Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 06/06/18
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?
Yes, first expatriate experience.
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?
DC/NoVA. 24 hour flight with one layover flying transatlantic. Codeshares have changed so other options are likely now available.
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?
We live in a three bedroom apartment that is huge for a family of two. My commute to work is short because I live very close to the embassy so I walk to work, rain or shine. Housing size is based on family size and it seems most people get one bedroom for each family member and one additional. There are also separate quarters for nannies who live-in or need a place to rest during their breaks. Note that nannies' quarters have a bathroom but no hot water; unfortunately, this is the norm.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Some products are cheap, others are expensive. There are lots of grocery options and many places deliver. Bookmark paleorobbie.com, passiondelivery.com, honestbee.co.th and there are many others.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Ethnic hair products for people of color. Whatever you can't find here, you can get it shipped via APO. It typically takes 8 to 10 days.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Food panda is an app to download. Tons of restaurants listed. Also, ChefXP is another food delivery service and sometimes more reliable than Food Panda.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Some have issues, some don't. There is the occasional bug or gecko but nothing major that I have experienced living downtown.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
APO. The mailroom can assist you in arranging pick up by FedEx or DHL.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Most people hire a nanny/housekeeper. Some families have a nanny for each kid. The average for full time is US$400 and it depends on family size.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Tons, too many to name. Muay Thai is popular and I highly recommend you at least try it. Gyms are expensive; most more expensive than the U.S. but have the latest if not better equipment that what you find at stateside gyms. Personal trainers are also available to come to your house.
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?
Yes, no issues so far. Use cash for taxis, motorbikes, BTS sky train, and shopping at street markets. There is also a cashier at the embassy for obtaining cash.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I am aware of a Catholic church close to the embassy, a Baptist church, and there is a Chinese Christian church somewhere downtown.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Living downtown you need to know some Thai to navigate directions when riding in taxis and it's also good for eating out. The embassy offers classes and the instructor, Khun Nok, is really good.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, horrible sidewalks downtown, few elevators for getting to the Sky train. There are escalators at most train stations. If you are in a wheelchair it will be difficult.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local buses are a no-go but some people take the long haul buses for trips to other areas. Most people just hire a driver to take them places for long weekend trips. Trains are safe. Taxis are safe, but most don't have working seat belts. Uber is no longer in Thailand so you have to use the GrabTaxi app which works in many Asian countries or just hail a taxi off the street.
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?
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, should have within one to two weeks depending upon where you live.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
AIS is the main provider. Bring an unlocked phone. I did not keep my home plan. I play less than $30 a month for phone service. Texting is usually an additional charge but super cheap, however, most people use apps. Download LINE and whatsApp if you don't already have it.
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?
I think there are vets but don't know much about it as I don't have a pet. If you live downtown, expect to see stray dogs and most look sickly and don't bark.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Check within the embassy.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Relaxed due to the heat and humidity here. Dress up for formal meetings, etc.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Walking...the sidewalks are bad in some places so you could twist your ankle if you're not careful. Also, motorbike drivers sometimes drive on the sidewalks (which is illegal).
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No particular health concerns, although air quality decreased over the last year. A lot of kids ended up with bronchial issues as a result. Hospitals are great here. This is an medical evacuation location.
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?
See above answer.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Most Thai restaurants don't understand food allergies so be careful or just don't eat out.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot and humid most of the year. December - January are typically nice.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Too many to name. Take your pick. All seem to be great. Asia has some of the best international schools when you do the research.
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?
I have a elementary aged child but I am aware that there are day care options. You have to pay out-of-pocket for preschool.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Tons of afterschool activities at all schools.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Check post profiles on the DoS Intranet.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Get together with neighbors and teammates from work. You'll figure it out. I can't recommend a club, sorry.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes to all. There is something here for everyone.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, there is a huge LGBT community in Thailand.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I am not aware of any problems.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Chiang Mai (tea plantation, night markets are great), Bali, and Phuket (John Gray's sea canoe). Vietnam is also great. Most countries are about a 2 hour flight and flights are not expensive. Enjoy the Chatuchak weekend market but prepare to bargain and sweat a lot.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Rooftop bars! Banyan Tree 61st floor is amazing. Thai cooking classes are fun. I recommend Silom Thai cooking school. Massages! Fresh fruit! Erawan Museum and Ancient Siam are great places to visit.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, lots of shopping. Chiang Mai has great markets too as well as Hua Hin.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's so walkable and the Skytrain is great for getting around downtown. There's a ton of stuff to do here. If you get bored, something's wrong. There is always a new restaurant opening and food is everywhere.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Nothing I can think of. I did my research.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Long sleeves! It's always hot here!
4. But don't forget your:
Deodorant! Sense of adventure.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Youtube or Google.
6. Do you have any other comments?
It's great to get away from Bangkok for less humidity and to go somewhere cleaner from time to time.