In Bangkok we stayed at the wonderful Old Bangkok Inn and our gracious hostess, Mrs Nantiya Tulyanond, handed us a sheet of useful tips that will help to save you from being ripped off in Bangkok. The main thing to keep in mind is that a fairly large number of people who can be incredibly believable are going to try to con you out of your tourist dollars (or in this case Baht).
Do not accept any unsolicited advice on; where to shop, whether a monument is open or not, where the entrance is, that you should take a tuk tuk etc.
To give an example: at the Royal Palace and temple complex we had someone direct us to another gate, saying we had to buy entry tickets, when we arrived an accomplice told us the Palace were closed to foreigners that morning for a Buddhist ceremony. He then suggested we take a tuk tuk to see another temple. Fortunately we realized what was going on and returned to the main entrance where, naturally, everything was open as normal and we located the ticket office inside. If we had taken the tuk tuk to the other temple we would have been accosted there by another accomplice who would have told us he had come to Bangkok from the country particularly to buy jewellery at a certain shop that had fantastic prices. I will leave it up to you to guess where the tuk tuk would have taken us next! This is not fantasy, it actually happens, and the frightening thing is that all these people present themselves in a way that is absolutely believable. If you fall into their net they pass information about you using their cell phones so that the next accomplice along the line is waiting for you to arrive.
Below is the text of the sheet from the Old Bangkok Inn. Clearly directions to the OBI apply only if you are a guest but the general idea applies to any accommodation.
Please Read Carefully to Avoid Problems While Travelling in Bangkok
In Case of Emergency: Call us at 02 629-1787 (obviously this applies only if you are a guest – Peter) or call 1155 for the Tourist Police. Attached please find a map to the OBI (with directions in Thai), please always bring the map and a “picture of Democracy Monument” with you in order to help taxi drivers navigate back to the OBI.
Avoid Tuk Tuks (3 wheelers): We strongly advise travellers not to succumb to the temptation of riding in these interesting vehicles, tuk tuk drivers are often involved in scams claiming to take you where you want to go for free, but instead take you to shady jewelry shops or tailors. Besides this, they overcharge unsuspecting tourists.
Taxi Tips: The incapability of Thai taxi drivers to understand English will increase your chance to wander aimlessly in Bangkok. ALWAYS have a nearby landmark and your destination’s phone number handy, all cab drivers have cell phones and can call to ask directions, and always ask for the meter to be turned on by saying “Perd meter duay”, if they refuse just hail the next cab that comes by.
( I would add to this by strongly suggesting that you avoid any cab that is not part of a major group. Look for new vehicles in company colours and with the company phone number written on the side. Old cabs may be run by shonky drivers and may have meters that will charge anything up to ten times the correct rate!!! – Peter)
Alternative Transportation: The Klong Saen Saep “canal boat” offers a useful service from the Old Bangkok Inn all the way across the city to the Sukhumvit area (shopping and commercial district.) Take the boat to the Sapan Hua Chang Pier to access the BTS Sky Train or visit the Jim Thomson House, MBK Mall, Siam Square and Siam Paragon. Canal boats run from 7am – 7pm. To access the nearest pier, exit the inn and make a left, cross the street and walk towards the white fort. To the left of the fort is a bridge, to the right of the bridge is the Paan Fah Pier.
Visiting the Grand Palace: The Grand Palace opens every day from 08:30 to 15:30 hrs. A strict dress code applies: No shorts (long pants only), no spaghetti straps or tank tops (shirts must have sleeves) you can also rent an audio guide for 200 baht. Admission cost is 300 baht, keep the ticket stub for free admission to Vimanmek Mansion and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall, both in the vicinity of the Old Bangkok Inn.
The Grand Palace is not closed: Please do not believe anybody (claiming to be teachers or govt. officers etc.) who claim that a temple or a market is closed. But do check closing times online or with our hotel staff for hours of operation.
Keep all your valuables in our in-room safe: The management requests the Patrons to be particularly careful in the disposition of their valuables. Safes are provided in all rooms for the above purpose; The Old Bangkok Inn will not be responsible for any losses.
Having read some of the above you may think that everyone in Bangkok is going to try to rip you off. This is definitely not the case and the majority of Thai are wonderful friendly people. It is just that in Bangkok you need to have your wits about you and be very careful of anyone who approaches you with unsolicited advice. Be very wary of tuk tuks; they may or may not try to get you in a scam but regardless of this they drive like maniacs and are completely unsafe in the event of a traffic incident. At the exit, and sometimes the entrance, of major tourist sites you may well be accosted by a very insistant person who will try to get you to accept a ride in a tuk tuk. This is the first person in the chain: accept his advice and you will be in the hands of the con merchants!