Thailand is the perfect example of modern entertainment and cultural fascination. People flock here to experience the luxurious malls, the mouthwatering street food, the bustling markets, the holy temples and much more.
In 2016 Thailand was the most visited country in the world.
After living here for a few months I can see why. If you’re thinking about paying a visit to “The Land of Smiles” here are 7 useful things you should know to make your trip easier:
Image credit: Sergey
Before you visit Thailand check to see if you need a visa or not. US passport holders can visit without any visas as long as we leave within 30 days. This is called a visa exemption not to be confused with a tourist visa. We just need a valid passport for 6 months. Visa rules change often.
Check here for the lastest info: Thai Embassy website
Check here to see if your country is exempt: Visa Exemption
Image credit: Dennis
2 main airports in Bangkok:
1. Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) – this is the bigger, more modern airport of the two. Do yourself a favor and choose this one. It’s better staffed, there’s more places to eat and shop, and overall it’s more efficient.
2. Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) – this is one of the oldest operating airports in Asia. There was a recent incident where they were so understaffed that thousands of travelers were stranded for hours. I actually flew out of DMK recently and luckily by that time they hired more staff and I only waited less than an hour.
3 ways to get from the airport to the city:
1. Train – If you travel light, go to the bottom floor of the airport and look for Airport Rail Link. This train runs every 15 minutes and will take you to Phaya Thai BTS station. From there you can use the skytrain to get to your destination.
2. Taxi – cabs at the airport are notorious for the “broken meter” scam (they’ll tell you it’s broken and charge you higher). It is typically 400-500 baht ($15).
3. Ridesharing Apps – Alternatively you can use GrabCar or Uber and will always know the exact amount you’ll pay.
3. HOW TO GET AROUND
Image credit: Johan
So you landed in Thailand, got to the city, and now you’re wondering how to get around. Awesome. I got you. Here are 7 main ways you can travel in Thailand:
1. Bangkok’s Mass Transit System (BTS) – This is an advanced sky train that can take you to most places in the city within a few minutes. It’s convenient, efficient, and affordable. You can buy a token for one time use or you can buy a card, fill it up with money, and use it multiple times (good for frequent trips/longer visits).
2. Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT) – This is Bangkok’s main subway. It’s very similar to the BTS. Fast. Efficient. And affordable. The BTS takes you to the main places and then the MRT takes you to the spots just around the main places.
3. GrabCar & Uber (no Lyft) – GrabCar is my go-to riding app since it tends to have cheaper rates than Uber. You can search for the places you want to go to in Google Maps and then choose “GrabCar” within Google Maps and select “Open App.” It will populate the address of your destination in GrabCar and from there you can pick to get a ride either by a motorbike or car.
Benefits of GrabCar:
1. They have promotions often. Get discounts on your rides.
2. You can see the total cost. Don’t get hustled.
3. Reward points. The more rides you take the more rewards you get. Use rewards for future purchases.
4. No paper money needed. Hop in, go, and hop out.
4. Taxis – use taxis when it is NOT rush hour unless you enjoy being stuck for eternity and inching to your destination. The best time to use this is early in the morning (like 5am to the airport) or late at night (9pm onwards after a night out).
If you’re coming home late and alone (especially female travellers) use GrabCar or Uber. These apps will show you the rating of the driver, track your location, and have the driver’s info. Thailand is not dangerous IMO, but it’s best to avoid being in risky situations to begin with.
5. Motorbikes – great for short distances (less than 20 minutes) and if you don’t have a lot of stuff. They can get you to your destination faster than cars because they zip in between traffic and they’re CRAZY. Hold on tight and resist the reflex of squeezing your legs around the driver. It’s awkward.
6. Tuk-Tuks – These are motorized rickshaws with neon lights and sound systems. They’re also tourist traps, but it’s one of those things you should do at least one to experience it. Prices are marked up, but you can negotiate before hopping on. It’s a fun experience to drive through the city with the wind in your face, neon lights in your eyes, and club music in your ears. Try it!
7. Buses – I have not ridden a bus, but from what I hear it’s cheap. That, and the bus doesn’t really stop completely so you have to be like Jackie Chan and jump off to your spot midway. Never tried it. How about you do it and let me know how it goes?
4. WHERE TO STAY
(I took this picture at my friend’s hostel. Beautiful, chic place. Check them out! Folk Poshtel)
AirBnb – Book private places instead of hotels. You can also see the reviews and ratings of each host. I’ve used this many times and it’s awesome when you can find a beautiful apartment or condo for a great price!
Sign up for AirBnB if you haven’t already. It’s a must for traveling.
Hostels – Great way to meet travelers and hear their stories. In most hostels you’ll be sharing rooms and bathrooms with people. Some hostels will have private beds. Each hostel is different. Check the ratings and make sure the location is near places you want to explore.
Head over to hostelworld to see what’s available.
Hotels – I have not been in a hotel for a long time. With AirBnb being a better bang for your buck and hostels being affordable for low-budget travelers, there was not a need for me to use hotels. But if hotels are your thing, there is a HUGE variety of them from simple to luxurious.
5. HELPFUL APPS
- Google Maps – This is by far one of my most used apps to get around, favorite my go-to spots, and discover new places.
- Line Messenger– Everyone in Thailand uses this messaging app instead of iMessage. Download the desktop version and you can chat from both your phone and laptop.
- Eatigo – Lists restaurants, their slow times, and discounts they will give you during their slow times. Slower times = bigger discounts. I’ve eating for 40-50% off at some places. Such a great concept and very useful!
- Wongnai – Yelp is not a thing here. They use this instead. Mostly in Thai, but you can look at pictures, ratings, prices, and locations and get an idea of what’s good.
- UberEats/Food Panda – Use this for when you’re super hungry, but super lazy. Have food delivered to you from available restaurants. I use this more often than I like to admit. =)If you want a discount on your first 3 meals with UberEats use this code:eats-tylerl5327ueThis will give us both discounts. Woo!
- GrabCar/Uber – Get a ride all over the city. I prefer GrabCar over Uber due to reasons listed before.
- Foursquare/TripAdvisor – Discover new places to eat and check out.
- Meetup – Meet people with similar interests in the area.
- Hostelworld – Find the best rates for hostels. I stayed at one called Sakura Sky. The bed was a futuristic space pod in a zen Sakura garden. 10/10 would highly recommend!
- Airbnb – Find great places to stay if you’re not looking for the hostel experience and want more privacy. You can book condos, guest houses, apartments, and more!
- Snow – The SnapChat of Asia. Snow’s filter game is on a whole different level. Why did I list this here? Because everyone in Thailand loves selfies and admit it. You take them too.
If you’re going to Bangkok, most people will know enough English. That said, it also doesn’t hurt for you to know a few Thai phrases. Locals will appreciate you taking the time to learn their language. So here’s a few useful phrases to know:
- Sa-wat-dee-kap = Hello
- Khawp-khun-kap = Thank you
- Chai-kap = Yes
- May-chai-kap = No
- Kaw-tod-kap =I’m Sorry/Excuse me
- Chuay-duay! = help!
- May-roo-kap = I don’t know
- May-khao-jai-kap = I don’t understand
- Khun-pood-pa-sa-ang-grid-dai-mai-kap = Can you speak English?
- Yin-dee-kap = You’re welcome
These end in “kap” because it shows respect coming from a male. For females end it with “ka” instead.
Here’s a helpful YouTube video that teaches other phrases.
Here’s my Youtube channel that you can subscribe to for travel videos. =)
Street food ($1-3) – These include little vendors with their stands and mom/pop spots all over the roads and alleys. You can get one good size meal with a drink for about $2-3 dollars. Eat where the locals eat.
Malls ($3-8) – Each mall food court has a wide selection of dishes. Get a food card, load it up with money, and pig out. Once done, take the card back to the counter and get your change. My favorite spot is Terminal 21. Go there, head to the 5th floor called, “The Pier” and eat. $1.50 for meals. Thank me later.
Restaurants ($5-12) – Bangkok is a melting pot of international dishes. ANY type of cuisine you want you will find here. Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Taiwanese, American, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, French, ANY! I like to go to BK Magazine and see what’s good.
Want examples of food you can eat here?
I regularly post my food and travel adventures all over Thailand on my Instagram! Follow it for the latest. Be careful though. You will get hungry: