Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 07/23/13
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?
3. How long have you lived here?
We have been living in downtown Bangkok for one year.
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?
Majority of the community live downtown, but some also live outside in the Nichada Thani. Described as a country club neighborhood, Nichada is quite a commute from bangkok, but those who move there rarely leave as it contains everything you could possibly need. An American school, malls, Starbucks, salons, etc. Residences downtown are mostly spacious apartments, spread throughout the city.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Afforable, and most american products are available, though a little more expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can get just about anything here,
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
All of them. And most of them deliver!
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitos pose a big danger. Even in the city, dengue is a problem. Malaria as well.
Cockroaches are a given-although you will not encounter them too often in the high-rise apartments. We are ground level, so we can't leave ANY food out.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
APO is reliable, and very quick. Christmas orders came in with 10 days.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
A full-time nanny/housekeeper/cook can cost only US$300-500 a month. Most people hire at least part-time help.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes-all types you could imagine.
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?
Cash is king here, but you can find an ATM or exchange anywhere.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Mostly multi-denominational churches.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None-most people speak a bit of English or you can communicate by pointing and smiling.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
This is a terrible city to live in if you have disabilities. There are no handicap guidelines, sidewalks are a mess!
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Mostly, and taxis and trains are VERY afforable. You can hire drivers for the day for VERY cheap.
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?
Small SUV's and sedans are fine. Roads are pretty good.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
True is good.
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)?
So-so. Veterinary care is VERY good though.
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?
NO! Thai wages are far lower than we are accustomed to.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Reasonable, taking into account the heat. You must cover shoulders and legs when you enter a temple. But everywhere else, anything goes.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Frequent protests occur downtown. While they are usually peaceful, they can get large, and in past years there have been several eruptions of violence so awareness is important. Pickpockets and motorcyle thieves are also a frequent occurrence-bags have to be slung across the chest or you are an easy target. The main areas of Bangkok are pretty safe, however, there are many issues such as drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Health care is efficient and inexpensive, but you usually have to pay up front for services.
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?
Moderate, but with it being so easy to get out of the city on weekends, it doesn't bother us much. We ride bikes and run outdoors, when the temperatures aren't too high.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot hot and hot! When you get here you must learn to move more slowly or you will perspire like crazy! In the 'winter' the weather can be gorgeous, but it is a fleeting period. The green season is rainy every day, but mostly mixed with sunshine as well. You just need to carry an umbrella with you most of the time, to protect yourself from the sudden downpours AND direct sun.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Excellent variety-several schools that offer special needs education, and a bevy of different curriculums, whether British, American, Chinese...
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
The three or four main English-speaking schools are fully booked and frequently waitlist children, and do not have adequate accommodations for most special needs students. The Village and Rose Marie Academy offer a spectrum of programs for those kids, and their parents have been very pleased with them.
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?
Meh. Mixed reviews on the daycares-daycare providers are not as skilled or qualified as in the U.S., but they aren't terrible. Given the variety of playgroups and associations available, I find preschools unneccesary. Its a better value to hire a competent nanny so you are more aware of who is tending to your child. Daycares are not regulated very closely, so its up to your comfort level.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Again, anything they could desire!
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very large-Bangkok is a melting pot, filled with multi-national companies and embassies.
2. Morale among expats:
Very high-most people don't want to leave!
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?
I could go on and on about this-there is something for everyone here.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Great city for families and couples-there is nightlife suited to anyone's interests, and always a LOT to do. Singles can have a great time, especially men. Single women, however, may encounter a different experience if they are hoping to date here.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Most of the time. Lesbian expats have been disappointed in the dating scene here as well.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes. We have witnessed racism time and time again. Men are treated like kings here as well-single or married they are pursued, it makes little difference. Women often complain that they feel invisible, but are not harassed.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Having an all-in-one domestic helper who speaks English and Thai. Weekend adventures to Hua Hin, Parks, and Krabi. The Wats are gorgeous in the city-you MUST walk to the top of Wat Saket and take in the view. Songkran Festival is amazing fun-thai's have a great sense of "sanuk" or fun, and celebrate almost everything.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Water parks, and indoor aquarium, malls malls and more malls, outdoor markets like Asiatique and Chatuchak, canal tours, amazing nightlife, fantastic restaurants, rooftop bars, you name it.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Thai silk, teak furniture and decor, coconut oils, wood carvings, Benjarong pottery, custom suits and dresses
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
1. Food and services are very cheap. A typical date night could cost you as little as US$40 and include a 1-hr foot massage! Street food is affordable, delicious, and with a little common sense, safe to eat. 2. Culture- Thais are kind and gracious hosts. They adore children. 3. Souvenirs and shopping are incredible. Even furniture is quite afforable. 4. Vacations- an island retreat on one of the most beautiful beaches on earth can cost as little as US$60 a night. Beaches are just 45 mins to 4 hr drive away, depending on whether you prefer nightlife, or peace and serenity.
11. Can you save money?
You could. But Bangkok is a great point to explore se asia from, so most people spend their extra money on trips to Angkor Wat, Luang Prabang, Vietname, the Thai islands, etc.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
110V appliances. Coffeemaker. Winter coats.
3. But don't forget your:
Beach gear, comfortable walking shoes, sense of humor.