Updated November 15, 2016
I should begin by saying that I usually advocate discovering new places on your own. I’m someone who loves taking ownership of a new city by exploring solo, on my own terms, making my own mistakes. I think that’s the best way to truly internalize the places I visit. However, on my recent trip to Bangkok, I found myself feeling differently.
Bangkok is one of the world’s busiest travel hubs, with over 18 million passengers coming through Suvarnabhumi Airport every year. AirTreks books hundreds of tickets every month that include at least one night in Bangkok. Bangkok is a great jumping off point for other places in Southeast Asia, and for whatever reason a lot of travelers don’t stay in the city for very long. On my recent first trip to Thailand, I only had 24 hours in Bangkok before I flew on to my next destination so I decided to try to make the most of that time by hiring someone to show me around town.
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Here are some of the best reasons to consider shelling out some cash for a private guide in Bangkok descending order of importance:
5. You won’t sweat yourself into a puddle
It’s really hot in Bangkok. Or at least for me it was – I’m just not used to 90F with 90% humidity. Instead of traipsing around the city trying to fit in all the major sites in the heat, with a guide you’ll get an air-conditioned car to shuttle you from point A to point B – you may not even have to reapply your deodorant.
4. You can do more
So not only is the car air conditioned, it’s also for all intents and purposes, your car – you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. No waiting for cabs, no negotiating fares, no maps to figure out – just make a plan with your guide for the sites you want to see and you’ll get there. You should probably negotiate the sites in advance, but usually the guides are pretty flexible.
3. You’ll have access to more detailed info
Having a guide to explain the historical significance of the sites you’re visiting means a very different experience than if you were to go off of the guidebooks and signage alone. Wats don’t have audio tours. Neither do palaces, klongs, or flower markets so having someone explain the background of a place can provide a very different viewpoint than just wandering through on your own.
2. Your guide is also your translator
Many people in Thailand speak English, but it’s nice to have someone who can interpret for you when someone doesn’t. If you want to ask a street vendor a question or want to do something out of the ordinary, private guides are delighted to help in any way possible.
1. You’ll get a closer view of Thai culture
If you’re only in town for a day or two, it can be hard to get a real feel for modern Bangkok culture, or even have a one-on-one conversation with a Thai person at all. With a private guide, not only will you be able to get an historical perspective, you can also ask questions about contemporary life in Bangkok in as well.
It was totally worth it for me to hire someone to create my custom tour rather than try to muddle through it on my own. I was able to do the maximum amount of sightseeing and still feel rested enough to experience Bangkok’s amazing nightlife later that evening. I’m sure I’ll be back to Bangkok someday and there’s a good chance I’ll hire a guide again to take me through some of the things I missed on this trip.
If you go:
You can most likely arrange a guide with your hotel, hostel, or guesthouse the same-day. I paid about $70 USD for 4 hours of touring, which included all admissions fees, car service, and any extras (such as temple donations). If you do hire a guide, it’s customary to give a tip on top of the tour price for exceptional service.
Now you know why I decided to do it and what I liked about it – what do you think? Do you prefer on-your-own exploring or would you rather have an expert take you through town?
Photo Credits: Etakundoy