I moved to Bangkok in August of 2011. Moving overseas is a pretty overwhelming experience, especially for a 25-year-old who had never even been to Thailand (and who had eaten pad Thai only once), but I was ready. My move was made easier by good friends who had moved to Bangkok 6 months before, so I had someone who could answer my questions, like What should I bring? (My friend’s answer: a top sheet!, but don’t worry, readers, we have IKEA now.)
Now that I’m on the other side of that question, I’m ready to help with a series of blog posts for people moving to or new to Bangkok, starting with looking for a place to live. Let’s get to it!
1 Know your options. Foreigners in Bangkok usually live in condos or apartments. Yes, there are houses here, but foreigners, including families, generally stick to lower-maintenance homes.
The best thing about condos and apartments here is that they usually come furnished. Cheap studio apartments may only come with a bed and a closet, while more expensive apartments might come with a fridge and a TV. Condos generally come completely furnished.
I lived in an apartment my first few years here and when Worchihan and I got married, we moved into a condo. I think I found the apartment on the internet; when my friend took me to see it, I was grateful to discover that the woman at the front desk who showed me a room AND the manager/owner could both speak English. The location, close to my school and behind a major road, was perfect (except for the fact, as Worchihan pointed out after we met, that it was not on a bus route). The apartment had no pool, but the owner also owned a hotel at the end of the road which the residents of the apartment were allowed to use.
We found the condo when we were riding the bus around Worchihan’s office. We had already looked at two condo buildings, one based on a suggestion of one of Worchihan’s students, but we hadn’t liked them. We were a little intimidated walking into the lobby of the third condo building, but with my limited (very basic) Thai, the security guard manged to figure out what we wanted and showed us three available condos. When we chose the one we liked the most, she called the owner, only to find out the owner wanted to sell the condo, not rent it, but she graciously talked the owner into letting us rent it and we have enjoyed living here since then (especially because the our condo is on the same floor as the pool, which we consider to be our backyard).
I liked living in the apartment because I could just call down to the front desk whenever I had a problem. At our condo, the security guard can help us get things fixed, but when we need to contact the owner, who lives in another province, we have to go through the security guard.
The biggest difference between condos and apartments here, besides the fact that condos have individual owners while all the apartments in an apartment building are owned by one owner, is that condo developments can be huge while apartment buildings are generally much smaller. I’ve noticed a couple other differences. The electric bill was significantly higher at my apartment than it is at our condo. (Our typical monthly electric bill at the condo is 1,500 baht/$50; I remember once paying 3,000 baht/$100, and this was in a small studio apartment. I did hear rumors that the apartment owner doubled our electric bill amount and pocketed half of it.) At the apartment, I paid the water bill and the electric bill at the office; at the condo, we pay our water bill at the office and the electric bill at 7-11 (you can pay at the Metropolitan Electricity Authority to avoid the 10-baht fee 7-11 charges). A major difference? Apartments generally don’t have pools, while condos do.
Some new friends of ours recently moved to Bangkok and used an agent to find a place to live. I don’t think I even realized this was an option, but it seems like a very good idea, especially if you haven’t yet arrived in Bangkok.
2 Live close to your job. If you know anything about Bangkok, you might know about the traffic. In 2018, Bangkok’s congestion levels were ranked the 8th worst in the world. Being stuck in traffic on your way to work is not the best way to start your day, especially when you’re late because of the rain (yes, this is a common reason in Bangkok for being late) or because of an accident. And you don’t want to look back on the last 4 years of your life regretting all the time you spent in taxis.
3 Live close to the train. Whether this is the BTS (the skytrain) or the MRT (used to be the subway, but now has overground lines), live close to the train. The most important reason is of course the traffic, but there’s also convenience to consider. Most of Bangkok’s most popular malls (all of which have grocery stores) are right off the train stations; at certain stations, like Asoke BTS station, Siam BTS station and Phra Ram 9 MRT station, you can walk right into the mall from the station. Big C and Tesco Lotus, the 2 biggest grocery store chains in Thailand, are often right next to train stations. Some of Bangkok’s parks, including Lumphini Park and Chatuchak Park, are directly accessible from the train. We’ve also found that many of our friends live right at or within walking distance of the train.
4 Live close to the market. I had never been to the market until Worchihan and I got married because a) I didn’t cook and b) I didn’t know where the closest market was and c) I was intimidated by the market. It has since become one of my favorite things about living in Thailand. We (usually Worchihan) visit the market 2-3 times a week to pick up fresh vegetables, fruit and meat. We are offered way too many plastic bags, but we also get the best prices in Bangkok.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if you can offer any more advice. Next up: what to do after you move in.