Thailand is known for being a fairly cheap destination but, as with most places in the world, prices do rise in the capital city of Bangkok. A stay in Bangkok can actually be pretty pricey, with designer shopping malls, luxury hotels, decadent spas, gourmet restaurants, and swanky bars all waiting to tempt and seduce! And, of course, men especially will find other expensive seductions too!
You’ll be pleased to know that there are, however, some top attractions and activities that won’t break the bank and cause you to blow your budget. Bangkok is a city that can be enjoyed on almost any budget, with broke backpackers, flash jetsetters, and everyone in between finding plenty of ways to enjoy the pulsating city.
Here are 5 great things to do in Bangkok for less than 5 USD to help your holiday funds stretch for longer:
1. Experience a spiritual moment at one of Bangkok’s gleaming temples
Bangkok is home to many beautiful temples, each offering something different for visitors to admire. There are many Buddhist temples, as well as Hindu temples and those dedicated to a variety of other beliefs, such as Taoism and Confucianism.
Many offer admission for less than 5 USD (approximately 181 THB), with some completely free for visitors (although donations are welcome).
One of Bangkok’s most famous temples, and a popular tourist attraction, is the beautiful riverside gem of Wat Arun. Admission for non-Thai visitors costs just 50 THB (approximately 1.40 USD). Also known as Wat Chaeng (the Temple of the Dawn), you can admire the soaring spires with their glittering porcelain, see numerous Buddha statues and images, and soak up the spiritual atmosphere. You can also climb the central pagoda for fabulous views over the surrounding areas. Do take care on the steep steps though! A revered temple where locals go to pray and make merit, visitors are asked to dress respectfully, with shoulders and knees covered.
Wat Saket is a recognisable Bangkok landmark, the glittering golden pagoda sitting on top of an artificial hill. The complex is also referred to as Phu Khao Thong (Golden Mount). Wander through the eerie cemetery at the base before you begin climbing the steps that twist around the hill. There are around 300 steps; make sure you have a bottle of water. The way up is lined with attractive statues showing the signs of the Chinese horoscope. Pause a while to enjoy the views and snap a selfie with your own sign! The pagoda at the top contains sacred relics. Most of the complex is free to enjoy, but there is a small charge of 10 THB (approximately 0.30 USD) to get to the very top.
Other recommended temples that cost less than 5 USD to enjoy include the city’s main Hindu temple of Sri Maha Marriaman / Wat Khaek, Wat Kalaya, Wat Mahatat, Wat Benjamabophit / the Marble Temple, Wat Traimit, and Wat Suthatthepwararam.
2. Gaze up at the ancient Giant Swing
Known in Thai as Sao Chingcha, the Giant Swing stands in the middle of the road outside Wat Suthatthepwararam. Standing at more than 20 metres (66 feet) tall, it is a towering vision of red wood. Only the frame remains today, with the actual swing having been removed.
A reconstructed version of the original Giant Swing, built in the 1780s, the swing was previously used as part of sacred ceremonies for the Brahmanic New Year. Brahmanism was an ancient religion from India, often said to be the beginnings of the Hindu religion. Brahmanism was a complex belief system, with great emphasis placed on nature and sacrifices to appease, honour, and satisfy the gods.
Standing in a public place, there is no charge to admire the Giant Swing and imagine what it was like when in use.
3. Stroll around the lively and colourful Chinatown area
Walking around Chinatown is absolutely free, and there are so many wonderful sights, sounds, and smells to experience. A hive of activity, feast your eyes on the shimmering gold in the area’s numerous gold shops, inhale the aromas of traditional Chinese dishes being prepared at street carts along the pavements, be dazzled by the neon flashing lights, and admire the abundance of lanterns, colourful temples, and traditional wooden shop houses.
The start of Chinatown is marked by a large ceremonial archway, and the area offers a rather distinct vibe to other parts of the city.
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4. Discover the city’s many bustling markets and decadent malls
There are many places to shop around Bangkok and, whilst treating yourself to a few purchases can quickly see your funds starting to dwindle, simply wandering around and soaking up the sights is totally free.
Whilst the opulent malls provide many opportunities for window shopping, they are well-worth visiting even if you don’t plan on taking a peek inside a single shop. The buildings themselves are often stunning modern pieces of architecture, with many eye-catching displays, statues, and pieces of public art. The malls are also ideal for enjoying a little air-conditioned comfort and escaping the sometimes oppressive Bangkok heat.
Admire the fountains outside Siam Paragon before stepping inside and enjoying the ever-changing displays. See an interesting shrine to the Hindu deity of Ganesh outside Central World, watch people ice skating on the ground floor, and see many interesting statues. Take a global tour at Terminal 21, with each floor designed around a major international city.
When it comes to markets, Bangkok certainly doesn’t disappoint! With a wide selection of interesting items on sale, and lively atmospheres to soak up, strolling through a Bangkok market is as much about the vibe as it is about the shopping.
The gigantic Chatuchak / Jatujak Weekend Market contains almost everything you could imagine, as well as some things that you probably wouldn’t expect. There are markets dedicated to flowers, food, and amulets, those that sit alongside the river, and some that operate only in the evenings. Some top choices include Patpong Night Market, Talad Rod Fai (also sometimes spelt as Talat / Dalat / Dalad Rot / Lod / Lot Fai), Khlong Toey Fresh Market, and Suan Lum Night Bazaar Ratchada.
5. Dine on tasty and cheap street food
Bangkok is known for its immense street food scene, and you’ll find street hawkers almost everywhere you go! Whether you’re looking for a full meal or a quick snack to keep you going for a bit longer, many street eats cost less than 5 USD. Prices are commonly 100 THB (approximately 2.75 USD) or less.
Pad Thai is often a popular cheap street meal for visitors, the fried noodles in perfect balance with the crunchy peanuts, soft egg, salty fish sauce, tangy tamarind, spicy chilli, and firm tofu. Vegetarian versions are available (with no fish sauce), and different meats may be added.
The widely-available som tam is another great choice. Watch as the vendors prepare the dish, bashing unripe strips of papaya with a pestle and mortar, mixing in lime, chilli, fish sauce, and ground peanuts, before finally adding tomato and serving with green beans and raw shredded cabbage.
If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, mango with sticky rice (khao niao mamuang) might just hit the right spot!
Fill up on street fare and stretch your travel budget further.
Other things to do around Bangkok for less than 5 USD
Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a few moments of peace in one of the city’s green and leafy parks. Free to enter, some top picks include Lumpini Park, Queen Sirikit Park, and Benchasiri Park. There are many interesting shrines and monuments around the city, including the famous Erawan Shrine, the unusual Tubtim Shrine, Democracy Monument, and Victory Monument.
Indulge diverse interests and tastes and explore Bangkok’s many cheap museums. These include the free Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Kamthieng House Museum (100 THB / 2.75 USD), the free and unusual Condom Museum, The Jim Thompson House (150 THB / 4.15 USD), the National Museum (40 THB / 1.10), and the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (free).
Book your trip to Bangkok and enjoy seeing the city for less.
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