Bangkok Tips and Hints

Main Attractions: The Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaeo (be there at 8:30 am when it opens to avoid the crowds); Wat Pho; Wat Arun; Vinanmek Palace;National Museum; Chinatown; Jim Thompson’s House (BTS station "National Stadium"); Suan Pakkard "Lettuce Farm Palace" (BTS station "Phaya Thai"); Chatuchuk Weekend Market (BTS station "Mo Chit"); Pratunam Market (BTS station "Ploenchit"); Suan Lum Night Bazaar (MRT station "Lumpini"); Gun Shooting Range at the "Military Police Battalion Department 11", near Victory Monument (military service).

Tip: Arrive early at the grand palace as it can be a very busy place with queues, and lots to see inside.

Tip2: If anyone tries to tell you that a major attraction is closed, and offers you an alternative (like a rare visit to the "Lucky Buddha") consider that this may be a scam.  Se below (and many Websites plus postings on TA).  In addition to the "closed" attraction scam, which was perpatrated by a guy in a "tourism police" shirt, you may be told there areno restaurants in the area (close to Wat Po), ignore this as there are a number of restaurants just a few meters further - this appared to be yet another "Tuk Tuk" scam.

At the reclining bhudda, be careful of pickpockets, this place can get extremely busy at peak season and you walk like shoulder to shoulder slowly inside when viewing. Officials are outside also warning of pickpockets so hold onto valueables safely. 

Cost & Expenses :
Bangkok is relatively cheap, but you have to look at the right place.
You can find food ranging from 25TB to 2500TB, same for hotel and accommodation.
City is know for its best bargains, but things are changing most of the shops and malls these days are tend to go for a fixed price concept.

Getting Around: BTS "Skytrain" and the MRT "Metro/subway" are excellent but some attractions require the use of taxis. Even so it's a big plus to get a hotel close to an BTS or MRT station. Tickets and tokens can be bought from vending machines, a cashier will provide change. There are rechargeable and multiple use tickets.

Hint: The citiliner train from the airport to Phaya Thai is convenient but limited luggage space. For one suitcase per person should be okay but more than that can be problematic. If this is the case, sit in the first coach just behind the driver, which has some standing space which can accommodate some luggage. The link bridge from Phaya Thai station to BTS station, which someone mentioned in another article as not complete, IS NOW COMPLETE. It is very convenient, so no need to go down to road. Only problem is there is no escalator going down, so luggage would be a problem down the stairs. Makkasan station(airport express) is too far from MBK area so the citiliner is the practical option as the airport express stops as far as Makkasan.

Additional information regarding the Airport transportation:

There are two lines running between the Airport and Phaya Thai / Makkasan station. One is the Airport Express, the other is the City Line (citiliner). Both are running on the same track but one stops at each station and the Express will go all the way to either Phaya Thai or Makkasan station. The fare for Airport Express is 150b (return valid within 2 weeks) and 90b (single); the fare for Cityline is 45b between Airport and Phaya Thai. The journey time is 15 mins and 30 mins respectively. You will find the route map here.

 

Taxis: queue at hotel doors. Get the doorman to tell the driver where you want to go and be insistent that you don’t want to go anywhere else and you DO want to use the meter. It's often best just to walk out to the roadside and hail a passing cab yourself ALWAYS ask if he will use the meter if not, refuse the ride and try another taxi ,sooner or later you will find one who will use the meter. Inner city fares are rarely over THB100. Be prepared for the driver to have no change by always keeping a small stash of THB20's, 50's and 100's. It's a good tip to carry your hotel’s business card (which will be written in both Thai and English, for the return trip.Moreinfo - LINK

Tuk Tuk: you need to haggle hard and agree on the price before you get in, then only pay once you've reached the destination you asked for safely. They can be fairly unpleasant because of their apparent recklessness and you sit in the exhaust fumes of Bangkok. They are one of those Bangkok "must-do-once" activities though.  

River Transport: Don't be afraid to use the river and khlong boats. How to and further info - LINK

Additional information regarding boat trips:

The river boats are run by Chao Phraya Express Boat Co., which runs both the local ferries and the tourist boat service. There are four local boat services which are indicated by different colours of the flag (orange, yellow, green and no flag). The four boat services run on similar routes and some stop more frequently than others. The cost of a single journey is around 10-20 baht. You can either buy the ticket at the pier or pay on the boat (there is someone there). This is what most locals do. This is by far the best way to cruise around the river in a low cost way whichever service you take. You will see the difference between each line here. The tourist boat runs between 9:30am-4pm and costs 30 baht per journey. A one-day ticket costs 150 baht which covers unlimited journeys including the local boat services. Unless you are sure you will get on and off more than seven times on the day otherwise it's probably more cost effective to pay-as-you-go. The tourist boat service starts at Saphan Taksin (i.e. Central Pier) and finish at Rama 8 pier whilst others go further along the river, although the main attractions are already covered by the tourist line. You will find out more from this page. You can also join an evening cruise provided by private companies. 

 

Clothing: As it is always hot and often humid, clothes made from quick-drying synthetic fibres are advisable. At the Grand Palace and Vinamek, , shorts are not  acceptable but 3/4 pants for women may pass depending on which guard stops you.Take a sarong in your bag in case you need to wear it.  You need , shoes and a shirt with at least short sleeves. If you wear a long-sleeved shirt, the sleeves must be rolled down. In other areas modest shorts and sandals are generally OK.  

Eating & Drinking: There are plenty of restaurants and fast food eateries. Be cautious about buying food from street vendors, look for one that's busy serving the locals - the food there will be good. Water and other soft and alcoholic drinks can be bought in supermarkets and convenience stores. Do not drink the tap water. Ice for drinks is made from purified water.  Bussaracum, Sethiwan Tower (BTS station "Surasak") is a great way to experience food in the Royal Thai style. Reservations are recommended.

Thai food in touristy areas (Sukhumvit, Silom and Patpong) is 'watered down', overpriced and pseudo-authentic. First-time travellers will usually  only find this type of Thai food unless they look for places where the local Thai people are eating. If you have the initiative, venture off the foreigner beaten path and eat in restaurants serving predominately Thai customers. The food is many times tastier, spicier and cheaper. This can be made a lot easier with a Thai friend (or guide) who can show you the establishments and help you decide what to try.

Tours: Take guided tours to places which are otherwise difficult to reach. Using a guide for a day will teach you a lot about negotiating the city and use of public transport for those days you're doing it solo. Some of the more popular city options - LINK1 and LINK2

Bargaining/Haggling: If there's no price tag, it can be bargained down. You can shave 25-50% off the seller's asking price if you use a smile and a patient disposition. The shop keeper will end negotiations once your offer stays below what he can afford to sell it for.

Scams and Cons: The popular tourist icons around Bangkok also have their fair share of scammers loitering, waiting to relieve you of your precious vacation time, and money. The Grand Palace is NOT closed today or for a few hours due to an official function, even if the person at the gate tells you he works there and  has an ID as it is probably fake-  there are NO special one day or this week only sales on gemstones and the cheap Tuk Tuk ride he will offer you for the few hours the temple is closed WILL NOT take you to other temples , you will find yourself at fake jewellery stores where they will try to scam you again.

If approached and engaged in unsolicited conversation by any person, be they Thai or from your home country, WAKE UP, chances are there's a scam coming. Important Reading  - LINK  

Respect: Always be respectful with regard to the Royal Family and  Buddhism. The country has Lèse majesté laws which are severe for disrespecting or insulting the Royal family or items (money notes, pictures, statues) depicting the Royal Family.

Feet are considered very low and dirty and the head is considered extremely high and clean. Touching someone with your feet or using your feet to point will insult Thai people. Patting a Thai on the head is very rude and just not done.

Thais, in general, have a non-confrontational attitude. Losing your temper means to 'lose a face' which, to them, is a sign of weakness and embarrassment. Losing your temper, raised voice, finger pointing, swearing will bring you nothing but trouble. By staying calm and speaking softly, even in the most difficult situations, will, more often than not, get you the result you wanted.

There are more etiquette tips linked here

Language: The everyday greeting and farewell phrases are the same:

sawadee krub (used by men) or sawadee ka (used by women) means "good day" or hello/farewell.

kkop khun krub (men) -  kkop khun kah (women) is a polite "thank you".

*Mai Aow - (I do) not want (it). This one will fend off vendors and touts very effectively. Add krub (for guys) or kah (if you're female)if you want to make it extra polite - Mai Aow Krub - Listen LINK

The use of these is appreciated, but not expected from tourists. Learning the numbers and counting in Thai can be very useful for first time travellers.

There is more information on "useful" phrases linked here

Currency: - Exchange, ATMs, and Travellers Cheque questions answered here - LINK

Other important information:

  • Some medicines can be bought from pharmacies/chemists/drug stores, often times without prescription.
  • The pharmacist will advise on what you need and dosage for a particular illness.
  • If bringing your own medications, read this - LINK
  • Licence Requirements for self drive, small motorcycle or car, important info - LINK
  • Customs and Duty Free Allowance information -LINK

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