How to Survive Bangkok for the First Time

Bangkok is an amazing place, but for first-time visitors, it can seem a little overwhelming. The traffic, the lights, the noise, the sights, and the smells are all vastly different from other places you know. But the benefits of visiting the capital city of Thailand are extensive.

You can get yourself excellent luxury accommodation at a fraction of the price you’ve paid in other countries, and an array of mouth-watering food is on offer. If it’s your first time in Bangkok, read these quick tips to make the most of your visit and enjoy a fantastic trip that’s full of excitement and cool things to do.

Bangkok Travel Tips
Image via Mike Behnken/ Flickr

Know-How to Arrive

You’ve probably had a pretty long flight to get to Bangkok, and you will no doubt arrive in the middle of the night or early in the morning. You will be at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Once you have gone through passport control, there are many places in the airport lobby where you can buy SIM cards, exchange currency, and get cash out of ATMs.

It is useful to break some larger bills into smaller amounts, so you have some change for paying the highway tolls or buying snacks on the way to your hotel. In the arrivals area, you will also find the taxis that will take you into the city.

Airport Taxi Tips

There are a few things to remember if you take a taxi from the airport into the city. Firstly, ask the driver to turn on the meter and to use it instead of offering a flat rate – the flat rate is always going to be more expensive. Get him to drive via the highway into the city.

If you have any problems with these negotiations, get out of the cab before you set off and find another driver. There are plenty who will do things correctly. If you don’t want to take a taxi, then remember there is also the Airport Express Train that goes from the airport to Phaya Thai station in the city – the cost is much less (particularly if you are on your own) and it is quick, clean, and convenient.

Layout and Orientation

The large hotels and the chain hotels are mostly all located along Sukhumvit. This is the area where ex-pats live, too, and there are plenty of mostly quite expensive restaurants and bars. Siam Square is a great place to go shopping with more malls than you will ever need and plenty of places to eat cheaply, go to the movies, and hang out in the air conditioning. Silom is the banking district in Bangkok, while Rattanakosin is the opposite – the old side of Bangkok with temples and palaces. If you’re looking for cheap digs, Khao San Road is backpacker-central. Chao Phraya River is a gorgeous place to cruise along, taking in the sights, including Wat Arun.

Public Transportation

The Skytrain (BTS) and the Subway (MRT) are quick ways to get around Bangkok and cheap. You can buy single tickets for rides or a card with money stored on it that you use to swipe when you get on and off the system. You may end up spending an hour or more in a taxi during rush hour. A smart way to travel is to take public transport to the nearest stop then hop in a cab for the rest of the shorter journey.

Bangkok Travel Tips
Image via digitalpimp./ Flickr

Choosing a Hotel

You’ll see many different options when deciding where to stay, based on the area where you want to be. It is a good idea to choose somewhere close to a public transportation stop, so you have convenient access around the city unless you are planning on taking taxis everywhere. If you can, opt for a high-rise hotel so you can enjoy the spectacular sunset views over the city – or visit one of the hotels’ bars for a sunset cocktail with style.

Know the Etiquette

Generally, Thai people are sweet, kind, calm, and gentle people, and you won’t get very far if you are aggressive, loud, and noisy – you will probably even offend. You will immediately notice the gesture used to greet people, which is the palms held together in a prayer-like formation with a little bow. Return the gesture.

Making fun of the King is not allowed, and it helps if you try to respect the views of the Thais you meet in terms of religion, even if you yourself do not directly share these views. Of course, this is normal advice wherever you travel. Be open and friendly, and you will find that meeting the locals will be one of the best parts of this first-time trip to Thailand.

For more information on Bangkok before you go, visit PhuketOn. Find all you need for hotels in Bangkok, restaurants in Bangkok, and more at PhuketOn.

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