Thailand’s vibrant culture, warm people and beautiful scenery rate this exotic locale a top spot on family travel lists. No trip to Thailand is complete without a visit to the capital, but Bangkok’s fast pace, density and size can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to pave the way for a stress-free stay.
Did you know? In Thai, Bangkok is known as Krung Thep, but its full official name is Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. Try having the kids say that five times fast!
Ease in. Let’s call a spade a spade: Getting to Thailand is a long journey for most everyone. Plan accordingly and make your first day on the ground a “relax” day around your hotel as you adjust to the time zone.
Pace yourself. Bangkok can be hot and humid. Get ahead of it and make sure everyone drinks plenty of water. Fruit drinks are plentiful (fresh pomegranate juice, anyone?) and 7-11s are everywhere — perfect for quick hydration breaks.
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Build in downtime. Don’t try to cram too much into each day. There’s nothing worse than dragging cranky tired kids (or parents) for forced sightseeing “fun.” Instead, plan activities and outings first thing in the morning and leave time for relaxing in the afternoon.
Pack strategically. Keep outside temperatures in mind and pack breathable, lightweight clothing. Pick comfortable easy-on, easy-off footwear for quick removal at temples. Also remember that tank tops and short shorts are not allowed at sacred sites. Skirt the issue by keeping a wrap (or two) with you to drape as needed.
Mix it up. Family members of all ages will quickly tire of too many temples. Intersperse sightseeing with more hands-on activities, whether a prearranged Thai cooking class or a visit to one of the plentiful kid-specific activities: Dinosaur Planet, Fantasia Lagoon Water Park, Kidzania and Pororo Aquapark, to name a few. Even better, pair a few days in Bangkok, which will probably be your fly-in city, with a few days farther south in a glam beach destination.
Take advantage of transportation variety. Bangkok is fairly spread out and traffic can be intense. Try to rely on the BTS (skytrain) and MRT (subway) while you are in the downtown area, and only use taxis as they make sense (just make sure there is a meter). Don’t count out tuk-tuks for short journeys; settle on the price first and indicate exactly where you want to go, without stops. Avoid during the peak morning and evening rush hours.
The Chao Phraya Express Boat is also helpful for getting to major tourist sites, including the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. We do not recommend taking motorbike taxis.
Be polite. You will often be greeted with the traditional Wai Thai greeting (said with hands in prayer — think namaste). It is always appropriate to return the greeting with a smile. While in Thailand, there are a few cultural no-no’s. It is frowned up to point at people with your finger or foot or to be very loud. It is also very rude to touch anyone’s head, even ruffling a child’s hair, as the head is considered sacred.
Stay savvy. If you are approached to buy something, are offered a tour or ride in a public space (especially near major tourist attractions) or see children begging, simply ignore politely and keep moving about your business. There are numerous scams, and it is best to stick to known vendors to avoid being lured in.
Keep these guideposts in mind and your family will be on the path to making the memories of a lifetime in the “land of smiles.”
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