Things to Avoid in Bangkok

10 Mistakes to Avoid While in Bangkok

There are a few things to avoid doing in Bangkok -- pretty much all travelers have made one or many of these newbie travel mistakes after arriving. Thailand’s capital is hectic but fascinating, and thankfully safe compared to other cities its size.

As with any big city, there’s a learning curve for finding a comfortable groove. Watch out for these things to avoid and you’ll enjoy the City of Angels more than ever!

  • Read about Suvarnabhumi Airport and what to expect after landing in Bangkok.
  • 01 of 10

    Not Making Use of the Skytrain

    Bangkok BTS Skytrain
    ••• The Bangkok BTS Skytrain. David McKelvey

    Bangkok’s Skytrain system is excellent, but many travelers are hesitant to take advantage. Maps are posted and ticketing machines are easy to figure out; stops are clearly announced on trains. Coverage is limited to only parts of Bangkok, but Sukhumvit is one of them.

    Using the BTS Skytrain costs only a few coins to move around, far cheaper than taking taxis.

  • 02 of 10

    Getting into Transportation Without Negotiating

    Bangkok Transportation
    ••• Bangkok traffic can really slow things down!. Photo by Greg Rodgers

    This essential rule of travel holds true for all destinations, not just Bangkok: always negotiate a fare before getting inside. Once you’re in a tuk-tuk or taxi and on the move, the driver can ask any price they desire.

    Taxis in Bangkok have meters, but drivers would much rather pretend meters broken and demand a bigger fare. The drivers patrolling tourist areas for naive travelers will balk -- or completely refuse -- to use the meters. Instead, hail your own taxi, insist through the window that the driver use the meter, then get inside.

  • 03 of 10

    Agreeing to Let Your Tuk-Tuk Driver Stop

    Tuk-Tuk in Thailand
    ••• A typical tuk-tuk in Thailand. Photo by Greg Rodgers

    Taking a tuk-tuk ride in Bangkok’s chaotic traffic is an integral part of experiencing the City of Angels. The sputtering sounds and wild ride are all a part of the fun. But the oldest Thai scam in the books is for your driver to ask you to stop somewhere. In exchange for quick stops at several shops with no pressure to buy, you get a greatly discounted ride.

    The shops certainly won’t be places you want to patronize; prices are inflated to pay for the drivers’ commissions. Don’t waste your time fighting off salesmen: negotiate for a tuk-tuk ride and make it clear that you don’t want any stops.

  • 04 of 10

    Buying Cheap Bucket Drinks

    Thai Buckets
    ••• Thai bucket drinks. Greg Rodgers

    Backpackers love their bucket drinks, and on the surface those cute, plastic sand buckets do seem like a good deal. For around US $5, you get a sizable bucket of ice, alcohol, and a mixer. Although the original “Thai bucket” is Sangsom (the local rum), powerful Thai Redbull -- Redbull originated in Thailand -- and Coke, now your imagination is the limit for concocting oversized cocktails.

    Most of the buckets for sale in bars along Khao San Road offer very little bang for the buck. You’ll get enough sticky mixers to send blood sugar sailing but very little alcohol. Wait to enjoy those buckets in the beautiful islands where they originated.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Smoking in the Wrong Places

    Koh San Road in Bangkok
    ••• The legendary Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand. Greg Rodgers

    If you smoke, of all the things to avoid in Bangkok, don’t smoke in the wrong places. Always look for an approved smoking area; an ashtray present is a good indicator. Just because locals and taxi drivers are smoking -- and dropping their cigarettes on the pavement -- doesn’t mean that you won’t get fined for doing the same.

    The police often set up posts on the walkways above Sukhumvit to bust tourists for dropping cigarettes before they go into shopping malls. Bins and ashtrays were removed to facilitate more fines -- which go directly into pockets.

  • 06 of 10

    Not Taking Enough Money From the ATMs

    ATMs in Thailand
    ••• ATMs in Thailand. Dennis Wong/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The fees for ATM transactions in Thailand keep going up. Most now charge US $5 - $6 per transaction, in addition to whatever foreign exchange fees your bank charges.

    Although Thailand can be a cheap destination, cash on hand tends to go quickly -- take out as much money as possible to avoid paying for multiple transactions.

    • See 6 mistakes that travelers often make with money.
  • 07 of 10

    Eating at the Hotel

    Street Food Asia
    ••• A row of street food carts in Asia. Greg Rodgers

    Bangkok has an incredible food scene -- but it’s most definitely outside the doors of your hotel. Too many travelers make the mistake of eating in the hotel, either because of familiarity or convenience.

    You’ll find many more interesting offerings for much better prices out on the streets. Don’t make the mistake of paying for overpriced, unauthentic food unless you have no other option.

    • Check out these 5 Thai noodle dishes for a pad thai alternative.
  • 08 of 10

    Not Negotiating for Souvenirs

    Shopping in Asia
    ••• Shopping in Asia can be a thrill!. Greg Rodgers

    As with most of Southeast Asia, Thailand has a culture of negotiating. Even prices marked as “fixed” for souvenirs can be negotiated. You’ll have a better shot at a discount if you buy many of your souvenirs from the same place.

    Not negotiating prices, as many tourists do, actually drives local inflation and cultural mutation. Enjoy the local markets, then know how to negotiate for a discount when making purchases.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Leaving Valuables in Luggage on a Night Bus

    Tourist bus in Thailand
    ••• A tourist bus in Thailand. Philip Game / Getty Images

    The night buses to the Thai islands in the south, along with the buses from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, have been plagued with petty theft for decades. Bus attendants crawl into the luggage hold as the bus is moving and help themselves to small items from the luggage. Travelers don’t notice things missing the next morning until long after the bus has left.

    Keep anything of value with you at your seat, and pack your stowed bags accordingly. Things like razor blade replacements, flashlights, USB chargers, and even sunscreen are tempting targets often left in stowed luggage.

    • See some more ways to avoid theft in Thailand.
  • 10 of 10

    Not Taking a River Taxi

    Bangkok River Taxi
    ••• River taxis on the Chao Praya. Vyacheslav Argenberg

    One of the biggest mistakes in Bangkok travelers make is not taking advantage of the river. Although the taxi boats that ply the Chao Praya River are a little trickier to navigate than the Skytrain, they do reach other fascinating parts of the city -- including Chinatown.

    Boat rides are incredibly cheap for the distance covered, and you’ll get to enjoy interesting scenery along the way!