A Chiang Mai local recently said to me ‘but yeah, there’s not much to do in Bangkok..’. Now while I agree that Chiang Mai has lots of adventure activities it left me feeling slightly indignant about Bangkok, my home for 3.5 years.
What cultural activities can you do in Bangkok? The best activities to do in Bangkok are on the below list:
Here is the list of my top 50 things to do in Bangkok that will never leave you feeling bored in this crazy Thai capital:
Here are 12 reasons why you should never visit this awful country! The first time I visited Thailand was 4 years ago and after all these terrible activities I’m still unsure why I moved back to Thailand 3 years ago. Please avoid visiting Thailand because you may just get addicted…
You will mostly likely get sunburnt while snorkelling the clear waters off of paradise islands
6. You’ll get so used to cockroaches in Thailand you won’t feel bothered by them any more… (just me?!). The big ones that run at your feet and the small ones hanging out by your toothbrush in the (slightly) dirty hostel, you are officially a real backpacker now. For wild animals you actually want to see, check out this post
7. In rainy season you’ll stroll through puddles the height of your knees trying not to think about what might be floating around in there
11. You will get seasick on a boat and possibly think you are about to die, probably on the way to Maya Bay ” The Beach” beach where there never seem to be enough life jackets for everyone… #youcanswimthoughright
For when you do decide to travel Thailand, consider these items to help deal with the above issues:
I’m a recent convert to the humble backpack as you can always fit in a bottle of water comfortably (that just never happens with my handbags!) I love this turquoise Everest Backpack from Amazon
2. Alternatively, if you might be here in rainy season (May-October) then I recommend a dry bag as you will definitely get caught in a thunderstorm at some point! I love these dry bags Dry Bag (5L) from Amazon
3. Mosquito spray is definitely one thing I recommend buying at home before you arrive in Thailand as I have never been able to buy stronger than 15% DEET here. Try this Repel 40% DEET Pump SprayRepel Insect Repellent 40-Percent DEET from Amazon
So you wanna backpack Thailand on a budget? Here are some tricks to keeping things wallet friendly and as cheap as possible giving you more money to spend on activities and adventures in Thailand. The cost of living in Thailand is incredibly cheap and you can make your money go far by following my budget Thailand tips below. As I live in Bangkok, I’m a frequent backpacker and like to keep things cheap so I can travel as much as possible and spend my money on scuba diving and other awesome activities in Thailand.
How much is the cost of a holiday in Thailand? It completely depends on your lifestyle, your accommodation and the activities you choose to do. I have included general prices for things below so that you can get a gist of the cost of living or staying in Thailand.
How much is food in Thailand?
If you eat local you can eat extremely cheaply in Thailand. Thai street food is delicious and cheap. Most dishes will cost between 30-60 baht ($1-2 US dollars). When on the islands, the most expensive restaurants are normally on the beach front, so I’d avoid these touristy restaurants if travelling Thailand on a budget. Western dishes such as pizzas and burgers etc are generally made using imported items which means they are much more expensive. Stick to noodles, rice and soup if you want to eat cheap in Thailand.
Buying toiletries and goods in Thailand
7-11 convenience store is your new best friend. Snacks, alcohol, toiletries…there’s nothing you can’t do here. (You can even pay in cash for flights here with Air Asia or Nok Air). Beer is obviously much cheaper here than at a bar (approximately 50 baht per beer ($1)and a large bottle of water costs around 13 baht ($0.42)
Can I drink tap water in Thailand? How much is water?
No so unfortunately many tourist buy bottled water from convenience stores, adding to the plastic problem. Luckily there is a way to be environmentally friendly and drink water SUPER cheap in Thailand. Bring your own reusable water bottle at a water filling machines. You can fill up ONE large bottle for ONE baht ($0.03)! You can find these machines all around the country, often at the side of roads, in condos and on the street. If you’re consuming around 5 bottles a day then that’s a serious saving and definite help for the environment. Consider buying a refillable bottle instead, like these from Amazon. I bought my mum this one for Christmas as I think it is a great size, contains a filter and is available in various colours.
Haggling and negotiating in Thailand
Negotiate. Most prices in Thailand are up for negotiation, not only at the markets but also accommodation. If you have unlimited time then you can haggle with hostels and hotels and if you stay longer then they might give you a discount. Always haggle with patience and a smile! My advice is to get an idea of a reasonable price to pay for something, otherwise you can insult people if you are unsure of the price and suggest a price that is too low.
Having said that, you can find fantastic accommodation deals on both booking.com and Agoda. I usually compare both of them to find the best deal. Agoda also do ‘insider deals’ once you have an account with them which I find to be very reasonable rates. It also means you can be organised if you only have a short holiday in Thailand. Backpackers there for longer can afford timewise to just show up and negotiate.
What is the cost of alcohol in Thailand?
Drink local. Most travellers find that their biggest expense in Thailand is spending money on alcohol. While Thailand is generally cheap for alcohol, it can add up when people decide to drink every night. Thai beers are great – Leo and Singha (usually around 80-100baht in a cheap restaurant or bar ($2.5-4). Chang is always the cheapest beer but I can’t stomach it most of the time…it always leads to a “changover” for me – even if I only have two! Thai rum Sangsom is also delicious with coke and costs approximately 200 baht ($5-6) for a small bottle! Imported beers or wines are incredibly expensive so avoid these if you want to keep it cheap. Tax is high on most imported goods so drinking local beers and spirits is the best way to drink alcohol cheaply.
Cost of tours and excursions in Thailand
Shop around different tour operators when booking snorkelling/island hopping/day excursion trips. I often find your guesthouse charges you more than buying a trip from a tour operator who has a stall on the street. Snorkelling tours in a long tail boat are often cheaper than in a speedboat. For the cheap tours, the agencies will fill up the boat as much as possible so be prepared for the boat to be busy and to make some new friends. Make sure to enquire if National Park fees are included as I have been caught out many times. For example, I have previously booked a snorkelling trip for 400 baht ($13) which is a great price, only to find out the morning of the trip that National Park fees are an extra 400 baht, doubling the cost of my trip. These are fixed by the government and tour operators cannot reduce the cost of National Park fees. Many national parks are well worth the fee though! Read more about National Parks in Thailand here.
Cheap Shopping in Thailand
Thailand, in particular Bangkok, is my favourite place in the world to go shopping and find budget clothes. Shopping in markets is fantastic, so many interesting finds and all at a cheap price with money going straight to locals. I have discovered 100 baht ($3) dresses and bikinis at Thai markets. As a general rule, I find that if the price is written on the items then haggling is not possible. My haggling tip for Thailand is to negotiate the price down for one, and then consider buying two or more to make it even cheaper again.
For travelling to Thailand’s many islands there are often multiple options concerning boats. There are slower ferries, faster ferries, long tail boats and speed boats. The cheapest options are obviously the slower transport so if you aren’t in a hurry the always take the ferry or a long tail boat. Speedboats and catamarans are the fastest but always more expensive. Like with the snorkelling trips, get some quotes from different tour operators and see if you can get a pick up from your accommodation included.
Backpacking around Thailand cheaply
Taking public transport is the best idea when on a budget. It’s an obvious one but taxis can be at least three times more expensive than local buses and songtaews (trucks) so stick to public transport to save a lot of money. If you’re in a group then a taxi might be worth sharing however as they still are very reasonably priced when on the meter. I try and avoid taxis in Phuket or other areas of the country as they will never go by meter and are very expensive.
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Planning to backpack Thailand? It’s important to be aware of culture in Thailand and how visitors can show respect to locals and their customs and traditions. For the last three years I have been trying to understand the strange, alien behaviour that can be part of culture in Thailand! Some aspects are amusing, others infuriating but I’m always learning more!
DISCLAIMER: sweeping generalisations and talking about Thai people like everyone is the same is clearly not ok. But these are some things I’ve found to be true…and wish visiting tourists would take note!
Don’t point the soles of your feet at people. Especially Buddha! To respect local culture, if in a temple, sit mermaid style or cross-legged. Particularly do NOT stretch your legs out in a tuktuk and point your shoes at the driver (my personal peev!). Moving things with your feet is also frowned upon.
Don’t wear shoes into someone’s house. This also applies to certain shops where the owners live in or above it. If you see flipflops outside a small convenience store on an island then do the same.
Cover your shoulders and knees when you are in a temple. This applies to both men and women #equality
Ask at least 3 people for directions. Thai people don’t like to lose face and admit they don’t know something, so will tell you the WRONG directions to not cause themselves embarrassment. Yes, unhelpful. Yes, annoying. But kind of endearing as well? Just me?
Thais HATE rain. It is not uncommon to see adults with paper bags on top of their heads in rainy season and no-one is laughing at them. (except me…and I’m already soaked!)
The Thai Walk: If you walk fast people will think you are mad. Also I really feel that people know I’m behind them and start walking in a zigzag so I can’t overtake. ( yes I’m paranoid…and often late ha!) Slow down and walk at ‘market shopping pace’.
Generally confronting people, shouting, losing your temper will only reflect badly on you (as in most cultures I assume!). Try to be patient, explain the situation and KEEP CALM (jai yen as the Thais say).
Bangkok Traffic – plan your day around rush hour traffic! Generally 6-9am and 4-8pm.
Visiting zoos/tiger temples/elephant riding camps – BIG no no and you are just funding animal abuse. Read reasons why
Bitching about the difference between ‘Thai price’ and ‘foreign prices’. If you know one of these people then please enlighten them. The average local Thai salary is 300 baht a day. I personally think it is fantastic that so many tourists in Thailand are Thai and it is because of these low prices that people can afford to travel in their own country.
Haggle with a smile. Shopping in Thailand is a pleasure and I find it frustrating to see tourists getting angry in markets. I used to dread haggling when I first arrived in South East Asia and now I’m in my element at JJ market, even haggling in Thai! Keep things light, smile and never go less than half the offered price. See more on JJ market shopping. Read more about Bangkok markets and more
Haggling TOO MUCH. You will offend people and ultimately think about what the item is worth and what you are happy to pay. This is a developing country and people need to make a living.
Treating Thailand like it is your own country. I see this over and over again. Tourists with no respect for local culture, customs, traditions and religions.
Taking Bangkok taxis who refuse to use the meter. Don’t do it. It is illegal. Just laugh at their inflated price and take another one. My record is 10 taxis before ONE of them would take me home. Perseverance is key! 😉 More on Travel in Thailand here
Taking taxis in Phuket. Very over-inflated prices and I’ve heard rumours about who pockets the money and it’s not the taxi drivers. Try and take minivans or songtaews (trucks).
Smiling – Thailand’s nickname is indeed the Land of Smiles. However, I found it VERY useful once I realised that people don’t always smile because they are happy but also because they are embarrassed, uncomfortable or confused!
Criticising the Monarchy or, for that matter, the government at the moment can get you on very dangerous ground. I’m talking jail time.
Tipping – a little for you and a lot for them. If in doubt go for 20 -50 baht for taxis/restaurants.
Any cultural quirks or differences you’ve picked up on in Thailand?
Most Thailand visitors find themselves in Bangkok at some point during their trip. I find many people have a love/hate relationship with Bangkok and it’s my mission to try to convert tourists to loving this crazy city that I call home! However, I understand Bangkok can be overwhelming and mental so here are some perfect day trips or weekend trips to escape the big bad city and explore more of Thailand.
Khao Yai National Park
Head into this jungle wilderness in one of Thailand’s oldest national parks. See wild elephants, monkeys, gibbons, snakes, porcupines, deer and many more while on a Greenleaf tour or rent motorbikes and head into the park yourself! 400 baht national park fee entrance. Camping overnight in the park is an option or stay in nearby Pak Chong. Minivans from Bangkok take about 2/3 hours.
Gorgeous white-sand beaches and lovely sunsets at Ao Prao beach. Go week days to avoid the crowds and be prepared to pay slightly more for accommodation than other islands. Take a minivan ride to Rayong and jump on a cheap ferry boat to Koh Samet. Spend the day lazing by the beach or swimming. I’ve stayed at some questionable accomadation on Koh Samet before but last time I stayed at the lovely Tubtim Resort, spacious wooden bungalows bang on the beach, with green lily pads growing everywhere.
A few hours on the train from Bangkok (costing approximately 40 baht) you can find yourself in the ancient city of Lopburi, famous for its monkeys and temples. It’s all slightly off the tourist trail which might be a welcome sight for many. I recommend collecting a map of the different temples from the temple opposite the station and deciding on where to visit. All temples that I visited were walkable and there are certain ones that are home to huge families of macaques. Please be aware of not feeding the monkeys any food that is not natural for them. They also will grab your sunglasses or anything else in range so be careful. If you feel like renting a scooter then you can access the gorgeous sunflower fields (seasonal around November- January) and the Peacock temple is worth a visit as well. Along with the birds there is also a great viewpoint if you feel like some exercise up many stairs.
Whale Watching (seasonal Aug-Nov)
Only two hours from Bangkok, the enormous Bryde whales can be seen! Entering the Gulf of Thailand to feed on anchovies these gentle giants are incredible and one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in Thailand. Wildlife Encounters Thailand offer weekly trips for 2500 baht including transfer from Bangkok and lunch on the boat. An amazing day out!
One of my favourite weekend haunts, Koh Lan is an island just off of Pattaya. Cheap accommodation and a host of beautiful white sand beaches are there to welcome you. Jump in a songtaew (truck) or motorsi taxi for 20-30 baht and spend the day exploring lesser known beaches and taking in great views of the island! I really enjoyed my stay at this resort, it’s walkable to the pier.
A interesting and cultural Bangkok day trip. Head to this ancient temple town, one hour by train or minivan from Bangkok. Rent bicycles cheaply and enjoy cycling around and soaking in the culture of these ancient temples and a former capital of Siam. Don’t forget to try my favourite dessert roti sai mai – kinda like a rolled up candyfloss.
Tourists come here to see the bridge over the River Kwai and understand more about the dark history of this area where prisoners of war were held by the Japanese during World War II. It is quite far for a Bangkok day trip but I have done it before in one day. I recommend staying one night though. Two hours by car/minivan or a little longer on the train.
You can combine this with a Bangkok day trip or overnight stay from Kanchanaburi. Visit these stunning, blue coloured waterfalls with 9 steps inside Erawan National Park. Around 45 minutes by car from Kanchanaburi, bring a picnic and spend the afternoon swimming in stunning pools, cliff jumping and getting back to nature.
One of Bangkok’s nearest beaches and very big for kite surfing, this is definitely possible as a Bangok day trip or weekend stay. A large stretch of yellow sand beach for hanging out on and a wide range of accommodation is on offer here. Swimming is not always recommended as there are jellyfish lurking! Cha-am is another beach stop just before Hua Hin. You can take minivans or the train to either place from Bangkok.
Water parks are a great Bangkok day trip and a fun day out. There are many both towards Pattaya or towards Hua Hin. I loved Splashdown, near Pattaya. It is more of an inflatable obstacle course, this brightly coloured water park will have you and your mates running around behaving like big kids, plus a few beers!
Where are your favourite places for a Bangkok day trip? I’m always looking for more inspiration!
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