July 19, 2012
The Thai capital is a haven for travellers, full of cheap eats, dazzling sights and some of the world’s friendliest people. But the city has its share of quirks, too. We’ve rounded up essential Bangkok info – from unusual customs to common scams – so you can feel at home as soon as you arrive.
* Locals and visitors alike must carry ID at all times in Thailand. Identification papers are checked frequently in a variety of situations, and if you cannot produce them when asked by a police officer, you may be arrested. A photocopy of your passport will suffice.
* You’ll hear conflicting reports about the dress codes at various Bangkok temples. When in doubt, be conservative. Singlets and sleeveless tops are never allowed (carry a shirt or blouse in your bag and put it on when required). Some popular temples will tolerate open-toed shoes, but cheap flip-flops are a no-no. To complicate matters, you must remove footwear when in main prayer halls. The best option is to wear light, closed-toed slip-on shoes.
* Even life-long Bangkok residents find the tail end of the monsoon season, in September and early October, hard to cope with. By this time of year, the Mae Nam Chao Phraya delta, which surrounds the city, is full to capacity, and floods are common. Plan accordingly.
Bangkok market stall – Photo: Lauren Sadler on Flickr
* Only fools pay asking price at Bangkok’s numerous markets. Start haggling and don’t stop until you’ve knocked off at least 50 percent.
* Bangkok is generally safe, but be aware of scammers. If someone tells you a temple is closed for the day and that, for a fee, they can take you to another, they’re always lying.
* Learn a few basic Thai phrases and Bangkok’s already-friendly locals will treat you like family. In Thai, men end common phrases with ‘krap’ and women with ‘kaa’ – so for ‘hello’, a man would say ‘Sawadee krap’ and a woman would say ‘Sawadee kaa’. ‘Thank you’ is ‘Khob khun krap’ (if you are male) or ‘Khob khun kaa’ (if you are female).
Bangkok’s Khao San Road – Photo: permanently scatterbrained on Flickr