Video #35 | May 10, 2018
In this video I’m going to go through 34 important Bangkok travel tips. Some of these I knew before arriving in the city nearly 19 years ago, most though came as a complete surprise!
Click on the following link to check out more on Important Advice For New Visitors.
Welcome to the thirty-fifth video of Bangkok Unmasked! The YouTube channel that helps you get the most out of your visit to Bangkok city! If you’re new here, please consider subscribing! In this video I’m going to go through 34 important Bangkok travel tips. Some of these I knew before arriving in the city nearly 19 years ago, most though came as a complete surprise!
Let’s get started!
Bangkok travel tips: 34 things you need to know before arriving in Bangkok
Tip #1. Don’t talk about the Thai king [or Royal family]. Seriously, not a word!
I might do a separate video on the subject of lèse majesté in Thailand. You can find a lot of information on this topic through Google. Suffice to say in Thailand, lèse majesté is criminalized by Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. It’s illegal to defame, insult, or threaten the king, queen, heir-apparent, or regent. The lèse-majesté law has been on the statute books since 1908. The punishment is three to fifteen years of imprisonment per count and has been described as the;
World’s harshest lèse majesté law…
— ABC News
Possibly the strictest criminal-defamation law anywhere…
— The Economist
If I were you, I’d avoid getting involved with any conversations surrounding the Thai royal family.
Tip #2. Carry a copy of your passport.
By law you must carry ID at all times in Thailand. Failure to carry original ID can result in a 2,000 baht fine. That said, most expats in Thailand carry photocopy of their passport details page, entry stamp and relevant visa. I personally carry photographs of these passport pages on my smart phone.
Tip #3. Gambling is illegal!
Gambling, other than betting on a small number of horse races or the government run lottery, is prohibited in Thailand. The prohibition dates back to the Gambling Act of 1935. Interestingly, the Playing Cards Act prohibits private ownership of more than 120 playing cards without approval of the government. While gambling is endemic through Thailand, and it’s easy to get invited to card games, make sure that you don’t get caught!
Tip #4. The best time to visit Bangkok is November to March.
Bangkok is awesome all year round, but it’s crazy hot and humid March through to May. If you can I’d try to visit during cool season i.e. November to March. Note. It’s not in any way cool, merely less hot. As the Thai say there are three seasons in the country; hot, very hot and hot and wet.
Tip #5. Don’t expect the food to taste like it does at home.
I have eaten Thai food in The UK, Germany, France and Russia. In all countries it doesn’t resemble the food in Thailand one bit!
Tip #6. Cover up your elbows, knees and shoulders when visiting temples, palaces and certain government buildings.
This rule applies to both men and woman. Cover up your knees when visiting temples, palaces and certain government buildings. This means no shorts or mini skirts. Be sure to also cover up your elbows and shoulders. Spaghetti straps and tank tops will prevent your entering temples, palaces and certain government buildings.
For women I’d strongly recommend that you carry a light jacket and sarong even on days when a temple isn’t on the itinerary — you never know when you’ll stumble across a beautiful temple that you’ll want to check out!
Tip #7. Don’t believe a word of what Taxi drivers and tuk-tuk tell you!
This is one of the best-known Bangkok travel tips! If a taxi driver, or tuk-tuk driver tells you that an attraction or site is closed for the day, check Google for the opening hours/days. Often this is a tactic to try to ‘suggest’ other destinations which earn them a commission.
Tip #8. Use the BTS and MRT to travel around the city.
Bangkok travel tips are incomplete without mentioning the best ways to travel around the city! Bangkok traffic is horrific. During rush hour the city is basically a car park. In many parts of the city it’s not much better outside of rush hour. The BTS [which is an elevated train system] and MRT [a subway] are cheap, convenient, and most importantly fast. You can get to pretty much most places in the city using them and they’re really easy to use. The maps make sense, the system is efficient and simple, and the trains are kept clean. I’d avoid taking taxis, tuk-tuks and buses if at all possible.
Tip #9. The ice used in Bangkok restaurants is perfectly safe.
This piece of advice pretty much goes for all of Thailand. Ice served by restaurants and street vendors in Thailand is manufactured under hygienic conditions by the same people who supply bottled water. It’s a huge business and I have [so far] never been sick from ice anywhere in Thailand.
Tip #10. Go and see a Muay Thai fight.
The two best places to see a proper Muay Thai fight are Lumpinee Boxing Stadium and Rajadamnern Stadium. Note. Don’t get suckered into buying VIP tickets. They’re only a few feet away from the regular seats and cost four times as much. Also, don’t buy tickets from the touts outside the stadium. If you do you’ll get ripped off. Always buy tickets from the stadium ticket office.
Tip #11. Pick a hotel close to the BTS and/or MRT.
Related to tip number 8 pick a hotel close to the BTS and/or MRT. I’d strongly suggest that you download a map of the BTS and pick a hotel on the BTS Sukhumvit line. If you’re near to Asok BTS station you’ll be close to both the BTS and MRT as this is one of the locations where the two transport systems are joined. This location is great for eating, drinking, shopping and the Bangkok nightlife. Note. Check out a video I did on; Where to stay in Bangkok for the first time?. A link to this video can be found through the ‘i-icon’ above.
Tip #12. Experience a traditional Thai massage.
This is one of my best Bangkok travel tips! Get a traditional Thai massage. Seriously. You won’t be disappointed. They’re fabulous and so inexpensive that you’ll never again be able to justify paying $100 or more for a one hour massage back at home. Check out a video I did on; Find out where to get the best traditional Thai massage in Bangkok! A link to this video can be found through the ‘i-icon’ above.
Tip #13. Neon signs and provocative dress can be a warning sign.
Further to tip number 12, steer clear of massage shops with neon signs and girls wearing provocative dress. Unless you’re looking for a ‘happy ending’ massage this is likely not the massage shop you’re looking for.
Tip #14. Eat off your spoon, not your fork.
This tip doesn’t apply to Western restaurants in Bangkok of course. If you’re in a Thai restaurant you’ll be given a spoon and a fork to eat with. Eating directly off a fork is considered crude. Instead, use your fork to push food onto your spoon.
Tip #15. Thai people are not very good at queuing.
This took me a while to figure out. It can also be something of an understatement. Instead of queuing up, the Thai often form a crowd. Stand your ground, don’t let others push past you, and get used to a lack of personal space in public places.
Tip #16. Cockroaches are everywhere.
They’re gross, and can’t easily be avoided. The last cockroach I saw was scurrying across the floor of Dunkin Donuts at Tesco Lotus, On Nut. Try not to freak out when you see one as they’re completely harmless.
Tip #17. Five-star hotels are comparatively cheap.
Bangkok does have a good number hotels with eye-watering prices. For example The Mandarin Oriental or The Peninsula. These hotels truly are world-class though which is why the prices are what they are.
That said, if you get a deal through one of the many online hotel booking sites you can easily find a good five-star hotel in the city for around $100 per night. Personally I’m a fan of Agoda. But there are many other great options. There’s no need to ‘slum it’ in Bangkok. Even if you have a relatively tight budget!
Tip #18. The standards of English are getting better.
It’s definitely helpful to learn a few basic phrases in Thai. That said, English is widely spoken in Bangkok. This is especially the case in the tourist areas. When I first arrived in Bangkok nearly 19 years ago you were literally screwed if you didn’t speak Thai. Things are somewhat different now.
Plan-B is the international language of sign! I have resorted to this many times over the years. Note. A humble and respectful manner will get you far in the land of smiles!
Tip #19. Don’t be afraid of the bum gun!
The toilet hose, also known as ‘bum gun’, is basically a hand held version of the bidet. It’s a small hose with a spray nozzle on the end that’s attached to the wall. You can find a bum gun in pretty much every toilet in Thailand! It’s used to clean your undercarriage after a number two. A quick dry with some toilet paper and you’re completely clean!
I was deeply suspicious of the bum gun when I first encountered one, but now I’m a convert! Toilet paper used on it’s own is unhygienic, and if I was to move back to the UK the first thing that I’d do is install a bum gun in all bathrooms wherever I stayed.
Note. Check the water pressure before you use the bum gun. Sometimes the pressure should be adjusted as it’s way too high! It’s also a good idea to check the temperature as a really cold jet of water is a brutal way to start the morning.
Stay tuned, I’ll be doing a video on bum guns in the next few weeks!
Tip #20. Watch your shoes.
When visiting a temple, pay attention to see if other people have taken off their shoes. If they have, be sure to do the same.
Tip #21. 7-Elevens are everywhere.
In the center of Bangkok there are 7-Elevens on literally every street corner. This means that you can access; food, water, alcohol, cigarettes, mobile top ups and a whole lot more 24/7.
Note. This is one of the most important Bangkok travel tips for party-animals; due to alcohol licensing laws, 7-Eleven will not sell alcoholic drinks between 2PM and 5PM, or between midnight and 11AM. This is the case for pretty much all established retail chains in Bangkok. Only ‘mom and pop’ shops will sell alcohol at all times of day.
Tip #22. Buy a tailor made suit.
If you’re an office worker, this is one of the most important Bangkok travel tips! Bangkok is great for tailor made clothes. If you choose the right tailors the workmanship and materials will be superb. The prices are also a fraction of what you’ll pay in the US or UK. Whatever you do though, research the shop first. Don’t go on the recommendation of a taxi driver or tuk-tuk driver.
For what it’s worth, I recommend Roberto Reggio which is right next to Nana BTS station. The owner is a Sikh chap called Bobby, and I have been buying suits and shirts from him for about 15 years now. All of the friends that I have taken to his shop have been very pleased with the suits/shirts/dresses that they had made up. I should get a commission for all the business that I have pushed his way!
Tip #23. When you order several dishes they won’t all come out at once.
When you eat a Thai meal with other people, it’s meant to be shared. This means that you must order several dishes for the meal. However, don’t expect all the food to come out at the same time! Bringing out all plates at once is a Western concept. In Thailand the food comes out when it’s ready. This can mean a gap of up to 20-30 minutes for certain dishes.
Tip #24. The tap water in Bangkok is safe to drink [though bottled water is probably better].
Check out a video I did on; Is Bangkok tap water safe to drink? A link to this video can be found through the ‘i-icon’ above.
Tip #25. Don’t touch an adult on the head.
Frankly I don’t know why anyone would do this, but be aware that the head is considered sacred in Thailand. It shouldn’t be touched unless the Thai person in question is a lover or someone that you’re extremely close to.
One other thing; try not to point your feet at people as this is also considered extremely rude. If you’re sitting directly across to someone while talking, point your feet off to the side a bit to avoid being disrespectful.
Tip #26. Food carts are generally safe.
For visitors that have not experienced Asia, this is one of the most surprising Bangkok travel tips. My rule of thumb is that if a food cart has plenty of Thai diners, it’s probably safe to eat at. There have been numerous occasions where I have seriously questioned the food safety, but touch wood I have never gotten sick from Thai street food. Interestingly, it was a Burger King burger many years ago that, literally, made me wish for death.
Tip #27. Negotiate the price.
Outside of department stores and restaurants you should not be shy to negotiate the price of what you’re buying. At markets, or stalls in places like MBK, you should never accept the first price that you’re given!
Tip #28. Sex shows.
Frankly the sex shows in Patpong are gross – I won’t go into details but they feature ping-pong balls, razor blades, darts and balloons and a whole lot more. The first show I saw blew my mind. I had no idea that the vagina was capable of such feats. That said, it’s a life experience to check off the list, and never do again.
Tip #29. Use Google maps.
Bangkok is confusing. After living her for nearly 19 years I still regularly get lost. Google maps is your friend, and the single best way to find what you’re looking for.
If you’re just off the plane get a tourist sim so you can access Google maps through your smart phone. For more details on tourist sims, check out a video I did on; [Tourist SIM Thailand] How to buy a prepaid Thai SIM card in Bangkok? A link to this video can be found through the ‘i-icon’ above.
Tip #30. Drink plenty of water.
This should be implicit, but heat-stroke is a thing. Especially in hot season i.e. March to May. Try to drink more than you sweat. Which will likely be way more than you expect!
Tip #31. Beware of scammers.
This again is one of the best-known Bangkok travel tips! If an overly happy smiley local approaches you and wants to introduce you to a specific store or restaurant, don’t go! It’s almost certainly a scam.
Tip #32. Carry a hotel card with Thai language directions.
In case you get hopelessly lost, this can be your way back to the hotel. Whenever I travel to foreign cities I always make sure that I have a hotel card with me as a plan B.
Tip #33. You’ll be discriminated against – officially.
Many attractions, and pretty much all National Parks, have two entry prices. One rate for the Thai, and a far more expensive rate for foreigners. There’s not much that can be done, or said, about this other than to pay if you want to visit the attraction.
Tip #34. Try an organized tour.
This is the final item on my list of 34 Bangkok travel tips. TripAdvisor and The Lonely Planet are awesome. I have used them both extensively. That said, a tour is inexpensive and easily arranged. Simply book and show up. No logistical headaches, no getting lost, just a wonderful day out that peels back another exciting layer of The City of Angels. Tour guides are also great resources to learn more about Thailand, and the Thai people. Click on the following link to arrange a bespoke Bangkok tour.
Anyway…that’s it for this video. I hope that helps give you helpful Bangkok travel tips. Expect a new video next week.
For all you techies out there, this video was shot on a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, and edited using HitFilm Express.
Finally, please don’t forget to subscribe to this channel through the button below! Also, I’d like to hear from you if you have any questions on one or more of the 32 Bangkok travel tips. Maybe you have some tips that I missed! Please do reach out to me through the comments section of this video!
Thank you very much for watching. I’ll see you next week. Goodbye.