Travelling Tips: You Usually Learn Quickest When You Get Burnt
That said, you don’t want to get burnt too badly, and there are situations that can be avoided easily if you employ some common sense. Travelling is no dangerous affair (probably no more dangerous than living in your home town), so don’t waste too much time fretting about different imagined scenarios. With the influx of tourists, Bangkok has developed some more or less clever scams, but it’s hardly the city and its people that can be blamed if you get robbed after you’ve followed a young unknown lady into an unmarked bar and had several drinks there.
Here are some tips that might make your stay in this city a bit more informed:
- Don’t accept a flat-fare taxi ride. Taxi drivers should use a meter, so don’t get in their car if they are not willing to do so. Point to the meter and say “meter kha/khap”. If they object, get a different taxi. They might laugh at you or make it sound as if your request is unreasonable, but don’t be intimidated. There will be a taxi driver around that will take you where you want to go for a fair price.
- Pay attention to the meter. The battle is not necessarily won if the taxi driver uses a meter. Keep an eye on its speed and if it goes up by 2 baht every 3 seconds (or quicker), know it’s been tampered with. An inner-city drive should be 100 baht or less.
- Don’t accept a 10 baht tuk-tuk ride. ‘It’s too good to be true’, applies in this case. The driver will not take you where you want to go, but rather to some affiliated agency or shop.
- Bargain! Most stalls don’t expect you to pay their asking price. So don’t. Bargaining constantly can become exhausting after a few weeks or months and sometimes we just give in to the seller. But if you have the energy, take on the game, keep your humour and be prepared to leave without your desired item. However, think of people producing the goods in some sweat-shop and have respect for their work too. If the shoes are already priced at $2, do you really want to buy them for any cheaper than that?
- The Gem Scam. Don’t believe people offering unsolicited advice on how much money you could make back home by selling gems. There are no easy ways in life to making a fortune, and the gem scam only confirms this.
- Drink plenty and recycle. I find it very difficult to come to terms with the amount of plastic used around the world. You cannot drink tap water in Thailand, but you can do your bit to reduce the waste from bottled water. Bring a filter and filter the water yourself (that’s what we do). In Bangkok and other Thai cities there are many water-points where you can refill your empty bottle for 5 baht. Take advantage of these! Also, when thirsty, consider a chilled coconut. It’s the healthiest drink you can get, sterile, local, delicious and ecological.
- Beware of some tourist buses. In a year we have never had a bad experience using trains or buses in Thailand. But we often hear reports of possessions being stolen when travelling on overnight tourist buses. Keep your valuable belongings with you. Personally, I never travel on overnight buses as I consider them more dangerous than any tropical disease. The driving style usually doesn’t take into consideration reduced visibility, weather or road conditions.
- Buy the tickets yourself. There will be people offering to help buy your tickets, sometimes even wearing officially-looking badges. Often they will just take you to the nearby agency where they will generously overcharge you for your ticket. Cut out the middle-man and buy the ticket from the station if possible.
In general, listen to your intuition. It’s an undervalued skill, but it can help you avoid dodgy situations and save you some money