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.

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