Heading to Bangkok for the first time? Here are some things you should know to travel smartly (and not get ripped off by tuk-tuk and taxi drivers).
1. City Taxis. Get out of taxis that won’t put the meter on for you. They are waiting around to rip off tourists, don’t fall for it. There are plenty of honest drivers in Bangkok, you just need to find them. Metered taxi rides are fair and cheap. You really shouldn’t need to pay more than 120 baht to go anywhere in central Bangkok, even in traffic, and even at night. Don’t be afraid to speak up or get out.
2. Airport Taxis. At the airport (when you arrive to BKK) there is an organized taxi line outside of baggage claim. Get in it and take a ticket. Find your corresponding taxi and make sure they put the meter on. It will most likely cost you somewhere between 300-400 baht to get to your hostel or hotel (that’s somewhere around $10-15 US). Expect to pay the same to get back to the airport (use the meter). Some taxi drivers will ask you to pay the tolls to and from the airports, which can be up to 120 baht, but this has only happened to me once out of probably six or seven times, so I’d say it’s not normal.
3. City Tuk-Tuks. Tuk-Tuks around Bangkok should cost anywhere from 50-150 baht. Unless you are trying to get way out of town, you should not pay more than 150 (shoot for 100, and go up or down in increments of 20).
4. Tuk-Tuk Warning. Tuk-Tuk drivers will offer you lower prices to get you to go to tuxedo shops on the way to your destination. They do this because they earn vouchers for gas by bringing customers to tux shops. You don’t have to do this, and if for any reason you do decide to do it, don’t pay more than about 10 baht (if anything) for a ride to where you are trying to go. Otherwise just insist on “no stops.”
5. Bangkok Prices. Bangkok is what you want it to be, money-wise. You can spend 50 cents or $7 on the same crappy beer, it just depends on where you go for that beer. Stay out of uber touristy areas or 5-star hotels to avoid high prices.
6. Thai Iced Coffee. A must try is the Thai iced coffee. You can get them at little stands all around Thailand, and they’ll always be cheaper (and usually better) than in a restaurant. Look for a stand like the one below, and ask for Thai iced coffee. You don’t need to sweeten it, they use sweetened condensed milk and it’s amAZing.
7. Getting Around Thailand. Trains and buses are not always the cheapest option to get around Thailand. A 14-hour overnight train or bus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok will cost the same exact price as a 1-hour flight. Some people want to do the train for the experience, to each their own. Use AirAsia.com for cheap flights, even the day of or the day before a flight.
8. Thai Foot Massage. Whatever you do, make sure you get a foot massage. Even if you don’t normally like massage, or prefer back massages because your feet are ticklish, GET A FOOT MASSAGE. I would argue that foot massage is the top thing that Thailand does best. Yes, even above food, because there is so much good food in all these surrounding countries. But no one does foot massage like the Thais. I get one every day. They cost about 100-150 baht for a half hour, 250 for a full hour.
9. Khao San Road. Go to Khao San Road for the experience, but don’t miss Rambuttri Village across the street. From the western end of Khao San, walk about two blocks to the right (north-ish) and then cross the street west. Get a foot massage, eat Khao Soi, eat mango and sticky rice and pineapple shakes on the street, have a drink at a converted VW bus-turned-bar.
10. Bargaining. When bargaining with street sellers, as a general rule you could aim to start bargaining at half the price of what they offer you, and then work your way up from there. Don’t be afraid to walk away. Either they will meet your price when you do so, or you can find someone else to buy from.
11. Bangkok Sky Train. The sky train is not the best option for transport, especially if you’re with someone else. Split the cost of tuk-tuks or cabs. Accessing Khao San Road and Rambuttri village is not difficult, even though it’s not on the sky train. Just get a tuk-tuk, and remember not to pay more than 100 baht.
12. Local Boats. You can use local boats to get up and down the river from public piers. Take the orange flag boats to save money, it costs 14 baht to travel the length of central Bangkok. Don’t fall for anyone trying to sell you expensive boat trips, unless they are specifically a dinner cruise or similar.
13. Hostel Recommendation. Want a nice room at a great price? Check out Saphaipae Hostel in Silom (an area of Bangkok). I stayed in a Deluxe private ensuite (that I booked for the best price on Agoda) for about $36. You can also opt for a dorm if you’re on a strict budget. Includes breakfast, is 5-min walk from sky train, public pier, and taxis abound.
Bangkok is busy, overwhelming, hot, and dirty. I recommend a day to catch up on jet lag and see what you want to see (if anything), and then get out to explore the rest of beautiful Thailand.