Gone Living

An Expat's Guide to Living Abroad in Bangkok, Thailand

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Maddie Turk
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I never considered myself a city girl. Then I look back and the 3 places I’ve lived have been relatively large cities. Now, for nearly 3 years, I live in the 2nd largest city in southeast Asia, Bangkok.

It was never my desire to live in large metropolitan cities but somehow I've drifted to them. Whether it was for school or a boy, but not just any boy, my now-husband.

We have treated Bangkok as our home since we moved here and look forward to our years to come.

Here are 8 things all expats planning to move to Bangkok should know.

1. A breakdown of areas to live

I’m more familiar with downtown Bangkok than the outskirts. For that reason, I usually associate locations with the train stations.

I live in an area called Asoke and it is the main and busiest intersection, where both (MRT & BTS) of the train lines meet. You can say it is the Time Square of Bangkok.

The closer you are to the main road, Sukhumvit, where the BTS (Bangkok Train System) runs, it tends to be more expensive.

We chose to move here after seeing 16 different condos, this was the best spot for us because my husband walks across the street to work and really hates the idea of commuting. Luckily after we moved here I found my job and it is only 3 train (BTS) stations away and is very convenient.

If you want to be in the “main” busy, city life areas, then that is mostly in downtown Bangkok from the stations of Chit Lom to On Nut BTS.

My husband and I have lived in Asoke ever since we moved here but there are times where I wished we lived outside of the hustle and bustle in a more low-key area where you can find quirky characteristics such as Ari.

view of the city center of Bangkok on a sunny afternoon
The view from our apartment

2. Apartment hunting tips

We had help from my husband's company where they provided us a realtor agent to help us with our search.

Agents usually don’t cost anything and get a commission from the condo once signed. I highly suggest using one.

It will save you time and avoid any miscommunication since there is usually a language barrier when you try to do it on your own. Our realtor worked for CBRE Thailand. You can check out their site here.

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3. Tips to finding a job

I moved here for my husband's job and picked up teaching English online until I found a full-time job.

I would say LinkedIn is the most promising job hunt platform I came across. Here are some tips to finding a job abroad via LinkedIn.

I wasn’t looking for teaching jobs but everyone assumes when a foreigner has a job in Southeast Asia, it is mostly teaching. I luckily applied for a job that turned to an interview at another company. It was an intense interview process but I have been at the company for over 2.5 years.

If you're hoping to get hired, not as an English teach, be patient and apply to whatever jobs you can. You'll get something!

If you are though hoping to teach English in Thailand, read this guide about finding a teaching job in Thailand.

A woman sitting on the steps of a museum with a view of the stained glass roof above her
Explore the beautiful Erwawan Museum!

4. Fun things to do in Bangkok

It is difficult to think about what it was like before COVID!

Within Bangkok, there are many places to see and several weekly events. I usually navigate to Facebook and search under “events” or see what is happening this weekend from BK magazine.

Although, I do miss Happy Hours and the social scene after work, it is usually a late-night scene here for tourists.

There are many unique cocktail bars but you will pay $9 USD a drink on average. There are many markets, festivals, ladies' nights, fitness classes, and more.

Bangkok is a large city but I would say it is fairly slow for the number of people. Yes, traffic is horrendous but not as bad as Manila or Jakarta… 

Another great thing about Bangkok is the number of flights that go in and out. I never got the opportunity to travel outside the US until I came here. To fly domestically to islands such as Krabi, Phuket, and Chiang Mai is very affordable and doable for a weekend escape. There is a great mixture of scenery throughout Thailand.

You can’t go wrong or run out of things to do. 

two friends at a busy outdoor market in Bangkok, Thailand
Enjoying Chatuchak Market on a Saturday! #preCOVID

5. The "borning but important" legalities to live in Thailand

Yes, the government has tightened up on penalizing people who stay over 30 days with a fine when they travel and are without a visa. Also, it is tough to get a working permit even for companies but that is required to work here.

To get a cell plan, you need a work permit. Although, if your phone is unlocked then you can purchase a SIM card at any 7/11. 

You can apply for a tourist visa which can range for a certain amount of time and about $30 USD. Here is a link for more info.

If you're planning to move to Thailand to study abroad or to learn Thai, you might be eligible for the Thai ED Visa. Find out the requirements and how to apply here.

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6. Quality of life as an expat

I am from California and my husband was born and raised in Bangkok before he moved to Texas for his degree. He figured out after 2 years working in the US, it was best to work overseas for the opportunity.

We are not in a rush moving back to the US because we feel quality of life is quite strong here. Healthcare, hospitality, household help, transportation, international schools are top-notch but super expensive.

I would say it is safe here as well.

An American expat living in Thailand holding two plates of Thai street food
Trying out yummy and SPCIY street food on Yaowarat Rd

7. General cost of living in Bangkok

If you lived in western countries and tried to copy your life here, you would start to see how things add up quickly and are 2-3x more expensive since most things are imported and taxed.

Wine for example, what an expense! A decent bottle on average costs about 1k bht which is $30 USD. Quality hair and nail salons are about the same cost as in the US.

Luckily, many condos here are fully furnished so that saved us money but if you want to furnish your own home, furnishing is expensive. 

To give you a more detailed example of cost of living in Bangkok, here is an article which has been updated recently.

A woman wearing a long red skirt posing for the camera at a big, open train station
Waiting for my train at Hua Lamphong train station

8. A few more things all expats should know before moving here

I think I was prepared well enough before we moved since my husband has family here and speaks Thai. As much as I have tried to speak Thai, it is difficult for me.

I believe once you learn to speak the native language you feel more at home and treated with more respect. 

I do most of my shopping when I go back to the US and I think many others do. My clothes, hair products, makeup, I try to wait and hold off until I travel back home once a year. It saves me money and there are a lot more options than what is offered here.

The malls are spectacular but again, comes with a price. They are pretty luxurious but offer shops such as Zara and H&M as well.

Bangkok is an amazing city to live as a foreigner. I hope you enjoy the city as much as I have.

xx,
Maddie

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