Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 07/19/11
Personal Experiences from Bangkok, Thailand
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Raleigh, NC - 25 hours by plane through Tokyo or Hong Kong and then NYC area to Raleigh.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
U.S. Embassy employees live in high rise condos near the Embassy or in stand along houses out in Nichada near the International School of Bangkok. Most people are very happy with the housing as it is modern and comfortable.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Western groceries are 1.5 to 2 times more expensive then in the US.Local brands are more reasonable for cost with mostly comparable quality. Availability is plentiful and there are grocery stores everywhere.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Say what you want about WalMart, but our APO counts as a home address and shipping diapers and liquid detergent is free or $1 to get from US to here! Otherwise diapers and liquid detergent are 3X what US prices are.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything you have in the US you have here. McD's, Starbucks, KFC, Baskin Robbins, Burger King, Cinnabon, etc...
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
There are some organic grocery stores around town and the larger grocery stores have organic/veg sections.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I see very few bugs here in Bangkok. Perhaps the air pollution kills them off.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
$300 - $500 per month for 5 days per week - 12 hours per day - cooking, cleaning, laundry, babysitting. Some people hire Burmese at cheaper rates, but you get what you pay for.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Most apartments have gyms or you can join a local gym like California Wow.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Lots of ATMs, and credit cards are accepted at most places.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Several Catholic, Protestant, and Mormon churches in Bangkok with services in English.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Bangkok Post and The Nation are local papers in English. Local TV is mostly in Thai with CNN International, BBC, and a few others in English. I don't know the cost because I use a slingbox, and you should, too!
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
A little "taxi thai" will go along way in not getting ripped off (as much), and it makes life much, much easier. And the Thais love it when you can say a few words in their language.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
No ramps, broken elevators, busted sidewalks - horrible for people with disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
BTS Skytrain, subway, taxis, motorcyles, tuk-tuks, trains, buses - it's all here, cheap, some forms of transport are cheaper than others.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Roads are very good, and any kind of car will work. Traffic is tough, and gas is expensive ,so keep that in mind.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes - 7MB for about $50 per month. Speeds slow down at night.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cell phones are available and SIM cards are cheap.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There must be - all of these expats can't be here only for the red light district.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business to business-casual. I wear a tie most days but no jacket.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Very safe with few pickpockets in tourist areas and occasional bag snatching. Violent crime is very rare.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is amazing at a fraction of the cost of the US. Very efficient systems with many western-trained docs.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The rain cleans a lot of the pollution out during the rainy season, but over all the air pollution is a problem for people with sensetive lungs.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Nov - Feb is mid 80's during the day and can even get to upper 70's at night but dry. Mar - Oct is rainy and hot with daytime temps a humid 90+
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our son goes to preschool near the embassy. Cost is $10,000+ per year for 1/2 days at the nicer places.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes - at schools or other local groups like BAMBI, Gymboree, or Bangkok Dolphins.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Excellent for all family types. Plenty to do, but traffic can be brutal especially when its raining and sidewalks double as food cart parking. Plenty of activities in and around town.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It's Bangkok - plenty of opportunity and no one cares about your prefernce (gay or straight) unless you're flaunting it. Hand holding and public displays of affection from anyone are frowned upon.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not that I can tell, but some expats who are of darker skin complexions have reported not being treated as well as whites.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Snorkeling clear waters near Phuket, street food in Bangkok, cooler weather in the hills near Chiang Mai
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Grand Palace, Wat Pho, river/klong cruises, mega malls, local markets, Chinatown, Lumpini Park, temples, beaches close by, come on it's Thailand!!
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Wood carvings, tailored clothes, new plates and bowls
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Rich culture, incredible food, very safe, friendly people, very reasonable cost of living, amazing beaches only a short flight away, affordable domestic help, excellent medical care
11. Can you save money?
Yes - even when doing lots of traveling and activities you can save money.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Would I go there...heck, I'd live here if I could.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coat and gloves and your copy of "The King Never Smiles"
3. But don't forget your:
sunglasses and willingness to eat spicy food
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Lonely Planet Thailand, Very Thai
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
Don't lower your IQ - stay away from Bangkok Dangerous and Hangover II.