So it’s your first time in Bangkok? You’re in for a treat!
Travelers who come to the Thai capital quickly find out why it’s the number one destination in South East Asia as it’s also dubbed the ‘land of smiles’ for a reason! Thais are among the happiest people in the world and it’s easy to see why. They live in an awesome country!
In this blog post I’m going to talk about the places you should check out, how to get around, and the common scams to avoid. Rest assured though, Bangkok is a very safe city to travel and tourist friendly. It’s easy to get by with just English! However I do recommend learning some basic Thai words to enrich your own experiences.
Getting around Bangkok
The network of train stations around Bangkok is extensive and you can reach almost anywhere in the city with it. There are always upgrades being done to the system with more stations being planned and added. Fares are calculated on a distance base and starts at 16 bahts on a single journey ticket. Discounted rates are given to Rabbit Card users who uses this stored value card and fares start at 15 bahts for them. Foreigners are allowed to purchase Rabbit Cards at any BTS station or stores that sell them as long as your present your passport for registration.
Buses are cheap and run all across the city. They are numbered but can be a little difficult to navigate since everything is written in Thai. Use google maps to help you determine which bus number to catch. The buses are usually old, packed full of people, equipped with fans and wide open windows for cooling. It may get uncomfortable during rush hour.
To take the bus, wave down the bus when you see it coming or else it might not stop for you, hop on and pay the employee who approaches you with the tin can money changer. Fares are calculated by distance as well and you will need to let the employee know your arriving bus stop. You can do this by showing your google maps to them.
Metered taxis are available everywhere and you can take one by flagging them down. Ask the driver if they will go to your destination before hopping in and then once you’re in be sure the meter is turned on.
Taking a taxi successfully can be a time consuming since most drivers will refuse to drive you if you’re going somewhere way out of central location. The fare scams are common for locals and foreigners and every-so-often as I walk down the street I can see arguments happening for the expensive fare being charged. The police usually gets involved and sometimes a secret “speed switch” that makes the meter run faster is found by the driver’s leg. Personally, I avoid using taxis.
These are famous around Thailand for their unique look, but you are most susceptible to fare scams using these. In fact, even locals avoid using Tuk Tuks because of it. Fares are generally high and you will have to negotiate the price before you hop in. But if money is no issue for you, just wave one down or pick one waiting on the side of the road and go!
Motorbikers are the people for hire who ride around wearing the orange vest. They are the most common way for locals to get around the city since they can maneuver around traffic and small streets easily. You’ll find motorbiker stands around the city with a large sign indicating the prices for popular destinations. If they don’t have a price sign, you will have to ask and sometimes negotiate a price.
What a lot of foreigners don’t know is that local Thais also hire Motorbikers to run errands for them such as, small deliveries to other people or waiting in line to pay a fine at the local police station. It’s pretty neat!
This is my number one choice to get around the city and prevents any fare scams from happening to me. Since all fares are calculated through the app and all parties know ahead of time, it is the surefire way to get around safely. Download the app, link your credit card, and away you go.
Sometimes drivers will cancel your ride request if you’re going too far, but if that happens just re-request until someone is willing.
What to see in Bangkok
Easily one of the most beautiful temples in the city. They have recently repainted the temple to restore the whiteness and contrasting colors, so there are many great angles to capture your travel photos.
In Thai tradition, young men devote three months living in the temple and learn what it takes to become a Buddhist monk, having to sacrifice their modern way of life. I was lucky enough to see first hand the experiences of this behind the temple walls with a friend I made in Thailand. If you see young monks wandering around the temple, it’s very likely they are on their devotion time there.
The Royal Grand Palace
This is a beautiful place decorated in gold and jewels and is used by the royal family for coronation ceremonies or special events. The Grand Palace is a complex of buildings at the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. The palace has been the official residence of the Kings of Siam since 1782. The king, his court, and his royal government were based on the grounds of the palace until 1925. However, the current royal family does not reside here.
Right by Asoke BTS Station is a large mall complex called Terminal 21 which is themed as many different airports around the world where each floor has it’s own theme. Make sure not to miss this one on your trip here because up on the 6th floor is a large and popular food court with the locals. The reason? A large variety of Thai food at street food prices! This is the place I frequent the most because there are just so many things to try for shocking great prices.
Common scams to avoid
The really friendly local
Around the Grand Palace and tourist hot spots you’ll sometimes be approached by a really friendly local Thai who will speak fluent English. Beware of these guys because their goal is to befriend you and take you around Bangkok at super inflated prices.
One time a local approached me when I got out of a grab ride near the entrance of the Grand Palace. He seemed really friendly and asked me where I was going, so I replied that I was going to visit the Grand Palace. He quickly said, oh it’s closed today because of a ceremony and instead he can take me around somewhere to other parts of Bangkok. I knew instantly this was a scam so I abruptly just walked off and went straight to the entrance of the Grand Palace.
No change or wrong change
This is more common on the street when you purchase something from a small vendor. Some scrupulous locals will short change you or pretend they don’t have any change. Instead of giving back your change, they will offer you more of what you’re buying. This might be a good thing if you like what you’re having. To avoid this scam, break your large bills at convenience stores and pay exact change to street vendors.
Miscommunication on price
This one will happen when it comes time to pay for something, like a negotiated ride or paying for your meal. You will end up paying more because they’ll make you think that they quoted you a higher number that sounds similar. For instance sixty sounds like fifty. Always confirm with them by pulling out your phone calculator and punching in the number when negotiating at the beginning.
Food to try in Bangkok
Stewed pork leg with rice
Thai fruit desserts
Durian sticky rice
Mango sticky rice
Thai milk tea
Rose milk tea
Salted Egg Corn Som Tum
Salted crab Som Tum
As I’m always in Bangkok traveling back and forth, I’ll keep this blog post updated constantly to share my new experiences here.
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Last updated: December 26, 2019