Reviews Thailand

Where to Stay in Bangkok

Breakdown of the Best Neighborhoods for Visitors

Any traveler to Thailand is likely to stay a night or two, and, need to determine where to stay in Bangkok, the Big Mango. Where you choose to stay could impact your ability to get around, see the sites, affect your overall level of enjoyment in the massive sprawling city. And Bangkok is a massive city, to say the least. Within it, there are enough sub-cities and neighborhoods to devote a lengthy book on with enough material to take up your entire flight over. And it’s growing rapidly.

As a foreigner, you won’t need to explore every corner, but as an educated visitor you’ll need to know what’s on offer in the main areas to help you decide where to stay in Bangkok.

Below I will provide some information on each of the major areas taking into account:

  • Proximity to Transport: BTS/ MRT (Bangkok’s elevated rail and subways), Bus Stations
  • Proximity to Main Tourism Attractions
  • Markets and Restaurants
  • Nightlife
  • Accommodations

I’ll also provide some recommendations for restaurants, activities and accommodations I have personally stayed in and enjoyed over the years. You’ll want to loosely base your decision on where to stay based on what you plan to do, but keeping in mind that the public transportation in Bangkok makes it super easy to get around (as long as the trains service that area).

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With that said, let’s dive right in and help you figure out where to stay in Bangkok.

Sukhumvit

where-to-stay-in-bangkok-asok

Photo by Dynamic Wang on Unsplash

The Sukhumvit (Soo-khum-wit) area of Bangkok is a happening place. Sukhumvit Road runs into downtown, East to West, and is considered one of the primary thoroughfares in the city. Along Sukhumvit are many smaller neighborhoods, each with their own character and reputation. Most of the foreign expats and tourists can be found on and around Sukhumvit, as can most of the popular neighborhoods.

For this reason, and due to the accessibility and sheer volume of things to keep you occupied, you can’t go wrong deciding to stay in any of the primary neighborhoods along Sukhumvit. The notable and distinct neighborhoods along Sukhumvit are branded by the relevant BTS Station (named below) that serve them. We will analyze each of these areas individually, starting East to West.

Thonglor

Thonglor (Toang-lore) is known around town for its heavy Japanese influence, many upscale nightclubs, trendy restaurants, and ever trendier bars. Not many Western tourists, mostly Thai young professionals and Japanese tourists/ expats. A few young professional Western expats can be spotted here and there. As a result, you will find very little drunken sleaziness or solicitations for massages as you might find a bit further down Sukhumvit (Yeah I’m looking at you, Nana). I consider this to be refreshing, having spent enough time in Bangkok, but someone else might not feel the same. Either way, Thonglor is to Bangkok what perhaps South Beach is to Miami, minus to actual Beach.

Thonglor is generally considered to be the area running from BTS Thonglor, down Sumhumvit Soi 55 (or “Soi Thonglor”) to the Northeast. Along Soi 55 is where you’ll find the things that make Thonglor unique.

Markets and Restaurants

Thonglor is packed with Japanese and Thai food, much of the Japanese food being very authentic to cater to the many Japanese expats and visitors in the area. Other types of amazing cuisine from all backgrounds are sprouting up as well, with many well-established chefs and restaurateurs getting things going in the area.  The great majority of what you’ll find is top-notch, and a walk down Soi 55 will present you with many different options.

Don’t come to Thonglor looking to find street food or foot massages. This isn’t the area for that.

Nightlife

Thonglor has lots of great nightlife around the cross streets of Soi 55 and Soi Thonglor 10, and the majority of the clientele are well to do Thai professionals or Japanese expats. It is much higher-end than many parts of Bangkok, and many of the Thais who frequent Thonglor would not particularly care to associate with foreign travelers. If you DO decide to take a stroll around Thonglor to catch some nightlife, keep the sandals in your room and wear some pants. Take that tip and decide if that’s the type nightlife you’re after.

I WOULD, however, definitely recommend having a drink at Octave Rooftop bar at the Marriott near BTS Thonglor for a great view. One of Bangkok’s best rooftop bars, and there are many.

Accommodation

As you could probably guess, the accommodations around Thonglor are a bit higher-end than you’d find further down Sukhumvit, and not a huge selection of even that. This isn’t what you’d call a tourist zone. There are a small number of Airbnb’s around, but for the record, Airbnbnb is officially illegal in Thailand.

Summary

LUXURY BUDGET
Bangkok Marriott at Sukhumvit Snooze Hotel Thonglor
where-to-stay-in-bangkok-marriott
Perfectly located just near the BTS and host to the Octave rooftop bar. Some of the best views of the vibrant city can be enjoyed from this hotel. Great location, clean, overall great value and in the middle of Thonglor. Even a rooftop bar here as well.
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Summary

I personally really enjoy Thonglor, but I spent many years living in Japan, so clearly, I have a biased view with the high concentration of Japanese dining. I do like the lack of sleaziness, but at the same time, Thonglor doesn’t have the authentic “Thailand” feel many might be expecting as a first time visitor. For that reason, and the higher cost compared to the rest of the city, I would not recommend staying in Thonglor if you’re a first-time traveler.

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Phrom Phong

The next stop down from Thonglor, Phrom Phong (Paroam-Poang) is the location of 2 of Bangkok’s classiest malls (Emporium and EmQuartier) and Benjasiri Park, a nice little park nestled in the midst of the concrete jungle that is Bangkok. Great place for a jog or hanging out at sunset. Slightly similar to Thonglor in the classiness aspect, this area is associated with many Asian shopaholic tourists and Thai high society types.

Dining, Markets and Nightlife

We can summarize all of these here. Phrom Phong isn’t notable for its’ restaurants or nightlife; however, both the Emporium and EmQuartier malls (which basically sit around the entire BTS Station) have a high concentration of restaurants in the upper floors that are indeed very nice. Expect to pay more than triple for Thai food when compared to what you’d pay outside the mall though. There is a semi-large concentration of street-side restaurants surrounding the BTS stop on both sides of Sukhumvit Road, which I recommend for the authenticity and cost if you’re in the area.

The malls themselves have plenty to do, with movie theaters, shopping, and even a few large indoor gardens and kid entertainment.

Accommodation

Similar to Thonglor, and not exactly a tourist zone either, just a few hotels are situated near the Phrom Phong BTS with great access to the park, shopping and a quick ride to other locations in the city.

LUXURY MID-RANGE
Hilton Sukhumvit Bangkok  Park 42 @ Phrom Pong BTS
where-to-stay-in-bangkok-hilton-sukhumvit
Direct access to the BTS, Banjasiri Park and both of the major malls, with a fabulous rooftop pool and all the other top-class amenities you’d expect at a Hilton. Park 24 is actually a condo development Agoda has a partnership with. 5-Star condominium at a low price. Adjacent the BTS and highly recommended.
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Summary

This stop is great to stay around if you want to be able to enjoy the rest of the city when you want to, have a nearby park, and have the malls nearby. No notable nightlife, but very close to it. Good place to stay if you want to be close, but not too close, to more active areas and avoid the street hustlers and hawkers right outside the door as in say, Asok.

Asok

The Asok (Ah-soak) area is defined by the crossroads of Asok and Sukhumvit roads, and home to popular Terminal 21 shopping mall, Benchakiti Park, and the highest concentration of upscale hotels on Sukhumvit. With a very heavy Western foreigner presence and Western-style establishments, but not even remotely close to feeling like the West, this is one of the areas I would recommend a first-time visitor to stay in, due to the ease of access to all other areas of Bangkok, and the ample dining and nightlife right at your door (and yes, the hawkers too).

Restaurants and Attractions

The majority of dining around Asok is located right on Sukhumvit itself, as well as down the many Sois (side-streets) towards the Nana BTS stop. Since the area is so well-trafficked by tourists and expats from the entire world, you can find food from all over the globe in this area. The Terminal 21 complex houses not only 2 floors of restaurants, but has tons of shopping. This is a very busy area.

In addition, the area contains tons of massage parlors (legitimate and non-legitimate) and spas. The Asok Health Land is a complex more comparable to a hotel, and massage parlors are a dime a dozen along any of the streets. For a good massage, avoid the ones with the massage “therapists” begging you to come in.

Accommodation

The Asok area is also rife with hotels, and many of the international hotel brands you’re familiar with have a location here. Outside of those, I recommend a few you may not be familiar with.

 

MID-RANGE/ HIGH VALUE BUDGET
The Continent Hotel Red Planet Asok
where-to-stay-in-bangkok-the-continent
Primely located at the BTS, with 5-star facilities at a 3-star price. Best value in Asok. Comparable to a Sheraton or Grand Hyatt at half the price. Great breakfast, rooftop pool, bar, and floor to ceiling glass with great view of the city. For the budget traveler, you can’t go wrong with the Red Planet chain. Also close to the BTS, this hotel chain always offers great rooms, though at the expense of views and rooftop pools. Many hotels in Bangkok are hit-or-miss, Red Planet is consistent.
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Summary

Asok is exactly where to stay in Bangkok if you’re a first-time traveler and need to be around everything mentioned. There’s plenty to do, eat and see around Asok. Getting taxis, motorcycle taxis or catching the BTS or MRT in four different directions makes it a breeze to get around. And if it’s nightlife you’re after, Asok is a stones’ throw from Nana, which is where most of the nightlife up and down Sukhumvit is located.

Nana

As eluded to, Nana (Nah-nah) is known locally as a fairly wild nightlife area. The demographic is an eclectic mix of expats and tourists, with many Thai nightclub goers mingled in after hours. Not a great place to decide to lay your head if you aren’t participating in the nightlife, as you probably wouldn’t enjoy the irritating and non-stop noise or attention from street touts selling anything from watches to cheap suits every 5 feet.

You’ll also find this area home to the majority of Bangkok’s heavy day-drinking population of expats and tourists. These gents seem to enjoy rolling out of bed each morning for no other reason than to throw back beers and eyeball passerbyers from their barstools. Can’t miss them. If not for Bangkok, one wonders where these guys would be. 

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Markets and Dining

As with Asok, options abound. At night, the sidewalks along Sukhumvit turn into a night market, which may open up your ability to shop for trinkets, but makes walking around a bit of a nightmare. There are plenty of Western and Indian restaurants open along the main road and in the Sois, as well as tons of Thai food. So this really is a “take your pick” type situation, because it’s all here.

Nightlife

Soi 11 is home to a high concentration of nightclubs and bars, popular with expats, locals, and tourists. The street is lined with establishments packed with people from all over the world, any night of the week, and really most hours of the day.

Soi 4, on the other hand, is a bit seedier. The Nana Plaza entertainment zone, as well as the many bars along Soi 4, get going starting midday and don’t stop until late. This is where you’ll find some of Thailand’s infamous Go-Go-Bars, and all the insanity that comes along with that.

Accommodation

The area between Asok and Nana is heavy with hotels, necessary to support the bulging population of tourists. Some more notable recommendations are below.

AFFORDABLE LUXURY MID-RANGE
The Landmark Mercure Hotel
where-to-stay-in-bangkok-the-landmark where-to-stay-in-bangkok-mercure
Truly a Bangkok landmark. The hotel has many restaurants, some right on the main road, a prime spot for people-watching. Good rooms and a nice rooftop pool and bar as well. Usually very well priced. In the middle of Sukhumvit Soi 11. The upscale dining and nightlife is right here, and the hotel itself is a great value. Swanky restaurants and nightlife are at your door. 3 stars at a 2-star price.
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Summary

Stay around Nana ONLY if you plan to be partying until the wee hours of the morning and fully take advantage of the nightlife. If this is the case, I recommend Soi 11 or the hotels on Sukhumvit Road. I would avoid staying in the Arabic sections north of Sukhumvit and West of Soi 11, as you’ll find little nightlife here, but perhaps a hookah bar or two if that’s your thing. I don’t advise staying near Soi 4 under any circumstance.

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If you don’t want to partake, don’t stay here. Not only will you find yourself annoyed at the non-stop energy and seediness, but you may also find it hard to sleep with the noise of the Tuk Tuk drivers revving their tiny engines to gain the attention of pedestrians at all hours of the night and day.

Silom

The Silom (See-loam) area, just Southwest of Sukhumvit, is Bangkok’s Central Business District. A mix of Western and Asian tourists both come for the cheap souvenir shopping at the Patpong night market and the wild nightlife the area is also famous for, as well as a few upscale hotels, rooftops bars, and trendy restaurants.

Lumphini Stadium holds regular Muay Thai fights, and Lumphini Park (Bangkok’s Central Park, minus the homeless) is a great daytime spot for exercise or people watching. In fact, if you’re into it, the park is one of the best places in the city to get a jog in while watching the monitor lizards roam around freely, or take a ride on one of the famous Duck Boats and feed the fish.

Silom is serviced by both BTS and MRT via the Sala Daeng and Lumphini stops, respectively.

Markets and Dining

The Patpong Night Market lies just West of the Sala Daeng BTS, between Sois 1 and 2, with plenty of souvenir shopping, eating and drinking. The Khlong Toey Fresh market, where all of the food enters Bangkok, is not far East either.

Silom is a well-known street food destination as well, due to the many offices employing hungry and slightly underpaid hoards of office workers during the day. Upscale dining and rooftop bars are also popular here, such as the well-visited Skybar at Lebua and Vertigo at Banyan Tree, two of the top rooftop bars in the city.

Nightlife

Silom abounds with nightlife. Rooftop bars and the many bars in and around Patpong offer much to do after dark. You certainly won’t get bored. Nearby Soi Thaniya is also known as “Little Tokyo” and home to lots of Japanese food and Japanese style drinking establishments where, unfortunately, as in Japan, you may not be let in unless you’re Japanese. (I still have to tip my hat to how they pulled that off).

Accommodation

LUXURY MID-RANGE
Banyan Tree Dusit Thani
where-to-stay-in-bangkok-banyan-tree where-to-stay-in-bangkok-dusit-thani
One of the more upscale hotels, but worth every penny for the rooftop bar and restaurant “Vertigo.” Numerous top-notch restaurants and bars are located in this hotel. Dress nice, and reserve a table for sunset, it’s a very popular place for sunset viewing. Another upscale hotel at half the price as the other comparable stays in the area. This truly Thai hotel is situated in a prime location close to Lumphini Park and the BTS. Very nice, very Thai in the decor, and very affordable.
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Summary

Outside of Asok, Silom would be my 2nd recommendation for where to stay in Bangkok. The area has a great park, nightlife and plenty of dining and fun to be had, as well as being well connected via the BTS and MRT stations.

Siam

One-stop North from Silom on the MRT, the Siam (Sy-am) area is most notable for its giant malls and many boutique shops, cafes, and a few other notable entertaining spots. For this reason, the area is very busy during the day. Not much in the way of hotels or nightlife, but at the BTS and MRT crossroads, providing great access. Another central location that quiets down after dark (as much as is possible in Bangkok anyway).

Dining, Markets, and Attractions

The few blocks surrounding Siam Square in every direction is home to more than a few major malls, all very popular with the locals. Siam Paragon (high-end), Central World, Siam Square (middle tier), and MBK (mostly clothing market, lower tier). Also nearby is the famous Jim Thompson house (famous “Father” of the Thai silk industry), Hard Rock Cafe, the Bangkok Snake Farm. Also not far from Lumphini Park (yes, it’s that big).

As far as food, you won’t go hungry. There are hundreds of spots inside the malls, and much better selections than the mall food courts you’re used to.

Accommodation

Unless you came to shop, I can’t provide a valid reason for you to rest your head in Siam. If you did though, make sure to stay near the BTS. Also, make sure to figure in the huge numbers of shoppers using the BTS into your thought process. If you’re like me, the central location isn’t worth fighting through those crowds.

AFFORDABLE LUXURY BUDGET/ MID-RANGE
Centara Grand at Central World Hotel Ibis Siam Hotel
Centara Hotels are comparable to Marriot and Sheraton, and this one has a few great amenities including a rooftop infinity pool. Located right at Siam Square, steps from the BTS. Can’t go wrong staying here, and very well priced. Ibis is a consistent well-priced brand.
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Summary

If you’re coming to scour the malls, stay in Siam or around Pratunam. The majority of the malls and markets are in this area. If not, this is certainly not where to stay in Bangkok.

Pratunam

Just North of Siam is Pratunam (Pra-too-nam), another major shopping destination. Host to a number of markets, shopping malls, upscale hotels, and a few rooftop bars, but otherwise not so much nightlife. Wrong part of town for that. Great access to the water taxis and walkable to the Siam area, but no BTS.

Dining, Markets, and Attractions

Pantip Plaza is a 5 story mall, dedicated to electronics of all kinds. Anything from high-end DSLR cameras to refurbished iPhones and accessories can be found here. Note to the wise: There’s a good chance whatever you’re buying will be fake, refurbished or otherwise not as it seems, especially at surprisingly low prices.

The Pratunam Market is across the street from Pantip. Your typical Thai market, with cheap clothing, trinkets, food, various goods, and nothing special. Still, one of Bangkok’s major markets.

Platinum Fashion Mall is also nearby, a multi-story mall housing hundreds, if not thousands, of small shops selling wholesale clothing and fashion items.

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Baiyoke Sky Hotel, the tallest building in Bangkok, is also located in Pratunam. The hotel houses a few restaurants and bars on the upper floors, as well as a rotating observation deck. Good for a quick cocktail perhaps, but nothing more.

As far as food goes, in Bangkok food is everywhere. Pratunam has a high number of Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants, as well as Thai food. Western-style food can be found too, of course. Almost all of the hotels in the area will have a trendy restaurant and rooftop bar, the best of which is WALK, at the Centara.

Accommodation

HIGH-VALUE/ MID-RANGE BUDGET/ MID-RANGE
Centara Watergate Pavilion White Palace Hotel
where-to-stay-in-bangkok-centara
Well located hotel with one of the only upscale rooftop bar-restaurants, WALK, on-premises. In the middle of the shopping area with comfortable clean rooms at a budget price.
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Summary

Due to a very low density of restaurants and nightlife, I would not recommend staying in Pratunam, unless that’s what you’re seeking. Also, it’s problematic getting in or out during bad traffic times, due to lack of a BTS station. It is, however, serviced by the water taxis, which are super convenient, cheap and fun.

Khaosan Road/ Banglampu Neighborhood

where-to-stay-in-bangkok-khaosan

Photo by Evan Krause on Unsplash

Nestled on the East side of the Chayapraya River, and not far from the Old City temples and Grand Palace, Khaosan Road (cow-san) is generally known as the home of the young (and old) Western backpacking community. A mix of Western and Asian tourists, the area is worth a visit even if you don’t plan on resting your head here. The rooms are affordable, but the area is under strict control by the “Tuk Tuk Mafia.” For that reason, the transportation situation is not the best.

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The atmosphere is very fun, with live music and cheap drinks flowing well into the morning; which does mean it will be hard to sleep if you decide to stay directly on Khaosan itself. For that reason, you may want to stay on one of the side or parallel streets. Also, unless you plan to spend most of your time in Old Bangkok, I wouldn’t stay around there long due to the issues with getting in and out via the overpriced Tuk Tuks. There is not BTS to solve that problem.

Dining and Nightlife

As mentioned, Khaosan is full of both, as is the street just to the North, Soi Ram Buttri. Most of the restaurants you’ll find are large open-air establishments, great for people watching and mingling. All of the wilder nightlife is right on Khaosan. You can’t miss it.

Accommodation

MID-RANGE BUDGET
Dewan Hotel Bangkok D&D Inn
where-to-stay-in-bangkok-dewan-bangkok-hotel where-to-stay-in-bangkok-D&D-inn
2 streets off of Khaoson Road, with good rooms, decently priced and certainly quiet, but within a stones’ throw of the action. A staple on this street and a good value stay right in the middle of Khaosan. A very young and transient clientele. So, expect everyone to be partying. Great place to meet all sorts of people from all over the world.
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Summary

This area may be worth a few nights stay if your plan is to roam around the Old City. From here, soak up the temples, canals and the few markets before you have a wild night on Khaosan. If a more relaxing time is what you’re seeking, and you like an easier way to get around than the overpriced Tuk Tuk’s, don’t stay in Banglampu.

Riverside/ Thonburi Neighborhood

where-to-stay-in-bangkok-riverside

Image by marla66 from Pixabay

Just South/ Southwest of Khaosan, you can find quite a few hotels right on the East bank of the river, many with great sunset views of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), the Grand Palace, and everything else in this historic area. It gets pretty quiet after dark too, which can be relaxing. Similar to Khaosan, a good location for sightseeing the historic spots. Not so good when it comes to utilizing public transport.

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Dining, Markets, and Attractions

There are a few markets around, small cafes and restaurants. Also in Tuk Tuk town, though closer to the BTS than Khaosan Road. For a really great view of the sun setting behind Wat Arun, have a few drinks at the Eagle Nest Bar at Sala Arun Hotel. More hotel offerings line the East bank of the river further South, mostly 5 star rated.

Accommodation

With the best views in Bangkok, you can’t go wrong here. Hilton, Oriental, Shangri-La, and Sheraton are located here as well. I personally recommend the below though.

LUXURY MID-RANGE
Lebua at State Tower/ Tower Club Sala Arun Hotel
where-to-stay-in-bangkok-lebua-at-state-tower where-to-stay-in-bangkok-sala-arun
One of the more upscale hotels, but surprisingly still affordable in comparison to others in the area. The Lebua Hotel contains a multitude of restaurants and bars, including the Skybar, one of the more famous rooftop bars in Bangkok, due to the Hangover movie in addition to the unbeatable view. Immediately across the river from the famous Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), Sala Arun Hotel is an excellent and affordable bed and breakfast type hotel. Also in the market section of Riverside, and hosts a great rooftop bar. Perfect place to watch the sunset behind the temple. Arrive early.
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Summary

Great location for sightseeing the Old City, if you can tolerate the difficulties getting in and out. Plenty of very nice hotels from which you can jet off into the city, and enjoy the scenery from. Don’t leave Bangkok without visiting, at minimum. For me, this would be my 3rd recommendation for where to stay in Bangkok.

Chinatown

Where-To-Stay-In-Bangkok-chinatown

Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash

Bangkok has the oldest, and largest, Chinatown in the world. Chinatown hosts few upscale hotels, no particular nightlife, and is famous among Thais and visitors, for the amazing variety of street food on offer. If you’re a foodie, you need to go here. Just West of Hua Lamphong station, South of the Riverside area, around Yaowarat Road. Best accessible via the BTS Hua Lamphong station and a motorbike taxi, and not too far from the Old City and Riverside.

Dining and Markets

Clearly, street food. The main drag for street food is on Yaowarat Road. Ask any Thai in the area, and they’ll point you in the right direction. Plenty of small shops around as well. Take a stroll down a few side streets from there, and you’ll see plenty of Gold shops, street peddlers selling all sorts of strange things (I’ve seen everything from Tiger teeth to what appeared to be 100-year-old coins, for example) and back alley trinket shops. The place has a mystical sort of feel to it.

Accommodation

I do not recommend staying in Chinatown, primarily due to how early everything shuts down. It’s hard to even find a meal or open establishment of any kind after around 8:00 pm.

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