You could spend a lot more time exploring the city, but 3 days in Bangkok is a good length of time for your first visit. Bangkok is a huge hub for Southeast Asia and is also an excellent place to kick off a trip. It’s a big bustling city and it’s best to see it as a first stop if your travels allow.
3 days in Bangkok for most people means 3 nights in Bangkok, and the first day in the city begins with landing from a long international flight. The key to adjusting and making the most out of your first day in Bangkok is getting your body on the local time zone. No matter what time you get into Bangkok it’s a must to stay up late enough to get on schedule. If you arrive early in the morning, an afternoon nap may help between exploring the city.
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Bangkok as beautiful as it can be, it can be just as overwhelming. For a first-time trip to Bangkok, I would recommend taking an organized tour to get your feet wet in Bangkok, especially if this is your first holiday in Thailand. One in particular, I would suggest is the Bangkok by night Tuk Tuk Tour from Viator. On our last trip to Bangkok we cruised around the city in the back of a Tuk Tuk with a guide and tried some incredible food and saw some of the city’s best sights. This tour also keeps you moving until 11pm which should help you transition into the Thailand time zone.
Rather do it independently? We’ve got you cover too. You may need some caffeine to get you going after your long flight, what better place to get your fix than one of Bangkok’s Cat Cafes. This unique experience lets you enjoy a latte while surrounded by fluffy cats. We would like to call this a soft introduction to Thailand. Most Cat cafes require you to leave you shoes at the door and we provided footwear inside, as well as wash your hands to keep the cats healthy. Prices are higher than standard cafes at 60-100 baht for a drink. Deserts available also. Our favorite cat cafe is Purr Cat Cafe Bangkok.
Muay Thai Fight – If after your coffee you are still fighting your jet-lag, put up a fight and check out a Muay Thai fight. The action of a traditional Muay Thai fight will be sure to help you kick through your first day in Bangkok. The most famous place to see a fight is the Lumpinee Boxing Stadium. Located outside of town, for full information click here.
Not a fighter? another one of my cheap and favorite things to do in Bangkok is watch the sun set over the river. The best spot is midway up the river where you can see the sun sink behind Wat Arun on the opposite bank of the river.
You can take a private river cruise at sunset and watch the sky change colors from the long tail boat, or you can get the same experience for 15 Baht on the public water taxi if you are on a budget, it can get crowded but it’s still a fun ride. Plan you ride for about 20-30 minutes before the actual sunset because that is when the sky will be the most colorful and you can watch it go down from the boat. Directions: Take the BTS to Saphan Taksin Stop on the Silom Line, Use exit 2 toward the water ferry. See Map
Stay out, but stay close to home. If you are staying in the Sukhumvit area of town you are staying in the middle of a great area of town and there is no need to go far from the hotel to find some amazing food and nightlife. If you are staying outside this area, it’s a quick BTS ride from most places in the city. Some of the best places are on and around Soi 11 and Sukhumvit. Have a drink at one of Bangkok’s most famous dive bars Cheap Charlie’s. There are also a few good restaurants located on the same street as Charlie’s. See Map – Take the BTS to Nana (Sukhumvit line). Note: Do not use google maps to find Cheap Charlie’s, it will take you to a different Charlie’s bar. Follow the map above, this map is linked to a restaurant on the same block, you will see Charlie’s before this restaurant.
Your first full day is a great day to get a lot of the main sites of Bangkok checked off, and then have a fun and relaxing evening. To start the day try one of Bangkok’s favorite morning treats, the Thai iced coffee. You can usually find a street side cart whipping up these sweet coffees every few blocks, you should run into one on your way to the train, with an average price is 15-20 baht.
To start the day take the BTS toward the Saphan Taksin Station which is on the Silom line. This is where you will catch the water taxi up the river toward the sites along the river. Before jumping on the river taxi take a minute to check out the street food scene between the train station and the water taxi terminal. There is always a bunch of good eats in that area. Click here for a map of the BTS system and Bangkok.
After a quick snack head into the water ferry terminal look for the public water taxi line, this is the boat with the orange flag. The fare is 15 Baht and comes every few minutes at this station. Take the water taxi to the 8th stop which is the Wat Pho Stop. The water taxi isn’t the fastest mode of transport, but I love it and try to ride it at least once while in Bangkok.
Famous for it’s giant reclining Buddha that lies within the temple. This is one of my favorite temples in Bangkok. In addition to one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world Wat Pho also holds four pretty impressive Stupas that are dedicated to past kings of Thailand. King Rama I, II, III, and IV each are represented by massive Stupas that are covered in intricate and colorful tile work. The grounds of the temple are impressive too, and the whole place is looked after by many larger that life stone warrior statues. The temple is also said to be the birthplace of the Thai massage, and you can get an original massage on the temple grounds for about 400-500 baht. Wat Pho is a must visit on any Bangkok itinerary, and most people spend between 1-1:30 hours at Wat Pho. Cost: 100 Baht – The grounds are open 24 hours, but the temples close at 6:30.pm. Dress code more lenient, they provide free sarong for women to cover their knees/shoulders.
The Grand Palace – A walk or a short ride up the river brings you to one of the most famous sites in all of Thailand, the Grand Palace. Inside this massive complex is the pinnacle of Thai architecture. Take time and admire the details put into the huge buildings. Most people take about an hour to visit the entire complex. There is a dress code to enter, everyone must wear pants (must be well below the knee past the calf if wearing capris) also shoulders must be fully covered. If you are not dressed properly you can borrow clothes for your visit from the visitors office. to borrow the shirt there is no charge, but a pants rental is 30 baht or purchase 100 baht outside the temple. Cost to visit: 600 Baht – Open Hours: 8:30a.m.-3:30p.m. the earlier you go the better not only to beat the crowds but the heat.
After the Grand Palace your jet lag, the heat, and the crowds might be getting to you. It’s best to find a Tuk Tuk and get some lunch or a happy hour drink depending how early of a start you got. Head up to the Khao san road area of town. A reasonable fare for this ride is about 80 baht, and should never be more than 100 baht.
Khao San Road – Famous, or infamous for being a city of travelers within the city of Bangkok. The streets are lined with bars and restaurants and shops selling just about everything. We usually like to go to this area of town once on a trip to Bangkok. The main Khao San Road is busy all times of the day and is absolutely packed at night. We prefer to get a drink or have dinner in the quieter area across the street, which is usually quieter and more chill. This a great place to spend a few hours. We usually start by having a drink at one of the old VW buses turned bar for a beer, then a street side snack to follow, maybe a 120 baht foot massage before or after dinner. For the brave you can find a few street carts selling the infamous bugs including grasshoppers, silk worms, and even scorpions. If you are looking for a lively nightlife scene then stay here for the night and have drinks with people from around the world. A ride home from Khao San rd at the end of the night should be around 125-200 baht depending on where you are staying. Most cab drivers this late at night will not want to run the meter and just charge a flat rate. If you find one that will run the meter it will be slightly cheaper, 100-120 baht. A tip to remember: Always grab a card from the hotel front desk with the address and the phone number of the place to give to the driver. Many hotels are small and rivers will not know them, it’s best to have an address, and better yet a phone number so the driver can call to verify. See Map
– or – If that’s not your nighttime scene, after a Chang beer and a foot massage, head over to China Town. Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the world’s largest and full of amazing and unique foods. Nighttime is the best time to visit because the streets are full of vendors selling their Thai-Chinese specialties. The smell of fresh roasted chestnuts is thick in the air with many vendors fresh roasting nuts right on the street. Come with an empty stomach and an open mind and you will have some of the best food you have ever tried. See Map – Directions: Take the BTS to The Saphan Taksin Station, follow the signs to exit 3, from there walk up Charoenkrung Road. It will be a busy road full of street vendors and tasty food.
If the street food scene is intimidating to you it’s more fun to go with a guide the first time. We have taken a street food tour just about every time we are in Bangkok with Tour with Tong, it’s always great and we try things I wouldn’t have tried or even found on my own. The price is 1,000 baht ($30) per group of 4 and you buy all your own food & transportation. It’s a great way to spend one of your 3 nights in Bangkok.
Bonus – For early risers only: One of the best places in the city is Wat Arun, it’s called the temple of the rising sun. From the Wat Arun temple you can watch the sun come up over the river and the city. Located on the west side of the river the temple gives great sunset views and is less crowded early in the morning. depending on what time you make your way to the temple public transportation may not be running. Taxi may be you best option, just make sure you tell them meter. See Map
The Floating Market – Float along the markets and haggle for deals. There are a few floating markets that remain in the city and just outside. The most famous of which is the Damnoen Saduak floating market 100 kilometers Southwest of Bangkok. The narrow canals we originally built to help farmers bring their heavy produce to market, but now the market is predominately for tourist items and ready to eat food. A trip to the market is something special for a first trip to Bangkok. The floating market gets very busy with tour buses arriving around 9:30-10am and it’s best to go early in the morning. Tours of the market can be arranged all over the city for about $30pp.
The Maeklong Train Market Bangkok – Another add-on to most floating market tours is a short tour of the train market. This is more of a local market built around the train station and right on top of the train tracks. Everyday vendors come to sell their produce and goods within inches of the train tracks, and the tracks are still in service and trains come through several times per hour. It’s a must to see the train come through if you make it to the market, it’s amazing chaos. Located: Samut Songkram, 60 minutes outside of Bangkok and on the way to the floating market. TIP: Hire a private car to bring you to the floating market and tie in the train market for a great day trip outside of Bangkok. More info on the Bangkok train market
Top Notch Shopping: After your morning excursions outside the city, the afternoon can be spent taking advantage of some of the top-notch shopping located in central Bangkok. There is everything from high-end shops in malls like Siam Paragon (including a Rolls Royce dealership if you’re in the market), to bargain shopping at MBK, and everything in between. We find ourselves at MBK to find unique one of a kind things you can’t find elsewhere.
After a busy day in hot and sticky Bangkok and short stop back at the room to freshen up is in order before enjoying your last night in Bangkok.
Rooftop Sunset – Finish your 3 days in Bangkok by watching the sun melt into the horizon from the top deck of one of Bangkok’s rooftop bars. Made famous by a scene in ‘The Hangover’ movies, rooftop bars are very popular and the famous one is pricey and hard to get into. We prefer a more affordable one with just as good of a view called Red Sky. Located in the Centra Grand hotel attached to the Central World Mall on the 55th floor. Get there about an hour before sunset to ensure you get a good set facing westward to watch the sun go down. Another selling point to Red Sky is their happy hour specials from 5-7pm daily, drinks are buy 1 get 1. Still on the high side for Bangkok, drinks are priced at 300-400 baht which at happy hour are $5-6 per drink. All rooftop bars have a dress code, for Red Sky men have to wear pants & shoes NO shorts or sandals are allowed for men, women however can wear whatever. We have visited Red Sky twice and each time saw men wearing shorts & sandals, but I wouldn’t want to go all the way there to be turned away because I was out of dress code. The better value are the mixed drinks. For more information see our guide to Sky Bars in Bangkok (coming soon).
Bonus – Do you have a later flight the next day? Still want to see more of the city? For some interesting people watching head over to one of Bangkok’s Red light districts. The city’s most famous is at the Patpong night market. If you want the full experience don’t go until after 10pm (or even later) the party and the rest that goes on here doesn’t start until later. Be prepared to be invited to ping-pong shows, banana shows, and a bunch of other things you have never heard of. Ladies will be wearing or holding numbers for reasons you can probably assume. There will be lots of explicit things for sale on the street carts (it’s probably not a place to take the kids). Map to Patpong
The Patpong night market is a little far from the main areas to stay, like the Sukhumvit hotel area, but there is a smaller version closer. Check out the street that has been coined ‘Soi Cowboy’, (Soi means small street in Thai). Located near Terminal 21 Mall off of Sukhumvit Rd. Soi Cowboy is a smaller version of Patpong, but is enough for most people. It’s a different side of Bangkok and by no means am I promoting what goes on here as good. The city would probably be better off without it, but it’s like a car crash you can’t help but gawk. Directions: Take the BTS to ASOK station (Sukhumvit line) Use exit 3 or 6. Soi cowboy is a 50m north from the main road Sukhumvit. (you’ll see the lights). Map to Soi Cowboy
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If you looking for the softer side of Bangkok without the red lights, check out the Pak Khlong Talat flower market. The market is at its busiest at night to get ready for the morning. Ladies work through the night with baskets overflowing with flowers making offerings used by Thai people to put on their cars, businesses, and homes. A trip to the market is a rush to all of the senses brightly colored flowers that fill the air with their scents. I was blown away by our first trip to the market as part of our Tuk Tuk by night tour. Directions: The market is best accessed by taking the water ferry to stop 7 and walking from there. Other than that there is not train service that runs to this area, a taxi or Tuk-Tuk may be the best option. See Map.
Note: Do not just search google maps for the flower market, it will bring you to the wrong market far away, use the coordinates on the map link above.
For a short trip to Bangkok, it’s important to stay somewhere with easy access to the city to make the most of your time. Whenever we are in Bangkok we always stay at our favorite hostel, Lub d Bangkok. The Siam location of Lub d is right in the middle of everything, and the BTS National Stadium is right outside the door, literally, right outside the door. The Siam center is the heart of the shopping district of the city with world class shopping within a few blocks of the Lub d.
In addition, to the perfect location Lub d has a great atmosphere, full of like-minded travelers from around the world. The first floor has a lounge are and bar to meet people and find a buddy to explore Bangkok if you are traveling alone. Lub d is not what you think of when you think of a hostel, it’s cleaner than just about every hotel I have stayed at in Bangkok, and the location and social atmosphere are hard to beat. Rates vary but an average dorm beds $15 night, and private double rooms $45 night.
Bangkok is a city full of Amazing food options and a three hundred day trip to Bangkok you couldn’t eat at all the great spots the city has to offer. Here is a short list of places we try and make it to every trip to Bangkok that you should check out on your 3 days in Bangkok.
Baan Somtom – Translated mean house of the papaya salad, and as you could imagine this place serves up the Thai classic in a ton of different tasty ways. Papaya salad may sound fruity and sweet, but not papaya salad. The salad is made from unripened green papayas and seasoned with some serious heat. It’s best to order a few plates with a group and share, there is so much good stuff to try it’s best-enjoyed family style. Isan and Thai food, average plate cost: 45-100 baht. Located at 9/1 Si Wiang Rd Sathor; Open daily 10a.m.-10p.m.
Thip Samai – Considered by many as the best Pad Thai in all of Bangkok, this restaurant consistently has a line down the street and it’s good. Allow 15-25 minutes to get a table most nights. As you wait you can watch them making plate after plate of Pad Thai so the wait goes by pretty quick. Located at: 313 Th Maha Chai | Banglamphu, Bangkok, Thailand Open: 5pm-2am
25 degrees – This is one for the homesick traveler, or if you need a break from Thai food, but after only 3 days in Bangkok I would find that hard to imagine. However, this is one of our favorite boutique burger chains and is a must for us every time in Bangkok. This is one of only 4 and the only non-US location. They serve up some amazing burgers with all the premium toppings. Cost: 330 baht for a burger, 80B for fries. Daily lunch specials and happy hour deals make it more affordable. Located in the bottom of the Pullman hotel at 188 SILOM ROAD and open 24 hours.
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of amazing food found in Bangkok, go out and find your very own Bangkok favorite! Have a good one? Leave it in the comments!
Buy a one day BTS pass to save time and money. On days where you will be using the rail system to get around a lot the BTS one day pass makes sense and you won’t have to buy a ticket every time you ride. Tickets are valid only for that day, not for 24 hours. The trains stop running at 11:45pm, so if you are staying out later plan to take a taxi back.
Use ATMs at the airport or inside a secure location. ATMs can become tampered with and they can then give your information to criminals to get access to your cash. Avoid using ATMs out in the open or non-secure locations. Plan your transactions because the ATM fees are quite high at 180 Baht charged at the terminal, plus whatever your bank charges. If you can a Charles Schwab debit card is great for travel, it has no international fees, and they refund any ATMs fees. This has saved us hundreds of dollars over the course of our round-the-world trip.
Eat at restaurants and street stalls away from the main tourist sites. The places around the main stops are often overpriced and lower quality food. They simply try and maximize profits from tourists. You will have a much better experience dining at places further away. Don’t shy away from the street food stalls either, they can cook up some of the best food in Thailand.
Head to the weekend market: If you are in town on the weekend head to the Chatuchak Market for a fun and crazy shopping experience. This market is massive, it’s one of the world’s largest weekend market and you likely have never been to a bigger market that this one. Get lost and explore the market for a morning or afternoon. Food, souvenirs, and everything you could ever want, and some stuff you probably don’t can all be found here.
Don’t always trust Online map addresses – We have run into many issues with addresses list on google maps or trip advisor that are just incorrect. Always verify with a second source before navigating to the address or better yet ask the at your hotel to confirm where the place is. Streets in Bangkok can be tricky the way they are named, it’s best to ask rather than be in the complete wrong part of the city.
Don’t waste you precious time in Bangkok, beware of the common scams
The ‘it’s closed’ scam: The most common scam in Bangkok is that a Tuk Tuk Driver or someone working with a driver will tell you whatever you want to go to is closed. Some stories are very believable, but as soon as someone says the word ‘closed’ you need to remember they are probably trying to pull something when it comes to transport.
The Cheap Tuk Tuk ride scam: Riding in a Tuk Tuk is not the cheapest way to get around, often it will cost much more than a taxi. When a Tuk Tuk prices sound too good to be true, it is. If you are quoted a fare of 10 or 20 Baht they are going to drive you around to a bunch of shops that they get commission from before you get to your destination. If you only have 3 days in Bangkok you have lots to see and don’t have time for these games. If you are quoted a price that’s too good to be true, don’t take that ride, they will waste your time.
Pants Scams: Respect the local culture and come prepared to the Grand Palace and the temples of Bangkok. To enter the many of the main important sites in Bangkok, you need to have your legs and shoulders covered. You can rent pants and shirt from the office at the Grand Palace, pants are 30baht and shirts are free to borrow. However, it takes time and it’s a hassle to rent the clothes so it’s best just to dress properly when leaving the hotel. There are many people outside the temples and Grand Palace that will tell you what you’re wearing is wrong and will try and sell you overpriced items. I have seen some vendors try to act as official people and tell you can’t enter and direct you toward a vendor selling clothes which they probably work with.
Khao San road scams and theft: This is the largest tourist section of town and where many people go to drink and party, and where there is a large concentration of people with money there will be scammers and thieves. The best bet is to carry only enough cash for the night here, and avoid bringing valuables. Also, avoid using the ATMs on this street, they are all outside and can easily be tampered with. Generally, Thailand and Bangkok are very safe, but if there is an area to be cautious in the city it would be on Khao San Road (nothing violent, just petty theft, but still not fun).
If you liked this guide and are looking for more articles check out the rest of Bangkok and Thailand articles.