Bangkok is a difficult city to sum up because it’s a little bit of everything: It’s dirty, yet cosmopolitan; it’s welcoming, yet not always safe. Here are a few tips for avoiding Bangkok’s potential pitfalls, and experiencing the best of this exciting city.
Know When to Haggle
In Bangkok, like in the rest of Thailand, vendors expect you to haggle, and you’ll always find yourself overpaying if you accept the first price that you’re offered. Decide how much you want to pay and stick to it. You can generally start by bargaining from about 25% of the price the vendor initially offers. Be polite and have fun with it. You’ll find that haggling gets easier with practice. Keep in mind, however, that there are some places where the prices are fixed, such as restaurants, as well as some stores in shopping malls like the MBK Center and Siam Paragon. Don’t embarrass yourself by asking for a lower price in these situations.
Don’t Spend Your Whole Time on Khao San Road
If you’re planning a trip to Bangkok, you’ve certainly heard of this notorious backpacker ghetto. It’s worth checking out, and maybe even stopping to sip a few Chang beers and watch the street traffic, but you’ll find more interesting Bangkok culture elsewhere, like Chinatown or Sukhumvit.
You can’t really understand Bangkok’s oppressive heat until you’ve experienced it. During the mid-day, walking for just one block can leave you sweaty and exhausted. Tap water isn’t safe to drink in Bangkok, but fortunately, there are 7-11 convenience stores on virtually every corner, so you’ll never be far from a place to pick up bottled water.
Watch Out for Scams
There are no shortage of scammers in Bangkok ready to take advantage of naïve tourists. Keep an eye out for some of the more common scams, including taxi drivers claiming that their meter is broken or that the site you’re planning to visit is closed for the day. That said, don’t treat all the locals like scam artists and crooks. Be on your guard, but also be open to connecting with the typically kind-hearted Thai people.
Learn a Few Thai Greetings
Knowing how to say “hello” and “thank you” (“sawasdee” and “kop kuhn”, respectively) in Thai lets people know that you didn’t just step off the plane this morning. Not only does it show respect for Thai culture, but it might just make you less of a target for scams too.
Don’t Miss Chatuchak (JJ) Market
JJ Market is the largest weekend market in the world, with over 15,000 stalls offering everything from handicrafts and clothing, to live animals and household items. It’s a truly unique Bangkok experience, and a fantastic place to buy cheap souvenirs.
Use the BTS and MRT
The Skytrain (BTS) and underground (MRT) are cheap, fast and easy to navigate. You can use these transit systems to access almost all of Bangkok’s main attractions, shopping, and entertainment areas, plus avoid the hassle of haggling with tuktuk and taxi drivers.
Don’t Be Afraid of Street Food
Eating from Bangkok’s numerous street stalls is the best way to try authentic local food for a very low price. If you’re nervous about food hygiene, keep in mind that most of the food is cooked when you order it, and you can even watch it being prepared right in front of you. Try savory khao ka moo (pork leg on rice) or sweet goi tod (deep fried bananas).
If you have your own personal experiences and tips to share about Bangkok, do drop us a thread on our new Thailand Forum page as well!