Living in Bangkok: A Real Estate and Lifestyle Guide to Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok—City of Angels

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About Bangkok, Thailand

Among locals Bangkok is known as Krung Thep, meaning ‘City of Angels’. The official ceremonial name of Bangkok lays claim to being the longest place name in the world, and an abbreviated translation describes the city as ‘full of joy, endowed by precious stones and home to numerous royal palaces where reincarnated angels reside’.

Another record claimed by Bangkok is as the most visited city in the world. According to the last Mastercard annual survey in 2019, Bangkok attracted more than 22.7 million visitors, followed by Paris and London with around 19 million visitors each. Many of Bangkok’s visitors originate from these top five destinations, listed in order: Mainland China, Japan, South Korea, India, and the United Kingdom.

History

The history of Bangkok dates back to the early 15th century, to when it was a village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Due to its strategic location near the mouth of the river, the town gradually increased in importance. Bangkok was formally declared capital of the Thonburi Kingdom, the forerunner to modern Thailand, on 21 April 1782.

Climate

The city experiences three seasons: hot, rainy, and cool, although temperatures are fairly hot year-round, ranging from an average low of 22 degrees Celsius (71.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in December to an average high of 35.4 degrees Celsius (95.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in April. The rainy season begins with the arrival of the southwest monsoon around mid-May. September is the wettest month, with an average rainfall of 334.3 millimeters (13.16 in). The rainy season lasts until October, when the dry and cool northeast monsoon takes over until February.

Geography

Bangkok covers an area of 1,570 square kilometers, or just over 600 square miles, and is home to an estimated 10.5 million people, or around 15 percent of Thailand’s population. In addition to being known for the Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho, the city is famous for its street life and cultural landmarks, as well as backpacker destinations such as Khaosan Road and nightlife scenes at Patpong, Nana, and Soi Cowboy.

As Bangkok has developed, and the center has expanded outwards with the opening-up of more Subway (MRT) and BTS Skytrain lines, the city has also become home to more sophisticated residents, Thais, and expatriates, leading to ever more attractions for locals and tourists alike. International brands abound in Bangkok, and the city is home to some of the world’s finest branded residences, Michelin-starred restaurants, and leading hotels. The city is also the gateway to Thailand’s renowned resort destinations at Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai, and the Golden Triangle.

The Bangkok Property Market

The first modern condominiums in Bangkok were constructed in the 1980s but it was not until the 1990s, when Thailand became an Asian Tiger economy, that residential real estate really started to boom. The cycle was short lived, however, and came to an abrupt end with the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, also known as the “Tom Yum Kung Crisis” after the famous spicy Thai seafood soup. The market did not pick-up again until the early 2000s, the start of another boom period, which apart from short interruptions in 2006, 2010, and 2014 due to political disturbances, and the great Bangkok floods of 2011, remained in an upward trajectory until a slowdown in 2019 followed by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Buyer demand in the luxury segment of the Bangkok property market has typically been for city-center condominiums and in luxury single housing developments in the suburbs such as Bangna, Raminthra, Rama 5, Rama IX, and Krungthep Kreetha.

Foreigners are attracted to Bangkok not just for the lifestyle and cultural activities, but also for practical reasons such as excellent medical healthcare at internationally renowned hospitals such as Bumrungrad, Bangkok Hospital, BNH, and Samitivej. Affordable and accessible schooling is another reason why many families move to Thailand from overseas. Some of the best-known international schools have campuses in Bangkok including Bangkok Patana School, NIST, ISB, St Andrews, and Shrewsbury School.

Residential Neighborhoods in Bangkok

Bangkok is home to numerous neighborhoods, and enclaves associated with different nationalities, just as in many other large cities. The most desirable neighborhoods for condominium buyers are in and around the city center and include Sukhumvit, Lumpini, Sathorn – Silom, and the Riverside. Within these areas are further recognised localities such as Asoke, Phrom Phong, Thonglor, and Ekkamai along Sukhumvit Road, and Chidlom, Langsuan, Rajadamri, and Wireless Road in Lumpini district.

In addition to excellent public transport links, these neighborhoods are also home to some of Bangkok’s most popular shopping and dining destinations including Icon Siam, Paragon Mall, Central Embassy, Central Chidlom, Terminal 21, and the EmSphere shopping complex.

Foreign Property Ownership

Foreigners can hold all types of leasehold property in Thailand without restriction. Most condominiums in Bangkok are freehold and may also be fully owned by foreigners provided that at least 51 percent of the total saleable area is owned by Thais. In practise, Thai buyers are in the majority in most condominium developments and there is rarely a situation where foreign purchases are restricted due to the lack of “foreign quota.”

Foreigners are not permitted to own landed property outright and some housing developers will offer leasehold options of between 30 and 90 years to foreign buyers. Foreign buyers are generally not entitled to mortgages from local banks but some overseas banks, for example UOB from Singapore, will lend to foreigners buying property in Bangkok who pass their qualification requirements.

Visas and Residency

There are several options for foreigners wishing to reside long-term in Thailand. A popular scheme among wealthy foreigners is the Thailand Elite privileged entry visa allowing individuals and their families to remain in the Kingdom for between five and twenty years. The scheme also offers other benefits including airport fast track, concierge services, medical benefits, and various discounts.

Other long-term visas available are for spouses married to Thai citizens, work permit holders and retirees. At the time of writing the Thai government is also actively considering incentive visa schemes for investors in specific economic sectors, and digital nomads meeting specific criteria.

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