Housing & Transportation in Thailand
Housing in Bangkok is quite expensive in relation to teaching salaries. Rent ranges from 7,000 to 12,000 baht per month, for a basic studio style room in the city. Bangkok is the most Westernized city in Thailand, and the types of housing available reflect this trait. There are a lot of modern apartment buildings with air-conditioning, hot water, telephone lines, and Western-style bathrooms. However, these apartments have limited cooking facilities, if any. Most places have a refrigerator, and some will have a hot plate or stove. In general, apartment rentals don't have much in the way of a kitchen.
This shouldn't be a problem though - food stalls and markets provide cheap and delicious Thai food at all hours, for as little as 25 baht a dish! There are some apartment complexes near Siam Square, on Rama I and Phayathai Roads - the starting price is 7,000 to 9,000 baht per month.
Guesthouses are another housing option, as many of them have long-term rentals for expats. Monthly rent ranges from 9,000 to 15,000 baht per month for all the modern amenities. Wendy Guest House and A-1 Guest House are popular places in Siam Square, and cost 9,000 and 10,000 baht respectively. Phra Arthit Mansions in Banglumphu near the Chao Phraya River costs 15,000, and have air-con, hot water, daily maid service, refrigerator, and cable TV. There are a lot of guesthouses in Banglamphu with basic accommodations for those on a budget. Basic rooms will have a ceiling fan, and may have basic furniture such as a nightstand or dresser drawer. Shared bathrooms will be in the hallway.
Those who prefer a bit more room and privacy can rent old Thai houses in the Sukhumvit area, where a lot of expats live. You might have to find a connection in the expat community to live here, since houses are shared with two or three people, and modern apartments are for one or two people at the most. These antique-style houses are quite pleasant, with teak floors and traditional decor. However, they may not have air-conditioning, hot water, or Western bathrooms, unless they have been converted. Rent can be quite high, especially if you have maid service, which a lot of people who live in these houses do. But if you want to live with roommates in a more spacious and traditional setting than modern apartments, this is a great option.
By the far the easiest way to get around Bangkok is to take the BTS (above ground) or MRT (subway) rail systems. You can travel around most of Bangkok on one or the other and the price for the average 4-5 station romp is under 50 baht. You can expect a new train every 8 minutes and both systems are very reliable.
There are many modes of transportation in other Thai cities, but Bangkok is notorious for traffic jams, and even Chiang Mai is becoming more congested. I would strongly recommend living near your school to avoid commuting - it is common to spend 2 or 3 hours a day in traffic! Bangkok resembles most large Asian cities in its physical structure - there is no center or downtown, but many different neighborhoods that are spread over a large area. Since it's not exactly a walking city, the best way to get around is public transportation. There are red, blue, and green buses that cost a few baht and cover many parts of the city. There are also more luxurious air-conditioned buses - the blue and white ones range from 10 to 25 baht depending on the distance traveled, and a new fleet of red and grey buses charge a flat rate of 25 baht and have TVs.
Taxis are another way to get around - the cars are new and air-conditioned. The meter starts at 30 baht and goes up quite slowly - better than New York cabs! But beware of traffic - it can be exasperating to be stuck in a taxi watching the meter go up. Taxis are a better option for going out or going home at night. If you are traveling short to medium distances with minimal traffic, the fare will be 60 to 100 baht.
Thailand has a unique invention called the tuk-tuk, which is an open-air, three-wheeled taxi. However, these are being phased out for new fleets of taxicabs, but there are still some around in tourist areas. Unlike taxis, you can bargain the price, but if you don't speak Thai very well, chances are you will be paying more than a taxi, so it may not be worth it. But they are a fun way to ride around the city, even if they do emit noxious fumes. Short distances will start at 30 to 40 baht, and going all the way across town may cost 100 to 140 baht or more.
Another way to get around is the motorcycle taxi, which I would not recommend for safety reasons. If you really need to get to the bus station on time in rush-hour traffic, this may be a more surefire way than taking the bus, and they are cheaper than taxicabs or even tuk-tuks. But riding in chaotic Bangkok traffic without a helmet or crash pads is very dangerous, and accidents are frequent. Most fares start at 20 baht for short to medium distances, and it is acceptable to bargain.