Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 08/06/19
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?
This is our fourth post. We've also lived in Athens, Berlin, and Copenhagen.
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?
Northern Virginia, USA. We fly in and out of Washington/Dulles, VA. It is a 13/14 hour flight from Dulles to Seoul, South Korea and then another 6 hour flight to Bangkok. We live in the Northwest suburbs in Nichada so there is an additional 45+ min. drive from the main airport.
3. How long have you lived here?
This is our third 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?
We are in the suburbs of Bangkok in Nichada. Embassy housing is undergoing some changes this year. When we came in, we were appointed a single-family detached home with a yard. This year, they've changed the requirements and are putting families with only one child in apartments within the gated community. Families with two children are being placed in two neighborhoods with slightly smaller homes. The living space is still much more than at many posts but I think it's important for people to know this as they come in, as it may determine whether they want to live this far out.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available here. Imported goods cost more than they would at home but you can pretty much get everything you want. Fruits and vegetables are much more cost-effective on the local economy. Buying from your local fruit and vegetable vendors is best in terms of price and freshness. Electronics and furniture are a bit expensive here and imported meats such as beef. All household goods are easy to find.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Cereal is expensive here. We use Walmart or Amazon to buy this since we have a DPO. I also ship paper towels but that's a personal preference. Shoes are difficult if you are looking for larger sizes. Even men's shoe sizes present here tend to be narrow in the foot box and hard to fit on American feet.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You can pretty much find anything here if you are willing to travel into the city or pay higher prices. Western food tends to be expensive here (read typical American prices which are much higher than buying Thai food). Out here in the suburbs we've got a Mexican restaurant, several Italian, your basic fast food (McDonalds and Burger King), sushi, Indian, and a few Western sandwich shops/delis. Downtown you can find options for any cusine.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Cockroaches aren't unheard of. Our maid uses white vinegar to help combat this which seems to work. Also, geckos inside houses. There are snake sighting (some venomous) from time to time in the community so keeping the kids vigilant while playing outside is important. Small pets have been known to go missing when left unattended in the yard. Mosquitos are the worst problem. At certain times of the year, we experience swarms and have difficulty keeping them out of the house. Mosquito prevention is important. The community sprays once a month but it's hard to combat during certain seasons.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help costs are low here. Around USD $500 a month for full-time help. This includes cooking, cleaning, and child-care. Some expats employ drivers which is also low-cost.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Nichada has several gyms you can use as a part of their community benefits included in a card that provides you access to two additional gates that cut down on traffic time to the expressway. Each neighborhood has a pool and additionally, there is an Olympic-sized pool for use.
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. Most small vendors require cash though. ATMs are scattered throughout the gated community and are easy to find outside Nichada. I've never had a problem besides having my card sucked into the machine when I left it behind. Banks here do not collect the cards so be aware. Once it is sucked in the card is destroyed.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is a non-denominational church withing the Nichada gates, a Morman church close by as well as a Catholic church. Several options downtown as well.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I get by with very little out here in Nichada. Basic phrases and numbers will get you by. Directional phrases are great for taxi rides. Local language classes are provided by the PTA of ISB inside the gate as well as the Embassy.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Within Nichada would be fine. Sidewalks are not wheelchair-friendly in the surrounding neighborhoods.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, and all 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?
Around Nichada there are some options for purchasing a diplomatic sale car. When a car comes in with a diplomat it can only be sold to other diplomats for the next 3 years. After that, it can be sold on the local economy. Owner and purchaser must exchange the car and payment while both are present in the country. We drove our right side drive car here fine without any problems. The highway has Ez-pass which gets around trying to pay tolls when the booth is on the left. We have a mini-van and it has been fine for driving and parking most places.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, just a day or two for install as Nichada customer service helps you get it set up with the local provider.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use True for cable, internet, and mobile phones.
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?
Lots of pets in Nichada. Great walking community and several dog parks. No quarantine. Crate size and the temperature requirement has been known to be a challenge when leaving the country.
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 bilateral work agreement here so most spouses that want to work get jobs at the Embassy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty of volunteer opportunities. Orphanages, prison visiting programs, animal rescue, etc.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No, nothing beyond petty theft.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Pollution levels reach dangerous levels at certain times of the year. Quality medical care is easy to find.
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?
Not great during January- March. Seasonal allergies. Schools were closed for several days this past year due to poor air quality.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Three seasons: Rainy season (typically rains hard once and afternoon and is hot and humid), winter (aka: 75 degrees and lighter humidity), hot-hot season (typically over 100 and high humidity).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Inside Nichada is ISB. We've had a great experience here. IB program at all levels. The school does a wonderful job of welcoming new students and setting them up to meet other children. Teachers are caring and supportive. Strong learning support program at the Elementary level as well as a new intensive learning support program.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ISB does a great job of accommodating students with special needs. Staff is knowlegeable on learning disabilities and do their best to provide appropriate instruction and modifications for students who need them. Pull out or push in instruction at each level as well as a Speech Therapist and OT.
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?
Yes. Fairly expensive but there are several options around the Nichada community.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, many sports and activities provided by the school as well as the outside community. You can find pretty much every activity through school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expatriate community and good overall morale.
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?
Many, many expatriate groups and events in the ear. You can find a group for pretty much anything here in Nichada (book clubs, running group, social groups, volunteering opportunities, etc.).
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
A great place for families! So many things to do. Great for travel and exciting opportunities. Thai people love children and are very welcoming.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
None that I've heard of. Thai people seem very open to all beliefs.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Travel is cheap and easy here. Walking and taking care of elephants, temple viewing, history, eating. We've loved everything about our time here.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Beautiful handicrafts and artwork from the Northern part of the country. Antiques galore. You can have handmade teak furniture made to specifications.
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:
3. But don't forget your:
Summer clothes, shades, swimming gear, and patience.