The Worst Places to Live in Bangkok
Bangkok is a fascinating place to say the least, and has a multitude of different facets that you can only scratch the surface of on a first or a single visit.
This is one of the reasons why many visitors to the Thai capital make at least one return trip.
With Bangkok it is often a case of the more you know, the easier it is to get around, as well as avoid making any of the mistakes that you obviously did before due to lack of familiarity. And while it’s true as well that familiarity can indeed breed contempt, it does take a fair old while to get to know and understand the nuances of life in what is a diverse and chaotic SE Asian city.
Bangkok is constantly changing, and many who come for a second or third visit will often find that things are very different from their last trip. Certainly in terms of landscapes, businesses, and ongoing development that not everyone believes is a positive thing, that is.
But some things don’t change. Certain elements of the culture seem fixed, for instance, including attitudes toward non-Thais. Then there is the traffic, and the pollution – including the noise variety.
It’s certainly not all bad, but if you want to make the most of any time spent in Thailand, and especially in the capital, it pays to do a little homework first. And leave the rose-coloured spectacles at home, especially if you plan a longer stay.
There are those who visit the city and decide upon their return back home that they simply can’t live without the place, and decide to up sticks and head back to Bangkok looking to make it a bit more permanent. Or at least stay for a bit longer than the standard duration of a holiday.
But if you are thinking of staying in Bangkok for a longer period of time than a simple 2-week holiday, it definitely makes good sense to think a little bit outside of the box in terms of where you are going to stay or live.
So the purpose of this post is to deliver a few insights into some of the worst places to live in Bangkok. This is done in the hope that anyone heading here for a stay of any duration can make a more informed decision about where to position themselves in the Thai capital.
Areas with heavy traffic congestion
This one is a bit obvious, but Bangkok is a heavily-congested city in terms of traffic, ranking as one of the highest in SE Asia.
When deciding where to stay in the city, it isn’t just a case of choosing a road that doesn’t have that much traffic on it (like most of the main roads in certain areas do). One of the main issues with the traffic, aside from the sheer number of vehicles on the road, is that there isn’t much by way of traffic flow.
This is largely related to the lack of planning that went into building the roads, which were (and still are) basically just added on when it was felt necessary. The result is that there are various ‘bottleneck’ regions on the inner and outer roads that affect the whole traffic system.
There are certain areas where the blockages are worse than anywhere else, and if you were unfortunate enough to be travelling during rush hour times, you could easily be stationary for a good couple of hours. This applies to journeys undertaken by cars, taxis, and buses.
So wherever you are staying, you’ll need to consider your main means of getting around, and if any proportion of that is going to be on the road, then there are certain areas to avoid. The main trouble spots are the inner city regions like Sukhumvit, especially the Asok junction, as well as areas of Silom and Siam.
The Lad Phrao and Pahonyothin Roads are other heavily-congested areas that most taxi drivers won’t even consider accept fares to at various times of day.
In direct contrast to this, if you think the majority of your travel around the city can be accessed via the sky train and subway metro lines, then you’ll probably end up staying somewhere close to the congested areas anyway in order to be able to access the stations of these transport systems, as you will see from one of our other points.
Areas with lots of noise
Bangkok is a noisy place. There is simply no denying it. This is often related to the constant background hum of said heavy volumes of traffic, which includes buses and bikes that apparently have no exhausts — or at least no baffles to speak of – but there are a plethora of other noise factors that can soon grate on the nerves.
It goes without saying that the central city regions with more entertainment and leisure opportunities will be much noisier than those a bit further out of the dense areas. The last thing you want is a nightclub on your doorstep, unless of course you are something of a night owl — but even then you’ll need a break from it at some point.
One of the absolute worst culprits when it comes to noise in Bangkok is the seemingly never-ending construction that goes on in the city. As we said before, Bangkok is changing pretty much constantly, and it seems nowhere is sacred or safe when it comes to ripping everything down and getting to work with bulldozers, drills, hammers, sanders, and all other manner of unearthly and nerve-shattering dins.
It’s very easy to find what looks like a reasonably quiet, backstreet condominium that initially appears more peaceful than a graveyard at midnight. There may even be a bit of surrounding greenery that adds to the seeming calm — but look out – this lush green patch next to the building is a prime opportunity for a couple of years’ worth of construction work!
Then there is local industry and business to consider. What kind of noises are still going on after evening time that may impinge on your much need rest?
A garage for instance is another particularly noisy affair. The worst ones are the tyre places with their air-tools that seemingly never stop and become more amplified in volume as everything else around there dies down – and some of these places are 24-hour!
Motorcycle repair shops are another obvious one to avoid, as are the ‘win mo-cy’ – the groups of motorcycle taxi riders positioned on every street corner and outside every condominium who usually start to appear any time after 5.30 am and can still be there at 9.30 pm, at which time they are not averse to the odd ‘party’.
Schools, colleges and universities also need a mention here. For some reason they like to have loud speakers that seem to broadcast endless announcements throughout the whole day, usually starting at around 7 am, if not before.
The schools have their own anthem/theme tune as well, which is played through said speakers on volume 11 (taking it that 10 is the max) before the announcements and other procedures of the day begin (which will undoubtedly include the national anthem at least once, and possibly a tad of pomp from the school band).
It is certainly difficult sometimes to escape the noise of Bangkok, and in many ways if you can’t live with it then this is not a city for you long-term.
But if you don’t mind heights and are considering either a hotel or a condominium for any length of time, it might be worth bearing in mind that the higher you are, the less chance there is of noise travelling (did we mention the packs of street dogs that come out at night in their droves yet?).
You can also try living in the middle of nowhere, but we’ll come to that one in a while.
Cheap condominiums or apartments
Of course many people come to Bangkok with the intention of working for a couple of years to experience a different culture and get some life experience etc. And this is all good if you are on an expat company package with rent-paid, high-end accommodation all covered.
Or they might come off their own backs on an extended holiday looking for Air BnB-style accommodation to rent out for a month or so.
Some may be looking for slightly more budget accommodation by way of smaller (or older) condominiums and apartments, in order to benefit from what seems like a low cost of living.
There are just a few pointers to consider on this one that may be necessary or helpful.
The first thing to know about life in Thailand is that you get what you pay for. And that means that if anything is worth getting quality-wise, it probably won’t come cheap.
The cheaper condos and apartments are limited in many ways, although to be fair, the majority of Thai residents in them probably think there is little to complain about, as they go first and foremost for price.
In terms of noise though, it is worth noting that the walls in the majority of these places are nothing more than breeze-blocks or plasterboard with a lick of paint. Certainly there isn’t much by way of soundproofing, which means if you are close to a noisy road (or a local business, restaurant, bar etc.) you will easily fall foul to constant noise pollution.
Then there are potential ‘noisy neighbours’ to consider. Going and knocking on someone’s door, western-style, and asking them politely to keep the noise down would meet with blank, uncomprehending stares, to say the least. It doesn’t/can’t/won’t work – and even if it was fully comprehended it would probably produce entirely the opposite effect.
Now this is why people with the means to do so stay in 5-star, luxury resorts and hotel complexes when they come to Thailand. Clever folks.
Backstreet sois too far from main roads or public transport
A ‘soi’ in Thai language means smaller street or road, although it is used as a fairly general term.
The streets and roads in Bangkok are indeed a complex network, and the majority of residential areas are based in what might be termed ‘backstreet sois’ away from the large main roads.
And this one is something of a double-edged sword, like many things related to Bangkok.
On the one hand, if you want to live somewhere a bit quieter than some of the places we have already described, heading for the backstreet sois might seem like the obvious thing to do.
And indeed, many of these smaller streets and lanes are devoid of either too much traffic or too much noise, unless you are unlucky enough to encounter one where a pack of soi dogs that seems to grow in size every month takes up residence. And of course, the neighbours could also have a dog or two.
That aside though, the fact is that if you don’t have your own means of transportation like a motorbike (not recommended), a car (not recommended) or even a bicycle (a little closer but take care), then you are pretty much at the mercy of either the ‘win mo-cy’ (if you can find one when you need one), or taxis.
Thankfully though, the Grab application and a few others like it have gone some way towards solving this little issue in recent years, but there is still the possibility of no-one accepting your fare when trying to book it, which most often happens at busy times or too late at night.
Grab is absolutely the best way to get anywhere in Bangkok though, by the way, and you can check out in more detail one of our previous posts HERE about using it.
But there will undoubtedly come a point when living so far away from a main road will have its drawbacks, especially late at night. It will mean being far away from any of the main metro line stations which are pretty much all located in or around main roads.
Although it will be slightly less expensive in terms of rental etc. to live further away from a main road, it does mean that you are limited to some degree when it comes to actually leaving home unless going under your own steam.
So there are a few things to consider there when looking for a place to live or stay in Bangkok. The city can indeed be a great place to stay for even an extended time, but it pays to come prepared!