Your Guide to the Ultimate Bangkok Experience
Why It’s Worth the Madness
Bangkok is a chaotic place in a world of its own, filled with insane traffic, hectic markets, a plethora of belly-bursting food options, and incredible sights to behold. Bangkok tourism can be intimidating for those who don’t know how to handle it, but I’d advise you to give it a chance.
Take a day or two to get used to the madness, and enjoy what it has to offer. It’s a bit scary at first, so hopefully these few tips will help make your stay in Bangkok a bit easier and more pleasurable.
Taxis and Transport
If you want to use a taxi, make sure it’s a metered taxi — unless you want to over-pay. Sure you can take one of the neon-colored taxis that litter the streets of Bangkok, but I hope you enjoy paying double or triple the cost, because even if you agree on a price before setting off, that’s what’s going to happen.
Get in a metered taxi and you have nothing to worry about. I often go the extra mile and tell them I’m following along on a map on my phone. I don’t actually have internet on my phone, but they don’t know that. This ensures they aren’t driving around to up the fare.
If you want to try a tuk tuk, go for it, but I’d recommend doing it for the experience only, and then using a taxi once the novelty factor has worn off. Why?
- Bangkok pollution in your face — not fun!
- They are more expensive than taxis.
- They are notorious for scamming. Don’t pay attention when they offer you a free ride, tell you to go to a different temple because the one you want is closed today, or offer you something that sounds too good to be true — it will be! Look up Bangkok scams before coming over; there’s a slew of them and many are in relation to tuk tuk drivers.
The BTS and MRT trains are very reliable modes of transportation and you will have zero issues here. Pay for your coin chip, board without having to speak to anyone, and high speed your butt to your destination. If it’s available, use it!
Khao San Road Isn’t Bangkok
Yes, it’s a famous road and you should go have your fun there, but Khao San Road isn’t all Bangkok has to offer, so spread your wings a bit more. It’s a safe place to go for backpackers who are just arriving, but after you get your bearings and your fill of liquor buckets, get out of that area. Sukumvit area is nicer and has a lot to offer too! Don’t think, “This is Bangkok.” Go and explore more.
Yes, You Should Go to a Sky Bar
It’s an exhilarating experience to be 50, 60, 70+ floors up above Bangkok, semi-out of the smog, and with sweeping views of the massive capital before your eyes. Sure, you’re going to have to pay $10 or $15+ for a cocktail, but trust me when I say it’s worth it. Bangkok is known for its sky bars for a reason!
I can personally vouch for the Vertigo Moon Bar and Sirocco at The Lebua, the latter being my favourite — and not just because it was featured in the Hangover II. Try coming just before sunset to get day and night pictures in one visit. And sip that drink nice and slow!
See the Temples in Moderation
Don’t get templed out. There are so many to see, but try not to overdo it — if you see a million temples in Bangkok, you’re going to get over it pretty quickly. See a few highlights, and then do something else.
The shopping is bananas. Try Chatuchak Market for an insane experience. I’d recommend staying away from the big shopping centers because you most likely have plenty of those at home — stick to the markets! Pratunam offers bulk discounts, and Chinatown will give you a wealth of choices too.
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Bangkok as a Base Camp
If you’re low on time, it might be a good idea to use Bangkok as a base camp. Don’t want to carry all your stuff everywhere? You’ll probably be back in Bangkok anyway, so just leave your backpack or suitcase at your guesthouse (which is generally safe) and go enjoy yourself for a few days. Kanchanaburi, Ayutthaya, Lopburi, and Koh Samet are all fantastic short weekend trips or even day trips that you can do from Bangkok. No need to lug your life with you.
Last Minute Warnings
Remember that Bangkok is a big city, and just like in our big cities in the US criminal activity can be a concern.
Watch people make your drinks, be mindful of stray dogs, and ladies, wear a purse that fully closes and ideally has a strap that goes across your body. Also be careful when purchasing transit tickets in tourist spots or on the streets, as they could be fake. Your best bet is to purchase them at the bus/train station.
And like anywhere, walking home alone in the dark after a few drinks probably isn’t a good idea either. Be careful and you’ll be fine. You’re on holiday, but you’re not in a protective bubble.
I could keep going, but these are the essential things tourists should know before coming to Bangkok. You’re going to have an amazing time!