The nightlife in Bangkok is as rowdy and diverse as one would expect from an international city of over 8 million. Hollywood has long been enamored with the numerous red-light districts, lending Bangkok’s nightlife a seedy reputation. But how risque your night out becomes is entirely up to you!
Yes, adult-themed choices abound. But at the same time, Hipsters sweat and sway in hole-in-the-walls jazz clubs; pyrotechnics explode around world-famous DJs in cavernous EDM nightclubs; and expensive cocktails clink on rooftop bars in the financial district.
Bangkok frequently beats out London and New York City for the city with most international arrivals. People from all walks of life come to do business and play. You've got a lot of options for playing in the City of Angels.
What to Know About Nightlife in Bangkok
First, understand that all these “rules” are often bent or broken at management’s discretion.
- The minimum age to purchase alcohol in Thailand is 18, however, you must be at least 20 years old to enter bars and clubs.
- Smoking is prohibited everywhere indoors; tourists regularly get fined while locals smoking nearby don’t.
- The legal closing time for bars is between midnight and 2 a.m., depending on their permit.
- Officially, prostitution and all recreational drugs are illegal in Thailand.
- Enjoying drinks with a table of locals is fun! Knowing a little about drinking etiquette in Thailand enhances the experience.
Certainly the backpacker epicenter of the Banana Pancake Trail in Southeast Asia, Khao San Road can only be described as a chaotic circus of activity seven nights a week. It’s the kind of place where bars sell revelers balloons filled with laughing gas to inhale. Chaos aside, drinks are inexpensive compared to other nightlife areas in Bangkok.
Budget travelers from around the world converge on the famous street to eat, shop, socialize, and party. Although rowdy and very tourist-oriented, the Khao San Road neighborhood is one of the few hotspots for Bangkok nightlife with very few sex workers and no go-go bars.
The stretch of Soi Rambuttri just across Chakrabongse Road (the opposite side from Khao San Road) has plenty of venues with outdoor-seating and a slightly more chilled-out ambiance.
Royal City Avenue (RCA)
Royal City Avenue’s comparatively inconvenient location didn’t stop it from becoming the thumping heart of Bangkok’s clubbing scene. Several epic nightclubs occupy the entertainment district and keep music from international DJs vibrating walls until at least 2 a.m.
Onyx, a popular megaclub that occupies the northern end of the street, sometimes goes until 5 a.m. Young Thais and foreign expats know RCA is the place to dance, and they often go big with a reserved table and bottle service for the night.
The southern end of Royal City Avenue is anchored with Live RCA, a club featuring live bands and renowned DJs. Just a 10-minute walk past numerous eating and drinking options is Route 66 — a local favorite. Next door to Route 66 sits Onyx, the late-night, last stop for many party-goers.
- Don’t Miss: When you’ve grown weary of trance music, wander into the graffiti-tagged Beatlounge for turntables and hip-hop.
- Essential Info: Taxi is the easiest way to get to RCA. Unlike many other nightlife areas in Bangkok, the doormen along RCA are usually adamant about checking IDs. Minimum age is 20. Bags and pockets will be searched upon entry by security.
When uninitiated people talk of the nightlife in Bangkok, Soi Cowboy is probably what they envision. Dazzling neon signs compete for attention on the short, narrow street. Scantily-dressed groups of women employed by the many go-go bars do what they can to lure people in. Many of the bars feature topless or nude dancers.
Soi Cowboy is probably the most famous red-light district in Bangkok, but much like Amsterdam’s red-light district, it’s also grown into a tourist spectacle. Couples and travelers from every demographic can be seen walking the neon gauntlet just to grab selfies and see what all the fuss is about.
Soi Cowboy boasts an exceptionally convenient location: it’s only a short walk from the busy Asok BTS Skytrain station and connects to Sukhumvit Soi 23. Taking a precursory peek is just too tempting — especially for those who saw Hugh Grant cavorting on Soi Cowboy in "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" or Nicholas Cage doing the same in "Bangkok Dangerous."
The Silom Area
Silom (or frequently “Si Lom”) could be described as Bangkok’s financial district, right in the heart of the megalopolis adjacent to Lumphini Park.
Nightlife options abound in Silom, ranging from what is considered Bangkok’s original red-light district to the dress-code-enforced Sky Bar perched atop the Lebua State Tower.
Many hotels in the Silom area have rooftop bars with views, the most famous of which is the Sky Bar that was featured in the "Hangover Part II" movie. Expect no seating; you may feel pressured to drink up and go as the place fills beyond capacity. Cocktails are in the range of US $20 each. Other hotels along the Chao Phraya River have views that are good enough and don’t suffer from the Hollywood-boosted, drink-up-get-out attitude at Sky Bar.
Silom Soi 2 and Soi 3 are arguably the epicenter of LGBT tourist-oriented nightlife in Bangkok. Soi 2 is a relatively narrow alley lined with nightclubs, meanwhile, Soi 4 encourages more sitting and chatting. Both streets have inexpensive watering holes if the many rooftop bars atop the hotels sound too pretentious.
Thong Lor / Ekkamai Neighborhood
Taking its name from the BTS Skytrain stations on either end, the neighborhood between Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Thong Lor) and Soi 63 (Ekkamai) is jammed with trendy wine bars, cafes, nightclubs, and live-music venues. If you’ve heard one too many Oasis songs shouted by drunk backpackers on Khao San Road, you’ll appreciate the Ekkamai area. You’ll have to pay up for the trendiness, however.
Thong Lor arguably sits on the cutting edge of Bangkok’s music scene. Nung Len and other venues host memorable local bands; most are upmarket with table/bottle service. After-hours EDM clubs are easy to find in Thong Lor — just listen for the bass DJs keep thumping late into the night.
- Don’t Miss: Popular clubs don’t last forever in Thong Lor, even the famous ones such as Safe House and Muse aren’t exempt. As soon as a venue loses its trendy edge, it gets shut down and rebranded.
- Essential Info: Get to the area by taking the BTS Skytrain to either the Thong Lor or Ekkamai station. Early happy-hour deals are competitive; shop around.
Nana Plaza at Sukhumvit Soi 4 is another of Bangkok’s many red-light entertainment areas. The gargantuan, three-story, neon-pink complex describes itself as the “world’s largest adult playground.” Eateries, go-go bars, pubs, and “massage” parlors are crammed into the horseshoe-shaped structure; a social courtyard occupies the center.
Nana Plaza is home to numerous kathoey (a Thai term for transgender women and gay men) bars that put on nightly “ladyboy” performances. The popular shows feature costumed entertainers.
- Don’t Miss: Big Dogs has the best vantage point for people watching and offers relatively low hassle.
- Essential Info: As the name implies, Nana Plaza is in the busy tourist-hotel district five minute’s walk from the Nana BTS Skytrain station.
Patpong and Soi Thaniya
Also in the Silom area, Patpong is considered the original red-light district in Bangkok. In terms of red-light choices in Bangkok, Patpong’s day has come and gone, replaced by flashier draws such as Soi Cowboy.
Despite a reputation for rip-offs and inflated-bar-tab scams, Patpong is kept afloat partially because it’s also home to a night market. Vendors selling the usual wares clog the busy sidewalk and create traffic bottlenecks. Families and other travelers who aren’t interested in the go-go bars wander the sidewalks to shop for bargains.
By day, Soi Thaniya — at the exit of the Sala Daeng BTS station — is a Japanese district that is home to several good sushi restaurants and Thai eateries. At night, however, the area easily converts into a red-light district catering to the many Japanese businessmen in Bangkok.
- Don’t Miss: The walls of the mostly forgotten Old Other Office Bar are crowded with relics from the bar’s long history.
- Essential Info: Be warned if you’re walking with children, lots of adult-eyes-only items are prominently displayed for sale among the usual items at the Patpong night market. Asiatique and Chatuchak are probably "safer" options for night markets.
Sukhumvit Soi 11 Area
Sadly, the world-famous Cheap Charlie’s bar loved by expats was forced out in 2018 and started anew in the On Nut area of Bangkok. Even still, The Sukhumvit Soi 11 neighborhood buzzes with nightlife seven days a week.
If you're tired of Thailand's three domestic beer choices, numerous pubs cater to Western expats with imported food and beer; a handful of Indian and Italian restaurants provide food alternatives.
As the evening turns into night, Levels Club turns up the music in three separate venues that draw a crowd. The Sugar Club plays hip-hop until 4 a.m.; Insanity Nightclub, at the end of the street, also runs late.
- Don’t Miss: Although it has nothing to do with the prolific writer, the garden at Hemingway’s provides a pleasant atmosphere for food and cocktails.
- Essential Info: Sukhumvit Soi 11 is especially accessible. Use Exit 3 from the Nana BTS Skytrain station. The strip is only a 10-minute walk from the Asok BTS station and Terminal 21 shopping mall.