Khao San Road (KSR to the locals) has been the haunt of backpackers and budget travellers for two decades and still one of the most vibrant streets in the whole of Bangkok. KSR itself is quite small, just a short street in an area called Banglamphu. But the name has grown to take in the surrounding streets as well, which trade off KSR’s fame and notoriety.
KSR is famous for its cheap 3-star hotels and guest houses where you can get a bed for the night for 200B, a meal on the street for 50B, and a lot more depending on what you’re looking for. It’s where many of the airport and railway station bus runs terminate and it has connections to locations all across Thailand.
It’s an area jam-packed with bars, restaurants, internet cafes, photo processing shops, money changers, pharmacies, small convenience supermarkets, massage places, muai thai boxing rings, hand laundries and all kinds of shops selling clothes, shoes, DVDs and anything else you might need or want. In between are some of the best designer clothing shops in Bangkok and lots of cheap places to stay.
It seems as though there’s a guest house or backpacker lodge behind every shop and down every lane way in Khao San Road. And it’s probably true when you realise how many people are actually staying in this area. If you really want to do it on the cheap there are places like Peachy Guesthouse where you can get a room for about USD$5 per night and you can eat a Thai dish with rice at the 7-11 for about USD$1.
If you don’t like to slum it with the backpackers, Phra Arthit Road is quite close by and has a range of more upmarket hotels and guest houses with very good rates. We normally stay at the New Siam Guesthouse No 1, 2 or 3 for less than USD$20 a night and its clean, well set up and very friendly, with great food and a good tour desk. We prefer to stay along Phra Arthit Road because it’s just a little quieter and more laid back than busy, glitzy KRS with its full-on nightlife and crazy Euro-backpacker crowd. In fact the lane that runs between Phra Arthit Road and Khao San Road, known as Soi Rambuttri, is one of the highlights of Bangkok for me.
I won’t talk about how to get into and out of KSR, because all the taxi and tuk tuk drivers know it and it’s a main stop on the Chao Phraya Express riverboat (Phra Arthit Pier).
KSR is about the food, the shopping and the people-watching, especially the people-watching. But there’s some damn good food and shopping to be had here too. One of the best places to shop in KSR is the Banglamphu Market which is just off KSR to the north. Here you can buy fake anything, from sunglasses to watches, handbags to DVDs, shoes to even books. And even if you don’t get into the market to shop, the market will come to you anywhere you sit to enjoy the vibe of KSR, courtesy of street sellers.
The best food is in the street carts that are there from early morning until very late at night, selling a range of Thai food including noodles and rice dishes, as well as curries and spicy soups, banana roti (pancakes – my favourite) and much more. There are also lots of restaurants and cafes of course, some of which are quite good, and if you’re feeling homesick you can get a fix of what you crave – McDonalds, Subway, Burger King and more.
Hotels near Khao San Road
If you would like to stay in the Khao San Road area, here are some hotels worth checking out. None of the hotels on KSR are particularly great, but these are better than average.
Marcopolo Hostel is a basic 1-star walk-up hostel right on Khao San Road which has 50 rooms, but only two room types – “comfortable” (basic double bed and not much more) and “convenience” (bigger bed, small desk and a bit more space). It doesn’t have a lot of amenities but it does have a swimming pool and a restaurant and you can walk outside right into the hubbub of KSR. It’s not quiet, so not really recommended for families, but it is cheap and does attract a lot of young travellers.
Khaosan Park Resort is a little more up-market 3-star hotel with 47 rooms, at the end of Khao San Road. It has single, twin and double rooms with a shower, with or without breakfast included. This hotel is probably more suited to middle-aged travellers who still want to be in the heart of the KSR action. Rooms are clean and comfortable and there’s lots of night life right outside. Expect to pay a refundable 1000 Bt room key deposit and about US$30 a night to stay here.
Rikka Inn doesn’t look much from the outside but most people who stay there are very happy with this 3-star hotel near the top of Khao San Road. It has a great rooftop swimming pool and it’s away from most of the noise on KSR. Some of the rooms are a bit small but they are nicely presented and good value for money. If you pay the extra for a room with a balcony, you can get the use of the terrace almost to yourself. It can be a bit noisy as there are many younger travellers staying here.
Buddy Boutique Inn is a 23-room, 3-star hotel on Chakrapong Road just off Khao San Road. It takes a little bit of getting used to, because the walls are not painted, but it’s location down a small Soi off KSR is very quiet and secluded. The rooms are comfortable, clean and stylish with everything you need including a fridge and safety deposit box, but some rooms have no windows. If you want a window, ask for a balcony room. Room key deposit is 500 Bt per night, which is pretty weird. It’s not easy to find, but if you locate the police station on KSR, then look for the 7-Eleven, it’s down the alley beside the 7-Eleven.
A video tour of Khao San Road
Here is a great walking tour of Khao San Road district to help you decide if this is the right place for you to base yourself in Bangkok.
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