If you are headed to Bangkok for the first time, there are a few things you need to know before making the trip. My first time there was complete chaos. I had spent two weeks up North in Chiang Mai, where the attitude of people residing in that city spoiled me into thinking small town Chiang Mai individuals were an accurate representation of all of Thailand. So when I headed down to Bangkok, I was in for a rude awakening.
First off, it was mainly the tuk tuk drivers and taxis you need to watch out for. All the articles online warning you of how taxis and tuk tuks will lead you to their friends places to buy jewelry or to go on overpriced tours have never been more true than in this city. My first experience with this, I had paid a taxi driver 800 baht to take me to a floating market, making sure to confirm that there were no other charges involved. He said there would not be. After driving roughly two hours, we pulled into this lot with a sign welcoming you to a floating market tour for a very ‘reasonable’ price of 3200 baht (nearly $100 USD). I was infuriated. Not willing to pay that insane amount, I had wasted half my day in Bangkok driving to and from this guided tour. The rest of my time I dealt with an endless array of haggling overpriced tuktuks and taxis which gave me a overjoyed attitude when it was time to move on to a different city.
So my second time around in Bangkok ten months later, I realized another mistake someone can make while in Bangkok. LOCATION IS EVERYTHING. However, making this location mistake, I did come across a solution to the tuk tuk/taxi problem as well as making location not an extremely inconvenient aspect of the trip. Bangkok is a HUGE city with a population of over 11 million people. To make that a little more understandable, the bustling city of New York has 8 million; Bangkok beating that number by an additional 3 million. This number isn’t even including the outrageous number of tourists and visitors that pour in at any given time throughout the year.
I booked my hostel off of hostelworld.com, thinking that a 9/10 score in the ‘location’ category was true. I got in a taxi to my hostel from the airport upon arrival and as I continued getting closer to my hostel, I realized I was in a part of the town I had never seen before. I checked in and settled all my stuff in my room then did what I always do when I first get to a new place-I explored the neighborhood. Walking through the streets, I noticed there was not a tourist to be seen (except a few from the hostel). I was in an all Thai neighborhood where English was rarely spoken. I don’t mind being in an all Thai neighborhood, except for the reality of when there aren’t tourists anywhere near you, that means everything you hope to see is also not anywhere near you. oh, boy what had I done?
I went back to the hostel, asking the front desk how to get around. The brother and sister that work the front of Pridi Hostel were more than helpful giving me such great detail of how to get places and when to go, that the location issue soon dwindled into just a slight inconvenience. The brother in specific had told me of the Sky Train, similar to bart in San Francisco. It pretty much drops you off at most locations, and for the ones that need an extra step, the ferry boats takes you the rest of the way. So instead of tuktuks and taxis, the more favorable (faster, less expensive and less of a headache) way to get around are public transits: Sky Train, Bus Systems and Ferry Boats. What a different experience I had when I discovered how easy it was to get around via public transit. There were only a few times I actually had to take a tuk tuk or taxi which I was completely fine with since those occasions rarely happened.
So to recap a few things on surviving Bangkok, as well as a few other tips:
- Check the neighborhood in which you find a place to stay, seeing how Bangkok is very large. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. (For party-goers, get one near Khao San Road but not on or else you can kiss sleep at night goodbye).
- Public transit will make your stay easy-breezy.
- Haggle every price! (I usually cut their price in half and bargain from there).
- Be sure to ALWAYS set the price before stepping in any tuk tuk or taxi,it will save you a huge rip-off.
- Do not let them talk you into going anywhere other than your destination. Be firm. Say No Thank you.