Category Archives: Travel Advice

How to catch a Taxi in Bangkok

Here I am. Back in Bangkok,  Thailand. This time staying with a mate in the old town part of the city. Meaning no BTS sky train or MRT station nearby. The only way to get from our hotel to Downtown Bangkok with all the shopping malls (like MBK, Siam Paragon and others), are taxis. Unfortunately many Taxi drivers don’t speak English. So I used the “Bangkok method” to get around.

Getting from hotel to downtown/other places

First look for a small business card of the hotel at the reception desk. This will later be important when you want to go back to the hotel. Most hotels can give you a business id card which contains the address of the hotel in Thai letters and/or a small map of where the hotel is located. DONT FORGET TO TAKE ONE BEFORE LEAVING.

The easiest and simplest way is to ask the reception desk, or if available, the bell manager for a METERED Taxi and tell him/her where you want to go. He/Her will then use his radio to hail a cab for you and tell the driver in Thai where you want to go. This helps to avoid lost in translation situations. 😉

After entering the car make sure the driver turns on the meter. If he doesn’t, insist on it or you may end up with a “special price”, which can be twice or triple the official amount. Side note: One of the drivers offered us 200 THB special price, we insisted on the meter and ended up with 68 THB (rounded up to 70)

When you arrive at your destination round up the price to the next 5 or 10 baht. The drivers often dont have change and apprechiate a small tip.

 

Getting back to the hotel

Hailing a taxi on the street is an almost impossible mission.
Here’s the easy way: Just go to the next shopping mall.

Most shopping malls have a so called “taxi queue” or taxi stand at the ground level. When arrive at the front of the line give the taxi coordinator the card from your hotel. He will then ask all taxi (or tuk tuk) drivers nearby if anyone wants to take you to your destination. Jump into the one the he/she points at. Other drivers may try to pursway you by smiling or winking at you to take their taxi/tuktuk instead. Be careful this could lead to either a very expensive ride or a trip to an unknown destination.

After entering the taxi handover the card from the hotel to confirm your driver got the right address and double-check that he/she turned on the meter.

When you arrive at your destination round up the price to the next 5 or 10 baht. The drivers often dont have change and apprechiate a small tip.

Tips

  • Make sure you have a business card of your hotel
  • Double-check that you have all belongigs before leaving the car. Getting it back is an impossible mission.
  • Write down/take photo of the vehicle number (often a sticker on the inside of the window) if you want to report any bad incidents to the taxi queue service
  • Taxis have different designn (pink, yellow-green, orange), but the metered rates should be the same

 

 

Lonelist pub in Australia – Daly Waters, NT

Welcome to a series of posts about unique and fun places in Australia.

Today I would like to show you the Daly Waters Pub “Outback Servo” in Northern Territory Australia.

Memorabilia left at Daly Waters Pub, Australia
Memorabilia left at Daly Waters Pub, Australia

Daly Waters is about 620 kilometres south of Darwin and three kilometres west of the Stuart Highway. This pub not only has fantastic barramundi burgers but it also houses lots of stories through memorabilia left by visitors from around the globe.
You can find hundreds of t-shirts, bras, car signs and plenty of other unique things at this place in the middle of nowhere. A lonely pub? I am not sure. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but people come to this place, enjoy great food and leave amazing things here.

Barramundi burger at Daly Waters Pub, Australia
Barramundi burger at Daly Waters Pub, Australia

Mobile Internet in Australia – How to

More and more visitors come to my blog, because they want to know how mobile internet works in Australia.

Index
Part 1: General/network operators
Part 2: Travelling with your smartphone in Australia
Part 3: Mobile Internet in Australia – How to

 

Netbook/tablet with integrated 3G

If you own a netbook or tablet with integrated 3G, it’s very easy. Get a Sim starter kit from an Australian network operator (e.g. purchase at Australian Post store). Activate your data Sim and book a data option. How does this work? Staff from the stores can help you. Also, often there’s a manual included with the starter kits, explainig how you can activate it by yourself either online or by phone. Just insert your Sim card into your device and start the software.

USB modems / Mobile WiFi

If you don’t have a netbook with integrated 3G, there’s an alternative. Use an 3G USB Modem. All 3 major Australian mobile network operators offer them for a plus on top of the Sim starter kit.

The network operator Telstra offers e.g. a 3G USB-modem + 2GB data allowance for just $59 AUD (as of writing). After you purchased and activated your USB modem, you just have to connect it to your computer and follow the instructions on the screen.

Smartphone WiFi Hotspot

Another cost effective way is that you use your smartphone. This method is known as WiFi-Tethering. With this method your data connection on your smartphone will be shared via WiFi with devices like netbooks or tablets. Naturally this makes only sense if you have booked a data option with your tariff. E.g. the network operator Telstra offers the BROWSEPLUS49 Pack with 3GB data allowance included for just $49 AUD (as of writing).

Most Android smartphones have  built-in feature known as “WiFi-Hotspot/Mobile Hotspot”. Just enable Mobile Hotspot and connect your Netbook via WiFi, like you would do at a coffee shop.

The following video shows, how it works on a HTC Smartphone.

 

Travelling with your smartphone in Australia

More and more visitors come to my blog, because they want to know if their smartphone works in Australia.

Index
Part 1: General/network operators
Part 2: Travelling with your smartphone in Australia
Part 3: Mobile Internet in Australia – How to

Which network operators are available in Australia, has been answered in part 1 Mobile Internet in Australia – General.

In this article I want to tell you, which smartphones should work in Australia.

The following information bases on different sources: Either on my own experience or external information about the phones hardware specs combined with my knowledge about the network technologies used in Australia.
The following smartphones (EU models) should work in Australia.

Smartphone Telstra Optus Vodafone Source Online shops
HTC Desire + +* my own experience
HTC Desire X + +* Official website
HTC One X/X+ + + + Official website
HTC One ? + + Official website
Confirmation from HTC Sales Team
Samsung Galaxy S2 + + + Official website
Samsung Galaxy S3 + + + Official website
Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini + +* Wikipedia
Google Nexus 4 + + + Official website

*Vodafone Australia’s Extended Coverage 850 MHz 3G network not available.
This is just a selection. There are more manufactures/models that support Australian mobile networks.
All information provided “as-is” and without warranty. This table based on the supported frequency bands listed on the source websites.

Web links to online shops will follow later.

Generally speaking, if your smartphone supports UMTS (“3G”)  on 2100 and 900 MHz, that it should work with Optus and Vodafone. Does it also support UMTS 850 Mhz? Then you can get more coverage on Vodafone and also connect to Telstra. The mobile operator Telstra is according to their own statements the biggest network operator in Australia. Telstra’s 3G network works exclusively on UMTS 850 Mhz. All operators also have GSM networks, but these are much slower than 3G and not recommended for smartphones. If GSM or 2G is enough, than look for a smartphone with “Quadband” GSM.

Update: I am working on a list of models from Asia and the US.

Weblinks:

Mobile Internet in Australia – General

Telstra Sim Starter Kit
Telstra Sim Starter Kit

I get a lot of emails about mobile internet in Australia. How does it work? Which carrier to choose?

Because I use mobile internet in Australia and New Zealand, here’s a guide to this popular travel related topic.

Index
Part 1: General/network operators
Part 2: Travelling with your smartphone in Australia
Part 3: Mobile Internet in Australia – How to

In this part I will talk about the different network carriers and their networks.

Network carriers

In Australia all major carriers offer prepaid tariffs, like in Europe and Asia. Unlike in Europe, they use different networks. Which means that you should look for a provider that matches with your smartphone, netbook or internet stick specs. More on that later.

Telstra is Australia’s largest network provider and has a mobile network that reaches even partially into the outback.
Telstra uses 3G/UMTS 850 MHz as their main network technologyy. There is also a 2G network based on GSM, but this is only available in larger cities.

There is also the provider Vodafone Australia, which has a GSM network. Just like Telstra, Vodafone Australia also has a 3G network based on UMTS. It uses the in Europe common 2100 Mhz frequencies in major cities and 900 Mhz in “regional areas” (rural roads, small towns). Additionally Vodafone also builds a network on 850 MHz to increase existing capacity.

The third major player there is Optus, which also offers a 2G network based on GSM and a 3G network based on UMTS. Optus also uses 2100 Mhz in major cities and 900 Mhz in “regional areas”.

Telstra

Did you choose for Telstra, it’s very easy to get a sim card. You can get Sim Starter Kits for $ 2 AUD in the branches of Australia Post. It must be charged with a balance, because it comes without talk time/sms/data allowance. Alternatively, you can go in one of the Telstra stores.
To activate a Telstra sim, you have to call the phone number listed in the starter kit. At my first activation I was asked for my passport number and an Australian address. I said that I’m a tourist and therefore can only provide a hotel address.
She immediately replied that it is no problem. Then I was asked if I want to activate the sim as a data sim (ie for netbooks, UMTS Sticks, ..) or for a mobile phone.

A few minutes later I was able to go online, recharge my pre-paid sim and booked a data package.

Please ensure that your device (smartphone, netbook, …) supports UMTS 850 MHz, as Telstra uses it for most parts of the network.

Vodafone Australia

My advice: Buy on arrival at the airport. E.g. there’s a Vodafone booth in the Arrival Hall of the Sydney International Airport where they’re already specialised in tourists. They have prepared appropriate forms and brochures. Vodafone uses for most of its network UMTS 2100 Mhz (same as in Europe) and 900 Mhz.
I.e. Most European smartphones work in Australia with Vodafone Australia.

Optus

My advice: Purchase a sim card at the airport. There is an “Optus! Yes” store in the Arrival Hall of Sydney International Airport. Optus uses for most parts of its network UMTS 2100 Mhz and 900 Mhz.
I.e. Most European smartphones work in Australia at Optus.

More on device compatibility in the next part of this series.

How to use MRT in Bangkok

The MRT subway is a convenient way to get around. The fares start at 16 baht for a single journey.

Take the stairs from street level to the station. Upon entering you have to go through a metal detector like at airports.
Go to a ticketing machine. You will find there a touch screen with map that displays, how much the fare is when you select your journey. After you payed your fare you will receive a small plastic coin. This is your ticket.

Bangkok traffic
Bangkok traffic

Most ticket vending machines accept coins and also bank notes. Day passes are also available. You can purchase them only at the ticket counters located at some stations. Go through the fare gate by placing your coin/token on the scanner.

The system works similar to public transport in Europe, look for a sign that tells the name of last station of the line. This will show you in which direction which train will take you. Board the train. On the train they will make announcements about the next stop both in Thai and English. Get off at your designated stop and exit the station through the fare gate.

There’s currently 1 line running through the city. The government of Bangkok is still working on extending the existing network.

Here’s a video by DiscoveryThailand, which explains the system pretty detailed.

How to use BTS Sky train in Bangkok

The BTS sky train is a convenient way to get around. The fares start at 10 baht for a single journey.
It runs on tracks above the streets of this vibrant city. Take the stairs from street level to the station.

Bangkok - Nana BTS station
Bangkok – Nana BTS station

Go to a ticketing machine. You will find there a map that displays, how much the fare is for your selected journey. Also look for the name of last stop of this train line, this is important as you will see later.Press the button with the right the fare for your route, pay and receive your paper ticket.

Most ticket vending machines accept only coins. There are some machines that accept also bills, but only at selected stations. Day passes are also available for 150 baht. You can purchase them only at the ticket counters located at some stations.Go through the fare gate.

Next, take the stairs or escalator up to the trains. The system works similar to public transport in Europe, look for a sign that tells the name of last station of the line. This will show you in which direction which train will take you. Board the train. On the train they will make announcements about the next stop both in Thai and English. Get off at your designated stop and exit the station through the fare gate.

Some train stations are also connected to nearby shopping malls by a overpass.

There are currently 2 lines running through the city, you can use your ticket on all lines.

The government of Bangkok is still working on extending the existing network. E.g the trains don’t run to the northern districts yet.

Here’s a video by DiscoveryThailand, which explains the system pretty detailed.

Getting around in Bangkok (II)

After presenting you the “normal” ways Getting around in Bangkok (I), it’s time to show you the more unique ways of getting around.

 

Tuk-tuks

Bangkok - Tuk Tuk
Bangkok – Tuk Tuk

Tuk-tuk or auto rickshaw is a usually three-wheeled cabin cycle. You can hire them like a taxi.

Never ask for a price, otherwise they tell you a fantasy price or take you on a “shopping tour” across Bangkok. Tell them a price that you think is right.

When bargaining remember that transportation is cheap in Thailand. A ride across the city with the BTS skytrain costs ruffly 50 Baht.

 

Motocycle taxis

Bangkok motor bikes
Bangkok motor bikes

First of all, use this type of transportation only if you want to kill yourself.

Motorcycle taxis are for short distance journeys. They drive between car rows and there’s basically no safety/protection. Like with the tuk-tuks, you have to know the fare otherwise you pay the farang price.

You can recognise them by the orange vests they’re wearing.
They usually wait in groups near the same shops and restaurants and corners of main streets during daytime.

Have a look at the following video about Motorcycle taxis by Tony from Thai-faq.com

Stay tuned for more upcoming posts about Bangkok and Thailand.

Getting around in Bangkok (1)

Bangkok traffic - Taxis
Bangkok traffic – Taxis

When you think about Bangkok and getting around in this big city, 2 things come into your mind.
“Tuk-tuks” and the dangerous moto-bikes.

But there are far more ways getting around in the city of angels known as Bangkok.

 

BTS Sky train

this is a train service that runs through many parts of the city.

Bangkok - Nana BTS station
Bangkok – Nana BTS station

It runs on tracks above the streets. The fares start at 10 baht for a single journey.  Take the stairs from street level to the station.

Go to a ticketing machine select the fare for your route and pay, receive your paper ticket, go through the fare gate.

Next take the stairs or escalator up to the trains. Board the train, get off and exit the station through the fare gate.

Day passes are also available for 150 baht. You can purchase them only at the ticket counters located at some stations.

There are currently 2 lines running through the city, you can use your ticket on all lines.

The government of Bangkok is still working on extending the existing ney network. E.g the trains don’t run to the northern districts yet.

MRT

Bangkok also has an underground/subway train service.

There’s an interchange with the BTS Sky train at the Asok BTS station. The MRT network is still very simple. There’s one line and it runs from the north to the south.The Bangkok goverment is still expanding the network.

Taxi

There are two different types in Bangkok. Taxis and metered taxis.

The metered taxis work like in most other countries. But you can also find taxis without meter. Then you have to know the price for they journey and know how to negotiate with the driver.
You can recognise the difference by searching for a sign on the roof of the car. As Thai people write things differently in english, look for “Taxi-meter”.
If you just want to get around, take a metered taxi. Please make sure that the driver starts the meter. Otherwise you may end on a jewellery and tailor shopping tour through the whole city. 😉

Bus

Bangkok traffic - Buses
Bangkok traffic – Buses

Getting around by bus can be a unique experience in Bangkok.

There are not only modern air-conditioned buses, you may see some of the older ones that look like, they’re from the 1960.

Get on the buses at bus stops that consist of signs with the buses’ numbers on them. Make sure you give a sign to the driver that you want to get on the bus.
Tickets are bought on board the buses. Show the driver you want to get off the bus by standing up approaching the doors.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 of Bangkok – Getting around, in which I write about more Bangkok styles of getting around.

Dark alleys of Chinatown – Singapore

Singapore Chinatown
Singapore Chinatown

Singapore has much more than just beautiful gardens and shopping arcades. Singapore has some dark secrets. One of the best places to learn about Singapore’s history and dark secrets is Chinatown.

If you can spare two hours on Friday nights, do a the Official Singapore walks tour starting right next to the MRT station ” Chinatown” (North East line).

A local will walk you through Chinatown and its surroundings. You will learn something about its past, taste some local cuisine and find some stuff you didn’t expect in Singapore.

 

Learn more on the official website.