Follow these tips, or forever be “Farang”…

Hot tips like the best coffee spots, cool shopping streets and the newest hotels are great, but knowing what not to do is a tip which can’t be underestimated. No one likes feeling like a complete rookie, or just completely lost in a foreign city and in bustling Bangkok, it’s easy to do. Bangkok is an essential stop in Southeast Asia, captivating visitors from the moment they step out of the airport, and if you want to feel like you know the place before you do, avoid these common tourist fails…

Overpay For Airport Rides

First things first, there’s no “official” Uber here. Uber left in April of 2018 and acquired a stake in the super popular “local” Uber alternative, called Grab. Grab is easy to fire up, takes minutes to get started and foreign phone numbers are totally fine. You can pay by card or cash, which is nice too. An airport ride to just about any central Bangkok hotel will run between 400-600THB, which is about $15. If you panic and go for one of the more formal car service options, or pre book in advance, you’ll pay at least double, and likely a lot more like quadruple. Don’t, just don’t.

Fear Street Food

Trust us – we’re weary of unidentified street meat in Baltimore just as much as you are, but in Bangkok, street food is a way of life. People buzz around on scooters, zipping from one place to another and hardly anyone has time to sit down and have a formal meal. Go with this advice: if there’s a line – it’s good. If there’s no one around, find a street food stall with a line. Dishes like Khao Gang, banana pancakes or skewered chicken are essential for any street food check list, and you’ll have no problem finding just what you’re looking for in: Old Town, Sukhumvit, Sathorn, Silom or beyond.

Fall For Tuk Tuk Side Trips

Tuk Tuk’s are a really fun way to see the city, or at least feel like you’re in a scene from the movie The Hangover. But buyer beware. Make sure to confirm a price in advance of your ride. If the driver suggests a short stop or detour – say no and get out. Tuk Tuk drivers are quite notorious for sending tourists on side trips to places where they make money, like tourist tat shops, and then politely force you to buy stuff. If you get the sense this is happening, it probably is, so just hop out and start again. For this reason, it’s always good to have your phone.

Overpay For Hotels

Bangkok is not Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, $300 a night for hotel is standard practice, but in Bangkok, paying above $200-$250 a night max is just crazy. There are so many – like truly – so many fantastic hotels at around $150 a night or less that you’d be remiss to pay more. While we’re talking hotels, go for one with a great pool, because it’s incredibly humid in Bangkok and the bustling streets tend to stick to you a bit. An afternoon or evening dip goes a long, long way.

Not Embrace Local Customs

Put your hands together like you’re praying and smile to greet someone – it’s really not that hard. Learning just a couple Thai phrases, like “Sawatdee”, which means hello, or “Khob Khun” which means thank you can endear you to anyone you encounter. The same way you’d be insulted if someone refused to shake your hand back home, it’s not a great look to have someone raise their hands to greet you with respect and you not match. In the words of Nike, just do it.

Stick To Popular Rooftops

Vertigo and SkyBar are no doubt awesome, and very “rooftop”, but Bangkok is a city filled with expansive rooftop bars. If you stick to Vertigo at Banyan Tree or SkyBar at Lebua State Tower, you’re going to pay top Western prices for drinks, in a city where even the best mixology can be found for much less. We’re not saying you shouldn’t go, just that you should consider many of the other rooftops like Octave, Park Society, Three-Sixty, Cru, Char Or Cielo, amongst other vaguely douchey bar names.

Ignore The BTS SkyTrain

Tuk Tuk’s may scam you, and Grab may seem cheap, but if you want to do it like a local, you’ll learn to beat the traffic with BTS SkyTrain. This impressive above ground rail system connects you to the Chao Phraya River (that runs through the city), all the popular malls – like MBK, and just about anywhere else you need to go. An unlimited ride day pass is around 140THB, or $4.

Buy Expensive Meals

Now, there is an exception or two here, especially because Gaggan, a World Top 10 restaurant is in Bangkok, but in general it’s true truth. Buying expensive meals in Bangkok is just silly. A great pad thai, curry, chicken satay or lemongrass soup should cost a couple of dollars, pounds, yen – whatever, maximum. Going upscale just to have Thai food, or even worse, something like French food is just a waste of an opportunity in a city where there are so many affordable alternatives, with incredible quality. Thai food is made special by the pungent, fresh and powerful ingredients and you’d really be missing out by sticking to steak tartare in a bistro somewhere.

Only Search BKK

Many tourists in Bangkok are headed somewhere else, as part of an awesome Asian adventure. While you may be a whizz at flight deals and all that, if you’re trying to be cool by entering BKK as your airport code, instead of Bangkok (all), you may actually be missing all the really cheap, regional flights. Don Mueang, known to flying nerds as DMK, is home to many regional airlines, serving destinations which may not be available direct from the expansive Suvarnabhumi (BKK) Airport. It can be a bit chaotic, but you can’t argue with the prices, and it’s easy to reach.

What’s your best Bangkok tip?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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24 Comments

  1. What about the BTS to get from the airport? Cheaper than a taxi or “grab.”

    Also, $200 per night? Christ that’s a lot. There are plenty of passable hotels (Best Western Plus) for less than $50.

    This honestly reads like someone who has made all of these mistakes and hasn’t quite learned from them yet.

    1. If someone lists something as mistakes, that would be the definition of learning in itself. And obviously our definitions of “nice” hotels are different. But thanks for the insult anyway…

  2. My tip is to make darn sure that the taxi driver turns the meter on. When I return from the hotel to BKK airport they always want to charge me 500 thb. I get out and wait for another one. The price is normally about 300 thb plus 75 for tolls for 375 total. Sometimes it can be more. If the taxi driver doesn’t turn on the meter he’s going to charge you more money and by law he is supposed to turn on the taximeter.

    As for street food, I don’t go inside any restaurant that lacks posted prices. In some countries they will charge you more money if you don’t speak the local language. There’s the local price of $3 and the foreigner price of $6 or more depending on the country.

    1. You can take a van service from one of the bus stations for about 120baht or 4 US dollar Bangkok to Pattaya.

  3. I’m in BKK right now. Just finished a self drive tour of the never spoken about Isaan Province. Nice drive along Mekong River. Bat caves, Monk mountain, waterfalls, Lotus Sea, and so much more.
    I’m glad the tourists love Bangkok, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Phuket, and Chiang Mai so much. Keeps the prices down in the truly spectacular areas.
    All great tips you give BTW. But I think $200 in Bangkok is very high. I stayed on the river last night at the Royal Orchid Sheraton with a great suite with direct river view (suite was upgraded) for $110 including the tax and fee. Even without the upgrade this is a great hotel for the money.

    1. I agree it’s high, but didn’t want to insult too many people who have already overpaid. Plus there are some very nice hotels just above $150.

  4. Lol what the fuck is this? Stick to points and stop trying to produce clickbait like some other bloggers do. Unidentified street meet in Baltimore? Have you ever been to Baltimore? In this city, we have health inspections, unlike street food in Thailand.

  5. Very helpful! Thanks!
    We have been to Bangkok many times. We probably pay for a more expensive hotel but we like a balcony room on the river with views of the river and within walking distance of things so I guess price depends on priorities. Will absolutely try more street food this time and Grab 👍. We are so sick of the taxi’s!

  6. Headed to DMK (!) in a couple weeks.. tail end of a whirlwind SE Asia trip. Wish I had more days to explore more but gives me a good reason to go back. Thanks for the article and helpful advice… I will let you know how it went!

    1. Just downloaded Grab, using my Canadian bank card. It would not accept any of my Canadian credit cards because of 2-step verification. This is a bank issue, not a grab issue.

  7. My family and I are staying at a home on Soi Chok in Khet Huai Khwant. Would Grab be the best way for us to get around?

  8. Thanks for taking the time to write all these great recommendations. Too bad for all the idiots who have nothing better to do than argue whatever you say. Obviously you have expertise and good intentions and you are not forcing your opinions on anyone, so those who don’t like what you say should just go to another site instead of trying to put you down.

    I live in Bangkok and really enjoyed what you have to say about it.

  9. Thanks Gilbert! Visiting Bangkok for the first time in a couple of days and I am glad I won’t have to make these mistakes thanks to you! Except I did already make a mistake for booking the JW Marriott for US $170! I guess that becomes a splurge now! Haha!

  10. Hotels: $40-75 gets you some solid to amazing hotels and serviced apartments. If you want a pool and gym closer to $75. Of course some crazy nice places can be had for $125-225 in BKK but that’s not needed. Spend your money elsewhere. I use online booking apps about a month out for great rates.

    Grab and go: Grab has changed a bit since June 2019. I’m in Bangkok as I write this and you can no longer register with a USA phone number. I registered with my old number in June but can’t change to my new #. But, you can use it with Google or Facebook login (as long as your sim has data) but have to pay cash to the driver. Grab has a deal with a Thai “tourist sim” provider so I think that has something to do with all USA (maybe other numbers) being unable to register with just a #.

    At the airport. Go to the official taxi stand. Take a number. Wait a bit. Get a taxi to your hotel for 250-350 baht plus tolls and airport fee. Maybe I’m off by 50-75 baht, baht it’s no big deal. Look for official taxi signage or ask an information desk person.

    Taxi long haul: Many Pattaya taxi services are available (1500-1800 in a sedan) as well as Hua Hin (for 2000-2200). Quick Google search will get you to a reputable booking service. I’ve had a few drivers try to get me to pay the tolls so I always confirm “tolls included” but then tip a few hundred baht for these long haul rides anyhow. So it’s a wash.

    Tolls: One thing that mystifies people is the airport taxi fee ( 50 baht) and tolls (maybe 75 baht in city or 200 baht further out on toll roads). These are not scams. These are the prices.

    To pay $10 or $25?: Up to you! Hotels will offer 600-680 baht rides to the airports. You hop in a car and they take you. No worries. That’s maybe worth $10 extra?

    But, that’s more than the 275-350 baht meter taxi / Grab rates (don’t forget to add tolls and airport surcharges) if you’re willing to ask 4-5 taxi drivers if they will use the meter. Many of my Thai friends will ask 4-5 drivers to use the meter before one says yes on say SOI 11 or other tourist areas. But eventually one will take the ride. Just keep saying “use meter, (krab or ka)?”

    Most taxi hagglers will take you to the airport and pay tolls for 500 back to the airport so that’s one way to just get moving. Agree on a flat rate including tolls and fee and go. What’s $6 after all if you’re on vacation.

    Trains: 2 hours on BTS and bus to get to DMK. Faster out to BKK on BTS and airport link for sure but depending on the time be prepared to have People give you a look as you try to squeeze all that jumbo luggage on the BTS at Siam during rush hour!

    If you’re on vacation paying a premium of a few hundred baht is not something I’d worry about. That $10 USD upcharge will help that taxi driver and you’re getting a ride to the airport in a comfortable car for less than $25 or maybe $15. Try to get that in Tokyo, London, NYC, or even Cleveland Ohio.

    While there’s always a cheaper way to go I always balance comfort against saving $10 on my way into or out of town. If I lived here and had a Thai Sim, and were fluent in Thai I’d always expect to pay meter rate plus tolls and fees but if you’re thousands of miles away from home and worried about $10 on the way into and out of Thailand you maybe shouldn’t be on vacation.

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