Siam Square, the destination for street shopping
What to Buy
Lower prices and a wide variety of products have made shopping in Bangkok a major attraction for tourists. Typically Thai items are the most tempting buys, especially silk, which comes in a large variety of designs. The city is also known for its gems (especially rubies and sapphires), and for tailors who create custom quality suits and dresses at reasonable prices.
What Not to Buy
Resist getting wood or bamboo pieces -- they’re often quite attractive and cheap, but you don’t want to contribute to Thailand’s disastrous deforestation problem. Also skip the fake purses, t-shirts and watches with luxury logos, as they’re not only illegal, but customs officers may confiscate them.
Prices and Payments
Chain stores and those inside malls have fixed prices, but at small shops, specialty retailers and markets, you’re expected to haggle. The seller’s initial bid will always be high, so fake disinterest for it be lowered considerably (often as much as 30 percent or more).
Credit cards can be used in most stores, and sometimes even at markets (although most vendors expect cash).
Most stores’ hours are from 8am to 8pm or 9pm, while malls typically open from 10:30am to 9pm. Most markets do their business from dawn to mid-afternoon, while the night markets are usually from late-afternoon to midnight or later.
Where to Shop
Markets are an essential part of Bangkok life, selling a little bit of everything. They are where you can find the most original items and the best deals, always resulting from some haggling (but if you see a price tag, it means that the price is fixed).
Some are open 24 hours a day, others only during the day or when the sun goes down, while the biggest and most famous of all only takes place on weekends:
Chatuchak Market - Anything you can think of is sold at this huge market that’s a must-go weekend destination for locals and tourists. It’s a great place to look for art, ceramics and crafts, as it offers a wider and better-priced choice than the downtown shops.
See the Chatuchak Market visitor’s guide.
Patpong is the most famous night market for tourists
Night Markets - Browsing the markets doesn’t have to end when the sun goes down. The popular Suan Lum Night Bazaar is found on Ratchada Road, close to the Lad Phrao station of the MRT underground metro and the The Bazaar Hotel, opening at around 4pm in the afternoon and only closing at midnight. It has literally thousands of stalls selling everything from clothing to jewelry, to handicrafts and home décor and souvenirs.
Also for the later hours of the day (opening daily, except Mondays, at 8pm), is the Saphan Phut Night Market, by the Memorial Bridge, popular with young Thais hunting for fashion and second-hand items.
Even more famous is the Patpong night market, with neon-lit stalls of cheap souvenirs and fake goods set up each evening by the bars that make up Bangkok’s most famous red-light district.
The fragrant Pah Khlong Talat Flower Market
Pah Khlong Talat Flower Market - Although open 24 hours, this fragrant flower market is sleepy during the day, and there’s little to see outside the late-night period. It is, however, a bustling place after midnight, and especially interesting between 2am and 4am (when boats and trucks arrive with large quantities of flowers).
The flower vendors were forced off the sidewalks and into this covered market by the government in 2016, and it’s where they prepare sacred temple offerings and sell bundles of roses, orchids, and carnations, among other flowers. Even if you don’t plan on buying a bouquet, you’ll enjoy watching the creation of the elaborate arrangements.
Young locals looking for the latest fashions, and tourists seeking Thai designers, head to this square, which is essentially a street and a few sois (alleys) by many of the city’s most popular malls. Many international brands have taken over many of the spaces, but it’s still where you’re most likely to find local creations. As shopping malls multiply, this is where you can still experience some street shopping in Bangkok.
Sampeng Lane Market in Chinatown
If malls and upscale department stores are not your cup of tea, head to the more colorful and authentic shopping streets of Chinatown. Almost everything you can think of is for sale on Soi Wanit 1 or Sampeng Lane (“Sampeng Lane Market”), a former red-light district. The best buys are bargain-priced fabrics, Chinese decorative pieces, and household goods.
The huge air-conditioned malls are Bangkok’s favorite shopping destinations, and tourists can’t resist them either. Most are located in the downtown neighborhoods, and are easy to reach by public transportation.
Check out the guide to the best malls in Bangkok.