Bangkok – 5 Tips for Beginners

Bangkok, Thailand is the entry and exit point for most backpackers and travelers trekking through South East Asia.  Here are a few tips for those newbies venturing through Bangkok for the first time.

Bangkok tuk tuks

tuk tuk

1.       The Khao San Rd area (Banglamphu) is far from (almost) everything. Bangkok has a great rail transit system… which comes nowhere near Banglamphu.  If you’re planning on going shopping, seeing a movie, going downtown near Sukhumvit, going to markets outside of Khao San, be prepared for a journey.  My first time there, I was taking taxis either to my destination or to the nearest rail station and then taking a train from there.  I was outspending my daily budget by a lot.  My third time in Bangkok, I was a bit wiser and started taking buses into other areas of the city.  Check out my map to see where the bus stations are.  Ask your guest house/hotel in Bangkok what line to take, or check out the guide in Lonely Planet.

2.       Taxi drivers probably don’t speak English. In South East Asia, in most tourist towns, or in tourist areas, a lot of people will speak English.  Don’t take that fact for granted in Bangkok though.  This city, with 10 million people, is hardly for tourists only.  Keeping that in mind, don’t assume your taxi driver speaks English.  If you’re going to a specific place, learn how to say it in Thai, or bring a map (written in Thai!) and circle where you want to go.  A lot of places have business cards with directions in Thai that you can present your taxi driver.

soi Bangkok

one of the cheapest guest houses is down this road, off Thanon Sam Sen

3. That hot girl… might be a boy. This is for those of you who like to get super drunk when you’re traveling and try to hook up with anything moving.  I have silently giggled to myself many times when I see a young western guy holding hands with a lady boy.  The lady boys in Thailand are top notch, and it’s very hard to tell the difference between a woman and a man dressed like one.  If that’s your thing, then you will have a great time in Bangkok.  However, if you’re strictly hetero, don’t be surprised if your new girlfriend turns out to be your new boyfriend.

4.       As a general rule, avoid the tuk tuks and taxi drivers standing at the corner of Soi Rambutri and Thanon Chakrabongse.  They speak English and are rip-off artists.  They refuse to use their meter, and charge exorbitant prices.  If you ask for a reasonable rate, they will refuse, preferring to wait for an ignorant tourist to come along who’s willing to pay whatever.  Better to flag one down who’s driving up Thanon Chakrabongse.

5.       Guest houses and hotels are expensive on Khao San. You can try to look for guest houses on the sois (small streets) off Thanon Sam Sen behind Phra Sumen Fort.  It’s not too far of a walk to Khao San and Soi Rambutri, and there are some restaurants around as well.  Alternatively, you could stay on Sukhumvit and pay more, but be closer to everything.  And always, always ask to see the room first.

Hope this was helpful!  Any more tips?  Feel free to post a comment.

  • Rachael

    Hi Jasmine, great blog and love your tips on Bangkok! I have just returned from Thailand and your post made me laugh out loud – its so true! :)

    Like you I’d also recommend staying away from Khao San – we stayed on Soi Rambutrri – it’s less than a 5 minute walk away from Khao San but much more laidback.

    We found the river a great way to get around to other parts of Bangkok. You can connect to Skytrain from Central pier and a one-way ticket was 13 baht anywhere on the river! :)

  • jasminewanders

    Great tip about the water taxis! I never tried those out. Thanks for the advice Rachael :)

  • Great info, thanks for sharing it. Stuff like the practicality of getting from the typical hostely neighborhood to real places is tough to come by.

    Lady boys … hahaha :)

  • thanks for the tips! I’ll be in BKK for the first time in under 6 weeks and this info will come in handy.

  • Jovir

    Great posts you have here full of informative insights and experiences! Ill be visiting your site more often. Cheers and more power online always!

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    the information about “hot girl… might be a boy” is cool… very eager to visit Bangkok:)

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    I am planning to visit Malaysia and Thailand this year…thanks for your tips…’lady boys’??? will be careful!!!

  • Great tips…will keep it in mind when I visit Bangkok….The information about taxi drivers helps a lot

  • Thanks for the tips…very useful for for me because I am planning to visit Thailand in a few months time

  • I always prefered to stay in hotels in bangkok and not in guest houses. You can have quite decent ones for 10-20$ a night and have a save and cool place to rest from the city. The cheap guest houses are nicer on the islands :-)

  • grandpa

    I found that one of the cheapest, quickest, most fun ways to get from north to south of the old city was on the river. The canals and river are only useful for certain trips but you can get part way, that way.
    The maps don’t show all the streets and if you stand on a corner studying a map you are asking for harrasment by Tuk Tuk drivers etc. Study your map somewhere else! On the other hand you could say there is no shortage of people willing to help!

  • True! Thanks so much for the input :)

  • LOL-ed at the fourth tips. I’m excited to visit Bangkok on next month. Thanks for the tips Jasmine!