If you planning to stay in Bangkok long term on a modest budget, there are plenty of accommodation options that will let you have the comforts of home and enjoy the city without breaking the bank
I’ve been living in Bangkok for over a year now, and moved around several times. Here is a very subjective guide to finding cheap long term accommodation in Bangkok. (If you’re looking for Bangkok hotels, follow the link for a comprehensive list of Bangkok hotels you can book online.)
For many Westerners, myself included, home comforts and convenient location become vital to enjoy their long-term stay in the city. For those that are prepared to pay what are still extremely reasonable rent prices by Western standards, there are many long term budget accommodation options in Bangkok.
Estate agents are fond of saying “location location location” and it’s an essential mantra for Bangkok. Being near a BTS Skytrain or MRT Underground station makes the world of difference about how much more you can see of the city, simply because you have easy access to it.
There are two key areas in Bangkok where apartments are located: Sukhumvit and Victory Monument. Sukhumvit, one of the city’s major arteries – like a Thai 5th Avenue – is the home for most of Bangkok’s expat communities, with the Arabs in the lower section, the British and Japanese in the middle and then the high-society Thai middle classes further up. This makes Sukhumvit a fascinating melting pot, and also quite a pricey one too. But the huge range of accomodation available around this area means that you can find bargains if you’re lucky. Because so much goes on along Sukhumvit, it is definite the ideal place to be if you can manage it.
The other main area is over by Victory Monument on the other side of the city – again, it’s well connected to the BTS Skytrain route and less obviously touristy than some of Sukhumvit. As the diplomatic quarter where many embassies and ambassadors are housed, there are some good apartments near here but it’s also quite a quiet area – expect to travel to go out at night. I’ve lived in both areas so I have a fairly good first hand knowledge of them.
When my girlfriend and I first moved to Bangkok in early 2005, we had a budget of 20,000 Thai Baht per month for a one bed furnished apartment, including all bills – that’s just over US$500 a month. Bills include water and electric, obviously, and electric can be a killer if you use air-conditioning a lot. Budget for 2000B to 3000B a month on your A/C bill. You need to check what the apartment charges per unit of electricity and the flat monthly rate for water, plus if there are any other extras. So we were looking at our rent being around 16000 Thai Baht plus bills.
We quickly discovered that actual househunting in Bangkok can be quite frustrating if you’re in the 20,000 and below bracket. The internet is of limited use to do the groundwork because many properties don’t bother with websites or Internet listings and those that do are either for pretty expensive places or have sites so badly put together that they’re difficult to understand. Estate agents tend to focus on 30,000 and up as their price range – they’re all slim pickings for the sub-20,000 househunter.
There are several useful sites however: Craigslist Bangkok is a spinoff of the original Craigslist, and is still building up to speed. A couple of new apartments come up weekly. BahtSold.com is a regularly updated property listings site that has regular cheap apartments featured, although their site is difficult to navigate; and HomespaceThailand.com is an excellent estate agent site that has a complete 20,000 Baht and below rental section. The manager, Tim, is a very helpful gentleman. Perhaps the most comprehensive cheap Bangkok accommodation site is MrRoomFinder.com, which lists hundreds of properties and is very well laid out too, with photos of most of the apartments. You can find a list of Bangkok Serviced Apartments at Apartment-Bangkok.com, along with more info on how to go Bangkok apartment hunting.
The free weekly magazine BK and the Bangkok Post newspaper are also good sources for finding cheap apartments, although their websites are not much use. The best value place we found was easily White Egret) , a set of quiet serviced apartments aimed at business travellers which costs 9000B per month. It really is as good as its very informative website makes out – clean, well-presented, cheap, plus a restaurant on the premises and wireless internet at about 60B an hour. The only drawback with the White Egret is its location – it’s the other side of the river, cut off from the BTS Skytrain and Metro networks. Getting anywhere will require a taxi ride to the BTS station at the very least, which becomes a drag for daily journeys. This place, however, could be ideal for tourists staying in Bangkok for longer than a couple of days – it charges 750B a night and compares favourably with hotels which charge twice that.
The other cheapy staple of English teachers and other impoverished farangs in Bangkok are the Grand Hi Tech Tower and City Mansion, both of which sound a bit grotty – we didn’t pay them a visit. JS Tower looked worthy of investigation, but we never made it up there either. They were charging about 18,000 for a 50sqm room.
We had stayed previously for a month at The Victory, which provided a pleasant 32sqm studio flat for 14,000B a month plus bills. The staff were friendly and the building, a converted hotel, very grand and extremely close to Victory Monument BTS. They also offer unlimited high speed internet access in your room for 1500B extra a month. However, the rooms, while well turned out, are a bit old – the A/C unit in particular chucked out as much dust as it did air. Not good if you’ve got allergies like me. Two people in a studio for any longer than a month is also a recipe for homicide.
A few blocks away is Novel Place, set in the heart of the diplomatic quarter in a leafy, quiet soi. They have well decorated studios and 1 and 2 bedrooms with parquet floors, along with internet access in the room and cable television from 16,000 baht a month and up.
Over on the other side of the city, House By The Pond, tucked away in a tiny soi just off Sukhumvit 22, is a real gem. A truly lovely one bedroom apartment in a converted period house complete with gurgling indoor fountain and general sense of tranquility. They have studios from 18,000 baht but they are perpetually full due to the popularity of the place. If you can afford it, House By The Pond is well worth investigating – their website doesn’t really do it justice.
We discovered what became our home for a year almost next door to House By The Pond – Belleville, which has several studio and one bedroom apartments in immaculate condition. We couldn’t believe our luck. Hardwood floors, fully furnished, TV, fridge, microwave, kettle, bath and shower, kitchen (no oven), apartment cleaning every day… it’s got the lot. The one bed apartment is pretty compact but has a good use of space and a general good feel to it. The staff are also extremely helpful and there’s wireless internet throughout the building. The price: 16,000B for a month, 15000 if we sign a six month lease. Belleville doesn’t have a website, but they advertise regularly in the Bangkok Post. Their number is 02-663-1151.
In conclusion, there are a lot of places to choose from in Bangkok – the trick is to plan your budget carefully and keep the complete price in mind when you are comparing them i.e. the cost of bills as well as the rent itself. While it costs more to be located nearer to the public transport networks, the time and effort it saves you when travelling around the city can be worth it, especially as it lets you enjoy being in Bangkok even more – and that’s, after all, the whole point of being there.