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Thailand

Will I qualify for a Retirement Visa?
You will need a non-immigrant visa as a prerequisite to obtaining a retirement visa. Once you have this document, you must provide an original Thailand Bank book, a letter from your Thai bank, proof of meeting the financial requirements, a departure card and a medical certificate. In order to provide proof of meeting the financial requirements you will need to be in possession of a bank account containing 800,000 THB or 22,400 USD, and a monthly income of 65,000 THB or 1820 USD.

Can I buy property in Thailand?
Property is technically illegal for foreigners to purchase but there are a number of loopholes. It is possible to own structures on land without owning the land itself and buying individual condos is permitted. There are ways to rent land on long leases without technically owning it and an estate agent should be hired to help.

What scams should I know of and avoid?
Gem scams targeting foreigners is the largest and most common of the scams. As a rule of thumb, avoid purchasing gems unless you are a gemmologist. Lesser annoyances involve being taken by a taxi driver to shops where they receive a commission. Always be careful of pickpockets.

Moving to Thailand

From Bangkok’s neon lights to Buddhist temples set against awe-inspiring natural settings, Thailand is a land of diversity and opportunities. Whether wanting to enjoy their retirement, work in its booming medical tourism industry or supplement a long-term vacation with English teaching, expats are faced with a world of possibility in Thailand.

Living in Thailand as an expat

Best known as a beautiful, affordable and exotic tourist destination, expats moving to Thailand often get to enjoy paradise on a more permanent basis. A warm and welcoming Thai culture, striking landscapes and a chance to experience a truly different way of life make living in Thailand both interesting and comfortable for many expats.

Finding work that pays well can be a major challenge for expats who want to live in Thailand. The majority of job opportunities in the country can be found in Bangkok. Many new arrivals descend upon the already bustling Thai capital for this reason.

Rural life in Thailand often lacks modern amenities, while urban environments are in overdrive, inundating residents with noise pollution and a lack of space. This can make it difficult to find a balance. Expats often find that weekend getaways from Bangkok are key to handling its frenetic energy.

Although less popular than living in Bangkok, some expats scatter across the northern regions such as Chiang Mai to enjoy a quieter and more traditional Thai lifestyle. Chiang Mai in particular is well known as a hub of digital nomads.

The beach resorts of Krabi and Phuket are also popular choices, as tourism-related jobs and idyllic beaches lure retirees and expat workers alike. Another popular option for expats wanting to work in Thailand is teaching English. These sectors may not necessarily allow expats to enjoy the standard of living they may have been used to back home, but many of the expats who live in Thailand actively choose to live a simpler life.

Cost of living in Thailand

The cost of living in Thailand varies. On the whole, living expenses are low, but expats who indulge in all the luxuries they had back home will find that costs quickly add up. Imported goods, Western-style housing in exclusive areas, and international schools all come at a high price. Those who opt for a simpler lifestyle, as the locals do, will find that it's not necessary to earn a high salary to enjoy Thailand.

Expat families and children

Expats may be surprised at how family-friendly Thailand is, especially in the thriving city of Bangkok. Boredom will be a problem of the past in this city brimming with things to see and do. Bangkok has plenty of excellent international schools, as well as a number of the country's best and most prestigious public schools. Good-quality healthcare at a low price is easily found in the capital. Thailand is also situated in the perfect spot for regional travel, ideal for family holidays to exciting destinations such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Climate in Thailand

Thailand's tropical climate brings hot and humid conditions to the country for most of the year, with the exception being the cool, dry season from November to February. The hot season is from March to June, and temperatures can be stifling during this time of year, commonly reaching 93°F (34°C) or higher. Following June, the rainy season commences and downpours are regular throughout Thailand with especially wet conditions in the south, which receives about twice the amount of rain that the north does.

Though the weather may not always play along, life in Thailand can have the feel of a never-ending holiday, especially for those living on the islands. Compared to the rat race of the West, many expats find that they can take it easy in the Land of Smiles.


Fast facts

Official name: Kingdom of Thailand

Population: About 70 million

Capital city: Bangkok 

Neighbouring countries: Thailand shares borders Myanmar to the west and northwest, Laos to the north and northeast, Cambodia to the southeast, and Malaysia to the far south.

Geography: Thailand's natural features, such as the Mekong River and various mountain ranges, define its northern, eastern and western borders. The Gulf of Thailand forms the country's southern coastline.

Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Major religions: Buddhism is the majority religion in Thailand, with Islam and Christianity being the two most prominent minority religions.

Main languages: Thai is the official language. English is widely understood in tourist areas, but there are fewer fluent English speakers in rural areas.

Money: The Thai baht (THB), which is divided into 100 satang. It is usually possible for expats to open a local bank account and ATMs are widely available in urban areas, many of which accept foreign cards.

Tipping: Tipping isn't customary or expected in Thailand, but adding a tip will usually be appreciated. Depending on the situation, this may be in the form of rounding up the billed amount, adding 10 percent, or leaving loose change behind. 

Time: GMT+7

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz. Both flat and round two-pin plugs are frequently used.

Internet domain: .th

International dialling code: +66

Emergency contacts: 191 (police, general), 1554 (ambulance), 199 (fire) 

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. Roads are usually in good condition but traffic in Bangkok is notorious for congestion and drivers can behave erratically. There are good public transport networks in Thailand with most long-distance travel done by bus and most short distances by motorcycle.

Weather in Thailand

Weather in Thailand tends to be hot and humid year-round, with only slight regional variation and seasonal change. The climate in Thailand is tropical, and expats will soon become well acquainted with the monsoon, a seasonal wind that can bring heavy precipitation.

For the most part, the weather in Thailand can be broken up into three major seasons: the dry, cool season (November to February), the hot season (March to June) and the rainy season (June to October). The southern part of the country is less predictable and usually only experiences two seasons – the wet season and the dry season.

Temperatures in Thailand move up and down depending on locale; the north is the coolest area and the mercury rises as expats move further south. That said, even during the cool season the daily high can reach 68°F (20°C), and during the hot season average highs settle around 93°F (34°C).

Expats should endear themselves to their umbrella during the rainy season. The entire country receives a fair bit of precipitation during the appointed period, and the southern region receives almost twice as much rainfall as the central and northern regions of Thailand.

 

Embassy Contacts for Thailand


Thai Embassies

  • Royal Thai Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 944 3600

  • Royal Thai Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7589 2944

  • Royal Thai Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 722 4444

  • Royal Thai Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6206 0100

  • Royal Thai Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 5470

  • Royal Thai Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 496 2900


Foreign embassies in Thailand

  • United States Embassy, Bangkok: +66 2 205 4000

  • British Embassy, Bangkok: +66 2 305 8333

  • Canadian Embassy, Bangkok: +66 2 646 4300

  • Australian Embassy, Bangkok: +66 2 344 6300

  • South African Embassy, Bangkok: + 66 2 659 2900

  • Irish Embassy, Bangkok: +66 2 016 1360

  • New Zealand Embassy, Bangkok: +66 2 254 2530

Public Holidays in Thailand

 

2021

2022

New Year’s Day

1 January

3 January

Makha Bucha Day

6 February

16 February

Chakri Memorial Day

6 April

6 April

Songkran Festival

13–15 April

13–15 April

Labour Day

3 May

2 May

Coronation Day

4 May

4 May

Visakha Bucha Day

26 May

16 May

Queen Suthida's Birthday

3 June

3 June

Asahna Bucha Day

26 July

13 July

Her Majesty the Queen Mother's Birthday

12 August

12 August

Prince Mahidol Day

24 September

24 September

Passing of His Majesty the Late King

13 October

13 October

King Chulalongkorn Day

22 October

24 October

H.M. the Late King's Birthday

6 December

5 December

Constitution Day

10 December

12 December

New Year’s Eve

31 December

31 December

*Some dates may vary according to the lunar cycle. If a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the holiday is celebrated on the following Monday. 

Pros and Cons of Moving to Thailand

Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world for a reason. The scenery is spectacular, the people are friendly and visitors are never more than a longboat trip away from a fun activity.

That said, expats need to be prepared for the fact that, like anywhere else in the world, there are pros and cons to living in Thailand. Here are a few of the main points to consider before moving to Thailand.


Accommodation in Thailand

 + PRO: There's a variety of housing

There is a wide range of accommodation available, from traditional Thai housing to modern apartment blocks and villas.

- CON: It can be expensive

If an expat can’t speak Thai, affordable accommodation can be tricky to find. When dealing with an English speaker, the landlord will often try to charge a higher price. To avoid this, expats should try to get a Thai-speaking person to do the bargaining on their behalf.


Lifestyle and culture in Thailand

+ PRO: The population is multicultural

As a result of the many business opportunities in the tourism industry, Thailand has drawn in numerous expats over the last 20 years. Krabi, for example, is filled with an array of interesting people of many different nationalities. Expats are almost guaranteed to be exposed to many different cultures and meet people from all over the world.

+ PRO: There are plenty of local festivals

Every year, thousands of tourists come to Thailand to experience and take part in the many unique events and ceremonies the country has to offer. Expats should be sure not to miss as Loy Krathong and Songkran, two of Thailand's most spectacular local festivals.

- CON: The language barrier

Almost everyone in Thailand's urban areas can speak a little English, but not many people speak English well. This largely depends on location, but government departments countrywide will tend to deal with matters in Thai. Being unable to communicate can be frustrating, and alienating for many new arrivals.


Nightlife in Thailand

+ PRO: There is lots to do

Thailand is filled with beach bars, full moon parties, restaurants and night markets. Shops close late at night, so expats can barter to their hearts' content at all hours in most areas.

+ PRO: Numerous off-season perks

During low season, there aren’t as many tourists around so it's easy for locals to get discounted tours and affordable accommodation in hotels. It's also far more enjoyable to take in Thailand's attractions without having to contend with huge crowds.

- CON: There are few dance parties

Though this varies by area, there are generally few ‘Western-style’ nightclubs or places designed specifically for dancing the night away. Bars and beach parties are more common.


Weather in Thailand

+ PRO: Summers are gorgeous

The ocean is beautiful and warm, and the weather is sunny during the tourist high season. At this time of year, Thailand can be the very picture of a tropical paradise.

- CON: There are also uncomfortable extremes

The weather is often uncomfortably hot and the rainy season can last a long time, beginning around April and sometimes ending as late as December. During this time, the weather is unpredictable, making it difficult to plan activities. 


Healthcare in Thailand

+ PRO: Treatments are affordable

Expats with a work permit and who pay social security will qualify for free or heavily discounted healthcare from any of Thailand’s public hospitals. Private GPs are also relatively inexpensive.

- CON: Resources are few

Most public hospitals are understaffed and medical personnel are overworked. Expats should be prepared for long waits to get medical treatment. Some private hospitals are known to take advantage of expats and charge extortionate prices.


Cost of living in Thailand

+ PRO: Local goods are cheap

Thai food, petrol and general items are inexpensive. It isn't necessary to bring home a massive salary to live a simple and comfortable life here.

- CON: Imports are expensive

Western-style food is extremely expensive, as is alcohol. One can quickly spend a lot of money in Thailand if not paying attention.


Transport in Thailand

+ PRO: There is a variety of cheap transport available 

Thailand has an abundance of reliable local transport. From tuk-tuks and taxis to the high-speed BTS train system in Bangkok, it is easy to find a convenient way of getting from A to B.

- CON: 'Broken' meters and the 'farang' price

In some of the larger cities or tourist hotspots, many foreigners – 'farangs' – unknowingly get charged much higher prices than the norm. Despite the fact that taxi meters are a legal necessity, many drivers will claim that theirs is broken. Tourists often blindly get into these modes of transport, only to be charged an exorbitant amount after the journey. This is best avoided by negotiating a rate before getting into the taxi.

Safety in Thailand

Renowned for its idyllic beaches and friendly inhabitants, Thailand may seem like paradise. The good news is that it can be – provided expats take note of the country's most prominent safety concerns and proceed with the necessary precautions.

The shortcomings of safety in Thailand are primarily the result of underfunded infrastructure, political instability and the high level of poverty. The main safety concerns for expats living in Thailand are listed below, with advice on the best precautions to take.


Terrorism in Thailand

Thailand is viewed as a moderately safe destination for foreigners. The main concern for expats has been the unstable political situation in the years since the military seized control of the government. Martial law and curfews have since been lifted from almost all areas of the country.

There is a high risk of terrorism in the far south of Thailand. The southern provinces on the border between Thailand and Malaysia have been the site of extreme separatist violence in the past. Foreign governments have advised against all but the most essential travel to these potentially unsafe areas.

Following sporadic bombings in previous years, there is the possibility of terrorism in larger cities and certain tourist areas. The severity of these attacks has varied greatly. The general advice given by foreign embassies about this issue is to avoid crowded and tourist areas during high-risk terrorist alerts, and to keep a low profile wherever possible.


General safety in Thailand

Crime rates in Thailand are usually quite low compared to other international destinations, and violent crimes against foreigners are rare. That said, crimes of opportunity can happen and it's wise to take some precautions ahead of time. 

To avoid falling victim to pickpockets, expats should keep a close eye on their purses and bags in crowded places. In Bangkok particularly, foreigners should be wary of being targeted by thieves who ride as passengers on a motorcycle and grab victims' bags as they pass. If this does happen, expats are advised not to resist. These thieves have been known to drag victims alongside the motorbike until the bag comes off or to quickly use a sharp knife to detach the bag. Any mugging or pickpocketing incidents of this sort should be reported to the police as soon as possible.


Road safety in Thailand

No matter where an expat ends up living, whether in a small town or the heart of Bangkok, road safety in Thailand will be a primary concern. Thailand is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for road accidents. 

The low level of safety on the roads is arguably best explained by reckless drivers. There is also a serious lack of awareness with regard to drunk driving. Where possible, expats should always use pedestrian overpasses to cross roads. They should also watch out for motorcycles using pedestrian walkways to avoid the traffic jams in Bangkok.

Expats intent on driving in Thailand are advised to drive defensively and to obey traffic laws, even if no-one else seems to be doing so.


Scams in Thailand

Expats who have just landed in Thailand often fall prey to scams – and most expats in the country have experienced at least one. The good news is that in most cases they involve a relatively minor sum of money. New arrivals usually smarten up after a few weeks in town and never fall victim again. 

Taxi drivers occasionally try to overcharge foreign passengers. If this happens, expats should simply ask them to put on the meter or settle on a flat rate for the trip. Any negotiations with regard to pricing should be done before getting into the taxi.

Working in Thailand

Up until recently, working in Thailand has been an easy next step for many seduced by the country’s sunny shores and warm cultural climate. The Thai economy has, however, changed in the face of political instability, though there are signs of recovery. While the majority of job opportunities can be found in Bangkok, there are also many expats who choose to work in the surrounding countryside or the picturesque southern islands. This lets them live in natural splendour and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle available to foreign residents.


Job market in Thailand

Apart from income generated by tourism, the economy of Thailand also heavily relies on exports. It's one of the world’s largest agricultural exporters of products such as rice, sugar, rubber and shrimp; and the country is a major producer of export cars, textiles and electronics. Thailand also has strong manufacturing, logistics and communications industries. Most expats who work in Thailand work in the service sector, specifically in the tourism and teaching industries.


Finding a job in Thailand

Expats with the right qualifications should be able to find opportunities online, while many others move to the country first, take a course and look for work.

The highest-paying teaching jobs are at international schools in Thailand while English-language schools are also a popular option. Tourism is another popular source of work for foreigners, particularly for expats living outside Bangkok.

It's important to remember that expats hired or transferred from overseas tend to make higher salaries than those who find a job in Thailand after they arrive. 

While Thai companies usually prefer to hire locally when it comes to professional fields like accounting, engineering and law, there are multinational corporations that may be able to offer expats with specialised skills opportunities. A work permit is needed to work legally in Thailand and this is usually organised by the hiring company.


Work culture in Thailand

An expat employee’s normal work day and their working week will largely depend on the industry they are working in. Jobs in the tourism industry often have irregular hours and shifts. 

The working week in Thailand is officially from Monday to Saturday, although many businesses work until Friday or are only open for half a day on Saturdays. Legally, employees can work up to a maximum of 48 hours a week. Hierarchy, relationships and collective identity are integral to the Thai workplace.

Doing Business in Thailand

Expats doing business in Thailand will note that the state is eager to engage with foreign investors. While the Kingdom has never felt the influence of imperial power, it's no stranger to external interaction. Aside from the government’s willingness to do business with outsiders, the friendly and welcoming attitude of Thai people makes for an inviting working environment for expats.

Despite the country's relative economic instability, the World Bank ranks Thailand at 21st out of 190 countries in its Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2020. The country scored highly in the categories of protecting minority investors (3rd), getting electricity (6th), and resolving insolvency (24th). 

A variety of multinational and other major companies in Thailand continue to use Bangkok as a base for their regional operations. While the business culture at some of these companies will be familiar, the general work environment in Thailand is extremely different to what most Western expats are used to.

The expats who do make a success of their investments in the country often have a good understanding of the business culture in Thailand, in an environment that values seniority, relationships and local customs.


Fast facts

Business language

The official language of business in the country is Thai. English is widely understood and is used by many in more corporate environments as the language of business in Bangkok. Interpreters may, however, be needed in certain circumstances.

Hours of business 

Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm or 9am to 6pm with an hour for lunch.

Business dress

Conservative and formal. Dark suits are standard in professional environments; men wear a white shirt and a tie. Women can wear suits, dresses or modest blouses and skirts. Skirts and dresses should be knee-length and shoulders should be covered.

Greeting

Westerners may be greeted by a handshake, but the traditional form of greeting in Thailand is the wai. In this greeting, the palms are pressed together at chest height, with the fingers extended upwards and accompanied by a slight bow. It is usually initiated by a person of lower status to a person of higher status as a form of respect.

Gifts

Not expected, but appropriate and well received. Small tokens for colleagues go a long way to building good relationships. Don't open gifts in front of the giver unless invited to do so.

Gender equality

Women are equal in theory but remain under-represented in the business world.


Business culture in Thailand

Thai business culture tends to be more relaxed than other Asian economic powerhouses, such as China and Japan. The value system around doing business in Thailand, however, remains similar to these countries. Hierarchy, relationships and collective identity are integral to the Thai workplace.

Hierarchy

There are many strict, unwritten rules that define the way that Thai businesses are organised. Senior managers play an almost paternal role – issuing orders, demanding consultation on all decisions and expecting obedience. Expats from Western backgrounds often struggle to adapt to this management style and can be frustrated at the lack of initiative taken and expected of them.

Age and appearance are especially important, and usually directly indicate social status and a person's position in the business world. Older individuals, in particular, are given great respect and usually hold top-level jobs. Senior foreign businessmen, especially the well-dressed, are afforded a good deal of respect based on this belief alone, regardless of merit. In line with this, promotions in Thailand are often based on a candidate’s length of service more than productivity and excellence.

Relationships

Relationships are another important part of working in Thailand. Connections are highly valued, and the early stages of most business dealings are centred on building a relationship. It is considered impolite to start negotiating before being formally acquainted.

Preserving and sustaining relationships greatly affects communication in the Thai working world. Locals will be subtle and indirect to help another person 'save face' and keep their reputation intact, going as far as withholding information or failing to point out a mistake.


Dos and don'ts of business in Thailand

  • Don't show any form of disrespect to Thai royalty, including jokes.
  • Do say yes to invitations to social engagements. Building a relationship is important in Thai business culture.
  • Do have high-quality business cards printed for exchange. Always offer a card to the most senior member of a party first, and always give and accept cards with the right hand. Keep in mind that exchanges are initiated by the host.
  • Do return a wai. While foreigners aren't expected to initiate, it is rude not to return the gesture.

Visas for Thailand

Expats should not have too much difficulty when it comes to getting a visa for Thailand. It's a fairly straightforward process as long as expats ensure they understand what documents need to be submitted.

Any documents in foreign languages will need to be translated to Thai or English. In the case of English translations, applicants will often need to have their documents notarised.


Tourist visas for Thailand

Citizens of certain countries are exempt from needing a tourist visa for Thailand for stays of up to either 15, 30 or 90 days. The length of the permitted visa-free period depends on each person's nationality.

Visitors who aren't from visa-exempt countries will have to get a Thai tourist visa, which allows a visit of three to six months. All applicants require proof of onward travel and proof of funds for the duration of their stay. At least six months' validity on a passport is required for a visa to be granted.


Non-immigrant visas for Thailand

There are multiple visas for people entering Thailand for purposes other than tourism. This includes everything from people wanting to volunteer or study to be a Buddhist monk, to those wanting to teach English or invest in the country.

Royal Thai Embassy websites provide in-depth information on the requirements of each visa type. A few of the visas that are most popular with expats moving to Thailand include the following:

B visas

This is perhaps the most common non-immigrant visa used by expats, as it allows entry for the purpose of working or doing business in Thailand. Companies often assist their foreign employees with the B-visa application process. Once an expat has entered the country on this visa, they require a work permit before they may begin working.

O visas

Category O visas are typically for the spouse or dependent of a Thai citizen. It's possible for the dependents of an expat moving to or living in Thailand to get this visa. This can, unfortunately, be more difficult to do when a male spouse is dependent on a female spouse. Expat families applying for this visa will require birth and marriage certificates where applicable and a minimum of three months’ bank statements.

The O visa also covers volunteer workers, who must submit a letter of endorsement from the agency they will be working for, as well as a copy of the agency's registration certificate.

OA visas

The category OA visa is a long-stay visa for retired people older than 50 years old who want to live in Thailand. In addition to the standard requirements, applicants will have to prove sufficient annual funds, as well as undergo criminal background and medical checks.

There is a fairly lengthy list of requirements for this visa, and expats are advised to consult the website of the closest Thai embassy, contact the embassy in person or enlist the help of an immigration professional.

*Visa requirements can change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Thailand

After securing a job, getting the appropriate visa and arriving in the country, an expat would need a work permit for Thailand. It's theoretically possible for expats who have not secured a position before they move to Thailand to get a work permit once they are in the country. 

Expats looking to work in Thailand will need to enter the country on a Non-Immigrant Visa. Before they can start working, however, expats will need to get a work permit from the Thai Ministry of Labour.


Work permit applications in Thailand

After arriving at the Immigration Checkpoint at their point of entry, holders of a valid visa are granted an initial temporary stay permit, usually valid for 90 days. New arrivals are then advised to apply for a temporary work permit at the Department of Employment (which oversees the labour ministry) as soon as possible.

After receiving their temporary work permit, applicants will then have a limited time to apply for a long-term visa called the Extension of Stay Permit at the Immigration Bureau. This permit is valid for a maximum of one year, after which an extension has to be applied for. 

In many cases, an expat’s sponsoring company will apply for a work permit at the Department of Employment on their behalf. The employee will then be responsible for applying for their long-term visa and re-entry permit. 

Work permit applications can take weeks or even months to process, so it's important for expats to act early, have patience and ensure that their visa does not expire. A foreign resident with a visa in danger of expiring must apply for the appropriate extension – it is imperative that the visa is current the day they sign for their work permit. 

When the application process and decision-making is complete, expats will physically have to retrieve their work permit at the relevant Labour Department with their passport.

Expats wishing to leave the country for a period before returning and going back to work will need to apply for a re-entry permit. Leaving the country without one nullifies the work permit and visa of the expat.

To get an extension on a work permit, an extension-of-stay permit must be obtained. After that, the work permit can be renewed. At this point, if an expat quits their job, they will need to cancel their extension-of-stay permit before leaving the country. This would require an employer’s letter, which has to be presented to the Immigration Department on their last working day or, if their last day is on a weekend or public holiday, on the next standard business day.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their nearest Thai embassy or consulate for the latest information.

Cost of Living in Thailand

In Thailand, expats can experience an ideal combination of convenience and modern luxuries. They can enjoy a sensible cost of living that is cheaper than many other expat destinations around the world. Expats lured abroad by multinational corporations with offices in Thailand – most likely in Bangkok or one of the nearby manufacturing cities – earn salaries that are high, even by Western standards. Expats generally find themselves better off financially once they have moved.

Those hired from within the country such as real estate agents, international school teachers and IT specialists tend to earn slightly less than more corporate expats but can still manage a comfortable lifestyle while saving. Even English teachers and low-skilled professionals with a minimal income report a high quality of life because of the affordable cost of living.  

It should be noted, however, that due to the low rate of urbanisation in the country, the cost of living can be quite different from one region to another. The most expensive areas are undoubtedly the main expat areas in Bangkok and the tourist hubs of Phuket and Kho Samui. Prices in the more rural regions can easily be two to three times cheaper.


Cost of accommodation in Thailand

Prices for accommodation range quite dramatically throughout the country, depending largely on location. Luxurious beach villas in Phuket or Kho Samui can have high monthly rental rates, and large condos or serviced apartments in Bangkok can be even more expensive.

If prices like these don’t fit into an expat's budget, mid-range accommodation is available. In Bangkok, it's possible to get a townhouse or furnished apartment in a complex, complete with a swimming pool, an ultra-modern gym and security for a reasonable price. Accommodation of this kind can also be found outside the capital city, where more luxury and space can be enjoyed for the same price.

Finally, for those living on a limited budget, modest studio apartments throughout Bangkok and Thailand can be rented at bargain prices.


Cost of transport in Thailand

Whether budgeting for a bus fare, for a weekend holiday to the beach, or a cab ride around the corner, transport costs are among the best bargains in Thailand. 

The cheapest way to travel long distances is by bus or minivan. Trains are a little bit more expensive and slower than buses, but they offer greater cabin comfort and a sleeper option for overnight trips. The quickest way to travel is to catch a domestic flight.

Travelling costs within city areas are low to moderate. Expats can use relatively cheap taxis or save even more with other public transport options such as the Skytrain or subway, especially during rush hour. Bus ride prices differ depending on the distance travelled and whether the bus has certain facilities like air conditioning.

Finally, to avoid an uncomfortable long walk on a hot day, motorbikes and tuk-tuks are good options. They charge small fees depending on the distance travelled.


Cost of schooling in Thailand

Expats who move to Thailand with children will most likely send them to an international school. Located almost entirely in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, international schools are recognised for their high standards of education and impressive campuses, but this comes at a price, even in Thailand.


Cost of eating out and entertainment in Thailand

One of the first things expats in Thailand notice is the impressive variety of restaurants and street food. It doesn't cost much to buy a quick snack from a street stall selling BBQ chicken, pork on sticks, papaya salad or some other Thai delicacy. A full meal of rice, meat and vegetables from a streetside vendor isn't too hard on the wallet either.

Of course, plenty of establishments cater to the needs of refined palates. Upmarket restaurants in the expat areas of the main cities or on the islands offer multiple course meals and hotels are known for their amazing international buffets. These experiences are generally more expensive.

A night out on the town can be extremely affordable for those happy to limit themselves to locally brewed beers. Wine can be pricey, and expats who favour imported alcohol will quickly find that drinking becomes an expensive habit. As with restaurants, the more upmarket the nightclub, the higher the drink prices. 


Cost of living in Thailand 

Prices vary depending on product and service provider across Thailand – these are the average costs for Bangkok in August 2021.

Accommodation (monthly rent in good area)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

THB 18,000

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

THB 10,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

THB 60,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

THB 30,000

Groceries

Dozen eggs

THB 64

Milk (1 litre)

THB 50

Loaf of bread (white)

THB 43

Chicken breasts (1kg)

THB 80

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

THB 145

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

THB 1.80

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

THB 600

Basic utilities (average for a standard household)

THB 2,000

Eating out and entertainment

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 

THB 845

Big Mac Meal

THB 200

Cappuccino

THB 70

Coca-Cola (330ml)

THB 20

Domestic beer (500ml)

THB 70

Transportation

Taxi rate per km

THB 39

City-centre train fare

THB 40

Petrol (per litre)

THB 27

Culture Shock in Thailand

The people of Thailand are known all over the world for their friendly nature and rich cultural heritage, which they are extremely proud of. As with any other destination, though, expats can expect a degree of culture shock in Thailand.


Meeting and greeting in Thailand

In Thai culture, greeting someone is an act of great significance. The manner of greeting is determined according to the social standing of both people, and making the wrong move could cause a Thai person to lose face – this is considered a disgrace and should be avoided at all costs. That said, if correctly used, greetings are an opportunity to show deep respect for the Thai people.

For a traditional Thai greeting, palms are placed together in a prayer-like gesture somewhere between the chest and the forehead. They are held close to the body while a small bow is made. The higher the hands and the lower the bow, the more respect is shown. This is called a wai.

The proper etiquette is for the subordinate party to offer a wai first, with the senior person then returning the wai. Thai locals won't expect a foreigner to initiate a wai but if offered one, not returning it would be an insult.


Dress in Thailand

Outward appearances are important to Thai people. Here, the old saying 'dress for success' holds true. Thai locals appreciate foreigners who make an effort to maintain a professional and reserved appearance. T-shirts and shorts are acceptable for going just about anywhere, but pants and skirts should be of a modest length. Women should keep their chests and shoulders covered.

For office jobs in Thailand, expats will be expected to wear fairly formal attire. Men are expected to wear dress pants and shirts with a collar. Ties aren't mandatory but are recommended for formal gatherings. 

In beach towns like Phuket, Hua Hin and Krabi, Thai locals are more accustomed to foreigners wearing bikinis and swimming attire at the beach, but when going for lunch or a stroll around town, expats should cover up. 


Language barrier in Thailand

Thai is a tonal language with five different tones. The tone of a word is used to distinguish its meaning. If an expat pronounces a word incorrectly, it may have an entirely different meaning from what they intended to say. The upside is that Thais are extremely forgiving when foreigners try to speak their language, and once they understand what a foreigner wants, they will teach them how to say the word correctly.


Religion in Thailand

Most of the population in Thailand are Buddhists. It plays a key role in the general nature of the local people. Throughout the country, there are also many beautiful Buddhist temples, known as wats

Other religions do exist in Thailand, and everyone’s right to the religion of their choice is protected.


Cultural dos and don'ts in Thailand

•    Do show great respect to the Thai royal family. They are highly revered by the local population.

•    Do take the Thai national anthem seriously. It is broadcast over television and radio twice a day – every day at 8am and 6pm, when the flag is raised and lowered. When the anthem is being played, everyone must stop what they are doing and stand to attention out of respect. 

•    Don’t ever touch the head of a Thai person or pass any objects over someone’s head. The head is the highest part of the body and is considered sacred in Thailand. It needs to be treated with the utmost respect.

•    Don't use feet for anything other than standing or walking. It is not acceptable for people to put feet up on a table or desk, and expats should avoid pointing their feet at people. It is also considered impolite to touch one’s feet in public.

•    Do keep your cool. The Thai phrase jai yen, meaning ‘cool heart’, is a way of life. It refers to the ability to stay composed, calm and patient in tense situations. This is highly admirable in Thai society. Thai people go to great lengths to avoid confrontation and remain diplomatic.

Accommodation in Thailand

Options for accommodation in Thailand are almost as diverse as the country itself. The robust rental market means that, with a little patience and a bit of work, new arrivals will have no trouble finding a reasonably priced, comfortable place to live in Thailand.

When looking for a home, expats should bear in mind that traffic in Thailand’s urban centres can be extremely congested, so ideally they should aim to live close to their workplace, their children's school or public-transport terminals.


Types of accommodation in Thailand

From high-rise apartment buildings and condominium complexes to seaside shacks and standalone houses on large plots – all types of accommodation are available to rent in Thailand. The price and quality of rental accommodation will vary enormously, although there are plenty of excellent deals to be found.

Apartments

Apartments chosen by expats are usually either part of a large development or part of a house that has been converted into separate units. Expats in Thailand will find apartments to suit a wide range of budgets. ‘Service apartments’ are often converted hotel rooms and can, therefore, cost more. 

Condominiums

Condominiums, also known as condos, are privately owned units within a larger community of similar units. These units are often fully-furnished or contain certain appliances. Condos often have communal facilities such as pools and other social areas.

Standalone houses

Usually located in the suburbs outside of larger cities, standalone houses typically offer a lot of space and will have a garden. The privacy and luxury associated with detached houses comes at an added cost though. Villas also fall into this category.

Townhouses

Joined by shared walls, townhouses usually form long rows and expand vertically rather than horizontally. This is intended to utilise the often cramped spaces in larger cities. This is one of the most popular accommodation types in Thailand.


Finding accommodation in Thailand

Whether deciding to find a property themselves or work with a real estate agent in Thailand, expats should have few problems when it comes to finding a suitable home to rent.

Independent house-hunters can use local newspapers, property pages and the internet to look for Thai real estate as there are numerous resources available in English. Another approach would be to identify an area that seems appealing, explore the neighbourhood and look for properties that are up for rent.

Estate agents in Thailand will, however, have a better knowledge of the market and will be able to assist in negotiations and the rental process. They are also usually free for tenants since they receive a commission from landlords. 


Renting accommodation in Thailand

It can be difficult for foreigners to own property in Thailand, so most expats rent rather than buy. Luckily, local landlords are usually sensitive to the rental needs of expats and do a good job of advertising available properties. Renting property in Thailand is generally an easy process. The rental market is also varied, with plenty of housing available, and often at good prices.

Furnished vs unfurnished

Most rental properties in Thailand are semi-furnished, including a few basic appliances such as washing machines or dishwashers. That said, fully furnished accommodation is also widely available. Due to the short-term nature of many expat assignments, they generally opt to live in fully furnished accommodation. 

Leases

The standard rental length in Bangkok is 12 months, but if expats get in touch with the owners directly, they may be willing to accept six-month leases. Depending on the type of accommodation, properties can be leased for much shorter durations.

Deposits 

Expats should be prepared to put down a deposit of two months’ rent. They are also often asked to pay their first month’s rent upfront. The landlord may deduct expenses from the deposit to cover the cost of repairing any damage to the property that may occur.

Utilities

Expats should note that utilities such as electricity and water are generally not included in the rental price. Before moving in, confirm with the real estate agent or landlord that all utilities are set up, switched on and ready to be used come move-in day. 

In Thailand, the most expensive utility by far is electricity. Expats should keep a close watch on their electricity consumption or they may find themselves facing a hefty bill.

Healthcare in Thailand

Healthcare in Thailand is generally of good quality, especially in Bangkok. The city has a thriving medical tourism industry and many hospitals offer excellent care for a much lower price than would be charged in Western countries. Many doctors and other specialists speak English and have often studied abroad, though admin staff are less likely to speak English.

Private hospitals are recommended over public hospitals in Thailand, as they will generally be more comfortable and service will be faster. That said, public hospitals still offer a good standard of care.


Health insurance in Thailand

Expats are required by law to have health insurance if they are working in Thailand. Legally-working expats qualify for the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS), which is funded by monthly salary deductions. Social-security holders get free consultations and medication, but consultations are usually brief and medications limited to generics. Policies are generally limited to certain hospitals – if needing to go to an out-of-network hospital, treatment is usually not covered.

Some expats opt instead for private health insurance, which provides access to an excellent standard of care at a range of private facilities. If choosing this route, there are international companies that can provide health insurance for expats in Thailand.


Public healthcare in Thailand

There are more than 1,000 hospitals in Thailand's public sector. Public hospitals have a good standard of care and the majority of Thai nationals use these facilities. That said, lines can be long – especially in the larger cities – and there are fewer creature comforts than one would find in private hospitals. Waiting times in more rural hospitals may be shorter, but the standard of care is often lower. A commonality between city and rural hospitals, though, is that consultations are often short and hurried.

For convenience, and because treatment at private hospitals is well priced, most expats use private healthcare.


Private healthcare in Thailand

Private hospitals in Thailand are first-rate and often employ staff that have been educated at Western universities. While private treatment is about double the cost of public treatment, it's still much cheaper than what expats coming from Europe or the United States may be used to.

Despite the reasonable cost of treatment, expats should make sure they have medical insurance in the case of emergencies or for when major procedures are required. The best private hospitals are in Bangkok and, in the event of a serious injury or medical condition, travelling to one of these world-class medical institutions is the safest option. 

The quality of care and low treatment prices have led to Thailand's rise as a medical tourism destination for operations such as cosmetic surgery, eye surgery and dental care. Some hospitals catering to overseas medical tourists resemble hotels more than hospitals, especially those in the south, which market medical operations alongside beach holidays. 


Pharmacies in Thailand

There is an abundance of pharmacies in Thailand, in cities as well as smaller towns. Many are independent stores, but chain pharmacies do exist. Pharmacies are easily recognisable because they display a white sign with a green cross and green lettering. Most pharmacies are open seven days a week, although only for a few hours on Sundays.

Formal prescriptions are not always needed for medication and many people go straight to a pharmacist if they are feeling unwell – which has led to the overuse of antibiotics becoming an issue. Expats are advised to see a doctor for any medical ailments but should keep in mind that hospital pharmacies are often more expensive than independent stores in town. 

Most qualified pharmacists should be able to give medical advice in English.


Health hazards in Thailand

The tropical climate is a good environment for viruses and bacteria, which means that there are numerous health hazards in Thailand that expats should be aware of. 

Expats travelling to the country’s northern region should be aware of the risk of Japanese encephalitis. A serious illness that can cause brain damage, it is transmitted by mosquito bites. In certain areas, other mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue fever and malaria are also a concern. As such, expats should cover up in the evenings, use mosquito repellents and seek medical attention even for mild flu-like symptoms. 


Emergency services in Thailand

There are private ambulance services in Thailand that cater to English speakers, but it's better to get a Thai speaker to make the call if calling a government ambulance. Ambulance response times can be slow as other drivers will only rarely give the ambulance right of way.

The public emergency numbers for Thailand are 1154 for medical emergencies and 1155 for the tourist police.

Education and Schools in Thailand

Expats moving to Thailand with children can either opt for a local public school or a private international school. However, local public schools teach in Thai and are only free for Thai children, so most expat families either send their children to an international school or a private school with the English Programme.


Public schools in Thailand

There are some excellent public schools in Thailand, most of which are in Bangkok. Some of these are associated with prestigious local universities that use the school to train student teachers.

There are also public schools that are well below the standards expats may be used to. Many public schools, particularly those in rural areas, suffer from lack of funding. Large classes are the norm, making it more difficult for each child to receive individual attention.

Public education in Thailand is free for Thai nationals. To be considered a Thai national, the child must have at least one Thai parent. Children who don't meet these requirements aren’t usually eligible for free public education in Thailand, meaning the family will have to pay tuition fees.


English Programme schools in Thailand

The English Programme (EP) is a government initiative offered by a number of public and private schools. In an EP class, almost all subjects are taught in English by a teacher hired from abroad. Some schools have more comprehensive EPs than others – classes may be held in a small section of a Thai-speaking school or larger programmes may be set in entirely separate buildings.

Public and private schools with EPs charge both Thai nationals and expats for these classes. Though private schools are more expensive than public schools, fees are still well below those of international schools.

For families who plan to live in Thailand long term, English Programme schools may be the best option. They offer an opportunity for children to develop closer links to Thai culture and society while still allowing access to a bilingual education.


International schools in Thailand

Many expats choose to send their children to international schools in Thailand. These schools teach in a language and style familiar to children and allow for continuity by providing Western curricula. International schools predominantly teach in English, though there are also international schools teaching the programmes of countries such as France and Germany.

All of these institutions are accredited by external bodies, and it follows that both learning standards and the criteria for hiring teachers are generally high. Many Thai families prefer to send their children to these schools.

These schools are also almost always well financed, boasting modern facilities, small class sizes and an impressive range of extra-curricular activities. This does come at a price, though, with international school fees being notoriously high.

Although a large variety of international schools exist in commercial centres such as Bangkok and Pattaya, options are more limited in rural areas and parents may need to consider boarding options or homeschooling.

Expat parents should note that popular schools have long waiting lists and admission may be based on language proficiency and academic achievement. Requirements vary from school to school, but it's always best to start the admissions and enrolment process as early as possible.


Homeschooling in Thailand

Homeschooling in Thailand is legal. The country's constitution explicitly recognises alternative education and considers the family a key educational institution. Thai families must apply to the government to homeschool and students are assessed annually.

Expats aren’t tied to local regulations. It is still advised however, that expats follow a standardised curriculum and thoroughly document everything to validate progress with an assessor upon returning to their home country.


Tutors in Thailand

The private tuition industry in Thailand is staggering. The massive multi-billion-baht tutoring industry in Thailand emerged from the necessity to prepare students for the extremely competitive university admissions exams. The industry has seen considerable growth in response to the high demand for private tuition and competitive salaries for teachers. This has seen teaching staff from public schools moving into the private sector in large numbers. 

Local tutors can be an extremely useful resource for local and expat families and can provide support in many ways, including assistance with problem subjects and the development of study strategies. Tutors are especially useful in smoothing the transition of an expat child into a new environment as well as helping learn the local language.


Special-needs education in Thailand

In Thai education law, learning difficulties are listed as qualifying for state assistance. However, in the public system, special education teachers are scarce, despite there being a demand for them.

Many international schools offer support for special needs, often at an additional price. The level of support varies from school to school, so it's worthwhile to investigate different options.

Meeting people in Thailand

Thailand offers expats a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The vibrant nightlife, many entertainment venues and numerous sports facilities mean that expats have great opportunities to enjoy a busy social life, and thus meet new people and make friends in Thailand. 
 
Thai people are known for their warmth and friendliness, and hospitality is important to them - you may hear the word “sanuk” (fun) quite often. Thailand attracts many foreigners, but whether you're there to stay or just passing through, generally speaking it’s not difficult to meet new people. Depending on where you are in Thailand, it may be necessary to learn the local Thai language, especially if you're living in the more remote rural areas. Otherwise, English is widely spoken in the larger cities and tourist spots.
 
Joining a social networking group, sports club or any other society catering to a specific nationality or interest is a great way to meet likeminded people and make friends, whether locals or other expats, in Thailand.

Expat groups in Thailand

Chicky Net | Expat Women Thailand

Chicky Net is the community for expat women who are moving to or visiting Thailand. The group organises events and provides info about Thailand, including forums, groups, classifieds and expat blogs. Membership is free. Chicky Net has expat communities for women in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Pattaya and Phuket.

Transport and Driving in Thailand

Transport in Thailand can be chaotic, and there are many different options when it comes to getting around. Most long-distance travel is via buses with motorcycles being commonly used for short distances in the larger cities.

While most foreigners should be able to get around safely, the country does have high road accident rates, particularly when it comes to motorcycles. The Thai capital is especially notorious – the traffic in Bangkok is among the worst in the world, and expats should take extra care when driving in the city.

Thailand has a fairly good public transport system which consists of buses, trains, motorcycles, taxis and tuk-tuks.


Public transport in Thailand

Trains

The train network in Thailand is run by the State Railway of Thailand. The network consists of four main routes which travel to the north, the northeast, the east and the south. These railway lines intersect in Bangkok, so when travelling long distances it is usually necessary to change lines.

Any part of Thailand can be accessed from Hualamphong Station in Bangkok and tickets can be purchased in advance. There are three types of trains available – ordinary, rapid and express trains – as well as three classes of travel, from private first-class booths to third-class seats.

Trains are slower than buses but are often more comfortable for long-distance travel, particularly for long journeys such as those between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

Rail rapid transit

Bangkok is home to the country's only rapid transit system of its kind. This system includes the BTS Skytrain, the Metropolitan Rapid Transit (MRT), and the Suvarnabhumi Rail Airport Link (ARL). Collectively, the system only consists of five lines total, though there are additional lines planned.

Buses

Buses are a common form of transport over long distances, providing access to some of the country’s more remote areas. Luxury long-distance buses, known as VIP buses, have air conditioning and reclining seats to make long-distance travel more comfortable. VIP bus tickets should be bought in advance due to limited seating.

Buses are not used as much within cities as between them, although Bangkok does have a well-developed local bus service with around 100 routes. To get on a bus, passengers wait at a bus stop and make a waving motion with the palm of the hand facing downwards as the bus approaches. The fare is paid on board the bus.


Taxis in Thailand

There are taxis in most Thai cities, although many of them have malfunctioning meters or taxi drivers who refuse to use them, so fares will have to be negotiated before getting into the vehicle. 

Taxi cabs

Taxi cabs, which are usually bright pink, blue or yellow and green, are easy to find in major cities like Bangkok. It's advised that expats book a taxi via phone or online before their trip. Raid-hailing services such as Grab are also available, which can be useful for avoiding problems that may crop up due to the language barrier.

Motorcycle taxis

Motorcycle taxis are also popular and are often the fastest way of getting around cities. They are known to weave in and out of traffic, however, and might be a frightening experience for inexperienced passengers.

Tuk-tuks

The most popular taxis for tourists in Thailand are samlaws, better known as tuk-tuks. These are three-wheeled vehicles that are either motorised or non-motorised and can carry up to two or three passengers.

Songthaews

Also known as ‘red buses' or 'red trucks’, songthaews are another popular choice of transport in Thailand. These passenger vehicles are adapted from pick-up trucks and are used as a share taxi or bus. Songthaews are used both within towns and cities, as well as for longer routes between towns and villages.


Driving in Thailand

Although driving in Thailand can be frustrating, it is important to remain calm and be patient. Massive traffic volumes mean that it is usually better to use public transport within the cities, while some expats who regularly commute in urban areas hire a private driver. Traffic jams will ensure that getting to work is a slow process no matter who is driving.

Driving between cities is far more manageable, and having a personal vehicle is often the best way to travel through the Thai countryside. The system of highways in Thailand is of a relatively high standard and links every part of the country, with most roads being in an acceptable condition. That said, the roads on Koh Samui and Koh Pha-Ngan are infamously dangerous. Road accidents are one of the top causes of death for foreigners in Thailand. 

Expats should drive defensively and be prepared for erratic drivers as well as children and animals in the road. Driving in rural areas at night is not recommended. Drunk driving is a problem in Thailand and many cars do not have working headlights. Buses driving recklessly on country roads can also be a hazard at night.

Expats will need to apply for a Thai driving licence after three months in the country, and some insurers require the driver to have a Thai driver’s licence to be fully covered. Licences can be applied for at local transport offices or the Department of Land Transport in Bangkok. 


Cycling in Thailand

Cycling enthusiasts will find that this is not the best way to get around in Thailand. There are few dedicated cycle lanes, though Bangkok has more than most Thai cities. The erratic behaviour of drivers makes cycling on the roads an unwise decision.


Walking in Thailand

Pedestrians are vulnerable in Thailand, especially in Bangkok's notoriously busy streets. Some areas in the city have overhead walkways above the streets to allow pedestrians to cross, which is effective and safe, but other traffic controls like pedestrian crossings are often completely ignored by drivers.


Air travel in Thailand

Air travel is a fast and affordable way to travel longer distances in Thailand. Many low-cost airlines operate in the country, with Air Asia being one of the most popular.

Thailand’s largest airport is Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and the national carrier is Thai Airways. The other international airports in Thailand are in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Hat-Yai and Phuket, but the country has close to 100 airports in total.

Keeping in touch in Thailand

Expats moving to Thailand won’t have a problem keeping in touch with family and friends back home as the standard of the country’s communication infrastructure is generally good. Most communication services are high-quality and are available at affordable prices. Some amenities may be limited to larger cities, however.


Mobile phones in Thailand

In recent years, it has become more difficult for expats in Thailand to buy a SIM card. In most cases, expats will be required to present their passport to get a registered SIM card.

TrueMove, DTAC and AIS are the three major mobile providers in Thailand. All offer both prepaid and post-paid options. Contract deals are usually better value than pay-as-you-go, but they offer less flexibility in terms of moving networks or closing an account early if leaving Thailand.


Internet in Thailand

For most expats, having reliable internet is a priority, whether for work or to keep in touch with family and friends back in their home country. There are many internet service providers in Thailand, especially in big cities like Bangkok. Nationally, the four major ISPs are True Online, AIS, 3BB, and TOT. The speed of connection varies widely according to the package and service provider chosen.

WiFi hotspots are regularly available in most malls, restaurants and hotels. Free connections in public places should generally be avoided to prevent issues such as hacking or data theft. Free WiFi connections from restaurants and hotels are usually safe, but the connection speeds do vary.

Internet censorship

The Thai government has placed blocks on certain obscene internet content, and there is also substantial political censorship in Thailand. Several bloggers and online users have been arrested for voicing anti-government or anti-royal sentiments.


Postal services in Thailand

The Thai postal system is efficient and reliable, if a little slow.  Thailand has over 3,000 post offices across the country but rural areas are not serviced as well as urban areas. Domestic mail can take up to a week to arrive. Expats, especially those living in urban centres, can make use of courier services such as DHL to speed up the process and ensure a secure delivery.  

Staff at Thai post offices don’t always speak English well, so it may help to have a Thai friend assist with translation if the request is particularly urgent. With communication difficulties throughout Thailand in general, Thai staff may try to ‘save face’ in public to avoid confrontation and agree to a request even if they do not understand it. 


English-language media in Thailand

Thailand has a well-developed media sector, yet the Thai government and the military remain firmly in control of radio and TV broadcasts. For accurate and independent news, it may be useful to consult an international news outlet. 

There are several English-medium publications in Thailand, such as the Bangkok Post and the Nation, which is a solely digital newspaper.

Shipping and Removals in Thailand

Countries from all over the world ship to Thailand, although shipping to a Thai location outside of Bangkok will be more expensive. Moving to inland cities will require a combination of land and sea transport, and island homes will usually require a series of boat transfers. Expats moving to Thailand should note that it is often cheaper to buy new furniture and amenities in the country than to ship them.

When shipping to Thailand it is extremely important to use a credible shipping company and to take out insurance on the cargo. The insurance company should not be the same company being used for transporting an expat's belongings.


Customs regulations in Thailand

After entering Thailand, expats have six months to import their household items from their home country. Thai customs are known to be flexible when addressing the deadline, but it is advisable to contact them directly a few months in advance if anticipating a late delivery.

Expats entering Thailand on a visa allowing them to stay for a year or longer will not have to pay taxes as long as the goods being imported have been owned and used for at least six months. In such a case, electrical appliances will also not be taxed as long as there is only one of each type of item. If there are duplicate items (for example, two fridges), taxes may apply. Invoices are usually required when importing goods.

Most household pets can be brought into Thailand provided that they are accompanied by a vet's certificate as well as proof of a rabies vaccination.

FAQs about Thailand

Thailand is known for its white-sand beaches, delicious foods, and friendly people. Tourists and expats alike flock to Thailand for these reasons, but expats deciding to permanently reside in the land of smiles may have a couple of queries that need answering before they can comfortably jump into their new lives. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Thailand.

How safe is Thailand?

Thailand is generally a safe country. Most criminal activity is opportunistic. Pickpocketing occurs in busy tourist areas and unsuspecting new arrivals are regularly targeted by scammers.  

That said, the southern provinces have been known to be politically volatile areas and should be avoided. The roads in Thailand can also be dangerous and drunk driving is an ongoing issue. Expats should avoid driving motorcycles and scooters in Thailand if they are inexperienced, as drivers in Thailand tend to ignore rules of the road.

Where can I meet other expats?

There are many social clubs for expats in Thailand. Bars and work social events may be other areas to meet new people. Many expats may find joining a sports league a fun way to interact with both locals and expats. 

What is the weather like in Thailand?

There are three major seasons in Thailand. There is a dry, cool season, favoured by tourists from November to February, the hot season from March to June, and the rainy season for the rest of the year. These seasonal changes bring with them the monsoon rains, as well as substantially increased humidity to different parts of the country.

Weather in Thailand tends to be hot and humid year-round. Along the coastline of the gulf, the weather is generally warm and pleasant for certain parts of the year and may be less humid than areas in the north of the country. The north, however, has a much cooler period during the dry season. 

What's the public transport in Thailand like? Do I need a car?

In larger cities like Bangkok, public transport is cheap, effective, and plentiful. In smaller towns, there are fewer forms of public transport, but it's still relatively easy to get around. There are a variety of options ranging from buses and trains to tuk-tuks. In most cases, expats don’t need to have cars.

How good are doctors in Thailand? Is healthcare affordable?

Healthcare in Thailand is relatively well priced and of a high standard. In larger cities, the healthcare facilities are modern and specialist care is available. Thailand is fast becoming popular among medical tourists for these reasons. Healthcare in smaller cities and rural provinces may be of poorer quality, and general practitioners also tend to be more difficult to find.

Articles about Thailand

Banking, Money and Taxes in Thailand

Banks in Thailand are modern, reliable and easily accessible, and English-speaking personnel can be found in most main branches. Opening a bank account in Thailand is usually fairly easy. ATMs are widely available and expats that stay in the country for a longer time can apply for local credit.

Most expats will be relieved to learn that Thailand has signed double-taxation avoidance agreements with several governments. It should also be relatively simple for expats who retire in Thailand to access their pensions. 


Money in Thailand

The official currency in Thailand is the Baht (THB), which is issued by the Bank of Thailand. One baht is subdivided into 100 satang.

•    Notes: 20 THB, 50 THB, 100 THB, 500 THB and 1,000 THB
•    Coins: 1 THB, 2 THB, 5 THB, 10 THB and 1 satang, 5 satang, 10 satang, 25 satang and 50 satang


Banking in Thailand

Setting up a bank account in Thailand is fairly easy for expats. Technically, foreigners are required to present a work permit at the point of opening, but in practice, some branches will open an account for a foreigner without this document.

If living in Thailand without a work permit, some banks may reject a request to open an account. That said, a different branch of the same bank may approve the request, so it is worthwhile to keep trying different branches.

Sometimes documentation which needs to be signed will be written in Thai, but a translated copy in English can be requested.

Credit cards and ATMs

Expats can get a credit card from a Thai bank, but this is sometimes a difficult task. Requirements vary between banks, but most, if not all, require a work permit, ideally one which has been held for a significant length of time. There is also a required minimum income and bank statements for a specified period must be provided. The longer an expat has been a client of a Thai bank, the better their chances are of successfully applying for a credit card.

All major banks have easy-to-find ATMs throughout the country. Some banks charge a flat monthly fee for ATM usage and others charge per transaction, sometimes with the bonus of a certain number of free transactions within a particular period. 


Taxes in Thailand

Expat tax laws differ slightly for residents and non-residents in Thailand. Expats who ordinarily live in Thailand less than 180 days a year are classified as non-residents for tax purposes. They can therefore only be taxed on income derived from within Thailand, and income from outside of Thailand is not taxed. If classified as a resident, however, expats are taxed both on income derived in Thailand and on income brought into Thailand from foreign sources.

Thailand has signed tax treaties with a number of countries worldwide, preventing double-taxation for many expats. Tax returns are submitted annually. Tax forms are usually in Thai so it is advisable to hire a Thai tax planner or a financial adviser to assist with this.

Expat Experiences in Thailand

When considering a move to a new country, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories from other expats who are living there. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Thailand and would like to share your experience. 


James is an expat from Canada living in Buriram, Thailand. He teaches English in the day, and trains in the Muay Thai arena by night. James prefers the tranquillity of small-town life over the hustle and bustle of city life, and aims to explore Thailand outside of the 'Western comfort bubble'. Read about his experience as an expat in Thailand.

James Donald Thailand 1

Greg left Canada for Thailand in 2001 for a few months to relax, and never left. He works for a large travel/tech company, and produces and hosts the widely recognised Bangkok Podcast. But on the weekend, he makes sure to take time out from his busy schedule to relax with his wife and son. Read about his experience as an expat in Bangkok.

Greg Jorgensen 2020,1

Steve is a South African who lived abroad in Thailand teaching a class of second graders for a year. His expat experience was both challenging and rewarding, and changed the way in which he sees the world. Read about his experience as an expat in Thailand.

Steven Thailand

Marcia is a multidisciplinary artist from South Africa. After living in South Korea for two and a half years, she moved to Thailand. She now works in Ayutthaya as an ESL teacher and spends most weekends in Bangkok. Read about her experience as an expat in Thailand.

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Mike is a 35-year-old Canadian who’s tried everything twice. Aside from his 9-to-5, he’s been a volunteer teacher, repeat film extra, jazz festival art director, public speaker, environmental activist, and author. Read about his experience as an expat in Chiang Mai.

Michael - a Canadian in Thailand

Shelly moved to Thailand from her home of Cape Town, South Africa, in early 2016 to work as a teacher at Krabi International school. Read about her experience as an expat in the Land of Smiles.

Frei has been living in Southeast Asia since 2007, and currently lives in Phuket, Thailand. She is a hospitality professional and loves to write about living abroad on her blog, Frei's Days. Read about her expat experience in Thailand.

Frei is a Dutch expat living in Thailand

Mariposa moved from Texas to Thailand along with her husband when he was relocated. Read her advice for catching public transport in Bangkok, as well as her experiences of the weather, healthcare facilities, and making friends as an expat in Thailand

Berthe is a Dutch expat who moved to the island of Phuket with her boyfriend. Having travelled to Thailand a number of times, they loved it so much they decided to move there. Berthe loves to explore Phuket, and she also runs a social group for expat women in Thailand called Chicky Net. Read about her expat experience in Thailand.

Berthe - A Dutch expat in Thailand

Rosanne Turner is a South African expat living in Koh Samui where she runs a TEFL school and writes for the local newspaper. She is relishing her adventure in the Land of Smiles, and has some great advice and insight for others looking to experience expat life in Thailand.

The Stickman settled into Bangkok somewhat reluctantly, but has since travelled to nearly every niche of the nation, learned Thai and moved out into the suburbs with his local family. Despite his laidback lifestyle, he's never afraid to share an opinion. Read his about his experiences of Thailand.

Palm Tree photo

Malcolm Burgess left life in the States to live out his golden years in a stress-free, peaceful Thai village with his wife Ciejay. He couldn't be happier in his modest environment, and gives us a glimpse into expat life in the Thai countryside.

Graham Nash identifies as a Spaniard with British blood. He left the charming cafés and the cheap wine of southern Spain and now finds himself teaching English in a small town in the Thai countryside. These days he divides his time between indoctrinating the youth and lapping up the cool lake breezes. Read what expat insights about Thailand Graham has to share.

picture of graham nash - a spaniard living in Thailand