Finding cheap things to do in Bangkok is easy thanks to the large numbers of attractions in the city that appeal to both tourists and locals with a wide range of budgets.
Whether you’re on tight backpacking finances or simply feeling the pinch towards the end of the month, there’s plenty of cheap or even free events that are right at your fingertips.
Behind the glitzy shopping malls of Sukhumvit and Siam are a treasure trove of cheap Bangkok attractions just waiting to be explored. That’s to say nothing of the plethora of (free!) people-watching opportunities afforded by such a diverse and unique city.
And, of course, when all else fails, you can always rely on Bangkok to deliver in the cheap food stakes in between your sight-seeing adventures.
Watching the world go by with a bottle of Chang and a plate of streetside Pad Thai is one of life’s most divine pleasures.
But before all that…
Cheap things to do in Bangkok
1. Lumpini Park
Lumpini is one of Bangkok’s best parks and with free entry, it’s the perfect spot to while away a few hours on a sunny afternoon. In addition to a running and cycling track, basketball court, and an array of open air aerobics, Tai Chi, fencing and yoga classes, there’s plenty of green space to just take some time to yourself and let the world go by. In the winter months there’s even free orchestral concerts to enjoy every Sunday.
If you’ve got a few spare baht in your pocket, you can take advantage of the many street food stalls scattered about Lumpini’s perimeter, or indulge in a paddleboat or rowing experience around the lake. Just watch out for the monitor lizards creeping around!
Where: 139/4 Witthayu Road, Bangkok
Public Transport: BTS Sala Daeng; MRT Si Lom
2. Dusit Zoo
Cost: ฿150 adults, ฿50 children
Nearby Dusit Palace in the old city, Dusit Zoo is a great place to explore for a few hours if you fancy breaking away from the mania of Bangkok, or in need of a time-out from the temples. It’s also a great place to take the kids. With over 1,600 animals within its confines, including giraffes, white Bengal tigers, Asiatic black bears and some hungry hippos, Dusit is well maintained with seemingly lots of space for the zoo inhabitants.
Dusit hosts plenty of shows throughout the day and there’s also a large lake with pedalos to enjoy too, and even the remains of an old air raid shelter from World War II. A food court serves up Asian meals near the entrance.
Where: 71 Rama V Road, Dusit
Public transport: BTS Victory Monument plus taxi
3. Bang Krachao
If you’ve got time to devote to a day trip, head to Bang Krachao, Bangkok’s green lung; a man-made island just south of the city in Phra Pradaeng, which you’ll need to take a ferry to from either Klong Toei or Bang Na piers. With no skyscrapers and just an expanse of beautiful green space, this is the perfect spot to escape from the mania of Bangkok, within Bangkok.
You can hire a bike for ฿100 for the day, which is the easiest way to explore the island although note that you’ll need to ride along relatively narrow, raised embankments at certain points. As well as the Sri Nakhon Kuenkhan Park, Bang Krachao is home to a floating weekend market, a few small restaurants and a number of stilted homes. It was originally the settlement site of the Mons hill tribe.
Where: Bang Krachao, Phra Pradaeng, Samut Prakan
Public transport: MRT Klong Toey, taxi to Wat Klong Toey Nok, ฿5 ferry to Bang Krachao; BTS Bang Na, taxi to Bang Na Pier, ferry to Bang Krachao
4. Chinatown and Khao San Road
If you head towards the old city in the east of Bangkok, you’ll come to the Yaowarat Road – better known as Bangkok’s Chinatown district. A labyrinthine maze of small alleyways, Chinatown is stuffed to the brim with brilliant street food, shophouse stores and Chinese temples just waiting to be explored.
Once you’ve finished with Chinatown, take a 10-minute taxi to backpackers’ paradise, Khao San Road. A small street with enough character to fill most towns, Khao San is a strip of quirky bars, hostels and hawkers, and is a fun, cheap night out where people-watching opportunities abound.
Where: Yaowarat Road, Samphanthawong
Public transport: MRT Hua Lamphong; Chao Phraya Express Boat: Phra Athit Pier
While the nearby Grand Palace complex has a ฿500 entry fee and is reliably always full to the brim with tourists and tour groups, Wat Saket is a cheaper alternative as a Buddhist temple, usually free from the hordes of crowds, offering brilliant views over Bangkok to boot.
A beautiful golden chedi sits atop a man-made hill that requires an easy climb of around 300 steps. As well as the Golden Mount itself, the grounds are home to an ordination hall, cemetery, library and chapel with parts dating back to Thailand’s Ayutthaya kingdom.
Where: 344 Chakkraphat Diphong Road, Bang Bat
No BTS or MRT nearby
6. Chatuchak Market
As one of the largest weekend markets in the world, Chatuchak is a must-see when you’re looking for free things to do in Bangkok. With 27 sections across its 35 acres, the market semi-resembles a Moroccan souk with its winding alleyways and somewhat claustrophobic feel. You can get more or less anything you want here: from tourist tat to clothes to pets to plants to enough homeware to fully deck out your new Bangkok condo.
A couple of caveats: Chatuchak is incredibly popular, particularly with tourists, and it can be quite overwhelming mixing in with the crowds in the heat among the pungent smells and shouting hawkers. Although bartering is still encouraged, you’re unlikely to score the level of bargains that you would at less tourist-heavy markets.
Top tip: Pick up the Nancy Chandler map of Bangkok to get the best rundown of the market sections.
Where: 587/10 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Road, Chatuchak
Public transport: BTS Mo Chit; MRT Chatuchak Park/Kampheng Phet
Open from Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday
Just steps away from Asok BTS station is Kamthieng House; a museum within a traditional Lanna home. Uplifted from the banks of the Ping River in Chiang Mai in the 1960s, the house and exhibits within teach you about life within a rural Thai community in the 1800s, and the prevalent farming culture of the time.
Numerous artefacts are to be found within the dual level house, showing everything from a typical Thai kitchen to merit-making traditions. Kamthieng provides a fascinating insight into Thai history and is an excellent example of daily life in a Lanna household. It takes around an hour to explore.
Where: 131 Sukhumvit Soi 21
Public transport: BTS Asok; MRT Sukhumvit
Cost: Free (plus drinks!)
Found around half way down the nightlife hub of Sukhumvit Soi 11, Cheap Charlie’s is an utterly unique dive bar that lives up to it’s name – the drinks are indeed cheap, with beers starting from ฿60. Actually located outside with just an overhanging roof for shelter, the eclectically decorated bar is a meeting place for the weird and wonderful expats of Bangkok, and a great people-watching spot.
There are a few makeshift tables within its small perimeter but these tend to get snapped up pretty quickly so you’ll likely find yourself standing with your bargain whisky soda. Whether you’re there for the cheap drinks or simply a starting point before a Soi 11 bar crawl, you’ll certainly have an experience at Cheap Charlie’s. Just remember – no pooping, ladies.
Where: Sukhumvit Soi 11
Public transport: BTS Nana
Located on the riverfront of the Chao Phraya, Asiatique used to be a large trading port but is now a large, open-air night market that hasn’t yet been overrode by tourists. As well as normal shops, there’s plenty of market-style stalls with very reasonable prices – that require much less ferocious bartering than at Chatuchak – as well as a selection of restaurants and low-key eateries.
If you’re looking for some entertainment – and are prepared to part with a few baht – there are a few attractions on offer too, including a ferris wheel, ladyboy cabaret and traditional puppet show. The best way of getting to Asiatique is to catch the free shuttle boat from Saphan Taksin Pier near Saphan Taksin BTS station.
Where: 2194 Charoen Krung Road, Bang Kho Laem
Public transport: BTS Saphan Taksin + free Asiatique shuttle boat
Open from 5pm daily
10. MBK Fight Night
MBK’s legendary fight night is certainly one of the most thrilling cheap things to do in Bangkok. If you fancy watching some Muay Thai fighters in action without having to pay a penny, get yourself down to the MBK shopping mall when Fight Night is scheduled. Usually every Wednesday in season from 6pm, keep an eye on the event’s Facebook page to see when the next fighting season starts.
As many viewers have commented, these guys don’t mess around and the fighting is a masterclass in artistic brutality. Get there early to score a good spot and expect to see big Muay Thai names from both within the Kingdom and international stars.
Where: MBK Shopping Centre, Rama I Road
Public transport: BTS National Stadium
11. Wat Pho
From the brutal to the serene – Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s most beautiful temple complexes that is both much cheaper and much quieter than its neighbour, the Grand Palace. Perhaps best known for its 46-metre long reclining Buddha, there’s actually plenty to see in Wat Pho, including almost 100 chedis, around 400 Buddha images and a number of Chinese statues.
Wat Pho is also home to a community of monks who can be readily spotted walking within the grounds, and is the birthplace of Thai massage. If it’s not too busy, try and get a traditional massage to enjoy after you’ve explored the temple.
Where: Maharat Road, Rattanakosin
Public transport: Chao Phraya Express Boat: Tien Pier
Have we missed any great days out?
What are some of your favourite cheap things to do in Bangkok?