Is Bangkok expensive? That all depends. The capital of the fabled Land of Smiles cut its teeth as one of the original backpacker destinations of Southeast Asia. Throughout the 60s and 70s, it was one of the terminuses of the Banana Pancake Trail, drawing hippies and New Agers with the promise of cheap living and a dose of eastern mysticism in equal measure.
A lot has changed since then. Fast forward to the 21st century and Bangkok – and Thailand beyond it – is now one of the most-visited places in the whole world. By some accounts, it sees more tourists that even Rome and Paris! With that has come a serious diversification in the array of hotels and restaurants in the city, along with an uptick in rates across the board.
There’s no doubt that Bangkok can still be done on the cheap. But it can also cater to jetsetters who want to splurge on chic five-star hotels and fine-dining. This guide offers a run-through of what various types of travelers can expect to spend on a jaunt to the metropolis, with info on everything from the cost of hotels to the price of eating out, which is something you’re going to want to do all the darn time!
How much is a trip to Bangkok?
We estimate the average cost of a week-long trip to Bangkok to be in the region of $570 per person. That’s not including the cost of travel to the city in the first place, however, which, as you’ll discover below, can be anything from $20 to over $1,200, depending on where you’re starting your journey.
We should also add that this is a midrange estimation for the price of travel to Bangkok. It’s certainly possible to spend A LOT more than that in the buzzing capital of the Land of Smiles. After all, it’s home to some of the most luxurious hotels in the world, which can set you back $500/night or even more.
You can also get by in Bangkok spending less than what we’ve estimated, by staying in hostels that cost under $20/night and choosing to eat only street food, which isn’t at all a bad idea, since Bangkok has been dubbed the street-food capital of the world!
Is Bangkok expensive to get to?
The cost of getting to Bangkok depends on where you’re coming from. For most travelers, this bustling Asian megalopolis is a very first taste of Southeast Asia, because the local Bangkok Airport at Suvarnabhumi hosts one of the largest arrays of arrivals from Europe and the US on the whole continent. But there’s also the smaller Don Mueang International Airport, which has become a hub for travelers crossing to Bangkok from all across Asia.
The upshot? You won’t be short on flight options. Plus, the sheer volume of arrivals into Bangkok means it tends to be among the cheaper places to fly to in the region. Generally speaking, you’re looking at between $500-1,000 return for a link from Europe and around $900-1,200 for return flights over from the USA.
Short-haul links to Bangkok will be cheaper. We’ve paid around $70 for connections in from India and Sri Lanka, around $100 for indirect links from Indonesia, and less – in the region of $20-50 – for domestic tickets from Phuket and Krabi.
Is Bangkok expensive for food?
Most certainly not! Bangkok is one of the world’s most iconic street-food destinations. We’ve been traveling back, forth, and through the city for the best part of 15 years and have been shocked to see that the cost of the most quintessential dishes – pad Thai, BBQ skewers, pad see ew chewy noodles – have hardly changed a jot. You’re still looking at 30-50 THB ($0.80-$1.40) per dish, even on the vena cava of Bangkok tourism that is Khaosan Road.
Of course, not everyone wants to eat street food. Not to worry – there are more restaurants, eateries, taverns, curry houses, holes-in-the-wall, and diners than you can shake a chicken foot at in these parts. There’s something to suit virtually every budget going. You can eat at the simplest local restaurants and pay 100-150 THB (up to $4) per dish. Or you can go for creative cuisine at groundbreaking kitchens like Coda and Michelin-starred Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, which will set you back over 3,500 THB (>$100) per head.
One thing to note is that there’s usually a premium for international food in Thailand. Burgers and pasta dishes and the like tend to go for upwards of 200 THB ($5.60) in most places. Coffees, meanwhile, range from $2-4 in the coolest roastery cafes, though it’s worth paying higher prices for the epic brews churned out at joints like Kaizen Coffee, one of Bangkok’s leading hipster caffeine hotspots.
Overall, we’d estimate that a midrange traveler will spend in the region of 600-700 THB per day on food in Bangkok. That’s around $18-20 per person, and roughly $133 for a whole week’s trip. Told you it was cheap!
Is Bangkok expensive for hotels?
This is where it gets a little complicated. Our knee-jerk reaction is to say that Bangkok is most certainly not an expensive city for accommodation. You can get uber-bargain hostels for under $10/night and there are gazillions (not literally) of midrange hotels that sit in the $30-100/night range. At a glance, Booking.com returns a whopping 1,900+ hotel options in the city, so there’s certainly the competition to help keep rates low, too.
However, there’s a flip side to the coin: Bangkok hosts some of Asia’s sleekest, most luxurious hotels. For the most part, they cluster together around the happening quarters of Silom, Bang Rak, and the Cho Phraya riverside. They’re either soaring high-rises with bumping rooftop bars and swimming pools lofted above the city, or palatial chain hotels with grounds filled with palm trees and serene relaxation spots.
Here’s a look at some of what we’d consider to be the top picks in every price band of Bangkok hotels…
- Mandarin Oriental Bangkok ($$$) – Over $550/night gets you the award-winning Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, which sits on the riverside of Bang Rak district with its tennis courts, swish spa, and beautifully appointed lobby with a mix of Western and oriental styles.
- MUU Bangkok Hotel ($$-$$$) – The upper midrange option, MUU sits in the middle of the upcoming hipster area of Watthana-Ekkamai. It’s proper high-rise resort stuff, with a gorgeous pool and stylish interiors.
- Villa Mungkala ($-$$) – A midrange jewel that’s perfect for folks looking to explore old Bangkok, Mungkala is a preserved wooden townhouse with creaking floors, loads of antiques and a fine location amid the canals near the Grand Palace. An enchanting stay that’s worth every penny of the $30-40/night price tag!
- Baan Dinso ($) – Right there on Khaosan Road, this traditional homestay-hostel is as cheap as it comes and right in the thick of the action.
Most travelers will spend something in the region of $35-70 per night for a hotel in Bangkok. That adds up to around $367 for a full week’s stay.
The cost of activities and things to do in Bangkok
Bangkok is a fizzing, electrifying metropolis that’s got stacks on offer for all sorts of travelers. Foodies can hit the street bazaars to dine on spicy noodles topped with peanuts. Partiers can glug cold beers down the Khaosan Road until dawn. History buffs can ride the rails out to Kanchanaburi. Culture vultures have temples and shrines and the Grand Palace to get through. But what will all that cost?
Well…not all that much, to be frank. Bangkok is very much about simply soaking in the atmosphere and enjoying the various neighborhoods. We’ve already looked at the cost of food for the gourmands out there. Here’s a look at the price of doing some other mainstay things in the capital of the Land of Smiles…
- Entry to the Grand Palace (550 THB/$15) – This must-see complex of gold-topped Buddhist shrines and court rooms is the official residence of the King of Thailand.
- Entry to Wat Pho (200 THB/$7) – See a 46-meter-long reclining Buddha in this temple, which is also the birthplace of traditional Thai massage.
- Entry to Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan (100 THB/$2.80) – An incredible temple with striking stupas overlooking the river.
There are also plenty of things to do in Bangkok that are free – or nearly free. They include trips to the legendary Chatuchak Market on the weekend and people watching in Banglamphu, activities that only require transport costs (which are basically minimal in Thailand because the metro is so cheap – think under $20 for a full week) and whatever you choose to spend when you’re there.
Overall, we’d set aside a budget of about $10 a day for activities. You probably won’t spend all that but it’s there just in case.
Is Bangkok expensive? Our conclusion
So, is Bangkok expensive? Overall, we’d say that Bangkok sits on the more expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to Asian cities but still comes in cheaper than most European capitals and the likes of Singapore or Hong Kong.
More to the point, it’s a town that can be super-pricy, if you pick opulent five-star hotels in stylish areas like Silom and Bang Rak and dine in haute Thai eateries each night. But it’s also a town that can be a real bargain – if you choose the budget backpacker dorms of Banglamphu and stick to the street-food stalls.
Our best estimate is that a week-long trip in this enthralling and bucket-list city will be something in the region of $570 per week, not including the cost of the long-haul or short-haul flights that take you there in the first place.