- It’s very hot. Be prepared to sweat – a lot. Bring sunscreen, comfortable shoes, and some dry-fit clothes. There are street vendors and small shops everywhere, so grabbing bottles of water on the run is not a problem. The intense heat and resulting perspiration will likely slow you down, so plan on accomplishing about 75% of what you otherwise normally would. Unless you are near a mall or in the newer, more developed areas, air conditioning is sparse at best, and it is difficult to cool down even for a few minutes. Keep this in mind, and drink lots of water.
- Don’t withdraw too much cash. This is where having a debit card with automatic ATM fee reimbursement, such as the Charles Schwab Investor Checking Debit Card, comes in handy. While you’ll be forced to use cash since a lot of places don’t take credit cards, most things are very cheap, and you’ll likely end up with cash left over. For example, almost all the noodle bowls (which were all very good) we ate off the street were 50 THB, which is around $1.50. “Nice” places are likely to take credit cards, though. A time-saving tip that will save you some hassle is always having some small change or bills available for a quick snack, bottle of water, and public transportation. If you don’t have small bills for the MRT/BTS, you can exchange larger bills at the service desks at the stations.
- If you plan on traveling during the mourning period (through October 2017), dress conservatively and in black (or dark colors) and white – it’s a sign of respect. Most Thai people will be dressed in only black and white. Also, to enter most sacred spots, including The Grand Palace, your shoulders and knees must be covered. For males, as long as your shorts are at least close to covering your knees, this seemed to be fine. If you are not dressed appropriately, you will be asked to rent a “sarong” (basically, a fabric wraparound/skirt) for a nominal fee or refused entry. It’s difficult to strike a balance between being dressed appropriately and dealing with the ever-present heat and humidity. It’s just a choice you’ll have to make – dress for the weather and spend time and money renting a coverup or dress appropriately and sweat a little more. Female DINK wore a dry-fit t-shirt with a long skirt (past the knees).
- There’s no real public transport to, or within, the old city center. The very clean, air-conditioned, and reliable BTS Skytrain doesn’t run into the center, and the closest metro stop is Hua Lamphong, which is still quite a hike to the center of town and main tourist attractions. We found that the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat was the most convenient (and most scenic) way to visit the Grand Palace and surrounding attractions. Just be cognizant that tickets for the boat are only sold at four places – Sathorn Pier, Phra Arthit Pier, Siam Station, and Taskin Station. A day pass for the Tourist Boat is 150 THB (around $4.25). Of course, you could always take your chances on tuk-tuks, which are aplenty.
- Take a day trip to Ayutthaya. You won’t be able to see it all or take it all in, but it’s definitely worth going to feel some of the history of Siam/Thailand. There are buses and trains that run several times a day between Bangkok and Ayutthaya (that take from 1.25-2 hours, without delays). When considering the train, be careful to take note of the type of service (Ordinary, Rapid, Express, and Special Express), as well as the class of ticket (2nd or 3rd), as some trains take longer and may not have air-conditioned cars. Contrary to what we had read, the ticket office automatically placed us in 3rd class. Since we thought the price was incredibly low (20 THB each, which is about $0.60) we asked for a 2nd class ticket on the same train. As you can see from the below picture, the price is significantly higher for 2nd class in the fast, air-conditioned Express train (245 THB each, which is around $7).
Once you get to Ayutthaya, there are plenty of bikes (100-150 THB) and motorbikes to rent for the day. Just prepay and give them your ID (bring another form of ID so you don’t have to give them your passport!) as a deposit. They will supply a bike lock. See our guide, A Guide for Your Day Trip to Ayutthaya, for more in-depth coverage of Ayutthaya!
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