Living in Bangkok 2014

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.

Eating Cheap, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, Sukhumvit areaLocal Bus Travel, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget Sukhumvit area


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.

Bangkok Temples, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, sukhumvit areaJustin Egli, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, Sukhumvit areaLoy Krathong, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit area


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.

Evening at pool, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, sukhumvit area


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 always use Acute Realty. 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 our blog.

Bangkok Condo, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit areaIn the Office, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit areaSukhumvit Views, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, Sukhumvit area


Eating Cheap in Bangkok

Yes you can easily eat on a dollar (30–40 baht). 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. Cheap local restaurants easily to find if you dare to look. Isaan Barbecues pop-up in evenings with booze and local banter (foods at 50 Baht). Food alone is worth living in Bangkok. For the less adventurous Big Mac meals cost $5 (150 Baht). 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 booze is Wine Connection. Great prices for high quality international products. Wine particularly cheap at Wine Connection (probably guessed from the name). A top choice for budget romance.

Cheap Thai Food, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit areaRoadside Barbecues, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit areaIsaan Sausages, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, sukhumvit area


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.

International Beers, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit areaRoute 66, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit area Thai Moonshine, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit area


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.

Benjakiti Park, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit areaChatuchak Park, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit areaBenjasiri Park, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit area


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). Minivans are the quickest route to areas outside Bangkok. Buses and trains relatively cheap. AirAsia and other low-cost carriers fly to Southeast Asia’s best destinations. Check here for our full guide on travel in and around Bangkok.

Siam Skytrain, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, sukhumvit areaBangkok Taxis, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, sukhumvit areaTravel in Asia, Cost of living in Bangkok on a Budget, Sukhumvit area


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.

For more information check our Bangkok Travel Guide (work in progress but we’re getting there).

Asoke Interchange, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, sukhumvit areaLocal Streets, Cost of living in Bangkok on a budget, sukhumvit area

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  • http://www.clickeric.com @clickeric

    Great post, will be in Bangkok in less than a week, starting to freak out a bit, trying to find a place to stay and such. Going in with no clue what to expect and just reading the guides on culture and how to act. Your post really helps, would love to learn more about your experience as I prepare for my own. Thanks for the post and cheers.

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Cheers Eric. Sorry about late reply. Just back from the sticks of Thai Isan (Northeast Thailand). Culture should be fine. Major faux pas don’t really exist and people are extremely friendly. Maybe just Wai when you meet peers and elders and be respectful of the King and the royals. After years living in Bangkok I’m still having new experiences and learning new things everyday. Hope the move goes well. You’re coming to an amazing city :)

      • http://www.clickeric.com @clickeric

        Just got into Thailand on Friday, in the nether lands of the airport and searching for a new place while I’m in Bangkok, either that or go North for a spell. Any good places you could recommend?

        • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

          Welcome to Bangkok. Admittedly I’m not great with the North. I rarely make it past Chiang Mai. It’s the starting point anyway. Overnight train my preferred option leaving Hua Lamphong or the buses from Khaosan Road. Have a good one :)

  • tjclavio

    Really like your article. Seems to be one of the more legit estimates on living in Thailand/Bangkok. I’ve visited the last six years and always stayed in the same hotel. So, I know i have a jaded understanding what the true cost of living in Thailand would be. I have one question if you don’t mind. You say $1000 would be minimum for living in Bangkok. Which is no problem for me. However, you say your Condo cost around $1000. So, did you factor in the other exspenses in you monthly estimate, or, did I misunderstand what you pay for rent. Truth be told, I wouldn’t mind staying in the same complex you mention. Thanks.

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Hi TJ. $1000 would be bare minimum for anyone considering living in Bangkok – as in don’t consider it on anything less. $1000 would be basic everything. basic accommodation, outside areas, eating local foods and with very few to no luxuries.
      For me I don’t actually pay rent (I own the property). If I paid rent at this condo it would be an extra $1000 (27,000 Baht the lowest I’ve seen rental here). Again if I factor in VISA runs and my obsession for travel my actual cost of living would be closer to $3,000.

      • tjclavio

        Thanks a lot for your quick and informative reply. You seem to give a more realistic answer to the actual cost of living in Bangkok. As I mentioned, I’ve been there the last six years for holiday. But, always stayed in a high end hotel that was included in my vacation package. So, I never really had a true idea on how much and how things would be different living there full time. I don’t think I want to go to the $3000 range. So, I’m going to have to re-access my thinking on living in BBK. Don’t want to live in a Studio, or, to bare minimum. From your experience. What would a decent Condo cost to rent? If I wanted to set a $2000 a month limit on myself. Would I be able to live in BBK? or, have to think about Chang Mai? Thanks.

        • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

          I think $2000 is the right number to live well in Bangkok. You can find high-end 1-bedrooms at lower Sukhumvit Skytrains (On Nut etc) for $600. That leaves $1400 spending money which is more than enough. This should also cover basic VISA runs.
          My cost of living is closer to $3000 because I live very central (Asoke) and I milk my VISA runs. Last VISA run Singapore travelling overland through Malaysia and the Thai islands. VISA run before a week in Bali.
          So maybe a rough guideline of $1000 bare minimum, $2000 living well, $3000 living well with travel.

          • tjclavio

            OK. Hey listen Allan. Thanks a lot. You’ve been very helpful. Greatly appreciate it.

          • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

            No worries. Best of luck on the move. Easily the best decision I’ve made.

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  • Ruth Rieckehoff

    Good info and photos. Like this type of detailed posts.

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Thanks Ruth :)

  • Tung Mai Le

    Hi, nice blog. Hey I’m wondering how to apply for a long-term visa to stay there. Since I work from home all the time for an Australian company over the Internet, I have no intention of applying for a job in Thailand. What type of visa should I apply for? Tks.

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Hi Tung. It’s not so easy to get long term VISAs for Thailand. Most people opt for the 60 day tourist VISA with the 30 day extension (in total 3 months). This means a VISA run is necessary 4 times a year. I am currently on a marriage VISA and still have to cross the border every 3 months. Here is an example of one of the better VISA runs from Bangkok to Penang http://live-less-ordinary.com/southeast-asia-travel/best-thai-visa-run-to-penang-malaysia

      • Tung Mai Le

        Tks @LiveLessOrdinary:disqus for sharing, I’m holding a Vietnamese passport, thinking of entry under exemption, then apply onsite. But I guess I have to make visa run like you, just don’t have to stay overnight :)

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  • The Guy

    Some fabulous tips here Allan. I visited Bangkok twice in the last decade and it truly is a diverse city. It is great to see your insight as to what it is like to live there. Budget wise it seems as though there are many great options. It is clear to see why the place appeals so much to you.

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Cheers Guy. Problem is it is hard to leave ;) If it weren’t for VISA runs I’d happily stay put… for a bit anyway.

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  • Adam

    Hello – great post… very useful for me as someone thinking about making the move out to BK! I was wondering: how far would Baht 27,500 go in terms of accommodation? Would it mean I could afford a place with a gym/pool/decent room, etc… or would all that cost considerably more? Thanks!

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Thanks Adam. 27,500 Baht will get you gym, pool and one bedroom condo unit all high-end in the city centre. Its a good number.

      • Adam

        Thanks for replying (and so fast!) :)

  • Chase

    Moving to Bangkok for my PhD in January. Could definitely use a contact in the city. If your willing to teach me the ropes, I would be more than willing to listen.
    cvconrad3@gmail.com

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Hi Chase. We are now in China but always happy to help. Drop any questions here and I’ll get back to you.

      • Chase

        Im starting a Phd program at assumption university this January. Is it best I look for a month to month temporary place, or just go with something close to campus that is 6 months or a year lease. Also, how quickly can one move into a apartment/ studio in Bangkok. I dont need much man.

        • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

          You could move in the 1st week of getting there. 6 month and annual contracts will be quite a bit cheaper and a whole lot easier to find. In the University / Bangrak area it will also be quite a bit cheaper than city centre rental prices as I’ve outlined above. Hope this helps :)

          • Chase

            thanks Allan.. let me know if you ever come back to Bangkok. Well written article by the way/

        • Kratai Kanokwan

          Hi.. nice to hear that you are studying in at AU. How is your life so far? If you need any help, feel free to ask me. Actually I am instructor here and also have a room for rent. But it’s near Bangkok University, Sukhumvit Area, it’s so new and great price

    • D.L.M-L

      Hello Chase,

      We have resided in Bangkok for almost 3 years (Canadian family). We live and work downtown (law-firm and international school). If you require any assistance do not hesitate to contact us.

      Cheers!

  • rupa

    can any1 suggest a good area to stay in bangkok. we r there for only 9 days. we dont want to spend all our time and money travelling.

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Hi Rupa. Depends what you like. Sukhumvit tends to be the preferred spot, easy to travel on Skytrain and lots of top food, restaurants and entertainment. Silom comes second and is similar. For luxury the RIverside and for backpackers Khaosan Road. As a tourist I always went direct to Sukhumvit for convenience.

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  • Kratai Kanokwan

    I like your photo and story in Bangkok. If you have time to come back again, come to stay at my place which is cheap, new, and it’s located near BTS Ekamai, Bus Terminal to the East. There are so many street foods for you to try and taste and there are so many places which are unseen in BKK. My family would love to welcome nice foreigner friends ka.

    And don’t forget to go to The South sea, beautiful and nice place for scuba diving, too. !! ^__^

  • Neywin

    Well I live 5 min from BTS Bearing and have a nice studio with air con, free Wifi, hot water, night guard, CCTV etc, and the rent is 3,500 THB per month! So one can easily live (well) on 400-500 US$

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Hi Neywin. Interested where you found an apartment at that price? I am completely new to the Bearing area but it could be handy now on the BTS line. Lowest prices I’ve heard were in Phra Khanong area (5-6,000).

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      $400 would average roughly 300 baht a day which is less than any meal on the Sizzler menu. A steak and bottle of wine even at the cheapest of restaurants comes to at least 1,000 Baht. What if you have a date? I think to ‘live well’ varies from one to the next, I only give the opposite side of the coin.

  • Rashad Pharaon

    Great article. I like how you paint it how it is–there are too many posts out there that blur the realities of life over there. What I like about your blog is that it is down to earth and “in your face.”

    • http://live-less-ordinary.com/ Allan Wilson

      Thanks Rashad. I like the term blur realities as that is what many do. I know expats who have spent long times here can whittle down spending quite low (say $500 a month) but arriving feet first in the city is a whole different story.

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