Thailand attracts millions of visitors every year, with Bangkok as its main gateway.
Like any other capital, it has lots of pollution and scams awaiting the clueless tourist. You will find the same in Manila or Saigon. However, I loved Bangkok; I went there before in 2011 and 2012, and in 2014, I lived there for four months, when restrictions on visa runs had yet to be implemented. I loved the city — its people, its attractions, and of course, the food.
Readers have recently asked me about my solo travel tips to Bangkok so I decided once and for all to write this post. While this is targeted to solo female travelers, it can apply to other tourists as well.
Arriving in Bangkok
Bangkok has two airports: Suvarnabhumi, the main international airport, and Don Mueang, the old airport now used by AirAsia. When you arrive via Suvarnabhumi and don’t have a lot of bags, skip the taxi and go by train instead.
Go down to the lowest floor of the airport, and you’ll find the Airport Rail Link which goes to Phaya Thai, one of the BTS stations in the city. Once in Phaya Thai, find the nearest BTS station to your hotel and you’re all set. You don’t even have to go down to street level.
If you have an AirAsia flight and find yourself in Don Mueang, there are shuttle buses right outside the airport. Turn right once you exit from the arrival area. You will be dropped off at Mo Chit station, and from there, you can go to wherever your hotel is.
Accommodation in Bangkok: Hotel or Hostel?
As a solo traveler, you need not worry about accommodations in Bangkok. There are lots! Prices vary, of course. In choosing where to stay, ask yourself: what’s most important for you? Is it location? Price? Facilities? Wifi? For safety purposes, prioritize location. If your accommodation is cheap but is far from the city or is in a bad neighborhood, it’s not worth it.
When I lived in Bangkok, I stayed mostly in hostels rather than hotels for budget reasons. At prices ranging from THB280 to THB350 ($8-10), they were a good deal. The location was excellent (I usually stayed along Silom Road), and of course, Wifi was also very good. More importantly, the variety of travelers staying there made sure I had company whenever I wanted to.
We Bangkok is best for those who want to meet other travelers. There are 8-bed dorms as well as 4-bed ones and it was almost always fully booked when I was there. It’s a 5-minute walk to the Chong Nonsi station and there’s a 7-11 right across the hostel. There are gyms and a spa nearby too.
Silom Art, however, is best for those who want a beautifully decorated hostel which is not crowded. It never gets full (I don’t think they even fill half of their capacity) and there will be times when you will find yourself alone in the 5-bed dorm room. Food-wise, it isn’t so convenient. The nearest 7-11 is a 10-minute walk and street food is a 15-minute walk going to the Sala Daeng station. The nearest BTS station is Chong Nonsi (a 10-minute or so walk).
I’ve made a lot of friends from my stay at HQ Hostel (10 minutes walk to Sala Daeng station) but the staff is not so friendly especially if you stay longer than a week (I don’t know why). Wifi connection wasn’t so good, and I had my credit cards stolen there as well, the only time it happened in my travels.
I loved it for its lobby though; it encourages interactions with others. I also liked its location and it had the best beds of all hostels I’ve stayed in.
The only hotel I ever used in Bangkok was the Kingston Suites Hotel along Sukhumvit Road (around THB2,000/$61). I loved it; my room was huge, the buffet breakfast was very good, and they also have a gym and a pool, although these were located next door, in their sister hotel’s property. It’s around 5 minutes from Nana station, but they also have a shuttle that can take you there.
Check out other Bangkok hotels via Agoda. You can also use the search box below:
I also recently learned about timeshare resales. Apparently, you can buy or rent a Bluegreen timeshare on the secondary resale market and save a lot of money. You negotiate prices with existing timeshare owners and can sometimes get really good deals at luxurious resorts.
What to Do in Bangkok
Whether you only have a day or a month in Bangkok, there’s always plenty to see. Get the basics over and done with in the early part of your trip; go visit the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun during sunset. There are over 400 temples in the city, so if you’re into temples, you’d definitely get your fill. Here are seven of the best temples in Bangkok, according to CNN.
If you’re into shopping, of course, check out Chatuchak Market. It has thousands of stalls selling everything from clothes and shoes to paintings, books, home wares, and absolutely anything you can think of. They’re open only on weekends, so make sure to go there early (like 8am) as it gets hot and crowded later in the day. If you’re buying wholesale, there are couriers inside the market that can take care of shipping for you.
Want something more interesting? Head to Phloen Chit station where you can walk for 7 minutes to the Chao Mae Tuptim shrine, aka the Fertility Shrine (aka the Penis Shrine) where you will see hundreds of phallic objects.
If you’re into Thai food (and who isn’t?), you can take the Taste of Thailand food tour, which is a guided tour of Bangkok’s street food. Sure, you can just go and buy street food anytime (as I did), but it’s nice to hear of some background and see locals’ places as well.
You can also take cooking classes, if you’re really into food (I took a cooking class in Sangkhlaburi though), or use a site that connects you with locals and share a meal with them. Whatever you decide to do, it would be worth it. Thai food is the best for me, and I could never have enough of it!
If you’re into fitness, you would love Bangkok. There’s just so many options there, from lots of gyms to yoga, CrossFit, and other fitness classes. I used the CrossFit10500 box near Silom (5 minutes to Chong Nonsi station) for three months and loved it. It started my love affair with CrossFit.
I also went a lot to Lumpini Park to run and join aerobic classes (for free). The outdoor workout stations at the park are also either free or charge very minimal rates (something like THB20).
Want to watch the latest English movies at half of the usual cost? Head to Terminal 21 or Siam Paragon on Wednesdays, it’s only THB150 ($4) then. On other days, the cheapest would be from THB250. Wednesday movie days were my favorite time in Bangkok.
Day Trips From Bangkok
If you’re staying for some time in Bangkok (say, more than 4 days), I highly recommend you take a day trip to Ayutthaya Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. I went there twice, once on my own in 2012, and the second time with a group in 2016. Check out my post!
Go to the Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok, and from there, you will find trains going to Ayutthaya which can take around 2 hours. Once outside the station, follow the people going down to the river and cross to the other side. From there, rent a bicycle for the day and just go from one temple to another.
There are LOTS of temples in Ayutthaya, so just choose where you want to go. (A must, of course, is Wat Mahathat.) Pick up a brochure/travel guide beforehand from any major BTS station in Bangkok, it’s free.
Some tips: bring sunscreen, water, and a cap or a hat as it can get VERY HOT in Ayutthaya. When I was there, I had to stop at a 7-11 to buy sunscreen. Also, rent the bicycle on the other side of the river, not at the train station’s side. I did that, and I had to lug the fugg’n bike down to the boat and up again.
Scams to Look Out for in Bangkok
Sure, there are scams, but they’re easy to avoid if you do advanced reading beforehand. A common one is going to the Grand Palace where a tuktuk driver will tell you that it’s closed. It happened to me when I went there in 2011, but having read of it beforehand, I wasn’t victimized. I highly recommend just walking to the Grand Palace from the river, it’s not that far.
Male travelers, I think, are more at risk from scammers, especially those who are taken in by the beauty of Thai women and ladyboys. The Ping Pong show in Patpong Road is very well known. You go in a bar wanting to see women play ping-pong with their private parts, and get charged thousands of baht instead of just THB250 as you were made to believe. Best to avoid if you don’t want the hassle.
Or, how about this. Someone I know got picked up by a Thai woman and they had an affair for a week or so, the farang so flattered that this lovely girl told him she loved him. They separated at the airport with more professions of love and lots of tears.
Months later, the Thai woman contacted him and told him she was pregnant with his baby. Despite warnings from friends, he sent her money for the baby for 2 years and even decided he wanted to marry her and bring her to Europe. His embassy — very wise move! — required a paternity test, and lo and behold, the baby he had been supporting for years was not his after all!
Okay, so the guy was just particularly stupid. I mean, who would get taken in by a pregnancy scam?? And who wouldn’t use protection if they were picked up by a prostitute in a foreign country? Still, this scam has also been noted before. Here’s another one: smiling Thais and dumb tourists.
Safety Considerations for Solo Travelers in Bangkok
Whenever readers ask me which city I recommend for international travel, I always say Bangkok. For me, it’s safer than most cities I’d been to. Of course, I can’t say that it’s extremely safe there; after all, it’s the capital, it has its shares of scams and minor thieves roaming the streets on the lookout for clueless travelers.
You can avoid being victimized by scammers if you read up on the common scams mentioned above. Practice common sense as well when you’re going around. That is, keep your purse close to you, lock up your valuable stuff in the hostel, make sure the taxi turns on the meter, agree on a price with the tuktuk driver beforehand if you don’t want a surprise later, and choose a good neighborhood for your hostel.
Here are more things you should and shouldn’t do in Bangkok.
For first time international solo travelers, there’s no other city I would recommend. In Bangkok, everyone’s free to do their own thing. Locals won’t blink at same-sex couples, and if you want to wear your yoga pants while out and about, you won’t get a second look. (Still, of course, you’d have to know what to pack for Thailand!) I would love to go back there again and again, and I’m sure you will, too.
Of course, Thailand is more than just Bangkok, but for solo travelers just learning their way, I would recommend Bangkok for their first international destination.
Do you have other solo travel tips to Bangkok? Do share in the comments!