Every good backpacker trip through Thailand starts right here: Khao San Road is the gateway for everyone who wants to explore Thailand or even the whole of Southeast Asia with a backpack. In this article, I’ll show you what the myth of Khao San Road is all about and give you a few insider tips if you want to experience more than morning hangovers from all-nighters and grilled scorpions on the side of the road.
Where is Khao San Road located?
Khao San Road is located in the Banglamphu district of Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. A real city center is hard to spot in the mega-metropolis of Bangkok, but nevertheless Khao San Road is centrally located and close to popular sights such as the Grand Palace with the famous temple Wat Phra Kaeo, the temple Wat Pho or the lesser known temple Wat Suthat.
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Hey, I’m Tatiana, a German-Brazilian living in Berlin & the author behind The Happy Jetlagger. I’ve been writing about my travels since 2014. In addition to my job as a flight attendant, this blog is my passion project!
By the way, another beautiful temple in Bangkok is Wat Traimit with its Golden Buddha!
Why Khao San Road is so famous
Somehow, Khao San Road has always been a point of attraction in Bangkok. The mix of stores, street food stalls, bars and restaurants fills the street with life around the clock. However, Khao San Road only became a must-see for every backpacker in 1996 with the novel “The Beach” by Alex Garland. In the book, the protagonist begins his Thailand trip right here amidst the hustle and bustle of cheap bars and debauched nightlife. The later film version with Leonardo DiCaprio did the rest and the myth around the Khao San Road was born.
Khao San Road: Now for everyone
Originally more of a meeting place for low-budget vacationers and backpackers, Khao San Road is now actually a must-see for any Bangkok visitor. In the evenings, the atmosphere ranges from parties to social gatherings, while during the day there are endless shopping opportunities. Street food is available around the clock anyway. Particularly popular photo motifs are snack stands with grilled insects, worms or scorpions, which are always used for culinary tests of courage. Even tattoo studios can be found here. I don’t want to know how many people wake up early in the morning with a tattoo as a souvenir: The nights on Khao San Road can get wild!
If you’re not into dancing the night away, you can also take it easy around Khao San Road. Between the bars there are always individual massage parlors where you can get your feet massaged in comfortable armchairs right on the street, for example. Personally, I don’t find it particularly appealing and always somehow a bit unhygienic, but people seem to be into it!
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Rambuttri Road: The laid-back alternative to Khao San
The parallel street, Rambuttri Road (or Rambuttri Alley), is much quieter. There you will find not only tourist hangouts, but also very cozy bars and unexpectedly hip food locations!
From the Molly Bar you can perfectly watch the hustle and bustle on the street, listen to music and enjoy the nightlife with a cocktail. And Camp Burger has really good burgers if you’re not into Thai cuisine.
Insider Tip: Samsen Road
I’ve been to Bangkok several times and I’m not necessarily one of those people who has to start a Thailand trip compulsorily near Khao San Road. For many, this is simply part of a perfect trip to Bangkok. Which I somehow can understand, because the vibe around Khao San Road is really special. During my last stay in Bangkok, I also ended up there rather by chance, because I had booked a hotel so spontaneously that I didn’t really realize where it was. However, it was still a 20 minute walk to Khao San Road. That way, I’ve discovered quite another insider tip!
If you’re in the mood for a cozy, tropical-warm evening with good food and want to escape the hustle and bustle of Khao San Road for a while, you only need to walk a few streets further in the direction of Samsen Road. Around Soi 2 (the side streets of a main street are often just numbered) you’ll find a cute little neighborhood with nice restaurants, like So Samsen. Along Samsen Road itself there are also some less touristy, exciting locations like Neighbourhood (address: 59, 61 Samsen Rd) for evening/nighttime or Ganja Café for daytime.
Shopping on Khao San Road
On Khao San Road and its surroundings you can shop for hours. However, the stores are very focused on tourists. So if you can’t see the infamous Elephant Pants anymore either, I recommend a visit to Chatuchak Market or The One Ratchada night market, which replaced the formerly popular Ratchada Train Night Market after the pandemic.
If you don’t have the time to go through the huge markets, I have a little shopping tip for you near Khao San Road: At something about us you can find nice little things like jewelry, accessories and stationery from local artists.
Where to stay near Khao San Road
In the immediate vicinity of Khao San Road you will find mainly low-budget accommodation, but now also typical tourist hotels. If you like to live in the middle of the party and tourist hustle and bustle, this is the place for you!
However, I find that there are so many great neighborhoods and exciting locations to stay in Bangkok that I tend to avoid the immediate area around Khao San Road.
I was super happy with my hotel, which was a little further away from the Khao San on Samsen Road. In general, I found the area surprisingly cool to stay in, very local and safe (but to be honest, I rarely feel unsafe in Bangkok anyway). I can definitely recommend the Lost in BKK as a hotel or hostel (there are both private and shared rooms)!
How to get to Khao San Road
There are direct bus connections to Khao San Road from both the major Suvarnabhumi Airport, where all long-haul flights land, and Don Mueang Airport, which is often served by low-cost airlines. Alternatively, you can take a cab or the Thai equivalent of Uber, Grab.
Suvarnabhumi Airport is also connected to the city by the Airport Rail Link, a skytrain. While this is super convenient and fast, it only has a few stations. To use it to get to Khao San Road, you would have to get off at Phaya Thai station, and then transfer to bus or cab.
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