Bangkok – Useful Information

I have been to Bangkok numerous times for the past years. It is one of the most popular holiday destinations for HK people due to its proximity as well as its inexpensive cost of living. Moreover, their good food and wonderful massages definitely add to the allurement.

I would like to provide you with some information of Bangkok which you may find useful if you are planning to go there.

 

There are 3 seasons in Thailand, summer (mid February to mid May), rainy season (mid May to mid October) and winter (November to February). Temperature varies from 18 °C to 38 °C. During the rainy season, there will be occasional floods in certain areas.

 

There are many hotels to choose from in Bangkok, ranging from USD60 / €45 to USD450 / €350. You can easily find clean, nice 4 stars hotel around USD100 / €75. Since traffic in Bangkok is pretty bad ( I have once spent 2 hours for a journey in a traffic jam which took 20 mins for normal traffic), you may want to find a hotel close to BTS station. BTS is the Bangkok Mass Transit system (commonly known as Sky train) and it pretty much takes you everywhere tourists want to go. The fare is from 15 to 40baht ( US$0.50 – $1.30 / €0.40 –  €1.10). Their BTS is clean, fast, efficient and air-conditioned, though it could be a bit crowded during rush hour.

BTS sign

Taxis are fairly cheap in Bangkok and the trip from airport to downtown is around 350 – 400baht (USD15 / €10) including tollway and even with the traffic jam, it should not be more than 450 baht. There is traffic jam almost 16 hours a day except on Sunday and therefore if going for shorter distances, you may want to use other public transport. All taxis have meters but sometimes taxi drivers refuse to turn on meters and try to ask for exorbitant prices. This usually happen in the evening or at night. So make sure the meter is on or get another taxi if the driver refuses to do so.

 

If you want to go for far away places, you may want to negotiate the price with the taxi driver rather than going with the meter. As a reference, I got a Lexus with a driver for a full day ( to go to the tiger temple and some sight seeing on the way back) from 9 am to 6 pm at 4500 baht. ( I tipped the conciege in the hotel and he got me the deal for car and the driver 😉 )

 

It is also advisable to print out the address in thai and the telephone number of the hotel/ restaurant / spa you want to go(or ask the hotel staff to write it down for you) as very often the taxi drivers do not know where the places are but they will still tell you ‘yes’. It happened to me many times before that the driver has to stop and ask for directions on the way or they will have to call the restaurant or hotel. It is not so much of the taxi fare but the time wasted on the road.

 

Tuk tuk is also a popular way of transport in Bangkok. It is a 3 wheeled open air taxi. (no window, only with a top) As they do not have a meter, you do need to negotiate the price before you get on ( as a guideline, pay around 1/3 of the asking price) I do not like riding in tuk tuk because I hate inhaling the exhaust air from all other cars especially when stuck in the traffic. (Bangkok is quite polluted) But you will probably have a kick out of it when it swirl and charged through narrow streets and in between cars especially if you have never tried it before.

Tuk tuk

 

In Bangkok there is also the motorcycle taxi. The drivers will wear red or orange vests and you will see queues in the beginning of the soi (thai name for street or road). Motorcycle taxis are usually used for short distances so the charge is somewhere between 10 – 40 baht. Like tuk tuk, you will have to agree on a price first. The driver will offer you a helmet. It is by law to wear a helmet in Bangkok although policemen seldom bother about it. But if you are that unfortunate person being stopped by the policeman, you will have to pay a fine. ( I would take my chance if it is a 2-3 min ride because their helmets look kind of gross and I don’t think that ‘1 size fits all’ helmet will give me much protection)

 

The motor bikes drivers normally go around in the same zone so they have good knowledge of that particular area. But it is always better to bring along a thai address as their english is very limited. Please remember to keep your knees and elbows close to your body and hold on tight to the driver or the bike, as the driver goes pass cars in high speed, overtaking in whatever side they could and running through red lights or go in the opposite direction in the one way road. I have only used it once and have to admit the ride was scary. I would defintely avoid using it in slippery road condition or for long distances.

motor bike taxi

 

Thai are friendly people and you get great hospitality everywhere you go but one thing you surely CANNOT do in Bangkok is to touch someone’s head, regardless of age. It is because thai people believe head is the most sacred of all the body parts and touching someone’s head is most disrespectful. Feet are considered to be the dirtiest part of the body, so never show your sole to anyone and do not put your feet up towards anyone and don’t step on anyone.

 

It is considered to be rude to point finger (yes, even index finger 😉 ) at anyone.

 

Females should never touch a monk and cannot hand things directly to one (I know it is absurd and sexist ), things should be passed to a male then to the monk.

 

Thai people will not tolerate disrespectful behavior towards the King. Many Thais display portraits of the King in their homes and shops. So do not make jokes or inappropriate comments on their King. Since the Thai King is pictured on the paper money, do not crumple up bills or throw money at a taxi driver.

 

Majority of the thai population is Buddhist and Buddha images are considered to be sacred and holy. Never climb on Buddha statues, touch icons or artifacts or make goofy poses next to Buddha statues in  temples.

 

Tipping is not a usual practice in Thailand although it is becoming a common practise nowadays in restaurants and spas. However it is not necessary to tip 15% like in the United States. My thai friend told me that it is better to give to the waiters or the waitresses that serve you and 40 -100 baht (each waiter or waitress) is enough. When I go to spas, I usually tip 100 – 200 baht for masseuse. It is not necessary to tip taxi driver or tuk tuk driver but I always round up to 5s or 10s. (just don’t want to carry the coins). For hotel porters, I tip 10 – 20 baht.

 

If you go shopping in big department store eg. Central, Siam Paragon, you can bring your passport to the customer service counter to get a 5% discount card. You can have VAT refund if your purchase is over 2000baht. (in a department store you can add up the total, not single item 😉 )

 

In Bangkok there are many markets that you can go to but you do need to bargain, especially in Pat Phong area. The asking price of a T shirt could go as much as 300 baht but I always get it at 60 baht.

 

If you plan to stay in Thailand for a week or so, or if you need to make a number of calls (local or overseas), you may want to get a sim card. The charge is so much cheaper than using your roaming service. You can get a sim card with a telephone number in mobile stores or in the airport and you do not need a contract. Simply insert the card in your phone and follow the instruction ( I always ask the counter sales in the airport to do it for me :P). You can then buy a top up card for extra minutes in any 7-11.

 

Bangkok is not a dangerous city and I have been there many times by myself. Of course I will not go to clubs and bars at wee hours or wander into any place that a tourist should not go (let alone single female). Use your common sense and you will be fine. I seriously enjoy occassional trips there and as a matter of fact, I will be going there in 2 weeks’ time.

 

Lastly, just in case ( I am sure you won’t be needing it), the Tourist Police number is 1155.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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