Thai markets are an unmissable experience for visitors. Whether tourists are real shopping lovers or are simply looking for the best souvenirs to bring home to their friends and family, they will certainly find something for them in the myriad of stands that fill Thai squares and streets.
If one has never traveled to Southeast Asia, markets in Thailand are probably unlike anything the holidaymaker is used to. For some, they are colorful and exciting, for others, some markets can feel at times overwhelming because of the crowds and smells.
In this guide, foreign visitors can learn about Thailand’s markets in order to know what to expect, what items to buy, and what sites are the best for shopping.
What Should I Bring Home from Thailand?
It can be hard to choose what to buy in Thailand as there are many options and advantageous deals but space in the suitcase is likely to be limited.
First of all, visitors should become familiar with the Thai customs regulations in order to avoid breaking the law. Many items (including some medications) cannot be brought into and/ or outside the country and checking in advance will save the traveler money and disappointment.
It is often said that virtually anything can be found in a Thai market. What to bring home from Thailand depends on the tourist’s specific preferences and needs — some choose to buy local handmade items as souvenirs, others prefer to buy electronics, clothes, and other items that are much cheaper in Thailand than in their home country.
Find below a list of popular goods among international visitors:
- Silk products. Thai silk is among the most appreciated in the world thanks to the handweaving process that goes into its production. Visitors will find scarves, shirts, pillowcases, skirts, and more. Price: from $4 to $170 (150 to 6,000 baht)
- Spices. Thai cuisine is very popular internationally but once tourists discover its most authentic taste, they often decide to bring some of it home with them. Make sure to have the spices packed in vacuum-sealed containers. Price: from $0.30 to $9 (10 to 300 baht)
- Silver jewelry. Shoppers will easily find high-quality silver jewelry at very convenient prices in Thai markets. The .925 stamp ensures that 92.5% of the item is made of sterling silver. Hill tribes produce exquisite 99% pieces for a higher price but it is easy to run into imitations.
Price: $5 to $500 (180 to 180,000 baht)
- Muay Thai shorts. This type of comfortable sportswear is becoming increasingly popular among tourists who also often visit Muay Thai camps to watch the pros fight.
Price: $8 to $36 (300 to 1,300 baht)
- Thai handicraft. There is a great variety of handmade objects in Thailand. It is unlikely that holidaymakers will not find the perfect present among the myriad of triangle cushions, wicker baskets, pottery, wooden carvings, trinkets, and more.
Price: $8 to $50 (300 to 1,600 baht)
What Is the Best Market in Bangkok for My Needs?
The Thai capital is where a great percentage of the most famous and varied markets are located. Certainly though, there is no such thing as the ‘best’ market in Bangkok overall.
Markets vary greatly depending on the merchandise they sell, their planning and structure, and the activities shopper can carry out.
The Thai shopping experience is not only about purchasing products. Visitors can also dine and take part in unique workshops. For example, they can learn how to make their own flower garland. In the open-air night markets, they can also find several music stops to spend the evening dancing.
Ratchada Train Market for fresh food
Those looking for authentic Thai food should visit the Ratchada Train Market, which is open at night from 5 pm. Shoppers will find stalls that sell high-quality boho clothes but the real highlight is the great variety of fresh food and ingredients that are sourced locally.
Location: Ratchadaphisek Rd, Din Daeng.
Klong Toey Fresh Market for seafood
Just like Ratchada Train Market, Klong Toey Fresh Market is specialized in fresh goods but focuses on seafood (although shoppers can also find fruit, snacks, and even fried bugs.) It is a wet market where distributors come early in the morning to buy in bulk: just watching the action is a spectacle in itself. The market is open all day, from 6 am to 2 am.
Location: Rama IV Road, Khlong Toei.
Rod Fai Market for vintage collectibles
This night market is open from Thursday to Sunday (5 pm to 1 am) and is easy to explore since it is divided into 3 sections. Visitors can expect a wide range of vintage collections and shops that specialize in antiques. Those looking for rare items should come here.
Location: Soi Srinagarindra 51, Nong Bon, Prawet.
Maeklong Train Station Market for an unforgettable experience
Unlike other sites in this list, it is worth including Maeklong Train Station Market on a trip to Bangkok not because of the goods on offer but because of the unique experience of visiting the market itself.
Set up in an outdoor location, the market is divided into 2 parts by a train track that crosses it in its entirety. The track is currently in use: trains pass through the market 8 times a day (7:30, 10:10, 13:30 and 16:40 are the best times.)
Although there are no barriers, trains slow down significantly and vendors are used to clearing the pathway in seconds as soon as they hear the train horn.
Location: Muang Samut Songkhram, Samut Songkhram.
Chatuchak Weekend Market for miscellaneous
Extending for over 35 acres, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest of its kind not only in Thailand but also in Asia. This is the perfect place for those who are not sure of what type of objects they’d like to buy but want to take in the real feeling of a busy Thai market.
Imagine over a thousand stalls divided into sections and featuring goods such as furniture, handicraft, pets, plants, and more.
This is the perfect spot to buy souvenirs: from section 2 to 6 and 10 to 26, fashion lovers can find shops entirely dedicated to clothing; sections 8 to 11 exclusively sell handicrafts. Moreover, all sellers are used to intensive bargaining and it is very easy to find incredible deals.
It is advisable to arrive with a map but there are also information centers for those in need of assistance.
Although some sections open their doors every day, the whole market is open only during the weekend, from 9 am to 6 pm.
Location: Kamphaeng Phet Road, Lat Yao, Chatuchak.
Thai Markets Advice for Visitors
Foreign tourists may not be used to the way business is made in Thai markets. Here are some suggestions for a positive and exciting experience:
- Bargain. Prices are rarely set in stone in the markets in Thailand. Bargaining until reaching an agreement is the normal thing to do
- Keep belongings close. Thailand is considered a safe country but just like anywhere else in the world, crowded places are the perfect spot for pickpocketers and thieves to operate
- Get there early. The best deals and freshest foods are found early so try to plan to arrive around the opening time
- Be cautious with street food. Although Thai street food is mouth-watering and well worth trying, travelers should always avoid foods that they cannot peel or are not thoroughly cooked
As mentioned before, tourists should also be aware that some products may be forbidden in their country or prohibited from leaving Thailand. It is very important to get accustomed with laws and regulations on the matter.
Finally, foreign visitors should remember to have a copy of their travel documents and valid Thailand visa with them at all times.