Bangkok, Thailand - First Impressions

I really liked Bangkok. Like most capitals it's big, noisy, and so on, but for some reason I still like it (especially when you go there from some country with freezing winter). If it's first time in Asia it's also a big shock about different culture and how things work, for like a couple of days, after that you get used to it. Not sure if I would go back for a long time (1 month), but I think it's a city which I would be fine visiting again for week at a time.

Currency

The currency is Thai Baht (THB). The rate is about 38.6 THB for 1 EUR, 100 THB for 2.56 €, 1000 THB for 25.6 €, 3860 THB for 100 €. Depending from which country you're traveling it might be hard to find the exchange to arrive with local currency.

When traveling I like to use my Bunq card (as it can't be used online and can change PIN from the app), but right before leaving found out that support for it in Thailand is spotty. Have not tried using it with merchants, but have doubt about it going through. ATMs don't support Maestro either. I did found a Krungsri ATM near German embassy which supports Maestro and allows to withdraw money. While walking seen other ATMs which have Maestro logo on them, but you do need to look for them (it does not mean that withdraw will be successful - it's hit and miss). An additional 220 THB fee is added on the withdraw so you might want to go for large sums.

Fortunately for me I was able to pick up Revolut card at the airport. Had no problems taking money from ATM or paying with it. I think I would still prefer Bunq (for it not having identification on the card) if it was fully supported (and I still use it for ATM withdrawals as you can change your PIN from the application), but this is a great alternative to have.

Visa

This information will be different depending on your nationality and even if it's the same it might be outdated, check to be sure. I like to check this Wikipedia page which lists all requirements for Lithuanians and VisaHQ to be sure. You can also Google using your native language which might provide some useful articles.

For most of the visas you need a passport, copy of passport, 1-2 recent color photos (4.5 cm x 3.5 cm), plane tickets for entering and leaving Thailand, accommodations copy for at least first night (and/or travel plans copy), filled form, official bank slip about paid fee. Keep in mind that visa is only valid for a couple of months (time until you have to enter the country). You should get the visa in a week.

You could get visa on arrival, but as far as I know it's only for 15 days and will cost almost the same as getting single entry Visa or actually maybe even more (and that way at least you will know you got it). The cost of the visa is 50 €.

You could get the visa in Vilnius. Just check with the working hours as they only work for few hours few days a week.

The single entry visa will let you stay for 60 days with a possible extension of 30 days. If you don't work (or work as a freelancer) it's safer to have an official bank statement that you have at least 500 € in your bank account. The cost of the visa is 30 €.

The multiple entry visa will let you stay for 60 days with a possible extension of 30 days. This can be repeated as many times as you want for 6 months. You will need an official bank statement that you have at least 5000 € in your bank account. The cost of the visa is 140 €.

Some other resources that might be useful:

Communications

Thailand has this BS where you need to have your passport to get a local SIM card.

You can get a local SIM card from True Move H. There are multiple packages available (I think you can even get it for free with very low resources) depending on how long you need it to work or how much you will use. You can get 30 days with 6 GB of data for about 600 THB (15.55 €). If you need to top up your balance use the machines by the convenience stores, just have your phone number and a few coins (as it adds a small fee to the top up amount). One very annoying thing about this SIM card is that you get a bunch of (SMS and prerecorded calls) ads.

Food

It's hard to take a few steps without someone selling you food (at least in the main roads). It also depends on how much you want to risk it. For the first few days my eyes wanted to try a bunch of food, but after a couple more steps a smell of sewers or rotting food will hit my nose losing any appetite for it. After some time got a bit more courageous and started trying out some street food, but still looking at the places which looked respectable (some locals eating there or away from the street where cars are driving all day long). The prices ... well they depend on what you want. You can get a bunch of rice with some meat and vegetables for a few euros, but if you want more of the meat or it outside of street (like in shopping mall) the prices quickly start to reach 10-20 € range. I found this map which might be helpful if you don't want to risk by going to any place. It's very rare to see English signs so most of the time you have no idea what you're eating, good thing that most of the stuff tasted good.

Parks

Lumphini Park is a great big park, I got lost in it a couple of times. Has an outside gym and a bunch of other activities. If I stayed again in the Bangkok I think I would be staying somewhere around this area, to have some green space and a lot of activities in the walking distance.

Benjakitti Park is a nice big park. A bit too much water in my opinion, third of the lake would have been enough and the rest could have been green space (because all that water is just un-used as you won't be rowing a boat all the time). If I stayed again in the Bangkok I think I would be staying somewhere around this area, to have some green space and a lot of activities in the walking distance.

Gym

I had the gym & swimming pool in the same building as my airbnb so did not need to look for anything dedicated. That is an amazing convenience, wake up, get a few floors down and jump into a cold pool, wakes you up right away.

Traffic / Walking

Being able to walk in the city is much better than I expected from reading other articles saying that you don't walk in Asia. You get normal streets, you have ways to cross the street, and so on. I had less pleasurable walks in some Europe cities. Of course you walk right by the street, and with never ending traffic movement the air quality is probably not the best. It's also kind of hot outside so you will sweat (and bring some water and constantly keep drinking it even if you don't feel thirsty). You will also meet motorbikes which drive on walkways, cross the street thinking that this might be the last minute you're alive, and all the other wonderful things. The city is large, but I had no problems walking around it for 4-6 hours and just soaking in all the new things/culture. If you're tall like me watch your head to avoid hitting metal rods, ropes, electric wires. One strange thing which I noticed is that there are almost no trash cans so you might need to carry your trash for a while until you find where to throw it out. Another annoying thing is that you can't download off-line map to Google Maps, not a big deal as most of the time you have 4G connection, but might want to pre-fetch the map before arriving.

Even if traffic in Bangkok is never ending at the same time it's often not moving. At times I just walked to a place because it was much faster. If you do take a car somewhere check the route, sometimes by getting out early you can shorten your trip by a half. A trip from the airport took like 1.5 hours and cost about 450 THB (~12 €). Uber works great, and you can try Grab but the prices looks to be about the same. You can also travel around by tuk-tuk or ferry boat, but those experiences made me think I was about to die so not sure I would like to repeat them.

The pollution is a big problem and might want to daily check what is the situation. Mask might help, but probably not by much.

Shops

There are a lot of shopping malls and markets, whatever you need you should be able to find it (not sure about the quality as some things are so cheap that they are probably only single use items).

Raja's Fashions got myself a custom shirt here. The shop looks very reliable with great service. Got a custom fit -- which I'm still not sure about, but for my physique it's almost impossible to find something that fits -- and custom modifications (two pockets which fit my phone and passport). The price for the shirt was 2000 THB (~52 €), but normally a shirt costs 1800 THB with minimal order of two.

Entertainment / Visit

Hands-on Authentic Thai Cooking Class a great way to try out traditional Thai meals to see if you like that cuisine. Great host and very hands on, you make all your own meals and the host explains ingredients and techniques. Price is 32 € for a person which a decent price as you get to do something for half a day and try 5 different foods.

The LOOM is the crafts store where you learn weaving. I'm always for trying something out and it's refreshing to make something tangible with your hands. I just took the basics course for 1800 THB (~47 €) to just learn how it works. If you want you can jump right away to making your own scarf.

You might want to go to some temple just to see how an Asian worship place looks like, but for someone who does not understand any religion seeing one was enough for a life time.

Weather

(from external source) Cool season during November-February is the most pleasant. Hot season during March-April can go up to 50C. Wet season is May-October. Most extreme rainfall during September-October and should be avoided.

I was visiting during the mid January-February. And for someone who spent most of the 2017 dealing with snow/rain/cold the weather was amazing. Yes, it was hot and you sweat a lot, but I would take it any time in exchange for winter weather. For the first week I didn't even use AC in my apartment, I missed being naturally warm so much. The temperatures were often in 30+C feels like 34+C, but it felt to me like 25-27C in Europe. Had no problems walking for hours in sneakers, synthetic pants and a long sleeve cotton shirt (you do take a shower and wash your clothes more often).

For other locations in the world see intro article.

Posted in: Personal, Tips, Travel

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