Thailand: 3 days in Bangkok with kids
Like most travellers, Bangkok may well be your first port of call on your South East Asia travelling itinerary. And it will certainly open your eyes! It provides a good idea into the sights, smells and sounds you will get across South East Asia. For a city it’s very easy to get around and there are lots of things to do in Bangkok with kids!
You’ll have heard names before you’ve even arrived, such as Khao San road, reclining Buddha, Golden palace, Wat Arun, floating markets etc.. For an idea of things to do then visit www.bangkok.com It has a comprehensive list of things to see and do.
We spent just 3 days here this time, but both Keith and I have travelled here 20 years ago during our backpacking days. It hasn’t changed too much and was nice to reminisce about our wilder days! Being back we found there are lots of activities you can enjoy in Bangkok with kids too:
When to go?
It’s the heat in Bangkok that will prevent you from exploring this city as things get very hot! However, that being said it’s hot all year round! The hottest time of year is March to May and then it tends to get rainy, although these are bursts rather than prolonged days on end. December to February can be a little cooler (evenings drop below 20 degrees!).
So I think the main aspect you need to look at is how to manage the heat in Bangkok with kids.
One of the questions we are asked often is how to get a SIM card. So I thought I’d include what we got.
We opted for the AIS SIM card. This cost Bhat 490 (around £12) for unlimited data for 15 days with reduced speed after 7.5 mb.
We went to a local AIS shop in Bangkok (look on Google maps) and took our passports. They remove your SIM and put the new one in and set everything up. Make sure you have data before leaving the shop. And you’re done! Easy.
Using Google maps while on the move, using grab to book taxis and generally being able to look up restaurants or places to go, makes life so much easier on the move!
This is a great information sheet on ways to get around Bangkok
For us, we travelled by ferry, local bus, sky rail and tuk tuk!
To travel by ferry we paid 15 baht pp on the orange line boat. We got on at Phra Arthit, which is closest to Khao San road. You can buy tickets at the counter there. Alternatively the Hop on hop off was baht 60 pp and was a bigger cataraman – no fun in that!
We also travelled to and from Chatachuk markets. Our hotel gave us the details of the bus. Or you can find the information in Google maps. The air con Bus was 68 bhat per family of 4 to market.
On return we opted for a non air con bus , which was 32 bhat per family of 4 from market.
Finally, we wanted to experience the more modern (and air con) transport of the sky rail. This cost us bhat 140 for a family of 4 to travel from Sathon to Siem paragon mall.
Keeping cool in Bangkok
One of the best ways to keep cool is to have a pool! However, not everyone (especially travellers on a budget like us) can afford to stay in places with a pool. This is a luxury item! However, there are other ways in which you can stay cool.
Childrens Discovery museum
My investigations threw in this stop as a great place for kids. It’s completely free (you just need to bring a copy of your passport) and there’s a splash area (on a set times during the day). Check it out here.
And there’s an air conditioned indoor area spread over 3 floors. It’s aimed at 2 to 12 year olds with creative and interactive stations. It’s all in Thai but the staff are very helpful. You have to put your name down for some items which are only on a certain times. Other areas you just wander through and enjoy the games and play areas at your will. Our boys (Age 10 and 8) really enjoyed it.
If you feel like getting sweaty there is a large outdoor play area too! However, there was no cafe on site so make sure you bring drinks and snacks with you. (You’ll find a 7 eleven just down the road).
If you manage to be in the area over a weekend then next door are the biggest covered markets in Bangkok! They are so huge you need a map to get around them.
As they are undercover you can feel a little cooler and there are fans dotted about.
If you start your adventure with a trip to the markets and then after head to the Childrens Discover museum to cool off afterwards.
Butterfly and Insect Sanctuary
We decided to go here as another air conditioned & free destination, but also the boys like bugs. However, it’s a bit of a walk in the heat and when we got there we didn’t find much to see. It wasn’t really worth it in my opinion. But if cooler it would have been a nice garden to walk or cycle around.
I’d seen this mentioned a few times before we left to go travelling and loved the idea of it. But the cost again doesn’t meet our criteria (£30 per child & £15 per adult). But a day of the kids going to play while the mums and dads sit back and enjoy some downtime! ooh, what’s not to like. Happy kids = happy parents! Again check discount sites like Klook for deals!! www.bangkok.kidzania.com
Being a city you will find lots of malls around the city. These can be a great place to cool down, especially if you had to check out of your accommodation – like us. On days like this we tend to find a mall with a cinema and kill a few hours watching a movie! Although bear in mind they blast the air conditioning on in these places so you actually need a jumper!
Siam Paragon Mall
This place was huge, there is an IMAX cinema on the top floor and a huge food court on the bottom floor as well as hundreds of shops in between. In addition, the large SeaLife Aquarium is based here. However, I had read reports beforehand that it is VERY expensive! If you are planning to go I head read that you can book tickets through www.klook.com for cheaper – but you may need to check this!
As it was we went to SF cinema city as it was cheaper, but close by!
The Mall Bangkae
This mall is largely unknown to tourists but houses a rooftop water park called Fantasia lagoon. Entry cost is 220 bhat for adults and 130 for kids, which is fairly cheap for the size. We didn’t get chance to go as we ran out of time. The mall itself looks like a fabulous indoor area with huge waterfall inside, cinemas and the usual plethora of shops.
If we go back to Bangkok I would definitely include this into our itinerary on hot days!
Bangkok has a host of cultural temples and activities for you to enjoy:
Note: if you plan to visit any temples it is expected that you must have your shoulders and knees covered to enter.
This is a place of grandeur and a highlight for many visiting Bangkok. It’s also walking distance from Khao san road so makes it easily accessible. It is described as the spiritual heart of Thailand and as such is very, very popular. If you plan to visit you should plan to arrive early (when the doors open) as the queues are impossibly long!
Within the complex there are several temples, one housing the famous Emerald Buddha. Get your cameras read as there are lots of features, statues, buildings and glamour for you to take photos of!
Keith and I had visited 20 years ago and were deterred from returning this time as the costs have increased significantly. It’s 500 bhat to enter per person (including the kids).
We walked towards it, but Jasper wasn’t feeling too well that day and with Keith went to have a look with Ethan he felt it was too busy and expensive
Wat Po (reclining Buddha)
Just down the road from the Grand Palace, this is where the large golden reclining buddha is housed. You can walk into the initial courtyard area but entry to the actual temple where the buddha is costs 200 bhat (£5).
Temple across the river and easy to reach with a 4 bhat (10p) ferry crossing. It’s smaller than the other temples but for only 50 bhat it’s one of the cheaper ones with lots of ornate features. If you cross back to the other side of the river, you will find cameras point in that direction as sunset pictures are a highlight here!
Whereas once Damneon Saduak was a local event which tourists visited. It has now become more of a touristy attraction. However, boats are still piled high with brightly coloured fresh fruit and vegetables. Also you will find food vendors fill their vessels with local produce ready to whip you up a bowl of noodles or seafood skewers.
I believe Amphawa floating market has a more authentic feel, although smaller than Damneon Saduak. From here you can also take one of the many longtail boats to explore the surrounding canals and rivers.
Chao Phraya River ferries
A great way to see the city and to catch a bit of a breeze is to ride a ferry on the Chao Phraya River. We caught a boat near Khao San Road and travelled further into the city, getting off at Sathorn Pier in order to get the skyrail to Siam Paragon Mall. It only cost 15 bhat per person.
However, you don’t have to have a destination in mind, you can just jump on and have a ride around and then come back. Google Maps is great for listing the different ways to get around a city!
Khao San Road
This is a must see place if you plan a visit to Bangkok. A place of hustle and bustle, street foods, markets, restaurants, bars & noise – lots of noise. It has always been known as the backpacker area, and it was… 20 years ago. But now it is more touristy and has expanded into nearby roads!
You can find a few quieter spots around the area but for the most part, just go with the craziness.
You can’t arrive in Bangkok and not experience a tuk-tuk ride! It’s a fast and crazy ride but you’ll love it! But be warned if they offer you a very cheap price, there’s always a catch! 20 years ago we got taken to a tailor shop to ‘just have a look’. I’m not sure if this still happens but I’m sure it does! Be clear on where you want to go.
Also, download an app called Grab before you go. If you enter the ‘from’ and ‘to’ destinations it will give you an idea of the cost you can expect to pay. That way you know where you can barter – which is part of the fun! Or if you can’t be bothered then just book using the Grab app!
Where to stay
There is so much choice, it depends on what you want. But we decided to return to Khao San Road but stayed a few streets away so as to not be disturbed by noise. We stayed at a hostel called Full House, It was a very nice quiet room (albeit we were on the 5th floor so were thankful of air con when we got in our room!). The staff were lovely and we were a stones throw from all the action.
Where to eat
Being in Khao San Road, there are endless choices for food. But most of the restaurants are outdoor eating with only a fan to cool you down. Not so great when the temperature is still 33 degrees at night! However, we liked:
Green House – for breakfast. Most of the restaurants around the area had similar menus and prices but this one was different. You got handed a cool refreshing towel when you sat down. There was lots of choice for thai and western foods and the service was great.
Max’s Magic Thai Food – this place was really busy. The food was o.k and prices reasonable but I think it was busy due to the magic tricks that are offered at your table. There are a couple of tables indoors in air con if you find the heat outside too much – which we did one day!
Street food – based at the bottom of Khao san road. There are a number of street stalls with plastic chairs and tables. We didn’t stop here, but heard the Thai chef explains to some westeners ‘spicy’ and ‘not spicy’. There isn’t a huge variety of food here but you can get curries with rice. It’s a case of point, pay and eat!
As well as these stalls you’ll find a couple in Khao san road selling insects or pancakes. There’s plenty of choice for everyone.
7-eleven – sometimes you’ve just had enough of eating out and our ‘go-to’ is to just have a pot noodle or a ham and cheese toastie from the 7-eleven and eat back in our room. They 7-elevens are dotted everywhere and will heat up the meals for you. Cheap and easy alternative!
Another area I’d look at for cheaper prices is rambuttri (not the alley…, across the road!). It’s the road leading towards the river. There are a few hostels and smaller restaurants down here that looked to be cheaper. It’s also much quieter if you want to escape the madness!
We love Bangkok – there’s so much to do. But bear in mind if it is your first stop, you may be suffering with Jetlag. This makes it tougher to get around so allow yourself time to adjust. Other than that, get out there and see what there is to do. We enjoy walking around cities to just see the locals.
But you can also get adventurous and use the local transport. There’s buses (some air con), ferries, longtail boats, skyrail, taxis and tuk-tuk’s. Exploring Bangkok is the best part about being in Bangkok!
There are lots of family friendly activities, but try and get out early to avoid the worst of the heat. Once it starts heating up then get indoors or get wet and enjoy one of the activities listed above!