My little sister is heading to Bangkok in January, and I’ve been trying to think of advice to give her for when she gets there. I’m trying to picture what she would want to do when she gets there, and how she wants to get around. She’s not like me; she buys $100 shoes and $300 dresses. I doubt she’ll want to take public transport when she can get a taxi for a few dollars more. She’s probably going to want to spend more time at MBK or Siam Paragon than at the floating markets or any temples.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to trawl through some other blogs and get some ideas from them as to what my sister might like to do, and then I’ll add in some of the stuff I’d like to know, just in case. Here goes…
The Classic Three Bangkok Scams – Bangkok Beyond
Top 10 Scams in Thailand – Thai Blogs
Bangkok Airport Taxi Scam – Travelfish
And just to prove that experienced travellers fall for these as well…
Getting Scammed in Bangkok – Globetrotter Girls (my fav!)
Sights and Scams in Bangkok – Yonder Blog
The Litter Scam – Travelling Canucks
Tuk-Tuk Scam – Be My Travel Muse
The 20baht tuk tuk ride – The Road to Anywhere
Be especially aware of the ‘ping-pong show’ scam. This is one of the only times where you might be in physical danger (instead of just monetary). I have read A LOT of stories of people who fall into this scam. It’s mostly guys, but here a woman’s perspective. This can happen to you even if you are in a group with big guys.
My Narrow Escape from the Ping-Pong Show Scam – Grrrl Traveler
Seriously, if you fall for any of these scams, I may have to disown you.
Ok, so how to get from the airport to your hotel, and get around Bangkok. It’s called the Sky Train, or BTS. Here’s what you do. You find out where your hotel is, then you ask, or find out, what the nearest BTS station is. Then you look at the map, which you can find here.
When I stayed in Bangkok, my hostel was near the ‘Sala Daeng’ stop. I remember this, because it sounded like ‘Sarah Dying’ in a bad Asian accent, which is what it felt like walking 900m in 40 degree heat and bulk humidity. Talk about sweatn’ buckets!
So from the airport I had to take the Airport Rail Link (City Line), then the Skytrain Sukhumvit Line to ‘Siam’, then switch to the Skytrain Silom Line to get to ‘Sala Daeng’. Try to print out a map before you go and ask the ticket sellers, they’ll point you in the right direction. The Skytrains are way more modern than anything we have in Aus, well signposted, and it’s super easy to buy tickets. Get a taxi if you can’t be bothered walking, or if you want to go somewhere that the Skytrains don’t go, like Khe Sanh Road (which is a must, it’s like BACKPACKER CENTRAL). Also, Jimmy Barnes sings about it, so now you’ll know what he’s on about. It’s pronounced K-SAN. Other spellings include Khaosan.
Check out this post by etramping which talks about Khe Sanh and some scams there.
I would recommend you chose a hotel that is ‘walking distance’ from a BTS station, otherwise you might end up in the outskirts of Bangkok somewhere…
Ok, so you’ve booked your hotel, you’ve arrived in Thailand, you’ve successfully checked in, now what?
Perhaps some shopping?
Every Girl’s Guide to Shopping in Bangkok – Karisa Abroad
Where to Shop in Bangkok – Flip Nomad
What about these super touristy things recommended by travel bloggers?
How to Spend Three Days in Bangkok – Nomadic Matt
Things To Do In Bangkok – Ytravel Blog
A Rather Quirky Side of Bangkok – Not Quite Nigella (my favourite one!)
Ask your concierge (the receptionist). Seriously, they know everything about the city, and get asked this question about fifty times a day. They know what tourists want!
Hmmm, what else?
$1AUD = 29THB – but you can round it up to 30, it’s OK 🙂
Some other things you’ll need:
7-11s: These are open (supposedly) from 7am to 11pm, but it seemed to me that they were open 24/7. You can buy cheap bottled water here, as well as snacks (hmmm, Pringles), power adapters and most importantly will help you change your 1000 baht notes into something more realistic (considering a bottle of water costs around 15 baht…). Note: Do not eat any ‘food’ in the 7-11 that does not come in a packet. Their ‘meals’ and ‘sandwiches’ are only for the truly desperate.
Boots: This is a pharmacy/chemists, not a shoe shop. They are very well stocked; do not bring your entire supply of panadol and antiseptic wash.
Food: There’s loads of local Thai food (so delicious, I’m drooling right now) for sale, and it’s usually very cheap and convenient take-away food. Think little kebabs (meat on a stick) or bags of buttery sweetcorn (YUM!). They also sell bags of cool, freshly squeezed orange juice, or hit a coffee stand and have the equivalent of eight normal coffees in one delicious cup. Other times you’ll sit at a little table next to the stall, slurping down a bowl of soup. This food is absolutely safe. EAT IT!
Check out this ‘Top 10’ list of foods to try in Thailand – Our Oyster
If you eat nothing else, try the papaya salad – sounds horrible, tastes like heaven 🙂
If you’re feeling homesick, or just want some junk food, there’s plenty to choose from. McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Dunkin’ Donuts and loads more.
Drinking: I’m talking alcohol here folks. There are loads of ‘foreigner’ bars around in the ‘touristy’ areas, like Patpong (with ping-pong shows and all), Khe Sanh and Sukhumvit. Patpong has your usual bars, with mostly ‘sleazy’ guys. I didn’t drink there, but you haven’t seen Bangkok till you’ve been mobbed by a bunch of gay Thais. I only visited Khe Sanh during the day, but I bet it would have an epic nightlife. Probably similar to the most epic university party you’ve ever been to. But doubled. The Sukhumvit nightclubs are AWESOME, but I kind of felt out of place because I went there with one (newly made) friend, and there weren’t many foreigners there. Maybe if we’d gone at 1am instead of 10pm? The music was awesome, the drinks were cheap and it was just a really great atmosphere!
Anyway, there are supermarkets around where you can buy a cheap bottle of booze (and mixers), and of course you can always bring some in from the airport duty free 🙂 Duty Free Alcohol is limited to 1L, coming into Thailand. Also, beer is pretty cheap in the supermarkets and the 7-11s (if I remember correctly). Try to find out when your nearest bar has their happy hour.
Oh yeah, when you want to buy something (like clothes) from a stall in the market, or at MBK, you need to bargain. I think this is freaking annoying, but basically you have to think about what you would be happy paying for it before you ask for the price. Thai vendors will show you the price on a calculator so there are no misunderstandings. BYOC (Bring Your Own Calculator) if you’re really serious about it, but it’s more than fine to just tell them a lower price, then the bartering begins! You’ll get ripped off on one of your first few purchases. Just remember it’s only a few dollars – compare it to how much you are spending on accommodation each night!! Note: the quality of the stuff (like handbags) may look good, but most of it will be really bad quality. As in, start falling apart a few hours after you buy it. Just keep it in mind so you don’t feel bad for asking a really low price.
Drink a lot of water! You will sweat it out anyway, and you can always duck into a massage place if you’re busting, and use it as an excuse to get a massage 🙂
Next tip: Get at least one – two massages a day. $8.00 for an hour-long foot massage (which is the going rate, don’t believe your expensive hotel). Soooo good after walking all day. Many stay open till 2am or even later, so feel free to party in heels and then be in heaven! A ‘Thai Massage’ is pretty much yoga, but instead of you doing the movements yourself, the lady puts your body into all sorts of positions. Apparently you feel amazing a few days later though!
Do a tour!! I wanted to be all Lonely Planet Warrior Princess when I went to Bangkok. I kind of regret not doing a Floating Market tour. There’s also a tour to go to the Tiger Temple which sounded cool!
Have a colour photocopy of your passport which you can carry around instead of your actual passport.
Look out for pickpockets and motorbike thieves. I never had any issue with this, and haven’t really heard of any theft stories in Bangkok (other than scams), but make sure you stay vigilant.
There are a lot of places your can get your laundry done (around $1-$2 per kilo). Your hotel will do it as well, but it might be more expensive.
Like Australia; you don’t need to tip, but people appreciate it if you do.
If you want to get out of Bangkok and do a bit of exploring, either go with a tour, or head to Hualamphong Station (Bangkok’s main train station) and buy a ticket. Check out The Man in Seat 61’s advice.
I suggest Koh Phangan (and not just for the full moon party!). It’s just a really great island that has loads of things to do, a really chilled atmosphere, and attracts a fun crowd. See here how you could do it on the cheap (<$25 per day).
If you go to a temple, cover your shoulders and your legs. Buy a scarf so you can put it over your shoulders, and remove your shoes before you enter the temple.
Never point your bare feet as someone (when you’re sitting down), and never touch someone’s head (even a small child).
Never insult the King, or any other royal family member. Don’t even think about it.
The ‘wai’ (that little bow) is kind of like a handshake in western culture. You’d do it to a new acquaintance, but usually not to a taxi driver.
Last but not least: DO NOT USE TUK TUKS! Ok, you can go in one to see what it’s like, but really, they are a massive rip-off, and why would you use one when an air-con taxi is cheaper. The only time I would use one is if you were really desperate, or you needed to get somewhere really quickly (they can weave through traffic like a beast!). Remember to always have the meter on in the taxi. If they don’t put it on, or if they ‘forget’, tell them you’ll just call the ‘Tourist Police’ (they have those in Thailand) to help sort it out, and they’ll usually do the right thing.
Anything else, Google it, or check out my post here about visiting Thailand back in 2011.