Bangkok, Thailand is the most visited city in the entire world, receiving about 23 million visitors per year. But in addition to attracting tourists, it is also appealing to expats who come to Bangkok to start a new life. But is Bangkok a place where you could live? In this article we will discuss the features of Bangkok to help you decide if it’s the right place for you.
(Click this link if you would prefer to watch a video with the same information: Bangkok Thailand)
The Size Of Bangkok
The first thing you need to understand about living in Bangkok is the enormous size of this city. There are over 18 million people living in Bangkok’s urban area. That’s more than double that of Kuala Lumpur and triple that of Singapore. But, so what? What does that mean for the quality of life here? Well, I’ll explain how this impacts transportation and cost of living and the like later in this article, so keep reading. But the point is, if you love the atmosphere and pace of life in a big city, then you could live in Bangkok and really thrive here.
The food culture in Bangkok is centered around street food. You can’t walk more than a few steps down a busy street without coming across a friendly vendor selling something delicious. You can find everything from light snacks, dessert type items, internatinonal food, or a monster sized full meal if that’s what you stomach happens to be desiring. Eating street food is a way of life here. Even the office workers will eat food from a street vendor on their lunch break. So, we think you could live in Bangkok if you enjoy the street food scene. Just be careful not to over do it (that’s our problem, we abandon any attempt to control our calorie intake when eating street food in Bangkok).
There was no mass trasit trains in the city the first time I came to Bangkok in 1994. But on our second visit to Bangkok in 2019, the number of train lines exploded out of nothing. And now on our third visit, the expansion has continued. And it is still growing to more and more parts of the city every year. One minor annoyance about the transit trains is that some lines are part of the MRT system and some part of the BTS system. And they don’t always play well together. For example, as of now, the MRT system uses plastic tokens that you buy from the machines, while the BTS system uses transit cards. You can’t use tokens on the BTS system and can’t use the cards on the MRT system. However the ability to tap and go with a credit card is expanding. And if your destinations are somewhere on one of the rivers, you might be able to take a water taxi. These are a very pleasant way to get to wherever you’re trying to go. When it comes to using regular car taxis to get around Bangkok, we think there are better options. The reason for this is the traffic. It can be horrendous. So if you stick to the transit system instead, then we think you could definitely live in Bangkok and have all your transit needs met.
There is no shortage of activities in Bangkok, and many of these activities are a great way to get aquanted with Thai history and culture. The Grand Palace is one of those must-do activities whether you’re just visiting Bangkok or if you are living here full-time. This is a magnificent complex of ceremonial buildings, villas, temples, gardens, and courtyards. And not too far away from The Grand Palace you will find another must-do activity, and that’s a visit to the enormous reclining Buddha at the temple complex called Wat Pho. You could spend hours here wandering around and through the different temples. Another activity includes a visit to the Jim Thompson house. He is the founder of the Thai Silk Company and a man who had an extensive art collection, which is on display here at the house. And one of our personal favorite activies is visiting the parks in the city. You need to take advantage of these parks if you come to live in Bangkok. One of the best parks, we think is Lumphini park, with numerous lakes and walking trails. So we think you could live in Bangkok if having access to a large number of activities is important to you. You won’t have to worry about getting bored or running out of things to do here.
The Cost Of Living
Okay, the all important cost of living: like most cities there can be a big difference in housing costs based on neighborhood. On one trip to Bangkok we stayed for a month in the Nonthaburi neighborhood, and it was definitely a less expensive part of the city. But it also took over an hour to get to the central part of Bangkok on the trains. The apartment would only cost around US$400 if rented on a one year lease. But it’s a tiny apartment, probably around 500 square feet. That’s all the space we needed for our one month stay, but if we were living in Bangkok full-time then I think we would have wanted something a little bigger. If you took this exact apartment and moved it on the map over to central Bangkok, expect the price to jump up a couple of hundred dollars. You definitely pay for location, no doubt about that. Food costs both for groceries and for eating out is quite reasonable, say under US$2 for a meal you cook at home or eat at a street food stall. A ride on the metro can range from US$0.50 up to over US$1. Overall, we think we would spend a total of something in the US$1200 to $1600 range per month living in Bangkok (in the lower end of that range if living toward the edges of the city and the higher end living in the city center). And of course our lifestyle will cost different than yours. So we think you could live in Bangkok if you are looking for a reasonably priced place to live considering the size of the city.
Here are just a few more things you should briefly know about Bangkok:
You won’t want to live in Bangkok if you don’t tolerate heat and humidity. January is the coldest month with an average high temperature of 33°C (91°F). April is the hottest month with an average high temperature of 36°C (97°F).
Bangkok is generally safe. Most crime is petty, such as somebody taking your phone if you were to accidentally leave it sitting on a park bench and then you walk away. Even then, you are probably more likely to have your phone returned to you than to have it stolen.
Don’t consider living in Bangkok if you are sensitive to air pollution. There are days when the skies are clear, but also plenty of days when the air quality is low.
If you feel you need to live in a city where English is widely spoken, then you could live in Bangkok. It’s not perfect, but many of the people you interact with do speak basic English. (And that’s good because learning the Thai language is difficult).
There are plenty of markets and shopping malls to find whatever you need. The Chatuchak Market is the biggest market in the world. You can find anything you need here. Shoes, hats, cowboy apparel, genie lamps, chicken incubators, rubber chickens, fried chicken, and much more.
The Expat Community
If having a large social network with people from your home country is important, then Bangkok might be the place for you. There are many expats from all over the world here.
If you need to be near an airport with flights to all over the world, look no further.
Stay tuned. In a future post I’ll be discussing health care, internet speeds, and immigration procedures in Thailand.
So there you have it. Those are all of the reasons why we think you could live in Bangkok, as well as a few reasons you might want to give Bangkok a pass. But what about us? Could we live here? I think we could. Bangkok has a lot going for it. We love the transportation and the reasonable cost of living. However, for us personally, the hot weather is the main drawback. We’ll be sticking to our new home in Turkey for now, but Bangkok is definitely a candidate for a home in the future.
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