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One of the more ‘interesting’ places to visit in Bangkok at night, Soi Cowboy is certainly a sight to behold. More accessible and slightly less seedy than nearby Nana (best avoided as a casual tourist), we’ve been to Soi Cowboy a handful of times over the years, mainly to people watch and drink Happy Hour beers.
Soi Cowboy isn’t for everyone and rightly so – we were a bit shocked by our initial visit (our first ever night in Thailand!) and were a little overwhelmed, gawping at what goes on and not sure entirely how to behave. We’ve since discovered this is one of the more ‘tame’ nightly delights in Thailand, and probably your best / safest introduction to this side of Bangkok for the purely curious.
We are in no way condoning what goes on at Soi Cowboy and we are vehemently opposed to sex tourism – we know we aren’t exactly helping matters by visiting purely as observers but the fact remains it is still one of the most frequented places in Bangkok by your average tourist, and it is quite the experience to see with your own eyes.
We also haven’t ever been inside any of the clubs, always opting to people watch from the outdoor seating areas; so we can’t vouch for exactly goes on (or indeed doesn’t) in those smoky rooms at the back of the bars that everyone talks about.
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Although dead as a dodo during the daytime, by night the street is awash with lurid neon signs, bustling bars and local workers. Easily accessible by Asok BTS station and Sukhumvit MRT station, Soi Cowboy is quite the place and worthy of some of your tourist time, even if to just see what all the fuss is about. And if it isn’t your thing or you want to leave as soon as you arrive, there are lots of other more mainstream bars and restaurants in the near vicinity.
Here are some Soi Cowboy tips:
- If possible, don’t visit by yourself, especially as a solo female traveller. If you are solo backpacking, try and make some friends in the hostel beforehand and go as a group.
- Be careful taking pictures – we always try and get some quick snaps at the edges of Soi Cowboy but tourists have been known to have their cameras snatched away, especially by club owners when taking pictures of particular clubs. If you need want to take pictures, be quick and you are best to use a less conspicuous camera phone (don’t take your long lense!)
- We always visit around the 9pm to midnight period, as this is generally when the area is still very well populated and people aren’t too intoxicated (probably).
- Happy Hours generally run in most bars until the early evening (approx 10pm but it can vary) – look out for the Happy Hour boards held outside some of the main bars.
- We always go for drinks outside the clubs in full view, where the drink prices are clearly displayed – if you go inside, you will likely be approached for dances or possibly more (not our thing, especially on a backpacker budget!). Some bars also hit you with a massive bar-tab with charges for tables, seats, service etc so make you sure you know the prices before you start to buy.
- Tipping is generally expected, even if you are just having a single casual drink in the outdoor seating areas. Some staff are more assertive (some would say ‘aggressive’) than others when suggesting tipping amounts, so we generally round up to the nearest 50 THB note if we are only having one or two drinks.
- There have been reports of drink-spiking / druggings in Soi Cowboy so always keep your drink in sight.
- You are best to eat before you visit, but if you are peckish, there are several fruit and street-food vendors along Soi Cowboys, plus some expensive (for Thailand) restaurants on the outer edges of the street.
Soi Cowboy is clearly an interesting place to visit and is an easy introduction to Bangkok’s celebrated night time scene. As long as you keep your wits and act sensibly, it should be a neon night to remember!
Download the Grab app
Grab taxis are widely used by both tourists and locals, and the fares are really cheap! Download the Grab app here and use the code GRABCKTRAVELS to earn a free ride when you sign up.
Sim cards and pocket WIFI
Having data on your phone whilst travelling is almost essential these days – from planning your route around the city, booking a Grab taxi or for staying connected with friends and family back home. SIM cards are pretty cheap in Thailand with generous data allowances and are available to purchase from both of Bangkok’s airports, malls and 7-Elevens (bring your passport along for identification purposes).
You can also prepay online and collect a SIM from Suvarnabhumi Airport, Don Muang Airport or Siam Centre. Just remember to make sure your phone is not locked to your local network provider before purchasing one.
Alternatively if you do not want to change your sim card then renting a pocket WIFI device might be for you. We’ve used them multiple times and love that we can both connect our devices to it. Pre-order one online with Klook for collection when you arrive at either Suvarnabhumi or Don Muang Airport.
More Bangkok blog posts
- Things to do in Bangkok at night
- Bangkok on a Budget – Backpacking in Thailand
- Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok – the ultimate guide
- Pak Khlong Talat Flower Market in Bangkok guide
- Things to do in Silom, Bangkok
- Pattaya Floating Market in Thailand – an honest review
- Asiatique: The Riverfront night market in Bangkok guide
- A Thai cookery class ‘with a twist’ in Bangkok’s flower market
- Visiting Mahanakhon Skywalk – Bangkok’s Newest Observation Deck
- A visit to Lhong 1919, Bangkok, Thailand
- A luxurious stay at the Avani Riverside hotel in Bangkok
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