Tuk Tuk Tours
Explore Bangkok by the iconic tuk tuk
Bangkok might be mildly more expensive than other less trodden places in Thailand, but it’s still known as a cheap destination to travel to. Chances are you get far more bang for your buck in Bangkok than you do in your own city. But it can get better still – Bangkok is full of free things to do and see. Apart from simply walking around (which is actually a great way to Experience the city), here’s our pick of how to experience Bangkok for free.
Thai-style boxing, known as muay thai, is the national sport, but tickets for a front-row seat at mainstream boxing stadiums can often be pricey, especially for foreigners who are frequently charged many times more for admission than locals. But there is a free option – you can take in the experience of a Thai boxing match for free every Wednesday night, right outside the popular MBK shopping centre at National Stadium station on the Skytrain’s Silom line. Matches kick off at 6pm and run until 8.30pm – get there early for a good spot! You can find more details about upcoming matches on the MBK Fight Night Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mbkfn.
Many of Bangkok’s most popular temples charge an entry fee and, while some are inexpensive, at others the costs can quickly mount up. The good news is that at many (though not all) of these temples, if you visit in the early morning when locals are making offerings to the temple and monks, you’ll likely be able to enter for free. You may even find that the admission fee booth hasn’t yet opened when you visit. Even still, it is often appropriate to make a small donation.
Better still, many temples that are less popular with tourists are free to enter at all times. Wat Kalaya is one example, and we visit it on our Diversity & Harmony walking tour, while we also love peaceful Wat Ratchabophit and Thonburi’s Wat Rakhang. On certain days when ceremonies are taking place, particularly around the King’s Birthday in December, even the Grand Palace offers free admission to part or all of the complex.
Other religious centres in Bangkok that don’t charge for admission include Tonson Mosque, Assumption Cathedral and Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, also known as Wat Kaek.
Not many of us would usually consider visiting a city’s international airport unless we had a flight to catch, but Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport has an unexpected attraction. The airport recently opened a 23km cycle track with completely free admission. There are toilets, parking is available nearby and there is even an 800m beginner’s track (also open to runners and joggers) to get you started. You may be asked to leave a copy of your passport when entering; the track is open from 6am to 7pm, with last entry at 6pm.
The majority of museums in Bangkok charge admission fees – much like temples, these are often not wildly expensive, but costs can still begin to mount up, particularly if you are travelling as a family or large group. Keep in mind, though, that many museums offer free admission on Thai public holidays. Watch out for the next holiday – we publish blog posts about them a little before each one, and our post on the year’s celebrations and festivals in Bangkok has a round-up of most of them – and you could score free entry to spots like Museum Siam and Ancient Siam.
One of Bangkok’s most underrated attractions is the totally free Bangkok Art & Culture Centre, located at National Stadium station on the Skytrain’s Silom line. This temple of modern art is relaxed and informal, with exhibitions across its many floors and several people’s galleries with contributions from amateur and professional photographers and artists. The centre also has a number of quirky boutiques and coffee shops selling a range of goods you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Open 10am-9pm; closed Mondays.
Bangkok has a deceptively large number of green open spaces, and they can make for the perfect spot to escape the city’s bumper-to-bumper traffic while enjoying a picnic or just relaxing in the shade of a tree. All of the capital’s parks are free to enter – some of our favourites include Chatuchak’s Suan Rot Fai, the famous Lumpini Park, Benjasiri Park in Phrom Phong, and the Princess Mother Memorial Park in Thonburi district, which we visit on our Diversity & Harmony walking tour.
One of Bangkok’s more difficult-to-find attractions, Baan Silapin – often translated as the Artist’s House – is a canalside neighbourhood of creatives set on the Thonburi side of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river. There are a number of small boutiques open at the weekends, and you can buy bread to feed the fish in the canal, or buy a theatrical papier-mâché mask to paint yourself. There’s also great Thai food to be had, and at 2pm every day except Wednesday local puppeteers put on an authentic 15-minute puppet show that’s totally free of charge (donations accepted). Baan Silapin is located on Charoen Sanitwong Soi 3.
That’s right, you can take a free tour of Bangkok – and discover some of the city’s hidden secrets – with Expique. Our Free Tours on Friday allow us to try out our latest ideas for Bangkok tours, and give you the chance to see something new for little or no money. At the end of each tour, we simply ask you to pay what you think the tour was worth – and, after allowing for the costs of running the tour, we donate the majority to charity. Find out more about our Free Tours on Friday here.
Alternatively if you love architecture and prefer to explore by bicycle then look out for Sunday morning cycles with the Bangkok Architecture Tour on the Bike group who host a tour 1 or 2 sundays per month.
What are your favourite free things to do in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
Muay thai photo by Thomas Sauzedde; Bangkok Art & Culture Centre photo by Connie Ma; Lumpini Park photo by Eric Molina; free tour photo by Expique; all other photos by Chris Wotton.