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Before I first moved to Bangkok, I looked up some places online. It didn’t take me long to come across an apartment that looked absolutely stunning. It seemed a lot nicer than the monthly rent that was quoted. I was ready to book it online right away for my first month, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to stay at a friend’s house for a few days to get the low-down on everything-Bangkok first.
Turns out, that was a good decision. The place was a dump. Pictures of the bedrooms had somehow hidden the fact that there were no windows. A construction site right in front of the apartment’s single balcony was joined by another one one literally next door in the neighboring unit. On the plus side, that probably meant that the place would soon get its direly needed, new paint job. I’m not sure what the photographer’s business card says, but I assume it’s ‘Wizard’.
The ensuing search for an actual long-term place ended up taking the better part of two weeks. This guide to renting in Bangkok was written to help you cut that two week-long search down to two days. Whether you’re a first time expatriate or just wondering if you can find a better deal than you already have, this should make things significantly easier.
- 1 Things to Keep in Mind When Looking for a Rental
- 2 Financial Considerations
- 3 Finding Apartments
- 4 Accommodation Types
- 5 Location
- 6 How to Find Amazing Deals
- 7 Rental Contracts in Thailand
- 8 Rental Disputes
- 9 Finding Temporary Accommodation
- 10 Renting vs. Buying
- 11 What’s Your Experience?
- 12 Questions?
Things to Keep in Mind When Looking for a Rental
If you’ve never been to Bangkok, there are a few types of problems you might not be used to from your apartment hunts back home. In fact, these often tend to be so big that people organize their lives and schedules around them.
Traffic and Temperature
The combination of traffic jams, as well as equally high humidity and average temperature, means that you’ll find going by car, bus or bicycle during the day is something you’d like to avoid. That limits you to rails (BTS and MRT), boats, motorcycle taxis and the odd road that unlike the rest of Bangkok isn’t clogged up by 2pm. The alternatives are two hour commutes or reaching your destination completely drenched in sweat or rain, depending on the season.
My main objective is usually to find a place in hot-weather-walking-distance from my place of work (less than 400m) or at least one that I can reach easily by MRT or BTS without changing lines. If you’re not the risk-averse type, you can add boats and motorcycle taxis(for locations within 1km) to that list.
For families, things can be a bit tricky. Should you have to pick a place outside the city for that extra bit of space, access to tollways (preferably without having to do a u-turn) will make your life a lot easier.
In general, Google Maps is a great resource to check out commuting times during rush hour. Select directions from your home to your place of work at the time you plan to arrive and leave. If you’re not on the ground, it’s your best tool to find out how long it’ll really take.
Tourism and Nightlife
How is tourism a challenge? Not so much due to the number of tourists (they tend to blend in well), but due to them driving prices up and quality down. Areas with a high density of hotels or tourist sites are filled with souvenir stands and mediocre, overpriced restaurants. Unless you have a daily need for Singha beer t-shirts, it’s wise to stay a street or two away from the traditional tourist epicenters such as the central parts of Surawong Road and Silom Road.
Even if you’re a night owl yourself, you’ll want to avoid being right next door to a nightlife area. Some places in Bangkok keep going the entire night and the ones that are allowed to be open past 2am are not the ones on which you can call the cops with a noise complaint. There’s not a terrible lot of them, but if you end up next to one, you don’t want to be the guy with the twelve month lease.
If you’re not sure, you can always stay in an area for a weekend to see what it’s like.
Language and Technology
Thailand’s English proficiency is the third worst in Asia. This means a significant number of apartment ads are in Thai (especially for cheaper places), your landlord might only speak limited English and taxi drivers might struggle with understanding where you want to go.
It also means some places will only have Thai-language rental contracts (or an English version provided by Google Translate). I found it rarely to be a deal killer, but something you should be aware of and ready to accept if you’re looking to get a good deal. Hassle-free communication and easy interaction in English come at a surcharge.
My approach when I first arrived was to simply find owners and management that appear to be easy to work with. I figured as long as they have the right attitude, minor misunderstandings caused by a language barrier shouldn’t be much of an issue. As far as I can tell, that strategy worked out well.
It’s not only the language that’s different though. You’ll call landlords instead of e-mailing them (unless of course you just chat with them on LINE), pay rent in cash instead of wire transfer (not necessarily a bad thing, considering bank accounts can be tricky), and pay your utility bill at a convenience store instead of having it auto-deducted from your account (no big deal, 7-Eleven has 8,334 stores in the country).
Special Needs and Pets
If you’re in a wheelchair and apartment hunting, Bangkok doesn’t make it easy for you. Many places value aesthetics (also known as ‘stairs’) over making places accessible by wheelchair. Craigslist is one of the only sites that I know of that allows you to search for places that meet that requirement.
If you have a fluffy companion, you might find yourself in a similar pinch. Not a lot of places in Bangkok allow pets. Aside from houses and large (three bedrooms and more) apartments, your best bet are low-rise, older buildings. The only two sites currently allowing you to search for pet-friendly places in Bangkok are RentHub and Craigslist. Another option for people traveling with pets is to Google pet bloggers (e.g. ‘bringing a dog to Thailand’) like 8milesfromhome: All of them faced a similar issue and can provide input on where they stayed or how they went about their search.
What does it cost to live in Bangkok? I’ve listed out my own expenses, but everyone has their own lifestyle that can be a lot more (or less). In general, rents in Bangkok are on par with smaller urban areas elsewhere and significantly lower than most cities its size. If you forgo the not uncommon luxuries of a swimming pool and in-house gym, it can come out a lot lower.
Hipflat publishes an average rent figure for Bangkok, but this number is heavily tilted towards condominiums that are offered online and by agents. It gives you a rough idea though, of what you’ll pay for a place that was built within the last 5 years, is nicely furnished, has full facilities and is in walking distance of a BTS or MRT station. I’ve used the Q1 figures for all years:
|Year||Price per sqm|
Rental Price Examples
Prices for accommodation in Bangkok range from as little as THB 1,500 in a dorm-like room to THB 500,000 for a penthouse duplex in a trendy neighborhood. In general, prices have risen a lot over the last few years, putting it on par with a number of cities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and the US when you’re looking at new buildings. Of course, you tend to get a lot of bang for your buck, since those places usually come with swimming pools, saunas, basic gyms and a security guard.
I tend to pay around THB 15,000 for rent including utilities. This usually nets me a place with 60 to 90 square meters (depending on facilities) that’s walking distance from an MRT station. In general, that would be considered a good deal and tends to involve some creative research to find. How to best go about that I explain further down in this article.
Prices vary depending on a lot of factors, including, but not limited to, exclusiveness of the neighborhood, proximity to a MRT or BTS station, availability of facilities, as well as state and age of the building. In order to give you a rough guideline, I’ve listed some price approximations in the section of apartment types to at least provide you with a rough guideline on what to expect.
Whether you use an agent, walk, or search online, the price you pay for rental property remains roughly the same. Using an agent won’t drastically increase prices. Walking in won’t drastically decrease prices. And searching online won’t drastically increase or decrease prices. This is because the rental property industry in Thailand is competitive.
Depending on your needs, you may find a rental property in Bangkok in one or two days. But sometimes it can take you months.
Real estate agents make your life easier by doing all the hard work. So if you’re planning to rent for at least one year, I recommend you get in touch with a real estate agent. When looking for a real estate agent, make sure you find a professional.
A professional real estate agent helps you find a room quickly because they know the area. They work with your budget and needs. If you’re in Thailand, they take you to the apartment. If you’re not yet in Thailand, they show you listings online. And once you’ve found a place to rent and move into, they can also help you with unexpected problems, suggest reliable maids and handymen, and even recommend local restaurants.
But remember, real estate agents prefer working with long-term renters. So if you’re planning to stay in Thailand for under one year, you might want to look elsewhere. Otherwise, If you need help, I can put you in touch with an agent I feel comfortable recommending.
Looking by foot for one of the many condos and apartments that are available in Bangkok is hit or miss. Walking helps you experience the area you want to live in. You’ll know after a stroll through a neighborhood whether or not you want to live there. And when walking, you can also pop into an apartment and talk directly with the administrative office. You can look at a few rooms with no appointment. But keep in mind not all office staff can speak English.
I know a few people who found rental properties by walking into buildings. But most people I know who spent days walking in an area of their choice came up empty handed.
Apartment Rental Sites
Use rental sites to get a rough idea on prices and options. For example, Craigslist, DDproperty, and Hipflat are three popular websites that provide prices, pictures, contact details, and area information. You can search and compare each website without having to go to the building.
But you should be wary of any information you get online. It could be misleading. Never sign a contract or book a rental property online before seeing it in person.
Check out Thailand Starter Kit: Save Cash, Land a Job, Avoid Pitfalls, and More to find out the 9 rental property websites you should look on that’ll get you a 20% discount on rent.
Aside from location, it also depends on what kind of comfort you’re seeking. I’m giving a very rough guideline for prices below. Actual prices depend a lot on length of contract, facilities, proximity to a BTS or MRT station, age of the building, last renovation of the apartment and other factors. This is just a guideline to provide you with a framework. If you’re interested in what I pay for my own place (as well as how much I spend on other things of daily life in Bangkok), you can check out the breakdown for my own cost of living in Bangkok. If your own place is significantly more expensive or cheaper than quoted here, please feel free to add details in the comments.
Studios are the rental accommodation of choice for a lot of singles in Bangkok. In some cases, you’ll have couples or even families cram into them. Especially in lower income housing areas like Din Daeng, the rental property market is 90% studios.
While cheaper offers exist, realistically, prices start at around THB 3,000 / month for 25 sqm room that is a THB 30 to 40 motorcycle taxi ride away from the nearest BTS or MRT station. At that price, you might have one of those toilets you’ll flush with a water bucket and you’ll do your cooking with an electric stove and a rice cooker that you buy yourself. It’s usually furnished to a bare minimum, if at all.
At THB 6,000, you’ll get a place that has basic furnishings, standard bathroom facilities, possibly a security guard at the building entrance and a more recent construction date. If you opt for an area of town that’s not connected to the BTS or MRT network, this price gets you a 45 sqm place with a gym and parking.
When looking at these bare bones offers, you’re usually dealing with the apartment owners directly. The commissions paid – if any – don’t tend to attract a lot of agents.
Starts around THB 8,000 / month and comes with slightly dated furniture. Facilities of the building can include a swimming pool, a sauna and a fitness room. You can take a motorcycle to a MRT or BTS station or even walk to one if you don’t mind the heat too much.
If you want something that was built recently and is within 200 meters of a BTS or MRT station, you are looking at THB 12,000 / month at the very least.
Apartments are easy to find in areas closer to BTS and MRT stations, reflecting people’s preference when it comes to commuting. If you’re looking for something very spacious or cheaper, you’ll have to head to some older buildings that were built pre-BTS when rents used to be a lot lower.
The descriptions and prices provided below refer to apartments that are larger than 50 sqm. You can also find one bedroom apartments that are basically studio-sized (35sqm) and priced accordingly (e.g. THB 8,000 for a furnished place in motorcycle distance from a more ‘remote’ BTS station).
Old Style Apartments
Starts at THB 12,000 / month for a place that’s at least a few hundred meters away from the next MRT station. The upside is that it offers a lot of space for your budget. Sometimes they come with limited or no facilities. Depending on the specific offer, the air condition might be an older model that can result in a higher electricity bill. It’s a great choice if you need the space for indoor workouts, live with multiple people or host the occasional dinner party.
Starts at THB 18,000 / month and gets you a small, but really nicely furnished place (often built in) at a new condominium by a well-known developer with facilities next to a BTS or MRT station. Short term rentals are more likely to be offered, since occupancy rates don’t tend to be as high. You’ll pay a lot for the amount of space you’re getting, but it’s very hassle-free.
Serviced and Executive Apartments
The definition of what constitutes a serviced or executive apartment varies a bit in Bangkok and a large part seems to be based on whatever the copywriter of the website thinks sounds good. As a general rule of thumb, these are places that can be rented monthly, are nicely furnished and offer (sometimes optional) regular cleaning. Some places even offer room service by an in-house or nearby restaurant. Prices for serviced apartments in decent neighborhoods start around THB 16,000 month and go up to THB 450,000 per month, though the majority of them are in the range of THB 35,000 to 75,000.
Duplex Apartments and Penthouses
Bangkok isn’t short on high end accommodation. Starting from about THB 600 to about THB 1,000 per square meter (list price), you get everything from 40 to 400 square meters. Between dedicated high end places like the St. Regis, there are a lot of condominium buildings that have duplex or penthouse units on the top. The most expensive one I came across during my research is located on the top of the lifestyle mall Ei8ht Thonglor.
Houses and Townhouses
An often overlooked option in Bangkok are houses and townhouses. Surprisingly, these can work out to be cheaper than an apartment, but houses in Bangkok have their own pros and cons.
As mentioned above, a major factor in your choice of location will be your daily commute. Much more so than in most Western cities. My advice would be to pick a place within walking distance of your workplace or make sure you can get there by MRT or BTS without changing trains (long queues at rush hour or long walks between stations). Even in the US, where commuting is a whole lot easier, it is the daily activity most injurious to happiness.
Use Google maps to check public transport at the time you plan to arrive and leave work. It shows fairly accurate travel times for cars, MRT and BTS. Keep in mind, at the time of writing, Google does not include traffic jams when showing travel durations for busses (making them incorrectly appear to be a lot faster than taxis). In addition, it doesn’t combine public transportation with (motorcycle) taxis, so you might have to MacGyver that to get your actual commute time.
Sukhumvit, Sathorn and Silom tend to pop up first when asking around for areas where expats like to live in Bangkok. They are business district full of office buildings and serviced offices making the price to be expensive. The best value for money can nowadays be found in other parts of town like On Nut, Phra Khanong and Rachadaphisek.
How to Find Amazing Deals
Although rental searches happen online, a lot of offers on websites are controlled by agents. The best deals might not be found on websites, especially when searching for listings in English. But strategies listed in Thailand Starter Kit: Save Cash, Land a Job, Avoid Pitfalls, and More show newcomers and people looking for a place in the city how to save over 20% on rent.
Rental Contracts in Thailand
In general, the language of the contracts you encounter in Thailand tends to raise the hair on the back of your neck. I’ve seen anything from ‘owner can raise the rent anytime’ to contracts that specified I could get kicked out for violation of contract – with one such violation being described as ‘creating a nuisance for neighbors’. Other contracts were entirely in Thai. When I asked a friend about this during my first year in Thailand, she simply replied, “If they are going to rip you off, they won’t use contractual terms to do so.”
The legal basis for rental contracts is the ‘Hire of Property‘ section in the Civil and Commercial Code of Thailand (feel free to read it, it’s brief). Thailand has no ‘Landlord Tenant Act’, which means that the tenant rights you might be used to from back home don’t come automatically and must be in the contract.
A number of websites (e.g. Slice of Thai) provide contract samples – in case you are in a position where you can ask your landlord to use one of them, they might be worth a look. At the very least it gives you an idea of things you can check in your own contract: See if they are specified at all, and if so, in whose favor. While you might not be able to use your own contract template, your landlord might be willing to cross out or alter certain sections in his (depending on the landlord, he might have just pulled one from the internet as well).
In case you would like to be very safe about the rental contract, you can ask a lawyer to review.
The standard rental contract duration in Bangkok is twelve months. Since agents usually take one month rent as commission, it’s tough to negotiate something shorter if an agent is involved. If you’re looking for less than that, you’ll have to get in touch with the owners directly, who are often willing to accept a six month lease to get things off the market.
For leases that last less than six month, you usually have to find a condo building where all units are held by a single company – they have the administration staff in place anyway and for them, the hassle of signing a short term contract is less than for private owners. You’ll still pay a premium, but this tends to be the only way to make it work.
If you’re looking for a lease contract that exceeds three years, it has to be registered at the land department. Landlords might be reluctant to do that, since it does result in some extra fees for them and they’ll require a court order to terminate the lease. In addition, if they didn’t pay taxes on rental income in the past, this might get them into trouble.
The maximum registered lease term is 30 years. At that point though, there’s a whole different set of problems that go beyond the scope of this article. On the RE/MAX website, you’ll find an overview of potential problems and pitfalls of long-term leases.
The biggest item in utilities is electricity. Some landlords will just pass on the official electricity bill (good), others will charge you an inflated rate that you pay to them (not so good). In commercial rental space, there are agreements that include electricity, but even there those are rare. If you use A/C while you’re home, the monthly bill tends to be around THB 1,500 per bedroom (more if you have people staying at home during the day). Without air conditioning, your bill is going to be less than THB 500 per month.
Costs for water are minuscule in Bangkok. I don’t recall ever paying more than THB 100 a month for water.
Phone and Internet
Some buildings run their own phone (expensive) and internet (slow) service. I’ve never come across a free one that was worth using. For around THB 5,000, you can usually have your own phone line set up and get an internet flat rate for THB 600. However, you should check with the landlord if this possible and if it’ll incur any additional costs before you sign the rent. You don’t want to be stuck with slow internet when working from home and no way to change it while on a six month lease.
It’s common practice for furniture (often whether there is any furniture or not) to be ‘leased’ in a separate contract. Half the rent gets paid for the place, half the rent is furniture rent. This is because furniture rental contracts get taxed at a slightly lower rate. In practice, I haven’t seen this make any difference for private individuals.
Maintenance and Repairs
It’s important to be sure who pays for minor repairs and maintenance. Whether it’s a broken air conditioner, problems with the stove or termite damage; these can add up to 10% of your total rent and you should have an understanding – ideally in written form – of who pays for these.
Standard deposit is two months. In addition, you have to pay rent one month in advance, so depending on how you see it, you’re paying three months deposit. The actual deposit can not be used to pay the last month(s) rent. The landlord is required to return the deposit if there’s no damage, but doesn’t have to pay any interest on it.
The single most common dispute with landlords is about the deposit. I never had any problems with getting my deposit back, but heard of friends having problems getting theirs back. The results of a recent Twitter poll I can seem to report that:
One friend of mine had a landlord who wanted to keep THB 10,000 out of his THB 20,000 deposit for supposed water damage in the kitchen. He maintained that it was normal wear and tear. Personally, I think the fact that he moved out on short notice might have contributed to the landlord acting up. In the end, he involved a Thai friend to help negotiate that down to THB 5,000. A lot cheaper than involving a lawyer.
The best way to go about securing your deposit is to take pictures of furniture and other parts of the room, maintain a good relationship with the landlord and treat the interior well. In theory, you could have the deposit held by a third party, but I’m not sure if there’s a great many landlords willing to accept that. In the end, you might have to accept that there’s a 25% chance of not getting your deposit back in full (even if you do everything correctly) and take that into account when calculating your rental expenses.
Deposits aside and as long as payments arrive on time, I’ve not had problems with any commercial or private landlord while I lived here. The biggest point of contention I saw, aside from deposits, was the advance notice before moving out. The landlord of our office expected a 30-day notice for a non-extension of contract – even though it wasn’t specified in the rental contract. We solved the issue by moving out of the office a month later, so he at least had some additional notice.
My advice is to inform your landlord earlier rather than later to give them a chance to find a new lessee. Not having the place stand empty is also a good way to keep the landlord happy and with a new deposit in their hands, there’s psychologically less of a hesitation to return yours.
If things do go wrong – e.g. your deposit doesn’t get returned – you can either involve a lawyer such as Pongkarn Khunphasee or contact the ‘Foundation for Consumers‘ that might also be able to assist with your case. Their staff speak limited English, so involving a Thai native speaker can be helpful. However, my experience is that a soft approach – e.g. negotiating a partial return – ends up being much faster and cheaper. In addition, in ten years, I still haven’t come across a recommendation for a tenant lawyer.
The one thing you probably don’t want to do is to publicly ‘shame’ your landlord. Libel and slander are criminal and civil offenses in Thailand and once you get sued, you might find it hard to leave the country. At this point, it’s a good idea to take a look at how much the lost deposit is in percentage of overall rent you paid. If you lose one month of deposit for a place you stayed in for two years, that’s 4% of your total rent cost and might not be worth the hassle.
While your deposit is at risk, things look better for your belongings; landlords are not allowed to take appliances and furniture as compensation for unpaid rent and damages.
If the contract gets terminated, the landlord can call the police to forcibly remove you if you refuse to leave after the contract and/or the notice to vacate expires.
Finding Temporary Accommodation
As you’ve seen in the introduction of the article, pictures on websites can be deceiving. As such, I recommend you get some temporary accommodation at first, before committing to a long-term lease. A lot of the good deals also require a ‘flip-flops on the ground’ commitment to discover them.
Airbnb is usually a good bet – your host can point you towards possible long-term apartment choices. Unlike a hotel, these places tend to provide you with enough space to park your stuff while looking for something more permanent. With Airbnb, you can request a quote for a longer term stay and I recommend you make use of that option. It won’t be as cheap as an apartment, but it provides you with a good deal if you’re staying longer than a week.
Hotels is also a good option. Being one of the most crowded cities in Asia, there are thousands of available hotels in Bangkok in all corners. It costs more, but you get more convenience, better accommodation and more location choices in return. Finding a good hotel deal can be done through Booking and Agoda. They also allow you to search specific districts and sub-districts.
If you are traveling lightly, you can also consider hostels throughout the city. Aside from having staff that usually knows their way around fairly well, hostels are often found in conveniently located, affordable areas of town (prime tourist areas aside). This means their immediate surroundings are often a candidate for your long-term accommodation as well.
My personal recommendation on booking a hostel would be hostelworld. You can find a good deal here with prices starting from a few hundred per night if you do not mind sleeping in the same room with other people.
Renting vs. Buying
Sam Thompson is a teacher who recently blogged about his own purchase of a condominium in Bangkok. He lists out quite a few of the non-financial considerations and issues that went into the decision (and some he only discovered afterwards). It’s an insightful read if you’re curious about how the experience of owning a condo in Bangkok differs from other places you might know.
We’ve also published a step-by-step guide to buying a condo in Thailand on Thailand Starter Kit itself. It’s a big help if you want to know more about the process and the considerations going into the decision.
What’s Your Experience?
The above should serve as a good starter guide for anyone looking for a new or better place in Bangkok. However, maybe you found something great already and want to share. Did you find a place you particularly like? Know of a building that is amazing value for money? Did you have problems getting your deposit back? Share it in the comments to give other readers an idea what’s going on!
Have a question about housing in Thailand? Ask our community for help.