Cheap Bangkok Apartments vs Inexpensive Condos - You Decide!
Not only is Bangkok renowned for having the cheapest taxi fares on the planet, but it's perhaps also one of the least expensive capitals in the world for renting centrally located accommodation. So just how much bang do you get for your Baht in 2014?
The Simple Studio
The small studio apartments are by far the cheapest options. Unlike condos, many apartments can usually be rented daily, weekly, and monthly, whereas condominiums generally insist on a longer term contract of 6-12 months, but we'll move on to those later. The simple studios are ideal for anyone who has just arrived in the capital. Securing a short term lease on humble flat is a good idea if you want to take your time and look around for something more homely and permanent. It's certainly less expensive than staying in a guesthouse or small hotel.
Here's what to expect from a bog-basic studio in Bangkok:
• Single room with en-suite bathroom
• Around 25+ SQM in size
• Small balcony
• Basic furniture (bed, small table, wardrobe)
• Fridge (though it might be an optional extra)
• TV (though it might be an optional extra)
• Small air-conditioning unit, fan, or both (if you're lucky)
If you just want a crash pad, as opposed to a home complete with a few creature comforts, then it's still possible to find really economical studio accommodation in and around Greater Bangkok. However, these budget studio will be in Thai-style buildings, and that means a lack of western facilities and probably without air conditioning too. The quality and services of these low-cost apartments can vary greatly from the grotty to the good; well, good for the money anyway!
Locating the Budget Studio
Cheap Bangkok studios can be found in most locations, but the further you go off the main roads, and away from the BTS/MRT networks, the more you will come across. The five local areas that will definitely have an abundance of low-cost rooms include the following districts:
1. Bang Na
5. Ratchadapisek / Thapra
Local vs International Standards
Unless you really do only need a place to crash of an evening, then the super low-cost accommodation is not usually a long-term solution for those who will be living or working in Bangkok for an extended period. Residing in a tiny, hot, humid spaces, in buildings that can be noisy and populated by students, working class Thais, and migrant workers, will eventually become tiresome at best, and intolerable at worse, even for most laidback western expats.
So there comes a time when most budget dwellers want to exchange the hotbox for a home, and that means extra space, air conditioning as standard, a more central location, and a few creature comforts to boot. Starting as low as 8-10,000 Baht/Mo, will lift the living experience to a higher international level, and swish studios in smart condominium complexes become available at the 10-12,000 THB/Mo price range.
Living on a Shoestring No Longer an Option Say TEFLers
Twenty or so years ago, most English language teachers struggled to make 30,000 Baht in any given month, and those who did were considered the high earners. Many would work six days a week, stuck in some high street school for 12 hours a day, and be lucky to break 28,000 Baht. Although the cost of living has gone up a fair bit since then, especially in recent years, the Bangkok English teachers of today do tend to earn more in comparison and enjoy a higher standard of living as a consequence. In fact, many formally qualified TEFL teachers nowadays demand a better standard of living for their efforts.
Bangkok - The World's Best City
Bangkok is a wonderful and exciting cosmopolitan metropolis. The Thai capital has something to offer everyone, which is why so many foreigners make it their home. In 2013, Bangkok was honoured for the fourth consecutive year as the "World's Best City" by Travel & Leisure magazine, and Thailand - as a whole - was voted as the country offering the best overall expat experience by the annual HSBC Expat survey.
The HSBC annual survey is based on a number of things, but the main criteria includes:
1. Number of quality tropical beaches and islands
2. Choices in world-class restaurants
3. Having a modern infrastructure
4. The cultural attraction factor
5. The local food (60% surveyed said Thai food gave them a healthier diet)
6. Cost-effectiveness for expats
7. The ease in which to make new friends
8. Social lifestyle, including places and events from where to socialize
It's Not All Sweetness and Light!
Living in Bangkok is not all sweetness and light though. There is no escaping the fact that the city has a problem with choking air pollution, relentless heat and humidity, overcrowding, a public transportation network that can be a dog-eat-dog full-on experience at rush hour, frustrations caused by miscommunication and cultural misunderstandings, and the various scams and scammers who constantly prey on vulnerable expats (many of whom are fellow expats!).
How different people cope with the above depends on the individual. One thing is for certain though, and that is the nicer your home, the better the overall living experience. Being able to unwind at the end of the day and at the weekends, in the privacy of your own space, surrounded by people and things that matter to you most, can definitely make any expat lifestyle more enjoyable and relaxing overall.
The Condo Experience
With so many new condominium projects springing up in recent years, the extra choices in accommodation have been welcomed by Bangkok's expats. Condo living is a step up from that of apartments, namely because of the improved quality of these constructions. In general, the fixtures and fittings are of a higher, international standard, the facilities tend to be much better (many having gyms and pools as standard), and the overall ambiences of the modern condominium complex is more luxurious, calming, and peaceful.
Some projects even have garden areas which offer a little haven of tranquillity, and one that is quite hidden from the bustling city beyond its walls.
If you're ready for the step-up from apartment to condo, then you might find our article entitled: 'Bangkok Studio Condos - the Lowdown' a useful introduction to a few of these condos. Alternatively, you can download the piece here as a PDF file and view it at your leisure.
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Neil McDonough is a Director of EasyHomes Property Services Co., Ltd. which specializes in renting and selling Bangkok residential and commercial property to expats. You can contact him directly with any questions or queries relating to Thai real estate