My trip to Thailand (Bangkok, Phi Phi Islands, Phuket Town and Kata Beach on Phuket) at the beginning of November was the first time I have ever visited Asia. And my 3 days in Bangkok at the beginning of the trip were some of the most diverse, varied and overwhelming as I adjusted to the new time zone, humidity and mild culture shock.
There is no one word to describe Bangkok. Thailand’s capital is home to tonnes of sacred temples, friendly faces (it’s the land of smiles, you know!) as well as red light districts and gentleman’s clubs galore.
But it’s also got a new hipster side with a crackin’ craft beer scene and independent cinemas. It’s rooftop bars display a skyline like no other, not to mention the infinity pools. So, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin on your first trip to Bangkok. And I would say 3 days in Bangkok is ideal for first-time visitors.
Here is my itinerary and guide to 3 days in Bangkok, ticking off all the major highlights including restaurants and bars to make the most of your trip to Bangkok.
3 Days in Bangkok Itinerary
Transport around Bangkok
BTS Skytrain/Airport Rail Link/MRT Subway
The Bangkok Skytrain is very similar to the London Underground or another European metro system. It doesn’t cover as much of the city as I would like, but it’s a good start. You’ll definitely use it a lot if you’re spending 3 days in Bangkok.
If you check out this map of the entire Skytrain system, you’ll see four distinct coloured lines: one is light green (Sukhumvit line: Mo Chit to Samut Prakarn) and secondly a turquoise green (Silom line: National Stadium to Wongwian Yai). These are the only lines that are actually on the ‘BTS Skytrain’ network.
You can also see a red line on the map, which is the Airport Rail Link from Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phaya Thai. And finally, a navy blue line, which is the MRT Subway from Bang Sue to Hua Lamphong. You might be like why the heck are you telling me all this but it does help to be aware they are run by different networks. Especially when it comes to buying tickets.
Tickets & Pricing
Some of these lines intercept (Phaya Thai station is on the Airport Rail Link and Sukhumvit BTS line, for example) but you will require a different ticket for a different network.
If you plan on travelling via public transport a lot, you might be wondering if you can buy a day pass, and you can. But only for one system. You can’t buy a day pass and expect to use it on all the lines, so it might not be cost effective to buy day passes.
Tickets aren’t as cheap as you might expect them to be and pricing can be quite confusing. On every network, you can expect to be charged per stop. We seemed to pay around 80THB (£1.91) per person every single journey. To find up to date pricing and information, check here for the BTS Skytrain, here for the Airport Rail Link and here for the MRT Subway system.
I don’t want to sound negative as I much prefer using the Skytrain over taking taxis in Bangkok. They are extremely punctual, clean and provide the sweet relief of ice cold air conditioning. And you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of journeys!
Top tip: Don’t worry about having too many coins. Most of the ticket machines on the BTS Skytrain lines only accept coins (or you can pay at the ticket desk) so you can get rid of them then.
Unfortunately, the Skytrain does not quite reach Chinatown or the temples so it’s inevitable you will have to take a taxi at some point on your 3 days in Bangkok.
Now, I’m not a massive fan of taxis. It fills me with anxiety to not know how much a journey is costing me until the very end. And like many places all over the world, it feels like every taxi driver in Bangkok wants to rip you off.
For a 15 minute journey from our hotel to The Grand Palace, it cost 150THB (£3.59) at a pre-agreed price. I was pretty happy with that and happy to agree on the price beforehand. Apparently, if our driver had used the meter the journey would cost 110THB (£2.64). But I couldn’t persuade any taxi driver to use the meter. Not even the hotel staff could ask the taxi driver to use the meter.
Top tip: If you’re out and about and want to get back to your hotel, you’ll have to stand in a busy (but not too busy) area and flag one down. Look out for taxis with a red light shining from their windscreen to show they are available.
And Tuk Tuks? Those colourful, three-wheeled vehicles you see in India and Southeast Asia? Waaay more expensive. They were charging 300THB (£7.19) for a 15-minute journey, which I got down to 250THB (£5.99).
This is just to give you some cost expectations. While a taxi driver might not budge on price, always barter down a Tuk Tuk driver. Even if it’s just a little. And never get in a Tuk Tuk without knowing how much they’re charging. You can still take one or two Tuk Tuk rides for the experience (I did), but best stick to taxis for the rest of your journeys.
Top tip: Don’t forget to take a business card from your hotel! This will have the name of the hotel written in English and Thai and will be a lifesaver when trying to explain to a taxi driver where you want to go.
Accommodation in Bangkok
If you’re spending only 3 days in Bangkok, definitely stay in a hostel or hotel over an Airbnb. I say this because hostels and hotels are substantially cheaper than Europe prices so you can get a much better deal. Though, Airbnb will also be cheaper than other countries and might be ideal if you’re staying over a week in Bangkok. But hotels can help you with taxis and keep your luggage if you arrive on a really early flight.
I stayed at theI would 100% stay in this hotel and the Siam district again because I thought the location was excellent. Super close to the Skytrains and the restaurants on Sukhumvit road.
If I was travelling by myself, I would have booked a hostel through Hostelworld. Maybe I would have even sprung for a private room considering the cheap prices! If you’re the same, check out the hostels in Bangkok here.
Please note: The water in Thailand is fine for brushing your teeth, not so nice for drinking. Your hotel should provide you with a fresh water bottle every day. But for extras, head to your nearest 7/11 store. It’s an American chain store, like a corner shop, which is very prevalent in Thailand for no apparent reason. Water can be as cheap as 7THB (£0.17) here.
Day 1 in Bangkok: Temples, More Temples & Khaosan Road
Breakfast: If you’re a picky eater (or vegetarian) like me, you’ll need at least one meal a day where you aren’t worried about finding something you like. For the sake of your travel buddy, get breakfast included. I know, I know. I wouldn’t say this in Amsterdam because brunch is a religion there. But Southeast Asia? Breakfast is just another time of day to eat whatever you normally eat for lunch or dinner with a side of noodles.
I don’t know how I would have survived without my morning feast of fruit, pastries and tea. My mood would have been a killer, that’s for sure.
- The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) – Start your day bright and early with the main tourist attraction in Bangkok! You cannot spend any time, let alone 3 days in Bangkok, without visiting The Grand Palace. It is the former home to the King and his Government and is also home to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It’s open 8:30 – 15:30 every day and ticket prices are 500THB (£11.95) per person for tourists (cheaper/free for Thais). Get there early, but you shouldn’t face a queue any time of day as you would somewhere like Vatican City. And keep an eye on your watch, there’s a lot to see today…
- Wat Pho/Phra (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) – Walk a couple of minutes down the street and you’ll reach Wat Pho or Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Again, a fairly big complex with, you guessed it, a huge statue of Buddha lying down. It’s pretty extraordinary. Opening times are 8:00-17:00 and the entrance fee is 100THB (£2.39).
Please note: You will be required to cover your shoulders, cleavage and knees before entering any temple. And expect to remove your shoes before you enter the temple itself, but you can wear socks. You’ll be able to buy some cheap elephant pants outside The Grand Palace if you need to.
Lunch – Home Cafe Tha Tien/Err
There are lots of street food sellers and small cafes next to Wat Pho and the river, so you’ll have plenty of choices for lunch. If you’re stuck, head to Home Cafe Tha Tien for some authentic, light Thai food. But don’t forget to grab some fresh mango or watermelon from a cart! Bangkok is supposed to have the best street food in the world, after all. Be prepared to eat a lot of street food over your 3 days in Bangkok.
Of course, if you’re feeling spendy you absolutely shouldn’t miss Err. Yes, that’s literally what the restaurant is called. I discovered it watching Somebody Feed Phil on Netflix before my 3 days in Bangkok. It’s an ‘urban rustic Thai food experience’ and looks amazing. And it’s not far from Wat Pho.
- Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) – If you’re feeling rushed for time, you might want to skip Wat Arun, as I did. However, looking back I kind of wished I’d squeezed it in. Head to Tha Tian Ferry Terminal down Thai Wang Alley and wait for the next Chao Phraya Express Boat across the river. Ferries run roughly every 15 minutes and cost no more than 32THB (£0.76) for a single journey. It can be confusing researching boats and ferries online but trust me, just head to this pier and you’ll be right. Opening times for Wat Arun are 8:30-17:30 and costs 100THB (£2.39).
- Sanam Luang Park/Saranrom Park – After taking the ferry back from Wat Arun, you might fancy another sit-down. Sanam Luang Park is recommended, but I found Saranrom Park to be more conveniently located and still peaceful.
- Walk along the riverside – Make sure to walk along one of the smaller rivers in the city, on Atsadang Road. You can check out a quieter side to Bangkok on your way to the final two temples. I really, really loved walking along this street and I think you will too.
- Wat Suthat (Temple of the Giant Swing) – Really, this isn’t a ‘must see’ temple but since it is so close to the next temple, you may as well pass by. I didn’t actually visit Wat Suthat/Temple of the Giant Swing (featured in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)), because, in all honesty, I just wanted to see the swing. And it was outside the actual temple complex, though the ‘swing’ part has been removed. If you do want to go inside, the temple is open 8:30-21:00 and only charges 20THB (£0.48).
- Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount) – Everyone spending 3 days in Bangkok has no excuse but to make time to watch the sunset from Wat Saket/Temple of the Golden Mount! The view is the best! Since peak season in Bangkok is winter (November-April) the sun sets quite early, around 18:00. If you look online, the opening hours say 8:00-17:00 (so, before sunset). But this is plain wrong, I have a picture of the front desk that says opening hours are until 19:30. So, plenty of time to watch a Bangkok sunset from a gorgeous temple!
Dinner – Raan Jay Fai/ThipSamai Pad Thai/Khaosan road/Soi Rambuttri
I should mention before I get into the evening of your first day in Bangkok, two of the best street food stalls in Bangkok are extremely close to Wat Saket. I’m talking literally on the way from Wat Suthat to Wat Saket. The first is Raan Jay Fai and her legendary, Michelin star quality, crab omelettes (yes, I also saw this on Somebody Feed Phil.)
And the second is Thipsamai Pad Thai, apparently the best Pad Thai in the city. I’m veggie so I have no clue, just passing on what I know! You might be feeling a little peckish and fancy a snack before Khaosan Road and Soi Rambuttri. You’ve only got 3 days in Bangkok so you may as well eat as much as physically possible in that time, right?
- Khaosan Road – You wouldn’t be a classic, obnoxious western tourist without heading to Khaosan Road as seen in the quintessential backpacker film The Beach (2000). I don’t quite know how Khaosan Road achieved its notoriety with drunk backpackers. Nevertheless, its a really touristy street offering drinks served in buckets and mountain upon mountain of clothes and tat stalls. I guess maybe ten years ago it was at least lively, but when I went it was desperately low on street food (really, everyone just sold elephant pants and tat). So, you want to head to the parallel street Soi Rambuttri. I had some really nice, freshly-made vegetable spring rolls from a cart at the top of that street. And there was a much better choice of bars and food.
And to top off a really touristy day, ride an overpriced Tuk Tuk back to your hotel! After all, you should be able to walk between all of today’s activities, so you might be pretty tired. Luckily, the next 2 days of your 3 days in Bangkok are much more relaxed!
Day 2 in Bangkok: Malls, Lumphini Park & Sukhumvit Road
- Jim Thompson House Museum – Visiting this museum, a mere two-minute walk from our hotel (Jim Thompson House Museum is where the American Architect, Jim Thompson, lived after falling in love with Thailand during the war. He built a stunning estate and helped put Thai silk on the global map until he mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia in 1967 without a trace. Be prepared to get there early and wait around for 15-minutes or so because you can only enter by guided tour. You’ll also have to take off your shoes and put all your belongings in a locker, so just be aware of that. Opening times are 9:00-18:00 and the ticket price is 150THB (£3.58). ) was one of the highlights of my 3 days in Bangkok. The
- Siam Malls – You can’t stay in the Siam district of Bangkok for your short break and not check out at least one of the malls. It’s mall central! There’s Siam Discovery, Siam Square One and Siam Paragon which is a bit posher. Bangkok has pretty snazzy malls, especially Siam Paragon. And all the shops seemed to be better themed than they are in the UK. Great place to go for souvenirs that aren’t tat!
Lunch – Hard Rock Café/Siam Paragon Food Court
Yup, I’m literally suggesting the Hard Rock Café in Bangkok! I have mentioned that , yes? Though I didn’t eat there during my 3 days in Bangkok, I sometimes enjoy them. Plus, despite my minimalist tendencies. But if you want to eat at the Hard Rock in Bangkok, then now would be a good time to do so because it’s in the area.
Or, I suggest checking out the Siam Paragon Food Court. I know, these both seem like really touristy, not-authentic options but I did say the Siam Paragon is a bit posh, didn’t I? The food there is supposed to be on another level, like crazy good, and there are lots of choices.
- Lumphini Park – Take the Silom line down to Sala Daeng for Lumphini Park and have a nice relaxing stroll after lunch. You’ll be relaxed, that is until you see the huge Monitor Lizards that roam about the park freely. After getting over that initial shock (they’re supposedly harmless) it’s quite picturesque to see the skyscrapers towering around you in this serene area of the city. It’s probably the most popular park in Bangkok.
- Sathorn Unique Tower – Either walk or take the Skytrain down to Saphan Taksin to see the Sathorn Unique Tower. In fact, you should get a pretty nice view of it from the train platform. This is the infamous building site that was abandoned when it was 80% built because the company went bust. It’s quite amazing for such a huge skyscraper to be derelict and I think it’s beyond saving now. I’m told the site still hires security guards, but these can be bribed if you really want to get inside. This is the building Jack Whitehall went freerunning up on his TV show Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father on Netflix.
- Thonburi Neighbourhood – If you didn’t spend too long walking around the park, you might have a bit of time left before dinner. You can take the Silom Skyline further across the river to Pho Nimit in the Thonburi neighbourhood of Bangkok. It’s nice to see a slightly less hectic, residential area of Bangkok across the river that not many tourists will see.
If you really want to experience the Lebua at State Tower Sky Bar AKA The Hangover Part II bar, I recommend hanging around the Saphan Taksin area until it opens at 18:00 and going then. It’s very expensive and there’s a strict dress code, but at least you’re in the area. Personally, Bangkok has so many rooftop bars I wouldn’t hold out for this obscurely located one, but if you really want to visit then do it!
Dinner – May Veggie Home
Take the Silom line of the Skytrain up to Siam and change to the Sukhumvit line down to Asok because that’s where we’re spending the whole evening!
I wouldn’t be a good vegetarian if I didn’t visit either May Kaidee or May Veggie Home during my 3 days in Bangkok. These two restaurants are the quintessential Thai vegetarian restaurants in Bangkok. I ordered the Thai Red Curry and found out I hate lemongrass (a very pungent ingredient in red curry). But, I’d still recommend the place to all veggies and non-veggies.
If you don’t fancy eating vegetarian food, there are tonnes of other great restaurants on Sukhumvit road.
You can’t spend 3 days in Bangkok without one of your evenings being dedicated to the plethora of bars and restaurants on Sukhumvit road. It’s hard to describe. The restaurants aren’t better or higher quality, it’s just that they seem better adapted to western tourists but not in a super-Americanized, McDonalds kind of way.
- Brewski Craft Beer Rooftop Bar – In terms of bars, you know I’m super into craft beer like only a good hipster can be. And you have to check out a rooftop bar for that all-impressive skyline view. I went to Brewski, a craft beer rooftop bar and I thought it was great.
- Bottles of Beer/Golden Coins Taproom – You might want to head down a couple of Skytrain stops to Thong Lo (or walk) and check out Bottles of Beer, which is a bar filled with craft beer from all over the world. I walked slightly further out to Golden Coins Taproom which was a little deserted, but they sold their own microbrewed beer on tap which was pretty excellent.
And once you’re all beered out… take the Skytrain back to your hotel! Easy peasy.
Day 3 in Bangkok: Markets, Cooking Class & Chinatown
- Chatuchak Weekend Market -Take the Sukhumvit line of the Skytrain right up to Saphan Khwai and you’ve reached the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It literally is only open on a weekend, so if your 3 days in Bangkok are mid-week (like mine were) unfortunately you’ll have to miss out. It’s literally a huge, sprawling market selling everything you could possibly want to buy. You could spend all day here if you wanted to. The market is open 9:00-18:00 Saturday and Sunday. If you really want to visit a market but you’re not in Bangkok on a weekend, try a floating market or Pak Khlong Talat, which is a flower market.
Lunch – Chatuchak Weekend Market
While you’re there, you may as well make life easier for yourself and eat at the Chatuchak Weekend Market too! As I said, it sells everything and anything you could possibly want to buy, and that includes food.
- Thai Cooking Class or Swim in your Hotel’s Infinity Pool – Cooking classes seem to be a really popular activity with tourists visiting Thailand. I’ve never done one myself (have you picked up from this post that I’m a picky eater?!) but I would choose May Kaidee Cooking Classes. As I said earlier in the post, May Kaidee’s restaurants are must-visits for vegetarian travellers so I imagine her vegetarian and vegan Thai cooking classes would be great too. They’re open 9:00-22:00 and prices start from 1,000THB (£23.85) for a two-hour lesson. Or, you could spend the afternoon relaxing at . And if you’re taking a short cooking class, you can do both!
Dinner – Chinatown street food stalls
I know, there’s a lot of street food on the agenda today. However, it is the last night of your 3 days in Bangkok. And, you need to make sure you eat as much of that world-class street food as possible. Take a taxi to the end of Yaowarat Road and make your way up and down the side streets of Chinatown, stopping to eat what you fancy.
This will be incredibly difficult if you’re a vegetarian, like me. I ended up having a mango smoothie, as nice as it was. I could have also had some vegetable spring rolls but they were a little pricey. But Chinatown is a great experience, especially at night. I wouldn’t miss a visit during your 3 days in Bangkok.
- Scala Cinema – I don’t blame you if you want to spend your entire night in Chinatown. But, if you are in the mood for an extra evening activity on your last night in Bangkok, I’ve got to recommend Scala Cinema. It’s the last one-screen, independent cinema in Thailand and a great experience for film fans. You can check out my guide to 9 of the best Bangkok cinemas (some independent, some luxurious) here.
That’s my perfect 3 days in Bangkok itinerary for first-time visitors! Are you planning a trip to Bangkok? Let me know in the comments below!