Living in Bangkok: A Guide (For Digital Nomads)

living in Bangkok
living in Bangkok

Living in Bangkok has become a popular choice for expats, particularly for farangs like myself who work online and want all of their needs met on top of reliable Wi-Fi.

With delicious local and international cuisine on your doorstep, bouncing nightlife and the “always something going on” kind of vibe, it’s easy to see why – if that’s what you’re looking for.

Which is the whole point of this article. The capital of Thailand ticks plenty of boxes, but does it tick yours? 

I lived here for about a year and a half and have mixed feelings about the place. In this extensive guide, I’ll break down exactly what it’s like living in Bangkok (as a digital nomad, but offline workers can still get value from it) with all the pros and cons and answers to the usual expat questions.

Why I Chose To Live in Bangkok

I was feeling a bit jaded after living in Phnom Penh for so long and in desperate need of change. I’d already lived in Chiang Mai and travelled around Thailand for a little bit before heading to Cambodia.

I suspected a pull back to Thailand was down to pure nostalgia, as that’s where my business started taking off when I was almost broke and facing the terrifying prospect of returning to The UK, for a heavy serving of humble pie.

That being said, life in Phnom Penh was no longer cutting the mustard for me and I needed to take my business to the next level, with a higher standard of living.

After making friends online with 3 other guys, we agreed to share an apartment together so that we could all stay motivated to work on our own online empires.

One of them is now studying to be a doctor in Bulgaria and blogs about it. The other travelled the world without flying and is now absolutely killing it with his site and the other made $1 million dollars while travelling the world (I’m also due to be his best man when he gets married next year).

Visa Situation For Living in Bangkok

How long you’re planning on living in Bangkok will determine the visa that you need to apply for. If you’re only staying for a few weeks or months, you’ll have no problem getting by on a tourist or non-immigrant visa. However, if you’re planning on living in Bangkok for a good few years, then you will need to look at other options.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what each visa will get you.

Tourist Visa

If you are lucky enough, you could be eligible for the 64 countries who get a visa waiver on arrival. This is similar to a visa, (you get a stamp in your passport for an allotted amount of time).

The 2nd set of fortunate nationalities get an official visa on arrival, granted upon landing at any international Thai airport and will allow you to stay in the county for 60 days. 

  1. Bhutan
  2. Bulgaria
  3. China
  4. Cyprus
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Fiji
  7. Georgia
  8. India
  9. Kazakhstan
  10. Malta
  11. Mexico
  12. Nauru
  13. Papua New Guinea
  14. Romania
  15. Saudi Arabia
  16. Taiwan
  17. Uzbekistan
  18. Vanuatu

Both the visa waiver and visa on arrival crew are very similar, so let’s just lump them into the ‘Tourist Visa’ section to avoid confusion. If you aren’t on that list, my condolences, you’ll have to arrange an interview at your local Thailand Embassy or Consulate.

You can extend  your tourist visa by another thirty days but you’ll need to head to the Thai Immigration Office, which sits about a five-minute drive from Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport. Here you will need to fill in a form, attend a short interview with an immigration officer and pay ฿1,900 to have your visa extended.

If you are planning on living in Bangkok for a longer time, a 90-days multiple-entry tourist visa is a good option, but you’ll have to sort that out at any Thai embassy/consulate around the world before coming to Thailand.

Non-Immigrant Visa

A step up from a tourist visa and my current favourite option. The non-immigrant visa will allow you to stay in the country for three months, with the chance to extend this by 90 days but you can also pay for up to a year. Popular Non-immigrant visas are as follows…

Education Visa

You can sign up to a Thai cooking class, Muay Thai kickboxing camp, or a Thai Language school for a fee (which all vary depending on institutions and period of stay). 

Volunteer Visa

You can also obtain a “volunteer” visa, which is basically code word for a donation to a local temple, for an agreed period of stay, via a Better Call Saul type of lawyer (this is the one that I’m currently on).

Marriage Visa

Marry a Thai person and you get to live in Bangkok, or anywhere else in Thailand legally. 

Retirement Visa

It is what it says it is. I have absolutely no experience with this (thank God, I’m not looking forward to getting to retirement age) but from retired expats who I have met living in Bangkok and all over Thailand, they seemed very happy with their deal and the process of obtaining this visa.

An important note on all the visas above: As it currently stands, Thailand is not very strict at all with checking that you are going to all these classes (but they are stringent on your 90 days reporting at immigration – so don’t cut any corners on that one!)

At the worst, you may get an immigration officer testing your Thai language skills, if they’ve had a bad day and you are on a Thai language education visa.

But they’re hardly going to ask you to knock up a penang curry at the airport if you have a cooking education visa, or test out your Muay Thai defence game with a high kick to the face upon arrival. 

This is all of course up to you, how you choose to conduct yourself. I’m just telling you how it is out here, you are an adult and therefore responsible for your own actions.

Thai Elite Visa

If you’re hoping to live in Bangkok for the long long run, you can apply for a Thai Elite Visa, which is usually granted for five, ten or fifteen year periods, (word on the street is that Thailand is doing away with the 10 and 15 year option soon). However, this luxury does come at a price. 

You’ll need to pay around ฿500,000 (around $16,000 USD) for five years, and ฿1 million for 20 years (around $32,000 USD) and this won’t give you rights to work, or buy property in Thailand either but if you can afford this, it’s a good deal for you not having the anxiety of a looming visa expiration spoiling all your fun.

I am currently considering buying the 5 years Thai Elite Visa, I’ll update accordingly.

Weather in Bangkok

Bangkok is a hot and humid city by nature. It’s also an urban heat island – a metropolitan area where human activity, skyscrapers and even tarmac increases the temperature in the city by a good few degrees. If you need to escape the heat at any point, the city’s surrounding rural areas tend to be at least five degrees cooler throughout the year.

To put it simply, seasons in central Thailand can be broken down into three distinct seasons: the dry season, the wet season and the cooler season. 

If you’re dreaming of living in Bangkok when the sun is at its most brutal, between March and June, temperatures in the city can be as high as 40°c. This can be a shock to the system for some of us westerners used to “English summers”, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve got some serious air con where you’re staying too.

The rainy season arrives in Central Thailand and Bangkok towards the end of May and tends to last until the end of October. During the rainy season, Bangkok can receive up to 334.3mm of rain per month, so have your umbrellas packed.

As the end of the year approaches, Thailand’s capital enters its cooler period, one of the most popular times to visit Bangkok. While this season is seen as the coldest time of the year, temperatures rarely fall below 20°c, making for pleasant living conditions in the capital (bar the hordes of tourists).

Important Thai Phrases For Living in Bangkok

Bangkok may be a city full of multi-linguists and English-speakers, but being able to speak a few Thai phrases will make a huge difference to your experience living in Bangkok. Not only will you find it easier to get around, understanding a few phrases here and there, but you will also earn the respect of the Thai people by at least making an effort to speak their language in their country.

Something to keep in mind when you’re learning even basic Thai expressions are the endings of words. Phrases will end with a different suffix depending on whether the speaker is male or female, with khrup ending male-spoken phrases and ka ending female-spoken phrases.

  • Sawatdii [sa-wad-ee] – Hello
  • Chai [ch-eye] – Yes
  • Mai [my] – No
  • Khop Khun [kop kun] – Thank you
  • Khor thoad [ko tod] – Sorry/Excuse me
  • Kun puut paa-saa ang-grit daai mai? – Do you speak English?

National Holidays in Thailand

Much like in the west, Thailand’s annual calendar is broken up into a number of different national holidays. Some are more important than others, culminating in festival celebrations, fireworks and ceremonies, while others may even pass you by without a whisper when you’re living in Bangkok as a digital nomad.

January

  • 1st New Years Day – Although Thailand officially follows the Buddhist calendar, celebrations for the Gregorian New Years Day are still prevalent in the city.

February

  • 12th Chinese New Year – With a huge Chinese and Thai-Chinese population, Chinese New Year celebrations are a big deal in the Thai capital. The city’s Chinatown is the nucleus of festivities and always provides a great party atmosphere.
  • 26th Makha Bucha –  One of the holiest days in the Buddhist calendar, Makha Bucha falls on a date determined by the lunar calendar. Thai people will carry out a candle holding ritual around the many temples in Bangkok and will often abstain from alcohol. You may find that a lot of bars around town are closed on this day too. 

April

  • 6th Chakri Day – Chakri Day celebrates the Chakri dynasty that is Thailand’s current ruling royal family. Government offices, schools, and banks close but many other establishments tend to stay open. 
  • 12th-15th Songkran Holiday – Songkran Holiday or Thai New Year, as it is also known, is the official new year in Thailand. Celebrations are held across Bangkok and usually include a lot of water throwing – prepare to get drenched! Psssst. As fun as this day can be, it’s much better to escape up north to Chiang Mai for Songkran celebrations!

May

  • 3rd Labour Day – A celebration of workers, Labour day falls at the start of May and is celebrated by a float parade that processes through Bangkok.
  • 4th H.M. King’s Coronation – This holiday celebrates the coronation of Thailand’s current king, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, also known by the title King Rama X.
  • 10th Royal Ploughing Ceremony – This is a governmental holiday that marks the first day of the rice-growing season that is observed in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand.
  • 16th Visakha Bucha Day – Visakha Bucha Day marks the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha and is, quite possible, the most sacred day in the entire Buddhist calendar. During Visakha Bucha Day, shops, bars and restaurants are barred from selling alcohol for 24 hours from midnight until midnight. 

June

  • 3rd HM Queen’s Birthday – This holiday celebrates the birthday of Thailand’s queen, Queen Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhya.

July 

  • 27th Buddhist Lent – Also known as Khao Phansa, Buddhist lent celebrates the beginning of the three-lunar-month period. This festival generally goes unnoticed by expats, and there’s no restrictions on drinking or eating. 
  • 28th HM King’s Birthday – Known as Rama X, King Vajiralongkorn’s birthday is recognized as a government holiday. Government buildings are closed, but private businesses are not. 

August

  • 12th H.M Queen Mother’s Birthday – Birthday of Queen Siriki, the mother of King Vajiralongkorn, Thai people will wear blue ribbons as a sign of homage to the King’s mother.

September 

  • 24th Prince Mahidol Day – Dedicated to Prince Mahidol, this day recognises the efforts of the man that is considered the father of modern medicine and public health in Thailand. 

October 

  • 13th Passing of King Bhumibol – One of the most beloved kings in modern times, King Bhumibol passed in 2016, and his passing is now recognised as a public holiday.
  • 23rd Chulalongkorn Day – Chulalongkorn Day is another national holiday that recognises the passing of one of Thailand’s former monarchs, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who passed away on October 23rd 1910.

December

  • 10th Constitution Day – A day celebrating Thailand’s constitution. You won’t find many celebrations taking place but all government offices and schools will be closed.

Honourable mention: The Phuket Vegetarian Festival – As it’s based on the Chinese Lunar Calendar, there is no official annual date for this eye-opening ceremony. But if you need a break from living in Bangkok and have both a strong stomach and an open mind, then you can read more about this wild ceremony here.

Wifi and Data For Digital Nomads Living in Bangkok

As a digital nomad living anywhere, Wi-Fi and data are some of the most important elements to your everyday life and the success of your move. When it comes to finding some sort of internet connectivity in Bangkok, there are two routes you can take.

As a reasonably developed nation, Thailand’s general Wi-Fi and broadband speeds are quite fast and advanced, especially in Bangkok (much quicker than the UK and Australia in my experience). This means every half-decent hotel, hostel, bar and even roadside cafe has a good Wi-Fi connection – perfect for stopping off and enjoying a coffee, or a Chang beer while you get to work. (Just watch out for that horrendous “Changover” the day after!)

The second and more popular option is to secure yourself a local sim on one of the many Thai mobile companies. The three big mobile phone companies in Thailand are True, Ais and Dtac, with each one offering its own unique attractions when it comes to data. 

All of these companies have an English version of their websites, allowing you to navigate all of the details relatively easily. True tends to be the provider of choice amongst digital nomads – the plans are reasonable, and they have a chain of coffee shops where you can top up your data and find some help.

I used AIS whilst living in Bangkok for phone and Wi-Fi, I now use True for both. I didn’t change because I was unhappy with the service of AIS, I just moved and my new area only had True set up for Wi-Fi in my new apartment.

I have zero complaints about both companies regarding connection (my only grievance is they spam the shit out of your phone when you’re with them) and I’ve never used Dtac.

Food in Bangkok

One of the biggest draws that bring holidaymakers and expats to settle in Bangkok and Thailand as a whole is its food. Thai food has a deserving reputation for being some of the most flavoursome, fresh and exciting in the world. Although Thai dishes can be regional, living in Bangkok, the capital, means you have a wide plethora of Thai cuisine concentrated in one city.

Street food really comes into its own in the city, and you can rarely walk a few metres without bumping into a roadside stall selling a variety of dishes to try. Some of the most famous dishes include Pad Thai – a fried noodle dish, Som Tum – a papaya salad, Khao Soi – a north Thailand noodle soup and Tom Yum – a hot and sour Thai soup. 

The range of places to eat are vast in the Thai capital; from cheap market stalls to Michelin starred restaurants there’s so much choice and something to suit every budget. Thai food makes the most of the seasonal and fresh fruit and veg available and keeps ahead with the current trends, so you definitely won’t struggle eating as a vegan or vegetarian here. 

Try Tao Hoo Song Kreung, a dish where tofu is the star ingredient, or Pad Phuk Tong – stir fried pumpkin with a garlic, chilli dressing. 

Those with a sweet tooth can look forward to two things: Mango sticky rice, a tasty Thai dessert and mangosteen – the most delicious fruit I’ve ever had after 10 years on the road.

Currency in Bangkok

Thailand uses a currency known as Thai Baht which comes in the form of both coin and notes. Notes can be found in 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 denominations, whereas coins come in 10 baht, 5 baht, 2 baht, 1 baht, with one baht broken into 25 and 50 satang coins. 

Not an overly inflated currency, at the time of writing, one US dollar is worth around 32 Thai baht. A little like burning a five-pound note with an image of the Queen would be sacrilege in England, the image of the Thai king and royal family is considered sacred, so be careful how you treat notes and coins to avoid ruffling the feathers of ardent royalists (their opposition won’t care too much though).

If you are withdrawing money from an ATM and you’re using an international bank account, it’s standard for banks to charge around 220 Thai baht per withdrawal. Opening a bank with either Bangkok Bank, SCB, or Kasikorn Bank may be a good idea if you’re planning on living in Bangkok for a few months or longer.

I’m with Bangkok Bank and they are shite, but they are the easiest to open. It’s my own fault, I keep putting off getting a Kasikorn Bank account (all my expat friends here rave about them).

Cost of Living in Bangkok (For Digital Nomads)

When it comes to moving to a new city or country, it’s important to understand the living costs so you can budget accordingly. Living in Bangkok is no different, and it’s worth balancing the cost of rent, groceries, transportation and any luxuries you’re going to spend money on. 

To get a good idea of what you can expect to spend while you’re living in Bangkok, here’s a quick overview of prices:

Cost of rent

The cost of rent in Bangkok can fluctuate greatly and will all depend on the type of accommodation you’re choosing to live in. Some digital nomads living in Bangkok may want the privacy of  a one-bedroom apartment. In the centre of Bangkok, a modern one-bed can cost 19,000/month on average.

Aside from renting an apartment from private estate agents, you can also choose to rent an Airbnb. This way, you can benefit from monthly rental discounts and should be able to find an apartment for around ฿20,000/21,000 a month. 

Of course, this is all relative, and you can find both cheaper and more expensive rental properties, all depending on where you want to live in the city and the quality of accommodation that you’re looking for. 

Transportation (minimum fares)

Transportation in Bangkok is varied and affordable, which makes it incredibly easy to get around town:

  • BTS Skytrain: ฿16
  • Water taxi: ฿40
  • Grab taxi: ฿55
  • Public bus:฿8

Food and other groceries 

If you’re sick of seafood and fancy cooking up a storm in your own kitchen, this is what you can expect to pay in grocery stores and markets:

  • Chicken per KG: ฿78
  • Beef per KG: ฿299
  • Tofu per KG: ฿70
  • Rice per KG: ฿41
  • Bottled water 1lt: ฿15
  • Local beer: ฿60

Luxuries and nightlife

A night out on the town is always tempting when living in Bangkok…

  • Lunch at a local restaurant: ฿70-5000! 
  • A night out (with alcohol) at local clubs: ฿1000-10,000!
  • Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat: ฿200-1000!

The above might seem a bit confusing. Well it’s as simple as this; living in Bangkok isn’t as cheap as some online claims suggest. I’ve purposefully kept this section more vague, as I am working on a more comprehensive “cost of living in Bangkok” article next week.

Is Bangkok Safe To Live in?

As is the case with any large, modern, metropolitan city, Bangkok isn’t free from crime. However its position on the world stage has meant that it has ramped up its policing and safety is much less of a concern than it used to be, and it has slowly become one of the safest cities in Asia, especially for expats.

As the Thai capital has seen a vast influx of tourists over the past four decades, the sights and sounds of non-Thai people are common, and there is a lot less tourist-based crime than there used to be. 

It’s important to keep your wits about you, especially at night or if you’re wandering into any new neighbourhoods. However, I’d probably say the same for any other global city, whether it be London, New York or Ho Chi Minh (read about why I wasn’t bowled over by Ho Chi Minh on my first visit).

What Are Bangkok Natives Like?

Capital of the Land of Smiles, Bangkok natives are synonymous with Thai people in general (although I’d say the further north you go, the friendlier they are). Thais are amiable people, who have respectful traditional values; valuing the family structure and a conservative view of manners and social interaction.

I recently worked on a weird fund-raising project for a slum in Bangkok and I felt incredibly safe walking around there the whole time.

In my experience, any hustle and bustle, highly populous city around the world can seem a little rough and ready around the edges as everyone is in a rush, or trying to make a buck out of you as a foreigner.

Bangkok is no different, but taxi drivers aside – I didn’t find Bangkok natives too unfriendly at all. 

“Best” Neighbourhoods in Bangkok For Digital Nomads

As you’d imagine is the case with any big city, choosing a neighbourhood to live in is a big deal; it can affect your wallet, your experience and your overall happiness. Luckily, Bangkok is huge, and different districts offer up completely opposite experiences, whether you want to be close to the heart of the action, to embrace local life or find a group of like minded expats to bond with.

Having lived in the city, here’s a few areas I’d recommend:

Living in Silom as a Digital Nomad

Located in the Central Business District of Bangkok, also known as the CBD, the neighbourhood of Silom is the closest Thailand gets to The City of London or Wall Street. While Silom has gained a reputation as the financial district, it has done nothing to take away from its genuine hipster and authentic vibe.

Silom is the perfect blend of the two faces of Bangkok, and when you live here as an expat, you can truly say you’ve seen all sides of the Thai capital. The neighbourhood is a true cross-section of life in the city, offering a flavour of the old Siam-esque way of life with the ultra-modern capitalist side of modern Bangkok.

As a digital nomad living in Bangkok, Silom is a great neighbourhood to settle in, based on its transport connections alone. Being able to choose between two of the city’s main transport hubs, Silom is home to the interchange between the BTS Green Line and MRT Blue Line. Aside from this, this area of Bangkok is seen as one of the epicentres of the city and just makes perfect sense to settle here as an outside digital nomad.

Pros of living in Silom

  • Fantastic transport links.
  • Right in the heart of the city.
  • Fair share of coffee shops and restaurants. 

Cons of living in Silom

  • Rent prices are far higher.
  • Busy streets aren’t for everyone!

Living in Asoke as a Digital nomad

Similar to Silom, Asoke sits in the central business district of Bangkok and is one of the more commercial districts of the city. Much of the district’s streets are taken up by office buildings and shops, doing nothing to take away from the obvious residential possibilities of the neighbourhood. Digital nomads living in Bangkok are drawn to Asoke if only for its convenient central location.

Aside from its location, Asoke is also home to some of Thailand’s business elite, and this expat class has given birth to a more leisure-based kind of working people. Full of both Thai professionals  and expats, these people are out to spend the money of higher waged business life, giving birth to luxury malls, high-end shops and upmarket bars and restaurants. 

Pros of living in Askoke

  • In the central area of Bangkok.
  • Great transport links around the city.
  • Close to the Asoke Intersection.

Cons of living in Askoke

  • Congestion in the city centre.
  • Higher rates of rent.

Living in Ladprao as a Digital Nomad

Located in the northeast district of Bangkok, the Ladprao neighbourhood has remained one of the most genuinely Thai neighbourhoods in the centre of the city. Ladprao remains to be the perfect balance of old and new Bangkok. 

With new stations in the area, Lat Phrao and Phahon Yothin, Ladprao is a great place to choose if you want quick transport connections when you’re living in Bangkok. Alongside these transportation networks, Ladprao is also home to a number of famously large super malls.  With malls, transport options and an array of condos and plush apartments, Ladprao is an excellent choice for anyone living in Bangkok as a digital nomad.      

Pros of living in Ladprao

  • Great transport links.
  • Home to many malls.
  • An array of different condos and apartments to choose from.

Cons of living in Ladprao

  • Further out from the city centre.
  • Expensive rent.

Living in Sukhumvit as a Digital Nomad

Often seen as the ‘ex-pat ghetto’ of Bangkok, Sukhumvit is one of the city’s most popular places to settle when it comes to living in Bangkok. 

The neighbourhood has an extensive collection of restaurants, cafes, bars and other entertainment venues as well as a number of large malls, including Terminal 21 (recently featured on my list of the top unusual things to do in Bangkok) and Emporium. The neighbourhood is located on the eastern side of the city, away from its tourist centre’s often-distracting hustle and bustle.

Sukhumvit has a cosmopolitan air to it and a feeling of modern luxury. Skyscrapers, condos and apartments are surrounded by luxurious malls and shopping centres. Sukhumvit is also famous for its vibrant nightlife – playing host to the cooler and hipper residents of Bangkok.        

Pros of living in Sukhumvit

  • Multitude of bars and restaurants.
  • Lots of malls and shopping centres.
  • Famous nightlife.

Cons of living in Sukhumvit

  • Up market and expensive place to live.
  • Far from the city centre.

Living in Ploenchit as a Digital Nomad

A few stops away from the Askoke neighbourhood, this is the first place I lived in Bangkok long-term. Ploenchit was the city’s original business area and still maintains an air of professionalism about it. As a result, office blocks and company headquarters make up most of the buildings in the Ploenchit area of Bangkok. 

During weekdays, you’ll see the streets teeming with suited and booted savvy professionals. When the weekend comes Ploenchit transforms into an entertainment district, with bright lights, booming music and plenty of tipsy locals. While it may not be one of the most popular places to live for expats, Ploenchit still has the charm that could make it the ideal place to call home when you’re living in Bangkok.

Pros of living in Ploenchit

Cons of living in Ploenchit

  • Busy 24/7 with businesses open in the day and night clubs opening early evening. 
  • Although it markets itself as “central” I felt it was a bit of a scam and that other places in the city were more deserving of this title.

Living in Thonglor as a Digital Nomad

Thonglor is home to much of the upper-class Thai as well as a huge expat community. Sighted as being one of the most sophisticated areas in the Thai capital, Thonglor has an array of cafes, restaurants and bars (generally of a more trendy and pricey nature), creating a booming nightlife and social scene amongst its residents. 

The mix of young professionals and foreign digital nomads also means there are lots of co-working spaces to choose from in Thonglor, something that makes the area even more popular with expats that are living in Bangkok.

Pros of living in Thonglor

  • Large expat community.
  • Lots of co-working spaces.
  • Upmarket social scene. 

Cons of living in Thonglor

  • Higher class communities drive higher rental prices in the area, not ideal for the digital nomad who is starting out but excellent for seasoned ones who are wanting to upgrade.

Living in Ekkamai as a Digital Nomad

Ekkamai has gained a reputation as one of Bangkok’s hipster neighbourhoods, and has become a popular place for young professionals and local entrepreneurs. As a result, you’ll find streets lined with trendy cafes, local restaurants and a number of co-working spaces that are perfect if you’re looking for a bit of head-down office space. 

Pros of living in Ekkamai

  • Up and coming.
  • Younger demographic.
  • Large expat and young professional community.

Cons of living in Ekkamai

  • Same as above. No good if you don’t have the money. If you do, then you’ll love the high life there. 

Living in Ratchada as a Digital Nomad

Located on the north eastern side of the city, Ratchada is one of Bangkok’s up-and-coming business districts. Choosing to settle in Ratchada will put you ahead of the curve of incoming expats and won’t break the bank in terms of rent either.  

Set between the older business district and Bangkok’s international airport, you can access inner-city Bangkok in just a 20-minute train ride, or jump on a plane to explore the rest of Southeast Asia. 

Pros of living in Ratchada

  • Newest business district neighbourhood.
  • Low rent prices (for now).
  • Lots of co-working spaces.

Cons of living in Ratchada

  • Congested living arrangements.
  • Far out from the centre of the city.

Honourable Mentions For Living in Bangkok: Phrom Phong  and On Nut

Living in On Nut as a Digital Nomad

Far out on Bangkok’s eastern side is the neighbourhood of On Nut. Almost considered part of the capital suburban area, On Nut is fast becoming a popular choice for those settling in Bangkok. 

The peace and quiet that comes with living in On Nut is not something you would come to expect when living in Bangkok. Although far out from the hustle and bustle of central Bangkok, you are amongst local families who are living a simpler way of life compared to the bright lights of the city. 

This means the eateries, street food stalls and rent prices in On Nut are some of the best value for money in all of Bangkok. If you’re seeking peace and quiet when you move to the capital, On Nut may be the place for you.

Pros of living in On Nut

  • Cheaper way of life.
  • Peace and quiet out of the city.
  • No competition for apartments.

Cons of living in On Nut

  • Far away from the main points in the city.
  • Not as many transport connections

Living in Phrom Phong as a Digital Nomad

Half way between the centre of Bangkok and its outer suburbs, the modern neighborhood of Phrom Phong is a community full of modernity. Contemporary buildings make up most of the neighbourhood, from high rise condos, five star hotels and huge shopping malls, Phrom Phong is a modern city lover’s dream. 

Although it’s considered to be the new modern centre of the city, there are still a fair share of green spaces, the most popular being Benjasiri Park. This is a great way of escaping the concrete jungle for a while and getting some much-needed fresh air.  

Pros of living in Phrom Phong

  • Epicentre of modern Bangkok.
  • Connections to the rest of the city.

Cons of living in Phrom Phong

  • Busy congested streets in the heart of the city.

Getting Around Bangkok

With such a huge area to cover, getting around the Thai capital is something you need to figure out pretty quickly when you start living in Bangkok. There are a number of different transportation options, and each one has its own pros and cons. Along with their positives and negatives, each transportation option has its place for all budgets, locations and travel speed. 

BTS Skytrain

Bangkok is home to two main rapid transit systems, the BTS Skytrain and the MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit). These two train lines allow you to travel all over the city in no time at all and at rocket-bottom prices. With 61 stations along three lines, the BTS Skytrain is considered one of the most efficient ways of travelling around the city. A single trip to one station will cost around ฿16 with ฿59 to travel the entire route.

Pros: 

  • 61 stations, connecting the entire city.
  • Low fares.
  • Speedy journeys. 
  • Air-con is always on, perfect when you’ve been out and about in the ruthless Bangkok humidity all day.

Cons: 

  • Stations aren’t always nearby.
  • They close pretty early (midnight), which is weird in a city with so much nightlife.

Grab Taxi

For much shorter distances or to get a direct pickup and drop off, it’s worth downloading the Grab app. Grab, much like Uber in the west, is a very affordable taxi service that also offers the choice of both a car and a moped. A base fair for Grab will start off at around ฿55, adding an extra ฿3 for every kilometre you drive. 

These can be called from wherever you are in the city, as long as you have a signal on your mobile phone.

Pros:

  • Come straight to your door.
  • Speedy transport.
  • You know the fare beforehand. 
  • You can get a Grab Bike (cheaper and faster)

Cons:

  • Can get stuck in Bangkok traffic.
  • Have to download the mobile app.
  • Lack of English-speaking drivers compared to most nations that use Uber

Water Taxi

With the Chao Phraya River flowing through Bangkok, it makes perfect sense to use it as a way of getting around the city. Riverboats and ferries can be caught along the river, with a single trip costing around ฿40 and a whole day pass ฿100. Boats are extremely frequent, arriving between every five to twenty minutes, depending on where you are in the city. 

Pros:

  • No traffic.
  • Low fares.
  • Bypasses built-up areas. 

Cons:

  • You have to get to the riverbanks first.
  • Only travels along the river route, so you might need to jump on a bus afterwards.

Public Bus

This is an option for people who are living in Bangkok on a tight budget. Or maybe someone like myself who wants to do it at least once just for the experience!

Fares for bus journeys will depend on which bus service you get and if it has air-conditioning or not. The orange air-conditioned buses will cost between ฿11-24 per journey, whereas the non-air-conditioned buses will set you back around ฿8. 

Travelling via the city’s bus routes is a very affordable and efficient way of getting around when living in Bangkok, but be prepared for long traffic jams. 

Pros:

  • Numerous bus routes, taking you across the city.
  • Cheap fares!
  • Bus stops within walking distance.  

 Cons:

  • Can be overcrowded.
  • Hot and uncomfortable. 
  • Might get caught up in the relentless Bangkok traffic.

Nightlife and Entertainment in Bangkok

It can’t be all work and no play, especially when you’re in a city that comes alive at night! Living in Bangkok means you have one of the best nightlife spots in all of South-East Asia on your doorstep. 

From local bars to superclubs, Bangkok offers the whole spectrum of nightlife anywhere. Aside from the boozing, the city offers a range of other entertainment to keep you going while you’re living in Bangkok.

These are a few places worth noting:

  • Route 66 Club – If you’re looking for that true Bangkok nightlife experience, you can do no better than to head to the Route 66 Club. Located in the Royal City Avenue Building, the Route 66 Club is an all-nighter kind of place and is open seven days a week in true party goer style. While the entrance fee is free for locals, tourists must pay ฿300, which can then be traded later for drinks.
  • Khaosan Road – Although Khaosan Road has taken on a bit of a gimmicky reputation since the explosion of mass backpacking tourism, it still remains hallowed ground for many newbies who seek out Bangkok’s famous nightlife. 

From top to bottom, the street is a cacophony of bars, clubs and street venues. A night spent here will have you brushing shoulders with the youth of Europe and North America more so than Bangkok natives – despite this, you’re guaranteed to have an eventful evening if cheaper booze and sternum-bumping music is your thing.

  • Catch a show at the Siam Niramit theatre – When you’re living in Bangkok, you can step away from the painfully obvious draws of the city’s bars and clubs and pay attention to the strong and abundant art and culture scene that the Thai capital has. Nowhere is this more prevalent than at the Siam Niramit Theatre. The Siam Niramit Theatre stages a range of magnificent stage shows, many of which include replica village stage construction, elaborate dance shows and advanced sound and light systems – a true taste of magnificent Thai theatre. 
  • Havana Social, Maggie Choos, Bamboo Bar… – Too many to name. You won’t be shy of a bar or club while living in Bangkok.
  • VIP Cinema – Having a sofa to myself, or a date in a VIP cinema was a rite of passage when I was living in Bangkok (mostly with a hangover after visiting the bars mentioned above).

Medical Care in Bangkok

When you’re living in Bangkok, it’s important to think a lot further ahead than your travel insurance (although I switched to these guys and I’m glad I did). As a long-term resident of Bangkok, try to find a policy that’s tailored towards expats living in Thailand, so you can protect yourself from any bigger medical bills that might come around due to extended medical treatment.

Hospitals and health care in Bangkok are generally considered of high quality, something that might come as a bit of a shock. As a relatively developed and educated country, Thai doctors and hospital staff have quite an impressive grasp of English and, more specifically English medical terms. As long as your medical insurance covers you for the cost, you will be in safe hands.

I have had dental work and more serious medical work done in Thailand. The Thais also looked after my eyes after an awful accident in Argentina, you’re in good hands here, especially as an expat (with money and decent travel insurance) living in Bangkok.

Grocery Shopping in Bangkok

If you’re trying to wean yourself off the delicious Thai street food, you’ll find a good number of grocery stores and markets to buy fresh produce. Where you do your weekly shopping will often depend on your own budget, tastes and where you’ve settled in the city. 

Nearly every neighbourhood in Bangkok will have its own corner market, selling a range of fresh goods and ingredients. However, Thai markets are some of the best places to get fresh fruit, vegetables and a variety of food products. 

They are also great places to pick up Thai snacks or even home products. Some markets are daily, while others may only run at the weekends. When you first start living in Bangkok, be sure to explore your local area and find your nearest market.

If you need something other than fresh ingredients, then Bangkok also has its fair share of supermarkets. One of the most popular and numerous supermarkets is the Big C supermarket. Big C’s can be found all over the city. 

One of the cheaper supermarkets, Big C, is also an easy place to source European and North American brands – ideal if you’re feeling homesick for your favourite cereal or baked beans (although I can confirm as a world-class baked beans connoisseur that the company “Brook” are the current champions of the beans war).

Why I Am No Longer Living in Bangkok (& Would I Go Back?)

Real talk after living in Bangkok for almost 2 years, while making a handsome income, with no boss to answer to: it can be one of the most hedonistic places on earth. The devil is always around the corner…and I had him on speed-dial.

As someone with a highly-addictive personality, being around so much temptation in a “city that never sleeps” kind of culture is just not sustainable for me.

Quit being so melodramatic, eh? Learn some self-control, you say.

Tried it, mate… I know who I am (finally). After living in Bangkok I spent some time living in Medellin, Colombia and not so long after that I lived in another country’s bouncing capital; Mexico City before travelling around like a madman, and as much as I enjoyed those cities – all paths seemed to lead back to Thailand for me.

I came back to Thailand, but I am no longer living in Bangkok. Swapping the chaos of the capital for the hippy hub in the north that is Chiang Mai.

Although I’m not your typical flower power Chiang Mai expat, I appreciate the slower pace of the city, the lovely locals and I do not miss living in large cities where you have to plan everything around traffic.

It’s also noisy as hell in Bangkok and I get sensory-overload way too easily, you can barely have a conversation in the street over there.

I do LOVE going back to visit there though. I have friends still living in Bangkok and the thing that I miss the most is the plethora of food options.

Chiang Mai’s the wife; Bangkok’s the mistress.

Personal preference is what it boiled down to. It’s a case of “thanks for the memories” for me, but it’s no longer the place I choose to live.

I’m just not a big city kind of guy, I guess. If you are, then living in Bangkok may be the place for you.

Anthony Middleton

Former loser who took a risk. Visited over 100 countries. Trying my best to not get skinny-fat during Covid.

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Hi, I'm Anthony!

In November of 2010, I took on a mammoth challenge against the clock in a quest to upgrade my miserable life. I went out of my comfort zone and turned it all around. Ten years later, I’m completely location independent…

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