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Survival Guide To Shopping In Bangkok

Posted on : 13-12-2010 | By : Brian | In : Bangkok, Holidays To Thailand

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Shopping in Bangkok is a ‘must do’ on any trip to Thailand. The place is a shopaholics dream city with many MBK Shopping Bangkokdifferent shopping malls ranging from the sophisticated Emporium to the legendary Mah Boon Krong or MBK as its better known. The best thing about these malls is the transport between them can be so easy if you plan it right but the worst thing about them is you will never have enough time to visit them all on just one short trip, I mean the Central World mall has over 500,000sqm of retail space alone, but then again this is the biggest in Bangkok.

When you’ve had enough of shopping in the malls there are all those markets to get around as well. With over 15,000 stalls, the famed Chatuchak Weekend Market is the biggest outdoor market in the world I believe but I’ve not been to them all so correct me if I’m wrong here. Then you have your night markets in the Patpong area and floating markets at Damnoen Saduak to name just a few.

With so much shopping to do in such a short time it’s a good idea to be prepared. I’ve listed a few things that I think could help when shopping in Bangkok and also may help to make your shopping trip that bit easier.

Plan Your Shopping Trip – You should have a idea of how many days you will be in Bangkok so plan what days you want to go shopping. Early morning and late evenings are the best time to visit those markets with the temperatures and tourist numbers not yet peaked. Visit the air conditioned malls at the hottest time of the day for some lunch and leisure shopping. Its best to try and have an idea what you want to buy and plan where to get it, this will target focus your shopping in Bangkok instead of wandering about in the heat and humidity wondering where to go next.

Transport – Bangkok has a multitude of ways of getting around the city, tuk-tuk, taxis, Skytrain and underground are just some of them. Although very inexpensive public buses are best avoided, you will waste a lot of time trying to find the right bus. Taxis and tuk tuk’s are often your best method of transport in Bangkok but watch out for those that want to take you some where else first. Make sure before setting off the driver wants to take you to your destination without any detours. I have, more than once, been driven a few hundred meters and then got out because the driver changed his mind about the destination. Another thing to consider with your taxi and tuk tuk is the Bangkok traffic, it’s notoriously bad at certain times of the day and getting stuck in traffic won’t help your shopping plans.. The skytrain and underground are both air conditioned means of transport but unfortunately don’t cover all of Bangkok. If you can get either of these close to your final destination then walking a short distance may be the best plan at certain times of the day.

Opening Hours – Bangkok shops open anywhere between 9-10 am and stay open until around 8-10p six days a week, with Sunday closing. The biggest shopping malls however may still have some shops open on a Sunday but I wouldn’t advise planning any shopping for that day.

Comparing Prices & Haggling – Like other shopping trips you do, don’t just buy the first item you see. Shop about a little and check out what others have that item on sale for. If you are in a mall shop with a price tag save yourself the embarrassment and don’t try to haggle with the shop assistant. If getting a bargain is what you are after ask about a Tourist Discount Card or VAT refunds at the airport. The best place to try your haggling skills is on the street market stalls. Bartering, haggling or bargaining on stalls is very normal and indeed will be expected in most cases. The first price you get from a vendor will be marked up considerably and it is your job to try and get them down to a price that both you and they are happy with. There are many different ways to haggle and each person will have their own technique and it will develop the more you do it. In the high tourist areas like Patpong it would not be uncommon to offer a price less than half of the vendors asking price. Some points to remember when trying to get your item for a cheaper price is to treat it a bit like a game. Have fun with the vendor smile lots and be polite. Getting angry and shouting because they wont come done anymore on a price won’t help and in fact they may refuse to sell to you. If you are unhappy with the price thank them for their time, smile and walk away, if they really won’t come down any more they will let you go, but if they want that sale then maybe you have just won the game when they lower the price.

Safety – Bangkok is no different than any other major city when it comes to petty crime. Although you are on holiday to enjoy yourself don’t let your personal safety slip. Remember to keep you possession close by you and if in a crowded area don’t carry your rucksack or bag behind you. Pickpockets are common in busy areas so take care of your wallet and purse and always know where it is.

What To Wear – Bangkok is a hot and humid city all year round so what you wear to combat these conditions should be thought about carefully. Your first priority should be a good pair of walking shoes. The streets of Bangkok are not that easy to traverse, often resembling obstacle courses with exposed manholes, potholes, vendor carts, the odd beggar and garland maker. There is nothing faster than a broken toe to stop a shopping trip so although maybe cool and trendy sandals and reef shoes should be left in the hotel. Cool light weight cloths will help when outside but if you plan a full day in an air conditioned mall maybe something a little heavier would be best. Oh, and beach wear is never best in Bangkok except by your hotel pool. My first purchase when I arrive in Bangkok is always some bandanna’s and some wet wipes. These help freshen you up on a long shopping trip. Quick tip – keep the wet ones in the fridge if you can.

These are just some of my tips on how to make shopping in Bangkok easier than normal, there will be many more I’m sure. One thing I will say is that if you are traveling to Thailand with children then none of these tips will help easy the pain of shopping with children.

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