10 Mistakes to Avoid for Your First Time in Bangkok

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If it’s your first time in Bangkok and you don’t know what to expect, here are some common travel mistakes to avoid to make sure your trip is a smooth-sailing one.

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How to Enjoy Your First Time in Bangkok & Travel Mistakes to Avoid

Historic temples, yummy Thai cuisine, photogenic street scenes… These are just a few things that make Bangkok a bucket list-worthy destination.

Having been three times, I can proudly say that I have mastered the art of surviving this frenetic capital.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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*Please note the majority of my readers are North Americans. Since a visa is not required for tourism purposes under 30 days, I will not be covering Thailand’s entry requirements in this Bangkok guide.

1. Forgetting your passport for SIM card purchases.

If you would like to stay connected with friends and family while you travel, a SIM card is a must.

You can easily purchase one at the airport, at any AIS location, or at convenience stores like 7-Eleven. Just don’t forget your passport, as registration is required by law and you will not be able to buy one without.

2. Not utilizing the BTS.

Grab, or Asian Uber as I like to call it, is extremely inexpensive in Thailand. With Bangkok being one of the most congested cities in the world, however, waiting at least 10 to 15 minutes for a ride to come is the yooj. Not to mention, you can easily end up sitting in traffic for half an hour to an hour or more.

That said, you may wish to take advantage of Bangkok’s BTS skytrain system.

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  • Trains run daily from 6:00AM to 12:00AM.
  • Single journey fares vary from 17 THB to 62 THB depending on zones (under ~$2 USD/~$3 CAD).
  • A one-day pass costs 150 THB (~$4 USD/~$5 CAD).
Tip: If you’re travelling alone or you don’t mind splitting up with friends, Grab Bike is an even better alternative.

3. Expecting drinks at rooftop bars to be cheap.

Thailand’s low cost of living makes it is one of the most popular destinations for backpackers and budget travellers. Yet despite its overall affordability, drink prices at rooftop bars may shock you.

Made famous by Hangover 2, Sky Bar, in particular, is notoriously expensive. Prepare to shell out at least 1,200 THB (~$35 USD/~$45 CAD) for one cocktail or 900 THB (~$26 USD/~$34 CAD) for a mocktail.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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I personally much prefer Tichuca Rooftop Bar. It is the newest addition to the Bangkok nightlife scene and their prices are more reasonable in comparison. (For two cocktails, my boyfriend and I paid 942 THB, which is roughly $27 USD or $35 CAD.) Sunset here is absolutely spectacular too and their jellyfish tree is a fun photo op as well.

4. Wearing revealing clothes to temples.

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My boyfriend and I are wearing traditional chut thai clothes, which are exempt from dress code rules.

Temples hold great cultural and religious significance, and are places of worship and spiritual reflection. It’s best to dress modestly and regardless of gender, you should…

  • Cover your knees and shoulders.
    • This means no tank tops, spaghetti straps, or sleeveless or off-the-shoulder tops of any kind.
    • Short skirts and short shorts are also frowned upon.
  • Avoid leggings and tight pants.

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5. Falling for the “we’re closed” scam.

When visiting The Grand Palace or various touristy temples, you may encounter a (fake) security guard telling you that the premises are closed.

Pay no heed and do not listen to them whatsoever because this is their way of diverting you to follow their agenda, whether that is taking an expensive tuk-tuk elsewhere or harassing you to buy overpriced gems/souvenirs.

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Tip: Always double check hours of operation on Google beforehand.

Booking.com

6. Forgetting sunscreen or not protecting yourself from the heat.

This is perhaps the number one most over-looked Bangkok tips. And hey, I get it! Putting on sunscreen is a total hassle, but sun burns are no joke!

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If you’re planning a Bangkok trip during Thailand’s summer months (March to June), I highly suggest bringing a water bottle, a handheld fan, and a UV umbrella. Trust me, it gets HOT and the last thing you want is a heat stroke.

Tip: Buy your sunscreen in Thailand. It’s cheap, it’s effective, and it’s not oily or sticky. My favorite brands are Mistine (Thai) and Bioré (Japanese).

7. Consuming raw foods or poisonous insects.

Yes, a big part of travelling is trying new foods and embracing local culture. BUT, food poisoning is also very real and definitely not fun to get when it’s your first time in Bangkok.

Unless you are dining at a fancy restaurant (or at least one that looks clean and is reputable), I would never eat any raw fish or other raw meats, and especially not at night markets.

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Another thing you’ll want to skip are the bugs.

Deep fried insects can be found at night markets throughout Thailand. Sure, fried crickets and grasshoppers might not send you to the hospital, but scorpions and tarantulas are big no-nos.

If Jorden Tually’s Dumb Ways to Die series has taught us anything, it’s to never eat poisonous insects!

Tip: Somewhat related… Tap water. Authorities in Bangkok have deemed tap water safe to drink. I like to play it safe and buy bottled water though it’s totally up to you what you’re comfortable with.

8. Not exchanging enough cash.

While you can get around most malls, restaurants, and cafés with a foreign credit card, it’s still good practice to carry cash around if you plan on checking out night markets or venturing off to nearby day trip destinations that are more remote. (A lot of street vendors provide cashless options these days, but you need a Thai bank account.)

In the event that you run out of cash on your trip to Bangkok, I recommend exchanging more at Superrich Thailand. They have multiple branches across the city and they are known for having the best rates.

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Tip: Don’t forget to bring your passport to a currency exchange!

9. Insulting the royal family.

Lèse-majesté is a major crime in Thailand and can result in three to fifteen years of imprisonment. Save whatever remarks and gossip you may have for home and just don’t do it.

10. Confusing the two airports.

This is definitely a mistake my friend and I made during our first time in Bangkok. Thank goodness we caught it or we would’ve missed our flight entirely!

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There are two airports in Bangkok: Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang International Airport (DMK).

If you are travelling from North America, there’s a very high chance that you will land at BKK, which is the larger one of the two. If you plan to explore the rest of Thailand, then you are more likely to fly in and out of DMK.

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And there you have it! A mini Bangkok travel guide for first-time visitors.

Pin these tips for Bangkok for later and you may also enjoy these Thailand guides.

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