A guide to the best areas to stay in Bangkok
Do a search for hotels in Bangkok and you will be presented with hundreds of options to choose from (over 1400 when I last checked). If you’ve never been to Bangkok picking which area to stay will also add to the challenge.
To narrow down your options of where to stay in Bangkok I’ve put together a list of neighbourhoods that are the best options for a short term visitor. This list is not to say that other areas aren’t worthy, but if you have never been to Bangkok before then these areas will be the most efficient places to stay.
Sukhumvit Rd serves as the main street of Bangkok and it goes all the way to the Cambodian border, making it (reputedly) the longest street in the world. For visitors to Bangkok, staying on Sukhumvit usually refers to the area between the BTS Skytrain stations from Nana to Thong Lo. You will find plenty more hotels options beyond Thong Lo (beyond Ekkamai and On Nut) but I would stay between Nana to Thong Lo if you are visiting for the first time.
[Sukhumvit Rd at Thong Lo. as viewed from the Octave Rooftop Lounge & Bar, Marriott Thonglor.]
The roads in Thailand are numbered by their Soi (a lane or side-street that branches off a major street). So Sukhumvit 11 means Sukhumvit Rd at Soi 11.
When choosing a hotel on Sukhumvit be aware of just how “on” it is. I once booked a hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 40. I knew that Thong Lo BTS station is at Soi 38 so I figured the hotel was one street over from the station. The thing with Bangkok soi’s is that they are ridiculously long, and the hotel I booked at was at the far end of the soi, meaning a 25 minute walk just to get back on Sukhumvit. At the start of every soi you will see motorbike taxi’s (wearing orange vests) who will ride you the rest of the way down your soi, but I prefer to be no more than a ten minute walk from a BTS station.
[Motorbike taxi drivers at the entrance to a soi.]
I have listed the first four BTS stations that serve Sukhumvit Rd.
Nana marks the start of Sukhumvit Rd and is best known for the Nana Entertainment Plaza; a 3 storey red-light district on Sukhumvit Road Soi 4. Opposite Soi 4 is Soi 3, also known as Soi Arab for its Middle Eastern restaurants and shisha bars. At night the footpaths along Sukhumvit are transformed into a night market, making walking along the street difficult, so I try to avoid this area as much as possible.
[Asok BTS Walkway – Bangkok.]
Asok (also written as Asoke) is where the Asok BTS and Sukhumvit MRT interchange, making it one of the prime public transport hubs of Bangkok. At the corner of Asoke Rd (Soi 21) and Sukhumvit is the Terminal 21 shopping mall. Tucked away between Soi 21 and 23 is Soi Cowboy, the famous red-light street, wall-to-wall with go-go bars.
The next station up on the BTS line is Phrom Phong. Benjasiri Park is nearby (the only park on Sukhumvit). Halfway between Asok and Phrom Phong is Soi 22, which has lots of hotels and massage parlours. Around Phrom Phong there are more residential apartment towers which line the length of Sukhumvit to the end of the Skytrain line.
Soi 55 is known as Thong Lo (sometimes spelled as Thonglor), and this area has become a popular area for digital nomads to stay. Along Soi 55 there are other soi’s that branch off making it an area worth exploring. I like this section of Sukhumvit because it feels more neighbourhoody and less touristy.
Bangkok is a spread out mess with no real central monument where you can say “this is the middle of Bangkok”. If you had to nominate such a spot it would be Siam Square, where the two BTS lines interchange. There isn’t much of a square at Siam Square though; it is a jumble of mega shopping malls connected by walkways. This is a good area if you want to spend your time shopping or if you plan to travel everywhere by BTS.
One stop from Siam station is National Stadium, which is next to MBK shopping mall. Near the exit of National Stadium BTS is Soi Kasem San 1 which has a few guesthouses at a reasonable price for such a central location.
Silom is another tourist hotspot with lots of hotels and guesthouses in the area (along with some boutique hostels). The two transit systems also cross here, with Sala Daeng BTS and Si Lom MRT meeting (albiet with a clumsy interchange) so it makes a good base for exploring the city.
Silom road is a mix of office towers, hotels and chain stores, and some sections of Silom are overtaken by market stalls in the evening. Even with all the tourist places there are still plenty of local eating options, such as the street vendors on Convent Rd and the Silom market on Soi 10.
One of the streets off Silom is Patpong Rd (home of the infamous ping pong show girlie bars), and in the evening Patpong Rd is transformed into the Patpong Night Bazaar, where you can find all sorts of knock-off items.
[Hua Lamphong Train Station.]
Hua Lamphong is the main train station of Bangkok, serving destinations in Thailand as well as international destinations to Laos, Malaysia, and Singapore. Across the road from the station there are a few soi’s that have some budget guesthouses and hotels. This area is convenient if you are breaking up a train journey in Bangkok and want to be near the station for an early departure. There is also an MRT underground station at Hua Lamphong.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road was my first stop in Thailand, as it is for most budget backpackers. If you are looking for the cheapest accommodation in Bangkok then this is where to go. Here you will find everything from hostels, flophouses and cheap guesthouses, to flashpacker resort-style hotels.
The first time I stayed here I just walked along the street until I found a vacant room. Back then the cheapest places weren’t bookable online and it was possible to find a place without a reservation.
These days it’s becoming harder to just walk up and take a room, so it would be advisable to book a room in advance.
KSR is great for backpackers as you can arrange transport and activities at backpacker prices from the numerous travel agents that line the street. It is also near the historic must-sees of Bangkok (Grand Palace, Wat pho).
Staying in the Khao San Road area includes Khao San Road itself, and Rambuttri Rd, which runs parallel to KSR and then across Chakrabongse Rd next to Wat Chana Songkram. I prefer Rambuttri as it’s much quieter and greener, especially the section along the wat, and touts aren’t as aggressive here.
The disadvantage of KSR is that it’s disconnected from the rest of the city, with no metro lines reaching here.
Ari has become one of the more fashionable neighbourhoods of Bangkok, where cafes and hipster bars mix with markets and streetfood stalls. It’s five stops from Siam on the Sukhumvit line so it’s easy to get around from here. Ari is a popular place for expats to live, though it doesn’t have as many hotel options as the popular tourist areas. It’s a good area to look for an Airbnb listing (new Airbnb users can get a $20 credit.)