Why go to Bangkok?
There are tons of cultural and historic attractions to explore once you've reached Bangkok from the cruise port
Beware of con artists; they frequently prey on tourists in Bangkok
Though the cruise port is far from the city, it's definitely worth venturing in to see the sights
Bangkok Cruise Port Facilities?
There really isn't much to do or see at the Laem Chabang cruise terminal, located in the Chonburi Province. This is Thailand's busiest commercial port, and there's not much to do in the immediate vicinity. In fact, passengers have to travel by shuttle or taxi just to go between their ship and the front gates. If you're a golfer, you may be interested in playing at the Laem Chabang International Country Club, or head to the resort area of Pattaya for the beaches -- not nearly as good as Phuket, though -- and shopping. The same goes for Klong Toey -- there are no services for travelers.
When ships overnight in Laem Chabang, it's a long day to visit Bangkok; depending on traffic conditions, it could take two hours or longer to get there. On the other hand, while those smaller ships lucky enough to dock at Klong Toey are surrounded by the same industrial portage, town is only a 15- to 20-minute ride.
Good to Know?
Always negotiate fares before you get in tuk-tuks. If the driver offers to give you a tour, he'll also try to stop at shops where he's made a commission deal with the owners. You won't get a bargain, and you won't enjoy your tour. Steer clear of these offers!
With taxis, make sure your driver turns the meter on. We noticed ours didn't bother until we insisted.
Also, credit card cloning is a big problem in Southeast Asia. Before leaving home, call your credit card companies, and let them know you'll be traveling to Thailand and approximately how much you plan to charge. That way, if your card is cloned, your credit card company may spot it -- and shut down the bogus charges -- faster. (If your credit cards are smart chip" enabled, you don't have to worry about this.)
To/From Laem Chabang: If you're embarking from Laem Chabang, your cruise line will offer an air/hotel/transfer package. Most lines will also allow you to buy the ground transfer a la carte.
If you'd prefer to go it alone, you can do so in a number of ways. The easiest is to book a transfer with a taxi or limousine service, like Image Limousine (www.imagelimo.com). A one-way, private sedan transfer from Bangkok to Laem Chabang should cost approximately 2,000 to 2,800 baht (per carload). If you're a bit more adventurous, take the bus from Bangkok's Eastern Bus Terminal to the cruise port for just 100 baht per person. The roads between Bangkok and Laem Chabang are paved and modern, and you'll travel south, along Asian Highway route AH19.
If your cruise stops at Laem Chabang on a one- or two-day visit, most lines will offer roundtrip motor coach service from the cruise port to downtown Bangkok. Once dropped off in the city, you're on your own for several hours to explore at your leisure. Alternately, you may arrange for a car service from the port, but the cruise lines' DIY options are often cheaper.
To/From Klong Toey: We pre-hired a car to take us from the airport to the cruise port. The cost was about $45 for the 45-minute ride. While docked there, our ship operated a complimentary shuttle into the center of the city; it departed on an hourly schedule.
In Bangkok: Bangkok traffic can be horrendous, but you'll be able to get around easily and cheaply in the following ways:
Via Taxi. Taxis are easily hailed just about anywhere in Bangkok. The meter starts once you hop in; if the driver wishes to negotiate a fee, ask him to put the meter on, or get out and find another taxi. Various surcharges are levied when traffic is heavy. A note for those whose ships are in Klong Toey: only the pink cabs are actually allowed inside the port gates -- and it's actually quite a hike to berth 22A.
Via Tuk-tuk. Motorized, three-wheeled carts called tuk-tuks are a popular and quick way to get around town. Just be aware that this mode of transportation isn't the safest, and you can get a bit dirty as dust is kicked up from the road. Negotiate a fee with the driver before accepting a ride.
Via Skytrain. The Bangkok Transit System's Skytrain (www.bts.co.th) offers two lines, the Sukhumvit and Silom, which run between 6 a.m. and midnight. You can buy one-day or three-day, unlimited-use passes at many hotels and at all stations.
Via Subway. You can ride the subway (www.bangkokmetro.co.th) for 14 to 36 baht, depending on the distance traveled.
Via Bus. Various types of buses (air-conditioned and without A/C) travel across the city and are run by Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (www.bmta.co.th).
Chao Phraya Express Boat. For about 10 baht, you'll be able to get to a variety of tourist attractions, via this ferry service. Many Riverside hotels have piers for easy, hop-on, hop-off access.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
Thailand's currency is the baht (pronounced "bot"). Each baht (THB) equals 100 satang. Note denominations include 1,000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. You'll find coins for 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1 satang. We recommend visiting www.xe.com for up-to-the-minute exchange rates.
While MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club are widely accepted, it's a good idea to carry baht for small market purchases. ATM's are everywhere in Bangkok: at all banks, in most hotels and restaurants, throughout the various shopping districts and at the airport. We also found that dollars and euros were welcome at small stalls in places like the Patpong Night Market, although you're paying a higher conversion rate. All major banks exchange foreign currency, and most ATM's will accept U.S.-issued debit and credit cards.
Standard Thai is the official language of the land and is spoken by nearly 65 million people. There are actually several versions of the language -- street, elegant, rhetorical, religious and royal -- used in different situations. You'll hear/use street (informal between friends) and elegant (more formal) Thai most often.
English is somewhat understood and spoken at the airport, in the major tourist sections of the city and in hotels that cater to Westerners. Many Thai people do not speak English, but they do know a few key words, so you can generally get your point across. Otherwise, we found it useful to carry a Thai version of our hotel address and the address for the port, Klong Toey. They came in handy more than once.