Bangkok Survival Guide
Bangkok Survival Guide is about all those things you may need to know before and after you arrive. Do you want to know about which scams to avoid, money saving tips, where to get the best exchange rates, which ATM’s charge the lowest withdrawal fee, where to find official tourist information, opening hours, health and safety tips, where to find left luggage lockers, where to get a cheap haircut, how and where to extend your visa? then read on.
The legal age for drinking alcohol is 18. The sale of alcohol in shops is prohibited during the hours of Midnight – 11.00am, 14.00 – 17.00. This includes convenience stores. Bars and restaurants are unaffected. Stock up and keep in your hotel fridge. Alcohol sales are prohibited everywhere on the eve of elections until the morning after an election and on important Buddhist holidays such as Macha Bucha (February/March), Visakha Bucha (May/June), Asarnha Bucha (July), Buddhist Lent (July). The exact dates depend on the lunar calendar and change yearly. No drinking alcohol around the Grand Palace (10,000 baht fine).
Thailand has 3 seasons. Rainy (June to October), Cool (November – February), and Hot (March to May). The best time to visit is the cool season though it is also the busiest season. The rainy season doesn’t mean that it rains all the time. Usually once a day at similar times for a short period, though downfalls can be extremely heavy leaving streets temporarily flooded. In the hot season, temperatures can reach as much as 38C.
Bangkok has four 24-hour convenience store chains. They are 7-11, Family Mart, MaxValu and Lawson 108. You will probably never be more than a few hundred meters from one. All sell drinks, snacks, microwavable meals, SIM cards, mobile top-ups, and everyday useful items. 7-11 also sell flights for Air Asia and Nok Air. Some stores can book flights in store for you or you can book flights online and choose the counter payment option at check out, paying for the ticket at a 7-11 branch in cash within a given time frame using a reference number provided at the end of the booking process.
By International standards, Thailand is a cheap travel destination. You can spend as much or little as you want as all budgets are catered for regarding accommodation and dining.
The Mains electricity in Thailand is 220 volts AC. You should bring travel plug adapters with you or you can buy them in Bangkok cheaply. Plug sockets usually have 2 round, 3 round or 2 flat pins.
Cultural Etiquette Tips
Buddha Images are held sacred. Don’t climb on them in temples or get a Buddha tattoo. People with visible Buddha tattoos are being denied entry to Thailand at the airport. Seriously!
Don’t show disrespect to the King or any member of the Royal Family or criticize the Monarchy and stand respectfully for the national anthem when played in cinemas and at 8 am and 6 pm in some public places. Try not to step on money that features the king’s head.
Dress properly when visiting a Temple. No Miniskirts or shorts. Legs must be covered. Take off your shoes when entering the hall of worship. Females must never touch a monk or give them anything directly.
Kissing in public and nude sunbathing is prohibited. Men should not take off their shirts in public in the city. At the beach is OK.
Don’t put your feet up on tables or chairs or on seats on public transport. It is considered very rude. Don’t step over someone or their personal belongings.
Don’t touch Thais on the head. It is considered rude.
Bangkok and Thailand in general does, not have very good facilities or access for people with low mobility. A lot of attractions don’t have wheelchair access and the sidewalks are often uneven and blocked by obstacles. Crossing roads are a problem with steep stairs often the only access. Most malls have wheelchair accessible toilets
and the BTS/MRT transport systems have lifts though you will need staff assistance to use them.
Possession of drugs is a serious criminal offense in Thailand. Even possession of a small amount of Cannabis can get you jailed, fined and deported. Possession of stronger drugs can lead to anything from a year to life imprisonment. The police regularly carry out random stop and search inspections, particularly around Khao San Road and the Sukhumvit Road/Asoke areas.
Festivals & Events
Thailand has many festivals and events throughout the year. The most interesting ones celebrated in Bangkok are ….
April 13 – 15 Songkran (Thai New Year)
The best place to experience Songkran is the Khao San Road or Silom. Water fights and a party atmosphere draw large crowds. You will need a flowery shirt and a water pistol. If you prefer something less wild go to Wat Pho for a more traditional celebration.
November – Loy Krathong (date per the full moon).
Celebrations are held on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and in parks with ponds or lakes in the evening.
December 31st – New Year’s Eve
Celebratory events are held all over the city but the best place is to celebrate is at the Central World mall where there are beer gardens and a live concert.
Haircut – Where to get a haircut in Bangkok
Bangkok is home to thousands of salons and barbers. Here’s our guide to places where you can get a good cut and your hairdresser will understand some English. It’s advisable to always take a picture of the haircut you are expecting as a printout or on your phone to avoid misunderstandings.
Easy Cut is the home of the 150-baht express haircut. Don’t be put off by the cheap price as the cuts are good and the staff understands English. You can only get a cut here and they serve both men and women. You need a 100 baht note and a 50 baht note to put in the ticket machine which then spits out your ticket which you then hand to a stylist who will cut your hair as you want it in about 15 minutes. They will finish off by vacuuming your head with a nifty little suction machine.
: Metro Mall, Sukhumvit MRT Station, Bangkok.
: Thaniya Plaza, 2nd floor, (near the BTS Sala Daeng exit), Silom Road.
: Metro Mall, Phram 9 MRT Station, Bangkok.
Opening Hours: 10.00-20.00 daily.
Just Cut also offers a 120-baht haircut with the same method.
Just Cut: BTS Thong Lo Station, (at the top of the escalator), Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok.
Opening Hours: 10.00-20.00
Never Say Cutz
Never Say Cutz is a New York style barber shop chain. They offer urban styles and modern cuts. This is the place to come if you want a hip-hop style cut or some crazy patterns in your hair. Cuts start at 350 baht. They also trim beards and mustaches. A range of hip-hop merchandise is available to go with your new haircut. They have several branches in central locations.
Never Say Cutz: Siam Square Lido, Siam Square One Mall, Sukhumvit Soi 51, Thonglor, Thaniya Plaza (1st floor) Silom.
Opening Hours: 10.00-21.00 daily.
Chalachol is a long established (since 1988) chain of salons owned by a celebrity hairdresser. This is more suitable for ladies though they do men’s cuts as well. A simple cut will cost from 750 baht with prices rising accordingly for hair coloring, straightening, and perming etc. There are several centrally located branches.
Chalachol: Siam Center, Amarin Plaza, Terminal 21, Central Rama 9, Thonglor.
Opening Hours: 11.00-20.00 daily.
Moga is a more upmarket chain of hairdressers with Japanese and Korean stylists as well as Thai. Prices start at 1500 baht for a cut, wash and blow dry. Other treatments such as coloring, straightening and perming are more expensive. Service is first class here with good English speakers. Moga run their own hairdressing academy.
Moga: Siam Paragon 2nd floor, Central World 2nd floor@ Isetan, 3rd floor@ Zen, EmQuartier 4th floor, Emporium 1st floor, Central Embassy 4th floor.
Opening Hours: 10.00-21.00 daily.
The Pop Up Barber
Last but not least is the Silom Pop Up barber who can be found somewhere along Silom Road though usually at the mouth of Silom Soi 6 in the evenings. At 100 baht, this is the cheapest haircut in town.
Bangkok and Thailand in general does, not have any major health risks. You should ensure that your travel insurance has adequate health/accident coverage as hospital bills can be expensive if you have any medical issues. The most common problems are heat exhaustion and stomach upsets. To avoid heat exhaustion, try to avoid excessive activity in the heat, and drink plenty of water. Stomach upsets can be caused simply by the spicy food or by picking up bacterial infections from bad food.
You should bring any prescribed medications with you that you take for pre-existing conditions, though if you forget, run out or lose them you should be able to buy replacements over the counter without a prescription at Boots chemists or at a more specialized pharmacy. Things that you can easily buy here include ….
insect repellent creams and sprays
insulin (Novo Nordisk) + Insulin Pens
low strength aspirin (Aspilets is the local brand)
antacids (Miracid is the local brand)
statins (Bestatin is the local brand)
Some western brands may also be available but can be expensive. Things worth buying on arrival and carrying with you during your stay are antiseptic cream, mosquito repellent, antibacterial/ diarrhea tablets. Antiseptic cream is essential for applying to any cuts or scratches as these can easily become infected. Mosquito repellent should be applied to exposed parts of the body when going out after sunset to avoid getting bitten. Bites are not dangerous in Bangkok but can be extremely irritating. Local brands are cheap and work well.
Fasigyn which contains Tinidazole is extremely effective at killing bacterial infections transmitted from food. A pack contains 4 tablets which should be taken as a single dose. It usually starts to clear up your infection after a few hours though it suppresses your appetite for food temporarily.
As with all drugs check the enclosed literature for whether it is suitable for you. Imodium is an anti-diarrhea drug which slows down your bowel movements allowing you to travel but doesn’t kill the infection. The above can all be bought over the counter in branches of boots.
There are many pharmacies in Bangkok. Branches of Boots can be found all over Bangkok, mostly in Malls. Each branch has a pharmacist on duty. A good pharmacy on Sukhumvit Road (by Soi 15) is South East Pharmacy. If you need to buy Insulin, you can buy it here. South East stock a wider range of products than boots.
South-East Pharmacy map: https://goo.gl/maps/LJHnriB8EFT2
Bangkok has a lot of first class International hospitals and is a major international medical tourism hub. Most doctors are English speaking. Many visitors come to Bangkok to seek medical treatments at a much lower cost than is available in their home countries. Apart from surgery, health check-up packages and dental treatment are very popular and good value for money. General health check-up packages run from around 3000 baht to 18000 baht depending on the content. Specialist packages such as cancer screening are also available. Dental procedures are also much cheaper than in western countries.
Under Thai law, you must carry ID on you always. A passport is considered acceptable ID for tourists. However, nobody wants to carry their passport around with them all the time so a photocopy of the photo page of your passport is usually acceptable. Before you leave home it’s a good idea to make a few photocopies of the picture page and always carry one with you in your wallet when you are out and about in Bangkok and leave your passport in a secure place at your hotel. Also, you should take a photo with your mobile phone including your arrival card and the page with your entry stamp. You are very unlikely to ever be stopped by the police but there is a 2000 baht fine for not be able to produce ID if you are ever stopped.
Free WIFI is available in most hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes, and malls. Some have free access to broadband terminals. If you have Thai pay as you go internet SIM you should be able to access your Thai service providers network anywhere in the city. Traditional Internet cafes are now hard to find. True coffee at Siam Paragon (3rd floor) have high-speed terminals and offer printing and DVD burning service.
True Coffee @ Siam Paragon
Important Phone Numbers
Thailand Country Code 66
Bangkok Area Code 02
Tourist Police 1155
Tourist Information 1672, 022815051
Suvarnabhumi Airport Help Desk 021323888
Thai is the national language. English is understood and spoken in Tourist areas and businesses that service tourists. Most restaurants, bars, and shops have dual language menus and signs.
Bangkok is an extremely gay-friendly city with many hotels, guest houses, bars, and restaurants catering to LGBT visitors from all over the world. Thai people are very tolerant of homosexuality. The gay scene in Bangkok is mostly situated around the Silom area with many bars, hotels and massage places in the area. Silom Soi’s 2, 2/1, and 4 have many gay orientated bars and clubs. There is a gay go-go bar center on Soi Twilight on Surawong Road.
Losing Your Passport
Take good care of your passport, losing it in Bangkok will cause you a lot of hassle, time and money. Make sure your travel insurance covers loss of passport and related expenses. If you lose your passport the first thing you should do is report it at a police station and get a copy of the report. Then you need to go to the embassy or consulate representing your country and report the loss. You will need to provide proof of your identity. Always keep a photocopy of your passport ID page. The procedure from then on will be determined by your home countries requirements. Check on your consulate’s website for more details, but generally, you can then apply for a new passport or a temporary travel document.
If you are on an extended vacation and wish to continue your travels you will need a new passport. This can take between 10 days and 45 days depending on your nationality. Some countries will issue a new passport in Bangkok, others will issue it in your home country and send it to Bangkok. If you are only on a short holiday and are returning home soon you can get a temporary travel document which is valid only for flying back to your home country. After you receive your new passport/travel document you will need to visit the Thai immigration head office to have your entrance stamps/visa re-entered in your new passport or in the case of the temporary travel document, obtain an exit document that allows you to clear Thai immigration at the airport.
Take good care of your passport!
There are left luggage lockers at the following locations; https://www.lockbox-th.com/location
Prices are: Small – 20 baht per hour / 120 baht a day (24 hours), Medium – 30 baht per hour / 180 baht per day, Large – 40 baht per hour / 240 baht per day, Extra Large – 50 baht per hour / 300 baht per day. Minimum of 2 hours.
Limited free or low-cost luggage storage is available with AIRPORTELs at MBK, Central World and Terminal 21 as well as at both airports. There are no restrictions on size or weight. Sports equipment, bicycles, golf bags, and laptops are accepted. Items are stored in secure units and luggage can be delivered to any hotel in Bangkok for an extra charge. Insurance up to 100,000 baht is included.
MBK – 6th floor B Zone. 4 hours free per bag or 100 baht per day. Open 10.00-22.00.
Central World – 1st floor, Groove Zone. 2 hours free per bag or 100 baht per day. Open 10.00-22.00.
Terminal 21 – 1st floor, Tokyo Zone. 3 hours free per bag or 100 baht per day. Open 10.00-22.00.
Suvarnabhumi Airport – Airport Rail Link, basement floor. 100 baht per bag per 24 hours. Open 24 hours.
Don Mueang Airport – Terminal 2, 1st floor, gate 9. 69 baht per bag per 24 hours. Open 24 hours.
Thailand has two national English-language daily newspapers. The Bangkok Post and The Nation. They are easy to find in Bangkok at most news-stands and bookstores. Most western style coffee shops, restaurants, and bars have copies available for customers to read free of charge. Some Western pubs have printed copies of daily UK, Australian and American newspapers for customers to browse.
BK Magazine is a useful weekly free magazine with listings, news of coming events, restaurant and bar reviews. It is published every Friday and is free from many outlets around town. Branches of Starbucks are usually a good place to pick up a copy.
Most hotels have cable TV with a selection of English language channels usually including BBC World and CNN along with sports and movie channels. World sporting events are best watched at one of the cities sports bars where English language commentary is usually available.
If you bring your mobile to Thailand, check the roaming rates before you leave home as these can be very high. It may be better for you to use a pay as you go Thai SIM card. These can be obtained at the airport on arrival and are sometimes available free of charge. Details here. You will need an unlocked phone to use a Thai SIM card. If you don’t get one at the airport they can easily be bought all over the city. Bringing an old phone with you is a good idea or buy a cheap Thai model. Many phone vendors across the city offer phone unlocking service for a small fee. MBK shopping center is a good place for this and to get a cheap new or 2nd hand, phones.
Calls are cheap both within Thailand and Internationally. For example, on the DTAC network using their 004-access number, you can call European countries for as little as five baht per minute and 5 baht per text. Domestic calls/texts are between 1 and 3 baht per minute/text. It’s easy to top up your credit online using your debit card via the service provider’s English website or over the counter at 7-11 convenience stores. Thai landline numbers have an area code which you must dial, before the number. Bangkok is 02 and you must include this even if you are dialing from inside the city.
Thailand has a constitutional monarchy with the King as head of state. You should be very careful not to show any disrespect or criticize the current king, past kings or any members of the royal family. It is illegal and can result in a harsh prison sentence. You should also be careful when handling Thai currency which features the kings head, stand for the King’s anthem when it is played in cinemas before the showing of a movie, and stand still when the national anthem is played in a public place at 8 am and 6 pm. The current monarch is King Maha Vajiralongkorn or Rama X.
Thailand suffered a great loss on the 13th October 2016 when King Bhumibol Adulyadej died. At the time of his death, he was the world’s longest reigning monarch. He was widely loved by the Thai people and respected around the world. A year-long period of mourning was announced after his death.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej
The Currency of Thailand is the baht (THB). It comes in both notes and coins. The baht is subdivided into 100 Satang.
The notes are issued in baht denominations of 20 (Green color), 50 (Blue), 100 (Red), 500 (Violet/Purple), 1000 (Brown). The coins you will mostly encounter are 10 (Silver color with a Bronze center), 5 (Silver), 2 (both Silver and Bronze), 1 (Silver). You are unlikely to encounter satang but if you do it will be the 50, and 25 which are both Copper colored. The 2-baht coin can easily be confused with the 1 baht coin due to the small difference in size.
Some people write a 2 on them to aid identification. If you do this BE SURE not to write on the King’s head which would be offensive to Thai people. Try to carry plenty of smaller notes with you as outside of large shops and restaurants it can be difficult to change 500/1000 notes. Don’t try to pay for small value items, taxis or tuk-tuks with high-value notes.
To check the value of the Thai baht against other currencies check here ….
ATM’S & Banks
Bangkok has thousands of ATM machines which should accept foreign debit/credit cards issued by International banking networks such as Plus and Cirrus etc.
On many Thai bank ATM machines, you will see a sign informing you that you can “get Thai baht here”! What they don’t advertise is the fee they charge you which only crops up later in the transaction. This is currently 220 baht in and there are plans to raise it further to 250 baht. They also limit any transaction to 20 notes which limit the amount you can withdraw in any one transaction. The reason for this seems to be pure greed as banks in other countries in the region such as Cambodia, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore , and Vietnam either allow free withdrawals or charge a fee that is a fraction of the Thai bank’s fee. However, there are ways to avoid this fee (or some of it).
Use AEON ATM machines. AEON is a credit card/personal loan provider rather than a bank. They offer International withdrawals through their ATM’s and charge 150 baht per transaction. AEON ATM’S in tourist areas can be found at ……….
Siam Paragon, Central World, Central Plaza Pinklao, Central Plaza Rama 9, Big C Ratchadamri, Big C Ratchada, Big C Chidlom Soi 19, Big C Rama 4, Big C Saphan Kwai, Big C Chaengwattana (near immigration office), Fortune Town (Tesco), MBK Mall, Terminal 21, Tesco Lotus Sukhumvit Soi 50, Gateway Ekkamai, Silom Complex, Queen Sirikit Center, Max Valu Ekkamai, Max Valu Glass House Ratchada, Max Valu Grand Diamond Pratunam, MaxValu Sukhumvit Soi 71, Max Valu Sukhumvit Soi 81, MaxValu Tanjai Sam Yan (Ideo Condo), Tang Hua Sen Banglumphoo (Khaosan), Max Valu True Thonglor, Makro Sathorn, Union Mall
A full list and maps of the branches locations can be found here: http://www.aeon.co.th/aeon/services-location/atm-depositor-location/index.html
Citibank – Many (but not all) European issued Citi bank cards are allowed free withdrawals at Citibank ATM’s in Bangkok, though this may change. Locations are ….
United Center, Silom
Interchange Tower, at the Sukhumvit/Asoke intersection
If you have a debit/credit card issued outside Thailand that allows you free withdrawals or cash advances you can try to withdraw money at a Thai bank counter where you will incur no fee. Some will refuse this and direct you to the ATM instead. If they do just try another bank.
All major credit cards/debit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are accepted in virtually all shops, restaurants and hotels in Bangkok.
Watch out for Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) which is where when you pay by credit card you are offered the choice of completing the transaction in Thai baht or your home currency. Always choose the Thai baht option as exchange rates are poor if you choose to pay in your home currency.
If you need to get money wired to you from friends or family, Thailand has two International money transfer agents, Western Union, and MoneyGram. Both have worldwide networks and multiple outlets in Bangkok where you can receive funds. You can check locations and fees at the links below.
Thai banks are open from 8.30 – 15.30 Monday – Friday, except for public holidays. Branches in shopping malls are open 7 days a week including holidays from 10.00 to 19/20.00.
Opening an Account
It used to be easy to open a savings account in Thailand but in common with other countries, Thailand now has stricter anti-money laundering laws. Most banks now require a work permit or long-term visa. It is still possible to open an account on a tourist visa with KTB if you take their shop smart pearl debit card which includes medical insurance. Try applying at the Krung Thai bank Nana branch at Sukhumvit, Soi 2, inquire at the desks to the left as you enter the building. The staff can speak English.
If they let you open an account you can get a passbook (optional), a visa debit card which you can use at retail outlets, online, and at ATM’s, both inside and outside Thailand, and Net/phone banking. The card comes with a 100,000-baht medical Insurance (within Thailand). The card issuing fee is 100 baht plus 599 baht for the insurance which is valid for one year. Higher levels of insurance are available for an additional fee. ATM withdrawals are free in Bangkok and 15 baht per transaction outside Bangkok. You will probably have to provide an address. You will need to show your passport. The debit card is not available without purchasing the insurance. Please note that bank regulations change frequently regarding the opening of accounts so this may no longer be possible.
Map for KTB Nana Branch: https://goo.gl/maps/YtsiDufijbx
Miracle Thailand Card
The Miracle Thailand card is an e-money card for tourists which is only available from KTB bank. You can buy it at any branch/exchange kiosk of KTB bank only. There is a branch at Suvarnabhumi airport next to Super Rich on the Airport Rail Link concourse in the airport basement. The issuing fee is 100 baht and it’s valid for two years. You will need to show your passport. Personal accident insurance of one million baht is included and is valid for 7 days from the issue date of the card. It can be used to make free ATM withdrawals from ATM’s displaying the visa logo and as payment for goods and services in participating outlets.
There is a range of discounts associated with the card. The Card can be topped up at any branch or kiosk of KTB bank. Any remaining balance can be refunded before you leave the country by visiting one of the bank’s branches.
There are numerous foreign exchange kiosks in Bangkok usually conveniently located in Malls and stations. Thai banks all offer similar rates and don’t charge commission. Opening hours differ slightly but are in general between 08.00 to 22.00 depending on location. The best exchange rates are always offered by an independent money changer called SuperRich.
Exchange Booths at Chit Lom BTS
SuperRich Exchange SupeRich in Central World
You can find SuperRich (Orange) exchanges at the following locations ….
BTS Chit Lom station
MRT Petchburi station
Phra Ram 9 station
Central Embassy Mall
Central World Mall
Airport Link Phaya Thai station
Silom (near Chong Nonsi intersection)
Head Office (Rajdamri Road, Opposite Central World)
Check the full list of exchange booths here: http://www.superrich1965.com/branch.php
Check the latest rates: http://www.superrich1965.com/en_index.html
You will need your passport to exchange money. They do not exchange traveler’s checks. If you want to buy currencies other than Thai baht, it is best to visit their head office branch. If you are traveling on to other countries after Thailand, you will get a good deal exchanging money here compared to when you arrive at your next destination. Other Currency exchanges that offer similar rates to Super Rich are Twelve Victory Exchange and confusingly another Super Rich (green).
Monks are a familiar sight on the streets of Bangkok and are highly respected in Thai society. They are forbidden contact with women so females should not sit or stand next to, touch or hand things directly to a monk. Note that certain seats are reserved for monks on public transport and must be given up if a monk is present.
Most shopping malls are open from 10.00 until 21.00 7 days a week. Shops not in malls usually close around 20.00. Government offices are open 08.30 – 16.30 and close one hour for lunch.
Always be polite when dealing with the Thai police. They have the right to stop you anywhere and ask to see your ID. Failure to produce it can result in arrest and a 2000 baht fine. The English speaking Tourist Police can be contacted by phoning 1155 or by email at email@example.com
Post office opening hours are generally 08.30 – 17.00, usually closing earlier at 12.00 on Saturdays and closed on Sundays. Branches in malls are open later till 20.00 and are open 7 days a week. They offer a range of postal services, Western Union money transfers, bus tickets, and souvenirs. International postal rates are not expensive. Send a postcard home! Fed-ex, DHL, and UPS also have offices in Bangkok.
Public Holidays 2019
All offices and Government buildings are closed on these dates. Shops are open and transport runs as normal on these days. Banks/Foreign Exchange in malls are open as usual. The Royal Ploughing Ceremony is not a public holiday.
January 1–2 New Year
February 19th Makha Bucha Day,
April 8th Chakri Memorial Day, 13-16th Songkran
May 1st National Labour Day, 6th Coronation Day, 20th Wisakha Bucha Day
July 16th Asarnha Bucha Day
July 29th – King’s Birthday (Rama X)
August 12th Queens Birthday
October 14th King Rama IX Memorial Day, 23rd Chulalongkorn Memorial Day
December 5th King Rama IX Birthday, 10th Constitution Day, 31st New Year’s Eve
Thai school holidays run from early March to early May and for the whole of October.
Thailand has no official state religion though 85% of Thais are Buddhists. The rest of the population comprises of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and Christians. You will find places of worship for all religions in Bangkok.
When crossing roads always look both ways as motorcycles often drive against the flow of traffic. In Thailand, pedestrians do not have right of way on zebra crossings. Thai drivers will not stop for you, they will run you over. There have been several fatalities over the last few years. Zebra crossings at intersections with pedestrian Green and Red lights are usually safe but be cautious. Thai drivers speed up at amber lights rather than slow down, to beat the lights. Use pedestrian footbridges wherever possible. Always wear seat-belts on long distance coaches and mini-vans.
Bangkok is generally a safe city, especially in Tourist areas. Avoid deserted areas at night. Pickpocketing and bag snatching are the most common crimes. Drug mugging (spiked drinks) by sex workers is also common. Avoid unlicensed taxis. Beware of over-friendly Lady-boys in the Sukhumvit area late at night (pickpockets). Don’t get into arguments with Thai men in Soi Cowboy, Nana or Patpong which can result in gang beatings.
Always keep your passport and valuables in a secure place even in your hotel room. If you need help or need to report a crime it’s best to contact the English-speaking Tourist police on 1155, which is a 24-hour toll-free number. They can take you to the nearest police station and liaise on your behalf with the generally non-English speaking Thai police.
Scams & Annoyances
In common with many other popular tourist destinations around the world, Thailand has its fair share of crooks waiting to scam you. Most of the scammers lurk around Bangkok’s most famous attractions. We’ve listed the most well-known ones below.
Tuk-Tuk/Taxi driver Scams
Avoid using Taxis or Tuk-Tuks that park outside hotels or major attractions. They don’t use meters and will overcharge you by several times the normal fare. Avoid taxis that hang around at each end of Khaosan Road and their touts for the same reasons. Always hail passing taxis on the street. NEVER ask Taxi/Tuk-Tuk drivers for recommendations as they will take you to places that pay them a commission.
The Grand Palace/Wat Pho is Closed scam
Ignore people who approach you around The Grand Palace or Wat Pho who tell you that it is closed for some reason. They will then offer to take you to see the “Big Buddha” or somewhere else. See the gem scam below. Always check opening times before you leave your hotel.
The Gem Scam
Don’t be tempted by free or cheap 50 baht tours offered by Tuk-Tuk/Taxi drivers or friendly locals. These will always involve stopping at dodgy gem shops where high-pressure sales techniques are employed to persuade you to buy worthless gems at inflated prices on the premise that you will be able to sell them at a big profit in your home country. Tuk-Tuk drivers get commissions if you buy anything and even fuel vouchers just for delivering you to the shop.
This also applies to souvenir and tailor’s shops. The souvenirs are overpriced. At the tailor’s shop, you will be shown good quality examples and materials but will end up with an inferior product made from poor quality materials. An invitation to see the “Big Buddha” is another variation of this scam which drivers around Wat Pho and the Grand Palace use. Drivers offering the dodgy tours like to intercept visitors heading to the Grand Palace just opposite the entrance next to the pigeon fountain. See the picture below.
The Bird Scam
Opposite the entrance to the Grand Palace is a small area with a few trees and a lot of pigeons. You may notice a Thai man or woman feeding the birds from a bag. He will approach you and offer the bird food to you to scatter. After you’ve done it he will aggressively ask you for 100 baht for the bird food. This is also where the 50-baht gem shop scam Tuk-Tuk drivers harass visitors heading for the Grand Palace.
Feeding pigeons in Bangkok is illegal and punishments are harsh.
The friendly/helpful local
Beware of people who approach you on the street particularly near major tourist attractions, are very friendly, ask you where you are from, strike up a conversation and offer to show you around or recommend something. They may describe themselves as students, tourist guides or business people. Their objective is to get you to visit some shops or businesses where they receive commissions. They may show you fake official ID in order to gain your trust. Watch out for this around Khaosan Road, Wat Pho & The Grand Palace.
This is a famous worldwide scam with the bottle tops set up on a table in the street. Looks easy to win and you will first time, then you will lose big. Ignore invitations from Thai men to join card games at a friend’s house. The cards will be marked. If playing pool with a Thai, reject any requests to play for money. You will always lose even if you are the best player. If you attend a Thai boxing match you may be offered the chance to bet on the outcome. One fighter seems to be winning easily at the halfway mark. At this point bookies will target the foreigners, offering attractive odds on the leading fighter to win. After the restart, the fighter who was losing will stage a miraculous recovery and win the fight easily!
Ping Pong shows
If you go to Patpong there are many touts trying to entice you to see so-called ping-pong or pussy shows in upstairs bars. They will usually have a board offering cheap drinks or free admission. When you eventually get, your bill do not be surprised to find various charges added on making the whole experience not so cheap and not free. Extra charges can be added for, any drinks or popcorn placed on your table that you didn’t order, letting a girl sit next to you or interacting in the performance. If you buy a girl a drink it will be ultra-expensive. Refusal to pay will result in you being prevented from leaving the bar or worse. In Go-Go bars, always check your bill and change. Try not to pay small bills with large notes. Bill padding and shortchanging are common in some bars.
Bangkok has a legendary seafood restaurant, but not for the quality of the food. Seafood Market Restaurant or Somboondee in the Phaya Thai area on Sri Ayutthaya Road is famous for presenting vastly inflated bills to foreign tourists. It’s probably the most popular 1-star review restaurant on Trip Advisor. The quality of the food gets the thumbs down too. Taxi drivers love this restaurant because they receive a 30% commission on the total of your bill. Even if you ask to be taken to another restaurant your driver may try to persuade you to come here. Never ask a taxi driver for restaurant recommendations. Do your own research online.
Always check your change when paying for small value items with large notes. This applies to bars, restaurants, shops and in 7-11. This is common in tourist areas and is not done in error.
Fake Tourist Surveys
As a tourist, you may well be stopped in the street and asked to complete a tourist survey, usually by attractive girls. This is common on Sukhumvit Road near Terminal 21 and outside tourist attractions. At the end of the survey, you will be asked for the name of your hotel, room number, and mobile number. Later you will receive calls to your room, mobile and even get people knocking on the door of your hotel room trying to sell you Timeshares in Pattaya, Phuket or Bangkok. Official tourist authority surveys are usually carried out at the airport and not on the streets.
Bangkok’s tourist areas have more beggars than policemen patrolling the streets. Many have severe deformities; female beggars usually have babies or small children and puppies. It’s difficult not to feel sorry for them but the money you give doesn’t end up with them. The babies and puppies are not theirs. When the puppies get too big they are dumped and replaced with younger ones.
Mafia gangs control the trade and provide the disabled, homeless and trafficked with a place to sleep at night and some basic food in exchange for begging from early morning till late at night. They then pocket the money at the end of the day. Professional western beggars can also be found on the streets and patrolling bars and restaurants usually selling the story that they need money to buy a ticket back home.
The Litter Police
Not a scam but certainly an annoyance to smokers are the Thetsakij or Bangkok’s litter police. Littering is an offense and rightly so, but Thetsakij only target tourists while ignoring Thai litterbugs who are the worst offenders. Thetsakij are not policemen but work for the Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA). Their method of operation is to look out for pedestrians who are smoking and stalk them to see how they dispose of their cigarette butt. They pounce on anyone dropping their cigarette butt and issue them with a fine.
This is supposed to be 2000 baht but is usually negotiated down if you don’t require a receipt. Thetsakij are most active outside Benjasiri Park (pictured) and on Sukhumvit patrolling between Nana and Terminal 21 as well as in other tourist areas. If you’re a smoker you are advised to carry something with you to dispose of your butts in as rubbish bins are almost non-existent on the streets.
This is a long-running scam. Tuk-Tuk drivers will often offer to sell you cannabis. After the transaction, has been completed, police will magically appear to arrest you. You will then be taken to an ATM to get funds to “buy” your way out.
Smoking is prohibited inside and outside all public buildings, on public transport, in open air markets, inside bars, restaurants, shopping malls, public parks, sports stadiums, and Airports unless an enclosed smoking area is provided. Vaping, Electronic Cigarettes and Shisha are officially banned. Dropping cigarette butts in the street can incur a 2000-5000 baht fine if seen by a Thetsakij, who are official litter inspectors. They patrol the Sukhumvit, Siam, Rattanakosin and Silom areas looking for offenders.
Vaping is illegal in Thailand as is possession and importation of E-Cigarettes, vaping devices, and equipment. If caught they can be confiscated and you can be fined from 6000 baht upwards or receive up to 10 years in prison! However, in practice, this seems to be selectively enforced and you will see westerners openly vaping in some places. Shisha pipes are also illegal but can also be seen in use. Just be aware of the law.
Thailand is 7 hours ahead of GMT and uses the 24-hour clock system. There is no daylight-saving time in Thailand. Thai’s use both a western and Buddhist calendar. For reference, the year 2018 = 2561. The year 2019 will be 2562.
Tipping is not common in Thailand and nobody expects you to. You don’t need to tip Taxi or Tuk-Tuk drivers. Tipping can be appropriate in mid or high-end restaurants if you feel the service was good.
Public toilets can be found in shopping malls, bus and train stations. They are free in most shopping malls but there is often an entrance charge of 5 baht, particularly at bus stations. Toilet paper is not always in toilet stalls but there are machines dispensing paper outside which you may have to pay for. Most toilets in shopping malls are western style.
The Bangkok Tourist Division has an office at 17/1 Phra Athit Road near Khaosan Road which has a small selection of free guides and maps. The staff speak good English and can help you with any questions you may have. It is open 08.00 – 20.00, 7 days a week. There are also official kiosks on the city streets in tourist areas which can provide you with maps, brochures and help with directions.
You can recognize them by the green on a white symbol of a mahout on an elephant. There is one on the sidewalk directly outside Siam Paragon and one outside the Grand Palace. Other locations include Sukhumvit, Silom and outside Wat Bowonniwet near Khaosan Road. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) head office is located at 1600 New Phetchaburi Road and has a large selection of brochures for Bangkok and all regions of Thailand. They will give you a map and booklet for free. There is also a great walking map guide book but you will have to ask for this specifically. There is English speaking staff.
They do not sell tours or book tickets for you. Opening hours are 08.30-16.30 daily. They also have sub-offices at Suvarnabhumi Airport on the arrival floor (24 hours) and at the Ministry of Sport and Culture on Ratchadamnoen Nok Road near Khaosan.
Watch out for non-official tourist information offices that have a sign saying tourist information, they are not official and just want to sell you tickets and tours and can provide inaccurate information to achieve that goal. Official information kiosks do not sell tickets or tours. Beware of people who hang around outside official tourist offices especially the TAT who tell you it’s closed or that it is not the official office and offer to take you to an official office. The offices mentioned above are the only official ones.
Tourist Office Kiosk
Tourism Information Office Phra Athit Road
Tourist Authority of Thailand Head Office on New Petchaburi Road
free maps and guides
Bangkok Tourist Office map: https://goo.gl/maps/MxMr6dsX35A2
Tourist Authority of Thailand head office map: https://goo.gl/maps/EPRBMX77CoF2
The English speaking Tourist Police can be contacted by phoning 1155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
For information on Thai, visas check here.
Extending your Visa in Bangkok
If you entered Thailand on a visa exempt entry (by air), a single or multiple entry tourist visas (air or land), you can extend each entry by 30 days. Arriving on a visa exempt entry by land you can extend it by 7 days. Citizens of a G7 country (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States) can extend a land entry by 30 days. Extensions cost 1900 baht.
You will need to go to the Immigration office at the Government Complex on Chaengwattana Road in North Bangkok. Opening hours are 08.30 to 16.30. The office closes for lunch from 12.00 to 13.00. Immigration is closed on weekends and public holidays.
You will need:
*Application Form (get it at the immigration office)
*One Passport Photo
*Photocopies of your passport photo page, Thai visa, and entrance stamp pages.
*The fee of 1900 baht
There is a copy shop in the complex basement. Copies cost 1 baht per sheet. Passport photos are 100 baht for 4. The basement has many cafes, banks, and shops.
How to get to Immigration
You can take a taxi from central Bangkok. The fare will be approximately 200 baht each way. You could also travel to Mo Chit BTS station on the Sky Train and take a taxi from there for approximately 100 baht each way.
It’s easy to get there by public transport. You take the BTS Sky Train to Mo Chit station. There you can catch the outbound Number 52 non-air-conditioned bus which will take you all the way. The bus may be a white, pink or blue color. The fare is 10 baht. You need to get off at the CAT Telecom stop just before a sign in English for the office of the Ombudsman.
Get off here
Turn left into the complex and you will see a Motorcycle taxi stand and just beyond it a bus stop. The Immigration office is in building B which is the furthest building from the complex entrance on the right-hand side. You can walk in about 12 minutes or you can take a Motorbike for 20 baht or take the free shuttle bus (every 10 minutes) from the bus stop.
Free shuttle bus
The Shuttle bus will drop you at Gate 2 of building B, which is also the nearest if you are walking. Motorbikes will drop you at Gate 1. Pickups are at the same gates when returning.
Visa Extension Application
When you arrive at Building B, you need to proceed to the Immigration Division 1 office and collect the application form from the counter assistant. Fill out the form, affix your photo using the glue provided and make sure you have the photocopies you need. You will need to provide a phone number and address on your application form. You will also need to write an explanation for why you want to extend the visa.
Next, proceed to the next room and collect a queue number. There is an electronic queuing system. Wait for your number to appear on the screen and hand in your application and payment to the officer, who will check your application. If approved, you must wait again while your application is processed. When your number appears again you can collect your passport and extended visa. The process can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 3 hours depending on how busy it is.
To travel back into Bangkok, take a taxi from outside Building B. You can also take a Motorbike (Gate 1), walk, or take the Shuttle Bus (Gate 2) back to the complex entrance on Chaengwattana Road. There is a bus stop on the opposite side of the road where you can catch a taxi or the 52 bus back to Mo Chit BTS.
Drink only bottled or boiled water even if you see locals doing otherwise. Bottled water is cheap from 5 baht small to 17 baht large. Western brands such as Evian are expensive. Ice cubes are usually safe. Some street food outlets use ice blocks which may not be safe.