Bangkok is many backpackers first introduction to Thailand and south east Asia, and can seem overwhelming at first with so many things to do and so many places to stay, so where do you start? Here is an insiders guide to the best Bangkok neighbourhoods to stay in.
On arrival to Thailand most backpackers tend to head straight to the backpacker hostels and street food on Khao San Road or the neighbouring Sukhumvit, these have been the major backpacker hubs for decades, but in a huge city of over 8 million people and 50 districts to choose from there are so many other diverse and amazing areas too.
When I am choosing a place to stay when I travel the location itself is often as important as the accommodation itself for a variety of reasons, and knowing which area of a city I want to stay in is often my first step in deciding on somewhere as I will choose a particular area, turn up and look for a place when I arrive. Here are the best areas in Bangkok to find some great accommodation in.
Some areas are obviously more popular than others of course and which one you choose will depend on a lot of factors including your specific needs as a traveller, but no matter where you stay in Bangkok you will have an amazing time. You just have to find somewhere to call your home while you explore!
Sukhumvit is the traditional backpacker haven for those travellers who don’t want to stay on Khao San Road. Technically this is one of the longest roads in Bangkok that takes in a huge swathe of the city but most of what travellers consider to be the Sukhumvit area is in downtown.
Downtown Sukhumvit is a huge area with a pulsing nightlife, some of the best backpacker focused bars and clubs in Bangkok and filled with ex pat bars, restaurants, food markets and shopping malls. There are tons of hostels and small boutique hotels to choose from and the BTS Skytrain is conveniently located right along the street.
Siam is the shopping mecca of Bangkok, with a ton of air conditioned malls, boutique shops and the famous designer shopping area of Siam Square. There are a ton of family friendly tourist attractions, cinemas and upmarket hotels that make it perfect for a bit of flashpacking or travellers with families.
It is one of the most pedestrian friendly areas in Bangkok too, with relatively little traffic chaos compared to some other areas, and one of the quietest too with less bars and nightlife than other parts of town.
This is one of my favourite areas in Bangkok and is in fact where I had part of my honeymoon so it holds a lot of fond memories for me. It really feels like a whole different city from Bangkok once you get past the ring of gridlocked traffic to get here. As you would expect the street food vendors are second to none, the markets are packed but vibrant and seemingly endless and there is a growing cocktail bar scene. I strongly suggest travelling back in time at the 1920’s speakeasy themed Shanghai Mansion Hotel, if you aren’t staying there they have an amazing cocktail bar and a restaurant with live singers. It really is an atmospheric experience.
Banglamphu is where backpackers stay when they want to be near the temple filled heart of Bangkok but don’t want to stay on Khao San Road itself (which is in this area). This really is the heart of Bangkok for travellers and is close to all the major attractions including the Grand Palace, Wat Saket, Wat Pho and others. This area is really central and easy to get to pretty much anywhere in Bangkok from here and is a great choice of area for basing yourself in.
Khao San Road.
Khao San Road technically isn’t an area, it is a street in Banglamphu but is such an infamously intricate part of backpacker culture that it is worth considering as an area in and of itself. It has evolved considerably in the last decade or so and is now gentrified and more suited to the package tourists who want to glimpse the infamous backpacker ‘scene’, but is still a great – if overpriced – place to stay if you want to meet other backpackers, and there are plenty of hostels and backpacker bars in amongst the increasingly upmarket restaurants. It is still a tradition to get some pad thai from one of the few remaining vendors at the end of the street to, even if they aren’t as plentiful as they used to be. The neighbouring Soi Rambuttri has also evolved to essentially become an extension of Khao San Road as well and is worth checking out.
This upmarket hipster area of Thonglor is one of Bangkok’s trendiest and most popular areas, full of uber trendy bars, clubs and sophisticated restaurants. It doesn’t have as many hostels as other areas but the quality steps up a notch along with the price, and there are plenty of upmarket boutique hotels and swanky luxury places too.
Silom is one of Bangkok’s biggest party areas with an infamous red light district, huge LGBTQ scene and streets filled with clubs and bars. For any backpacker wanting to party this is one of the best places to stay and there are more than enough backpacker hostels and budget guesthouses to accommodate them.
For those bacpackers wo are only staying a few nights in Bangkok and want somewhere more upmarket with fancier luxury hotels to grab a bit of luxury and flashpack for a few nights, the affluent and up market business, retail and diplomatic area of Chidlom fits the bill. It is really convenient for shopping in Siam Square or all the attractions in Banglamphu thanks to the BTS Skytrain and Lumpini Park is close too.
These are far from every area in Bangkok of course, with such a huge city it would be an impossible task to get them all down, but these are the best and most popular areas that most travellers gravitate to for one reason or another, and I really hope this list helps you with your planning and helps you decide where exactly you want to stay!
Whichever area you choose, make sure you give Bangkok enough time to explore it properly, it really is an amazing city once you get to know it.
Did you enjoy this article? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below or on my Facebook or Twitter pages and please feel free to share it with any or all of the social media buttons. If you want to get more great backpacking tips, advice and inspiration, please subscribe to updates via email in the box to your right.
Exploring Bangkok’s Chinatown.
In Defence Of Bangkok, It’s Not Just About Sex And Drinking.
The Evolution Of Khao San Road.
Why Thailand is the ultimate first time backpacking destination.
I just wanted to say how helpful this post was! I have been doing so much In preparation for our upcoming trip to Bangkok but this gave me the best info on comparing each neighbourhood.Thank you so much for sharing!!
I’m glad you found it useful Trisha
Amazing guide, thanks! Im planning a week in Bangkok next month before flying back to Bali so this is amazing timing. From reading this Sukhumvit seems to be the best option for me.
Thanks so much, Sukhumvit is a great place.
Great timing! I’m just planning my trip to Bangkok now and this is really useful, thank you.
You are more than welcome 🙂
What a comprehensive guide! So useful. I have a few questions if I may and would it be okay if I email and get some advice?
Of course it is Amanda, feel free to use the contact form on the banner above and I’ll help if I can. 🙂
Thank you for this! Planning a trip to Bangkok can be so overwhelming!
It really can be Ricardo! Glad I could help
This is so helpful! going to bangkok for the first time in a few weeks and was not sure where to stay!
Glad I could be of help Jonathan! Enjoy Bangkok, it is an amazing place.
I have stayed in Bangkok a fair few times over the years and have to say Sukhumvit is still one of my favourite go to places to stay.
It’s a great area!
Heading to Bangkok in the new year, this was very useful thanks.
You are very welcome, enjoy Bangkok!
Great insider guide. I have stayed in most of these areas. Love Bangkok
Thanks for this, gives me a good idea of what each area is about. I’m planning to be travelling through Bangkok a few times using it as a bit of a base, so I may try a couple of places out
Sounds like a great plan Mitchell, enjoy Thailand!
Flying back to Bangkok soon and we can’t wait! I’m bingeing all your content and getting all excited!
Aw I’m glad it’s having that affect Chloe!
Great article! 👍 Personal opinion of course depending on what you like and your budget, but my personal favourite area to stay and the one I would also recommend to most first time visitors to Bangkok is somewhere near Phra Athit Road/Phra Arthit Boat Pier. This is ideal because you’re close to the boat pier and it’s handy access to several tourist sites along the river (you can get a hop on hop off day pass on the tourist boat for 200 THB). From here in the evening you can slowly make your way towards Khao San Rd via Chana Songkhram Alley & Soi Ram Buttri. If Khao San proper is a little too crazy for some (but it is great people watching!) then the lower sectios of Rambuttri will make a good night for most as it’s very tourist friendly and affordable also.
Thanks so much for the suggestions Rich, absolutely it is all down to personal taste but staying near Pra Arthit boat pier would definitely be useful for getting the river boat! Completely agree about Rambuttri too!