You you’ve sold it all, set off travelling, and have decided to settle and spend some time in Bangkok, possibly working, travelling to tropical islands, enjoying South East Asian culture, or using it as a base to visit places you’ve read about like Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and beyond.
What do you need to know before getting on that plane, or as soon as you land?
Six steps to getting settled in Bangkok.
1) Join Expat Groups on Facebook
Your first step can be completed before you event leave home, join some of the excellent expatriate groups on Facebook starting with Desperately Seeking Bangkok (beware of imitations, there have been a few set up by a very strange scam artist). Desperately Seeking Bangkok is my first port of call whenever I have a question that needs local expat experience, right from when Sarah wants to know where she can get curly hair professionally cut, or when I need a 3 x 3 meter vinyl banner printed so I can send it to NZ. Desperately Seeking Bangkok has thousands of members who have been in Thailand for a short or long term, and together they can help you find virtually anything, from meat pies, to an apartment of job. Other useful groups include Bangkok Expats, expat women & nightlife groups.
2) Visit The Overstay
I’ve written about The Overstay before, while most people think its just some dingy backpackers hostel its far more than that. Its an expat hangout where you can meet other travellers, short or long term expats, involved in everything from online gaming, english teaching, hacking to foreign exchange trading. They’ve got cheap beer, cheaper accommodation, excellent events and its the ideal place for expats to network with each other while they get to grips with the culture shock that is moving to Bangkok.
3) Set Up a Prepaid Cellphone Account
One of the first things you’ll want to get sorted is your cell phone, its simple, go into any 7/11 store and purchase a SIM card, costing around 200 baht from DTAC, TRUE, AIS or 1 2 Call. SIM Cards usually cost around 200 baht, and you can get a months worth of data for somewhere in the range of 400-500 baht. I recommend downloading the smartphone app “LINE” straight away as its very popular in Thailand and gives you free text messaging if you have data available, and is used almost universally amongst the locals and expats. If your phone is from the United States or the UK has been locked to a network you’ll need to take it to a phone repair store, which will cost somewhere in the region of a few thousand baht to unlock from the original carrier settings. This is typically more expensive in places like Panthip or MBK, than say the local IT shop. Try your luck in the upper floors of PATA in Pinklao.
4) Find an Apartment or Flat
First look at the various expat groups on Facebook which often have apartments listed that are more “Farang Friendly” in that while slightly more expensive, you’ll have foreign neighbours, hot water showers, more western style bathrooms and easier access to public transport, and of course landlords who have dealt with foreigners.
There are also search engines that deal with apartments or flats but make sure you bring along a local Thai friend to explain any contractual terms and negotiate you a decent price. Expect to pay between 6,000 for a decent room and 10,000-20,000 for a decent apartment per month as a fresh foreigner, less if you’ve lived here longer and get to know the areas better.
You’ll want to stay near public transport while you get started so look for places that are closer to the Chaopraya River, BTS or MRT unless you feel comfortable riding a bike/scooter, paying for taxis, or learning the bus schedules.
5) Find A Job
Most people who come to Bangkok to work are looking for a job in Teaching. To find a teaching job the quickest way is to head over to Ajarn.com, fill in a profile with CV, a professional photo (this is important, unlike other countries you will get chose based on your looks, and people will get discriminated on based on age and the colour of skin here), and references. Make sure you have an original or a copy of your University Degree and your academic transcript (this is the first place I’ve ever been asked for it) and it helps to have some form of TEFL or TESOL certificate.
Or if you are like me, and hate the idea of teaching English all day, consider some other alternatives jobs in Bangkok.
Step 6) Purchase Household Items
Your rental flat or apartment is going to have most of the basics, but it will still drive you insane trying to get the things you need in the first few weeks. Theres a few places you’ll need to visit:
Ikea (Mega Bagna):
Bangkok has one Ikea store and it is literally the best place for setting up a flat. Yes it can be more expensive, but by the time you factor in transport and time, it can work out cheaper. This is the first place you should visit once you have your apartment. Mega Bangna is also a great mall with loads western style products. You can use a credit card safely here.
Use it for Sheets, duvets, towels, flat pack furniture, kitchenware (remember butter knives, these can be incredibly hard to find in Thailand for some insane reason) & lighting. Ikea also deliver within the Bangkok metropolitan area, but its worth visiting the first time (especially for someone like me who does not have Ikea at home).
Tesco Lotus & Big C:
These are your most common supermarkets, and as well as food often have a wide range of other household items such as basic clothing, some linen and towels, pillows, appliances etc. I’ve found that the linen and towels usually work out to be better value at Ikea, but this is the place to pick up your basic kitchen appliances, power cables, non perishable foodstuffs, toiletries & cleaning supplies. Grab a couple of fans while you are at it to keep your power bill down when you don’t need air-conditioning. These places are credit card safe.
Tops Mart, Foodland Villa Market
These are the higher end supermarkets. I go to these ones every few months and are ideal for stocking up on more expensive, imported Farang foods. This is where I get my vegemite, and other tasty goodies from home. You can use a credit card here
Klong Thom Market & Chutachuck Markets:
Located in Chinatown & near Mo Chit respectively, go here for odds and ends, things to decorate with, and other things that you need, but don’t need. If you prefer to sleep with the windows open, grab a mosquito net. Bring cash.
Located everywhere, for when you are to lazy to anywhere else. Bring cash and use it to break your 1000 baht notes.
Thailand’s first shopping mall – located in Pinklao, we prefer to go here for basic IT things like computer screens, printers and scanners (Sarah needs them for her University Study). You can also pick up cheap appliances, TVs, fans and speakers. Bring cash.
Moved to Bangkok, got settled? What are your suggestions for the aspiring or recent expat in Bangkok.