Bangkok might not be as tech-forward as some of its Southeast Asian counterparts such as Singapore, but there’s no denying apps are increasingly making life in the Thai capital more convenient. From getting around the city’s tourist attractions, restaurants and bars, to hailing a ride home after a heavy night and ordering in killer Thai food to satisfy midnight cravings, these are the apps you need for smooth living in Bangkok.
Now Uber has exited the Southeast Asian market, the only remaining mainstream option of its kind is Grab (iOS/Android). This Singapore-based app offers many of the same options as its former competitor, and can prove essential in a city where hailing a metered taxi can be a real headache. Grab offers regular GrabCars, metered GrabTaxis, or whichever of the two comes quickest using JustGrab – plus premium GrabCar Plus rides, passenger motorbike taxis with GrabBike, and its GrabExpress courier service. Extra-large vehicles are also available for advance booking. Pay by card or with cash, and keep an eye out for the frequent discount codes doing the rounds. Alternatives include AllThaiTaxi (iOS only) and the chat app spin-off LineTaxi, built into Line Man (iOS/Android).
Don’t expect Bangkok’s public transport operators to have the sophisticated all-in-one apps you find in other cities. There’s nothing official at all for the BTS Skytrain, but the Bangkok MRT app (iOS/Android) comes close with a searchable route map, station information, and fare calculator. A better bet are unofficial apps like Next Station (iOS/Android), which has a Google Maps-powered route planner that quickly shows you the nearest Skytrain, subway, Airport Rail Link or BRT bus line station to your current location and your destination, and then also lets you manually check the fare for that journey.
Bangkok’s food delivery app market is a competitive one, but FoodPanda (iOS/Android) is pretty much still the main player. The app features a wide variety of restaurants and cuisines, many offering delivery in 40 minutes or less, and step-by-step order tracking – though this isn’t always reliable, and unexpected delays (especially during heavy rainstorms and busy periods) aren’t uncommon or always well communicated. Look out for promos like free delivery and free gifts. Other choices include GrabFood (provided through the main Grab app – iOS/Android) and Line Man (iOS/Android), which tend to offer more affordable street food options than FoodPanda. Line Man can also pick up items from convenience stores like 7/11 but, for both these and restaurants, menus are often crowd-sourced and incomplete, so it helps to be familiar with the place and know what you want.
Finally, if you would prefer to head to a restaurant yourself, Wongnai (iOS/Android) is probably Bangkok’s most trusted listings and recommendations app – with a particular focus on food – while Chope (iOS/Android) can help you make reservations for some of Bangkok’s hottest restaurants all in one place.
If you’re still adjusting to how much that 30-baht noodle soup costs in back-home-money, real-time currency conversion app XE (iOS/Android) lets you make the calculation on the fly. When it comes to moving money to Thailand from overseas, TransferWise (iOS/Android) can save you a fortune on fees compared to conventional bank transfers (it’s just a pity they don’t currently support transfers from Thailand to other countries). And for converting cash, SuperRich (iOS/Android) offers some of Bangkok’s most competitive rates – the app doesn’t let you make the conversion online, but you can at least check how much you’ll get and locate your nearest branch before you visit them in person. Finally, it’s worth making use of your Thai bank’s app, since mobile-number-powered PromptPay transfers are becoming more widespread as a conveniently cashless way of paying market vendors, restaurants, taxi drivers, and so on (and the fees are almost always lower than for regular bank transfers – in fact, they are usually free).
Amazon expanding its operations to Thailand would bring joy to many a Bangkok resident (though they still deliver many items from their overseas stores). Until that happens, Lazada (iOS/Android) is as close as local equivalents come, stocking a wide range of electronics, homewares and clothing sold by the company itself and by third-party marketplace retailers.
Whether you’re moving into or out of your home, or simply bought more stuff at IKEA than you can carry back yourself, Deliveree (iOS/Android) is a useful kind of Uber for pick-up trucks and bigger vans. Similarly, Seekster (iOS/Android) can set you up with local tradespeople for jobs like furniture assembly and air-con cleaning. Your phone’s built-in weather app is probably all you really need but, in a city as permanently hot and sticky as Bangkok, HumorCast (iOS/Android) comes out with some pretty hilarious and social-share-worthy alternative weather forecasts. And when it comes to getting to grip with the local lingo, Google Translate (iOS/Android) might not be as accurate with Thai script as it can be with Latin script (make use of the audio read-out of the translation and, for best results, translate word-by-word rather than in whole sentences), but it can still be helpful.