|Subject: Re: Thailand - questions|
We went to Bangkok independently as did many of our friends. We used FF miles and booked everything separately. If you're flying coach class, then it might be cost effective to look into the air/hotel pkgs that some of the airlines offer. But check carefully, as often the hotels are very blah. To be honest, if you can afford to go 5 Star hotel then do it! I saw the Peninsula Hotel (one of the best in Bangkok) offering rooms for $120., that's a steal!
When we arrived in BKK, there was a tour desk right at the airport, we booked a full day tour for the next day and our guide and driver picked us up at the hotel and drove us to all the sites we wanted to see in an air conditioned car. I think it cost about $40. for 6 hours and we tipped them generously. The hotel would have arranged the same tour for over $100. We did this for ease and convenience, not for safety. We felt very safe there and many people spoke english. We often take a tour our first day and then go it alone for the rest of the visit.
Before leaving your hotel everyday,make sure to have your desination written in thai to show to your taxi driver. Bring a map too. And of course, have the hotel card to show the taxi driver when you want to go back to your hotel, many of the drivers don't speak english. Also, before getting into a cab, say meter to the driver, so they know you're insisting on paying what's on the meter and not a flat rate. However, there are times when it's busy and cabs are scarce and you'll have to negotiate a flat rate and they won't run the meter. Just prenegotiate the rate and they'll honor it.
We decided to go to Hanoi from BKK and we loved it. I highly recommend it. The flight was only about 1.5 hours. You can book it on Thai Air or Air France. We liked Bangkok but we loved Hanoi......and it's cooler and less humid too! :-)