8 First-Timer Tips for Bangkok

Bangkok is a vibrant, exciting, stunning, crazy city – and it can be confusing for the first-time visitor. Visiting Bangkok is an intense plunge into a city that never sleeps, and often does not make sense. The streets are often unmarked, the roads are busy, the crowds are intense, and the heat is powerful. Help yourself have the best time in Bangkok with our first-timer hints and Bangkok tips.

Bangkok tips
Image via Evo Flash / Flickr

1. Plan Your Day

Bangkok is not really a city made for wandering so to see it well you need a plan. Work out where you want to go, how to get there, and how to get back. Look at the section on public transportation in your guidebook and use the Skytrain or the boats. Try not to fit too much into one day as you’ll end up exhausted and stressed. If you can, savor the city slowly.

2. Get a Great Map

Invest in an excellent map to help navigate the heart of Bangkok. Make sure that the map has both Thai and English street names so you can point at the place you want to go when you – inevitably – get lost.

3. Drink Plenty of Water

Bangkok can be intensely hot and the city is stifling sometimes – you are going to need a good supply of cool water to keep you going while exploring. Don’t worry about having to carry a full day’s supply with you at all times because you can always find a place to buy water from a stall or shop. Buy a bottle with the seal intact.

4. Watch Out For Scams

As in any big city, there are plenty of locals who want to take advantage of visitors for their own monetary gain. Apply common sense to any situation – a man who approaches you in the street is probably after more than a chat, and when someone tells you that the Grand Palace is closed, don’t believe them until you see it yourself. If you think something is a scam, walk confidently away. And don’t take it personally.

5. Hone Your Bartering Skills

It is expected, when there is no price tag or barcode on the goods, that haggling will take place on the Bangkok shopping streets. Don’t accept the first price you hear, but you also don’t need to be confrontational about it – you can simply ask for the seller’s best price, and then offer one of your own. If you don’t like the price, you can always walk away. Be prepared to get a call to come back as the price suddenly drops again!

6. Consider an Organized Tour

Sometimes it gets too tiring, stressful and hot trying to see the city for yourself. If you have limited time, or you want to give yourself a break, book an organized tour to a place you are interested in, or a general tour around the city. You’ll travel on an air-conditioned bus, and you’ll see the places you may not have reached on your own.

Image via Ahron de Leeuw / Flickr
Image via Ahron de Leeuw / Flickr

7. Use Taxis Wisely

It will probably be essential at some point to take a taxi. Try not to do so in rush hour – the traffic is so crazy it’ll take you to triple the time to get to where you are going. Always make sure the driver uses the meter. And have the address of your destination to hand so you know where to direct the driver. On that note, have the name of your hotel and the address written in Thai so you can show this to the driver when you are trying to get home. It saves all the questioning and wondering involved in starting the trip.

8. Wear Good Shoes and a Hat

Make sure you are dressed for the day with good quality walking shoes, a hat for the sun, sunglasses, and sunscreen. If you are visiting any of the temples then remember that you will not be able to enter in shorts and a tank top –wear something that covers your shoulders and light, long pants.

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