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Questions for first trip to Bangkok for 4 days

  • shanladams82

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2014
    Posts: 5

    Hello,

    I have been reading the material and threads on this forum and there are a few questions that I have.

    When looking for a hotel to book, are there any areas/streets in Bangkok that we do not want to stay at?

    Our flight will come in at 12:15am and at the end of the trip our flight leaves at 5:30am. Would it be better to just stay at the airport until dawn and then go into town as opposed to booking a hotel for Monday night and not showing up until 1am or later? Do most hotels allow late night check-in? The same for when we leave. Would it be better to just get to the airport at sometime during the night and sleep there for a few hours before our flight at 5:30? If not would it be cheaper to pay for another hotel night and check out early or pay a late check out fee?

    I see mixed reviews on the subject of vaccinations. In the US they make us get Hep A and B as standard now so I have those. I don't have a tetanus shot, and while I have decided that since our trip is in March (dry season supposedly) and we aren't going to outlying areas that we shouldn't need anti-malarials, the idea of rabies or one of the "fevers" scares me. That being said, I read on here that dengue fever has no vaccination or cure so if we are protecting ourselves from mosquitoes because of that, should we be low risk for the others as well?

    What would be some good places to see with 4 full days available to us? We were thinking of Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi.
    (Don't worry I read the horrible things about the tiger place so we won't go there). Is there any of the beach areas that would be reasonable to go to? We would definitely like to ride the elephants, but not in Bangkok, we have been told that there is an elephant tour at the river in Kanchanaburi.

    I just read the thread about the taxis. Is going up to departures and taking a taxi from there really a practical viable option, or should we not attempt it since this is our first time? Would it be better to take the train/bus and do they operate that late at night?

    Is there a multiday pass for the bus or train, are they separate tickets, or is it better to find a tour through one of the tourist offices or at our hotel?

    Is all of the information on the consulate website true about not eating fresh fruit or food from markets, or is it just over caution on their part?

    #1 Posted: 1/3/2014 - 21:53

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6224
    Total reviews: 10

    If you can't get killed doing it, it ain't worth doing!

    I'd get the tetanus shot and leave it at that.

    Could you get sick eating something here? Sure... but it's not that big a deal. You're unlikely to die or anything. Odds are you'll be fine.

    Just go and have a good time. No unprotected sex though!

    #2 Posted: 1/3/2014 - 22:33

  • exacto

    Joined Travelfish
    12th February, 2006
    Location United States
    Posts: 2362
    Total reviews: 47
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    At least 98

    hi shanladams82,

    most of the places first-time visitors to bangkok want to see, like the grand palace and national museum, are in the greater sanaam luang khao san road area, so you'd probably be well served to stay in that area. some folks find khao san road itself a bit over the top or even creepy, but there are plenty of good choices within a few blocks that will put you close to the action but in a relatively quiet spot.

    i've arrived on those late night/early morning flights into bangkok many times. it is a long trip, and i think you'll be glad to have a place to go to relax and wash up, even if you can't sleep because of the jet lag. many places have 24 hour reception and can check you in when you arrive. one place you might try is thai cosy house on tanee road. it's only a short walk to khao san proper and other main tourist sites in the area.

    same goes for your early morning departure flight. you'll be much happier to have a place to store your stuff and catch a shower before you head to the airport.

    four days isn't a great deal of time for bangkok and a few other places, but ayutthaya and kanchanaburi are good choices and can even be done on day trips (although i'd spend the night in kanchanaburi if i went). if you do go to kanchanaburi, be sure to take the train on the way out there. it departs from the bangkok noi station in thonburi, just across the river from the khao san road area.

    i agree with MADMAC on the shots and what to eat. just use good sense as you would anywhere else. cover up and use bug spray, particularly in the mornings and evening.

    finally, i'd take a taxi to and from the airport, particularly during the light traffic hours you mention. it will be quick and painless and not expensive at all by western standards. i don't think the train operates during those hours and the bus is slow. i don't know of a multi-day pass for public transport. it has always been a pay as you go thing, although you can get a stored value card for the skytrain and subway that deducts the cost of each journey.

    i'm sure others will respond to your questions too with lots of additional suggestions. other than that, have a wonderful trip. cheers.

    #3 Posted: 1/3/2014 - 22:56

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    All good hotels r 24 hrs. Waiting in airport after a long flight would suck.

    Look for hotel near the skytrain. See agoda and booking.com

    #4 Posted: 1/3/2014 - 23:58

  • captainbkk

    Joined Travelfish
    16th February, 2012
    Posts: 412

    Again that old standby named GUIDEbook has all your answers-you can still buy it at airport and read in those long flying hours. It even has a special box about those midnite arrivals from USA etc:-just think about BKKs traffic here and be sooooo glad you can travel in the night, my dear.
    Location: depends on what you intend to do: to see the normal 1st time sites: around Khao Sarn, for just shop and have a blast of exited pleasure: Sukhumvit, with the added bonus of not having to deal with those pesky Thai at all (the vendors are Burmese, 555=hahahaha)
    Somehow it seems that all these fora get infested with self-appointed train promotors, I cannot see any reason to use those old junkscraps, but it has the appeal of novelty and fun-certainly for non-train used USAers. On this route special tourist-only higher fares are charged.

    #5 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 02:28

  • Grubert

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    21st February, 2014
    Posts: 57

    As others have noted, any bog standard hotel (as opposed to a guesthouse) will have a 24-hr reception service. The airport link, on the other hand, only runs from 6am to midnight.

    I wouldn't recommend staying in Bangkok's old quarter if you are arriving late at night, if only because the only addresses cab drivers will recognise are those cloistered around Khao Sarn, which is essentially a shithole you should actively avoid, despite its abundance of convenience stores and fellow foreigners. Though to be fair Phra Arthit isn't too bad. But if you're up for a possibly bewildering taxi ride on your first night and longish daytime strolls then accommodation options on Dinsor (Baan Dinso), Phra Sumen (Old Bangkok Inn), Samsen (Samsensam Place) Maharat (Sala Rattanakosin), and Prachathipatai (Hotel De Moc) are worth checking out. They are all within easy reach of Sanam Luang and the Grand Palace.

    An alternative would be for you to stay at any one of the steel and glass establishments on Sukhumvit, Sathorn, or Silom, and take the skytrain to Taksin Station, where you can then board a Chao Phraya Express boat to Chinatown and the royal district. Some non-international names you may wish to consider are Sivatel, Hotel Muse, and the Dusit Thani.

    Ayutthaya is very doable on a day trip, even if you leave late in the morning. You can even take a tour of the inner old city on elephantback if that's your thing.

    Koh Larn off the coast of Pattaya is a popular destination for day trippers in search of sand and sea.

    #6 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 03:44

  • Grubert

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    Posts: 57

    Regarding tickets, strangely enough for a metropolis of this size, Bangkok's transport system currently lacks a central clearing house. Although concrete moves to create a common ticket were taken towards the end of last year, the current crisis has more or less stalled any progress made on that front. But considering that few tourists make use of the metro and buses, I guess this is a moot point.

    The BTS skytrain offers a one-day pass for 130 baht in addition to its top-up "Rabbit" card. Neither is worth getting if you're planning to stay in the old quarter, even if venturing into the CBD is on your itinerary.

    #7 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 06:24

  • sarah6969pi-
    nk

    Joined Travelfish
    28th October, 2013
    Posts: 26

    Like others have said I'd get a hotel - you'll be tired and will want to get some sleep as opposed to hanging around the airport. Any decent hotel will be open for you to check in! Email ahead to let them know about your late arrival too.
    At those hours I'd get a taxi - if you are really nervous you could book a transfer with your hotel (a nice luxury if you can afford it) - we did this the first time we went to Bangkok as we were worried - that said I wouldn't bother again as we were overly worried and I'd get taxis from now on, or train during busy rush hour times (train is easy to use but doesn't really suit your times).
    Make sure you allow some time to just explore Bangkok itself - so much to see and do!
    Be careful about what elephant place you go to too - not just tigers that can be badly looked after!
    I've not done Ayuttaya (plan to do it on my next trip!) but have done Kanchanaburi . We did an organised trip there - and whilst you do get what you pay for (i.e. a cheap tour will have stops you probably don't want to try and sell you extra stuff) this option personally suited us as it picked us up from hotel and dropped us back and allowed us to combine all the things we wanted to see in one trip, that said I would possibly go back to Kanchanaburi again to explore further.
    Enjoy!

    #8 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 13:40

  • shanladams82

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2014
    Posts: 5

    Geesh. I typed a reply in response to all of your help but when I went to post it the forum had logged me out and I had to resign in and it didn't post.

    This time I will make it shorter so I don't want anyone to think I am rude or anything, I just don't want to get logged out again and have to redo it a 3rd time.

    Guide Books - We have one from the library. Its information contrasts that of other websites I have perused and what the US consulates website says so I wanted opinions from people who have actually been there before I take either the book or the consulates site as the end all be all. My guidebook actually says its okay to take the tuk tuks and ride in the minivans to get places and even mentions the tiger temple I think.

    Hotels - From the post I am assuming that anything very close to the Grand Palace is not a good place to stay because the taxis will have trouble finding it? Not because of high rates of attack or shady characters? I asked about bad areas because the hotels I have looked at have mostly good reviews except for the occasional one that mentions taxis having trouble finding it or dropping them off at the wrong hotel. One review I saw even said don't take your kids (we aren't taking our kids) or your wife (that would be me) to this hotel, but didn't say why so I don't know whether that street is dangerous and shady or if he was hinting at another reason of why you wouldn't want your wife at that hotel. (The possibility of getting yanked off the street would keep me from staying there, the other thing I could care less about.)

    Train - Thanks for letting me know that they charge higher fairs for tourists. Is this only for the train going to Kanchanaburi, or is this true of the sky train as well?

    Hotels - I haven't really looked at hotels in Siam, most of them have been in the Sukhumvit area or they say they are near this or that embassy or one was next to a big hospital. As long as we are near a train or subway that takes us to the places we want to go, we don't care where we stay. We do want a private bathroom though so no hostels. When we went to Rome we stayed one street over from the Termini station and just took the subway to all of the stuff we wanted to see (we did have our kids on that trip), so we don't have to be within walking distance to places as long as there is a way to get there without renting a car.

    Thanks for all of the tips everyone.

    #9 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 13:54

  • shanladams82

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2014
    Posts: 5

    Do you have an elephant place that you would recommend? Or ones to stay away from? The one that we read about in the guide book is the Ayutthaya elephant palace and royal elephant Kraal village. It says they have the program to provide a safe haven for them and it keeps the elephants from ending up as beggars on the streets of Bangkok. Of course after reading the tiger temple stuff you can never trust what the guide books say about things.

    #10 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 14:03

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  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
    Joined Travelfish
    21st April, 2006
    Location Canada
    Posts: 1421
    Total reviews: 15
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    At least 71

    I'd do as mentioned above ... have a place booked for when you arrive and head there right away. Don't waste your time hanging around the airport because it's not necessary.

    Before you leave home, print off the name of the place where you're staying, and the address and phone number, in both Thai and English (most places that allow you to book online will allow you to do this from their website.) Follow the signs for the Public Taxi stand to the airport's first floor and give the person at the desk the info for your guest house or hotel. You're cab driver will be given the info, and you'll be given a receipt with the name of your cab driver and the cab number, address of where you're heading, etc. At that time of the night you should be at your guest house or hotel in 30 minutes or less. You'll pay what's on the meter + 50 baht more (airport surcharge.) If you take the thruway, you will probably have to pay for the toll ... I think the total is around 70-75 baht and you pay as soon as you get to the toll booth, so don't be surprised. Tipping isn't common, but is VERY much appreciated. I usually top up to the nearest 50 baht, depending on how far I've gone and what's on the meter. Your cab trip shouldn't cost much more than 350 baht, and might be less.

    As exacto suggested, and Grubert to some extent, I would also recommend that you stay near the river in the Banglamphu or Samsen area. These areas are nowhere near as busy as in Silom or Sukhumvit, have a huge selection of places to stay, and are walking distance to most of the big attractions. If you stay at a place on, for example, Phra Sumen Road, or Phra Athit Road, or Samsen, your driver will definitely not have any problem finding the place. I'm assuming that you'll be wanting to see places like the Royal Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Flower Market, etc., so why not stay near them rather than have to get onto the Sky Train or subway whenever you want to go somewhere? You can walk to all of these places from Banglamphu and Samsen (except Wat Arun which can be reached by boat.) There are also quite a few very pleasant places on the river for meals and sunset beers. You would also be across the river from the Thonburi Railway Station where you get the train to Kanchanaburi , and around 5 km from Hua Lamphong Railway Station (in case you want to take the train to Ayuthaya.)

    Yes, it is the only train that runs between Kanchanaburi, though I think there is a special train that runs between Bangkok and Kanchanaburi from Hua Lamphong on weekends only. There may be others, but this is the only train that I know of where tourists pay more than Thais. Bus is a lot faster, but less interesting and less social. I'd recommend that if you go to K-buri on the train then you stay for at least one night because there won't be time to do much before it's time to come back.

    #11 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 15:03

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    If 80% of reviews are positive then go with that. There are always a few whingers who complain about the smallest things.

    Most hotels have maps printable in thai on their websites.

    #12 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 15:30

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Tipping is very common. Standard tip is 20 baht.

    #13 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 15:31

  • shanladams82

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2014
    Posts: 5

    Thanks Tilapia

    We do want to go to the places you mentioned. My husband also wants to go to the MBK center at least once.

    Are there any suggestions on how much in Bahts we should have with us before getting into the country? When we went to Rome we didn't take any Euro with us because it was cheaper to just withdrawal from an ATM with our debit card (our credit union only imposes a 1% fee for foreign transactions) then it was to go to an exchange center and there were credit union atms that we could use that would not charge us extra fees (there was one at the airport) In that case though the Euro was stronger then the dollar, so we don't know if it would be different under this scenario.

    #14 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 15:37

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Ibis riverside is handy for catching boats. Or a hotel near skytrain.

    Most hotels near grand palace are crap and traffic is bad around there.

    I prefer the victory monument area though for food and music. Raintree pub and saxophone pub are cool. Good food at raintree and thai folk music.

    #15 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 15:37

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Buy some baht not bahts in the bangkok airport when u arrive.

    Most atms in thailand charge 150 baht per withdrawal plus your home bank charges fees.

    Take $1000 to $2000 cash plus cards for backup.

    Split the money 50/50 with partner.

    Siam exchange about 100m north of mbk offers the best ex rates. Otherwise superrich or any booth you see. Slight difference bt banks.

    #16 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 15:43

  • shanladams82

    Joined Travelfish
    1st March, 2014
    Posts: 5

    Leonard, that is how we feel about reviews. If most of the reviews are good then we aren't swayed by the bad reviews. For the bad reviews we pay more attention to what they are complaining about. If they are complaining that the staff doesn't know a lot of English or that the buildings are older and worn down we ignore them for the most part. If they say they got overcharged after they left or if they say the taxi spent over an hr trying to find the place we pay closer attention (we had already planned on doing what Tilapia suggested and printing out a map and directions to the hotel to be safe)

    #17 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 15:45

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    In 4 star plus hotels staff speak good english. Its the guesthouses and lower star places where language is more of an issue.

    Booking.com is good for hotels cause u can secure a room without paying upfront.

    #18 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 15:49

  • Grubert

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    21st February, 2014
    Posts: 57

    While printouts of your hotel's address is a must, they aren't exactly foolproof. There is no such thing akin to "The Knowledge" here in Bangkok, and from personal experience a lot of drivers aren't that familiar with the old city. That being said, any map that has Khao Sarn or Sanam Luang/The Grand Palace pinpointed will be of use.

    Here are some further thoughts on location:

    In the old city, the blocks in between Thanon Tanao and the Rop Krung Canal. Not that I've ever had a problem passing through here, both at night and in the day, but the evening crowd of hobos, inebriated tuk-tuk drivers, and gregarious streetwalkers can be intimidating for first timers to SE Asia. Hotels like Boonsiri Place, where two German friends of mine once stayed (to their great chagrin), are best given a pass.

    While Leonard is right in saying that "most hotels near grand palace are crap and traffic is bad around there", an exception to the rule is the Sala Rattanakosin.

    Not only does it boast excellent views of Wat Arun and the old naval headquarters, but the hotel is also a stone's throw away from Wat Pho, the Grand Palace, and the Museum Siam. A short walk down the road will take you to the Memorial Bridge (beyond which is Phahurat and Chinatown), while Khao Sarn and the Taksin BTS station are easily reachable via the pier at Tha Tien, which happens to be located just around the corner. The only downside I can think of would be the dearth of eateries other than The Deck, but again, the area sees little traffic at night and Khao Sarn is only 45 baht away by cab.

    Places like Baan Chanthra, Diamond House, and The Rajata on Samsen Road are also decent in terms of location. The vast majority of buses passing by - numbers 30, 31, 32, 53, and 524 - will take you to the Grand Palace. As for Phra Athit Pier, walking there will take you roughly 10-15 minutes. Eating-wise, the area has a fair number of late night street stalls as well as places that cater to western palates. Plus there's Kin Lom Chom Saphan, which offers a decent view of the Phraram 8 Bridge.

    Somewhat less convenient are the guest houses on leafy Phra Sumen. It's a charming little neighbourhood with one very cool travel bookshop as well as shops selling flags and royalist paraphernalia. The two main bars - Rolling Bar and Brown Sugar - are quality choices to wind down the night. Walking down one end of the road will lead you to Khaosarn and Phra Arthit, head up the other and you'll find yourself on Ratchadamnern Avenue, in sight of Loha Prasart and the Golden Mount. Getting a taxi from here to the Vimanmek compound and Wat Ben should be a fairly straightforward affair. You can also easily access downtown Bangkok - specifically the Pratunam area - by using the Saen Saep express boat across the aforementioned avenue.

    Dinsor Road on the opposite end of the Democracy Monument roundabout is another decent option, with numerous excellent daytime eateries and easy on-foot access to places as varied as the Golden Mount, the Giant Swing, Khao Sarn, and the Grand Palace.

    I personally wouldn't recommend hotels around the Victory Monument. While close to Siam and the airport link station at Phaya Thai, the area has little in the way of charm and is noisy and crowded throughout the day and early evening.

    Further along the BTS line there's Nana and Asoke, which you should just simply avoid. Despite the preponderance of quality eats in Sukhumvit 11 the streets around the two stations are simply vile, with overaged sex tourists rubbing shoulders with touts and thugs (some of the hotels there are certainly ones you wouldn't want to bring your kids to - the Rajah, for example, is a hooker den catering to Thais and Arabs in search of Russian blonds).

    Staying a station away at Phromphong will bring you closer to Thonglor and Ekkamai, playgrounds of the rich where you'll find countless pricey gastro bars and oh-so-hip caf├ęs (there are Quince and Opposite Mess Hall, for example). But really, this sort of cosmopolitan modernity can be found anywhere, whether in Bangsar or at Holland V, and besides, reaching the old quarter can be a right pain in the bum.

    If you've got money to splurge, a better bet would be to stay around the Ploenchit and Ratchadamri stations, which are are excellent if you want to connect to Taksin or the airport, or in need of a shopping session at Siam or MBK. The sidewalks here tend to be bereft of touts and other lowlifes, and there's a good chance that your hotel will have a fantastic upper-storey pool, like the ones at the Sivatel and the Okura.

    Food-wise, you may want to avoid certain streetside stalls, especially ones offering Isaan fare (think spicy somtams and tomyams). Carts selling skewered meats, fried delectables, and super sweet drinks are generally safe to try, as are the family-run, hole-in-the-wall eateries that foodies like Austin Bush blog about.

    As per Leonard's remarks, Superrich offers decent exchange rates and has numerous branches throughout downtown Bangkok.

    #19 Posted: 2/3/2014 - 23:02

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
    24th July, 2012
    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    Huge amount of info there^

    Each to their own. Victory area is great at night and far less tourists than silom, suk or ksr. Rangnam rd is a good spot without the heavy tourist bs

    #20 Posted: 3/3/2014 - 04:14

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