Top 10 Bangkok survival tips

  • Posted onMay 23rd, 2013

BangkokI would consider Bangkok to be a very safe city, and you’ll find most nervous newcomers leave Bangkok shocked at just how safe and friendly the city really is. However, just like any bustling metropolis in the world there are a number of tourist traps and general annoyances that you will want to avoid.

To help you make the most of your stay, here are our 10 top tips for surviving Bangkok city:

1. Plan ahead

Bangkok is quite a vast city and certainly not a place where you can base yourself centrally and rely on moving around by foot. Attractions, nightlife, sights, and entertainment are spread all around the city, so you are going to want to plan at least a rough itinerary in advance in order to group together activities and locations that are close to each other, as well as planning where to best locate yourself.

For example, if the purpose of your trip is to take in lots of temples and sights you may want to find accommodation in the Old City or by the river, or if you are planning to spend the majority of your time exploring the amazing malls and markets you may consider basing yourself close to Chidlom or Ploenchit.

Thai Visa2. Carry a copy of passport (inc visa page)

Carrying ID in Thailand is a must. It’s actually unlikely to happen, but if you do find yourself in a position where you need to speak with the police, or you get questioned for ID at a night venue, a copy of your passport will really come to the rescue.

Forget about carrying your original passport with you, a clear photocopy will be enough, while you’re real passport should be kept locked in your room safe!

3. Buy a map

Bangkok isn’t easy to navigate, the streets tangle into one and other, the numbering doesn’t always make sense, and the many canals, highways, and similar looking towers just add to the confusion. A good map will help you get orientated, especially if you take note of the more simple BTS and MRT lines.

Most streets will have English names as well as Thai names, and you can use certain large streets like Sukhumvit and Sathorn to keep yourself reasonably well orientated.

Bangkok scam4. Beware of scams

Beware of anyone who is hanging around outside a tourist attraction or area popular with foreigners, and try to avoid dealing with any tuk tuk or taxi driver parked up outside such places. If you are suspicious of anyone being over friendly with you, go with your instincts, just smile politely and walk away.

There are a number of small scams to avoid in Bangkok, here are a few of them – Bangkok Scams

5. Take a tour or two

There are no shortage of tours available in Bangkok, and while it may be seen as tacky or ‘too touristy’ by some, tours such as river cruises and temple walks are a great way of seeing the usually sights while getting some local insight.

Barter6. Learn to barter

You won’t see too many price tags away from the glitzy mega malls of Bangkok, here people expect you to barter over the price of almost anything. Bartering can be fun and some people just have the knack of it. There are still some unwritten rules of bartering – you should always do it politely and with  a smile, expect the opening price to be as much as double what you need to pay, and don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel like you are losing the battle (in many cases you’ll be called back and given a much more reasonable price!).

7. Use the BTS sky train and MRT underground systems

Bangkok traffic can be a nightmare and as much as tuk tuks and motor bike taxis can be a novel alternative, they are also often impractical, more expensive, and dangerous. The BTS and MRT are a saviour for those wishing to travel around the city during rush hour (which in Bangkok can last from 8am to 8pm).

Learn the routes and try to use the BTS and MRT as much as possible. Both are very clean, reliable, and reasonably price, as well as being simple to understand.

Bangkok taxi8. Use taxi’s late at night

Unfortunately the BTS and MRT systems close down close to midnight and you are likely to find yourself travelling deep into the night when exploring Bangkok’s amazing nightlife. Your best mode of transport at this time is by taxi, with taxi’s found all over the city, every hour of the day and night.

One tip is to always make sure the driver puts his meter on. A licensed taxi should always put its meter on when picking up a new passenger unless a price has been agreed in advance. Some taxi drivers will refuse to put the meter on and try to negotiate a fixed price – these guys should be avoided, simply walk away and flag down another taxi. Some taxi’s will also refuse to take you to certain parts of town, not because it is dangerous, simply because they have a preference for which are of town they want to be in.

9. Carry your hotel card in your wallet

One very simple tip which can help you out is to take a hotel card from the lobby of your hotel and keep it on you at all times. Most cards will also have a map or address and directions written in Thai – if not, don’t be afraid to ask the receptionist to write additional direction in Thai for you. There are times when you get taxi drivers who don’t know certain parts of town very well at all and a hotel card with directions and contact number will really come to your aid.

drink water10. Drink lots of water

This is a general travel tip for any country your visit, but especially relevant in Bangkok where things can get very hot and stuffy at times. Aim to drink at least 2 litres of bottled water today, ideally double that amount when you are moving around the city, walking in the heat, and sweating a lot.

Fortunately bottled water in Bangkok is extremely cheap and you will never find yourself far from a convenience store or street vendor who will serve you up a cold bottle of the clear stuff.

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