- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Bangkok Guide (PDF)
Bangkok is a vibrant city, full of life. From the fascinating culture to the friendly people, living in the Thai capital is an enriching experience. However, as with any city, there are pros and cons to moving to Bangkok.
Accommodation in Bangkok
+ PRO: Something to suit every budget
Bangkok has accommodation to suit every budget. At a mid-range level, there are apartments, condominiums and houses that offer the opportunity to live within a Thai community and are conveniently close to the transport links. These areas also have easy access to restaurants, shopping and all that Bangkok has to offer.
- CON: High deposits
Although Thailand has a reputation for being cheap, this does not apply to the mid- to high-range options of accommodation where one is expected to pay as much as three months’ rent upfront. Of this, one months' rent is for the first month of occupation and the remaining two months' worth of rent is kept as the deposit. At the end of the lease agreement, the cost of any damage to the property is deducted from the deposit before the remainder is returned. Some landlords may try to take advantage of foreigners who aren't familiar with the rental system, so it's a good idea to enlist the help of a good agent to negotiate and speak to the landlord during tenancy.
Cost of living in Bangkok
+ PRO: Possible to live very cheaply
Expats often find that things such as electrical goods, entertainment, living and eating expenses are far less expensive in Thailand than in their home country. There are restaurants to suit every budget and the many street stalls make it possible to enjoy authentic Thai food at a very low price.
- CON: High price of alcohol
With unfavourable currency conversions and tax added to the price of imported wine, getting a decent bottle without paying a hefty price can be a challenge, even when buying from a supermarket. However, if you ask around among the locals, you may be able to scout out a few places to get wine at a slightly better price. Buying other imported goods such as western food or ‘home comforts’ can also become very expensive.
Culture in Bangkok
+ PRO: Rich and vibrant culture
Thailand’s culture is a rich experience for all of the senses, much like Bangkok itself. Among the rising steel and glass structures of shopping malls, hotels and offices, expats will find temples, revered Buddha images and Spirit Houses with offerings piled high, jasmine garlands aplenty and incense burning day and night. Slowly but surely, expats will also gain an understanding of this country’s great respect and admiration for their King and royal family. Thai people are generally very welcoming of foreigners visiting and living in their country, so respect for their cultures and traditions will go a long way.
- CON: Saving face
If another person becomes angry, demanding, or rude in public towards a Thai person, locals will go to great lengths to ‘save face’. No matter what emotions may be felt, they are not displayed or demonstrated in a negative manner towards another person. This can be difficult for Western expats used to using these tactics to demand better service or respect. This is a very important part of Thai culture that has great significance on how an expat will be treated. Keeping calm and remaining polite are better ways to deal with conflict.
Healthcare in Bangkok
+ PRO: Inexpensive and high quality
Visiting a hospital or dentist in Bangkok is like walking through the doors of an expensive hotel without dreading the bill afterwards. Most hospitals are very easy to get to and staff often treat foreigners, so a high level of English can be expected. After registering, the patient will be seen to very quickly with the relevant tests undertaken in a timely and efficient manner. Securing a consultation with a specialist doctor is also relatively easy.
- CON: Unnecessary tests
Whilst a visit to the hospital or dentist may not be expensive, it's common to hear about patients being sent for unnecessary tests, only to end up with a simple diagnosis such as the flu or a virus - with the result of excessive costs. While a person's health shouldn't be put at risk for fear of being taken advantage of, it is something to be aware of.
Transport in Bangkok
+ PRO: Cheap and a large variety
Transport is cheap, with taxis' fare dependent on the traffic and the distance driven with the meter on. Often the thought of using public transport can be a bit daunting at first, but expats should make an effort to get acquainted with Bangkok's public transport, as it is very good.
There’s a BTS, often referred to as the Skytrain because it runs above all the traffic on the roads, as well as the MRT or underground, not to mention buses, tuk-tuks, taxis, and motorbike taxis. The BTS and MRT are air-conditioned, a welcome relief on hot days, and the two are linked at certain stations. Getting around Bangkok is both affordable and in many instances efficient and clean.
- CON: Traffic jams
It is well-known that dealing with heavy traffic is a consequence of living in Bangkok, but it doesn’t mean that travelling around the city is as difficult and laborious as one may be led to believe. There are many great options for avoiding the traffic, which generally requires thinking ahead and planning journeys accordingly.
Expats should be careful when using taxis and tuk-tuks as they sometimes try to take advantage of foreigners by charging exorbitant fares. Always make sure the meter is on when using a taxi and if the driver refuses, get out and find another one. With tuk-tuks, expats should aim to pay about a third of what the driver first asks for.
Shopping in Bangkok
+ PRO: Variety of experiences
There is an endless variety of shopping experiences all over the city which cater to all sorts of budgets. These are easily accessed via public transport and are open 24/7. The city's many markets are perfect those who are looking for a bargain and like to barter, while in the high-end shopping malls just about anything can be bought.
- CON: Small clothing sizes
The small sizes in Thai shops can be a nightmare for a lot of Western women. It's not uncommon to have to endure the unpleasant experience of a salesperson trying stretch a garment to its full capacity to demonstrate that it will fit or being told that the size one would like to try on is not going to be big enough.
However, with the introduction of more Western high-street brands offering more European sizes at affordable prices, being able to find the right size is becoming easier.
►Have a look at See and do in Bangkok for information on a range of activities to keep you busy in the city.
Are you an expat living in Bangkok?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Bangkok. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Originally from the UK, Samantha Pryor is a Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist who relocated to Bangkok, Thailand, in November 2010. As an expat Samantha recognises the issues encountered when relocating, how the experience of another culture and language can be daunting whilst coping with the loss of a valued support system and dealing with problems that haven’t gone away just because you’ve moved continents!
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