So you want to move to Thailand…

Great!  It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and experience a different reality for a few months or a few years.  Here are some things to consider:

  1. Get everything in order in your home country.  Have a house?  What will you do with it?  Where will your mail go?  Where will you put all your stuff?  How will you pay bills? etc, etc….
  2. How will you access money?  If you end up working in Thailand you can open a Thai bank account and keep your money there.  I don’t work and all my money is in my U.S. bank account which means I pay a fee each time I withdraw money from the ATM.  It’s not too much but it is kind of annoying.
  3. What kind of visa will you get?  I’m not working and wanted lots of leisure time so I went with a student visa.  I think it’s a pretty good balance between cost and convenience, plus I’m learning the language more than most expats who have been here much longer than I have.
    1. A tourist visa is good for 60 days and can be extended once at a local immigration office for 30 days.  I think the initial cost for a tourist visa is 1000 Baht.  The 30 day extension is 1900 Baht.  Total is 2900 Baht per 90 days plus costs to travel to a Thai Embassy / Consular office outside the country.
    2. A student visa to study Thai language (or possibly other subject) is a convenient way to stay in the country for a year at a time.  The initial cost is 2000 Baht plus 1900 Baht for each 90 day extension.  Keep in mind tuition for the school you’ll go to and the requirement to attend classes.
    3. If you have a work permit then you need a different kind of visa.  I’m not sure how much it costs or the process involved but I would guess it is similar to that of a student visa.
    4. There is the relatively new Multiple Entry Tourist Visa.  I don’t know many details but it is supposedly good for up to 6 months stay in Thailand but can only be applied for in your home country.
    5. Starting a business in Thailand is also an option for those motivated to go that route.
  4. Where will you live?  I’m a little biased but I think Krabi is a pretty nice place.  There is of course Bangkok and if one is moving to Thailand to look for work it’s not a bad option.  Phuket is also popular with tourists and expats.  Chiang Mai is to the North and culturally is a very interesting city and also popular with tourists.  Best bet would be to do some research before hand, pick 3 or 4 options and spend a few days to a week at each one to see which place suits you the best.
  5. Will you work?  If so, what kind of work?  Work for foreigners is limited and can be difficult to get unless you are interested in teaching English or becoming a diving instructor.  You could enter Thailand on a tourist visa, find job, then make a visa run to get a new visa / work permit.  People do it but working in Thailand without the proper visa / work permit is not a good idea.
  6. Thai culture.  It’s very different than the West.  How will you adapt?  Thailand isn’t just paradise, beaches, and beautiful women.  There’s a lot to like about Thailand but there’s also a lot to dislike.  I’ve enjoyed my time here but I hate the driving here and also have a hard time accepting the fact that as a foreigner I will never have the same rights and privileges as a Thai citizen.  So I decided awhile ago I won’t be living here permanently.
  7. The transition from tourist to resident.  Enjoy your first few weeks here.  Live it up!  But that gets expensive (even in Thailand) really quick.  Figure out when and how you will transition from a tourist to living a more sustainable daily life.
  8. Cost of living in Thailand can be very cheap to very expensive.  Be realistic about how much you will need to spend to live a lifestyle you are comfortable with and can maintain.
  9. Learn the language.  Learn to read.  English skills of the average Thai person are very poor, especially outside the popular tourist areas.  It’s makes things much easier to speak a bit of Thai.  It also lets you know when you are being overcharged because of the color of your skin.  But speaking the language with a moderate level of proficiency can sometimes get you the Thai price 🙂
  10. Making friends.  I’ve found it hard to make friends with Thai people.  Sure, there are Thai people I am acquaintances with but all the people I’ve met in Thailand that I would consider a friend are foreigners.
  11. Western products in Thailand are very expensive and cost more than you would pay in your home country.  For example, when you tire of drinking Thai beer, a pint of IPA  (if you can even find it) from England or America could cost around $10.
  12. It’s really hot in Thailand.  During the hot season it can regularly be over 40C / 100F.
  13. Sometimes it rains all day, every day.  The rainy season can be kind of depressing.
  14. The cool season is magical.  Perfect weather, hot but not too hot and usually no rain.
  15. There are a lot of weird insects around here.
  16. Transportation.  Everyone has a motorbike.  If you’re sure you’ll be here a long time at least a year or two, consider a car.
  17. Medical insurance.  You should have something.  I got travellers insurance through World Nomads.  Luckily I haven’t had to use it but I assume it will work.  There are also insurance policies foreigners can purchase in Thailand.
  18. Finally, don’t do things in Thailand you wouldn’t do in your home country!  I could write a whole post on this but briefly…
    1. You probably wouldn’t drive a motorcycle without a helmet at home so DON’T DO IT IN THAILAND!  Thailand is one of the most dangerous countries to drive in.  I see near misses multiple times a day.  Minor crashes nearly every day and see or hear about major crashes involving fatalities almost weekly.  When driving leave your ego at home and be extremely defensive.
    2. Meet a beautiful girl who seems perfect and proclaims you the love of her life?  Great, I’m happy for you.  But in a few weeks when she asks you to meet her family or send her a significant amount of money DON’T DO IT!  It sounds stupid but so many foreigners fall for this.  It would seem crazy to give a girl you just met at home a lot of money or meet her family after a few dates.  It’s crazy to do this at home and it’s crazy to do this in Thailand.
    3. Despite what you may have read about in Pattaya, some parts of Bangkok and Phuket, Thai society is for the most part very conservative.
    4. And on and on…  Just because you are in Thailand and it’s new, interesting and exciting, don’t let your guard down.  Educate yourself on the common tourist scams so they can be avoided.  Related to #3, most Thai people are shy.  Be wary of the ones that approach you out of the blue.

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