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Experience Bangkok for $200: budget travel guide

Bangkok is the raucous heart of Thailand. It’s a non-stop city pulsing with energy and with some of Asia’s best food and shopping experiences alongside tranquil parks and stunning temples. Thinking of planning a trip here during one of your school holidays? Skyscanner shows you how to get the most bang for your buck with our budget traveller’s Bangkok itinerary.

Trip overview

  • Duration of trip: 3 days/2 nights
  • Accommodation: Lub D at Siam Square, S$53 for 2 nights
  • Places to see: Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Rod Fai Night Market, Chatuchak Weekend Market, Pratunam, Lumphini Park
  • Things to do: Meditation class, Muay Thai class, massage, street food experience, watch a Muay Thai fight, see a puppet show
  • Food and drink: Approx $60 for food, drink and snacks
  • Transport: Approx $39 including taxis, MTR, BTS, Chao Phraya express ferries and Airport Express Train
  • Admission fees and activity costs: S$50 for Grand Palace, Wat Arun, Muay Thai class, foot massage
  • Total expenditure (excluding flights): $202

Accommodation

Lub D, Siam Square

A fabulous hostel in the heart of shopping and fashion mecca, Siam Square, Lub d has 5 different types of room including super sleek 4-bed dorms with fast Wi-Fi, plenty of electrical sockets and cool murals on the walls. There are also pink-hued ladies-only rooms with personal key card access for extra peace of mind, and couples can choose from a selection of funky doubles with all the essential amenities provided. Luggage stash options are available so you don’t need to lug your bags around when you have a late flight, and a late check-out can be arranged for a minimal charge.

Address: 925/9 Rama 1 Road, Wang Mai, Pathumwan
Nights from: S$26
How to get there: Short walk from National Stadium BTS Station

Day 1

See: The Grand Palace

Built in 1782 and home to the King of Thailand for 150 years, the Grand Palace is a must-see sight for any visitor to Bangkok and is certainly the best-known landmark in the city with its golden pagodas, and series of courts. Head to the Central Court, the former residence of the King, and take in the remarkably ornate detailing and craftsmanship before checking out the celebrated Temple of the Emerald Buddha, home to a highly revered Buddha which dates back over 600 years.

Tip: Pack a pair of socks in your day bag as no bare feet are allowed.

Ticket: S$20 (THB500) which includes entry to Vimanmek Palace and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall
Opening Hours: Daily 8:30am – 3:30pm
Address: Na Phra Lan Road, Old City (Rattanakosin)
Getting there: Take the Silom Line and get off at Saphan Taksin leave at Exit 2. Then, take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Ta Chang Pier; the Grand Palace is a leisurely 10 minute stroll from here

See: Wat Arun

Also known as the Temple of the Dawn, this stunning temple stands on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and amazes all who visit with its beautifully decorated spires and precipitous staircases. Climbers who attempt these stairs are rewarded with stunning riverine views of the city and the Grand Palace. The main spire of temple stands at over 70 metres high and literally glimmers in the sun as it is inlaid with coloured glass and tiny pieces of Chinese porcelain. To get the most out of a visit here, try to get here as early as possible to avoid the crowds.

Ticket: S$4 (THB100)
Opening Hours: Daily 8am – 5:30pm
Getting there: From Sapphan Taksin boat pier, take the river boat that stops at Pier 8 and then hop on one of the small shuttle boats that bring visitors across the river for 10 cents (THB3)
Visit their website here

Do: Khao San Road (Thanon Khao San)

No trip to Bangkok would be complete without popping into Khao San Road, the backpacker centre of Bangkok. Khao San has legendary status on the Southeast Asian backpacking trail and has been featured in numerous books and films, possibly most famously as the starting point for the movie The Beach starring Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio.

On this street, East meets West head-on in a way somehow works. It’s a great place to pick up some stylish threads and drink a cocktail bucket or two after dark. In daylight hours, come here to grab a cheap lunch as Khao San Road is justifiably famous for its version of Pad Thai (S$1 – THB25). Take your pick from the numerous vendors and wash it down with a bottle of fresh orange juice ($S0.70 – THB20).

Adventurous travellers should be able to track down a stall or two selling crunchy insects, if that’s the sort of snack that floats your boat. After all your traipsing around temples, treat yourself to a quality foot massage at bargain prices at Shewa Spa.

Shewa Spa

Cost: 1-hour foot massage S$10 (THB250)
Address: 108/2 Rambuttri Road (runs parallel to Khao San Road)
Opening hours: Daily 9am – 1am
Getting there: Take bus 157 or 171 from the Victory Monument, or hop in a metered taxi from Siam Square for approx $3 (THB75)

See: Muay Thai at MBK

Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport, gets the locals all around the country into an excited frenzy. Normally, seats to watch a couple of bouts of this fast and furious sport would set you back around S$40 (THB1000). However, every Wednesday evening at 8pm, free exhibition fights are held outside MBK Shopping Centre in the middle of town. These aren’t feathery fights for tourists, but the real deal with a mostly local crowd high on adrenaline in the heady atmosphere. If you want to get a feel for the buzz and see an international selection of Muay Thai warriors in action, this is your chance.

Tickets: Free
Time: Every Wednesday at 8pm
Address: 444 Phayathai Rd, Bangkok, Pathumwan
Getting there: A short walk from National Stadium Skytrain station
Visit their Facebook page here

Eat: Bangrak Street Food

For authentic local food, head to the streets of Bangrak for the chance to experience regional Thai street food at its best. This area has historically been a cultural melting pot and the food shows distinct influences of China, India and Europe with rotis and green curry, crispy melt-in-the-mouth pork, rice porridge and a selection of baked goods. Leading contenders here are Jok Prince serving delightful congee with lots of pork trimmings and Boonsap Thai Desserts, which has been pulling in the crowds with its menu of sweet delights since before the Second World War. Check out their sangkhaya, a dessert of sticky rice covered in smooth egg custard for a treat you’ll dream about months after you’ve left Bangkok.

Jok Prince

Dishes from: S$2 (THB50)
Opening hours: Daily from 4pm – 1am
Address: Jok Prince, Charoen Krung Road

Boonsap Thai Dessert

Dishes from: S$1.50 (THB35)
Opening hours: Daily from 7am – 5pm
Getting there: Get to Bangrak by taking the Silom Line BTS to Sala Daeng, which is within walking distance of all the action

Day 2

See: Lumphini Park

Named after Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal, this 500,000 square metres park is a haven of tranquillity away from the bustling madness of the streets, and is the ideal way to get the day off to a peaceful start. Bring your running shoes for a sunrise run and keep an eye out for large sunbathing monitor lizards lounging by the busy paths. Or, if you really want to chill out, hire a mat from a vendor (S$1 – THB25) and bring a book for a lazy morning. Those feeling in the need of some company on their work out should hold off on a visit until dusk and then join in one of the many free aerobics sessions taking place throughout the park.

Admission: Free
Opening Hours: Daily 4:30am – 9pm
Address: Rama IV Road, Pathumwan
Getting there: Take MRT train and get off at Silom or Lumphini

See: Puppet Show at the Artist’s House (Baan Silapin)

Located down a quiet waterway on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya, the Artist’s House isn’t easy to find but well worth the journey. This traditional wooden canal-side house is built in a style which is becoming increasingly difficult to see in modern Bangkok. This particular one has been beautifully restored and is a gem of a find. Note the curious life-sized white, red and black statues sitting on the veranda, gazing over the canal, keeping an eye on the day’s proceedings as if they are collecting stories for a gossip over a coffee later. The Artist’s House is over 200 years old and is home to a Thai puppet show performed daily (except Wednesdays) on a stage in their delightful garden. The stories are changed daily and based on Thai folklore, and always attract an appreciative audience.

Admission: Free
Opening Hours: Mon–Tues from 10am – 6pm; Wed–Fri from 9am – 6pm; Sat–Sun from 9am – 7pm. Puppet show daily at 2pm (except Wednesdays).
Address: Soi Wat Thong Sala Ngarm, Phasi Charoen
Getting there: Taxi from Wongwian Yai BTS station (S$2 – THB50)

Shop: Rod Fai Night Market

Located in the eastern suburbs of the city, this is a dream venue for those interested in unique vintage and second-hand goods in a funky outdoors market setting. Come here to browse retro superhero figurines, old radio sets, soldiers’ helmets, and discarded barber seat chairs. There are bigger items around as well, including vespas, ancient cars and even a rumoured train carriage. This is a distinctly mellow market full of geeky collectors and you might turn up that dream accessory or gift that you have always wanted but could never find. Enjoy a few beers while you browse and sample some of the tasty Thai snacks sold from the stalls. This is quite possibly the coolest vintage market in Asia.

Opening hours: Fri–Sun, 5pm – midnight
Address: Srinakarin Road
How to get there: There’s no BTS here, so hop in a cab and alight opposite Seacon Square Shopping Mall. The fare should come up to about S$4 (THB100) from the centre of town.

Eat: Yaowarat Street Food

Yaowarat is Bangkok’s Chinatown and a foodie heaven. By day the area looks more or less like any part of downtown Bangkok, but at night the area transforms into a sea of blazing neon lights with Chinese characters and restaurants spilling out onto pavements with hungry diners chowing down some of the city’s best food offerings. Start with Je Jin Cockle Soi Texas and gorge on cockles and mussels, before heading to Gaeng Garee Nai Yong, established over 70 years ago and still going strong, where you can continue with beers paired with rice and pots of hot curry accompanied by Chinese sausage, boiled eggs and slithers of beef and pork for a true Thai spice extravaganza.

Je Jin Cockle Soi Texas

Dishes from: $S2.20 (THB55)
Address: Soi Phadungdao, Yaowarat Rd
Opening hours: Daily Mon-Sat 6.30pm – 1am, Sun 5pm – 1am

Gaeng Garee Nai Yong

Mains from: S$2.30 (THB60)
Address: Yaowarat Rd
Opening hours: Daily 3pm – 2am
Getting there: Most people come to Yaowarat on the Chao Phraya Express Boat service from Rattanakosin or Silom

Day 3

Do: Free Meditation Class at Wat Mahathat

Whilst Bangkok has an abundance of temples to visit, few give you such a good opportunity to learn more about the practice of daily meditation as Wat Mahathat. Each day, the resident monks at the temple offer free walking and sitting meditation classes to visitors. It’s a fantastic opportunity to understand an important aspect of Thai culture and learn the art of stilling one’s mind in this busy world.

When: Classes take place daily, three times a day at 7am – 10am, 1pm – 4pm and 6pm – 8pm
Address: Phra That Road
Getting there: Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat and get off at Chang Pier; Wat Mahathat is a 100m walk from the pier

Shop: Visit a market: Chatuchak and Pratunam

Bargain hunters flock to Pratunam wholesale clothes market and with stalls targeting lower end buyers, there are some real steals to be found. Buy in bulk (such as sets of three) and see prices plummet even further. You can try to negotiate with sellers here, but as prices are already so low, don’t expect any dramatic tumbles. For a different shopping experience, join the cool young things at Chatuchak Weekend Market. This used to be a standard wholesale market, but got trendy and now attracts crowds of around 200,000 each weekend, sifting for unique tees and gorgeous botanical prints, or sitting back and having a massage with an iced coffee. It can be hot and busy, but is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. Our top tip is to bring enough cash as most vendors don’t accept plastic and it can be an awfully long walk to the ATM. Happy shopping!

Pratunam

Opening hours: Daily 24 hours
Address: Ratchaprop Road and Petchburi Road intersection
Getting there: Walk from Chidlom BTS Station

Chatuchak Weekend Market

Opening hours: Sat and Sun, 9am – 6pm
Address: 587/10 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak
Getting there: Take the skytrain to Mo Chit and then follow the crowds to the market

Do: Have a go at Muay Thai

If you have any energy left before going to the airport and are feeling a bit lively, have an afternoon Muay Thai session at Muay Thai Camp Luktupfah. Only 15 minutes from Sukhumvit Road and yet surrounded by fields, this quiet place seems far from the manic heart of the capital. The trainers will ensure you get your ‘Eye of the Tiger’ moment and sweat a bucket or two, and you’ll get to learn a couple of new Thai words such as “kick” and “block”. This place attracts a sociable crowd for the daily sessions so book in, unleash your beast and make a friend or two.

Cost: $16 (THB400) for a daily session
Time: Morning session starts at 8am, afternoon session at 4pm
Address: 5 On Nut Soi 65, Yaek 8
Getting there: Take a taxi from Sukhumvit Road (approx S$4 – THB100)
Visit their website here

Getting to and from Suvarnabhumi airport

Go to Basement B at Suvarnabhumi Airport and take the Airport City Line. This train serves six stations along the way and ends at Phaya Thai. Total travelling time is 30 minutes and fares run from a bargain S$0.70 (THB18) to S$1.80 (THB45).

Trains run from 6am until midnight and depart frequently.


First published in May 2016. Updated on June 2019. Prices are correct at the time of writing.

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