Bangkok is the sprawling capital of Thailand and serves as the main gateway into the country for foreign tourist. The capital appears chaotic on the surface and can give tourists instant culture shock. But dig below the surface and find a city that exudes historical, cultural and culinary charm. From the world-class hotels dominating the skyline to the Thailand vacation rentals, Bangkok makes a great spot as a tourist. If this is your first time, check out the following tips to get the most out of your trip and to avoid falling victim to a scam.
Beware of the Tuk Tuks
Tourists often marvel at the colourful and strange-looking tuk-tuks that are so popular on Bangkok’s streets. But while they might seem exotic and fun to travel around in, many of the drivers are actively looking for tourists to overcharge. If you do take one, be aware that it’s often much cheaper to use a metered taxi as the locals do instead. Many of the drivers will also give you false information about attractions that have apparently closed early before convincing you to visit somewhere they know. Those who take up their offer often find they have to pay an inflated price of which some goes into the drivers pocket as commission.
Invest in a Good Map
As you would expect in a massive megalopolis, Bangkok has several small streets and alleys branching and winding around the city. Getting lost at least once is more of a certainty than chance if you’re out exploring on your own. Find a good map and plot out the attractions you want to visit, which in turn will make your trip more efficient. Having to rely on taxis and tuk-tuks to pick you up when you’re lost all time can get a little frustrating. Or instead of a map, consider getting GPS on your phone.
Expect to Bargain
As with much of Asia, bargaining is expected in many shops and especially with the tuk-tuk drivers. Whenever you want to buy something that doesn’t have a barcode like those in the supermarket, you might be able to bargain. Sometimes you can get lucky and get up to 50% off whereas other times the vendor won’t budge on the price. It’s also worth pointing out that as a foreigner, you’re probably going to be charged more anyway. If you do try to bargain, always be respectful and don’t try to drive too much of a hard bargain to save just a dollar or two.
Only Use Metered Taxis
Backpackers staying in Khao San will find the endless gangs of taxi drivers to be quite pushy and a little bit annoying. But even more frustrating is that they all work together and refuse to turn on their meter. Ask one driver, and they’ll give you a fixed rate. Walk away to another driver, and they’ll offer something similar. This can give the impression that the taxis in Thailand don’t use their meter. Wrong. All the driver collude together to deceive tourists. Walk away from the backpacker area, and you’ll find it’s easy to get a taxi who uses his meter. The difference can sometimes be paying five or six times higher with one of the dishonest drivers.
Expect Traffic Jams
Traffic fills the streets of Bangkok at all times of the day and night. Getting from one place to the next can sometimes be frustratingly slow. If you have a flight, make sure you factor in plenty of time to get to the airport. Jams and congestion can happen unexpectedly and increase the time to get to the airport. It might be better to double the expected time it will take you to reach your destination. After all, wouldn’t you rather be early than miss your flight or bus?
Take a Day Trip
Instead of spending all your time in Bangkok, why not take a day trip or get away from the city and spend the night in the countryside? The most popular day trip is to Ayutthaya, the former capital located approximately 80 kilometres to the north of Bangkok. Inside the complex, you’ll see the ruins of ancient temples and palaces. The ruins were once the most thriving part of Thailand between 1350 and the middle of the 18th-century. You can visit Ayutthaya by taking the bus or train from Bangkok.
Another favourite day trip is to Kanchanaburi. Kanchanaburi has more of a darker history. During World War 2, the Japanese used Prisoners of War to build the infamous Death Railway. The town today has a small rural feeling with a few hotels and restaurants. The main attraction here is the Bridge of River Kwai. You can also visit the War Cemetery and enjoy the Thai countryside. Some tourists travel and stay the night in one of the riverside hotels whereas others will come just for the day and return to Bangkok. If you spend the night, it’s also possible to travel to the end of the Death Railway and visit the Hellfire, an infamous pass that claimed the lives of hundreds of Australians.
Learn a Word or Two of Thai
Few people outside of the tourist areas can speak English. Knowing a word or two such as how to say ‘thank you’ will go a long way in Thailand. The locals are friendly, smiley and usually helpful. For them, hearing a foreigner try to speak Thai will make their day.
Enjoying Your Time in Bangkok
First-time visitors to Bangkok are often overwhelmed at first until the city begins to grow on them. Follow these suggestions, and you’ll have a much better travel experience in Thailand’s bustling capital.