It’s not always easy to make a decision while traveling.
At home, you already know your favorite places to go, the best way to get there, and what to expect once you’ve arrived. You can have a great night out without much effort at all.
In an unfamiliar place, everything takes more planning. You’ll probably want to read reviews, research prices, and consider logistics before heading out for the night. We’ve often reached the end of a great day exploring, come back to our hotel to clean up, and then found ourselves feeling a bit lost as we realized we don’t really know where to head.
Of course, that can also be a really exciting feeling! But if you’re looking for a bit of direction, we’d like to help you get started by considering what kind of night you want to have and what options typically await you in major cities around the world.
Below we’ve highlighted five types of bars that you should consider, along with a few recommendations from our travels thrown in.
The Cheapest Bar
What’s your biggest concern when traveling? For many people, it’s staying within budget. If that’s you, finding the cheapest bar might be the way to go. Along with being easy on the wallet, these have often been really fun bars. They’re random, tucked into some unexpected nook, and usually not filled with other foreigners.
That said, they are probably cheap for a reason. The alcohol isn’t going to be the highest quality. The vodka was found in the basement years ago – if there’s vodka at all. You’ll probably need to choose from local liqueurs or strong homemade beers.
It’s perfect for: Budget backpackers and travelers, or anyone looking for something more laid back and random.
Some random ones we’ve found:
The 10 Baht Bar, Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Perry’s Cafes, Shanghai, China
BePotato (Formerly Feelings), Guangzhou, China
The Welly Club, Hull, United Kingdom
Pub Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia
FIV五 Izakaya Bar, Singapore
Workshop, Melbourne, Australia
Cheap and cheerful.
These bars are definitely the most fun! They can also be the biggest challenge to find. If you’re reading a review on the internet, then you can probably assume other travelers are finding the same reviews. The best way to stumble upon these gems is to ask a local. This could be a new friend, your taxi driver, or even a random friendly person off the street if you’re bold enough. You can also wander away from the city center and just have a look around yourself.
Once you’ve found the right place, be ready for an amazing and unexpected night! You might find yourself watching bizarre dance shows in Myanmar, singing classic English songs with Chinese people in Guangzhou, or dancing the night away until 2am with an entire Indian family.
Be warned: Be aware that you are a guest in these places. Don’t stroll in like you own the place. Be respectful and read the room to know what is and isn’t appropriate behavior.
It’s perfect for: Travelers who want to get off the beaten track or experience something completely new.
Dancing in a local bar in New Delhi.
Bars with a View
Sometimes we’re in the mood for a classier kind of night – despite what some of our stories may have lead you to believe. On these occasions we prefer a little more sophistication, and we often head to a rooftop bar. They’re usually more expensive, but they can be worth it if you want to really enjoy the view – whether it’s an urban city, rural landscape, a beach, mountains, or a river. You’ll get a relaxing atmosphere, and some really good pictures.
Be warned: You can expect crowds and steep prices.
It’s perfect for: Anyone who loves beautiful views, fancy drinks, dressing up, or taking impressive photos.
We’ve seen a lot of rooftop views, but only a few have really left an impression on us. We’d recommend:
Octave Rooftop Lounge and Bar, Bangkok, Thailand
O Zone, Hong Kong
1 – Altitude Gallery and Bar, Singapore
Enjoy the view.
Rolling your eyes at that bar street full of backpackers and tourists? We’d recommend you give it a chance! Maybe you’ll hate it, but popularity is usually earned for a reason. You can always move on if it’s not suiting you. It might not be your most authentic night abroad, but we’ve certainly had a lot of fun in these hotspots.
It’s also a great way to meet other travelers or expats if you’re new to a city, and the drinks tend to be affordable with plenty of happy hours or buy-one-get-one deals.
Be warned: You’ll probably find yourself in a large, drunk crowd. You won’t see a lot of locals or local culture. You might end up in a few repetitive small talk conversations.
Perfect for: People who want to meet other travelers, or those just looking for a simple, fun night.
Some great deals can be found in tourist hotspots.
The Bar that’s not a Bar
Nothing looking appealing so far? Maybe the “bar” you want isn’t a bar at all. Some of our best nights have been with a bottle of wine from the grocery store or a few beers from 7-11. Instead of heading to a bar, we just wandered around a little and found somewhere to stop, chat, and drink. This could be next to the river running through the city, on a park bench, by the hotel pool, or even just on some random steps. If you already have a great group and the conversation is flowing, why do you need a bar?
Be warned: This usually only works on a chill night – after a few drinks you might start to feel like a dance, and that’s hard to create without heading to real bar or club – unless you’re okay with creating an embarrassing public scene.
Perfect for: Groups of travelers who aren’t in the mood for a crowd, don’t want to meet new people that night, or just want a really relaxing evening.
Make your own entertainment.
There are so many options for a good night when you’re traveling! From karaoke to fine wine, it can be difficult to choose a direction and then find the right place. We usually aim to have a few different experiences on each trip. Which types of bars are your favorites? Where would you recommend?