Bangkok, called as the “City of Angels” can often be beautiful, bright, blinding and chaotic. Here are a few tips we picked up from our travel to this lovely city and thought might help you if you’re planning a trip to Thailand.
1. Visa and immigration for Indian passports
Thailand offers visa on arrival for Indian passports and offers waiver on visa fee from time to time. Check here for more details – https://www.vfs-thailand.co.in/
We flew into Bangkok directly from Kochi and landed on a lovely monday morning. And with lovely Monday mornings came crazy immigration queues. Immigration at Bangkok airport can get confusing and will test your patience and language skills. With multiple ‘visa on arrival’ counters with no proper sign boards, few officials to help and people cluelessly scurrying about, it can be chaos. On a good day, you could get out in less than 30 minutes, but on a bad day, it could take upto 3 hours to clear immigration.
We lost a good half hour waiting in the wrong queue only to be re-directed to an even longer winding one. After waiting there for another 45 minutes, we saw this small cordoned off area which said ‘for groups’. A kind enough police officer who I literally ran after told us it was an ‘Express counter’ and we could pay 200 THB (approx Rs. 440) per head and get the immigration done in a jiffy!
TTH Smart tip – If you don’t mind paying a small fee, skip the long queues and chaos and walk straight to the Forex counters, exchange /withdraw some Baht (skip this you already have currency), fill in the visa application, ask around and head straight to the express counter. Submit the forms, pay the fee, get your passport stamped, clear immigration and you’re out in less than 20 minutes.
You could alternatively do the smarter thing and get an e-visa by paying the service fees while applying.
Visa requirements :
- Valid Indian passport with atleast 6 months validity.
- Recent photograph (6cm x 4cm)
- Filled application form
- Bank statement or similar Proof to show a minimum of THB 10,000 per person or THB 20,000 per family.
2. How to commute in Bangkok ?
1. GRAB taxi
Install the app, register and you’re good to go. It’s easy, cheap, easily available and has payment by Cash as an option; basically your Uber in Bangkok.
Pros – Good if you’re travelling in a group and don’t want to bother figuring out other modes of transport.
Cons – Get ready to enjoy the infamous Bangkok rush hour traffic 🙂
2. Motorcycle taxi
You’ll find these two wheelers with riders wearing numbered orange vests at almost every nook and corner of the city. Negotiate your rates, wear your helmets and get ready to zip through the city!
Pros – Fastest way to get around the city, perfect for short distances, very cheap (riders charge nominal rates – 10 baht onwards; negotiate guys! ). Good for solo travellers.
Cons – You ride pillion, so may not be a great option if you’re travelling in a group. In case you’re worried about safety, let me warn you, it might feel like you’re in a Need for Speed video game, so hold tight 🙂
3. BTS / Skytrain and BRT
We never had the chance to use the Skytrain or buses in Bangkok, since we found Grab Taxi to be very convenient, but from what we’ve heard, it is pretty well connected to most parts of the city. So depending on where you stay, the skytrain and buses are a good mode of transport. The system consists of 43 stations along two lines: the Sukhumvit Line running northwards and eastwards, terminating at Mo Chit and Kheha respectively, and the Silom Line which serves Silom and Sathon Roads, the central business district of Bangkok, terminating at National Stadium and Bang Wa.
Buy a Rabbit card (minimum recharge of 100 THB) and you can also use it across partner convenience stores, super markets and restaurants.
They are loud, glitzy, colourful and will charge a bomb to get you to your destination, but it is a must do at least once while in Bangkok.
Pros – A lot like our humble national ride, the “autos”, the drivers will weave their way through traffic at unbelievable speeds and get you to your destination before you can blink.
Cons – Pricey, so smile and use your best bargaining skills! 🙂
5. Water ways
Bangkok boasts of a very complex but extensive water network that runs through the entire city. We used the ferry to hop from just one tourist place to the other and found it to be economical, convenient and a unique way to explore the river city.
Pros : Very cheap, convenient (multiple lines sail every other minute) and a great way to avoid the traffic gridlocks.
Cons : The ferry/water taxi schedules can be overwhelming since there are different types of ferries, boats, water taxis each with its own timings and fares. You might have to enquire about to get a hang of it. Can get crowded.