Khao San Road – In a Nutshell:
A one-kilometer stretch of strip located in the circle of the Old City, Khao San Road is close to Ratchadamnoen Avenue, which connects the area to many cultural and historical destinations in Bangkok.
Translated as “milled rice”, KSR used to be a market street where Thailand’s staple crop was sold.
Tourists visiting Southeast Asia are lured by the party vibe of Khao San Road, as depicted in The Beach, by Alex Garland – which was adapted into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
The book labels Khao San Road “the center of the backpacking universe”.
Khao San is always bustling with tourists from different parts of the world. Think of it as a stop gap between destinations for travelers to converge, refuel (with beer), discuss their expeditions and then buy a ticket for their next destination.
It's a cool place and certainly worth a visit, but the road itself is hardly a cultural experience.
It's just like any other busy strip, with the usual touristy to-do-list: eat and drink, shop, unwind, and party. That said, many young Thais, particularly university students, venture down there for a night out to be amongst the vibe.
Food and drink is in abundance and can be bought from street vendors, hawkers, and even upscale restaurants, depending on your preference and budget. And to relax, you can get a massage or manicure or pedicure from one of the many spa-type shops.
During the daytime, Khao San Road is a typical local market street with not that much appeal, but it comes alive at nighttime through the many bars and clubs and interesting characters.
One of the main attractions for travelers is that Khao San Road is near pickup points for tours. You can buy tickets on the strip and walk from your hotel or guesthouse to the bus/minivan.
Just a word of caution, though: prices may be generally cheap but do compare between travel agents and avoid those selling directly on the street.
How to Get to Khao San Road
If you're already in the Kok, you can make your way to KSR using the following modes of transort:
From downtown Bangkok, you can take the BTS Silom line heading toward Saphan Taksin station, before alighting at the central Sathon pier.
Another option is to take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to the Phra Arthit Pier, which is only a 10-minute walk to Khao San Road.
Traffic tends to be heavy in the Old City, so taking the riverboat may be one of the best options. In fact, you'll be lucky to find a taxi that will take you into this area at peak traffic times.
From Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang airport, an airport taxi ride to Khao San Road costs about 300-400 THB.
The rate is based on the distance counted by the meter, so see to it that the taxi driver switches the meter on. If you join the public taxi queue at the airport this won't be an issue.
Toll fees range from 50 – 120 THB, while an additional 50 THB tax is paid for hiring the taxi from the official airport stand.
Taking the bus is a bit of a long haul, but it can be done. From Suvarnabhumi airport, take the Airport Rail Link to Phaya Thai and catch a local bus to Khao San Road. From Don Muang airport, take the mainline train to Hualamphong terminal station before taking a bus to Khao San Road.
Depending where in the city you are you a tuk tuk ride could be an option. Just make sure you agree on a price with the driver before you ride, otherwise expected to get extorted on arrival.
A tuk tuk ride is a must experience at some point, but those in Bangkok tend not to be the most honest bunch and they can spot a new arrival who isn't clued up a mile away.
Also consider than the Bangkok air is pretty polluted, so riding open top, so to speak, through traffic is not the healthiest way to travel – particularly when the traffic is heavy.
12 Things to Do On & Around Khao San Road
1. Catch the Vibe
You don't actually need to do much to enjoy KSR. Grab a drink at a bar and soak up the ambience.
There are so many travelers around that you're bound to get into a conversation with someone and, if not, Thais are friendly and of course happy to keep serving you drinks and food.
Find your hotel, grab a massage, get some dinner, go for a drink. Or, if you don't drink, browse for a few cheap gifts for folks back home.
Once it hits 8pm things will start to bustle, and by 10/11pm it's alive.
2. Eat Local or Foreign Cuisine
Khao San Road is home to several restaurants and food stalls offering a variety of local and world specialties.
Aside from authentic Thai cuisine, get a taste of foreign cuisine from restaurants that offer Italian, Indian, Israeli, and other Western dishes.
3. Check Out Soi Rambuttri
Khao San Road’s vibe can be overwhelming for some. Soi Rambuttri is an alternative, with similar goings on but less crowded.
4. Shop at Banglamphu Market
Khao San Road may offer everything but the kitchen sink, but the prices are better at Banglamphu Market.
Moreover, the experience is more localized because the goods aren’t solely targeted toward tourists.
5. See the Democracy Monument
Built in 1939, the monument marked the start of Thailand’s democracy in 1932. This historical place is in Ratchadamnoen, which is a walking distance from Khao San Road.
6. See the Views from Phra Sumen Fort
The Phra Sumen Fort on Phra Athit Road is just one of the many forts built to protect Thailand from attacks.
Majestic views of the Chao Phraya River can be viewed from the fort.
7. Visit Wat Chana Songkram
Wat Chana Songkram is a temple built in the 18th century that serves as a shrine to King Taksin.
King Taksin was considered one of the greatest Kings of Thailand, ruling from 1768 to 1782. Born of a marriage between a Chinese and a Siamese, he rose to prominence and position.
When Ayudhya met its end, he rode with his army towards the now Bangkok and established the Kingdom of Thonburi (1).
8. Explore Wat Bowonniwet Vihara
Wat Bowonniwet Vihara is the final resting place of two former kings of Chakri Dynasty; King Vajiravudh Rama VI, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej Rama IX.
The golden chedi at the wat‘s shrine carries the relics and ashes of Thai royals. The T-shaped bot holds a magnificent Sukhothai-period Buddha, cast in 1257 CE to celebrate freedom from the Khmers (2).
9. Get an Authentic Thai Massage
If your legs are tired from walking and your brain frazzled from jetlag, Khao San Road and Soi Rambuttri offer Thai massage at fairly cheap prices. You can get an hour for 200-300 Baht.
10. Buy a Used Book at Shaman Bookstore
I dig Khao San Road for the books, and a number of used book stores are spread along the stretch.
Shaman Bookstore stands out as it has two branches that offer the largest collection of used paperbacks. Definitely worth a browse.
11. Take a Muay Thai Class at Sor Vorapin Gym
If you're used to keeping fit back home, you may have let your regime slide while on the road. Make up for your laziness with a Muay Thai session.
Known for training Thai champions, Vorapin Muay Thai Gym is the closest Muay Thai gym to Khao San Road. It offers group or private classes for varying skill levels.
12. Stroll Along Phra Athit Road
Artsy people will enjoy walking along Phra Athit Road, as the aesthetics of the cafes and restaurants are pretty cool. It's a free leg-stretch with some interesting sights.
5 Bars Worth a Visit
1. The Brick Bar
Located in the same building as Buddy Lodge, The Brick Bar is famous for live bands that play groovy music.
Different bands play in the bar, but the house band is the main attractions. Drinks tend to be pricey, but it’s the ambiance that attracts a huge crowd. On weekdays there's no door fee but on the weekends entry will cost you 300 THB.
2. Molly 31st
This bar on Soi Rambuttri has a cover song band on the first floor and a DJ that plays upbeat music on the second floor.
Molly 31st is a white-washed house with tables and fairy lights outdoors that provide a chilled vibe as you watch people pass along the street.
3. Tak Sura
Located on Tanao Road, Tak Sura is set in a Victorian-styled house that has a retro feel. It is frequented by university students rather than tourists and the atmosphere is a tad more relaxing than other bars as it is outside the main Khao San strip.
4. Adhere the 13th
Located on Samsen Road, this bar is a live music joint that offers some of the cheapest beer prices around. Adhere the 13th is small and gets full pretty quick, so you might want to arrive early and get seated before the band starts playing at 8 PM.
5. Day of the Dead
This bar is the definition of partying and lures a huge crowd to its five-storey structure. Mexican food and rock tunes are the main highlights, which is pretty unique compared to the other bars in the area.
Best Places to Stay
Best High-End Hotels
- SSIP Boutique Dhevej Bangkok
With four stars under its belt, this hotel near Phra Athit and Samsen guarantees a luxurious staycation experience.
- Nouvo City Hotel
This four-star hotel on Samsen Soi 2 is within walking distance from Khao San Road and Phra Athit Road and offers a wide selection of rooms and suites.
Best Mid-Range Hotels
- Baan Chart Hotel
This three-star hotel on Chakrapong Road is a minute away from Khao San Road and boasts a swimming pool on its rooftop, which is rare for backpacker accommodations in the area.
- Tara Place
This property on Samsen Road may take you five minute's walk from Khao San Road, but its location is ideal if you want your hotel to be away from the noise of KSR.
Best Budget Hostels
- Laksameenarai Guesthouse
Laksameenarai Guesthouse on Trokmayom will require you to walk 10+ minutes from Khao San Road but the quiet atmosphere in its private rooms is rarely found at this sort of budget.
- Khaosan Immjai Hostel
Khaosan Immjai Hostel on Samsen Road is a backpacker-friendly place, as it is not only very near Khao San Road but also offers cheap dorm beds at around 300 Baht per night.
- 3Howw Hostel at Khaosan
3Howw Hostel at Khaosan, located on Samsen Soi 4, has a minimalistic feel and offers a wide range of room options from dorm beds and rooms with shared bathrooms to private rooms.
Top 10 Khao San Road Tips
- Note that street food in Soi Rambuttri is generally better than that found in Khao San. There's more local variety there too.
- Go to Soi Rambuttri for a more relaxed vibe, and to Phra Athit Road if you’re looking for an artsy chill.
- Food stalls in Soi Rambuttri are open until the wee hours of the morning, whereas those on Khao San Road close at 2 AM.
- When catching a ride to any place from Khao San Road, first walk a couple of blocks before hailing a taxi or tuk tuk. Using Khao San Road as your starting point will usually mean a higher price.
- For an authentic Thai experience, head to The Brick Bar which is located behind McDonald’s. Here they play Thai music and the market there is geared towards locals not tourists.
- If you want the company of other backpackers, head to the drinking stalls located outside of the Center Khao San.
- For a great deal on a room, try D&D Inn. They offer air-conditioned rooms tied with a breakfast for only 500 THB per night. Plus they have a pool.
- Avoid buying suits and jewelry here. The quality is mediocre compared to the prices they are sold at.
- Scammers and pickpockets do operate in the area. Keep your belongings in a safe bag strapped across your body in front of you. If you have a backpack wear it on your front. Don't leave your bag alone. Don't buy tickets and services from hustlers.
- Before buying tickets for onward destinations, compare prices between travel agents, or simply use the safe and secure 12GO.com
Enjoy your time at Khao San Road. There's a lot of memories to be collected here.
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