Getting Settled – Bangkok, Thailand

Getting Settled
Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok has many Western conveniences (and convenience stores), so finding what you need in the city shouldn’t be too hard. Invest in a Thai phrase book if you’re afraid pointing won’t be enough to get what you want.

ATMs can be found on all major streets, including Khao San Road. Most major banks in the country have ATMs and will let you withdraw cash from a debit card. Bank hours are usually 10 a.m.-4 p.m., but some currency-exchange offices stay open from 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. or later. You’ll find such offices along Sukhumvit, Khao San and Silom roads.

Phone and Internet:
Bangkok’s phones are color-coded by type. Yellow are for international calls; phone cards can be purchased at convenience stores. Blue phones are for local calls; they take baht. To make international calls from Thailand, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next you dial the area code and number. For directory assistance: Dial 1133.

Internet cafes are popping up throughout Bangkok, and you can get good prices for by-the-minute service. It’s usually cheaper along Khao San Road than in Silom Square – 1 baht per minute compared with 25 baht for 15 minutes.

Bangkok has numerous medical centers, including public, private and university research hospitals. I thankfully never had to visit one, but the Nana Clinic near Khao San Road is praised for treating minor ailments and having English-speaking doctors. Drugstores also can be helpful – quite a few pharmacists speak English and can give advice regarding your ailment. However, be careful how you ask for what you want: When clutching my stomach and inquiring about motion sickness pills, the druggist first suggested, “Morning-after pill?” It is recommended that you keep packaging from any medicines you’ve taken, so you can find the Thai equivalent.

Mail and newspapers:
Post office boxes are tall and red, and you can get stamps from post office branches and upscale hotels. Airmail postcards to the United States cost 15 baht and first-class letters cost 19 baht per 5 grams (rates to Europe are about the same). Airmail delivery generally takes seven days, and that’s definitely preferable to having it sent by boat, which could take weeks. The major domestic English-language dailies are the Bangkok Post and The Nation, which cost 20 baht each. Also look for smaller newspapers when you’re at travel offices or bars for suggestions on places to party at night.

Other tips:
Although newer restaurants and hotels often have Western toilets, smaller shops and bus and train station bathrooms usually have squat toilets. Most stations charge 2-5 baht to use the facilities (which often are extremely dirty). Toilet paper costs extra, so it’s smart to bring your own or buy a roll at a convenience store.