Planning a romantic outing in Bangkok does not have to break the bank. While the city is famous for offering luxuries, “The Land of Smiles” also offers many free or cheap date opportunities. Your date will never know that you’re on a budget. Before settling on another date à la street food, wow your companion for barely any baht.
Get your fortune told at Mae Nak Shrine
Want to get to know your date on a more spiritual level? Head to Wat Mahabut, home to the Mae Nak shrine, known to locals for its powers of providing luck and guidance. The shrine is devoted to a well-known folk tale about the Mother Nak of Prakanong, a supposedly “true” story, involving star-crossed lovers, reincarnation, spells, and ghost brides. The lore has attracted a variety of fortune tellers, Tarot card readers, and astrologers—and of course, lottery ticket vendors too—eager to guide you and your date toward your destiny at a bargain. If it’s prescribed, you can even release eels into the river, which apparently also brings you luck.
Make ’em laugh
Stand-up comedy is quickly becoming popular in the Thai capital. Pioneers like Note Udom have carved a niche for Thai stand-up, while the appetite for Western comedy remains strong. RAW Comedy Club hosts a free weekly Open Mic Night that draws an array of seasoned local comics (although anyone can have a go!). Comedy Club Bangkok features stand-up and improv nights, and if you have a few extra baht, Bangkok Comedy Fringe brings in international talent with tickets available as low as 400 baht. Hooked on comedy? The Comedy Club Bangkok also hosts weekly beginner and intermediate improv workshops to hone your skills for those Open Mic Nights.
Lumphini Park is a rare green oasis smack in the middle of the sprawling metropolis. The manicured pathways wind through tamarind trees and are sprinkled with visitors jogging, strolling, or otherwise lounging on the expertly cared for Bermuda grass—all without the hustle Bangkok is known for, as vendors are strictly prohibited. Up the date ante by renting a swan boat for just 40 baht to paddle around the lake and look for monitor lizards basking in the sun. Then retire to one of the open-air auditoriums for a free jazz or classical music performance.
Fight Night at MBK
Tickets to this traditional Thai boxing fight can run up to 2,000 baht at one of the area stadiums, but on Wednesday nights, you can treat your date to a ringside experience for free at MBK’s weekly Fight Night. The evening starts with a ritual dance of homage before the matches begin, ranging from kids-in-training to the main event, featuring a mix of experienced Thai and foreign boxers. In the heart of Siam, MBK is home to many cheap eateries as well, so you both can unwind as the adrenaline subsides after the fight.
Chao Phraya Dinner Cruise
Is there anything more romantic than the ancient and iconic Chao Phraya River at night, lit up by the fluorescent city lights? Many cruise lines operate with five-star menus and service, but it’s possible to sail along this “River of Kings” at a deeply discounted price, aboard a converted rice barge. For about a third of the price, you and your partner can float along the klongs—or canals—of Bangkok, enjoying fresh Thai fruit, a buffet dinner, drinks, and sometimes even live entertainment.
Volunteer at an animal shelter
Dating an animal lover? There are two shelters run by local organizations that rescue and treat injured and sick animals. They actively work to find a forever home for their furry tenants. CHSAThai (the Compassionate House for Stray Animals) is a bit outside of the city, so it provides volunteers with transport, food, and an itinerary for the day for a small fee to cover expenses. PAWS is active around the Bangkok area, with frequent pop-up stalls at the Bangkok Farmers Market where they always need volunteers to help with their furry friends.
Chang Chui Market and the “airplane graveyard”
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This new Thonburi installation has been dubbed Bangkok’s “creative hub,” packed with fashion stalls, food trucks, tattoo shops, cafes, and even a vintage cinema—all situated around an enormous airplane. The market centers on art and creativity, so visitors can also enjoy rotating exhibitions and events changing all year. For those captivated by the retrofitted airplane, you can venture to the outskirts of Bangkok in Hua Mak to find the area’s “airplane graveyard,” home to abandoned aircraft covered in graffiti, and open for exploration.
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
Show off your sophisticated side by taking your date to the latest exhibition at Bangkok’s most notable (and free!) contemporary art museum. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, curving and spiraling amid the typical Bangkok urban landscape. Exhibitions vary from traditional Thai collections to robust international displays, and rotate with frequency, so there’s always something new to check out.
Tour Bangkok’s best (and most wallet-friendly) views
The splendor of Bangkok is best taken in at its highest points and expansive views—which often come with a hefty price tag. However, there are plenty of rooftops welcoming you to take in the view with your loved one for a fraction of the cost, or none at all. Finish your date by heading up to the 64th floor of the State Tower, home to Lebua Sky Bar, made famous from The Hangover II. While their cocktails are pricey, the entrance is free. 342 Bar in Thonburi offers a more modest ascent at only five stories, but has the best views of The Grand Palace and Chao Phraya. A buy-two-get-one-free drink deal runs from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. If you’re aiming even higher, Baiyoke Tower II has a revolving viewpoint on the 84th floor, at a fee of 400 baht, including a cocktail at the rooftop bar. Or, if 80 baht drink prices are what you’re after, check out the River Vibe Restaurant and Bar, and take in the glittering views of Chinatown by night.