Monday, April 20, 2015

Survival Guide for Foreigners in Bangkok: The first 10 random tips

While walking along the road in my neighbourhood during the Songkran break in the morning, I could not help but notice the patches of white powder on the road. I soon realised that these white patches were indications of the various spots of water 'warfare' during more happening parts of the day. All of a sudden, I had successfully identified all the potentially dangerous locations in the vicinity, and could plan my route carefully if I had to venture out later.

Then I thought to myself, with my experience here, I can really share some random tips and tricks specific to Bangkok that might make newcomers' (tourists or new residents) lives easier. After brainstorming, here's my first instalment:

Refer to Tip #6

  1. Know where you live

    I came here more than 5 years ago needing to urgently find a permanent office and move in as soon as possible, so within a week of arriving, I had to start shopping at megastores to equip my new-found location. It took me by surprise that EVERY shop commanded me to draw a map of the delivery location before letting me leave. It's the standard operating procedure here in Thailand.

    Never mind the delivery staff will call you on the day itself regardless of the detail of your drawing, you better know where you live (and how to draw it) before you can navigate your way through your purchases.

  2. You can have anything anywhere, because 7-11 is everywhere

    Unless you are looking for canned San Marzano tomatoes or frozen Atlantic Cod, you are covered in Thailand, because 7-11 is everywhere (2nd highest number of branches in the world after Japan), and it has everything you need. In fact, most brands make items exclusive for 7-11, which you cannot find in the huge hypermarkets.

    With everything from incredible-tasting instant meals, gourmet coffee, to supersoakers during Songkran, and the ability to pay virtually all important bills at their counters (even air/bus tickets), life will never be the same without it again.

  3. Zebra crossings don't work as they should, but use them anyway

    Unfortunately, most cars will not deliberately stop for you just because you are standing at a zebra-crossing and obviously look like you want to cross the road, but use them anyway, especially at night.

    Because in the dimly-lit areas, the zebra crossing is often blessed with spotlights, so even if cars don't stop for you, it's the 1 place they are most likely to see you when you finally decide to risk your life sprinting to the other side.

  4. Chill when looking for taxis

    Taxis have always been a huge topic of debate in Thailand, mostly because of the way some drivers choose customers and others who refuse to turn on their meters.

    There are things that cannot be changed overnight no matter how much we whine, and the taxi situation is one of them, However, in terms of service quality and price, I still feel that Bangkok taxis might be one of the most value-for-money ones in the world.

    So, my advice will be to chill when you are rejected by a taxi, because unless it's a bad time (or really bad location), the next one will most definitely be round the corner and you will get your ride soon (I hope).

  5. (Men only) Chill when a lady of any age mops the floor really close to you while peeing in a public toilet

    Because I have been told by multiple sources that it will be weirder if it's a guy cleaning the toilet in Thailand!

  6. (Women only) If you suspect you are pregnant, look out for vending machines outside public toilets

    Because it's not rocket science and you deserve to know whether to shop for normal fashion or maternity fashion.

  7. You can always watch your favourite football match

    Because the most well-known way(s) might not be available where you live, and there are alternative(s).

  8. Don't feel awkward frequenting hospitals to cure your flu, and hotels for some nice food

    Because it's the norm for the sick to visit hospitals immediately (treat it like the clinic in your hometown) and for the best restaurants to be set up in good hotels.
  9. Learn to LINE

    Sure, you can continue to Whatsapp with your folks back home, but please please, learn to LINE in Thailand. Nothing else means anything here.

  10. And the life-saver, when asked, ALWAYS say Aroi (delicious)!

    When your friend buys you a meal, or a store-keeper asks you to taste their sample, they know that their food is very delicious. Even if it's not and they are waiting for the 'honest' answer, smile and say "Aroi". This is a life-saver.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of my random tips!


  1. Fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Hello Linda

      Different places have different cultures, just pointing out some interesting ones so that newbies will not be caught off-guard.


  2. Why did you say "Bangkok taxis might be one of the most value-for-money ones in the world." ? I believe most Thais not understand it too because we hate most of Thai taxis much.


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