You got your ticket, now it’s time to start planning! On this page, you’ll find my personal selection of must-do experiences in Bangkok, so you’ll get an idea of Thai culture even before you arrive.
MY TOP 10 BANGKOK TIPS
1. Take a tuk-tuk
You know what I’m referring to, right? It’s the symbol of Bangkok, an auto rickshaw with a driver seat and two or more passenger seats.
Here’s my advice:
- Always negotiate the price before taking a ride. Tuk-tuk drivers know perfectly well that they are a novelty and a tourist attraction so they up their prices accordingly. It happened to me when they asked for an amount higher than a taxi ride.
- Never pay beforehand. What can happen (as it did to me) is that the driver vanishes, leaving you to fend for yourself. I had an agreement with a driver to go for a tour, stopping along the way to visit attractions. However, when I came out of a temple I saw that the driver had taken off. Don’t worry, there are so many tuk-tuks that you’ll soon find a replacement, but it’s best to pay later rather than at the beginning.
- Be patient (if you can!). In most cases, especially if you negotiated a tuk-tuk tour with one driver, they won’t follow your itinerary and instead, they’ll drive you someplace else. Alternatively, the driver will bring you to friends and relatives hoping to sell you more tours and other services. Both happened to me and I found it quite irritating!
2. Visit the ‘flower market’
A world-famous attraction. Getting there is not easy, especially if you choose to go there in the early afternoon – as I did – when the heat is unbearable. Flowers aren’t the only thing sold here, you can find fruit and vegetables here too.
It’s free to enter and the market is open 24/7.
3. Exercise or take a stroll in Lumphini Park
A huge green area located in one of Bangkok’s most chaotic areas. It reminded me of Central Park in New York: beautiful greenery framed by skyscrapers. There are dozens of paths to choose from, large open fields, outdoor gyms and several lakes you can explore by boat.
It’s free to enter and the park is open daily from 4:30 until 9 pm.
4. Request a VAT refund on your purchases
Yes, you can request a VAT refund (7%) for all your purchases made in Thailand. There are, however, parameters to respect. For example, you need to spend at least 2000 Baths, either with a single purchase or several ones.
For any additional information, you can read my article on this topic: VAT refund for tourists in Thailand | Everything you need to know.
5. Show respect for Thai religion and culture
Once in Thailand, you will soon realize how heartfelt religion is here. Us tourists cannot but respect this. You’ll find people gathered in prayer almost everywhere: In front of temples, on the street, in front of the King’s effigies. So please be mindful and polite, this is probably the most important tip of them all.
Here’s my advice:
- Remember to always leave your shoes outside the temple you want to visit. In some cases, especially at the largest and most popular temples, you will find disposable socks. However, not all temples provide them, so I suggest carrying a pair of spare socks with you, just in case.
- Cover your knees and shoulders whenever you need to enter a place of worship. It’s best to wear long skirts and trousers or to bring a large scarf or sarong to cover yourself when needed.
- Do not put your feet on the threshold of the temple (ditto if you were to enter a house of a Thai). Try to climb over the threshold without touching it with your feet. According to an ancient popular belief, spirits live here.
- There are no benches where to sit inside the temples, so if you sit down be careful not to turn the soles of your feet towards Buddha.
- The statues of the Buddha are, of course, sacred, so it is considered disrespectful to pose for photos in front of them. If you visit the Wat Pho temple you’ll notice that almost everyone breaks this rule but know that Thais do not look favorably on it.
6. The Thai wai
As you might shake hands with someone you just met, in Thailand the wai is the customary greeting. It consists of a slight bow, with the palms pressed together in a prayer-like fashion.
Here’s my advice:
- Thai people don’t usually expect foreigners to wai, so they really appreciate it when you do. For this reason, it is advisable to do it or, at the very least, to give a small nod and smile.
7. Do not argue in public
In Thailand, but more generally in Asia, it is not common to express your emotions in public, negative emotions especially. To get angry in public, to make a scene or to openly fight is like losing your dignity.
Wait to go back to the hotel to argue, ok? 🙂
8. Try the Pad Thai
Whether you go to a food market or choose the best restaurant in the city, you’ll always find this dish on the menu. Born in the 1930s, it’s the dish symbol of this nation.
It’s made with rice noodles, eggs, soy sauce, fresh coriander, sprouts, sugar, chicken/shrimp and chili (I do not love it and I’ve always asked not to add it). Other ingredients that are often added are sauteed vegetables, lime, oil, cloves, tofu and onion.
My advice is to try this local delicacy, it’s a must! It’s delicious and makes for a light meal.
9. Spend an evening at the glamorous “Lebua Tower”
A must for those visiting Bangkok. This elegant rooftop bar and restaurant has a beautiful view overlooking Bangkok and you can go there for a meal, a drink or to simply take a picture (like I did!).
There’s a dress code so be careful or you won’t get in. I’ll talk more about this venue in a separate article.
10. Visit Khao San Road
Parties, cheap accommodation, street-food, Thai massages and insects to eat. Love it or hate it, Bangkok’s Khao San Road can incense long debates amongst those who visit Thailand’s capital. While I don’t remember it fondly, I know that many people may like it, which is why it made the list. You can read about it in greater detail in this article here: All the pros and cons of staying near Bangkok’s Khao San Road.
These are my top 10 Bangkok tips. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch! In the meantime, you can watch my video on YouTube too.