I spent three days alone in Bangkok prior to volunteer experience in Thailand in 2015. It was hot, humid and full of traffic, but the relaxed vibes in the many temples I visited made it up with the busy city feeling. Bangkok is a big place to start solo traveling, but if you prepare well and take care of yourself you can enjoy Bangkok on your own confidently.
Arriving by air
If you arrived by air, travel alone, and already booked accommodation, and is a bit unsure about public transport, I suggest you get a taxi. For more recent info on taxis in Bangkok have a look at this thorough guide to taxis. Why do I need to read about how to take a taxi you might ask? Because taxi drivers around the world are known to scam tourists. I believe the worst I have ever tried was the Bangkok taxis. To avoid being ripped off on your first day, make sure you get into a proper taxi with a meter running. Make sure you have read the most up to date info on taxis before you go 🙂
Enough with the scary part, I used taxis maybe three times in total, and it is easy to walk on your own in town, especially if you stay around the most touristy spot in town!
I generally felt safe walking around on my own in the daytime, except in the areas around China Town.
Being alone I was hesitant to go around outside after dark. I walked home from Khao San Road one evening and it was very creepy. Since then I have been careful. If you take a tuk-tuk back to your hostel you will be fine being out after dark. Bangkok is like any big city where you would be cautious.
As far as valuables, I wore my fanny-pack around crossed-over with no issues. Never bring all your cash and cards on you at all times, except when you are on the move. If you are on the move to a new location, make sure you have your money spread out in pockets, shoes, bra etc. and never have your two credit cards in the same wallet!
Where to stay
Most people have heard about ‘Khao San road’, and that it is the place to go out and do some shopping. With that in my back of my head, I booked accommodation in relatively close proximity to the famous street.
I stayed at the Hotel Baan Dinso, a cute little hostel with a great breakfast, lovely staff and wooden features in the rooms. I had a great stay there, it was a nice vibe, but I did not find it to be a place to meet up with fellow travelers and make new acquaintances. When I visited it was mostly couples or pairs traveling together, making it a bit tougher to join in as a solo traveler.
The hostel was selected carefully, as it is within walking distance of several temples and attractions, making it easy to get around town without using public transport.
Things to do in Bangkok
Besides checking out Khao San road for cheap clothing, souvenirs, drinks, and exotic insect snacks, there are plenty of other things to do in Bangkok.
You can do a temple run, and dress properly for that day in order to enter all the temples you like respectfully.
There are several malls to visit, an aquarium and of course you must not visit Bangkok without seeing the jaw-dropping Grand Palace.
Finally, after walking many kilometers about town, you should finish your stay with a relaxing foot massage.
My day 1 – exploring temples in the neighborhood
After taking a nap in my air-conditioned room, I was curious to get to explore Bangkok, this being my first time in Asia.
I started out by checking out the temples (Wat) within a radius of ~1 km of the hostel, Wat Suthat, Wat Ratchanatda and Wat Saket (the ‘Golden Mountain‘).
I noticed that a mass was about to start, and people are allowed to sit and watch peacefully in the back. What a great way to start my first day in Bangkok! In general, as long as you are respectful in behavior and how you dress, people are respectful towards you.
After watching the prayer at Wat Ratchanatda, I went to see the Golden Mountain. You have a great view from up there, and I recommend to see this place.
In the evening I had a nice dinner at the restaurant, Krua Apsorn. It was both well reviewed and in close proximity to my hostel. Having dinner alone was no issue for me, and it is absolutely normal to eat out alone.
Wat Suthat, Wat Ratchatda, and Wat Saket: 20 baht each, dinner at Krua Apsorn: 140 baht
Day 2 – Grand Palace, street food poisoning and crossing the canal
I had read in my Lonely Planet guide to Bangkok, that you should visit the great Grand Palace in the morning as the first thing, some advice I followed.
The Grand Palace and walking around barefooted
At the palace there is a very strict dress code – you must be completely covered from neck to feet, showing absolutely no skin. I wore a long-sleeved shirt and would have worn a sarong if I had one with me, but instead, I was able to rent one outside the palace for a mere 30 baht. You can also find one you really like, and buy it for your remainder of trips and temple visits. Before entering the grandest building, you have to leave your shoes outside. Make sure you don’t wear any fancy sneakers!
The palace is a must-see, it is spectacular and monstrous at the same time.
Wat Pho and a foot massage
After checking out the jewel collecting at the museum inside the palace area, I went to Wat Pho, which holds the magnificent Reclining Buddha with some famous soles. Back in 2015, they were being repaired (too bad for me!), meaning they are hopefully good looking today 🙂
After the sole disappointment, I got a foot massage, which was part pleasure and pain (ouch!). It was however much needed after all the walking.
Then it was time for lunch, and I had the chance to try some street food. What a bad decision that was. Not everyone has a stomach for that!
Crossing the canal to Wat Arun
I paid 16 baht to cross the canal to Wat Arun, which was an experience in itself. Wat Arun was also under reconstruction, but they still charged me the full price of 50 baht. After exploring this beautiful white temple with its statues, I crossed the canal, and this time I went with a boat to Tha Chang, to see an amulet market.
The amulet market is a place to buy lucky charms or amulets. I simply strolled the small paths in search of pretty figures, without buying anything.
Despite already having seen much, I intended to visit the National Museum, which unfortunately was closed for the day.
Again, I had dinner at Krua Apsorn, and had the life-lesson of not ordering spicy food unless you really mean it! If you are not used to traveling in Asia and having spicy food, you should make sure your meal is ‘farang-spicy‘, which means ‘tourist-spicy’.
Day 3 – Siam Square, Sea World, and shopping
I went with a taxi to Siam Square for shopping. Inside Paragon Mall you will find Sea World, a very large and impressing aquarium holding fish, sharks, penguins and much more. (2020 edit: Since watching the documentary Blackfish I regret having supported a corporation like Sea World).
I spent at least a few hours in there, fascinated by the Big Blue. At Paragorn you can have lunch, dinner, ice-cream, literally anything to lift your day.
Going to Siam Square and the Paragorn Mall reminded me of being in a Western world style mall, which is great if you need a small break from all the hassle. You can also get quality items like a new memory card or you can setup a SIM-card if you plan to stay in Thailand for long (I enjoyed having it in my five weeks in Thailand!).
After the square, I went with the Sky Train to see China Town, which was not really something for me.
In the evening I had a delicious dinner at Khao San road and went on another shopping spree. I recommend taking a tuk-tuk home if you stay out after dark, especially if you are alone.
Taxi to Siam Square from my hostel: 63 baht, Sea World: 990 baht, train ticket: 30 baht, lunch: 80 baht, dinner: 240 baht.
If you have a strong stomach you can live for much less than me, I was simply done taking chances.
Prices mentioned in this post are subject to change.
My reference material for this trip was the Lonely Planet Pocket Book: Bangkok.
© All photos are my own and may not be used without permission.