Bangkok is a bustling city that is full of culture, history, and modern life. It’s a destination that most travelers to Asia will come through at one point or another, and while we have been to Bangkok a few times and enjoy it, there are a number of things that you should be on the lookout for. Especially if it is your first time visiting, here are 5 things to avoid in Bangkok, Thailand!
1. Oh the Scams in Bangkok Thailand
Do not believe the “touts” (sketchy people who basically harass you) when they say things are closed. They are lying! In particular, you will find these “touts” all around the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and other major attractions.
Read also Thailand Travel Basics
Typically, they will approach you and ask where you are from. They will then ask where you are going, then tell you it is closed. Then they will grab your map (if you have one) and write all over it — telling you different places to go. They will circle things and write a bunch of stuff, then try to put you in a tuk-tuk. Don’t do it! This tuk-tuk will take you all around town to things you don’t want to see, then take you to some shops to try and sell you things you don’t want, like gems.
Do your best to avoid these people, and don’t listen to them if they tell you something is closed. Try to ignore them (politely), or just smile and bow your head, then walk away. If they follow you and continue to ask where you are going, just tell them firmly “right here” and point to the ground. This response seems to confuse them, and leave them speechless for a moment; giving you a chance to make an escape.
Related Post: Things to Do in Bangkok beyond Grand Palace & Wat Pho
We don’t ever like to come across rude, but we know what these guys are up to. You have to be forceful and move on.
2. Getting Caught Without Your Passport & Documents
While most people who travel to Thailand won’t have this issue, we have heard some stories about areas of Bangkok where the police harass tourists. Mostly, these are unscrupulous officers who are looking for money. They will set themselves in a few areas of town, such as Asoke and near the main train station, and approach tourists demanding that they see their passports and travel documents.
If you cannot produce them right away, then they will fine a ridiculous amount of money. If you don’t have the money, then they may take you to jail, but we have also heard stories of people who were escorted to ATMs and demanded that they withdraw the money to pay the fine.
Knock on wood, we have never seen something like this take place. Although, we have been on buses that have been stopped at checkpoints for police to come on board and check travel documents. But luckily, we have always had kind interactions with the police.
Regardless of whether this is right or wrong, the best way to avoid this situation is to carry your passport and any travel documents with you at all times. This way you can just hand them over politely, and they should leave you alone. If you don’t have your passport, then demand that you contact the embassy — and whatever you do, don’t sign anything!
3. Getting Ripped Off By a Taxi
Taxi drivers in Thailand are notorious for ripping off tourists. Whenever you hail a cab, insist that they turn on their meter. They will often try to negotiate a flat rate…don’t accept it. They know what it will cost by meter, and the reason they want to charge a flat rate is so they can get more out of you.
They may have excuses, saying that the meter is broken, etc. etc. but don’t listen to it. By law, they are required to use the meter. If they refuse, just move on to the next taxi — there are plenty of them.
4. Don’t Exhaust Yourself – Bangkok, Thailand is HOT & it’s HUGE
Bangkok is massive, and you will find yourself doing a lot of walking. They key to not over-walking yourself (and preventing aching feet) is to plan out your routes so that you can combine a reasonable amount of walking with different forms of cheap public transportation. There are many options for public transportation in Bangkok as we outlined in our post Getting Around Bangkok Thailand.
Being budget travelers, we don’t want to spend all our money on transportation…and we don’t mind doing a bit walking. But we can really save our bodies a lot of pain if we combine some transportation here and there. For example, the water taxis up and down the Chao Phraya river are a bargain and cover quite a distance. Bangkok buses are cheap too – hop on and you can easily save yourself 30 minutes of walking for just a few baht!
Also, take breaks. We enjoy stopping off periodically at a sidewalk restaurant for a drink, and a snack. The great thing about Bangkok is that street food is cheap. And food vendors are everywhere. So it’s a good excuse to take a break and keep your energy up. Also, anywhere that you can pop inside for some air-conditioning and rest will help you get through the day. It’s crazy hot in Bangkok – so rest, and drink water!!!
At the end of the day, the last thing you want to deal with are blisters and sore feet, although, it does give you an excuse to get a massage at the end of the day – and we do LOVE our massages! But you also don’t want to be dehydrated or physically exhausted. So take it easy on yourself and enjoy your visit to Bangkok.
5. Getting Extorted in a Sketchy Club / Bar…or by a Girl!
It’s well known that Bangkok Thailand has it’s share of wild bars and clubs, including a number of red light areas. But it is always best to keep your wits about you. If you are in a club and someone invites you to a private area – like a club within a bar, be wary. We have heard of people going into VIP rooms, and being held hostage until they paid outrageous bills to simply leave the room!
We have also heard a number of stories about travelers who went into a club to enjoy a show, then received enormous bills (even though they only ordered a couple drinks) — and were held captive until they paid it. Be careful when going to some of these establishments…they can getcha!
Also if you are a guy, you are going to be amazed at how some bar girls will throw themselves at you. Yes, it feels good to be wanted…but beware. This is their livelihood, and their business. You are not the only guy she is talking to, and she wants more than just to hang out. We all want to assume people have honest intentions. And of course, not everyone is bad. But we have known people who have lost a lot of money to bar girls, and had wallets and phones stolen.
Check out: Geocaching in Bangkok
A friend of ours even had a girl follow him to his hotel, even though he said he wasn’t interested. And when he refused to take her inside, she insisted she pay him a large sum of money or she would send her brother to kill him. Seriously guys, it is all fun and games…at first. Don’t be overcome with flattery that you stop using your brain.
Luckily, none of this has ever happened to us (knock on wood…), so just be aware and you should be fine!
Bangkok Thailand is a Great Place, But Don’t Let it “Getcha”
We enjoy Bangkok, it is a great place. We have had wonderful experiences there, as seen in our post 5 things to do in Bangkok Thailand, But you should always take precautions, as with anywhere else you travel. The thing to keep in mind is that it is a foreign country, and there are things that you should watch out for. Our goal is not to deter you from visiting Bangkok, but just to give you a few tips to keep your experience positive.
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