10 Things NOT to Do in Bangkok

Bangkok Advice for First-Time Travelers

    We write a lot of articles offering advice on what to see and do in Bangkok, but from personal experience, we think it's important for first-time visitors to know what NOT to do in Bangkok too. Thailand's culture is incredibly rich, with many social expectations and common courtesies that may differ from your home country. On the other hand, there are some common pitfalls that it's easy to fall into if you are caught unaware.

    Take a few moments to brush up on what to avoid while you're out and about in Bangkok – it will make your interactions with the locals that much better and insure you don't end up red-faced and confused because of a silly faux pas or shakedown.

    1

    Don't… get a taxi that's already parked

    Around tourist hotspots, you'll sometimes see a long row of clean, parked taxis beckoning you into their air-conditioned comfort, but anyone who has spent time in Bangkok will know to avoid them and walk out into the street to flag down a moving taxi. Why? Because a parked taxi usually signifies a driver who is waiting to exploit a hapless, sweaty and confused tourist, charging them double or triple the normal rate.

    2

    Don't… forget to stand up during the King's Anthem

    Showing respect to the monarchy in Thailand will win you many smiles of approval; not doing so can get you in deep water. At the beginning of a movie in all movie theaters in Thailand, the King's Anthem is played and everyone will stand as a mark of respect. Not to do so is offensive and will draw stern looks from your neighbours who definitely won't share the armrest with you…or worse.

    In all public places such as train stations and markets, the Thailand National Anthem is played at 8am and 6pm. You should stop walking and stand silently until it ends. Once you hear the final beat of the drum, you can immediately continue on with your day.

    3

    Don't… sit next to a monk (if you're female)

    Monks must adhere to many rules from the Buddhist monastic code, including never touching a female. If you are of the fairer sex, it's a good idea to move at least 1 meter away from a monk on public transportation and give them room to walk when you're out and about.

    4

    Don't… buy rounds in a nightclub, buy a bottle!

    This is not a faux pas, but will certainly save you money. When in a club for a night out, do as the Thais do and buy a whole bottle to share instead of single drinks. Not only will it work out much better value (especially as you often get several free mixers), the wait staff will treat you much better.

    photo by Mark Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    5

    Don't… carry your passport around

    A practical tip that could save you from a desperate dash to the police station, embassy and back again, don’t carry your passport with you around Bangkok. A photocopy of your passport is enough.

    6

    Don't… wear shorts or a skirt to the temple

    Buddhism is the dominant religion in Thailand, and many of the most magnificent temples are located in the Old City district of Bangkok. Spending a day visiting the temples is high on many people's itinerary, but make sure you dress conservatively, with a T-shirt covering your shoulders and a pair of shorts or a skirt down to below the knees. No matter how hot it is, don't ever walk around topless in the streets.

    7

    Don't… step on Thai money

    You accidentally drop some money and the wind starts to blow it away. In your own country, you might step on it to save your cash, but in Thailand, DON'T DO IT. Just as the head is revered as the highest part of the human body, the feet are seen as the lowest, most impure part of our bodies and touching an image of the king with your feet would make many Thai people visibly distressed.

    8

    Don’t …forget a pack of tissues

    If you intend to go exploring around markets and eat in local restaurants, a pack of tissues might save you from the conundrum of staring at a bucket and a tap while crouching with your underpants around your ankles and looking in vain for the toilet paper.

    9

    Don't... worry about the water (or the ice)

    In Bangkok, water is not harmful so you don’t have to worry about brushing your teeth with it or filling the kettle for a cup of coffee (though we wouldn’t advise drinking a full glass of it straight from the tap). The same goes for the ice, which is made in sterilized factories and delivered daily.

    10

    Don’t… touch someone on the head

    According to Thai Buddhist tradition, the head is the highest part of our body and the place closest to the heavens. To touch a stranger on the head, even in a light-hearted way, is offensive to many Thai people.

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveler

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