Sep 292011

Considering that I just finished describing how satisfied I was with my room at Happy Inn, you might find it surprising that I’d go to the trouble of looking for a “real” apartment in Bangkok.

Well, it’s true: I was quite happy at Happy Inn. It’s spacious enough, centrally located, and very comfy. Still, the fact remains that I absolutely love living out here – and can easily see myself doing so many times in the future. While a guesthouse maybe fine for a week or two, with Thailand’s ridiculously affordable rent it just doesn’t make sense to limit myself when I could get a top-class apartment for the same price or less. Unlike Japan, Thailand is overflowing with options – all fully furnished and ready to go. There’s no key money, no guarantor, no hassle. Just show up with a wad of cash and you’ve got yourself a new place to live.

And so the hunt began.

Over the course of my two-month stay I spent a huge number of hours walking around the city, looking at rooms and noting my findings. In addition to providing a nice opportunity to explore nearly every nook and cranny of central Bangkok (almost acting like the “tourism” for my stay), I really learned a lot. Hopefully, sharing my process will be of some help to others who are looking to do the same 🙂

I started my search by scouring the Internet for “serviced monthly apartments” – with such an enormous expat community, Bangkok’s resources in English are remarkably extensive. The goal was to compile a list of places that are furnished, contract-free, within walking distance of a BTS (skytrain) or MRT (metro), and with rent no higher than about $600 (what I was currently paying). The third criteria turned out to be by far the most limiting – but while moto taxis are cheap and widespread, I’d still personally rather pay a few bucks extra for the convenience of being able to pop out and get anywhere in the city within minutes…regardless of traffic.

The majority of my leads ended up coming from; I had only limited success with CraigsList or realtors as they seem to deal almost exclusively with longer-term leases.

After compiling an initial list of options, I mapped them out in Google Earth and synced them to my phone. Each day I’d go out and focus on a different part of the city, using GPS to find my way from spot to spot. I’d time how long it took to walk there from the BTS, take notes, photograph what I found, and come home to revise the list of candidates.

It didn’t take long to start noticing a pattern. There seem to be three main types of monthly apartments available:

(1) “Actual” monthly serviced apartments;
(2) Hotels which allow monthly rentals at reduced rates;
(3) Regular apartments which allow contract-free rentals at increased rates

The first option is attractive because they’re all geared up for this type of situation and make it easy to get in and out. The second is nice because you can try it out for a day or two, and out-of-town visitors can always grab a room right next to yours. They’re very classy but often have microscopic refrigerators, no cooking facilities, and those annoying power-toggles that cut off as soon as you leave the room. The third is cool because you can try the place for a month, then if you like it, sign a longer lease at an even better rate. However, this is the only option that isn’t usually serviced.

I was also surprised to discover that “wandering at random” is actually a far more effective way to accumulate options than researching online; apartments of a given type tend to be pretty tightly clustered, so once I found an interesting area, walking up and down the surrounding streets turned up literally dozens of similar options:

  • The area around On Nut BTS is booming with brand new furnished apartments, all very affordable and all vying for tenants. I went there with just one pushpin in my map and left with 10 real contenders.
  • Central Sukhumvit is far more expensive, but Soi 22 does have some reasonable options a couple km down from the boulevard.
  • Parallel Suk16 and Suk8 are significantly overpriced, and more for well-to-do expat families than single “middle-class” travelers. Few options exist with less than 2 or 3 bedrooms.
  • Near Lumphini MRT is an area with a TON of guesthouses, almost as dense as Khao San – but with a somewhat older crowd. Many of them rent monthly at pretty reasonable rates, but the “true apartments” are few and far between.

The list goes on and on; each area I checked had its benefits and drawbacks, but the one common theme was that everyone seemed to advertise with big visible signs almost always in English. Thus, once you find the right area, roaming at random and building a list of options is a cinch.

Originally I’d limited my search roughly to the box defined by Victory Monument to the North, Surasak to the West, Silom to the South, and On Nut to the East – but as I learned just how much I could get in my price range, I ratcheted it down even further. I decided that I wanted to be on the Sukhumvit BTS line specifically, which hits all my main hangouts: the clubs in Thonglor and Suk11, my gym at Ratchathewi, and of course Siam Square.

I started to develop a pretty specific list of exactly what I was looking for, giving points for things like bathrooms: many apartments have those “Asian-Style Bathrooms” I used to hate in Japan (where the whole room is the shower), while others have classy Western ones with medicine cabinets and tubs. I noted which were serviced and which weren’t; which had better windows with more natural light; how nice the lobby felt; if the staff spoke English; and which had the better cooking facilities.

(One thing that really surprised me was that, despite how classy a place may be, VERY few have any sort of kitchen at all. They have fitness centers, concierges, and rooftop pools – but not even a microwave. I guess that’s just a consequence of a society where eating out is so easy, cheap, and delicious: why even bother cooking for yourself!)

In the end, I decided my favorite area is Victory Monument, followed closely by Sukhumvit 22 (Asoke) and Sukhumvit 81 (On Nut). Asoke is perfectly located, but you don’t get nearly as much for your money – it’s one of the most expensive parts of town. On Nut is the opposite: right at the end of the BTS line it does take longer to get around, but as an up-and-coming neighborhood the value is simply unreal. Victory Monument seems to offer a nice compromise. It’s right on the BTS line just a few stops from Siam, has plenty of reasonable options, and as home to a major medical university, is absolutely bustling with local conveniences – from nice restaurants and coffee shops to cheap street food and wide-open parks.

Ironically, despite all my efforts I never did end up moving – due to a number of reasons that I’ll get into later. But I did learn a ton about the city, and now have a concise list of exactly where I’ll stay the next time around. So although I may’ve ridden out this two-month visa among the sleaze of Soi 4…next time, I’ll see you all at my nice, furnished, serviced apartment just a few steps away from Victory Monument 🙂

  27 Responses to “Finding A Monthly Apartment in Bangkok”

  1. WHAT!?!?! you did all that searching and research and never did get an apartment….I can’t wait to hear why

  2. Haha well, honestly a big part of my motivation was for the next visit anyway – i.e. after an upcoming visa run. I wanted to figure out where to stay in advance, so next time I could just go straight to a permanent spot 🙂

    (…of course, there were a few reasons I didn’t move this time as well.)

  3. “Eight lanes of traffic, my neighbourhood of choice” 😛

  4. Well, I’m not living IN the monument…just nearby that BTS station 😛

  5. This is a great resource for anyone heading out there, some amazing places…..

  6. Hey, J., I looked but didn’t see any other contact for you. Great post: ‘cuz I’m soon doing the same sort of thing, coming from US in just a couple weeks. Wanting a rental for many months but not a year. I’ve only vacationed there before, so learning about rentals. I agree with the sounds of your reasoning for your Victory choice, although I’ll consider many others with my budget restriction. Yourself, shouldn’t have any problem. Your budget is considerably higher than mine, so I do *not* think that I’d be competing with you for a place — I’m on a fixed budget. And I’m lot older than you so I don’t think we’d be competing for anything else either!

    A reason I’m writing: that googlemap you created — any chance you’d share the non-public link with me, in private? In case you noted some lower-end choices that you wouldn’t mind sharing? Or any halfway decent leads for something you saw lower end?

    Any other tips besides for best way to locate a place? My budget is for more like in the 6000B range, which I see there are some ads for such places. Preferably central-ish, and some similar preferences as you. Oh, btw, if I ran across something nice but over my budget, I’d pass info to yourself to check out. Assuming you make it back to BKK.

    Have a good trip. Thanks!, Jim

  7. Hey Jim,

    Glad to hear that someone has *already* gotten some use out of this 🙂 I never looked at anything that cheap to be honest (the lowest I went was around 12000 baht), so I’m really not sure about availablility in *monthly* rentals…but I know you can definitely get that low if you sign at least a shortish-term contract (say, 3 or 6 months at a time). As with anywhere, the more flexibility, comfort, and convenience you want, the more you have to pay – I know expats whose apartments cost more than $3000USD, as well as locals who pay under $100 (though for that, I doubt you’d be in walking distance of BTS ;)). So it’s really just a matter of finding something that’s “acceptable” – keeping in mind that contract spots are usually significantly less than monthly.

  8. Thanks, all good advice. Yup, I pay a lot more than that right now, but I’ve seen ad photographs that look perfectly acceptable, if they’re not fabricated. Yup, a 3-4 month contract is fine. I’ll do like you and spend time looking around: I liked your method of choosing just one area for a day to scope out, otherwise it’s overwhelming.

  9. OH no…photos of Thai apartments are often WAY off, I definitely wouldn’t go by that alone. Like…stock photos taken 10 years ago from only the most perfect angles, and not a coat of paint has been added since. I thought the same before I got here, and then raised my budget when I saw what the cheaper places are REALLY like.

  10. Okay, yup I was slightly suspicious — that’s why the comment about “fabricated” — so I knew I’ll have to do a lot of inspecting. But it helps a lot that you confirmed that!, and for anyone else finding this. Also affecting my hopes was that I know someone here who has spent many years in TH & BKK and said one year he paid 6000B and another time 4000B. But maybe his standards are lower even than mine, harhar.
    I’m not sure where in the world you are right now, but thanks for the quick replies!

  11. Check out my Current Location widget – I’m back in Bangkok! 🙂

  12. @Jim: A masseuse I talked to said she had a place right on Sukhumvit Soi 12 (I think) and she paid 3000B per month. Internet was 200B extra. It’s probably not a five star hotel, but at least it proves you can find dirt cheap centrally located places 🙂

  13. Are you sure it isn’t shared with 20 other masseuses? I find that tough to believe even if it *is* a total shithole – unless Soi 12 is one of those 50km-long Sois and she actually lives super-far from Sukhumvit 😛

  14. Yep, she lived alone. I asked. But I didn’t ask for the directions to her home, if that’s what you mean 😛 After all, she wasn’t one of those kinds of masseuses (I think).

  15. Well, could be – but again, I did look at LOADS of apartments and even the ones I saw for 6-9k (monthly) were really pretty crappy. Of course, I suppose if she’s reasonably far from Sukhumvit, has very low standards, and signed a long-term lease, anything is possible… 😛

  16. Yup, prob low low standard, but hey kinda nice to know there’s a range that goes that low and I can afford more; so thanks Pedro. I still had my googlemap in one window and quickly found Soi 12 Suk, if that’s the one, it’s total only about 300m long. Sheraton Grande next to Suk, Ramada at the far end of the soi, and had to notice the eatery labeled in the middle with funny name called Cabbages and Condoms. That Thai sense of humor, haha – wouldn’t see that in America.

  17. In my online browsing, I’ve kind of been avoiding west of river, Thonburi side, KhlongSan, which I hear is still flooded and may remain so a while. But maybe that’s wrong thinking? By 2-3 weeks maybe water gone and I wonder if with lots of people maybe still vacated, that I could finagle a good deal?, upper floor. I mean just that area. I saw you do have a couple locations marked there, Justin. It’s an area that seems like would be okay if walking distance to that BTS line plus not far to hop on a riverboat. Not that there aren’t better locations, but I mean preferable to such as way out Don Mueang direction?

    So have you found a rental yet, J.? When do, you’ll have to post the result after writing this whole guide.

  18. In my online browsing, I’ve kind of been avoiding west of river, Thonburi side, KhlongSan, which I hear is still flooded and may remain so a while.

    I haven’t been over there this visit, but in any case I think it’s impossible to predict how it’ll be in a few weeks – one of the biggest issues with this whole flood situation has been the conflicting (or total lack of) information. One official says it’s fine, another says it’s a disaster, etc. But since you can’t move in until you get here anyway, no reason not to just wait and see 😛

    It’s an area that seems like would be okay if walking distance to that BTS line plus not far to hop on a riverboat

    To be honest, I found that area to be way too far – but I prefer to be as close to the action (and nightlife) as possible. If that doesn’t matter to you, then yeah, you should be fine as long as you’re within reach of the BTS/MRT.

    So have you found a rental yet, J.?

    Nope, still waiting until Peder takes off and a bit more time has passed since the flood scare to make a “final” move.

  19. EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thanks a lot for this post mate. Chances are highg that I’ll be moving to BKK in March and even though I’ve been there a dozen times and I consider myself an advanced visitor I wasn’t quite sure how to narrow my search for a flat down. This really helps getting thoughts straight. So thanks again 🙂

  20. Glad I could help 🙂

  21. Hello!
    I’ve just stumbled across your site whilst looking online for a Bangkok apartment to rent… amazing amount of leg work you’ve done! I’d really love to know where you found in Victory Monument, would you mind sharing your discovery with me?! I’m in Bangkok for the next 2 months with work and unfortunately don’t have much free time to look, I’d love to find somewhere nice to plonk myself, the place I’ve landed in is pretty soul-less with construction works right by my balcony! I also love the Victory Monument area, also happy to be a bit further out for a nicer, larger, brighter space as I’ll be working from my apartment quite a bit.
    I’d so appreciate any ideas!
    Thank you,

  22. Hi All,

    I am also looking here in BKK for a month to month option,,,
    I have checked a few but again pretty soulless.

    So if you would care to share your findings around Victory Monument, I would appreciate it.
    One place I found by way of an english teacher was a place called LA towers. about 7-8k
    per month..much less on a longer term lease. You can google this place. It is far on the rail line so it is not an option for me..

  23. I use to go for Thai Apartments, but now I prefer Service apartment in Bangkok, but sadly it covers only Bangkok.

  24. I found Victory Monument just way too busy for my liking. Got any ideas for areas that would be great to stay with kids long-term?

    • Nope, not really – because that’s pretty much the exact opposite situation from what I was looking for 😛

  25. I’ve been to Bangkok about six times for brief periods, but I now find myself in need of a one bedroom apartment for living there several months. I know most of the buildings in the city are newish (such a repetitive aesthetic), but in your search did you find any from the colonial period / early 20th century that have some architectural and spatial character? A place that is special if not unique. It is hard to accept such banal spaces, however nice they may be.

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