What to Think About Before Moving to Bangkok?
There is no doubt Thailand is becoming a popular choice for foreigners to move to. Particularly to the capital city of Bangkok. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Certain neighborhoods around my area have a lot more foreigners moving in.
But before making that all important final decision on packing up and moving to Bangkok for short term or long terms you probably still have a lot of questions.
Is Bangkok still cheap and affordable? Is it safe to live in? And most importantly is Bangkok the ideal place for you to move into to make a living?
I’ll delve into all of that and hopefully I can give an answer that is to your satisfaction. So I’ve broken up all the important bits into sections for easy reading. And I’ll add a bit of info on my life in Thailand. You can skip all of the about me info of course and get right to the nitty gritty on living in Bangkok.
But First a Little Background from Yours Truly
I wrote a post on what’s it like living in Bangkok 3 years ago here. There are small and big changes in certain aspects of life in Bangkok. Which is natural of course.
Now I am an avid blog reader of other digital nomads, transiting and based in Bangkok. And everyone has their own perspective. Some aren’t so happy living in Thailand. But much more love it.
Me, I’m a semi-retired New Yorker in my early 40’s. Hmm… What else has changed in my life? Oh, I got married back in 2014 to a wonderful Thai lady. And that’s the biggest change in my life on this side of the planet.
Do I enjoy living in Thailand? I’m somewhere in the middle but tending more towards I do like living here. There are certain aspects of living in Thailand, particularly in Bangkok that I like. And certain aspects about life here that makes me want to punch a hole in the wall.
I’m still Chinese-American though. So that hasn’t changed. Like I mentioned in my old post about what it’s like to live in Bangkok, there really isn’t much of a culture shock to me. Food and culture between the Thai and Chinese although unique, share many similar qualities. Like taking off shoes while visiting peoples’ homes which is the same in almost every Asian culture.
Finally, this post will give you a glimpse of what it’s like to live in Bangkok from my perspective. My lifestyle and my income level. So it could be totally different from what you would expect.
Cost of Living in Bangkok
As of writing the exchange rate is $1USD to 34.60THB. Three years ago when I wrote a post of living in Bangkok a $1USD got you a 30.30THB exchange rate.
Earlier on in this year, a US dollar was slightly even more strong hovering above the 36THB barrier. Believe me I was rooting and cheering on for the dollar to break that barrier. But since then has gone back down.
One of the primary reasons why one would choose to travel around Thailand or plan on retiring here is the stronger exchange rate.
But believe me when I tell you that today, living in Bangkok could be just as expensive as NYC. That is unless you can go completely native and live like a local. Which many do.
One way to go native is to rent a basic apartment. Renting a condo could cost a bit more but not by much and depends on location. Both are very affordable and will certainly surprise many in terms of quality.
Apartments and Condos in Bangkok
Currently I live in a condo that we purchased right before I got married. That was a few years ago. Before that I was living at an apartment building for about 3 years. I still keep in touch with the owner of the apartment building because we’ve become good friends.
You’re going to be surprised that housing won’t be the most expensive factor in your budget. Rental prices for units, whether apartments or condos have not increased. Matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard of rent increases ever.
When I used to live in my friend’s apartment building the rent was 8000THB per month based on a 6 month rental lease. The longer you sign the lease you can get slightly reduced monthly rental rate. With electricity and water my total rent bill came out to 95ooTHB. There’s basic television and internet Wi-Fi. Included is a room with very basic fitness equipment. There’s round the clock security and key card for residents only access. Not bad at all for a total of $275USD a month for a 30 square meter studio.
Guess what? You can find an apartment for rent for 3000THB. These apartments are older and may not be in the best shape or condition. Or it can be located further deep inside a neighborhood. And they might not have air condition or even hot water.
The hot water maybe you can do without. But I highly recommend you find an apartment that has an air conditioner.
Areas in Bangkok with Reasonable Rent
- Lad Prao
- Huay Kwang
Those three areas in Bangkok have MRT subway stations nearby. And you won’t have any problem finding nice affordable apartments with a little bit of walking distance.
It’s a smart idea to find a place to live in Bangkok close to a supermarket. Whether in walking distance or a short motor taxi ride to get to one.
Nearly every block in Bangkok though has a 7 Eleven convenience store or similar type shop selling cold drinks, packaged foods and house hold necessities.
Shopping for Groceries
Now that you’ve learned rentals in Bangkok are not expensive, you’re going to find out that shopping for groceries could make up the bulk of your expenses.
Now I’m basing this fact on myself. As I mentioned I have not gone totally native just yet. I still enjoy a ham sandwich with all the fixings which is not cheap in Thailand compared to the USA. Check out my post on making a sandwich in Thailand. Buying a small sandwich at a store in Thailand still ain’t cheap and making it home is cheaper but not by much.
Dairy products in Thailand is still expensive. Milk is affordable. However, butter and cheese prices are insane. 4 squares of good quality cheese slices can cost you $1USD a slice. Though organic eggs are reasonably price here in Thailand.
Despite the cost of groceries, if you really want to save a lot of cash you can really save a lot by eating Thai food sold on the streets of Bangkok.
Eating Out in Bangkok
Food is my favorite subject. Just recently there is a foreign food craze taking over the city. Many fine eateries are popping up all over. It’s not cheap. But it’s not exactly expensive either by my NYC restaurant standards.
Food trucks are also showing up though believe it or not most of the food trucks out in Bangkok serve gourmet styled international food.
You can save a lot of money by eating out on the street. Usually you’ll find a cart selling noodles or rice dishes cooked to order near apartments and condos. You’ll save the most money eating on the streets like most Thai do. Usually a bowl of noodles or a rice dish cost between 30THB to 45THB depending on the hawker stands location.
But there are also many bigger local restaurants popping up all central Bangkok serving top notch Western sized meals with reasonable prices. Jones the Grocer, Dean and DeLuca and Tim Ho Wan have their shoes in Bangkok now. Even celebrity Brit Chef Jaime Oliver is planning on opening up an Italian restaurant by end of this year.
But there are also local Thai restaurants keying in on Thais voracious appetite like this Thai owned BBQ and Seafood Buffet restaurant my wife and I enjoy so much. But the fact remains, very popular cheap hawker type eatery in Huai Kwang neighborhood will always be super popular with local Thai working class.
Safety Issues in Bangkok
Like any major city in most countries there’s always going to be crime. Of the 10 years I’ve been traveling back and forth and staying most of the year in Thailand I’ve never been robbed, beaten or stabbed.
But you will see and hear a lot of horrible stuff that happens all over the country, maybe on the local news or Facebook groups centered on Thai news.
To me, as a guy, it’s still safe to take a walk out and use taxis alone at night. For women, it’s better to be in a group rather than alone when doing the same. Violent Thai on foreigner crimes does occur around the Kingdom but not at an alarming rate so don’t be concerned.
Probably still a very good idea to not talk to strangers especially ones that approach you. And I’m not just talking about Thais. Many foreigners in Thailand that approach you should be eyed suspiciously as well.
Everyone has their own reasons. For me, it’s a different life. I’ve been living in New York for most of my life and all those years ago I decided to make my home somewhere in Southeast Asia. And I chose Thailand.
Thailand is a good place to live because it is truly affordable. There is stable internet and we all know how important that is. There are train systems that are expanding. Though taxis are still ridiculously cheap.
And, it’s a great jump off point for visiting other parts of Asia and Southeast Asia. Hell, I’m sitting in a café right now in Kuala Lumpur writing this post.
But you’ve got to have something to do. For me, my wife has a business. So that keeps me busy as well.
There’s certainly a lot to cover on the subject and making the decision to move to Bangkok or anywhere else in Thailand. And I just touched on the tip of the iceberg.
So if you have any questions, please drop a comment or shoot me an email.