It's that time of year when thousands of teachers from the West are planning to come to Thailand to work in international schools or will come looking for work in schools in Thailand. Just due to the size and opportunities presented in the big city, most teachers will be heading to work in and around the Bangkok city center.
When you plan to leave home to travel thousands of miles to the other side of the world, it presents a huge emotional strain. There's the strain of leaving family, friends and loved ones - people who you may not see again for months or even years. Some of these loved ones have four legs, tails or even fins. So do you opt to leave them behind or do you bring them with you? It's a big question for some people!
Travelling with pets is always a big problem: sorting out quarantine in some cases, organizing with airlines and dealing with customs all make the practical nature of travelling with your pets rather difficult and cumbersome. Only the truly dedicated and determined will be bothered to go through the ordeal. And it's important to remember it's no picnic for the animal either. He or she would definitely rather be at home curled up with the family than being locked up in a cage for a day or more and taken from one dark room to another, filled with unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells!
This article is not designed to talk about animal transportation, but more the practical nature of living with a pet in Thailand, is it sensible? Is it practical? Is it indeed possible?
Firstly let's cover areas outside of Bangkok, as it is in these areas where having a pet poses the fewest problems from a real estate point of view. If you are planning to live in a city outside of Bangkok, such as Chiang Mai or Khon Kaen, then it is quite likely you'll be able to pick up a detached house or townhouse for a reasonable rate which will allow you to house your pet, even if the pet is a large dog. Again if you are living in Samui, Phuket or another resort area then again, the possibility of picking up an in expensive and livable detached house or townhouse is high and should be easy enough.
Just a few quick comments on this. You will probably not get the facilities such as swimming pools, fitness studios and security you would otherwise receive in a condominium or apartment block. The location of the property may have to be a bit out of the way (depending on size, quality and age required) so some sort of transport will almost certainly be necessary, like a moped or small car or pick-up truck.
However things start to get more complicated when we start looking at finding properties suitable for pets within Bangkok, where the majority of international school teachers work.
For those who don't know Bangkok very well or at all, the traffic is terrible. The roads are totally inadequate and people can regularly spend 2-3 hours or more commuting to work each day. Therefore it is important to live as close to work as possible in a property that suits your requirements. Fortunately Bangkok has four Metro systems, the BTS, the MRT, the BRT and then the airport link (which has a few stations along the line). But for most people the BTS or MRT are the most important and by far the most popular.
The BTS and MRT makes it easy for teachers without pets to find great accommodation that suits almost anyone's budget and requirements, with brand new studio condos with swimming pools and gymnasiums from as little as THB 10 000/month to one bedroom, two bedroom and three bedroom condos and apartments within a few minutes' walk of a BTS or MRT station.
But if you have a dog, or even a noisy cat then it is unlikely that a condominium or apartment will allow the animal to stay. Even if the condo owner is comfortable with the dog the condominium building will probably still not allow it as other residents will complain when they see the dog in the corridors or lifts when taken out for a walk or to go to the toilet.
I know back in the West even large dogs can live in apartments and condos in New York, London and many European cities, in fact in some cities like Paris they are even welcome in the occasional restaurant and café. But in Bangkok the rules are quite different and it is unlikely any condo or apartment will accept a dog of any size. Yes I am aware there are a few exceptions to this rule - there always is in every rule - but sod's law dictates that the condo or apartment that suits your requirements will not be able to accommodate a pet. And often the apartments that will accept dogs are often full due to the demand from their pet loving residents, who will often live there several years knowing there are so few alternatives on the market. Also it's worth keeping in mind that apartments that do allow pets and dogs are often not the cleanest. It's a bit like the old Groucho Marx joke ‘I wouldn't want to be in a club that would have me as a member' Often you wouldn't want to live in an apartment that will allow many pets to stay.
So what can be done? What happens if you cannot bear to leave Fido back at home and he has to come with you? Well your only real alternative is a detached house or townhouse. These are really the only types of properties in Bangkok that will allow dogs and cats all the time.
As mentioned earlier, Bangkok's traffic is terrible, so you'll want to live as close as you can to a BTS or MRT station and given the price of land in Bangkok there are going to have to be some sacrifices made to accommodate Fido. Firstly writing off the swimming pool, fitness room and security is a good idea. Then also plan to not live quite as close to the BTS or MRT as you would have done if you'd been looking for a condo or apartment. And thirdly, given budget constraints the property may not be as new as a condo or apartment.
Here is an example of a typical inner-city townhouse you'd expect to pay THB 25 000 for per month as you can see it is nothing flash or especially modern and will still take almost 5mins on a motorbike to reach the nearest BTS station.
If you did not have the constraints of the pet, then a similar two-bedroom condo in the same location would come with a large swimming pool, sun-deck, well equipped fitness studio, security, underground parking and would be five minutes walk to the nearest BTS.
So to sum up:
1. As a general rule condos and apartments will not take dogs of any kind
2. Condos and apartments will tolerate quiet, none smelly pets such as quiet cats.
3. Townhouse and detached houses will allow most pets, but sacrifices will have to be made
4. Townhouses and detached houses are generally older, less secure and less value for money
My advice is not to bring a pet, especially if you have to work in Bangkok, or for that matter to fall in love with one of the thousands of stray puppies or kittens in the sois of Bangkok. If you are just here for 1-2 years with no plan to stay then leave Fido at home and let him live in comfort. He'll wait for your return.