drivers will know how to find the Grand Palace. If they tell you it is closed, walk away and find another driver because they are trying to scam you.

Tip: If you are staying in the Silom area, you can walk to the river and take a water taxi to the Tha Chang Pier stop, which is walking distance to the Grand Palace. (See #4 for more information on Water Taxis.)

Entrance fee: The entrance to the Grand Palace is 500 baht per person (around $14.96 USD). 


4. Take a water taxi in Bangkok

Taking a water taxi is a super cheap mode of transportation, and feeling the wind in your hair is unbeatable on a hot day. We took the water taxi from Sathorn Pier to the Grand Palace and back, and found it kind of fun to see the city from a different perspective.  

How to do it yourself:

Skip the stands nearby the taxi that charge 100 baht (or more) per person, as these are tourist boats. (That said, if you want a more “comfortable” experience instead of the local version of transport, this could be a good option for you.)

The fare for a regular water taxi is 15 baht per person, and the boat will make several stops along the trip to let passengers on and off. From Sathorn Pier to the Grand Palace, the trip takes about 20-30 minutes.

Tip: Beware that the water taxis get very busy later in the day, so you may just want to utilize this mode of transportation in the morning. On our way back from the Grand Palace, we stood for the entire trip, which lasted about 20 minutes. 

5. People Watch (and listen to live music) on Khao San Road

This famous (or infamous!) road turns into a bustling night market each evening. Littered with bars, street vendors and restaurants, this is an interesting place to people watch, if nothing else. Just to be clear, most of the people-watching will be of foreigners, as this isn’t necessarily a “local hotspot”. Think the Las Vegas strip with an Asian flair.  

You can walk with a drink in hand on this street or you can order a “bucket” of Thai whiskey, energy drink and Coke to get ready for a wild night. If you’re feeling feisty, taste a fried scorpion or get your toes tickled with a “fish massage”.

If you’d like to see live music, Roof Bar boast some of the best on the street. Brick Bar is known as having one of the more “local” vibes on the street.

How to do it yourself:

Again, all taxis and tuk tuks know of Khao San Road and would be happy to take you.

Transportation tip: If you take a taxi, ask them to use the meter (it is cheaper!), and if you take a tuk tuk, decide on a price before hopping in. 

Alternative Night Market: Talad Rot Fai Bangkokians favorite night market

If you have been-there-done-that, or the debauchery of Khao San Road just doesn’t appeal to you, head to Talad Rot Fai, a night market that is loved among locals. Here, you’ll find more Thai people and less wasted 18-year-old backpackers. 


6. Take a Tuk Tuk

Riding in a tuk tuk is a ubiquitous experience while in Bangkok. Get ready for a fast ride with a few bumps, flashing lights and face full of fumes.

Tip: Unlike taxis, there is no meter. Determine the price before getting into the tuk tuk. Bartering is acceptable and it’s a good idea to know about how much your ride should cost so you know if you’re getting ripped off. Ask you're hotel/hostel staff what an acceptable rate should be. 


7. Try street food in Chinatown

The main reason to go to Chinatown is for the food. Amidst a sea of people and tuk tuks, you can find endless food stalls, serving up everything here from ice cream to bird nest soup to the incredibly popular Yaowarat Toasted Bread. (We've never seen so many people line up for bread before, so it must be good! The line was insane when we were there, so we didn't try it this time.)

An interesting dish to try in Chinatown

We tried a hot ginger soup with rice balls filled with sweet sesame paste which was very good. It's a nice dish to have at the end of the night and settle your stomach.  

How to do it yourself:

Hop in a tuk tuk and get as close as you can to Chinatown. There is always traffic around this area, especially at night, so you may have to get out early and walk a bit. Browse the food stalls and find one that is busy (that's how you know it's good!). Sit down on a plastic chair and enjoy!


8. Wander through the Flower Market

While we were told the Pak Khlong Flower Market is not what it used to be, it's still an interesting place to wander through and be amongst (mainly) locals. This market is open 24 hours a day, and contrary to what you might think, the busiest time is at night. 

Fun fact: Flower prices are kind of like the stock market and they fluctuate depending on demand and season. But even when they are at their peak, exotic flowers like orchids can be found for a fraction of the price you’d find them in Western countries. 

How to do it yourself:

Stroll through the stalls of flowers and pick one for your sweetie. The Pak Khlong Market is only 2 km west of Chinatown, so you should pair them together in the same night. 


9. Get a healthy dose of green space at Lumpini Park

Bangkok is chaotic – there’s no doubt about it. If you want to escape the concrete and get a little dose of green without leaving the city, Lumpini Park is your best bet. Take a stroll and you’ll notice many locals doing the same. You might even witness one of the daily aerobic classes taking place near the southwest entrance. 

How to do it yourself:

Take the skytrain to Sala Daeng station and walk northeast until you reach the intersection. The park is right across the street; look for the large statue. 

If you have more time: Spend the day at Bang Kachao Park

Bang Kachao Park is a bit harder to get to and would take the better part of a day, but we’ve heard it’s a great escape from the city. You can even rent bikes here and find cute cafes along the way.


10. Experience Bangkok’s many malls

Bangkok is known for multi-level malls that boast 4-D movies, hip restaurants and luxury brands. But even if you find shopping to be more torture than pleasure, we think there may be a mall even you enjoy.

The MBK Center, located just off the National Stadium BTS Station, is a sight to see. There are some “normal” stores like you’d expect to find in a mall, but the 2nd and 3rd floors are more like a market. You can find just about every type of electronic accessory you can dream up, and bartering is acceptable. 

Tip: Avoid the jewelry stalls in MBK, as it is hard to really know their authenticity. 

How to do it yourself:

Get off the Bangkok Skytrain at the National Stadium station and follow the signs to MBK Center. 


11. Tour the Jim Thompson House

Truthfully, we had no idea what to expect when we arrived at the entrance of this massive complex set back in a quiet neighborhood near the National Stadium. With lush tropical gardens and pools filled with koi fish, there is an overwhelming aura of tranquility that’ll make you feel as if you’ve been transported out of Bangkok’s bustling city limits. 

Jim Thompson was an American that famously rejuvenated the Thai silk industry. Being a former architect, he built his home in true Thai style. Today, his stunning home is a museum that you can tour for a small fee. 

Though Thompson disappeared mysteriously, the tour only briefly mentions this fact, and focuses more on the history of the architecture and the artifacts displayed around the home. We found it to be interesting and a worthwhile visit during our time in Bangkok.

How to do it yourself: 

From the National Stadium BTS station, walk west one block until Kasem San 2 Alley and turn right. Walk until the end of the street and the Jim Thompson house will be on your left.

Entrance fee: Tours leave every 10 minutes and cost 150 baht per person (100 baht for students). They last 35 minutes and bring you through the residence that was once home to American expat and silk trader, Jim Thompson. 


12. Eat & Shop your way around Chatuchak Weekend Market

Chatuchak Weekend Market is an experience to behold. Wander through the endless maze of vendors selling everything from pottery to clothing to furniture, and don’t forget to order lunch (and a few snacks too!) from one of the many food stalls. 

Tip: If you’re traveling with a companion, consider splitting a few dishes so you can try a few different things!

How to do it yourself:

The weekend market is open 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Head to Mo Chit BTS Skytrain station or the Chatuchak Park Metro station and follow the crowds south and you'll walk right into the market on the right. 


13. See a Muay Thai Match for Free

Apparently Bangkok is THE place to watch authentic Muay Thai fights. We’ve read that the fights elsewhere in the country are watered down versions made mostly for tourists. 

But don’t shell out your baht for tickets sold on Khao San Road. If you’re lucky enough to be in Bangkok on a Sunday, you have the opportunity to see a super authentic Muay Thai match… for FREE. 

Channel 7 is a television station that broadcasts live fights every Sunday at 2 p.m. and every third Wednesday of the month at noon, and it is free to the public.

The majority of people in the audience are locals – predominantly men – and it’s pretty interesting to watch them as they make bets on the fighters. All in all, this is a really special and authentic experience in Bangkok.  

How to do it yourself:

Located near the Chatuchak Weekend Market (see above), you can walk to the Channel 7 building in about 20-30 minutes.

The program starts at 2 p.m. (the fights don't start until 2:15), but plan on arriving around 1:30 p.m., as the arena fills up quickly. (We arrived at 1:45 and felt as if we should have been a bit earlier. But then again, too early would mean lots of sitting around.)

Helpful things to know:

  • There is a metal detector near the entrance, and someone will look in your bag before ushering you inside the arena.
  • There is a dedicated section for “foreigner seating”, and you will be directed here (opposite the entrance). 
  • There is no bathroom easily accessible inside the arena, so be sure to go before you enter. It’s not easy to leave during the matches, so wait until between matches to leave.
  • There are several matches, starting with young fighters, and progressing in age. Each match has 5 rounds, and lasts about 20-30 minutes in total. We left after the third match, and were there for roughly 2.5 hours in total. 

14. Sip on Cocktails at a Rooftop Bar

Sip on cocktails while overlooking… Okay, I’ve gotta interrupt. We are actually torn about whether this activity makes the cut. 

Lots of other blogs out there will claim that going to one of Bangkok’s famed rooftop bars in a “must” in the City of Angels. But in our opinion, if you pass on this one, we don’t think your time in Bangkok would be incomplete. While it can certainly be a cool experience, it is NOT cheap and in our opinion didn’t quite live up to the hype it receives.

How to do it yourself:

We wrote about our experience at Sky Bar in detail, so you can determine if it’s worth it to fit into your time in Bangkok. Plus, this article lays out exactly what to expect at the Sky Bar – from what to wear to how much your drinks will cost. We even have a few cheaper alternative rooftop bars for those traveling on a budget.

 


15. Dialogue in the Dark Experience

If you're stuck in Bangkok on a rainy day and don't know what to do, we've got a perfect idea! Dialogue in the Dark is an exhibition that partners you with a vision impaired guide who will lead you through what it's like to be blind. During your hour experience, you'll learn how to navigate in complete darkness and how to rely on other senses. Plus, you'll be led by someone for whom this is reality.

We just heard about this experience and you better believe it’s on our list for our next visit to Bangkok (or one of the other cities it's located in)! On Trip Advisor reviews, guests rave that Dialogue in the Dark is life-changing. We imagine it would be humbling and "eye-opening" (no pun intended). 

Supporting this organization helps raise awareness for diversity and inclusion, plus, it provides jobs for those who may have difficulty finding work because of their impaired vision. 

How to do it yourself:

This exhibit is located in the Science Center and admission costs 90 baht (about $3 USD). The experience lasts 1 - 2 hours and there are limited English speaking guides. Some people have suggested calling ahead to make reservations, while others have showed up and just waited to get the next available slot.


3 Days in Bangkok at a Glance

If you only have a few days in Bangkok, here's an easy-to-follow itinerary that'll show you the best of what Bangkok has to offer! Follow this guide, and you'll cross off all the fun activities we recommended above in just 72 hours! 

Day 1: Grand Palace & Food Tour

Take a Taxi Boat to the Grand Palace and explore Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha). At night, join the Expique tuk tuk adventure or other food tours in Bangkok, seeing the Flower Market and Chinatown

Day 2: Floating Market, Afternoon of Exploring & Local Night Market 

Start your morning at the Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. When you're finished, travel back to downtown and tour the Jim Thompson Musuem. Get lost in nearby MBK Mall and when you've had enough shopping, relax in Lumpini Park. Near the park is Dialogue in the Dark, if you are up for it! Try the best-smelling street food your nose can find for dinner, have drinks above the city at Sky Bar (if it's appealing to you!). If you're still up for more exploring, head to Talad Rot Fai Night Market for a local experience!

Day 3: Markets, Muay Thai & People Watching

Visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market and then go to a Sunday Muay Thai fight for free. At night, hit up Khao San Road for some good people watching and live music. 


Everything you need to know about travel in Bangkok

Below are some helpful tips and pieces of advice to make the most of your time in Bangkok. Find out how to navigate the public transportation, where to stay and what scams to look out for.

Where to stay in Bangkok

Bangkok is HUGE! There are so many neighborhoods to choose from it can be a little overwhelming. We have stayed in all three of these areas before and all are good, it just depends where you want to call home base for a few days. We have hand selected these hotels for you so go ahead and take a peek, I think you'll like what you see. 

Siam Area Bangkok: close to malls & public transport

Luxury Hotel - InterContinental Bangkok

Mid-range: Couple Stay - Siam @ Siam Design Hotel Bangkok

Budget: Social Atmosphere - Lub d Bangkok Siam Hostel

Historic Center/Khao San Road Bangkok: near sight-seeing

Luxury Hotel - Praya Palazzo Hotel

Mid-range: Couple Stay - Navalai River Resort

Budget: Social Atmosphere - Here Hostel Bangkok

Silom Area Bangkok: near Chinatown and easy access to the river

Luxury Hotel - Dusit Thani Bangkok Hotel

Mid-range: Couple Stay - Pullman Bangkok Hotel G

Budget: Social Atmosphere - Silom SPACE Hostel

Where to eat in Bangkok

One of the greatest pleasures of Bangkok is finding street stalls and ordering a meal that’s cooked up over a fire. There are endless food stalls and plenty of hole-in-the-wall shops to find around every corner.

I would recommend asking your hotel or hostel to point you in the direction of the closet market or best small restaurant. You could even ask the staff where they eat for lunch. 

How to take the Skytrain in Bangkok

Taking the Skytrain is a relatively inexpensive and quick way to get around this massive city, and it’s easy once you know how it works. Here's how to navigate the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System) like a pro:

  • Once you get to the station entrance, you will see a map of the metro lines. Determine the station you are going to, and look at the number next to the station name. This is the fare per person to get to this station. (For instance, if you are going to Mo Chit to Siam and it says 42, that means you will need to pay 42 baht for your ride.) 
  • If you don’t have change, you can break your bills at the counter. There is someone behind the glass and you simply slide your money through. If it not busy, they give out tickets if you say where you are going or else they will break your bills down into coins.
  • Now, go to the ticket machine and select the fare, for example, 42 baht. Insert the coins and print your ticket.
  • Insert your ticket in the gate and remove it (arrow up and in). The gates will open for you to go through. DON'T FORGET to grab your ticket that pops up, you'll need it to exit your destination station.
  • If you have a bag, the guard standing inside the gate may ask to see inside. 
  • Make sure you follow the signs to the proper side of the track so you’re headed to the stop at the end of your route. 
  • Once you arrive at your final destination, follow the crowd down and through the gates to exit. Insert your ticket like before, the machine will eat the ticket and the gates will open.
Tip: Before leaving the Wi-Fi of your hotel, load your Google Maps and star any locations you plan to visit. Even if you don’t have cell service, you will be able to track your location via GPS and see your locations of interest. The Skytrain station names are on Google Maps, so you can easily navigate the public transportation. 

How to get a SIM card

Getting cell service anywhere in Asia is relatively easy if you have an unlocked phone with access to your SIM card. One of the best networks in all of Thailand is TrueMove (it's like the Verizon of Thailand). You can pick up SIM cards at most 7-11's, but you can also go into a True store and have the staff set it up for you. 

There are many different 4G plans ranging from 7 days to a year. Since we are staying in Thailand for 3 months we got a month-by-month 4G plan that costs 350 baht ($10.47 USD) for 10 GB of data and 200 minutes of calling. Pretty sweet, huh? Beats plans in the US any day!

Tip: Avoid getting a SIM car at the airport, as they will charge you a premium fee. 

Scams to Avoid

Just like any big city, scams can happen. It is good to be aware of some of the common scams so you can avoid them.

Tuk Tuk: Determine a price before getting into a tuk tuk, as there is no meter. And once you're on your way, don't let the driver take you anywhere other than your intended destination. Some tuk tuk drivers may offer to take you to souvenir shops with "the best deals", but they will make a commission on your sale. 

Taxi: Be sure to tell the taxi driver you want to use the meter. Often times when a foreigner gets in their car, they will try to set a rate that is much higher than the meter would be.

Grand Palace: As described in #3 above, there are some people that will try to tell you the Grand Palace is closed for a religious ceremony (or for other reasons). They will try to take you in their tuk tuk to other parts of the city. Ignore them and keep walking.

Purse: Just like in many big cities, be wary of wearing a cross-body purse. Be sure to hold onto it, as letting it fall at your side can leave it vulnerable to pickpockets in crowds, or even thieves on passing motorbikes. 

Incorrect Change: When paying for something with a large bill (especially the 1,000 baht), make sure you get the correct change. It shouldn't be a problem at established stores, but sometimes street vendors will claim you gave them a 100 baht bill. Or they may hand you incorrect change and hope you're unfamiliar with the currency and won't notice. 


Tips From Bangkok Experts

Tobi from Home Is Where You Bag Is

"Have you ever heard of an airplane graveyard in the middle of Bangkok? Nobody knows how the planes got there, but it sure is something out of the ordinary. A lost place guarded by a local family. For a fee of 200 Baht you can visit those plane wrecks. To get there best take the Klong Saen Saep canal boat and get off at the last station Wat Sri Bunruang. From there it's just a 5 minutes walk."

Sharon from Simpler and Smarter

"Exploring Chinatown is definitely worth checking out. You can walk in the narrow lanes, grabbing delicious dumplings along the way for a great snack. There is so much going on in this part of town, so it's kind of fun just to people watch."


Related: We were named one on the Top Thailand Travel Blogs on the Web.


Pin this article for later!


Are you traveling to Bangkok? Do you have more questions? Or is Bangkok like your second home and you'd like to share your favorite spot in the city? Please use the comments below and we will respond as quickly as we can.