Thailand is easily the most popular country in Southeast Asia for both tourists and expats, and Bangkok is the obvious starting point for a great percentage of these visitors. The huge Thai capital has a lot going for it so it’s a magnet for all types of potential expats, and the visa system is relatively easy to work through as well.
Having lived in Bangkok myself I could also come up with at least a short list of reasons NOT to live there, but generally it seems that most people have very positive experiences, including yours truly. So below are 5 of the key reasons to consider moving to Bangkok yourself.
It’s very cheap for a large city
It’s common knowledge that big cities tend to cost more than small cities, and this holds true throughout Asia as well. With so many millions of people wanting to live near their relatively high-paying jobs in the city center, real estate prices keep going up and those with modest incomes have to move farther out or into smaller places. But in Bangkok, it’s still fairly easy to live on a modest amount of money, even with a central location.
Finding a modern serviced apartment for around US$600 per month is not difficult as long as you don’t need to be in the posh part of Sukhumvit, and you can get places for half that or less if you ask around and are willing to sign at least a 6-month lease. English teachers and minimalists willing to live like a Thai family can also get apartments for under US$300 per month.
Better still, you can get excellent and safe street food on almost every block for under US$1 per meal if you like. Groceries in supermarkets actually cost a bit more, but still it’s easy to live on well under US$1,000 per month per person, which is rare for a big city anywhere in the world.
You can get virtually everything in Bangkok
While many tourists flock to the weekend outdoor markets and the stalls along Khaosan Road that sell arts and crafts and kitschy souvenirs, others take advantage of one of the most amazing shopping districts in the world. There are literally about 20 malls within walking distance of Siam Square, selling anything you can think of.
There are also huge hypermarkets like Lotus Tesco that sell cheap clothes and groceries and electronics, and the huge electronics mall called Pantip Plaza with close to a thousand big and little stores under one roof, competing for your business for anything that plugs into the wall or runs off batteries.
It’s almost always sunny
The good news is that Bangkok, as a city in the Tropics, is almost always sunny. People from the UK or Canada or Scandinavia tend to really appreciate that they can leave their SAD lights at home. Even during the summer rainy season, it’s usually sunny at least half of every day, to the point that many people actually get sick of it.
The bad news is that Bangkok is literally the hottest capital city in the world based on year-round average temperatures. It’s also humid, often oppressively so. Except for some of December and January, you can expect to be warm (or hot or very hot) when outdoors all year round.
There is no pressure to learn the local language
Many expats living in Bangkok learn enough Thai to get by, and those who marry a local often become fluent in it, but the nice thing is that there’s really no social pressure to learn the language if you don’t want to. All the stores have their signs and products in English alongside the Thai, and enough locals speak enough English to help you do pretty much everything you need to do.
This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try to learn Thai, because you probably should if you are going to live there for any length of time. It’s just that there are so many English-speaking foreigners around that it’s very easy to get by, even for years, on English alone.
It’s cheap and easy to go all over the region from Bangkok
Southeast Asia is a fascinating place, and the countries just outside the region are worth a look too, so it’s very nice that Bangkok is a major air hub in Asia. More good news is that Bangkok is one of the major hubs (along with Kuala Lumpur) for the KL-based Air Asia, which has cheap flights and frequent service to almost everywhere you want to go.
Like many discount airlines, the trick with Air Asia is buying your ticket as far in advance as possible, and also watching out for sales. Doing this you can get to Bali or Singapore or Taiwan or Kochin for only a bit more than the price of a taxi to the airport in most other cities.