Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 10/04/11

Personal Experiences from Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand 10/04/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First expat experience.

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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?

Washington, DC: It can take as little as 25 hours if you time the flights right, but can also take much longer if you want a good price. Best price I've seen since we've been here about $1000 round trip and usually around $1500.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Spouse of US Foreign Service employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We are in embassy housing- a large, 3-bedroom apartment close to public transportation. Our building has a small but fine gym, a tennis court, basketball court, a small soccer area, a pool, a playground, and an open area for leisure. We find it very comfortable. In the city, everyone has apartments. Families often choose to live in a gated community outside the city -- which I hear is very nice but has an awful commute.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can find anything, but the prices can be much higher.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

You can find anything here, but you will pay more for it, so we wish we had shipped many more non perishable things and paper products so that we could have stocked up at Costco. Also, sheets are very expensive here,so you may want to bring those. Buy extra long sheets for the twin beds, the size is a little different.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Everything! You can eat Thai food for under $2, but expect to pay US prices when you want a US fine dining experience.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

I am not that familiar with these, but I did have vegan friends who made it work here. There are several vegetarian restaurants and they had the embasssy store stock some vegan things.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

They tell you to be careful of Dengue from mosquitoes, but it is not too much of a problem in the city.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy mail

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We have a maid 4 half days a week and its $230 a month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Most apartment buildings have small gyms. There are a ton of gyms you can join but they can be a little pricey $50-$100 a month.

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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?

They warn you not, too, but we have used them at reputable seeming places and been fine.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

We go to a great Catholic church with many masses in English. All of our friends who want to go to church have found churches they like.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Our TV/internet package is $100 a month and we have several English channels that get the latest shows from US, Australia, and UK. Bangkok Post is English language and pretty good.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

For daily living you can get by without it, but as in most places it would be really nice to know some for true ease of living.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. The sidewalks and buildings are not equipped for any handicaps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

The skytrain and underground train are great! Taxis are safe and good as well. We've only taken long term buses to the beach and they were fine.

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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?

You don't really need a car here. We don't have one. Taxis are very cheap and public transport is very good. If you like to drive out of the city often, it may be useful. Any car will do, but they do drive on the left side.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

$100 for TV and Internet- the internet is a little slow, but not bad.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cheap, easy to buy and add a sim card to.

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Pets:

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?

no

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

very good

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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?

For teachers- tons. Otherwise it seems to be hard.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Thais dress to impress and I found myself dressing a little more when going out of the house. Nothing crazy though.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There have been some purse-snatching and pick-pocketing incidents. Otherwise, Thailand is extremely safe, and I feel safer here than in DC.

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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. The hospitals are luxurious.

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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?

People say it isn't good, but I haven't had a problem.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and rainy from June- November, a little milder Nov- Feb, HOT March- May.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

We do not have children, but I am a teacher and found a lot of great options for schools here. They are cutting edge and there are several higly competetive schools. If you want to live in the city, make sure you consider the options for school in the city: NIST, KIS, Patana, etc which are great schools, just not affiliated with the embassy.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I don't think there is a ton in Bangkok, but I do know a couple of families that have found a plan that works.

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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?

There seems to be a ton available, but I would be careful about making sure they are child-appropriate.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

At my school there are. I don't know much else!

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

huge

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2. Morale among expats:

generally great. Some people have a hard time finding their niche because it is so big.

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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?

Anything you want to do is pretty much available. People say that everyone entertains much less in their homes here because there is so much to do.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think its really great for everyone. Unless you are a family who wants a house and yard as well as a short commute. There is a ton to do in the city, and I know many happy singles, couples, and families. If you do not like a busy, bustling city, it may also not be for you.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

From what I hear and see, Bangkok is very gay friendly.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I did have one black friend who had a hard time. Like many places in the world Thais aim to be lighter skinned and use bleach, etc.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Going to the beach, the luxurious and fairly inexpensive movies, wide variety of restaurants, large expat community.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Tons: restaurants, movies, shows, anything you can think of really. Outside the city, you can travel cheaply to beaches and countryside. To have nice accomodations, though, you will pay more. If you are happy with a cold shower and no A/C you can go anywhere for next to nothing.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

The markets have tons of great finds.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The proximity to other countries to visit, great beaches, nice people, availability of all conviences you want.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you really try or have a double income.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes

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3. But don't forget your:

summer clothes! Unless you are petite, you will have a hard time shopping here.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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