Districts

Bangkok is administratively split up into 50 districts, which are further split into 154 sub districts. These 50 districts and sub districts are mainly used for businesses and addresses therefore their names are uncommon to most travelers. Moving between areas is usually easy and inexpensive with Skytrain (BTS), metro (MRT) and boat or by taxi. The Skytrain or metro are recommended options of these due they are air-conditioned which makes the moving around more pleasant. Most of the Bangkok’s districts might seem identical but where the differences are, they are big. Some areas are inhabited by expatriates, high society Thai people and shopping centers, whereas other districts are more traditional areas with poorer local people.

Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit is an exclusive district in Bangkok, perhaps most famous for its large number of foreigners, expats, and tourists. The area spreads around the Sukhumvit Road, which is not only one of the longest roads in Thailand, but one of the longest roads in the world. It is home to fancy apartments, villas, restaurants, bars and clubs. Many adjoining “sois” (sub-streets) are poor on traditional Thai tourist attractions but rich in of-the-minute shopping, eating and nightlife. Even though it has plenty of foreigners, it becomes more and more a Thai residential neighborhood as you follow the road southeast.

What: Bars, restaurants, massage and nightlife
Get there: BTS Sukhumvit Line. MRT station Sukhumvit

Dusit

Dusit is European-style area that is the political center of Thailand. Dusit forms the main administrative center of Thailand. The National Parliament and famous Royal Palace are in Dusit. It is connected with Rattanakosin island by the Ratchadamnoen Road. There are plenty of museums offering different subjects.

What: Dusit Zoo, Royal Palace and museums
Get there: Bang Sue MRT station

Siam Square

This area is considered “The Center of Bangkok”. The surrounding area includes Ratchaprasong and Phloen Chit Road, and is Bangkok’s commercial hub full of shopping malls and hotels. The shoppers vary from young school and college students to office workers, trend-setting city dwellers and, of course, throngs of tourists. The area connects to shopping centers and links to the other shopping districts by sky bridge, such as Siam Center/Siam Discovery Center, MBK Center, Siam Paragon.  There is also the famous Chulalongkorn University.
What: Shopping, Movies
Get there: BTS Sukhumvit Line and Silom Line

Silom

Silom is home to many of Bangkok’s top luxury hotels and skyscrapers. It has become one of Bangkok’s most cosmopolitan streets as well as one of the sleaziest. The area around Silom Road and Sathorn Road is Thailand’s financial center but at nighttime it morphs into Bangkok’s primary party district. This is also the infamous Patpong area.

What: Business and nightlife
Get there: BTS Silom Line, MRT station Si Lom

Rattanakosin

This area is situated just north of Chinatown, between the Chao Phraya River and downtown. Rattanakosin is densely packed and considered “Old Bangkok”. This area has many of Bangkok’s best-known sights, such as the Grand Palace, museums and Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew Wat Arun and Wat Mahathat temples. Note that there are no Skytrain (BTS) or metro stations in the area since Rattanakosin is considered an island. Take Skytrain to Saphan Taksin and from there a boat over the river.

What: Temples, museums and parks
Get there: BTS Saphan Taksin -> Chao Phraya Express Boat

Thonburi

Thonburi is located largely along the quieter west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Thonburi used to be originally a separate city. This area is best visited with canal tours where you can see Wat Arun temple and floating markets. The area can hardly be explored on foot. The western part is actually one of the oldest settled areas of Bangkok.

What: Floating markets, sights and Chao Phraya River
Get there: Chao Phraya Express Boat

Pratunam

Pratunam has hundreds of fashion and garment shops selling both retail and mostly wholesale. A few of the important landmarks here are Baiyoke Tower II hotel and Victory Monument. From Victory Monument you can travel by bus all around Thailand. Baiyoke Tower II is over 300 meters high, with 88 stories, it is Thailand’s tallest building and is a famous feature of Bangkok’s skyline.

What: Clothing shops and travel connection
Get there: BTS Sukhumvit Line, Airport Rail link Makkasan station

Ratchadaphisek

Ratchadaphisek Road is an entertainment mecca for the locals. The Ratchada area is popular for Royal City Avenue (RCA), which is a famous clubbing area. While Sukhumvit’s nightlife is probably mostly overrun by expats, local Thai people mostly visit Ratchada’s clubs, bars, cinemas, massage parlors and shopping malls.

What: Entertainment with local flavor
Get there: Saen Saep Express Boat and many MRT stations

Phahonyothin

The area around Phahonyothin Road and Viphavadi Rangsit Road is a large suburb in northern Bangkok. The northern part of this area does not offer much for tourists, but the southern area does have shopping. The Chatuchak Weekend Market has over 8,000 stalls of everything you can imagine with inexpensive prices. The Don Muang airport is located at this area, which will be a major hub for Asian low-cost airlines.

What: Shopping at weekend market
Get there: BTS Sukhumvit Line, Kamphaeng Phet MRT station

Ramkhamhaeng

The Ramkhamhaeng area consists of a big residential area with some shopping malls and Safari World amusement park. Ramkhamhaeng is otherwise quieter but university students are here more common. Another place worth mentioning is Suvarnabhumi airport, which you might already know.

What: Airport and Safari world
Get there: Saen Saep Express Boat, Airport Rail link

Yaowarat and Phahurat

These are located west of Silom and southeast of Rattanakosin. Along Yaowarat Road you will find Bangkok’s famous Chinatown, while Phahurat Road is the home of the city’s Indian community. This multicultural district is filled with temples, shrines, seafood restaurants and street markets.

What: Exotic foods, shops and temples
Get there: Chao Phraya Express Boat

Khao San Road (Banglamphu)

On the northern part of Rattanakosin lies Khao San Road, Bangkok’s backpacker heaven or hell. Khao San Road is not its own district but I will mention it here due it’s reputation among younger travelers. This area is a small road located about a block from the Chao Phraya River at the northern side of Rattanakosin. The Khao San Road and the surrounding district of Banglamphu has plenty of budget accommodations, hippies, hipsters, inexpensive clothes, books and other things that a backpacker needs. A large number of travelers use Khao San Road as a base to explore Bangkok and other parts of Asia.

What: Backpackers, everything budget and scams
Get there: BTS Saphan Taksin -> Chao Phraya Express Boat