Bangkok is a massive city. With a population of 12 million people it is so large that you cannot hope to see it all. We have visited Bangkok many times and have still barely scratched the surface of this amazing metropolis. Given the city's vast size, where is the best area to stay in Bangkok? It is massive but you can definitely pick a location that will give you easy access to the city's attractions, shopping hubs, night life and delicious food.
We are going to show you some areas of Bangkok that you might like, then help you choose the best area to stay in Bangkok. First, a video then we'll provide more details.
Khao San Road
Khao San is the default home base for a lot of visitors to Bangkok. There is masses of accommodation packed into a small area as well as heaps of bars and restaurants. Typically these feature English language menus and staff who can speak at least some English. The down side is that it's generally jammed with other tourists and, if you look around, the westerners outnumber Thais by a big margin.
Businesses set up to service tourists are in abundance so you can easily access cheap tours, alcohol and knock off clothes and bags. If you want some cheap imitation clothing and cheap drinks then Khao San is a pretty good bet.
Accessing public transport from Khao San Road, also known as Thanon Khao San, is a little awkward. The skytrain and subway don't go anywhere near Khao San. Your best option is walking five minutes to a ferry stop then catching the ferry down the Chao Phraya river to where you can access the skytrain. Failing that you can catch taxis or tuk tuks but these are always way more expensive. Plus, you have to haggle over the price and run the gauntlet of rip off artists who make a living separating tourists from their money. It is hard to overstate how big a negative it is that you cannot easily access the skytrain and subway. They can take you all over central Bangkok in air-conditioned comfort in minutes for under a dollar. Once you've stayed within a few minutes walk of a skytrain or subway station you will never go back. If you're planning lots of trips to other parts of Bangkok avoid Khao San Road.
Silom varies depending on the time of day. By day its mostly office workers hustling to and from. There are plenty of street food options to be had as the masses of nicely dressed workers need to eat too. By night it's tone changes. Silom Road itself fills with market stalls which sell pretty much anything and everything. Areas that you may have thought desserted fill with food stalls.
Silom Road is also home to the infamous Pat Pong. This lively night time entertainment strip is actually less grotty than you might expect. There's no accounting for what goes on behind closed doors but in the street at least there's little to worry about if you have children or a companion with a sensitive disposition.
In Silom Road's favor is the presence of the sky train, also known as the BTS, running down Silom Road itself. Sala Daeng BTS station is probably going to be the nearest one depending on where you stay. Silom subway station is also nearby. Once you get to either station you can reach most of the inner city very quickly.
At the north end of Silom Road is Lumphini Park. Lumphini Park is a pleasant oasis of trees and lawn in the middle of one of the world's mega cities. A dose of open space can be delightful after the crowded streets of the big city.
Sukhumvit is our favorite area of Bangkok. It has a range of street food areas, LOTS of shops ranging from the very cheap to the extraordinarily high end. Most of the footage in our shopping in Bangkok video was filmed in Sukhumvit. It also has plenty of restaurants and many of Bangkok's cooler night clubs.
Parts of Sukhumit show a distinct Japanese influence in the architecture and the range of businesses available. There are some exceptional noodles to be had.
For those looking for Pat Pong style night life there is "soi Cowboy". Soi means side street in Thai. Soi Cowboy is named after an African American man who moved to Bangkok in the 70s. He always wore a cowboy hat and opened one of the early girly bars in this location. I don't know what became of him but he was evidently such a character that the street came to be named after him. This little street is drenched in glowing neon and will compete with anything similar you will find anywhere.
Sukhumvit truly has something for everyone. You can walk for miles just going from shopping center shopping center. You can eat all day and never run out of food options. And, best of all, the skytrain also runs down Sukhumvit Road making the rest of Bangkok easily accessible.
If you would like more information about transport within Bangkok we have a guide to public transport in Bangkok
The Best Area To Stay In Bangkok?
The final decision depends on what you want.
If you want to be in the middle of the backpacker party craziness you want Khao San Road. For cheap hostels, cheap booze and a party every night you can't beat Khaosan.
However if you want something less alcohol fueled then, personally, we recommend Sukhumvit. If you want flashier, high end accommodation look for something further west on the Sukhumvit BTS line. If you want something more affordable look further east along the BTS line. The further east you go the cheaper things get.