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Bangkok Travel and Food Guide for Families (2024 Update)

Updated: May 27


Bangkok Guide for Families
The first steps in Bangkok come with an explosion of senses and feelings: Satisfaction, for escaping the northern (or southern) hemisphere winter, followed by a blow of hot and humid air bearing an amalgamation of scents. Steamed rice, stir fried fish, lemongrass, fragrant basil, aromatic fruits (yes fruits smell better in Thailand), fish sauce, the murky Chao Praya river and rotten food waste in the alleyways start creeping up your nostrils. Altogether forming the city's unique scent. Every city has its scent and this one is distinctively Bangkokian, and believe me, it will be part of your memories. Bangkok can be overwhelmingly busy and messy, but this is absolutely where its beauty lies! In all seriousness, it would be such a shame to skip this electrifying Asian mega-buzz city and its hedonistic charms. Strange means of transportation, enormous buildings, neon lights, temples, palaces, bazaars and flea markets, food stalls and chaotic overhead cables blend all together in this bustling capital and integral part of the Thai culture and lifestyle.
Not convinced yet?
Bangkok travel guide survival guide for families
Messy cabling at Bangrak Baazar, Silom

Contents



Getting to Bangkok

Buy a local SIM (or eSIM) Plan

After a long "red-eye" flight and before the jet lag fatigue kicks in for good, get yourself a Thai SIM card from the airport to avoid hefty roaming charges. £10-12 can buy you a good amount of data to get you going for 2-3 weeks and leave your roaming surcharge worries back home. Head to the Mobile network’s kiosks after you exit customs at Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), right outside of the International gates where people hold up signs. There are kiosks for Thailand’s main mobile operators – DTAC and AIS are the best in coverage and services. Choose the one with the shortest line and get a Tourist (or Traveller) SIM card. DTAC was the first company to offer Tourist SIM cards and the prepaid 300 Baht DTAC Tourist SIM is a good choice. It’s tri cut – works in iPhone and it comes with credit already, so you don’t need to load any on right away and it’s designed for tourists with both data and voice packages.


Thai eSIM

Alternatively, if your phone supports eSIM why not try an eSIM data package before you arrive from pioneer provider Airalo? 👈Click the link and search "Thailand" to find DTAC's eSIM package which is WOW, and is all you need for your stay in Thailand and will save you heaps from your roaming bill!

The way eSIM works is that you just have to install the app on your phone (Android and Apple supported) --> then buy the desired "eSIM" data package for Thailand by clicking my affiliate link above --> download and activate the eSIM before your travel (so you won't need wifi on arrival) --> on arrival just go to your SIM manager settings and make sure you use data from the eSIM. That will sort your data as these eSIM plans usually do not come with a telephone number so no call and text will be available. If you need to use call and text you can still use your physical SIM (which will coexist with the eSIM) but roaming charges will apply.


First Day

The first day was a bit of relaxation for us, checked in to our hotel, got a refreshing shower and some sleep and then a short walk to the surrounding area in the evening to get some food and a boat ride (we stayed close to the river) to Wat Arun which is gorgeous at sunset. For dinner, I suggest The Deck by Arun📌just at the opposite bank offering stunning views of Wat Arun. On your way to the Deck, grab a mango smoothie from the Make Me Mango📌 shop which specialises in Mango recipes. As you can imagine, the prices are a bit higher in the area due to the proximity to the river and the Grand Palace. But totally worth it and is a great first evening and a warm welcome to Thailand!

Wat Arun seen from The Deck balcony

The first night might be a bit fussy for young toddlers, but if you have done your homework properly (i.e. you’ve got his favourite formula milk, book/toy and a blanket/sleeping bag that smells “home”) they will soothe down relatively easily.


Spatial Awareness

Once kids are asleep, get some info from the hotel reception about where you are, your orientation and what's around you, like where to eat, where’s the nearest supermarket to get some essentials (like nappies, water and snacks basically), where's the nearest metro station and how to use the metro system which is very convenient for this city of endless traffic jams.



Getting Around Bangkok

Metro

Bangkok has a quite sophisticated and efficient fully air-conditioned Metropolitan Subway (the MRT) and an overhead lightweight Skytrain (the BTS). BTS runs also a line from the airport to the city. Landing with long-haul flight fatigue, a toddler and all his accessories, I found it much more convenient to get a taxi and start using the BTS at my own pace the next day.


River Boat

That's a really interesting thing to do and if you stay in Silom (see next section) you have the Sathon pier very close so you can ride a hop-on hop-off commuter boat that takes you to Wat Arun and the Old city, the major tourist attractions in Bangkok. What's best, the Chao Praya river boats beat the traffic jams, which can be horrendous in Bangkok.


Taxi

There are taxis and tuk-tuks almost everywhere. I recommend travelling with a lightweight folding buggy which will allow you to ride tuk-tuks. If you head to the top of this page and type PACKING LIST in the search field you will see posts with ideas for your shopping list. These colourful little "trikey" motorbikes are so lovely, much more convenient (being easily manoeuvrable in heavy traffic jams) but also part of Thai culture.

Also, make sure you download the taxi app “Grab” on your phone. It’s like Uber and is widely used in Asia. What’s best about Grab is that you don’t have to haggle with the taxi driver, the prices are the best you can get and they are fixed once you book, plus it's widely available in all cities and towns we visited across Thailand. It’s an official app and all drivers are background checked, like Uber, there’s nothing to worry about it.

Bear in mind there are rarely baby seats in taxis in Thailand so if you worry too much about safety in taxis, better get a seat belt extension and secure them on your lap.



Where to Stay in Bangkok

In a mega-city like this, there are plenty of options.

There are so many lovely places to stay in Bangkok but one has to pick the place best suited to their needs and style of travelling. I’ve stayed in Sukhumvit in the past when travelling solo on a budget; quite a controversial area but great for low-budget backpackers with cheap hotels and youth hostels, plenty of food, massage salons, wild nightlife and wicked bars. If you avoid the somewhat naughty "red light" district areas, Sukhumvit comes close to some nice (older) kids' activities like Funarium📌 or Imaginia📌 if you are interested in such things and you don't mind this vibe. Some others choose to stay in the Old City area which is close to all sights and especially by the river with swanky restaurants and boutique hotels. A very good choice but slightly more expensive.

This time we've chosen Silom/Sathon for some good reasons:



6 Reasons Silom (Sathon) is Great for Families

  1. Quiet and safe: not so many loud bars and nightlife around (although it’s close to the quite famous Sky Bar📌 and the Soi Patpong📌 night market), perfect for when you have young kids and seek some rest. Generally, Bangkok is safe and Thais are such a peaceful nation, yet, as in many mega-cities around the world, some areas might look a little intimidating. Silom/Sathon is a safe option and not intimidating at all. Always check the latest crime index and reports online. Here's a link to Numbeo that I always consult before traveling which gives a good overview of the cost of living and crime rates per city in the world. There's also this report by Bangkok's Metropolitan Administration (which may be outdated by the time you read this post) that breaks down nicely the crime index per area, with Sathon (or Silom) being one of the lowest.

  2. Best airport access: Although it may physically and spatially seem further from the airport compared to Sukhumvit when you look it on the map, Silom has a great advantage: it's actually faster to get to the airport as you have direct access to a high-speed 3-lane motorway that gets you there in 30-40 min. Staying in other areas means you will have to experience the awful Bangkok traffic (one of the worst in the world) let alone risk missing your flight.

  3. Walking distance to the river pier and major sights: Sathon pier is a saver when it comes to Bangkok sightseeing and old city visits, namely the 2 biggest monuments, Grand Palace and Wat Arun. Sathon Pier is only a few minutes walk from Silom which again is a lifesaver as you don’t need to grab a taxi and get stuck in traffic. The boat ride in the Chao Praya River is a great experience for the little ones.

  4. Great Food and Markets: Despite the lack of major tourist attractions, Silom is a lively neighbourhood. Whether it's the various handicraft night markets (like Bangrak Bazaar📌) or the plethora of dining options that tickle your fancy, a night out in Silom is a must on every itinerary. Having said that, Silom is home to some of the best fine dining restaurants with relatively lower prices compared to their European counterparts. Check my dining recommendations in the next section. Also, just behind the Sky Bar skyscraper there's a big department store with a supermarket, Robinson📌, with all necessary toiletries and western branded pharmaceuticals you will need for the little ones (nappies, dummies, wipes, lotions, creams, etc).

  5. Cooking classes: For Thai food lovers (like myself) who are seeking to acquire new cooking skills and techniques, I recommend Shompong📌 cookery school in Silom, one of the best in the city which also gives away a cookbook to take home after the class.

  6. Short ride to Lumpini Park and Chinatown. Although Lumpini Park is a joy and totally recommended for a toddler walk, Chinatown is actually very overwhelmingly crowded and can be a bit stressful for our little fellas. Lumpini can be also very busy as it's the most central park in Bangkok so if you seek something alternative I suggest spending a day in Bangkachao (see further down my post). Whatever you choose to do, this is a very busy city with many people hence you better get a backpack with a leash or a safety harness to keep these toddling penguins close to you. I also recommend an ID bracelet with your phone number written on it, because you never know. Take a look at my baby and toddler travel packing list or preschool kids travel packing list for some good product reviews that we have used and totally recommend.



Food at Bangkok

It is a rational concern for parents with young kids, how safe the food in Bangkok (and generally in Thailand) is to eat. Although the government does a lot of inspections (as I learned by reading local bloggers), there are so many food stalls across the city and the country that is almost impossible to regulate them all. Nobody wants to get sick from street food, particularly when on holiday, and you will notice that even locals prefer stalls that are well-kept. The general advice is to use your best judgement. For street food that is to aim for places like food courts/plazas known for their street food and mentioned in travel guides. These are more likely regulated than not.

Although we ate a lot of street food in Thailand, we followed some basic rules that I think kept us safe and healthy throughout the country and never got sick in our whole 3 weeks in Thailand:

  1. Made sure the food we ate from street stalls was well cooked: stir-fried, deep-fried or soup, and ate no raw salads. I know you'd love to try Papaya salad, but I’d recommend doing that in a restaurant instead.

  2. Always asked how spicy it is and ordered mild instead. Some bodies cannot tolerate spicy food; not least incredibly spicy food which can be a good reason to get sick without the food being contaminated.

  3. We avoided drinking smoothies from street stalls; the ice/water street vendors use might be questionable. You can find smoothies in every restaurant or little smoothie/juice shops which are everywhere. This is a thumb rule not only for Thailand but nearly every country.

  4. For the little one: we avoided giving him delicacies from the street (unless it was well well-cooked and not spicy) and we visited a restaurant every night. During the day, he snacked on the leftovers we kept from our hotel breakfast (we carried with us in our day packs this handy travel feeding bowl filled with food from the hotel buffet every day) and fruits that you can find literally sold everywhere. Get a Swiss army knife with you, mangoes are so delicious in Thailand!


Where and What to Eat in Silom/Sathon?

As a Thai food lover (you will notice a substantial number of Thai recipes in my Food blog) I’d say Bangkok is one of the greatest places in the world for foodies. Thai food is so fragrant, fresh, I'd dare to say quite healthy too, and a good value for money not to mention the variety of dishes is so vast that rarely someone will be disappointed. I’d recommend doing your research before you get there and saving some pins in your e-maps with places you want to visit.

Here are some of the top places we tried and liked around the Silom and Sathon area. They all offer baby seating and cutlery. Note that booking is optional but totally advisable when you travel with a baby. Click on the venue name to navigate and pin it 📌on Google maps:

  • Than Ying📌: Authentic traditional Thai food with a nice zen garden, great vibes and ambience. Try their signature "Khao Chae" a refreshing rice dish with pork and fermented radishes.

  • Baan Chiang📌: Located in a very quiet street, away from the city buzz and built in a refurbished old house maintaining the character and identity of ‘Baan’, meaning the traditional old Thai village house. The food is delicious and authentic and reasonably priced!

  • Mazzaro📌: Thai food with a modern twist, great presentation and a fancy industrial look interior deco. It was so good that we visited twice. Combine it with a visit to the nearby Wat Suan Phlu temple or Bangrak night market. Try the fried pineapple rice and the red curry duck, incredible! There's also pizza and pasta for kids. A bit more expensive than the average Thai tavern but worth it as you are getting some finer food.

  • Luka Café📌: missed your Western-type urban style hipstery brunch? Luka café is around that area for those feeling homesick.

  • Puffy Bakery📌: A small little friendly bakery serving baked goods based on coconut. Take away mainly. Their coconut pudding is signature and you must try it!

  • Sompong Cooking School📌: One of the things we enjoy doing when travelling to foodie destinations is getting to know the local cuisine, ingredients and learn cooking techniques of authentic local food. Sompong is one of the best schools in Bangkok, is in Silom and is a great day out with lots of food to stuff your face!

  • Tops Supermarket📌: I can’t stress how important it is and how lucky we were we had this big supermarket a stone's throw from our hotel. This big supermarket has all baby essentials, nappies, nappy pants, wipes, formula milk, food pouches and all the known brands too (Nestle etc). Local supermarkets refer to locals and therefore prices are very likely to be normal, unlike very touristy areas that rip you off. Gear up for the whole trip and top up with things you would buy for yourself, shampoo, bath gel, deodorant, toothpaste but also nice snack presents and tea for your colleagues back home for the best prices ever.

See also: 5 Thai desserts you should try in Thailand and also consider this lovely book about Street food in Thailand


Top 3 Things to Do in Bangkok with Kids

1. Bang Krachao (or Bang Kachao) park

Time: Half Day

While most people usually use the capital as their gateway to the islands, we opted for a different itinerary. Stayed longer in the capital, acclimatised, found our pace and favourite spots and explored more around the suburbs and nearby getaways, like this park. If you have days to spare, I think it is a good move especially to get the youngsters settled and used to the new environment. If it’s your first time in Thailand, definitely worth staying in vibrant Bangkok and experiencing its charms. Speaking of which, Bangkachao is literally an island in the city. An off-the-beaten-track tropical oasis with coconut and mango trees that has escaped the dense development seen elsewhere in Bangkok and stands out from the urban landscape (hence the nickname “green lung").


To get there you will need a taxi to take you to Wat Klong Toei Nok📌 temple first (that you can also check). Right next to the temple, in a small alley is the pier with raft boats waiting for passengers to cross the river. Buy a return ticket, it's cheaper. Once you cross, you will land directly at the M-bike📌 renting company by the dock. A very helpful and polite family-owned business will assist with your bike choice. They even got bikes with a basket for your little toddler too. All for just 60-80 THB for the whole day (around £2).

Thailand Guide for Families
This boat will wait for you for the crossing
Thailand Guide for Families
The pier on the opposite side of the river overlooking the city

Bangkok guide for families
Bike ride at Bang Krachao

Bang Kachao Bike Tour: I'd suggest getting there on a weekend as you will be able to see an off-the-beaten-track authentic floating market without hordes of tourists and the waving selfie sticks. From the dock, ride straight to the Bang Nam Phueng floating market📌 (15-20 min cycling) which is open only Saturdays/Sundays and closes relatively early (2-3pm). You can have lunch there, there are quite a few street food stalls cooking with fresh produce from the market. Then ride back towards Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Botanical Garden📌 (15 min ride) and the bird watching tower📌 to enjoy the views of mango trees from above...feels like a treetop House. Take a break for a pee, nappy change and a refreshing drink at the nearby Coconut Bar📌 before driving back to the starting point, to drop the bikes and catch the boat back to where you started.


Bang Nam Phueng floating market Bang Krachao
Lunch break at Bang Nam Phueng floating market (point B in the map)

2. Chatuchak Weekend Market

Time: Whole Day for a relaxed stroll, half-day if you are in a rush

Despite being within the urban complex of Bangkok, it’s a little bit remote from the city centre and might need a day to spare if you are up for serious shopping and kids' activities. You can find everything here, clothing accessories, kitchenware, tableware, furniture, souvenirs, gifts, you name it. My advice to everyone travelling to Bangkok is to pack light from home and do some shopping at this market. Oh, and once you are there, don't forget to pack a pair (or two) of these Thai fisherman pants or patterned harem/yoga pants; they are super light, fold easily in your daypack, comfy, protect you from sunburns and you need them for temple visits.


Chatuchak for babies and toddlers:

  • Chatuchak market has narrow passages so a small lightweight travel stroller is recommended (check my packing lists for product reviews - head to the top of this page and type PACKING LIST in the search field you will see posts with ideas for your shopping list). A lightweight travel stroller is recommended not only for this market but all markets in Thailand.

  • There is also an indoor air-conditioned facility, the Mixt shopping centre📌 where you can take a break for a nappy change, a wee and lunch and let your toddler to have some fun in the kids' soft play area located at the ground floor.

  • If it's not too hot, visit the park next to the market where the Children's discovery museum📌 is. Mainly a science-focused museum featuring interactive indoor & outdoor exhibits for kids, plus a water park (you need some form of ID to get in).

Read more about Chatuchak here.

3. Day trip to Ayutthaya

Our trip to Ayutthaya was supposed to be a stopover on an overnight train en route to Chiang Mai. However, as we were not proactive enough to book our tickets well in advance, we found no beds available on the sleeper train to Chiang Mai for the dates we wanted to travel. So our visit to Ayutthaya was a day trip from Bangkok, which was not bad at all. Trains to Ayutthaya from Bangkok run almost every day and are very cheap indeed. No reservation is necessary, just turn up, buy a ticket and hop on. It’s about 1:45m from Bangkok. Ayutthaya is an amazing place to see, a historic city, the ancient capital of Siam with very old temples and palaces still standing proud throughout the centuries and after multiple invasions and plundering.


I have written everything about visiting Ayutthaya with babies in my 2-week Thailand Family itinerary post.



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