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48 Hours in Bangkok, Thailand

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Over the years I have heard a lot of hate for Thailand’s busy capital. I have heard complaints that it is too busy, too touristy, and too dirty, among other things. I couldn’t disagree with these sentiments more! Perhaps I am a bit immune to the big cities, as I live in New York City full time. However, Bangkok is easily one of my favorite cities in the world. The city is filled with so much culture and incredible cuisine. I have visited Bangkok five times, and I am sure that I will be back many more. If you’ve only got a few days to spare, read on to find out everything you need to know about spending 48 hours in Bangkok, Thailand. This guide will cover what to see in Bangkok, where to stay, and most importantly, the best places to eat in Bangkok, Thailand.

Exploring the temples of Bangkok, Thailand

The Basics

Language: Thai

Currency: Thai Baht (THB), 35 THB = $1 USD, as of 2024

Country: Thailand

Airports: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK). BKK is Bangkok’s international airport, while DMK is serviced by all of Asia’s budget airlines.

Water: Bangkok is hot, all the time. You’ll just need to embrace the constant sheer of sweat that will inevitably coat your body while traveling in Thailand’s capital. Because of this it is super important to stay hydrated, to avoid any heat exhaustion. I always carry around a reusable Vapur water bottle. While you will need to drink bottled water, this at least allows you to buy one large bottle, and avoid the excess waste of using many plastic water bottles. Another way that I love to keep hydrated in Bangkok is with fresh coconut.

Money: Although credit cards are slowly becoming more popular in Southeast Asia, cash is still the norm. For this reason, I recommend always carrying cash, ideally with an assortment of bills and coins. I find that having smaller bills makes it easier to haggle for bargains at the local markets. You’ll find plenty of ATMs throughout the city, but ATM fees can be quite high, so you’ll want to avoid too many withdrawals. Another option is to travel with a debit card that doesn’t charge ATM fees.

Getting Around Bangkok

Bangkok is a large, crowded city. Unfortunately this means that there is a lot of traffic. Luckily, the Bangkok SkyTrain, or BTS, and the river water boats, are a great way to get around! The BTS runs from about 5:30 AM to midnight daily, with frequent trains running throughout the city. Fares are calculated based on distance, so you will need to know which stop you are getting off. I recommend having coins on you, so you can purchase a ticket at one of the kiosks.

However, despite the traffic, a ride on a classic tuk-tuk is a must-have experience as well!

exploring thailand by tuk tuk
Tuk Tuks are a super fun way to get around Bangkok

When taking a taxi in Bangkok, or most of Southeast Asia for that matter, it is super important that you ask the taxi driver to turn on the meter. Even then, watch the meter to make sure that it’s not sped up, or jumping too quickly to higher rates. Unfortunately, taxi drivers in Bangkok are known to inflate taxi ride prices and take advantage of tourists who don’t know better. For tuk-tuk rides there are no meters, so it is important that you decide on a rate before starting the ride. Don’t be afraid to haggle!

Another good option for getting around Bangkok is with ride share services. Uber no longer operates in Bangkok, but you can use Grab, which is Asia’s local ride share platform.

What to Pack for a Trip to Bangkok

The first thing to consider when packing for a trip to Bangkok is that you will want to dress more conservatively. It is best to keep your shoulders and knees covered as much as possible when exploring the city, but this is a must for visiting the temples. When you enter any of the temples it is required to have your shoulders and knees covered! I personally always keep a sarong in my bag, so that I have a skirt or shawl on hand at all times! I picked up a bunch when I was exploring Bali, but there are plenty of great shawls for sale online as well.

The next thing to consider when packing for Bangkok is that it is hot all year round! During some parts of the year the temperatures soar well above 100 degrees (38 C). However, as I mentioned above, strappy tank tops and short shorts are not ideal when you’re exploring Bangkok. Ladies, think maxi dresses and skirts instead, for breezy, yet conservative travel outfits.

The key to packing for Southeast Asia is to not overpack. If you’re anything like me then there will be tons of items that you’ll want to buy along the way. Shopping in Thailand is incredibly cheap, so it is easy to pick up anything that you may have forgotten.

What to do in 48 Hours in Bangkok

Get a Massage

I think it says something about my personality if the first thing on this Bangkok travel guide is a massage parlor. But seriously, massages are my favorite thing in the world, and Bangkok has no shortage. Bangkok has a ton of massage parlors that offers amazing massages at a very affordable rate of $7-9/hour. Note, these massages are traditional Thai massages so they can be extremely rough. For many Westerners this may be different from what you are used to at home. Don’t be afraid to let the masseuse know if it is too rough or painful!

Visit the Temples (by Water Ferry)

The water ferry is a fun, cheap way to see a number of Bangkok’s famous temples if you only have 48 hours in Bangkok. The Saphan Taksin BTS station connects with the ferry line, if you’re staying close to a BTS station, however there are other stops as well.

The water ferry operates down the Chao Phraya river. When taking the water ferry please don’t get conned into buying the Tourist Day Pass. Instead, always ask for the local ferry, which takes you to the same places at a fraction of the price . Just look for the boat with the orange flag. Tickets can be purchased onboard any of the local boats.

taking the water taxi down chao praya river in Bangkok
Exploring the Bangkok temples by water ferry
wat arun temple - best things to do in 48 hours in Bangkok
Wat Arun
Grand Palace

In my opinion the best temples to visit are Wat Pho, Wat Arun, and the Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew. If you only have 48 hours in Bangkok and you’re looking to visit multiple temples in one day, there is a ferry that goes directly across the water from Wat Pho to Wat Arun for only 3 THB ($0.10 USD).

At Wat Pho, be sure to check out the Reclining Buddha. There is often a bit of a line to get in, but it is well worth it to see this beauty.

Entrance Fees for Bangkok Temples:
Wat Pho: 100 THB ($3 USD)
Wat Arun: 100 THB ($3 USD)
Grand Palace/Wat Phra Kaew: 500 THB ($15 USD)

Exploring the temples of Bangkok, Thailand

Enjoy Drinks with a View

If you’re looking to enjoy a cocktail with a view then I recommend visiting either the Mandarin Oriental or the Sirocco Sky Bar for sunset.

Both locations are quite pricey, comparable to a high-end Western bar, however the views are well worth it.

Drinks at the Mandarin Oriental - 48 hours in Bangkok guide
Sunset views from the Mandarin Oriental

Take a Day Trip to Ayutthaya

Located about 1.5-2 hours from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is a beautiful UNESCO heritage site that is well worth a visit! The easiest way to get from Bangkok to Ayuttaya is by train, which a number of direct trains running daily. Ayutthaya was the former capital during the Kingdom of Siam. The site was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1991 and offers a series of incredible temples to visit. The Ayutthaya temples are also considerably less crowded than many of those in the rest of Thailand.

Day trip from bangkok to ayutthaya
Exploring the temples of Ayutthaya on a day trip
woman sculpture in tree in thailand
The famous tree of Ayutthaya

Once you arrive you can hire a tuk-tuk driver for the day to bring you around to the temples. For cheaper rates follow the street perpendicular to the train station, where you can hire a driver. A cheaper option is to rent a bike, but be prepared for a lot of driving in the heat.

Visit the Taling Chan Floating Market

Taling Chan is one of my favorite places to visit in Bangkok. If your 48 hours in Bangkok happen to fall on a weekend, then this market should definitely be on your list.  There are a number of floating markets in Bangkok, but this one is definitely one of the most authentic and local. It is easily accessible by both metro and car. An taxi from most parts of the city should set you back only a few US dollars.

Spend some time wandering through the market, and enjoying all of the food options available. I also recommend booking the 1 hour boat tour! It is super cheap, the tour guides are hilarious, and there are some awesome temples along the way.

Please note, this market is only open on the weekends so you will need to plan accordingly!

trying to local foods at Bangkok's Taling Chan market
Enjoy local foods in Bangkok
visiting taling chan market
Papaya salad from the Talin Chang Floating Market

Explore Chinatown

Bangkok has one of the best Chinatown’s in the world. This is a fun place to come at night to get your fill of street hawkers. Simply wander up and down the road so sample your taste of Chinese goodness!

exploring bangkok's chinatown
View of Bangkok’s Chinatown from above

Go Shopping at Chatuchak Market

The Chatuchak weekend market is actually the largest market in all of Thailand! In fact, I would say that it is probably the largest market that I have ever been to. This is a great place to spend the day if you’re looking to buy some gifts or local goods. There is an amazing artwork section that should not be missed! Chatuchak is located just a 5 minutes walking from the Mo Chit BTS stop, making it super easy to get to if you are staying close to a BTS station.

Lumpini Park

Lumpini Park is one of the only areas in Bangkok where you’ll find a little greenery. They have some fun free outdoor gym equipment if you fancy a workout yourself, however you can also enjoy people watching as the local’s practice tai chi. This is a great place for an early morning stroll!

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48 Hours in Bangkok: Best Places to Eat in Bangkok

Bangkok is easily one of my favorite cities in the world, and that is mostly due to the fact that it is one of the best food destinations. The food is truly some of the best and it is still so so affordable. From spicy curries to sweet coconut ice creams, street food stalls and Michelin star dining, Bangkok really has it all.

Dining in Bangkok is typically quite cheap, especially if you chose to eat local. Typically, if you see Western food on the menu, the prices will be higher and the quality of the food will not be nearly as good. If this is your first time in Thailand, I can understand the urge to gravitate towards something more familiar, but I challenge you to push outside of your comfort zone when it comes to dining in Bangkok. My standard for what a restaurant should look like definitely changed traveling in Southeast Asia, where plastic chairs and handwritten menus are the norm.

Here are some tips for dining in Bangkok:

  • The simpler the restaurant, the better the food
  • Don’t be afraid to eat the street food
  • Most restaurants won’t require a reservation, unless they are super upscale
  • Portions usually aren’t too big, which is great because it means you can try more things
  • Thai food can be really spicy (which I love). If you’re not good with spice, as them to tone it down.

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Bangkok Food & Restaurant Guide

Thai Street Food

if there is one thing that you should take away from this article, it is that you should eat all of the street food in Thailand. I’ve heard countless stories of tourists avoiding street food in Bangkok out of fear of getting sick. I’ll start by saying that I’ve eaten Thai street food during every one of my five trips to Thailand and never had any issues. And honestly, even if I had it would have still been worth it.

Side of the road stands serve up some of the best, and cheapest, food options in Bangkok. You will find a ton of stalls in the area surrounding Khao San Rd, as well as in Chinatown. The desserts are equally delicious! My personal favorites include mango with sticky rice and fresh coconut ice cream!

thai street food in bangkok - spring rolls
Veggie spring rolls
Eating fresh coconut ice cream in Bangkok, Thailand
Coconut ice cream

Soi Silom 20

If you only have time for one food stop in Bangkok, make it this street food stall street. This is because not only is everything absolutely delicious, but there is so much variety so you can really get a taste of so many things.

Unlike many other street food stall areas, many of the vendors here know a few words of English (or maybe have an English menu) but still offer super delicious, local dishes.

A few things you need to try while here:

  • Papaya Salad (watch out, it is spicy) – they make it right in front of you and it is the best I’ve ever had
  • Tom Yum Soup
  • Stir-fried chicken
  • Fresh fruit shake

Pen Little Coffee & Restaurant

Pen Little Coffee is my favorite restaurant in Bangkok. If you only have 48 hours in Bangkok, make sure to add this to your itinerary. This restaurant might not look like much, but it serves some of the best dishes that I tried while in Thailand. The cafe is slightly removed from the touristy hustle and bustle of Khao San Road,  on the corner of a quiet street.

There are only a few tables, but I have never had an issue finding a seat. The food is absolutely delicious, and the prices are super cheap.

Don’t forget to order their mango and sticky rice for dessert!

Dining at Pen Little Coffee Shop
Mango with sticky rice is a must-try dish

Other restaurants in Bangkok to check out include:

  • Jeng Noodles
  • MaeThum Padthai
  • Mit Ko Yuan Restaurant
  • Raan Jay Fai
  • nahm
  • Chinatown Street Food
  • Kor Panit’s Sticky Rice 
  • Natthaphon Coconut Ice Cream

Where to Stay in Bangkok, Thailand

There are endless options for great places to stay in Bangkok, ranging from budget friendly to super luxurious. I’ve listed out a few of my favorites below, including one of the best hostels that i’ve ever stayed at.

Photo credit: Booking.com

Dinsomon Hotel

Affordable hotel in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. Walking distances to many great restaurants and attractions. Features a large swimming pool and a delicious breakfast.

Check rates and availability

Once Again Hostel

Once Again Hostel is one of my absolute favorite hostels that I’ve stayed at! I have stayed here on two occasions and have never been disappointed. Great location, super cute common area, and silent rooms. I think that this is the only 12 bed hostel dorm that I’ve ever stayed in that is actually quiet! Also as a side note, they offer an affordable laundry service that made my clothing smell so good!

Vera Nidhra Bangkok

If hostels aren’t your thing, then check out Vera Nidhra Bed & Breakfast instead! The location is perfect, as it is located super close to a BTS station. The Thai style breakfast is absolutely delicious.

Amara Bangkok Hotel

If you’re looking for something a bit nicer, the Amara Bangkok Hotel is a great option. Featuring more modern rooms, and a rooftop infinity pool! It is less than a ten minute walk to the nearby Bang Rak BTS Station. The Patpong night market is also nearby, for a fun evening of thai street food dining.

Where to Visit after Bangkok?

Trying to figure out the next stop on your travel itinerary? From Bangkok it is extremely easy to get to Chaing Mai or Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand, the Thai islands, or Cambodia’s capital, Siem Reap.

chiang-mai-guide

If you’re traveling in Thailand, here are some other posts that will be helpful:

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