Ignore the age-old myth “Move to a cheap city and live like a king”. This is not Bangkok and certainly not in 2014. Penthouse apartments, staff, VIP treatment… unless you have big bucks this couldn’t be further from the truth. On a western wage you will be no more than another Farang in Bangkok city. The more sensational blogs are aimed to hype the writer’s own lifestyles. Far from the realities of modern living in Bangkok. That being said Bangkok is an awesome city to live in and you do get plenty bang for the buck. If considering moving here… do. It is worth giving up everything to live here. I did and I never looked back.
The Best Things in Bangkok are Free
First off you need to be living in Bangkok for the right reasons. If you don’t agree with the above then you shouldn’t be living in Bangkok. Admittedly most bad rep for Bangkok is from tourists or travellers who fail to see or appreciate the real Bangkok. This isn’t the fault of visitors. They are often rushed past tourist littered temples, boozy backpacker areas and red light strips. All while enduring intense heats. Not so enjoyable. Thankfully Bangkok is a big city and it is the other areas which draw unprecedented appreciation. I can’t highlight this any better than a good friend of mine (and top notch travel writer) Justin Egli at Ikimasho.com who wrote ‘Bangkok from the inside’ after visiting us in Bangkok.
Benefits of Nice Accommodation
For the digital nomad (like myself) Bangkok is perfect. For travel bloggers I’d say the best base. The photo below shows just one of the benefits of living in Bangkok. I took this photo just now while writing this blog. By paying extra for a nicer condo the condo feels like my own. I have privacy as neighbours live like city workaholics to pay bills. The communal facilities go relatively untouched. I now sit facing the condo infinity pool. Stillness, beer, a backdrop of city lights and mayhem passing on the street below. If I feel like a night out the elevator beside me brings me to the action of Sukhumvit streets. Maybe a beer and roadside barbecue nearby, a walk to Sukhumvit’s famous restaurants and nightlife or I’ll most likely be lazy with a Jacuzzi and sauna. So much opportunity and a whole lot of time.
Finding Accommodation in Bangkok
Recently we planned on leasing a second condo in outer Bangkok (Ratchayothin). After 2 weeks of annoyances we give up. Searching for affordable accommodation is frustrating. Finding budget accommodation even more so. What I would recommend is Craigslist. Listings are current and up-to-date and you save a bit of cash by cutting out the middleman. With other Free Listing Websites people often add property, find a tenant, and never return to take down the ads. Adverts can sit for years. Best to check post dates before getting excited. What area to live? I can only advise on Sukhumvit, a favourite with expats living in Bangkok. For prices in the Sukhumvit area the cheapest studios with annual contract will be around $200 per month (6,000 Baht). This is for the lower Sukhumvit areas and includes limited to no facilities and a trek (or motorbike taxi) to the nearest BTS Skytrain line. For healthier budgets I recommend renting through agencies. This removes a lot of the crap. I’ll highlight my property experiences here (to come). You can find some fantastic places for around $1000 per month (30,000 Baht). My condo is similar price. Fancy one bedroom unit, central Asoke area, short walk to interchange station (Metro and Skytrain), city views, infinity pool, gym etc. For me a nice place is essential when living in Bangkok. More so for digital nomads and location independent professions. Get a nice base then cut costs elsewhere. If planning to buy a condo (as I did) check here.
Eating Cheap in Bangkok
Yes you can easily eat on a dollar (30–40 baht) where in fact most local foods cost around a dollar. Food courts, bags of street food, backstreet restaurants. The choice is never-ending. Local foods can be intimidating to newcomers but after a month or two you won’t look twice at a McDonalds. Khao Rad Gaeng; canteen style pre-prepared Thai food are a local favourite. Include two cheap portions of curries on rice (30 Baht+). Food courts are in or around every major building. One of my favourite food courts is at my local mall Terminal 21 (Pier 21). Again Street Food is at every corner and cheap shop house restaurants are easy to find if you dare to look. Isaan Barbecues pop-up in evenings with booze and local banter (foods around 50 Baht). Food alone is worth living in Bangkok but we can all do at times with comfort foods. In Bangkok Big Mac meals cost around $5 (150 Baht) and all the major international Western and Asian franchises litter Bangkok streets and line the insides of every mall. A personal favourite for cheap international food and alcohol is Wine Connection. Great prices for high quality international products. Wine in particular is cheap at Wine Connection (probably guessed from the name) and it makes a top choice for budget, casual romance. If all else fails there’s always the convenience store snacks at 7/11s and FamilyMart.
Boozing and Nightlife
Big beers around $1.50 (50 Baht) at the local corner shop and Local liquors (70cl) like Ya Dong and Blend 285 around $7 (210 Baht). Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s nasty. Again Wine Connection for an exciting and affordable selection of international beers and wines (prices pictured below). For me this is as far as I go with night life. If planning to party then living in Bangkok can become expensive. Using a popular hangout Route 66 (RCA) 300 Baht entry (returned in drink coupons), 1,400 Baht for a bottle of Red Label Johnny Walker and around 150 Baht for beers. It is easy to spend $50+ on a night out. Where to party? Expat hordes on Sukhumvit 11, the wealthy on Thong Lor, a mixed bunch at RCA (Royal City Avenue) and youthful locals at Ratchada Soi 4 (now demolished).
Recreation and Sports in Bangkok
If budgets don’t stretch to ‘accommodation with gym’ then affording gym membership is unlikely. Fortunately there are cheap and free alternatives. Bangkok’s parks your best bet. Benjasiri Park (Phrom Phong BTS) is one of the better. Free use of exercise facilities and sports. Basketball courts, skateboard park, Tai Chi and takraw. Another less visited Sukhumvit Park with similar name is Benjakiti Park (Asoke BTS) with a 2 km cycle track and bike rental.
Cheap Travel in Bangkok and Beyond
Skytrain (BTS) and Underground (MRT) will bring you to anywhere you need to go. Prices from 20-40 Baht. Taxis in central Sukhumvit rarely go higher than 60 Baht. Taxis to further areas rarely higher than 150 Baht. Bangkok motorbike taxis help navigate rush hour traffic for 10-20 Baht (local areas). For long distance travel minivans are the quickest route to areas outside Bangkok. Buses and trains are relatively cheap, then AirAsia and other low-cost carriers fly to Southeast Asia’s best destinations. Check here for our full travel guide from Bangkok.
Recommended Budget for Living in Bangkok
$1000US (30,000 Baht) per month. I would put this as bare minimum for living in Bangkok. Ok it can be cheaper when living in squalid accommodation, eating instant noodles and boozing Ya Dong but this is not really living. $1000US is similar to my monthly spending and I own my property. I eat cheap, travel cheap and stay in 5 of 7 nights a week. Living a simple life. Factor spendings on international travel and probable VISA runs and living in Bangkok becomes pricey. Easily worth every penny.
Cost of Living in Bangkok (Free eBook)
For more up to date analysis of costs of living in Bangkok we have compiled a basic breakdown of expat expenditures. As everyone is different, with different comfort levels, and reason for being in Bangkok, we have taken lifestyle and varying budgets into consideration. From a basic living in retirement, to big city life and the so called ‘VIP’ lifestyle. Get the free eBook below and subscription to our quarterly lifestyle and travel newsletter covering Bangkok and Asia.