Pros and Cons
Thailand’s ever thriving economy means the cost of living in Bangkok has been snowballing and will continue to do so. Wages are persistently rising as the economy continues to flourish. The Baht is very strong so the exchange rate is currently not as favourable as it was a few years ago. Though it is getting more expensive to live in Bangkok, it still offers much better value for money than Europe and other places around the world.
The cost of living has gone up in recent years such as food and groceries but is still reasonably priced if you use local markets. Eating out still remains cheap and easy and your daily food budget can be as low as £4 a day especially if you have breakfast included at your hotel.
Getting in and around the city is easy and affordable. There are two main airports, the new (Suvarnubhumi) and the old (Don Mueang) airports. Don Mueang airport has recently become the main hub for low cost airlines freeing up space at the main airport for international flights.
There are 3 major bus stations with services heading to all corners of Thailand, they are easily accessible within the city; they are Ekamai, Mo Chit and Sathaanii Sai Tai.
There is always great tasting food available at any time of the day, especially if you have jet-lag playing havoc with your sleep patterns. You can just pop out into the street regardless of the hour and grab a snack or a meal, keeping those hunger pangs at bay.
There is a great variety of things to do and places to visit but scams are in operation so it is important to keep your wits about you. It would be prudent to check online beforehand to get a heads up on the particular venue or event you are attending. For instance some scams are in operation at the Grand Palace, before getting there people will try to tell you that the palace is closed for the day and try to encourage you to take another tour with them.
Also some tours that offer a full day of sightseeing will sometimes tell you that venues are closed if there are not enough people within the group to make the trip worthwhile. This should not put you of going of course but be a little dubious of what touts and even tour operators tell you.
The traffic is getting worse year by year, as is the pollution but the ever expanding Skytrain offers quick and affordable journeys to most places of interest in the city.
The Low Down
Travelling to Bangkok is always going to be interesting and exciting and living there is quite a unique experience. The sticky weather is somewhat overbearing at times but is unheeded by the exceptional attractions that make Bangkok what it is.
Bangkok is well involved in commerce but its modernisation spliced with ancient architecture and history makes Bangkok a must see town. It is easy for anyone to have a much romanticised notion of the Far East, possibly from the books or Movies. Unfortunately in this day and age Bangkok has been touched by the grasping hand of western consumerism, which can on occasion leave you with a feeling that you may have arrived a century too late!
Thailand has one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor anywhere on the planet, this can be seen most openly in Bangkok, where flamboyant displays of wealth are commonplace flanking alongside the masses of migrant workers who have come from the outlying regions.
Cars, traffic and high-rise buildings are unfortunately all things that cannot be avoided like most cities, fortunately the Skytrain (BTS) offers the cheapest and quickest way of getting around the city. The maximum cost to get anywhere is 45 Baht.
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The 3 main bus stations in Bangkok are Ekamai, Mo Chit and Sathaanii Sai Tai. The biggest station is Mo Chit and deals with all services from the North and Northeast of Thailand. It is within walking distance from the Mo Chit Skytrain station on the Sukumvit line. At the other end of the same line is Ekamai, the Eastern bus terminal.
The Sathaanii Sai Tai or the Southern bus terminal is a little out of the way and getting to and from the station can take an age. If you know what you are doing you can take a bus. The same can be said if you are coming into the city. Some locals may get off the bus near “Thanon Borom Ratchonni” which is a much more convenient stop. A bus can be taken into town from there. Check online for more details
Tuk Tuks can be an amusing way to get around the city if a little uncomfortable. They can weave in and out of traffic but you’ll need to be good at haggling. Locals can get around for 40-50 Baht but if you are foreign starting prices can start at 300 Baht or more.
Metered taxis are better if you need to get somewhere that the Skytrain does not but in general everything you need to get by in Bangkok can be found on the Skytrain system.
City buses can be fun to use if you have a little time on your hands and don’t mind taking a chance. If you get lost you can always take a Tuk Tuk or taxi back home. The general rule is if you take; say a number 3 bus then getting the same number going the other way should bring you back to where you started. None of the destinations are in English but a bus map can be bought for around 100 Baht at most bookstores.
The traditional area of Khaosan road can be good for backpackers but are usually only home stays and may not be comfortable for long periods of time. The Khaosan road area is well documented amongst backpackers and fellow nomads alike but there is so much more available if you are willing to break away from the main concentration of travellers. There is definitely something for everyone at all ages.
One of the finest lodgings to stay at in Bangkok for an extended period of time is the “Mansion Sarasinee” Soi 25 Pradipat Road, Saphan Kwai. It was originally built as a block of flats but due to low demand, the owner offers rooms on a nightly basis.
Excellent rates can be found for long stays and can be as low as 8000 Baht per month. There are no kitchens but the Saphan Kwai area offers a multitude of small eateries and street food around the local vicinity. There is enough room on the balconies for a small gas burner. Rooms come with a large fridge and dining table and kettle. There is plenty of space to kit out your room with toasters and appliances if you don’t wish to eat out for every meal.
The Mansion Sarasinee is an apartment block despite the name with reception area and use of swimming pool at another location. It is just a few minutes’ walk from the Saphan Kwai Skytrain station connecting you to the rest of the city with ease. Water and electricity bills are included in the price saving you the need to set up a payment scheme.
You will need to take a taxi the first time to find it. It is just a minutes’ walk from the Big C supermarket. The local market is just round the corner selling fresh fish, meat and groceries. Washing your clothes can be done for you at the local laundry services next to the car park but this can be costly for foreigners. There is a profusion of washing machines near the reception area which cost just 20 Baht per use. Washing powders and softeners can be purchased at the local supermarket.
The Pradipat road area of Saphan Kwai is home to the Liberty Garden Hotel and is known by most taxi drivers. The majority of Bangkok carters will know it when you say “Pradipat road” It’s not the best hotel in Bangkok but it does offer good value for money.
The rooms are clean and are slowly being refurbished with new Air Con units. They are all on-suite and room service is available. Breakfast is also included in the price. Booking through Agonda.com for a week would be best, and then speak to the staff at reception about extending your stay and what discounts they offer.
There is a swimming pool and restaurant area and parking outside the main entrance. It is only 7 minutes walk to the Saphan Kwai Skytrain station. Rooms start at 680 Baht but a 5% discount is available for stays over a month. For extended periods of time further reduced rates can be had depending on duration of stay and on what concessions you are willing to make, for instance forgoing maid service, replacing toiletries, towels, no breakfast included etc. The hotel is a short walk away from the Mansion Sarasinee.
Getting a train from the Suvarnubhumi airport is fairly straight forward. To get to the Saphan Kwai Skytrain station take a train from the airport to the “Phaya Thai” stop and walk down to the Skytrain station below, take the Sukumvit line to Saphan Kwai or any other station you wish to go, total cost from the airport to Saphan Kwai is 70 Baht.
Getting a pay and go Sim Card for your phone or tablet is cheap and easy to do. 7Eleven stores are everywhere and sell “One2call” Sim Cards by AIS which is the local mobile phone company, just ask for a “One2call” Sim card and you will be understood, normal cost 50 Baht.
Top ups can be bought as scratch cards for 50 Baht or higher denominations can be asked for and a till receipt with a 12 digit code will be given. You simply dial *120*12 digit code# then press call. Providing your phone accepts the Sim you’re away! There is also a package service with AIS for internet data. Visit AIS online for info on prepaid packages.
Mobile internet can be used for your laptop if you don’t have a tablet; DTAC is the company that provides a dongle service whether for Air cards or USB Dongles. A DTAC Sim Card can be bought at mobile phone stores. Compared to Europe and North America the internet speeds in Thailand are considerably slower but are fine for most internet usage.
There is a thriving community of expats in Bangkok and there is a whole host of things to see and do, as well as lots of new people to meet if you know where to look.
Obviously Thailand has a booming sex industry. Areas like Pat Pong offer all kinds of shows and bars which are popular with all kinds of holiday makers. For some people it is just part of their holiday to have a wander around some of these areas with no intention of seeing any of the shows etc. It is not unheard of to see young families walking around soaking up the exciting nightlife atmosphere that Bangkok has to offer with the only intention of just having some drinks and a few laughs.
It isn’t really possible to go out drinking in the livelier parts of Bangkok without seeing any “seedy” goings on but for people not wishing to venture to the more bubbly parts or town then the Bangkok Condotel on Pradipat road offers fabulous Thai cuisine with some European dishes also available. Street food on Pradipat road in the Sapan Kwai area and Phahonyothin road has a great variety of meals that are reasonably priced and contain the essence and zest that can only be found in Bangkok.
The “World Hash Harriers” organisation is a great way for like minded ex-pats to get together and meet new people, not just in Bangkok but around the world. They offer “the world’s most eccentric running club” and other social events.
The Foreign Correspondents Club at Chit Lom is exceptionally good. There are film shows and host discussions with guest speakers. You do not have to be a member to go but you will pay more as a non member.
As with the whole of Thailand, the best time to visit Bangkok is from October to February as it is generally cooler and dryer.
The Grand Palace is the number one tourist destination in Bangkok. It is Thailand’s equivalent to the UK’s Tower of London, with hourly displays of the changing of the guard and beautiful temples that make it the holiest place in Thailand. Once home to the royal family it is only now used for ceremonial events.
Featured in the movies “The man with the golden gun” and “Bangkok dangerous” Damnoen Saduak is the biggest and most famous of the many floating markets in Bangkok. The only way to get there is by car or mini bus. Most hotel lobbies have information about day trips that can incorporate the Grand Palace and floating markets as well as other attractions.
Local mini bus company’s offer all kinds of tailor made excursions so you may have to chop and change between buses throughout the day so make sure you travel light. Be prepared to be taken to other places such a jewellery factories that try to entice you to buy gem stones etc. These are part and parcel of the trip, but if you are looking to buy something then they can offer a great opportunity to get a discounted price.
For the budget conscious traveller a trip on the Bangkok River Taxi is a pleasant and inexpensive way of seeing the city. Costing just pennies, one can hop on and off the frequent passenger boats running constantly up and down the river. The easiest place to get started would be to take the Skytrain to the “Saphan Taksin” station and board the river taxi there. Other boat trips are also available. In time once you become familiar of where the other stops are along the river you will be able to board at the different locations along the riverbank.
There are lots of book exchanges in Bangkok which may incur a rental fee, or a chance to swap your own book for another. For more permanent residents the “Neilson Hays Library” on Surawong road has a good selection of books in English to borrow. Also there are host talks and discussions available.
Aside from the usual 30 day visa that most westerners receive upon entering the Kingdom of Thailand by air, the rules are always changing for visas issued at the land borders. You are currently only aloud to traverse the border by land 3 times to gain a 2 week visa depending on where you cross, which is costly and means you’ll have to get to the border every fortnight. The closest place to do a visa run from Bangkok is Poipet on the Cambodian border; it takes around 4 hours to get there. There is a mini bus service that leaves from Victory Monument.
So arranging a 3 month or a year visa beforehand is best. Normally you receive a 2 month visa that can be renewed for the extra month at any immigration office. With a year visa you will have to check in every 3 months with immigration
.by Digital Nomad Paul Raftery