Pros and Cons of Living in Bangkok (What I Like and Dislike)

I’ve lived about 5 months total in Bangkok as a digital nomad, spaced out across multiple stays. It’s become one of my favorite places to stay, almost a “home away from home” in Asia.

I often describe Bangkok as “50% international mega city, 50% Thailand vibes.” You get all the convenience, amenities, and energy of any big international city, but you still get most of the perks of SE Asia life, as well.

In this post, I’ll share specific things I like (and dislike) about Bangkok living. And I’ll share many personal anecdotes and pictures along the way.

7 Pros of Living in Bangkok

Keep in mind: I’m a single male American digital nomad. I don’t speak Thai. I like the conveniences of big cities. I don’t drink alcohol or partake in much nightlife. All of that affects how I view and experience Bangkok.

1. Low Cost of Living

Bangkok is not the cheapest city in Southeast Asia—you can live cheaper in Chiang Mai and probably most places in Vietnam. But Bangkok’s still an amazing value.

For comparison: Bangkok is cheaper than Manila in the Philippines, but it has more reliable Internet, better shopping malls, better grocery stores, and better safety.

When paying nightly rates on Airbnb, I spend $30 to $40 USD a night for a nice studio or 1-bedroom in a high-rise condo in central Bangkok. If you sign a lease and pay monthly, you could stay in the same rooms for $500 to $800 a month, from what I’ve heard.

Obviously there are cheaper rooms available, too. One of the hotels I personally loved was Sleepbox Sukhumvit 22. It’s a nice, clean, modern hotel near all the Sukhumvit attractions, only ~$20 per night when I first stayed. (But lately it looks more expensive, which may be a seasonal issue.)

If you stayed in a less central area, I’m sure you could find deals for even much less.

And keep in mind—for these prices, you’re staying in one of the most interesting tourist destinations in the world. Bangkok is the second-most visited city on Earth!

2. Plentiful Restaurant of All Types

You can eat pretty much any kind of food you want in Bangkok. There’s food from almost any culture in the world, and specialty restaurants of all kinds. (Personally I eat a vegan diet, and those options are plentiful, too.)

In fact, my favorite Japanese food in the world is in Bangkok. (I like it better than any restaurants I actually found in Japan.) Check it out at Masu Maki & Sushi Bar or Waki Waki Vegetarian Sushi.

Of course, there’s plenty of cheap Thai food and street food available in Bangkok, too. As elsewhere in SE Asia, the local food is usually just a couple dollars per meal, while the international restaurants often cost ~5x more.

Another random restaurant I loved: Nova Kitchen in MBK Center. In terms of the atmosphere, it’s nothing special at all—but it’s relatively cheap and super yummy (Thai and Chinese food).

The shopping mall food courts are great places to eat in BKK, too. More about those below.

3. World-Class Grocery Stores

Bangkok might have the best grocery stores I’ve seen in all of Asia. Three convenient grocery store chains for expats in Bangkok would be Gourmet Market, Villa Market, and Top’s Market.

You can buy international foods of all kinds, specialty foods for various diets, and even stuff like protein powder and protein bars, right in the grocery store. This means you can easily find almost anything you liked eating back home.

4. Good Parks

Probably the best park in Bangkok is Benjakitti Park. It was already beautiful when I first visited in 2021—but since then, it has been massively expanded, too. It’s in the popular Asok area, so it’s very accessible.

Lumpini Park is also nice and large, featuring big monitor lizards and free swan paddle boat rides.

And then there are smaller parks with exercise equipment, ponds, and tracks to walk or jog around. Since I often stay near the Phrom Phong BTS station, Benchasiri Park is a nice small one I’ve visited a lot.

5. Big City Energy and Skyline

Bangkok is truly a “mega city.” Some people call it The Big Mango—a comparison to New York City. It’s huge, diverse, and busy. And it has great skyline views, as well.

In fact, Bangkok has 110 skyscrapers over 150 meters tall as of May 2023. That’s more than Toronto, Seoul, Singapore, Beijing, or Miami.

Bangkok has dozens of rooftop bars where you can take in these great views. A few I would recommend are Tichuca Rooftop Bar, the famous Mahanakhon SkyWalk, and AIRE Bar (more chill, less crowded).

Bangkok also has scores of high-rise condos with stunning skyline views. Many have pools or lounges on high floors, giving you breathtaking views even from your own building.

I stayed in a condo called Circle Living Prototype that has a “Sky Lounge” on the 52nd floor—incredible views every day for free. Other condos with awesome views I experienced: Lumpini 24, Park 24, and Ashton Asoke.

And there are dozens more condo buildings like these in Bangkok, too, all at a fraction of the cost you’d find in many other countries.

6. Incredible Shopping Malls

My personal favorite shopping mall in the world is CentralWorld in Bangkok. The 9th largest shopping complex on Earth, it is gigantic. You can walk around in there for hours. (And I have.)

Other great shopping malls in Bangkok include Icon Siam, Terminal 21, EmQuartier, Siam Paragon, MBK Center, and Central Rama 9.

The shopping mall food courts are popular for being awesome cheap places to eat. The Terminal 21 food court seems to be the cheapest. You can typically get a filling meal for 30 or 40 Baht (~$1 USD).

The shopping malls also have great cinemas. I watched a movie on an IMAX screen in the EmQuartier shopping mall once.

If you like bookstores, I’d also recommend the Kinokuniya stores in Central World, Siam Paragon, or EmQuartier. These bookstores are huge and comfortable, with lots of books in English, as well as Thai and Japanese.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a larger selection of business books than at Kinokuniya in CentralWorld. The manga/comics section is huge, too.

7. Reliable, Fast, Cheap Internet

Some places in SE Asia are lacking when it comes to the Internet connections—but not Bangkok. Working online is never really a problem in BKK.

My Airbnb and hotel wifi connections have almost always been fast and reliable. In the few cases they were not, I could set-up a personal hotspot from my phone with my AIS tourist SIM card, and it was fast enough for video calls.

Bangkok also has tons of cafes with wifi, as well as some good co-working spaces. (I joined Hive Thonglor for a month, and it was a good experience.) So you can find plenty of good places to work online.

4 Cons of Living in Bangkok

The main “cons” of Bangkok for me are honestly typical of most big SE Asian cities. But they still might be deal-breakers for some of you.

1. Bad Traffic

I’ve had a few experiences getting stuck in a car in Bangkok traffic. One trip that normally takes 15 minutes took over an hour because it was Friday at 6pm.

Another time, the taxi was just stopped in gridlock traffic, no movement at all for several minutes. I decided to pay the amount on the meter, get out, and look for a motorbike taxi instead.

Of course, Bangkok has the Grab app, which is like Uber for SE Asia. However, the wait times are longer in Bangkok than many other cities. A few times, I’ve had to wait over 20 minutes for a Grab Car to arrive in Bangkok.

The best way to get around in Bangkok is the motorbike taxis—if you’re not too scared. They can snake through traffic, so it’s much quicker than a car. It’s also cheaper and more fun.

However, most motorbike taxi drivers won’t give you a helmet—and they drive fast… so, there’s always a small chance you’ll die in an accident!

There’s also the BTS and MRT trains. They are clean and air-conditioned, better than many subways in America, honestly. But personally, I like the motorbike taxis more. They’re much faster and only slightly more expensive.

2. Always Hot and Humid

If you go outdoors in Bangkok at any time, you’re pretty much going to get sweaty (or rained on). The average daily high temps range from 89°F to 96°F (32°C to 36°C) depending on the month.

Personally, I rarely go out during daylight hours in Bangkok without sunscreen, long sleeves, and a hat to protect my skin. Sometimes, I exercise at the parks in the evening, but I get very sweaty.

Really, this tropical climate is standard for SE Asia. It’s not too different from Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, or Manila. But if you’re new to the region, it can take some getting used to.

3. English Proficiency is So-So

Don’t get me wrong—you can get around Bangkok with English. Most expats in Thailand don’t learn Thai. But there are still downsides to the language barrier.

For example, if you’re trying to show a taxi driver where to take you, they often won’t be able to read the English map on your phone.

Personally, I did Invisalign in Bangkok (like clear braces). Overall, it went well—but some of the staff was less fluent in English, causing issues at times.

In my experience, Thailand has better English than Vietnam… But it’s still much worse than the Philippines. (Philippines is the most fluent of SE Asian countries—English is an official national language there.)

4. Air Quality Can Get Bad

This year when I stayed for 2 months in Bangkok, there was notably bad air quality on many days. Specifically, there can be a high level of PM2.5 contaminants. One of my friends in Bangkok developed a cough from the pollution.

I felt the effects of the air pollution to an extent, too. One day, I went for a long walk (around 1 hour), and by the end, my eyes were starting to hurt from the pollution.

You can check the Air Quality Index (AQI) for Bangkok online. As of the time of this publishing, it looks to be “Good” again. But just a couple months ago, it was deep in the “Unhealthy” range on many days.

Here’s a EuroNews article that details more about the air quality in Bangkok.

Overall, Bangkok has been one of my favorite places in the world to stay. If you like big cities, and if you like SE Asia, I think it’s an outstanding value. I recommend checking it out!