Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bangkok hotels

There's a huge range of accommodation in Bangkok, and fortunately there's never any real problem getting a room at any time of year, whatever your budget. By international standards, room rates are generally very good value - ranging from the 50B (a little over 1US$) guesthouse dorm bed right up to The Oriental hotel, consistently voted as one of the best in the world. This is in part due to devaluation of the Baht in 1997 and it's continued weakness since, from which prices have never really recovered to their level beforehand.

For the majority of visitors to Bangkok, your budget will probably dictate the area where you stay. Banglamphu (Khao San Road) has many cheap rooms in the 100-300B range. For this you will generally get a basic small room with a fan with a shared bathroom. This is a very popular backpackers area, and the abundance of competition keeps prices fairly low. A slight step up for budget accommodation can be found in the Siam Square area. Sukhumvit road is another of Bangkok's big tourist districts, and has a very large range of hotels with rooms generally ranging from 700B up to about 2000B. Top end hotels are found all over the city, the very best (Oriental, Peninsula, Shangri-La, Royal Orchid Sheraton) tend to be located by the river, and around the Siam Square area.

Other than price, it's important to consider what you want to do while in Bangkok when chosing a location for a hotel. Bangkok's international reputation for pollution and congestion is not undeserved, and it's worth staying in the area where you want to spend most tim, as getting from one side of the city to the other can, to say the least, be a bit of a challenge. The relatively new skytrain connects the Silom, Siam Square and Sukhumvit road areas, and makes getting around here fairly painless - these are all good areas for shopping and nightlife, but with limited sightseeing opportunities. Many of the main tourist attractions (Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun) aren't on the skytrain line but in the Ko Rattanakosin district - depending on the traffic, it can take over a hour to reach here from Sukhumvit or Silom.

In Thai hotel terminology, a single room is one with one double bed, a double room has two. Therefore, it's perfectly normal for a couple to check into a single room. Prices are generally the same whichever you ask for, or only very slightly more expensive for a double. An additional charge that may apply is the 'joiner fee' that is levied by some hotels to try and prevent any 'guests' joining you in your room overnight. Another price that has to be paid is the 7% tax in that all accommodation in Thailand is subject to. The cheaper guesthouses will incorporate this into the price (or just not pay it at all), but for most of the 3* or better hotels this will be added to your bill on top of the rate you're quoted. On top of this, an 8% - 10% service charge is often levied also (If you see prices quoted elsewhere as 2000B++, that is what the ++ means). This is well worth bearing in mind when considering hotels, as obviously it can make a substantial difference to the total cost. It's also an important thing to ask any travel agent booking rooms for you, as some don't mention to try and make their prices sound lower while others quote all-inclusive prices.