Bangkok is a fascinating city, but my friends were surprised I loved it so much. They expected me to go crazy with all the single-use plastic and pollution everywhere. Of course, I didn’t like that side of Bangkok. But I found a few solutions to avoid polluting when I visited Bangkok for four days.

Some might say one visitor won’t make a difference. But Bangkok is the most visited city in the world (before Paris!), so even a low percentage of visitors trying to make a difference can have a bigger impact than anywhere else in the world. Here are a few ideas to limit your footprint during your visit to Bangkok.

Do you need a SIM card for you trip to Thailand? We find that when travelling abroad, nothing beats the ease of setting up and topping up an eSIM. It’s very convenient as you can plan ahead and don’t waste time during your trip visiting a shop. Plus, you can say goodbye to the anxiety of risking your precious home SIM card. We use Airalo* and have always been satisfied with their service. You can check your phone compatibility here*. Alternatively, if you want a cheaper plan or a physical SIM card, you can purchase a SIM card online* and pick it up at the airport; that’s what I did on my first trip to Thailand.

1. Take public transport or walk instead of taxis and tuktuk

Smog in Bangkok due to the air pollution

Air pollution was at a terrible spike when I visited. It made more sense than ever to use public transport.

I was surprised by the quality of the BTS Train. Clean, fast, on time, and with aircon to make it super comfortable. It is more expensive than a cab, but it may not be a terrible financial choice if you take it more than once and avoid single tickets.

Catching the boat was the most fun way to visit Bangkok. I enjoyed it more than the famous tuk-tuk. There’s no better way to beat the traffic. On the main river, the Chao Phraya River, you can hop-on-hop-off * easily using the tourist boats. Or you can add a bit more challenge using the same boats as the locals! You can easily get to the most famous sites in Bangkok.

Boat transport isn’t limited to the Chao Phraya river. I loved using it on the small canal behind my hotel (Ibis Siam*). I got to see a side of Bangkok I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Bangkok canal boat with skyscrapper in the background

2. Bring reusable items

Carry a reusable straw

Coconuts are delicious. But the way they served it was hard to drink without using a straw. And you don’t want to use a plastic straw every time you buy a coconut.

Bring your own bags

It’s hard to avoid single-use plastic in Bangkok. It’s not in their culture, so the effort has to come from you. Remember to always have a reusable bag with you to avoid using plastic bags.

Reuse cutlery and containers

I loved Bangkok street food, but it’s terrible for single-use plastic again. If you bring your own container or plate and your cutlery, locals may find you weird, but you’ll reduce the amount of single-use items.

3. Reduce your aircon use

Like anywhere else in the world, you can apply the usual green hotel tips in Bangkok: reusing your towels, turning off the lights, not asking for daily room cleaning… But in a hot city like Bangkok, you may overlook one important tip: reducing your aircon use.

In the hotel room or the cars I used in Bangkok, the aircon was always set on very cold. 23°C-25°C should be cold enough to be comfortable; there’s no need to have the aircon too low.

I’d always turn it off when I left for the day. I’d turn it back on first thing when I was back and by the time I’d shower, the room would already be cooler.

If you take the time to give feedback to your hotel about how you’d appreciate the aircon not being too cold, you may even have a bigger impact.

4. Buy water in a big container

6L water bottle from 7-Eleven

Unfortunately, you cannot drink tap water in Bangkok. I was also told that LifeStraw wouldn’t be appropriate and I should only drink bottled water. But I couldn’t accept buying many plastic bottles, especially in a country where plastic is a big issue.

Instead, I bought a 6L water bottle at the local 7-Eleven. I could refill my water bottles rather than use a few plastic bottles a day. My hotel (Ibis Siam*) also provided two glass water bottles in the fridge every day, so the 6L plastic bottle lasted for my entire stay.

The glass water bottles from the hotel weren’t ideal for carrying around during my visits because of the weight, but a great option for when I was in the room. I was told the hotel sends the glass bottles back to the provider for a refill, so make sure you keep them in the room once they’re empty.

5. Reduce food waste

Food waste has terrible impacts on the environment. According to the UN, if food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest GHG emitting country in the world. At home, I am careful not to waste food so it made sense to do the same in Bangkok, although it was more challenging.

In Thai restaurants, you usually order food for the entire table to share rather than ordering your own meal. It’s fantastic to try local food, but it’s also prone to ordering more than what we can eat. Keep this in mind when you’re in front of the menu. I never waited for too long for my meal to arrive, so you can always order more if needed.

Do you have tips to share to reduce your footprint while travelling? Share them in the comments below!

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