Expat Exchange
Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Sep 05, 2022

Summary: Expats and digital nomads love Bangkok. The low cost of living (depending upon your lifestyle), tropical climate, vibrant city life and friendly people make it popular destination. They offer an insider's view of day-t0-day life in this amazing city.

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What do I need to know before moving to Bangkok?

Live in Bangkok? Answer this Question

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Bangkok, they said:

"If you need to be around other expats, this may not be the place for you. If you are OK with living in a Thai building, which on the outside does not look that great, this may not be for you. We have a pool, gym and plenty of resturants and bars to choose from, but most do not speak English. As for transportation this is a great neighborhood for cabs and soon the BTS line to the airport and back to the city. We did live in Tong Lor for awhile, which has plenty of expat's around but the rent is going to set you back about 18,000-as high as you want to go. Villa Market is close by, which has just about everything you may want from the west. For me I prefer a bit away from the center of the city, where the people are really friendly, and if you have the need, grab a cab or in our case soon the BTS. If you have kids, be concerned with the schools and you find the best closer into the city center. If you are just a couple, have some adventure and get outside the city center and you will also save a lot of precious resources," added another expat in Bangkok.

"Best advice I can give is to talk to other expats who have lived here. Talk to as many as you can because they all have different opinions, but some things come through the same. Talk to Orientations too because it's their business and they know what they are doing. Traffic and flooding can be a problem and the real estate agents will not tell you coz they just want the commission from the lease contract. Better to talk to people like Orientations," remarked another expat who made the move to Bangkok.

"If you are about to relocate to Bangkok, try to stay close to the skytrain or subway route; silom, sukhumvit or lansuan area are nice. To find home, you can start your own search at www.roommillion.com and send the enquiry to them," explained one expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

How do I find a place to live in Bangkok?

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We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"My Thai partner found the condo that we purchased 4 years ago. It's away from the city center on Pattanakarn Road. The new BTS line to the airport is about 1/2 km from the condo and hopefully it will open sometime (Tahi-time) means it will get done. Lot's of vendor's on the street which is good when we are lazy, which is often. Plenty of cabs on the road, which was a factor," explained one expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

"My employer has a contract with a company called Orientations (www.orientations.com) they met with us before we left and told us about Bangkok and then the Bangkok branch manager (an expat) met us in Thailand and showed us around the city. They took us to see houses and apartments and because they are not real estate agents they were able to give unbiased professional advice on where to live," said another expat in Bangkok.

"I did lots of online searching and I found a pretty helpful website; www.roommillion.com and www.click4apartment.com - you can check it out. I had experienced inspection property with RoomMillion's staffs, they are so friendly and professional," added another expat who made the move to Bangkok.

What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Bangkok?

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"We lived in a condo, which is actually 2 condo's. I'm from the US and my partner is Thai. It looks like a typical Thai condo building, but when you walk inside you would swear you were in Europe. Not my choice, but my partner "Martha Stewart" (Thai version) decorated and I left him to it. There are only a few expats in the neighborhood. Rarely do I ever run into them," mentioned another expat in Bangkok.

"We first moved in to a serviced apartment that was arranged for us by Orientations, It was much cheaper than a hotel and we could cook our own food if we wanted. This was great for the kids. While we were there, Orientations arranged for us to see some houses and apartments. The expat manager came with us and he told us the places that flooded or got jammed up with traffic. It was pretty good because he has been here for years and knows the city well," commented one expat who made the move to Bangkok.

"Once I arrived Bangkok, my company reserved a serviced apartment in Silom (cannot remember the name). And I signed contract 1 year after that in Condominium which is cheaper, RoomMillion can arrange the maid cleaning for you if you want," remarked another expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

What is the average cost of housing in Bangkok?

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If you are thinking about moving to Bangkok, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"Costs are much lower. We purchased our place 4 years ago for about $35,000 USD. We did some renovation to the unit, like new lighting, put a stove top in and painted. A guy from Singapore owned it before, so we already had German marble floors. In Chicago where I am from you could get a garage with no heat for that price??? You can rent some of the units here for around 5,000 to 6,000 TB per month, plus utilities, which could be another 2,000-3,000 bhat per month if you have AC, cable, internet etc. I think that with electric, water, cable, internet, telephone, and condo fee, we probably pay about 4,000-5,000 for both units. So for about $150-$200 you get all the comforts of home. We do have upgraded cable with internationl programming, broadband internet for faster access, but we run the AC only at night, as you get use to the heat. Food is cheap on the street, but there are markets within 1-2km, which are reasonable as compared to western costs, except if you want western things. Then you pay! Go Thai and save a bundle and don't buy prepared foods from the west," commented one expat who made the move to Bangkok.

"Housing costs are higher here, but we live very close to the city so I guess if we were living that close to the city at home it might be the same. Some apartments charge more than the normal rate for electricity and water and with air conditioning on it can start to get expensive. The Orientations guy told us about that and found us a place that does not charge extra," remarked another expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

What should I bring when moving to Bangkok?

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People living in Bangkok were asked what three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They wrote:

"As I have transitioned here over a 6 year period of time, I think I have what I need. I did go to Australia a few weeks back and picked up olive oil, peanut butter, and pepperoni. You can find them here at Villa and actually at Tesco, but they are expensive. I really do not need long-sleeve shirts, the 6 pairs of shoes that I brought over in the past few years, and the need for sport jackets," explained one expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

"Wish I had brought: more cash, educational certificates, some winter clothes Should not have brought: household appliances, blankets, Kids :)," said another expat in Bangkok.

"Brought 1)Passport 2)Wallet 3)Mobile Phone Left 1)Notebook 2)Pressure 3)Girlfriend," added another expat who made the move to Bangkok.

What do expats in Bangkok appreciate most about the local culture?

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"Few busybodies, do-gooders and bleeding hearts interfering in the lives of other people. Respect for elders," mentioned another expat in Bangkok.

"I've learned to go with the flow (Mai Penh Rai). I don't get upset much, pretty even keeled. After years running NGO's I left most of my stress at the door of my last job. I even lived through a TRUE (internet and telephone) mess, and they were very patient with me. In the US they called me the hammer, now I am the pussycat," commented one expat who made the move to Bangkok.

"I have come to learn that the Thais are a very forgiving people and that they will always deal with problems in a non confrontational and conciliatory way. But perhaps the thing I notice most is the Thai smile and of course the food :)," remarked another expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

"There are few Thai who go running around telling other people what they should do, unlike the USA. The Thai do not interfere in the lives of others without a very good reason. The Thai are patient, fun loving, and tolerant, show respect for other people and especially for elders, and love their freedom," added another expat in Bangkok.

What do expats find most challenging?

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"I didn't find anything particularly challenging, but I made up my mind that I would study the culture, behavioral characteristics to try and understand the differences, and there are many," said another expat in Bangkok.

"Keeping my head up high, knowing that everyone judges me purely on my appearances, and knowing that just because I am dark skinned, they truly believe that I am not good enough and I am insignificant," added another expat who made the move to Bangkok.

"Struggle with language!!! Reading a menu that I can't read. I live in a 99.9% Thai area and have to rely on pointing and the basic language skills I am developing. If the taxi goes off the normal route on a dark, rainy night, I have no idea where I am, or where I am going. (I can share my ride during curfew, if anyone is interested, it's funny in the end)," explained one expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

"From a business perspective the most challenging aspect of Thai culture is the apparent lack of a sense of urgency. There is a Thai saying "mai pen rai" which loosely translated means something more than "it's ok, no problem". This relaxed and laid back attitude is perhaps the best and worst of the Thai culture," mentioned another in Bangkok.

"Learning to write was challenging, because I had to get a tutor to get me started," explained one expat who made the move to Bangkok.

What are the schools in Bangkok like?

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"When I found Glory Singapore International School all I wanted is a school that is near our house but I found a partner instead. Their approach to each student is sincere and the action they does reflects to the whole system-Faculty, students as well as all the people who work in the school. The school's curriculum will certainly help my daughter develop a competitive edge which can help her achieve more in the future. One more thing, no need to worry about kids picking on yours because the school promotes values and hard tasks are given as challenges that inspires kids. Curriculum is not easy but the school inspires kids and parents alike to succeed," explained one expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

"The school is amazing and you can really get the best out of it if your child is willing to study hard. The school's achievement rate is significantly higher than other international schools in bangkok, with many students receiving Top in the World and Top in Thailand prizes in their iGCSE and A-Level examinations. O," said another parent with children at Shrewsbury International School in Bangkok.

"I think this is an excellent school for the early years if you want to instill the love of learning in your child. Just make sure you know the theme of the month and also read up on it to keep up. My four year old came home one day and told me, "Do you know, mummy, we should not buy a car as they make black smoke and make Mother Earth sick. Also if we buy lots of toys, factories will make more, and make our earth hot and the ice will become water, and the polar bear have no place to live."," commented one expat when asked about Modern Montessori International Preschool in Bangkok.

"I would look carefully at the British school Bangkok Patana and the more American school ISB. Both have much more experienced and wiser heads and are not run by a Thai board of governors. NIST is no longer as international in outlook as it was, increasing Thai student numbers and there are rumours that one of the leading Board members wants to buy the school. The lower end of the school has much better leadership than the middle and high school section which lacks credibility amongst most of the parents," explained one expat in Bangkok, Thailand with kids at NIST International School.

"I was happy at first, my daughter was very happy. It's small, friendly staff, nice children and a decent education. What I notices is that there is no staff retention. I liked my daughter's teachers last year, but neither of them are back this year, actually, there are hardly any familiar faces in the teaching staff. It also seems that what was part of the school is now an apartment. Not sure what that means for the school. It's a good thing we're heading back to the UK," wrote an expat living in Bangkok with children attending British School of Bangkok - aka Topsy Turvy International School.

"The school is excellent, especially given the fee structure which is much lower than in other schools. However you need not to be prejudiced against Asian culture. Because the schools accepts so many Japanese students in Kindergarten, it lowers the general level of English spoken. On the other hand, the academic level is very high. My daughter was able to read/write fluent in K2. Teachers are very dedicated and seem to love their work. I recommend that school," said one commented one expat when asked about Wells International School in Bangkok.

What are the pros and cons of living in Bangkok?

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Expats, digital nomads and retirees living in Bangkok responded:

"Bureaucracy is a real problem especially in dealing with Thai Immigration. The rules seem to change depending on which official you are dealing with," commented one expat who moved to Bangkok.

"Oh my, I love the food, the hot and spicy from a different dish. How easy to get by with their street food vendors. One of the best secrets we had about finding an authentic dish or a local signature dish is street food vendors. When it comes to getting cash from ATM machines was never been a problem, from anywhere where you can find 7-11 stores and gasoline stations, you can find ATM machines, some have ATM deposit machines, some will have only for withdrawal services. ," said another expat.

"The more patience you have, the better the experience will be. Also, learn how to navigate the local train system and try the bus system as well," commented one expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

"Thailand/Bangkok is a very nice place to live for an Expat. The cost of living is fairly low and living here is very easy. English is widely spoken (although speaking Thai is a help). Various levels/costs of accommodation are available dependent on how much you want to pay and where you want to live. The healthcare service is probably better than the UK with more up to date equipment and techniques although it is fairly expensive if you do not have insurance. Dental care is first rate and cheaper than the UK for significant interventions like implants. Finding sports/social activities is somewhat difficult as you don't necessarily know where to look. Facebook is a good start and most clubs/activities are listed somewhere on Facebook if you can only find them. It is a bit hit and miss but slowly you can identify relevant activities. Local travel in Thailand is extremely easy and relatively cheap, especially with the tourist industry effectively closed down because of COVID. Hotel prices are very cheap and it is easy to travel because there currently are no tourists - it is a very good time to explore the country. Also Thailand has managed the COVID pandemic very effectively (if economically brutally) and so in country travel is encouraged and welcomed," remarked another expat living in Bangkok.

What type of social life can someone expect in Bangkok?

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When we asked expats and global nomads about their social experiences in Bangkok, they replied:

"A foreigner will never be completely accepted outside their circle of acquaintances," added one expat living in Bangkok.

"Living in the city of Bangkok makes your lifestyle ease in terms of transportation which accessible," commented one expat who moved to Bangkok.

"Be open to meeting new people, but no need to rush into friendships. There are a fair number of crazies out there and those suspect motives," added one expat living in Bangkok.

What are medical services in Bangkok like?

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When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Bangkok, they replied:

"The healthcare front liners and the facility from private hospitals and government hospitals are very accommodating when it comes to immediate needs. The country's tagline "Amazing Thailand" speaks for itself," commented one expat living in Bangkok, Thailand.

Is the cost of living in Bangkok high?

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We asked people about the cost of living in Bangkok, they wrote:

"I currently rent a nice 2 bedroom condo right off the BTS line. My rent, phone, internet, cable and electricity comes to about $900USD and so with food and transportation I live very nicely for around $1300.00USD," mentioned another expat inBangkok.

What are the visa & residency requirements in Bangkok?

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"I am on a retirement visa for 1 year with extensions. Thailand rules change each year but with my visa I only need to check in with immigration every 90 days and do not have to make a border run," remarked another expat in Bangkok.

Why do people move to Bangkok?

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When we asked people why foreigners move to Bangkok, they responded:

"Bangkok is thriving, exciting city of 9 million with a low cost of living and no cold weather! It is also a hub for Asia with inexpensive flights almost anywhere," added one expat living in Bangkok.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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