How to find a student room in Bangkok?
Generally, there are three ways. Either you are patient and wait until you arrive at your university, or you book an apartment in advance over the Internet, or you want to stay in a dormitory or residence hall on campus. We want to give you an overview here on the first two options. For the dorm, please follow the link.
First, what do we call an 'apartment' here in Bangkok?
There are other terms used, such as studio (1-room), 1-bedroom (2 rooms of which one is a bedroom), and so on. In Bangkok, the vast majority are 1-room apartments of 25 to 40 m2 with a bathroom and balcony. The bathroom may have Asian (in Germany called 'French') toilets where you squat, or western toilets where you can sit. The (usually tiny) balcony is multi-functional in Thailand. It's used for cooking (to avoid smell in the room) and for drying your laundry (within short time, even at high humidity).
Quality differences is something you can hardly see at the prices. It seems to depend more on the age of the apartment building. Almost any new apartment building (not older than 10 years) is modern western design and well maintained.
A modern and well-maintained apartment complex will be important for another reason: These apartments offer ADSL access, usually per wireless network (certainly, with the usual traffic jams at peak time). Electronic access security is standard, and so are security guards around the building. They seem to sleep all time (especially on the night shift), but don't underestimate the level of security against petty theft they cause. Additionally, they are very helpful people what you will enjoy when returning from the super market with all your plastic bags.
In any case, be prepared to buy a new mattress. In many apartments, mattresses look like a comfy mattress - but they are as hard as stone (if you want to enjoy the same sleeping comfort as back home - there is an IKEA store in Bangkok). TV and fridge are often offered to rent. Air-conditions were installed when the building was opened (and rarely got any maintenance, of course). If heavily used, they can drive your electrical power bill to astronomic heights, so be careful.
You sometimes read the term 'serviced apartment'. That's basically a hotel room with all the services (change of bed ware, room cleaning) with the difference that linen is not changed every day. If you think you can manage it yourself, you will save a lot of money. Serviced apartments are usually rent by foreign companies for their employees. For them, the rent does not play the most important role - for you that means, such apartments are quite expensive.
The golden rule: Be patient.
Your fellow students will introduce you. Since it's easy to rent an apartment far away from your campus (take size of Bangkok and traffic jams of a 10-million metropolis into account), and very easy to pay much more than your local neighbor pays, some say it's stupid to rent an apartment over the Internet. After arrival in Bangkok, take a hotel room for the first two nights, visit your university, and ask your fellow students for advice. You will easily find an apartment within a day without getting cheated and close to your university. This way is especially recommended for those who come on budget.
There's a lot of fluctuation in any apartment building, and Thais are very mobile. Long-term contracts are an exception, and getting out is as easy as getting in. Forget about the market in your country, this is Thailand. Better apartments will expect you to rent for at least 6 months. You will have to pay a deposit of 3 months plus the first rent when moving in.
By the way, be careful with using the air-con. Sure, it's hot in Thailand. A light dress and a fan make life much easier. Air-cons are often old and power-consuming devices. We know several stories where the electricity bill exceeded the monthly rent. If you insist on sleeping with a feather bed or duvet, calculate the expenditure for electricity accordingly.
If you decide to study outside Bangkok, you should definitely prefer this way: Renting a nice house in a good neighborhood may well be cheaper than renting a 1-room apartment in Bangkok.
Second way: Book an apartment on the Internet. Many foreign students did so since they wanted to avoid the uncertainty of not having a place to stay. Even if you do so, you should take a hotel room for the first two or three nights, at least. Empty apartments tend to look very unfriendly, even when furnished. Don't forget, you come to a foreign country and culture that might appear a bit strange to you at the beginning. It's helpful to have a cozy place that you can call 'temporary home', but you will need a bit of time to build it.
This way is recommended for students whose budget is not too limited. You can be lucky and find a very nice and cheap apartment. Be aware, however, that apartments are rented over the Internet then when people are not in Thailand and have no chance to compare. Landlords are not stupid. The difference may be as little as 20 Euros or Dollars a month, but for those coming on budget, that might well make a difference.
A word of caution: Up-front costs
We learned from several foreign students with a limited budget that they rented a 'cheap' room over the Internet. When they arrived, everything was fine - the rent was true, the room clean and available, but ... the mattress was as hard as stone, there were no fridge or TV, and the 'office chair' was very uncomfortable. So they started buying things to turn their room into a useful and liveable room. That's what we call up-front costs, and that can disturb your budget planning.
That is why we recommend to rent the room yourself _after_ you arrived in Thailand. Two or three nights in a cheap hotel cost you much less than buying all the staff that you did not consider important when you rented over the Internet.
Such a spectacular bathroom you may find in the 30,000 Baht a month category. (Photograph courtesy of SO-HO Properties)
Recommendations by our foreign students
We also asked our students for recommendations. They named the following Web sites:
Budget apartments (from 3,000 Baht per month)
Middle-class apartments (from 10,000 Baht up)
Bangkok Condo Finder
Bangkok Property Services
Rent Bangkok Condos
Upper-class apartments (from 20,000 Baht up)
KK Easy Home
Move and Stay
Home Connect Thailand