by Christopher Scott Dixon.
Bangkok means many things to many people, and while it is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, it can also be confusing to the first time tourist. Bags in the boot, traveling in a taxi through the congested streets of the capital, you realize that no amount or prior research can substitute for the real experience of visiting a city. Here are a few of the essential tips.
1. GET A MAP.
It may seem obvious but get a map. The BTS rapid transport system has free maps of their and the underground MRT network and they are extremely useful in pinpointing particular areas, or places along the line you may want to visit.
2. LEARN THE LANGUAGE.
Don’t assume that because it’s a major city and a tourist-focused destination, then all locals can speak English because they can’t. Try to learn a few basic phrases for ‘how much,’ ‘where is,’ ‘hello and thank you’ etc. Don’t worry about the pronunciation too much, the natives will know at least you are having a go and that will earn you points.
3. DRINK LOTS OF WATER.
This is the ‘cool’ season, but temperatures still average 32-34c daily and you will tire and dehydrate very quickly with the energy sappinghumidity levels too, so take a bottle with you.
4. KEEP YOUR HEAD COVERED.
The sun is very bright and unless you want to end up resembling a lobster when you arrive back in your hotel lobby, use a sun-hat or and umbrella as well as sunglasses. Do this especially if you have young children, sunstroke is not the souvenir, they, or you want to return home with.
5. USE THE BTS/MRT.
Like any systems they are not perfect, but use them, as they are quick, safe, efficient and cover most of the areas in the city you will want to see. The alternative is walking around hot, crowded and sometimes bewildering streets trying to avoid motorbikes rushing past you on the pavements or bumping into street vendors.
6. RESPECT THE CULTURE.
When in Rome, or as is the case of Bangkok, do respect the culture. The locals are a friendly and gentle people so don’t shout even if you know you’re right; it will get you nowhere. Keep calm and smile and you might receive what you want. Don’t put your feet up on the table in a coffee shop and check the clothing rules if you want to visit temples. And these are just a few.
Be prepared to barter and haggle in the markets. It’s a game that is expected to be played, but again, do it in a friendly manner and you might just get a bargain!
8. SCAMS AND SECURITY.
Rule of thumb is that most Thais will be too shy to approach you directly on the average street. So if one does come up and say they are lost, or start asking questions, a polite, ‘I’m sorry I’m in a hurry’ will suffice and move away quickly. It is much different in the ‘adult’ entertainment areas, so again keep your wits about you, invites to upstairs ‘shows’ should be met with a firm no thank you. Wear a body belt and keep the back of your backpack in front of you and keep valuables hidden.
9. STREET FOOD.
Is it safe? Yes it is, but be cautious, choose meals cooked in front of you. Use your common sense. If you see a swarm of flies hovering around meat, then give it a miss. Use the popular streetstalls as they are the ones trusted by the locals.
Be safe and be sensible, but have fun — It’s a great city!