With 15,000 market stalls spread across 35 acres Chatuchak Market is massive.
How big is 35 acres? Just a bit over 26 football fields! You may be thinking the sheer size of this place is overwhelming and you’re absolutely right for thinking so.
When navigating the world famous souvenir shopping haven, you’re going to need some expert tips for your first time at Chatuchak market. No matter how you slice it, you’re likely to get lost, sweaty and exhausted.
Thankfully, I’ve developed a system that can help you on your journey to buying souvenirs for your friends and family, some rad clothes for yourself and where to get some incredible eats when you need a break from it all.
First thing’s first – you need to accept the fact that you’ll probably get lost at some point. Maybe a couple times. It happens to the best of us, even expats that have been here for years. Chatuchak is a massive market and many of the stalls sell identical products so it can be hard to keep your bearings. If you’re shopping in a group, it’s best to decide on a landmark to meet up at in case you can’t find each other. The absolute best landmark in my experience is to use the clocktower in the centre of Chatuchak.
Chatuchak Market is divided into 27 sections and are labeled much like your typical street in Thailand. There’s a main road that splits into smaller streets, called soi. It can be tough to tackle on your first trip to Chatuchak Market, but there are a handful of different maps you can use to guide your shopping experience. Your first option is to grab a free map at any of the information kiosks. There are also more detailed maps available online, but they range in price from $5 to $20. I’ve never personally gone this route but have met tourists that swear by it.
The third option is a crowd favorite among backpackers: downloading the Chatuchak Guide app. It’s available for both iOS and Android devices. The best part of it is the shopping planner feature, which is perfect for those who know exactly what they want to buy. In and out, simple as that. It also have a live map, search function and info on current promotions. Personally, I prefer the info kiosks’ free maps because it makes the shopping experience feel like something out of The Amazing Race!
Spend any amount of time in Southeast Asia and night markets will begin to look the same. You’ll see the same novelty shirts and souvenirs sold across every market in Thailand and Chatuchak is no exception. While in Bangkok, many will recommend checking out the Maeklong train market, but it pales in comparison to Chatuchak if you ask me. The main difference here is the sheer size of Chatuchak, meaning you get everything you could ask for in one spot (and then some). For the sake of convenience, we’ve summarized everything you’re looking for by the numbered sections of the market.
You don’t need the negotiation skills of Harvey Specter or the suave, off the cuff genius of Don Draper to get the prices you deserve at a Thai market. Far from it, actually. All you need is a little knowledge of how haggling works in Asia and some patience.
The rule of thumb here is that vendors are quite content with dropping their prices down to 30% to 50% of what they initially tell you. Sometimes you can go lower, but the reality here is that they’re hoping for clueless tourists to make a pretty penny. Most backpackers don’t fit this customer persona, as most travel on a budget and only have so much to spend on souvenirs.
Ask for their price and make your initial offer a bit lower than what you’re willing to pay. Of course, they’ll refuse and either keep stern with their price or drop it by an insignificant amount. Stick to your guns and keep at it until they offer you a price you’re comfy with. If that doesn’t happen? Just walk away. There’s hundreds of vendor stalls offering the same products and they know it. Sometimes just turning to walk away will trigger them into giving you your desired price. Other times, they’ll just let you walk. Time to move on!
The short answer: early mornings. The long answer? Well, it depends on how much you can tolerate being part of a big crowd…in boiling heat. Arrive at Chatuchak in the morning and there will be way less people to get in your way, especially if you’re not a fan of slow walkers. The Bangkok sun doesn’t start its reign over your sanity until around lunch, so you’ll have plenty of time to stride around.
While it may be tempting to take a taxi or Grab to Chatuchak Market, it really isn’t your best option. Chatuchak Market is right next to a bus station with shuttles to Don Mueang airport, so the traffic can be pretty insane.
Bangkok is actually rated as having some of the worst traffic congestion of any city in the world and this is a prime example of it. You’ll be stuck in a ride that takes longer than public transit, wasting money on cab fare.
Luckily, it doesn’t matter where you’re staying in Bangkok because both the skytrain and underground metro will take you directly to Chatuchak
Skytrain (BTS): Mo Chit Station, Exit #1
Subway (MRT): Chatuchak Park Station, Exit #1
587/10 Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd,
Khet Chatuchak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10900
Phone number: 02 272 4813
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!