As a young and freshly unemployed 23-year-old, I traveled to Bangkok, Thailand on my own. It was the first place I traveled to solo, not to mention internationally. Out of heartbreak and frustration, I booked an impromptu trip to Thailand for a month. I was originally planning on traveling throughout Thailand for three weeks, then a week in Bali. (I ended up staying in Thailand the whole time because of a motorbike accident, which I will get into later) (P.S. I got this flight for $360 round trip from LA, you can see how here).
But, I digress. Essentially, I was 23, naive, and excited but wary, so I extensively researched hostels across Thailand that I thought I could have the chance to meet other travelers, and of course, felt safe. Ultimately, I ended up cancelling and rebooking many of my hostel bookings, because as a solo backpacker, you just never know where you may want to go!
If you’re traveling internationally for the first time, you can read my Solo Traveler’s Mental Guide to Surviving Your First International Flight. I had flown from Los Angeles to Tokyo-Narita then onward to Bangkok, and honestly wish I had prepared myself for the shock just a bit more.
But if you’re looking at traveling to Thailand and stopping in Bangkok as a broke backpacker, these are my suggestions…
Before arriving, I had booked a bed for around $15/night at one of the newest, nicest hostels I could find, called Once Again Hostel. It was beautiful and clean, just as I was hoping it would be. It was fabulous for the price. 😍 (If you’re not sure about hostels, scroll to the bottom of this post for other accomodation tips!)
What I liked:
- Modern design
- Friendly Staff
- 24 hour attendants (for those late night flights)
- Personal storage container (right at the foot of your bed!) to lock up valuables
- Curtains for privacy
- Night lights in your bed space (for finding where the hell is my phone?!)
- Personal outlets (so you don’t have to worry about someone snatching your phone on the charger while you’re sleeping!)
It was just the place I needed to rest my head after the long 21 hour journey from Los Angeles to Bangkok, and to recover from my jetlag.
After a good bit of just sleeping (probably at least 12hrs?) I was ready to venture out nearby.
Take yourself on a walking tour of the city.
The hostel was walkable distance to many interesting places in Bangkok, so I decided to try my luck. I saw how spiritual Thailand is, and also influenced by their leadhership. If you notice in the photos, you can see giant billboards of their leaders throughout their intersections and such. They also had all SORTS of interesting bites to eat, and fresh animals for dinner… But the city was beautiful and had LOTS of interesting sights to see, especially for my young, naive American eyes.
Grab a Tuk Tuk and go on a temple tour.
After tiring myself and exhausting the area around me on foot, I took up the offer of a local Tuk Tuk driver (those little three wheeled bike/cart babies!) and went on an unofficial temple tour, where my Tuk Tuk driver patiently waited outside each stop for me to explore then move on to the next one.
It’s great to support the locals trying to support themselves, but still be wary. If they are trying to take you to a SPECIFIC place (besides a temple) they likely get commission there (nothing wrong with that, just make up your own mind if you want to spend time there.)
Also, DO NOT show your cash! This should be obvious, but if a local thinks you have money to throw, you can bet they will try to exploit that.
NEGOTIATE BEFORE YOU GET IN, and you should be good to go. 👍🏼
If you’re not sure what the cost should be, ask other travelers in your hostel or the front desk about what a reasonable price should be for what you’re looking for.
Thailand has Uber, Lyft, and Grab available. Take advantage of this by knowing the prices beforehand by booking on the app. However, Grab is less reliable than the other two, but often times cheaper. Be wary of any driver trying to swindle your or not show up at all on Grab.
Observe and appreciate the local culture.
The detail put into the temples of the city are still just as mesmerizing to look at in the photos. Take the time to admire the dedication and craftsmanship and beliefs of the culture. You are a guest in their country, take the time to appreciate what is important to the country’s people.
Consider getting a custom tailored dress/suit for cheap.
Near the end of the tour, your Tuk Tuk driver will likely try to drop you off at a custom tailor. These drivers are incentivised because if you buy something, they receive a commission from bringing you there.
I chose to entertain them and myself a bit by looking what types of designs and materials this shop had to offer, and I ended up getting a custom dress (I picked the design, materials, and made modifications, it was pretty awesome actually) that they made for me within three days, including a fitting in between to make sure everything was right, and they will drop it off right at your hotel for you for no charge. Also, free beer while you wait, so that’s cool too. 😛
I got away with a gorgeous Hawaiian-wedding-worthy dress for $150 that will last forever and fits like a glove.
(I also included a few photos in the gallery of me actually wearing the dress at a friend’s wedding, in case anyone was curious… I love the dress, still!)
Score some great deals on souvenirs and cocktails on Koh Sahn Road.
Lastly, the Tuk Tuk driver dropped me off at a now favorite of Koh Sahn Road where I bought numerous clothing items on the cheap, ranging from $3 to $12 each, including some of the comfiest pants I’ve ever owned (damn those cute elephant pants!). The hostel was a quick 10 minute walk back from here, so I was in no rush and walked around shopping and grabbing drinks a few drinks (*cough* BUCKETS lol, seriously). Made a new friend and scored some awesome deals.
Take advantage of the cheap luxury accomodation available.
I started the beginning of my Thailand adventures in Bangkok, and ended there too. Instead of booking a hostel, I booked this fabulous 4-STAR RESORT for $20/night! I booked just for the night before I was to fly back home, just to allow myself to get a decent night’s sleep and rearrange my luggage freely. Don’t some of these photos look like they could be straight out of an architecture magazine?
For those one night stays arriving or departing from a long haul flight, look for hotels near the airport that have Free shuttle to/from the airport and obviously, luxurious accommodations!
Looking back, I probably would have booked here the first night to get a peaceful night’s sleep and be able to rearrange my things to get ready for my adventures.
I honestly couldn’t even find what hotel this was, (sorry! If anyone recognizes it, please let me know!) but you can find TONS of gorgeous, luxury hotels in Bangkok for cheap on Booking.com.
Lastly, get out out of your comfort zone but be mindful.
You will see and hear of lots of strange things going on in Bangkok. Get out of your comfort zone and be open to events happening in the city. But, be EXTREMELY mindful of what you are supporting. Any show that involves animals IS abuse to the animals and should absolutely be avoided, please. Do your research!