You might have heard about Bangkok’s unique shopping experience and now you too want have some part of it. Shopping in Bangkok is an amazing experience, which will satisfy most shoppers – whatever it is you’re looking for, Bangkok has it.
Facts about shopping in Bangkok
- Avoid rush hours 07:30 – 09:00 and 17:00 – 18:30 when heading to shopping
- You can bargain at smaller shops, not in department stores or malls
- Just greeting in Thai can lower the price in bargaining (see Language section)
From the luxurious towering size of modern, air-conditioned malls, to the small, and busy, and famous street markets. The city has a wide selection of items you can spend your money on, whether it is at the Lamborghini shop in Siam Paragon shopping mall or a Sukhumvit Road street side stall with counterfeit Angry Birds t-shirts.
A little planning goes a long way. Since the temperature in Bangkok is hot, you might want to plan where to go for specific items. Shopping malls are well air-conditioned, but strolling at street level and going shop by shop can be exhausting due to continuous temperature change or just pure heat. You might also want to avoid rush hours in the morning and the evening when people are swarming in Skytrain and shopping malls. Most shops are open from about 10:00 until 20:00 or 22:00, or even later. Smaller shops usually close on Sundays, while large shopping malls are open seven days a week. You will have plenty of time to shop ’til you drop.
When you have found the item you want, think one more time and look for other quotes too. Smaller shops always have a bargaining buffer just for tourists. Within 50 meters you can have a big difference in price for the same product. Places where prices are fixed are malls, department stores, supermarkets and large retail shops, otherwise, bargaining is the norm, and expected.
MBK Center was built in 1985 and was back then one of the biggest shopping experiences in Thailand. Even though it did not break out as a traditional shopping mall, it had its metamorphosis to worlds largest flea market with air-conditioning, making MBK perhaps the largest “fake” product shopping mall in the world. The layout will initially confuse; all small shops form a multistory maze, which attracts 100,000 customers daily. Different floors have a different majority of items. The 1st – 3rd floor have mainly clothes, bags and other accessories, whereas the 4th floor is full of cell phones, electronic gadgets and their accessories. The 5th floor has furniture and an excellent International Food Court. The 6th floor has plenty of souvenir shops and highest 7th floor has fast food restaurants, cinema, and a bowling hall.
Get there: BTS National Stadium (exit 4) – Google Maps link
Special: Fakes, gadgets, everything inexpensive
Open: 10:00-22:00, daily
Just outside Siam BTS station is Siam Paragon, which is the most luxurious shopping mall in Thailand, maybe even in the whole of Southeast Asia with almost 300 shops and 80 restaurants. Sports cars, luxury brands, gourmet dishes, home decor and other higher priced items are sold here. Whereas Thailand has its fair share of fakes sold, Siam Paragon has the real things. There you see beautiful and handsome, rich Thai people wandering around among tourists. A few things are worth mentioning separately: the Nokia VIP Ultrascreen cinemas where you can enjoy better seating than on first class flights and the IMAX Theater for your pleasure. Movie prices range between 300-700 baht. On the lowest floor is Siam Ocean World, which is one of the largest indoor aquariums in Southeast Asia.
Get there: BTS Siam (exit 3) – Google Maps link
Special: Luxury items, cinemas and Siam Ocean World
Open: 10:00-22:00, daily
Siam Discovery Center and Siam Center
Siam Discovery Center and Siam Center side-by-side are located adjacent of MBK Center and can be accessed via a walkway. Siam Center is one of the oldest malls in Thailand, built in 1973, and has 300 shops, & 20 restaurants. Whereas Siam Paragon is upper class and MBK is flea market style, Siam Discovery Center and Siam Center are something in between, offering genuine products, with both somewhat trendier shops and atmosphere. Siam Discovery Center was built 1997 and has a selection of shops and services for a bit more mature audience compared to the more hip Siam Center. At Discovery you can find popular Thai fashion designers as well as global brand names. Both of these shopping malls are a bit more relaxed than other shopping malls in Bangkok.
Get there: BTS Siam (exit 1) – Google Maps link
Special: (Discovery) Madame Tussauds, Ice Planet rink, (Siam Center) Trendy and hip atmosphere, global brands
Open: (Discovery) 10:00-22:00 daily, (Siam Center) 10:00-21:00 daily
If there is some computer related shopping to do, Pantip Plaza is your place. You can even find some of the items at MBK, but Pantip Plaza has five floors dedicated to your digital needs. From here you can find new and used computers and accessories at bargain prices, not to mention a huge selection of counterfeit software, which is the original reason for the reputation of Pantip Plaza. The 3rd floor has a food court and some disturbingly active adult DVD vendors.
Get there: BTS Ratchathewi (exit 4) – Google Maps link
Special: All things electronic, counterfeit software
Open: 10:00-19:30, daily
Central World is the third largest shopping mall in the world and includes a hotel and office tower. 830,000 square meters will make sure you’re busy the whole day with 500 stores, 100 restaurants and cafes, & 15 cinemas. Central World focuses more on trendy casual labels and markets itself as a middle class shopping center, as opposed to the upper class-market, Siam Paragon, mentioned earlier. The specialties in this mall are The Rink, an open ice-skating rink and the 15-screen SF World Cinema. Parents can also take their kids to Genius Planet zone, which is a fun learning activity.
Get there: BTS Siam (exit 5) BTS Chitlom (exit 1) – Google Maps link
Special: Ice skating rink, cinemas and kids learning center
Open: 10:00-22:00, daily
All things Chinese, you could say. This beautiful area is full of Chinese medicine shops, gold shops, little restaurants and food stalls, garments and most importantly the atmosphere you cannot find elsewhere. The Chinatown is an area between Chao Praya River and Yaowarat Road. Even though Chinatown itself might be as stereotypical as you’d expect, there is at least one exception, nearby Thieves Market. It used to be the namesake place where contraband, fake luxury articles and obviously stolen goods were sold, but since tourists started flowing in years ago, the it lost its “glamour”. These days you might find stolen goods like car stereos, cell phones etc. are sold at the Khlong Thom Center, nearby.
Get there: Hua Lumpong MRT (exit 1 and walking) or Taxi – Google Maps link
Special: Chinese items, gold, atmosphere, street food
Open: varies by shop
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the world’s largest weekend markets, covers an area of 35 acres. Chatuchak Weekend Market should be on your to-do list during your first visit to Bangkok. The market area is divided into 27 sections, containing more than 15,000 booths. While it has over 200,000 visitors daily, it is an important part of shopping done by locals. Recently it has been noted that over 1/4 of the visitors are tourists. The selection sold here consists of household items, clothing, Thai handicrafts, religious artiFacts, collectibles, foods, and live animals.
Get there: BTS Mo Chit or MRT Chatuchak Park (follow the crowds) – Google Maps link
Special: All things local and Chinese, house ware and clothing
Open: Saturdays and Sundays 09:00 – 18:00
Apart from markets and shopping centers, Bangkok has many shopping streets and street stalls where you can buy anything from clothes, souvenirs, watches and jewelry to all kinds of antiques and electrical goods. Remember to bargain off about 10-30% of the asking price. Tourist can safely buy almost anything in Bangkok except gems (scams), medications (fakes) or Buddha statues (illegal to transport from Thailand) from the streets. When you need to get more traditional items for daily living, the easiest option is to find one of the thousands of small 7-Eleven or FamilyMart stores. Bigger options are Robinson, Big C, Carrefour, Tesco or Makro stores. These are all around Bangkok. Don’t be shy to ask from locals or friendly taxi driver about the nearest option.