This section is designed give a general orientation to Bangkok and its neighborhoods, and an overview of the most popular expat business and residential areas. Roughly half of Bangok’s expats live in the Central Business District (CBD), while the remainder choose to live in the Bangkok's suburbs.
The CBD is generally defined as those areas which are accessible by the two rail lines, the BTS Skytrain and the Metro subway routes. This area has hundreds of luxury condominiums and serviced apartments available for rent. Many expats relocating to Bangkok often will book a short-term stay in a serviced apartment while they are looking for a more permanent residence. Condominiums and serviced apartments offer varying degrees of amenities and a wide range of pricing.
Many expats with families who want a larger space with a yard where their children can play, prefer a house. Many houses exist in and around the CBD, but there are no large neighborhoods, and the vast majority of the houses are older. Some small housing compounds are scattered around, but large gated community neighborhoods don't exist until you get out into the suburbs.
Modern gated communities have sprung up in abundance over the past several years around the new expressway network. The central region filled up long ago, and land prices skyrocketed, and therefore modern highrise condominiums were built because of the land recovery cost.
You will need to look in the suburbs if you want a modern house with a yard and a quiet neighborhood. The suburban housing communities normally come with a clubhouse, pool, fitness center, and various other amenities. Homes in these communities are individually owned and typically rented through a property agent.
Bangkok Central Business District (CBD)
The Central Business District (CBD) is considered to be the area from Ploenchit to the Ram Indra expressway between Petchaburi, Sukhumvit and Rama IV roads, and also including Silom and Sathorn. Within the CBD various sub-districts exist as shown on the map.
Patumwan-Lumpini (Zone A): This area provides highrise serviced apartments and condominiums with a few office buildings. There are no houses in this area. Several embassies and 5-star hotels are also located here. Most of the property here is owned by the royal family (Crown Property Bureau) and is only available for leasehold.
Lower Sukhumvit (Zone B): The main tourist zone on Sukhumvit runs from Soi 1 to Soi 21 (north) and Soi 2 to 14 (South). Here there is a large selection of hotels and serviced apartments, as well as a fairly sizeable selection of condominiums. If one wants convenient access to public transportation with loads of shopping, dining and entertainment options, this could be for you.
Mid Sukhumvit (Zone C): The area along Sukhumvit from Asoke to Ekkamai BTS is the most popular CBD area for accommodation for expats. The housing is largely highrise condo, but there is also a selection of low-rise condo and house options.
Upper Sukhumvit (Zone D): This area on Sukhumvit runs from Phra Khanong to On Nut BTS and also covers areas to the north of Ekkamai. The area has much less accommodation and infrastructure for foreigners, and comprises many old Thai neighborhoods. With the recent expansion of the BTS beyond On Nut, however, we are starting to see some condominiums available at a much lower price than Zones B and C.
- Silom-Sathorn (Zone E): This area is Bangkok’s oldest and largest commercial area and contains mostly office space, hotels and nightlife. The Southeast section contains a mix of old Thai neighborhoods and highrise condos.
Bangkok Inner Suburbs – Ram Indra Expressway
The housing region which is closest to the Central Business District (CBD) with big modern neighborhoods as gated communities is along a relatively short offshoot expressway just northwest of the Sukhumvit housing region. This expressway connects Rama 9 Road along the south end and the Ram Indra artery on the north end, and is essentially a continuation of Ekamai Road. This expressway is called the Ram Indra expressway. It is an elevated expressway with a ground based artery on both sides.
These neighborhoods are just like outer suburban neighborhoods except the yards are a bit smaller and there are no golf courses. But these neighborhoods are quiet with spacious roads, clubhouses with pool, fitness center, and other amenities. There are fewer expats than other suburbs further out, but its proximity to the city makes it interesting to many.
Most of the housing estates off of Ram Indra expressway are not on the main road, but behind the business areas where you can't see them from the road. You must know which road to go down, though it's a short ways. Some nice neighborhoods are hidden around a couple of turns.
This region has only a few international schools with a high percentage of expat children, like the French international school Lychee (with a French housing estate, too), and the Kesinee International School. Many kindergartens are scattered around. However, this is not an international schools area. Other suburbs have much more popular international schools.
One of the strengths of this region is the abundance of restaurants down the side roads, making it a trendy Thai area. Some claim to make western food but most are Thai restaurants of medium to high class. Exploring the side roads, there are wonderful discoveries around many nooks and crannies.
The region has a few boutique hotels and "resorts" as well as some big mainstream hotels. Some of the boutique hotels are only about 700-800 baht per night and are in fairly interesting areas.
Bangkok Eastern Suburbs - Bang Na
The Bang Na area is popular for expats who prefer a suburban lifestyle. There is a large number of housing estates catering to Western styles as well as condominium options available. Advantages to living in Bang Na include the following:
Access to businesses near the Bang Na expressway, Samut Prakarn, and the industrial areas east of the Eastern Seaboard (Pattaya)
More economical house rentals and less crowded when compared with CBD.
Some top international schools are in this region, including Bangkok Patana School, St. Andrews BangNa campus, and Concordian.
Short commute to the airport
Disadvantages of living in Bang Na include the following:
Fewer options in public transport to central Bangkok, no skytrain or subway yet
Traffic and distance to other places in Bangkok
Although there are many expat families, not the same concentration as in CBD.
There are some very nice housing estates, golf courses, shopping malls and other conveniences in this region. If you have a car, then it's a good location because there is an expressway going into the central business district, as well as Bang Na Trat going to the eastern seaboard, and the eastern ring road going north.
Bangkok Northeastern Suburbs – Bangkapi / Minburi
The outer suburbs of Bangkapi and Minburi offer housing villages comprised of spacious and high quality homes. Bangkapi was a Thai middle to upper class region beginning in the 1970s, and continues to grow, mixing new construction with mature housing.
The main advantages of these areas are as follows:
Many housing villages with spacious accommodation;
Much less pollution, traffic and congestion than Bangkok’s CBD;
High class communities in a suburban setting;
Many shopping and dining options;
Expressway access to Chonburi, Pattaya, Rayong, Ayutthaya, Bang Na -- Eastern Ring Road, Chonburi Motorway
Approximately 20 KM with heavy traffic to CBD;
Lower concentration of expats than central Bangkok;
No BTS or MRT at present, although there are plans for one
People who work in industrial areas to the north and east often settle down in Bangkapi or Minburi. In fact, some people who work in eastern seaboard industrial zones decide to locate in an eastern Bangkok suburb, taking the Chonburi Motorway to work. You may want to compare transit times between home and work from Bangkapi or Minburi before finalizing your decision on a home on the eastern seaboard.
Bangkok Northwestern Suburbs – Muang Thong Thani
West of the old Don Muang airport is Nonthaburi, much of which is on the other side of the river. Muang Thong Thani, home to Bangkok’s largest international convention center, is located on the southern side of the river and is very popular with Bangkok expats. The region surrounding the International School of Bangkok is loaded with foreigner families, and housing prices here are lower than other parts of the region.
One reason for this popularity is that two popular international schools, International School of Bangkok (ISB) and the Harrow School are located there. Additionally, this area is popular because of the easy access to Bangkok’s CBD via the Chaeng Wattana Expressway, which normally does not experience significant traffic jams.
Advantages of living in this area are:
Proximity to international schools;
Spacious homes with yard – value for money;
Easy access to CBD via commuter van to BTS;
Large expat population
The primary disadvantage to living in this area is that there is no BTS or MRT at the present time.
Bangkok Northern Suburbs – Rangsit / Pathum Thani
North of the Don Muang International Airport is Pathum Thani, which has a lot of housing estates and wide open spaces, superstores and modern malls such as Future Park Rangsit and the Zeer computer supercenter (similar to Pantip Plaza).
The eastern part of Pathum Thani is called "Rangsit" and is more developed due to the old Vipawadi-Rangsit Road which was for decades the main north-south traffic artery past the airport before the modern new expressway system started to emerge in the late 1990s.
Pathum Thani is serviced by four expressways, with connections to the central business district by two scenic elevated expressways, the Vipawadi-Rangsit Elevated Expressway and the Chaeng Wattana Elevated Expressway. On the perimeter of the expressways, the Eastern Ring Road connects you to the eastern suburbs and Eastern Seaboard Industrial Zones, and likewise for the Western Ring Road.
Pathum Thani has a lot of new, modern housing estates spread out all over the place. Most of Pathum Thani and Rangsit is wide open, but there is considerable traffic congestion along certain strips and in a few spots in Rangsit, and you can get on and off the elevated expressways only at certain places. Once you get familiar with the area and its various back roads, then you learn how to avoid these few strips and intersections entirely, and can sail in and out of your home peacefully.
You will notice from the scenery that it changes to a lot of greenery, wide open spaces and a few of the visible new housing estates right after you cross over Chaeng Wattana Rd. It stays elevated well into Pathum Thani, eventually coming down among rice patties shortly before Thammasat University's new campus.
The ancient ruins of Ayutthaya are only about 30 minutes north, as are many modern industries which have taken root in that adjacent province. The expressways come together at the northern tip of Pathum Thani and then go their own ways to the north and northeastern parts of Thailand.
Many expats living in Pathum Thani work in industrial operations in Ayutthaya, Saraburi, and Pathum Thani. This includes the Nava Nakorn Industrial Promotion Zone (in Pathum Thani), Bangkadi Industrial Park (in Pathum Thani), Bangpa-in Industrial Estate (Ayutthaya), Chutikarn Factory House Industrial Estate (Ayutthaya), Saha Rattana Nakorn Industrial Estate (Ayutthaya), Hi-Tech Industrial Estate (Ayutthaya), Rojana Industrial Park (Ayutthaya ), Nong Khae Industrial Estate (Saraburi), Saraburi Industrial Park, and Siam Cement Industrial Land.