I love Thailand! I’ve been to Bangkok on work or leisure, more than a dozen times already, and can never get enough of it. Many of my friends keep asking me for “tips” on the destination. So I thought I’d pen it down in a post, once and for all. A word of caution: A vibrant city like Bangkok keeps evolving. This advice is valid as on Jan 2012, and may be more relevant to Indian travellers that are budget-conscious, than those that travel with no limits. So, here goes…
- Visa rates keep changing – Check the latest consulate webpages to factor it into your plans
- Thailand allows visa-on-arrival for many countries, but if you’re travelling with family, I’d suggest you get the paperwork done before leaving your country – The consulate is very efficient in processing visa requests
- From the airport, a cab ride into the city center will cost you about 350-400 THB plus toll fees; If you’re travelling alone, you can also consider taking the Airport Express (skytrain) to a central location
- Bangkok has terrible traffic congestion for much of the day; The fastest (and often, cheapest) way to get around is to take the BTS skytrain or underground MRT
- Local SIM providers offer many options for prepaid cards with wild variations in call/internet rates; Find out the best plan for your needs by asking more questions on sms/call/data charges
- If you’re travelling on work, and include some entertainment stops, research to find out if your ticket can be purchased at a discount by showing your work papers; Many places will also offer “international tourist” discounts!
- Unlike most places in India, you may not save much money by showing up at the venue and buying the ticket – Online ticket sales will probably be at the same price but include free transport to and from your hotel
- Most hotels will have “contact cards” at the reception with the hotel’s contact details and address printed in both Thai and English – Carry copies with you since many locals do not speak/understand English
- At most popular malls in the city, there will be a designated place to queue up for cabs/taxis; The queues will be long during peak hours but are the quickest way to get a cab, unless you want to pay atrocious amounts for a “tuk-tuk” ride back to your hotel
- Be wary of tuk-tuks that charge you very low fares or offer to take you for free, in exchange for a “quick stop” on the way. Google to know more on this.
- If you’re travelling with kids, do consider including SafariWorld/MarineWorld, Siam Ocean World and DreamWorld in your itinerary; Bangkok’s Dusit Zoo is also a fun way to spend the day
- If there’s one mall you must visit during your stay, make it MBK (National Stadium); 4th floor is full of gadgets & electronics, 6th floor has an inexpensive food court and the 5th floor has a newly-opened upmarket food court
- Siam Paragon also has a very good food court on its lobby level, in addition to Siam Ocean World
- If you’re a vegetarian, please check before you order; Many Asian countries include eggs, fish and chicken in their definition of “veg”!
- Thailand offers some amazing architecture, and I’d recommend Wat Traimit, Wat Po and Wat Ben. If you’re visiting temples, research the dress code – many of them do not allow shorts, sleeveless shirts and other casual wear.
- The Chaophraya River Cruise is a nice and expensive way to see all the major sights along the river while enjoying an international buffet, but you can catch a ferry at very low cost by hopping on to river taxis if you’re in the mood for some adventure
- The Siam Niramit cultural show is a musical extravaganza of very high production values (similar to the Alangkarn shown in Pattaya), but plan to reach there a few hours ahead of the show time to experience the rest
- Thai folks are warm, friendly and speak in a peculiar dialect of English – you may take a while to understand their version but when you do, it’s fun!
Remember, Bangkok can be a perfectly valid “family destination”, and is nothing like the reputation it used to enjoy some years ago (unless, of course, you go looking for it). Hope you get to experience all that it has to offer…