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Moving to Bangkok

One of the world’s premier tourist destinations, expats moving to Bangkok will find themselves in a wholly different cultural environment within the familiar framework of an international city. It is a city of contrasts, where glamourous upscale malls and tourist attractions exist alongside the grit of its many slum areas. 

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, its largest city and the centre of business, culture and politics. It has significant regional importance in Southeast Asia, and as a result, it is often the centre of political tensions.

Upheaval and change are a regular part of life in Bangkok, and foreigners have been largely unaffected by the military coup and the political demonstrations leading up to it. Expats are still advised to keep an eye on the latest headlines.

The cityscape in Bangkok is carved by canals that branch out from the Chao Phraya River. Snaking through the heart of the city, this natural feature not only shapes the city’s layout, but also daily life. The influence of the river and its canals can be seen in its many floating markets and the cultural customs of its residents.

The majority of Bangkok's expat population moves to the city for the plethora of cultural attractions and a cost of living far below that of cities such as New York and London. While skilled expats can be found in industries such as finance and logistics, most foreigners find that teaching English is still the easiest way to make a living in the Thai capital.

Bangkok’s unwieldy expansion has also led to some of the worst traffic in the world. Motorcycle taxis fearlessly weave through endless lines of cars, leaving many new arrivals feeling that they either have to wait forever or risk their lives to get to their destination.

The downsides of life in Bangkok are, however, more than made up for. The city is renowned for its vibrant entertainment scene and the warmth of its residents. It provides opportunities for everyone from young, single expats to families, who can enjoy a laidback lifestyle without sacrificing the quality of international schools and healthcare facilities.

Bangkok has even become a popular medical tourism destination thanks to the high level of healthcare available at affordable rates.As a result, expats are more than happy to endure minor discomforts to enjoy life in this diverse and unique city brimming with vitality.

Weather in Bangkok

Expats relocating to Bangkok should take note that this is one of the hottest cities in the world. With a hot, tropical climate, daytime temperatures are commonly above 30°C (86°F) throughout the year with November to February being the driest time of year. March, April and May are the hottest and most humid months, and the rainy season runs from May to October. During the wet season, rain is common throughout the day and it’s wise to invest in a good umbrella.

 

Working in Bangkok

For expats who have secured a job beforehand, working in Bangkok can be the doorway to a life of luxury. On the other hand, expats who arrive in the Thai capital looking for work often have a challenging job search ahead of them that can lead to being underpaid and unhappy with their expat experience in the country.


Job market in Bangkok

Despite being the epicentre of sporadic political unrest, Bangkok has a relatively stable economy. This economy relies heavily on foreign investment. While investors remain cautious, it seems that the city’s economic situation is likely to go from strength to strength.

The economy in Bangkok is largely built on its retail, real estate, business, finance and automotive industries. It also hosts the Thailand Stock Exchange and houses the headquarters of most major banks in Thailand as well as a number of multinational companies.

Owing to high levels of inequality, expats can expect to live very differently to the majority of locals. Expats arriving in Bangkok after securing a job usually make more money than those who look for a job while already in the country. These expats, in turn, often earn more than the locals themselves.

Despite this, Thailand is renowned for having unemployment rates in the low single digits, and if an expat has the right skills and qualifications, they should be able to find a job. It is important to remember, however, that a Thai work permit is usually required for expats to stay and work in the country.

Popular job opportunities in Bangkok often come in the form of teaching English, while highly skilled expats can usually be found working in the financial sector and logistics industry.


Finding a job in Bangkok

The best way for expats to find a job in Bangkok is through online resources, preferably before they arrive in the country. English-language Thai newspapers are another valuable source of information for finding work.

Relocation packages usually include help with accommodation and, especially for highly skilled expats, may sometimes offer luxuries such as a car and driver.


Work culture in Bangkok

Business etiquette in Thailand will be familiar to most expats. The traditional wai greeting, where a person presses their palms together and makes a slight bow, is quickly being replaced by the standard Western handshake. This is at least partially because many Thai businesses realise the importance of being able to communicate globally.

As with the rest of the country, businesses and companies in Bangkok are usually open from Monday to Friday, with a half day on Saturdays. Opening times differ between businesses, however; a bank branch may be open from 8.30am to 4pm while some shopping malls are open until 10pm.

Accommodation in Bangkok

Expat accommodation in Bangkok is highly varied. No matter how big an expat’s family is or what type of home they prefer, price and proximity will be the most important considerations when finding housing in the Thai capital.

In spite of the political situation, the demand for housing in Bangkok is still high and showing no signs of slowing down. The price of a property in Bangkok is often half the price of its equivalent in Hong Kong or Singapore, and there is a range of options for expats with a variety of budgets.

Frustrating commutes are common, and the city’s regular traffic jams inspire many expats working in the city centre to live close to their workplace. The same line of reasoning applies to families who have children attending international schools.

The efficient BTS Skytrain, which runs across the city, has helped to reduce commute times and relieve traffic congestion. However, the Skytrain does not reach all areas of Bangkok and commuting to a BTS station can be as woeful as commuting to work.


Types of accommodation in Bangkok

Housing in Bangkok is as varied as the city itself. Most expats in Bangkok live in condominiums and, given government restrictions on foreigners buying property, the majority rent in the city.

Many expats prefer fully serviced apartments that resemble hotels. These usually come furnished and offer services such as cleaning staff and a lobby area as well as amenities such as small gyms or swimming pools.

Non-serviced apartments are usually a less expensive option, but often require a longer-term commitment. These tend to resemble Western apartments but come in a variety of styles.

The quality of accommodation in Bangkok varies and expats generally get what they pay for. In higher-end serviced apartments, most expats report that the standard of housing is similar to what they would find in their home country.

On the outer edges of the city, expat families can find Western-style houses in gated communities similar to suburban housing communities in the USA. These get progressively more expensive closer to downtown areas, peaking in the city centre. Housing villages usually have facilities like swimming pools, but the houses tend to look the same as one another.

It is important to find quality accommodation that is well-run as renters have less recourse against property owners in Bangkok than they do in the West.


Finding accommodation in Bangkok

The most popular options for finding accommodation in Bangkok are online property portals, the property sections of newspapers and rental agencies.

Another way of finding a place to live in Bangkok is for a house-hunter to identify an area that appeals to them and explore the area looking for properties available to rent.

Apartment buildings in Bangkok often have an information office or a building manager who can let prospective tenants know about any available rentals. Many of these will not speak English, especially outside of major tourist areas. It would be worthwhile for expats who decide on this approach to bring a Thai friend with them.


Renting property in Bangkok

After settling on an apartment, expats usually have to sign a fixed-term contract. It often happens that the longer a person commits to staying in an apartment, the better the monthly rental rate will be.

Tenants are usually expected to pay a deposit of about two months’ rent along with their initial payment of the first month's rent in advance. Assuming that the property is in good condition, the deposit will be returned at the end of the lease period.

As is the case anywhere, expats occasionally do have landlord issues in Thailand. A few basic precautions can be taken to avoid this, such as doing a thorough inspection of the property, taking photos of any existing damage, keeping any correspondence with the landlord and keeping rental receipts.

It is usually the responsibility of the tenant to pay the cost of utilities in Bangkok, although this may not always be the case with some apartment rentals.

Areas and suburbs in Bangkok

There are no areas and suburbs in Bangkok that are solely populated by expats. Instead, foreigners tend to congregate near the amenities that make life more convenient.

Over the years, Bangkok has experienced something of a facelift. Where there were once humble wooden homes, there are now luxury high-rise apartment buildings, promoting themselves as must-haves for those who want a "modern life". 

For many expats moving to Bangkok, these luxury residences come at a far more affordable price than similar accommodation in their home country.


City living in Bangkok

Silom Skyline - Bangkok

Downtown Bangkok: Silom, Sathorn, Sukhumvit

Many expats favour living right in the heart of Bangkok. The centre of the city is in close proximity to the sleek and stylish Bangkok Sky Train (BTS) as well as shopping malls, hospitals, museums, good schools, nightclubs, bars, international restaurants, and even green areas. The middle of town is also the primary place of business so, for many expats, being near work and having access to the area's amenities is an attractive option.

Nevertheless, while the pros are obvious, so are the cons. The quality of air in the city centre is poor, playgrounds and parks are a rarity, and red light areas are abundant. These areas can be overwhelming in some neighbourhoods, and while the adventurous singleton can easily brush the risqué aside, expat families may prefer not to have to constantly dodge curious questions from their children.

People from all walks of life – expat retirees, engineers, journalists, teachers and UN workers – are found living in these areas, either with family or by themselves. However, being able to enjoy the privileges of city living will add to an expat’s monthly rent. For those with the time and energy, it is recommended to go by foot and see first-hand what kind of value there is in each area because many places that offer great value for money do not advertise. 


Suburban living in Bangkok

YJ Lee - Bangkok

Nonthaburi, Suan Luang, Samut Prakan

The heavy urban sprawl of Bangkok unfurls from the central downtown areas into many exclusive private housing estates. The BTS extending towards the east and south of the city has presented an opportunity for expats to escape the city centre, set up base in the fresh air of suburbs, and still commute using public transport.

Naturally, these estates favour families moving to Bangkok rather than single expats. They are generally quiet and safe to live in, and some of these areas also play host to some excellent international schools. The downside is having to contend with a daily commute to and from work. 

There are, however, some areas which offer free-standing houses that are closer to the city. Demand for real estate in these areas is high, though, meaning that properties are more expensive and are a bit closer together than houses in areas further from the city centre. These places are often closer to public transport as well as amenities such as shopping centres, schools, hospitals, parks and tourist attractions.

Healthcare in Bangkok

The system of healthcare in Bangkok is generally of good quality, and many doctors and specialists speak English. Private hospitals in Bangkok are first-rate and often employ staff members who have been educated in the West. These institutions also tend to be far cheaper than expats from Europe or the United States may expect. Despite the reasonable cost of treatment, expats should make sure they have medical insurance in the case of emergencies.

Although there is only a low risk of diseases like malaria or dengue fever in Bangkok, the city does have a high level of pollution. This could worsen the condition of sufferers of respiratory diseases and may negatively affect other vulnerable individuals such as children and the elderly.

There are plenty of pharmacies in and around Bangkok, but it's best to stick to well-known and reputable chain pharmacies as some independent pharmacies have been known to sell fake medication.

The high quality of care and low prices for treatment have led to Thailand's rise as a medical tourism destination, particularly for cosmetic surgery, LASIK surgery and dental care.

Some hospitals catering to overseas medical tourists resemble hotels rather than hospitals. This is especially true of hospitals in the south of the city, which market their medical operations alongside beach holiday packages

Some of the most popular hospitals in Bangkok are listed below. 


Hospitals in Bangkok

 

Bangkok Hospital Medical Center

www.bangkokhospital.com

Address: 2 Soi Soonvijai 7, New Petchburi Road, Huaykwang

 

Bumrungrad International

www.bumrungrad.com

Address: 33 Soi Sukhumvit 3, Wattana

 

BNH Hospital

www.bnhhospital.com

Address: 9/1 Convent Road, Silom

 

Phyathai 2 International Hospital

www.phyathai.com

Address: 943 Phaholyothin Road, Samsannai, Phyathai

 

Vibhavadi Hospital

www.vibhavadi.com

Address: 51/3 Ngamwongwan Road, Ladyao, Jatujak

Education and Schools in Bangkok

Education is a high priority for expats moving to Thailand with children. Public schools in Bangkok are usually overcrowded, internationally uncompetitive, and teach only in Thai. There is, however, a host of suitable schools in Bangkok for expat parents to consider for their children.

International schools in the city offer expat parents all that they would expect of a good school, including high-quality amenities, a wide selection of extramural activities and highly qualified teachers. 


Public schools in Bangkok

Public education in Bangkok is free for Thai nationals up to the age of 13, whereafter most schools will charge fees. The language of education in public schools is Thai, and the standards of teaching may not be what expats would expect in their home country.

These issues have left most expats restricted to choosing between the private and international schools in Bangkok, which are thankfully plentiful and usually have a good reputation. 


Private schools in Bangkok

Many students attend private schools in Bangkok which follow foreign curricula. The private schools in Bangkok are usually popular with wealthier Thai families and give expats a cheaper alternative to international schools. 

The fact that local children usually make up the majority of the student body means that expat students will be exposed to local culture more than they might be in one of the international schools in Bangkok.


International schools in Bangkok

Bangkok’s international schools usually follow the curriculum of other countries, the most popular being the British and American systems. 

The vast majority of international schools in Bangkok will require prospective students to write entrance tests and undergo a rigorous application process due to the limited number of places they offer. Some international schools will only accept students of a particular nationality.

The International Schools Association of Thailand (ISAT) lists all the member schools and, although there are other schools that offer a good standard of education, all ISAT members meet international standards. The best international schools in Bangkok can be very costly, depending on the age of the child, and will usually have a fairly long waiting list.

International Schools in Bangkok

There are a number of international schools in Bangkok, all of which cater to different nationalities and follow various curricula. Bangkok's international schools are popular with expats and locals for the good standard of education they offer.

The standards and popularity of these schools also mean that places are limited and prices are usually much higher than public education. Some of the most popular international schools in Bangkok are listed below. 


International schools in Bangkok

American School of Bangkok

Gender: Co-educational 
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18 years
Website: www.asb.ac.th

Australian International School Bangkok

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Australian
Age: 18 months to 11 years
Website: www.australian-isb.com

International School Bangkok

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Age: 3 to 18 years
Website: www.isb.ac.th

KIS International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Age: 3 to 18 years
Website: www.kis.ac.th

New Sathorn International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British and American combined
Age: 3 to 18 years
Website: www.nsis.ac.th/html/home.php

NIST International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Age: 3 to 19 years
Website: www.nist.ac.th

Rasami British International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Modified British
Age: 18 months to 18 years
Website: www.rbis.ac.th

Shrewsbury International School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British
Age: 3 to 18 years
Website: www.shrewsbury.ac.th

St Andrews International School Sathorn Campus

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British
Age: 2 to 11 years
Website: www.standrewssathorn.com

St Andrews International School Sikhumvit 107 Campus

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British combined with IGSE and IB
Ages: 2 to 18 years
Website: www.standrewssukhumvit.com

Lifestyle in Bangkok

Bangkok is a feast of sights and sounds. Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, shopping malls, open markets, golf courses, temples, parks and an array of exotic scents all combine to make up the expat’s lifestyle experience in Bangkok. Expats new and established alike will find themselves with plenty to see and do in the Thai capital.

A weekend in Bangkok can fly by in a blur, and whether a foreign resident takes the tourist route through the city's countless side streets or prefers to settle in and sit shoulder to shoulder with the locals, there's never a dull moment. 


Shopping in Bangkok

From trinkets found at the city’s famous floating markets to high-end fashion, Bangkok has it all when it comes to shopping. Expats merely have to decide if they are in the mood to trawl street stalls for the perfect bargain, or if they'd prefer the easy access of mega malls which house everything, from cinemas to bowling alleys and even the odd aquarium.

For fans of shopping malls, an entire weekend in Bangkok can be spent at Siam Paragon, which is easily accessible by the BTS Sky Train. Other major malls are the Emporium, Central World and MBK, which are all within a short distance of one another.

Those after a more authentic shopping experience can try out Bangkok’s ever-popular open markets. Chatuchak market, said to be one of the world’s largest flea markets, offers excellent value for everything unusual and unique the country has to offer. 


Nightlife in Bangkok

Bangkok comes to life at night and new arrivals eager to spend a weekend in the city will have no trouble finding a variety of vibrant entertainment venues. Whether expats want to let their hair down and dance the night away or prefer to sip on cocktails at sophisticated rooftop bars, there's something for almost everyone in Bangkok.  

Sukhumvit is popular with expats and tourists alike, while Royal City Avenue tends to be frequented by a more local crowd. While Bangkok has an excellent range of clubs and bars, those looking to enjoy good live music may struggle here.  


Eating out in Bangkok

Locals in Bangkok are passionate about food. Often, the very first question Thai people will ask one another is, "Have you eaten yet?”. It won't be long before expats begin to understand what food means to the locals and to appreciate the amazing variety of food in Bangkok.

Whether a streetside noodle dish with homemade broth or a local vendor concocting spicy somtam, a plethora of exciting dishes are available, tasty and reasonably priced.

Naturally, at some point, every expat experiences a yearning for different options or something that tastes like home. Bangkok happily obliges with a whole host of bars and restaurants offering good quality international dining options, but at much higher prices. 


Sightseeing in Bangkok

Every new arrival should take a trip to the Royal Grand Palace to view the wonderful architecture, learn about the country’s royal family and see the world-famous Emerald Buddha. The many Buddhist Temples (wats) in and around the city are also well worth a visit.

Most tourists pick out the generic spots for their sightseeing, but expats who wish to get to know the city on a more personal level should consider taking a bike or walking tour instead. Given the heat, walking tours aren't exactly commonplace, but there are a few companies who have strived to put together routes that bring across the authentic charm of Bangkok.

Expats wanting to experience something a bit rough and tough should head down to the Lumpini Muay Thai stadium in Silom for some blood, sweat and tears. Boxing, Thailand’s national sport, offers an exhilarating experience as well as a fascinating insight into Thai culture.


Sports and outdoor activities in Bangkok

Dotted around Bangkok are a few green parks which offer residents the chance to enjoy a picnic, take a paddle around the pond, walk the dog, play with their children, or simply take a break from the rushed pace of city living.

Bangkok is the perfect place to try Muay Thai. There are also plenty of great cycling and running routes in and around the city. Those wanting to escape the soaring temperatures will find a number of reputable gyms and yoga studios throughout Bangkok. 

Alternatively, those looking for something a bit different always have the option of heading out to a golf course. There are plenty of quality courses situated around Bangkok which offer excellent value for money.

Kids and Family in Bangkok

Expats who consider moving to the Thai capital may wonder about how children in Bangkok keep themselves busy. Despite its frenetic nature, however, there are plenty of child-friendly activities and attractions in the city.

New arrivals will find that the weather often dictates how expat families in Bangkok spend their time. During the summer the city's various waterparks are full of visitors looking to cool off, while the frequent bursts of tropical rain are perfect for a day of indoor activities.  


Outdoor activities for kids in Bangkok

When the Thai summer is in full swing, families can head down to one of the many water parks in Bangkok. Siam Park City is one of the most popular of these, and children of all ages can spend an entire day riding down the slippery slides or splashing in its countless pools. There is also an amusement park with rides and activities to suit all ages. Other popular parks include the Pororo Water Park and Fantasia Lagoon, which is situated on the roof of the Mall Bangkae.

Older children might enjoy the Flowrider at Flowhouse in Bangkok. Here they can learn to surf in the middle of the city, courtesy of the wave machine. Those who prefer to enjoy the water from a distance could also take a boat trip down the Chao Phraya River and its many canals.

Animal lovers should head to Safari World Zoo and Marine Park. Here, visitors can see a wide variety of animals roaming freely across acres of open space from the comfort of their cars. After seeing the sights of the Safari Park, visitors can walk to Marine World, which is closer to a traditional zoo. The highlight for many is the giraffe feeding platform, where they can feed bananas to the colossal but friendly herbivores.

Braver families might enjoy the Bangkok Snake Farm on the grounds of the Thai Red Cross Society. A mixture of indoor, outdoor and educational activities, learning more about this much-maligned species allows many visitors to get over their fear of these reptiles – or at least learn which ones they really should fear.


Indoor activities for kids in Bangkok

Another way to escape the city’s summer heat is ice skating at one of its many skating rinks. One of the most popular is Ice Planet, which occupies two floors at the Siam Discovery Centre. Aside from housing an Olympic-sized ice rink, it also boasts a skating school for ice hockey and figure skating, as well as an indoor garden for expat parents who prefer to keep their feet on the ground.

One of the most interesting children's activities in Bangkok is KidZania, a scaled-down indoor city where children get to play at being grown-ups and play their part in the city’s “economy”. Here, local and expat children can be everything from dentists to mechanics in a controlled environment, learning and having fun while earning in KidZo – the official currency of KidZania.

There is also a wide range of museums in Bangkok dedicated to everything from the human body to Batman – although some of them would be better suited to older children. Those wanting a family-friendly way to learn about their new home should visit the Museum of Siam. Set in a neoclassical building, its combination of old and ultra-modern influences create a fascinating journey into Thai history and culture. 

See and Do in Bangkok

An eclectic city with everything from Buddhist temples to sophisticated rooftop bars, Bangkok has plenty for expats to see and do. While its seedier side sometimes gets the most attention, the whole city is filled with a variety of attractions to suit almost anyone’s tastes.

As a popular tourist destination, Bangkok welcomes millions of foreigners every year. The city's character is a unique mixture of glitz and grit, and expats will be able to enjoy a wide variety of cultural and historical attractions. 


Attractions in Bangkok

Damnoen Saduk Market

Dating back to ancient times where water transport was an important part of daily life in Thailand, the city’s various floating markets are a reminder of a time gone by and a major tourist attraction. Chief among these is the Damnoen Saduk market, about an hour outside the city centre. Shoppers can explore the market with a guided boat tour, loading up on all kinds of cargo bought from floating stalls and even kitchens along the way.

The Bangkok National Museum

As one of the largest museums in Southeast Asia, the Bangkok National Museum is sure to have something to interest everyone. Founded in 1874, the museum has a rich history itself, and today it's housed in a former palace. With exhibited items dating back up to thousands of years, this is an excellent way to learn more about Thai history and culture.

The Grand Palace

The official residence of the King of Thailand since the 18th century, it is now only used for official ceremonies and is one of the most famous attractions in Bangkok. Located in the heart of the city on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, it showcases two centuries of construction and history in a variety of beautiful structures. It also houses the Museum of the Emerald Buddha Temple, housing artefacts from both the palace and the temple. 

Siam Ocean World Bangkok

An underground aquarium set two floors beneath the glamorous Siam Paragon Shopping Centre, Ocean World houses thousands of aquatic creatures from a variety of habitats. It also has a popular tunnel exhibit, which gives visitors of all ages a peek into the wonders of the open ocean.

Museum of Counterfeit Goods

Bangkok is famous as a hub of copyright infringement where a close copy of just about anything can be bought at a fraction of the price of the real thing. The Museum of Counterfeit Goods challenges the common perception that selling and buying such goods is a victimless crime. Run by a high-profile law firm specialising in intellectual property law, the museum showcases thousands of confiscated fakes to the public. There are also genuine items on display alongside some copies so that visitors to the museum can be taught to spot counterfeit goods.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

One of the best-known sights of Southeast Asia, the Temple of Dawn is famous for its colourful spires and the beauty of its unique architecture. Climbing to the top of the central spire is challenging but those up to the task are rewarded with stunning views. Visitors should be sure to dress modestly, however, as it is an active site of worship for Buddhists.

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Known for being the birthplace of Thai massage, Wat Pho has a history that goes back to the 18th century. Its centrepiece, the reclining Buddha, is 43m long and 15m high with feet that are inlaid with symbols made from mother of pearl. This remarkable sight is matched by an impressive temple complex that contains everything from the ashes of kings to a Bodhi tree which is said to have grown from the tree that Buddha sat under when he attained enlightenment.

What's On in Bangkok

Given its reputation for revelry, it is hardly surprising that there's always some kind of festival or celebration going on in Bangkok.

The various annual events in Bangkok reflect its unique character, combining traditional Thai celebrations and Buddhist ceremonies and all kinds of contemporary festivities with a more modern feel.

Some of the most popular, not-to-be-missed annual events in Bangkok are listed below. 


Annual events in Bangkok

Chinese New Year (February)

With one of the largest Chinatowns in the world, Bangkok celebrates the Chinese New Year in its own unique style. Expats should dress in red, head down to Chinatown and enjoy the revelry, moon cakes and firecrackers.

Songkran Festival (April)

The Songkran Festival is a three-day celebration of the traditional Thai New Year. People all over the city douse each other with water in a symbolic ceremony of purification and cleansing for the coming year. It's a great way for expats who aren’t afraid of getting wet to enjoy Thai culture.

Hua Hin International Jazz Festival (May)

An interesting affair for any music lover, the annual event attracts international artists from East and West alike. The festival stretches over six days, and attendees can listen to artists from as far afield as England and Indonesia. 

Amazing Thailand Grand Sale (June to September)

An initiative by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the city becomes one big sale and provides the year’s best deals on shopping in Bangkok. From the city’s biggest malls and hotels, plus a good number of stalls. Expat shoppers will be able to find bargains on everything from designer clothes to traditional handicrafts.  

Vegetarian Festival (October)

For two weeks in October, vegetarian expats will have no problem finding good food in Bangkok. Observed across the country, the city’s celebrations are centred in Chinatown. Religious rites are performed at Chinese temples, and participating restaurants and stalls around the city wave yellow and red flags to signal they are taking part. Expats should be sure to see a few of the various cultural performances that take place and try the vegetarian dishes made to look like meat that abound in the city during this time. 

Bangkok Marathon (November)

Due to the extreme temperatures Bangkok sees in November, the Bangkok Marathon is said to be one of the world’s toughest – all the more reason for new residents to cheer on the runners taking part in this gruelling race or even take up the challenge of participating themselves.

Loy Krathong (November)

Residents gather on the banks of the Chao Phraya River to put thousands of floating baskets on the water. These carry thousands of candles away, flickering towards the horizon. Each person finds their own meaning in an event that some say honours the Water Goddess, and others use it to cast off negative feelings. It's one of the most visually stunning annual events in Bangkok.

Frequently Asked Questions about Bangkok

Expats moving to Bangkok will undoubtedly have questions about their new home. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in the Thai Capital. 

Is Bangkok safe?

Bangkok is surprisingly safe considering the large income disparity and even larger population. Westerners, in particular, are treated with the utmost respect. Expats are nearly always welcomed rather than treated with hostility.

Most apartment complexes and hotels hire a security guard, although they seem to do little more than look official. Hospitals are very safe and, despite political upheaval, expats shouldn't be concerned about political violence as long as they stay clear of protests.

Is Bangkok accessible for children?

The city can be great for children. One drawback is pollution, but medical treatment is top-notch. There are a large number of water parks, zoos and other activities to capture a child's imagination. Private schools are of a good quality. Often city neighbourhoods act as communities and it is common for children to be looked after and, in part, raised by the neighbours.

What are some health concerns in Bangkok?

The largest concern is the air pollution which can be detrimental to asthmatics and generally draining for everyone else. There is a high HIV prevalence in Thailand, but this is largely related to those that interact with the continuously growing sex industry.

Dengue fever is rare but travellers should keep an ear out for news of recent outbreaks. It is not always safe to drink the tap water, but easily accessible bottled water is fine. The most common sickness is diarrhoea, which is a result of unclean foods.

Must I learn Thai?

There are so many expats in Bangkok that it is very easy to circulate primarily in English-speaking crowds and hangouts. Most local Thai people cannot speak English, and everything from giving directions to a taxi, negotiating prices and ordering street food is done in Thai. Learning some rudimentary words and sentences will go a long way to enhancing the experience of the city. It is less important to be able to read in Thai as many signs are in English.

Do I need a car?

One definitely does not need a car in Bangkok. In fact, public transport, such as the Sky Train, tuk-tuks and subway, is much faster than driving. Frustrating traffic jams are, however, regular parts of any commute. Unfortunately, public transport does not reach all areas of the city, but there are unusual numbers of taxis and motorbike taxis. Drivers sometimes will agree to negotiate a lower price than on the meter, but often refuse to drive long distances, and for some lengthy trips it may be necessary to take several taxis.

Getting Around in Bangkok

Transport options in Bangkok are endless. Most expats tend to favour public transport, particularly the city's many varieties of taxis. Travelling by foot is not ideal in Bangkok, while travelling by car is equal parts dangerous and frustrating. However, driving may be essential for those living in areas not reached by public transport. 


Public transport in Bangkok

Trains

A popular mode of transportation among expats in Bangkok is the Sky Train (BTS). This elevated train system navigates the main business, entertainment and hospitality districts of Silom and Sukhumvit. It is a reliable, clean and safe way to travel in Bangkok, and runs for about 18 hours a day with trains arriving every three to six minutes.

Alternatively, expats can opt to take the Metro (MRT), which runs from the north to the south of the city. It's based on the Singaporean model and is very popular with expats as well as locals. Its length is currently just over 40km with extensions under construction.

Currently, these two systems work separately but there are plans to introduce a ticketing system common to both.

Buses

There is an extensive system of buses in Bangkok, some of which are equipped with air conditioning. Although this is a cheap way to travel, it is often uncomfortable and can be very slow due to the amount of traffic in the city. For this reason, it is not generally a popular option with expats. However, buses are ideal for long-distance, rural, and intercity travel. A wide variety of private services operate routes to different parts of Thailand.

Tuk-tuks

Expats in Thailand will quickly become familiar with tuk-tuks, open-air three-wheeled carriages attached to motorbikes. The city is served by thousands of them and while they are popular with tourists, they are also useful for expats and locals. Tuk-tuks are a speedy way to get around as their size allows them to weave in and out of traffic.


Taxis in Bangkok

Taxis provide the most reliable, convenient, cost-effective and efficient way of getting around in Bangkok. These vehicles are never in short supply and are available around the clock. Expats can simply flag one down, hop in and prepare to pay the fare.

Taxis are usually fitted with a meter which charges a set rate per kilometre – by law, the meter should be turned on, but some drivers deliberately leave them off in order to charge the passenger a higher price. If the driver refuses to use the meter even after a passenger has requested it, the best response is to promptly exit the taxi and find another one.

It is important to remember that most taxi drivers have very limited English skills. Expats living in Bangkok will quickly learn that it is best to have the address of their destination written down in Thai, or they may experience an unsolicited tour of the city.


Driving in Bangkok

As a result of the city's constant heavy traffic, as well as the high death toll on its roads, many expats prefer to avoid driving in Bangkok if possible. Expats who do intend to drive can buy new cars in Thailand or import their own from home, but both of these options are expensive. Foreign driver's licences are acceptable for up to three months after arriving in Thailand. 

After these three months, a local Thai driver’s licence must be obtained. International driver’s licenses are valid for up to one year, however, it is still advised to acquire a Thai driver’s license. Many insurance policies become void if an expat is still driving with only an international license after three months.

It's not uncommon for expats to hire experienced Thai drivers rather than braving the roads themselves. This is an ideal solution and some employers may agree to include this perk as part of the offered relocation package. 


Cycling in Bangkok

Compared to many of the world's other major cities, Bangkok is relatively bicycle-friendly. There are a fair few cycle lanes scattered around the city, though getting from one to the other may prove troublesome. Furthermore, these lanes are usually shared with pedestrians and street-side markets, making them tricky to navigate safely. Cycling on the road itself is extremely dangerous and should be avoided wherever possible. 


Walking in Bangkok

Thai locals tend to walk less than expats in Bangkok, which may explain why the sidewalks are often used for shopping rather than strolling. The city's high pedestrian fatality rate should be taken seriously. If travelling by foot is unavoidable, it should be done only over short distances.