Prior our trip, I read several travel blogs and official websites on what to do and expect when I visit Bangkok. Now it is my turn to give my own insights on what to take note.
1. It would be best if you pick a hotel/lodging near the BTS or MRT. These two are the main train systems in the city. It would save you a lot of time if you will stay near a station. There are also buses, taxis and tuk-tuks, but the train system was the easiest mode of transportation we’ve tried. If you plan on using the BTS several times, it might be a good idea to buy a rabbit card. The BTS is open until midnight.
2. Aside from the train, you may opt to use Uber or Grab. Save the tuk-tuk ride for short trips. In our experience, booking an Uber ride is cheaper. You may also want to try checking the Uber or Grab rate before you hail a tuk-tuk. We tried several times haggling the price with a tuk-tuk driver, but when they notice you are not a local they will charge you a higher fee because “it is traffic”. You may also want to try the Chao Phraya River Boat if the place you want to visit has a port nearby.
3. Do not, if not refrain, talk about the royal family. You will see pictures of them everywhere you go. Thais show great respect and love for their royal family, and they take lèse-majesté seriously. I did not dare take pictures of them because I was too scared. 😀 You can get into serious trouble by simple giving an unpleasant remark especially now that they are on a one-year mourning over the passing of HM King Bhumibol.
4. Dress modestly when you plan on visiting the temples. While they do offer malong for rent, it would still be best if you wear clothes that do not reveal your knee and shoulder. I saw some tourists who brought their own scarves to wrap around their bodies, just enough to cover the knees/shoulders.
5. Giving a service tip is not mandatory, but highly encouraged. I’ve also read about this in several blogs. Not all earn enough for their family, some even earn just minimum, so they do appreciate receiving tips. In my case, I practice giving at least 10% of the total amount I paid for the service. You may even give more if you think the service given to you is exceptional.
6. Have at least 500-1000 Baht ready before you leave for Bangkok. This will save you the hassle and time from lining up at an airport forex booth. The rate in the airport is often lower than outside. Every cent counts for budget travelers.
7. Data connection will come in handy. It would be good if you’ll have data every where you’ll go so that it would be easier to navigate. Thailand has a pretty fast internet speed, and if you do not have a personal wifi with you, a number of establishments offer free connection. You can also buy a local sim card in the airport if you have an open-line mobile phone. The most popular one is the DTAC Happy Tourist sim.
8. Be polite when talking to any local. Thais are known to be hospitable. Although communicating may be a bit hard (not all locals can speak or understand English), try your best not to get irritated if they cannot respond to you properly. Raising your voice in public is frowned upon.
9. If you plan on going shopping in Platinum Mall, Chatuchak Market or Pratunam Market, be ready to do a lot of walking and haggling. It would be good if you’ll bring a big plastic bag or any large bag you can use to place the things you will buy. Especially in Chatuchak Market, a day is not enough for you to explore all it has to offer.
10. When shopping in Chatuchak Market, might as well buy it if you like it. Chances are you will not find it anywhere else, or if you do, you might forget where you found it earlier. The market is big–you might not even be able to finish it in a day.
11. If you have a flight out of Bangkok through Suvarnabhumi airport, you may want to take the Bangkok Airport Link. It opens by 6am and closes by midnight. We took it from Phaya Thai station and paid 45 Baht each. Travel time from Phaya Thai to Suvarnabhumi airport is around 30 minutes.
12. To save time, it would be good if you can plan ahead on where to go. Travelling around Bangkok is pretty easy because of its train system, but there are a lot of places you can visit. Research places you want to check out so you can plan accordingly. But of course, you can go YOLO. 😀
13. Always bring antihistamine medicine with you. You’ll never know if allergies will strike.
14. Equip yourself with a powerbank and extra shirt. It would come in handy especially if you love taking pictures and videos and going around the city.
15. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions. There are a lot of police on the road. If you feel you are lost or you could not find the establishment you are looking for, you may seek help from them. Most of the police I got to talk to speaks and understands English.