Bangkok, Thailand Report of what it's like to live there - 02/06/23
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?
We have lived as expats in five countries, including Thailand. Our five overseas posts have been in South America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and two in Southeast Asia.
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 area. It's a long trip. Minimum two flights and sometime three, depending on price and/or if your organization requires you to fly a certain airline carrier. You're looking at 20 hours must in actual flight time. Plus layovers, security lines, etc. Door to door for us is 26 to 32 hours.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
Two main options.
- Live downtown in a nice apartment - tons of restaurants nearby, etc. Soak in the vibrancy of Bangkok.
- Or live in the gated community of Nichada. Far from Bangkok.
I would simplify as: imagine you are working in Washington, D.C., would you prefer to live in DC itself, or a close suburb like Arlington or Alexandria? If so, then go for a downtown Bangkok apartment. Or, would you prefer to live in a homogenous, gated community somewhere far from the city and have a long commute (like Ashburn, Virginia)? If that's your cup of tea, then you should live in Nichada.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Local Asian food is cheap. European and American imports are expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Stuff that is relatively expensive in Thailand (like pizza, cheese, peanut butter).
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
In Bangkok, everything is possible and delivery options are plentiful. In Nichada, there are a few restaurants and delivery options, but much fewer choices than if downtown.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
The biggest issue is getting dengue from the mosquitos, which is not uncommon several of our Nichada neighbors got it. Also, there are some weird, harmless bugs, and scary-looking but tarmless monitor lizards.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and Pouch. Not sure I would use the local postal facilities, but I don't have firsthand experience.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Inexpensive. Most people have a cleaner (at least part-time), many people have nannies, small number have drivers.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I used my office's. I know there are a lot of other options, but can't comment on price.
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?
I never had an issue. You need cash for small transactions, e.g., street food, but credit cards accepted in fancy restaurants, etc.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I think everything: big expat community in general.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Taxi Thai is useful, e.g., being able to tell the driver your address, turn left, turn right, stop here. Maybe some basic numbers for street purchases. It is always nice to say pleasantries in the local language. Generally, the vast majority of expats here get along fine without knowing the local language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, lots of uneven sidewalks. Good thing is that since most things are inexpensive, hiring a car and driver for a day (or heck, for your whole time here) to get you around is not expensive if that would be needed due to mobility issues.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable, yes, and most people take taxis. The metro is nice, air-con controlled, easy to navigate, but not totally extensive throughout the city. I imagine the bus is okay, but would be hot with no a/c and might be confusing to navigate the system without Thai language skills.
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?
Any car should be fine, but one with high clearance could be good for the flooding. if you want to drive up to the northern mountains, an SUV could be helpful.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Moderately priced internet.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
A few local providers; they're fine and moderately priced.
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 quarantine. Vets are generally good and not expensive. One thing that people run into: when a pet is ending its end of life, most Thai vets are very reluctant to euthanize, presumably due to Buddhist tenants not to kill living things. So that can be tricky if you're trying to help a suffering animal and the vet doesn't euthanize.
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?
Due to low local wages, you could possibly find a job, but would be limited. Maybe at one of the more expensive local schools or in a European/U.S. company's Bangkok office.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots of people volunteer, opportunities abound.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business casual or business suits. despite the high heat year round, it's a relatively conservative culture in many ways, to include their business attire.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Normal big city stuff, but nothing really dangerous.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Dengue is a concern, and contracting hepatitis b is common. local medical care is generally excellent and inexpensive.
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 air is not great in Thailand. Both in the cities and in rural areas it can be bad from car pollution, farmers burning their field, etc.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
See above re: air quality.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not that I know of.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
4 seasons, roughly equal in length:
- hot and wet
- hot and dry
- very hot and dry
- very hot and wet
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Lots of great schools, and it's one of the big pluses of Bangkok. There are three really excellent, popular ones: NIST (downtown), ISB in Nichada (north of the city), and Bangkok Patana British School (east of the city). There are also lots of smaller options that can also be good.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ISB can offer certain services, but some of the smaller schools , in my opinion, are even better. We used St. Andrews Samakee International School, and were very happy with their inclusive support.
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?
Preschools and nannies both available and inexpensive. I think schools provide after-school care. At the minimum, they provide a lot of extracurriculars after school: sports, theater, etc.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Basically everything is down through whichever international school you choose.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge community and generally positive 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?
Going out to eat and drink are common. It's a fun city.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, i think good for all those categories.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Well, because of the high income disparity (i.e., lots of locals are either poor or rich, not a high middle class), it might be a challenge to make close friends, but not impossible. Also, lots of expats from many countries are here and ready to socialize.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes, I think so.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Getting off the beaten path is a must. Don't just go to Phuket. Before covid, I found most Thai beaches to be generally overrun and a bit generic. My favorite Thailand trips were driving road trips to small, lesser known mountain towns in the north, and of course, this is a perfect launching pad to visit all of SE Asia, which we did. Cambodia, Laos, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia are all a short, direct flight away and you can just go for a long weekend because they are so close. South Korea and Japan are a bit further, but still pretty easy to reach.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of hidden gems in Bangkok. You can have so much fun exploring the lesser known neighborhoods, e.g., Chinatown.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, people buy furniture, art, statues, etc.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's a super fun, pulsating city.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Live downtown, Bangkok is too much fun to be hiding away from it up in Nichada:)
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
"Bangkok 8: A Royal Thai Detective Novel"
Maybe there is a newer book about the current king, but before i moved there, I read "The King Never Smiles."