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Cheap Accommodations in Bangkok

Location is Key to Choosing Long-Term Rentals

Parts of Thailand's exotic capital may be a smoggy, polluted mess, but Bangkok is perpetually transforming itself, where the constant collision of hypermodern and traditional make it a fascinating place to live. English teachers in Bangkok can typically command better wages than elsewhere in the country and there is a steady demand. Bangkok is also one of the major travel hubs of South East Asia -- neighboring countries are now only a couple of hours away on a plethora of low-cost air carriers.

Beyond the culture and travel benefits, Bangkok also provides a high comfort level for Westerners. A clean, well-furnished Western-style apartment to come home to after a hard day's teaching becomes increasingly important for those who stay in Bangkok for more than a couple of months. For those on a severe budget, it's possible to live cheaply in Bangkok if you're prepared to live in neighborhoods disconnected from the public transport system, as A.J. Hoge points out in his article Teaching English in Bangkok Thailand as a Freelancer.

But for many Westerners, myself included, home comforts and convenient location are vital to enjoying their life in the city. For those prepared to pay what are still extremely reasonable rental prices by Western standards, there are many long term budget accommodation options.

"Location location location" is an essential mantra for Bangkok. Being near a BTS Skytrain or MRT Underground station makes a 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 for apartments in Bangkok: Sukhumvit and Victory Monument. Sukhumvit—one of the city's major arteries, like a Thai 5th Avenue—is home to most of Bangkok's expat communities, with the Arabs in the lower section, the British and Japanese in the middle, and the high-society Thai middle classes further up. This makes Sukhumvit a fascinating melting pot, and also quite a pricey one. But the huge range of accommodation available around this area means that you can find bargains if you're lucky. Because so much goes on along Sukhumvit, it is the ideal place to be if you can afford it.

The other main area, by Victory Monument on the other side of the city, I also 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 it's also a quiet and safe area. I've lived in both areas and know them fairly well.

When my girlfriend and I first moved to Bangkok in early 2005 we had a budget of 20,000 baht per month for a 1-bed furnished apartment, including all bills. That's just over $500 a month. Bills include water and electric, obviously, and electricity can be a killer if you use air-conditioning a lot. Budget for 2,000 baht to 3,000 baht per month for your A/C bill. Check what the apartment charges per unit of electricity and the flat monthly rate for water and if there are any extras.

House hunting in Bangkok can be quite frustrating if you're in the 20,000 baht and below bracket. The Internet is of limited use to do the research because many properties don't bother with websites or Internet listings. Those that do are either for more expensive places or have sites so badly put together that they're difficult to understand. Estate agents tend to focus on 30,000 baht and up as their price range.

There are several useful sites however: Craigslist Bangkok is a spin-off 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 features regular cheap apartments, although their site is difficult to navigate. HomespaceThailand.com is an excellent real estate agent site that has a complete 20,000 baht and below rental section. The manager, Tim, is a very helpful gentleman.

The Bangkok Post newspaper is also a good source for finding cheap apartments. The apartments we found to be the best value were easily White Egret (www.wegret.com), a set of quiet serviced apartments aimed at business travelers, which costs 9,000 baht per month. They offer good value, as described by their very informative website—clean, well-maintained, cheap, apartments with a restaurant on the premises and wireless Internet access at about 60 baht an hour. The only drawback with the White Egret is its location: It's on 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 makes daily journeys a drag. The place, however, could be ideal for tourists staying in Bangkok for longer than a couple of days: It charges 750 baht a night and compares favorably with hotels that charge twice as much.

The other cheap staple for English teachers and other impoverished farangs in Bangkok is City Mansion, which sounds a bit grungy (we didn't pay it a visit).

We had stayed previously for a month at The Victory, which provided a pleasant 32sqm studio flat for 14,000 baht a month plus bills. The staff was friendly and the building, a converted hotel, is very grand and extremely close to Victory Monument BTS. They also offer unlimited high speed Internet access in your room for 1,500 baht extra a month. However, the rooms, while well kept, are a bit old—the A/C unit chucked out as much dust as it did air, which is not good if you've got allergies. 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 1-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 often full because of the popularity area. 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 1-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 offers the lot. The 1-bed apartment is pretty compact but has a good use of space and a general good feel to it. The staff is also extremely helpful, and there's wireless Internet throughout the building. The price: 16,000 baht for a month, 15,000 baht if we sign a 6-month lease. Belleville doesn't have a website, but they advertise regularly in The Bangkok Post.

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; 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 traveling around the city can be worth it, especially as it lets you enjoy being in Bangkok even more. After all, that’s the whole point of being here.

Chris Mitchell is an experienced British journalist, web designer, and scuba diving instructor who lives in Thailand. You can visit his website at www.chrismitchell.org. Chris is also host of a number of excellent websites including:

  • TravelHappy.Info, travelhappy.info, provides excellent articles and resources for backpacking and independent travel in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Borneo and around the world.
  • Divehappy, divehappy.com, a guide to scuba diving in Thailand, Vietnam, Borneo and Australia.