Living in Thailand; A Guide for Expats, Digital Nomads & Long Term Travelers

by | Jan 5, 2023

So you’re thinking about living in Thailand!

I’ve been living in Thailand for around ten years now with my family; my daughter goes to school here and Thailand is more of a home to me now than the UK.

living in thailand - family at a cooking class

My husband, daughter and I at a cooking class in Bangkok

After many questions from friends and colleagues I thought it would be helpful to put together a guide on living in Thailand, including what it’s like to live here, how to manage your finances, my recommendations on work, schooling and best places to live and visit.

I hope it helps!

An Overview of Living in Thailand

flying into Thailand

Where is Thailand?

Thailand is a country located in Southeast Asia. It shares borders with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. The bulk of Thailand is surprisingly landlocked, however, the deep South West coastline is home to the beautiful Andaman Sea and the Southern end of the country, along with Cambodia and the Southernmost tip of Vietnam meets the Gulf of Thailand.

The official language of Thailand is Thai, however English is spoken in major tourist areas and the Thai’s love to practice their English language skills!

Thailand Religion and Culture

Thailand is primarily a Buddhist country, and the religion is deeply ingrained in Thai culture. One of the most visible expressions of Buddhism in Thailand is the proliferation of amazing temples throughout the country.

living in thailand - big buddhaBig Buddha – Phuket

Buddhism in Thailand is not just a religion, but a way of life. Thai monks are an integral part of society, and play an important role in both spiritual and community affairs. In addition to their religious duties, Thai monks also teach meditation and mindfulness, which as we all know are valuable skills for living a peaceful and productive life (although I haven’t quite got either down yet!).

The temples themselves are stunning examples of Buddhist architecture, and are often adorned with intricate carvings and beautiful paintings. Not only are they a popular tourist attraction, but you can gain a deep understanding of Thai culture by spending time exploring these beautiful and sacred places.

Top Tip: Temples across Thailand are fantastic with the most well known in Bangkok, however, for a truly stunning experience head to Chiang Rai in the North of the Country. We had minimal expectations of this province and were completely bowled over by the uniqueness and beauty of the temples, monuments and general area.

living in thailand - chiang rai - white templeWhite Temple – Chiang Rai

Living in Thailand as a foreigner is an exciting experience. It’s a hugely unique culture (and a culture shock when coming from the West), with a vibrant history and rich traditions.

The Thai population is diverse and has been influenced by India, China, Cambodia, Laos and other countries throughout history. This diversity is reflected in the language, architecture, arts, festivals, music and food.

Thailand Landscape, Rituals & Food

The landscape of Thailand is largely made up of lush green forests and highlands that are surrounded by hundreds of islands along the coastlines. When you fly into Phuket from the East you’re treated to a spectacle of huge and breathtaking limestone karsts and a cacophony of islands.

living in thailand - flying over islands

If you choose to travel through Thailand by car, you’ll be treated to stunning National parks, lakes and tiny quaint villages, popping up in between awe inspiring mountainous regions.

The traditional art forms found throughout Thailand are especially interesting for visitors from abroad. From tattooing ceremonies and woodcarving to spiritual rituals like Buddhism or Brahminism – living in Thailand will give you a chance to explore these unique aspects of its culture first-hand.

Of course, no conversation about living in Thailand would be complete without mentioning food. Who doesn’t love Thai food?

Forget your local Thai restaurant, living here means you get the real deal. Chicken with cashew nuts, pad thai, kao soi (my favorite), panang curry, massaman curry. Thai cuisine is one of the best in the world (which explains my expanding waistline!)

khao soi - chiang mai dishKhao Soi – Chiang Mai Dish

Should I Move to Thailand?

Hopefully you’ll have a good idea as to the answer to this question by the time you get to the end of the post, but Thailand has become an increasingly popular destination for expats from all over the world in recent years, due to its low cost of living, friendly people & incredible climate and scenery.

It’s a perfect destination for those looking for adventure or just wanting a change of pace from their home countries! Whether you’re looking for a place where you can relax, explore or just reduce living expenses, living in Thailand as a farang (foreigner) provides something for everyone!

living in thailand - coconut island

How many Farangs are living in Thailand?

According to Silkestate.io – as of 2022, there are approximately 3 – 4 million foreigners living in Thailand. However, the bulk of those are from neighboring countries, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

A ‘farang’ very specifically refers to a western, primarily white foreigner, and that number is far harder to calculate, however back in 2018, Thailand issued almost 80,000 retirement visas with Britons accounting for most of those. So it’s safe to say a fair few!

Is Thailand safe?

I am not exaggerating when I say, I haven’t felt safer in any other country in the world, other than perhaps Dubai.

Over the years I have lost mobile phones, money, and on occasion had a few too many with the girls late at night, and in every incident my lost goods have been returned, taxi drivers have been gracious and caring and I’ve never felt threatened or in danger.

That being said, there have been some well publicized events of random attacks, theft, sadly a couple of murders, etc. However, these are extremely rare and as with any large country it’s always wise to be aware of your surroundings.

The biggest challenges in cities such as Bangkok might be petty crime such as pickpocketing or scams targeting tourists. Outside of the cities your biggest worry is traffic accidents due to the sheer amount of mopeds on the roads, lax driving license requirements, hazardous driving conditions and natural disasters like floods and severe weather.

Despite these potential risks, living in Thailand is extremely safe compared to the rest of the world and I’ve felt that I’ve raised my daughter in a safe and caring environment.

karon beach

What language is spoken in Thailand?

Thai is the official language of the country. English is also widely spoken in urban areas, making it easier for foreigners to communicate with locals. However, it’s wise (and in my opinion polite), to learn at least some basic phrases so that you can communicate with people when necessary.

What’s the Covid situation in Thailand?

As of October 1st 2022, there are NO covid entry requirements for Thailand. All travelers, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated are free to travel to Thailand and no covid related documents are required.

However, I highly recommend travel insurance for a short term visit or a more comprehensive healthcare insurance package for longer stays.

I’ll talk more about insurance later in the article.

What’s the weather in Thailand like?

It’s gorgeous of course! 😂😂😂

Seriously though, the weather in Thailand can vary depending on the time of year and location.

Depending on where you are living in Thailand, temperatures can range from quite cool up in the North of the country, with temperatures dipping as low as 10°C (50°F) in winter months; to very hot and humid throughout the year down South in provinces such as Phuket or Krabi, where temperatures can reach upwards of 37°C (100°F).

The further North you go towards the mountainous regions of Chang Mai and Chiang Rai, you can expect cooler weather due to their higher altitude.

On most Thai islands such as Koh Samui or Phangan, temperatures tend to range around 28-33°C (82-91°F) year round with high humidity levels but also gentler winds than you would find on Thailand’s mainland.

In terms of average annual temperature across Thailand, most areas experience an average temperature between 26-31°C (78-87°F), depending on location.

living in thailand - beach club

There are only two seasons;

The rainy season usually runs from May through October (more recently through November) and during this time cities such as Bangkok often experience flooding from large amounts of rainfall while other areas such as the islands may suffer from a lack of electricity due to storms knocking out power lines.

The hot season runs from mid November through to April, with the hottest months being Feb – April. The seas are calm and warm, the sun is shining and the country comes alive with tourists and visitors escaping the winter!

Regardless of when you choose to live in Thailand, be sure to prepare for the warm and sunny conditions by packing light clothing and sunscreen!

bang tao beach

What time is it in Thailand?

Thailand is located in the Indochina Time Zone (ICT), which is seven hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). This means that Thailand is in the same time zone as countries like Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

Thailand does not observe daylight saving time, so clocks remain at the same time year-round.

Where to live in Thailand?

Bangkok

living in thailand - erawan shrine

I personally love Bangkok, the sights, sounds, smells, people, busyness, the skytrain, the shopping centers, and the plethora of amazing food!!!

Bangkok is the most popular destination for foreigners living in Thailand, and for good reason. The city offers an abundance of activities, a wide range of living options, and plenty of conveniences that make living there comfortable and easy.

That said, there are also some drawbacks to living in the Thai capital. The cost of living can be expensive compared to other areas in Thailand, traffic is usually gridlocked during rush hour (although you can jump on a motorbike taxi and weave your way through), and finding quality housing for a good price can be a challenge.

However, if you love to walk, are happy cramming on to a skytrain and want to live in a big, cultural city, Bangkok is the place.

A complete mix of sprawling metropolitan areas containing banks, hotels and offices, hiding tiny traditional villages found by exploring side streets and backstreets.

If it’s an International school you’re after you’ll find an array of highly respected institutions with popular expat apartment blocks nearby.

If you seek a more traditional experience, you’ll find plenty of Soi’s to your liking and the center of town is a cross between luxury shopping center’s, street sellers, riverboats and iconic buildings and temples.

Bangkok remains the top choice for many expats due to its vast array of offerings and its convenient location relative to the rest of Thailand.

Chiang Mai

chiang mai

I’m also completely in love with Chiang Mai, although it’s a completely different experience to Bangkok.

Living in Chiang Mai as a foreigner has its pros and cons.

On the plus side, the cost of living is cheaper than in Bangkok (and Phuket), and you can find plenty of foreigners, backpackers and digital nomads living there.

However, the weather gets quite cool in the winter months and between January to March time, the farmers in Northern Thailand start to burn off their fields to prepare for the following year and the air quality decreases to bordering on unsafe.

But if you’re happy for a change in seasons and to wear a mask for a few weeks, Chiang Mai is without doubt the ‘funkiest’ province to live in.

With an arts and crafts vibe, wandering the streets of old town Chiang Mai is a delight of unique, artisanal shops, ancient temples and the old walls of Chiang Mai, vegan or vegetarian health food restaurants and cozy boutique hotels.

Venturing into the more modern areas, you’re treated to markets, high end hotels, conference venues, popular restaurants, shopping streets and malls.

Surrounded by beautiful distant mountains, expats choose to make Chiang Mai their home due to the laid-back atmosphere and the abundance of activities in the surrounding area.

Phuket

living in thailand - phuket

Phuket is where I have called home for the last 8 – 10 years.

Phuket is the main tourist destination of Thailand. With a proliferation of high end hotels and beach resorts, the gorgeous weather, access to the calm and warm waters of the Andaman Sea and picturesque white sandy beaches, pre covid, Phuket was on a mission to become one of the best vacation places in the world.

Right now, as with so many other cities around the world, it’s just trying to get back on its feet.

What makes Phuket so special is the mix of old and new. The tiny local shack restaurant, serving the most delicious Thai food, next to the huge 5 star Marriott or Movenpick resort (usually selling terrible Thai food for three times the price by the way!).

Phuket is a fantastic place to live. The expat community is big and welcoming. There’s always something going on and if you love sport (which I hate to say I don’t really), you’ll find yourself doing triathlons, marathons, cycle competitions and all sorts in no time at all. There’s also plenty of international schools.

However, these days, Phuket is peng maak! (Very Expensive).

Ten years ago when we first discovered this paradise island, it was expensive to head back to our native countries, however now the UK (me), and Australia (my husband), are cheap compared to Phuket!

And it’s across the board; housing, food, utilities, clothes, entertainment. It’s all three or four times the price you’ll find in other parts of Thailand and as soon as our daughter finishes school in 2024 we will move on.

However, Phuket will always feel like home, will have a special place in our hearts and we will visit often.

Hua Hin

Hua hin

Hua Hin is a great place to live as a foreigner in Thailand. It’s much quieter and less hectic than Bangkok, but there are still plenty of things to do and see. The cost of living here is also cheaper than in the capital city.

Plus it’s on the coast!

If you’re looking for a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, Hua Hin is definitely the place to be.

With beautiful beaches lined with palm trees, quaint historic towns and charming outdoor markets, if you’re looking for a small community, away from it all, living in Hua Hin might be for you.

Koh Samui

living in thailand - koh samui

Living in Koh Samui is a great experience as long as you’re happy to be living on an Island with your only modes of transport to the mainland being by boat or plane.

It’s a fab little Island with beautiful beaches, amazing weather, and a laid-back lifestyle. The cost of living will depend on your preferences.

A beachfront villa will cost a pretty penny, but there are plenty of more affordable condos and apartments available.

Plus there’s not so much traffic in Koh Samui, so you can easily get round the island on a little moped.

Overall, if you are looking for a relaxing and beautiful place to live in Thailand, living in Koh Samui might be the right choice for you. Just make sure that you do your research and plan accordingly so that you can fully enjoy this unique island experience!

The Rest of Thailand

chiang rai

Living in rural areas as a foreigner can be a great experience, and give you the chance to learn how to speak Thai quite quickly as you immerse yourself into their culture.

If you are thinking about living in a rural area outside of the main cities and tourist destinations in Thailand, the first thing you should do is visit some of the villages and towns you’re thinking of moving to.

Many rural areas are mainly farmland, rice paddies and tea plantations, and you may find being off the beaten track and away from the Western comforts you’re used to a bit of a culture shock.

The pros of living here include beautiful scenery, amazing weather, and a relaxed lifestyle. However, accommodation options will be more limited and you’ll want a car to get around. Plus if you intend to work online you’ll need to find somewhere that has a good internet connection (Wifi is pretty good across all of Thailand).

However, if you’re looking for a real slice of Thailand, then choosing a rural Thai village to call your home might be just the ticket!

How to find accommodation for living in Thailand?

surin islands

When living in Thailand as a foreigner, one of the biggest challenges can be finding suitable accommodation. This is especially true if you are unfamiliar with living in Thailand and the various accommodation options available.

Here are some tips to help you navigate this process and find the right living situation for your needs and budget.

One of the first things to consider when looking for housing in Thailand is location.

  • Do you want to live in a big city, a more rural area or close to the beach?
  • Are there specific neighborhoods that appeal to you, such as those with access to amenities like shopping or public transportation?
  • Do you need to live close to an International school?

Narrowing down your options based on where you want to live will make your search easier and more targeted.

Another important consideration when living in Thailand is cost. How much are you willing or able to spend on housing each month?

To find the right balance between your budget and living situation, your best bet would be to holiday here, to look around and research the different areas and types of accommodation you might want to live in.

In Phuket as an example, the cost of living is far higher than say Chiang Mai or Hua Hin. To get an idea of accommodation costs use a site like – ThailandProperty.com to check out rents and prices across the country.

I use xe.com for the most accurate currency conversion.

Once you find a location and the type of accommodation you’re interested in, get yourself over to Thailand, look at the properties you’re interested in and negotiate with the landlord or property agent in person.

If you’re considering buying a property in Thailand, you will need to do a lot of research and employ a lawyer to understand your rights. Farangs are not legally allowed to own property here on their own and you’ll need to create a company or go into partnership with a Thai citizen.

It’s a long and complicated person which requires specialist knowledge and I would always recommend renting here first before considering buying property.

When living in Thailand as a foreigner, it is important to do your research and be willing to explore different options until you find the right living situation for you. With these tips, you can confidently navigate the housing market and find a place that feels like home in this exciting new country.

Visas for Living and/or Working in Thailand

living in thailand - wat arun

One of the biggest considerations for living in Thailand as a foreigner is obtaining the correct visa. There are a number of different visas available, each with its own set of requirements and restrictions.

Here are some of the most popular;

Tourist Visa

The most popular visa is of course the tourist visa. If you come from one of the 64 exempt countries, you won’t need a tourist visa for stays of 30 days or less.

If you intend to stay longer you will need a tourist visa for stays of up to 60 days and you can extend that to 90 days while you’re here.

You can obtain a tourist visa online, at a Thai embassy or consulate in your home country.

Tourists who enter Thailand without a valid visa will be fined 2,000 Baht for each day spent in Thailand over the permitted maximum stay of 90 days. For more information click here.

Digital Nomad Visa

Right now Thailand doesn’t have a specific digital nomad visa. They have introduced a new visa recently called a Long Term Residents visa, which would allow you to live and work here for ten years.

However, the visa is targeted at more wealthy individuals and the requirements to qualify are quite strict.

For example you’ll need to prove that you have a minimum personal income of $80,000 a year for the past two years. If this isn’t the case you’ll need evidence that you have a masters degree. You’ll also need health insurance with at least $50k coverage and various other documentation.

You can find out more here.

Retirement Visa & Marriage Visa

Other popular visas for living in Thailand include the retirement visa and the marriage/partner visa.

The retirement visa requires that you be over 50 years old and have proof of sufficient funds to live in Thailand. The marriage/partner visa requires that you be married or in a partnership with a Thai citizen, and may require additional documentation including letters from your partner’s employer confirming their employment status.

Education Visa

The Thailand education visa is given to foreigners who intend to study while in Thailand. Whether at school, university, learning the Thai language or doing an internship.

To obtain an education visa, you will need to have enrolled in the educational institution and they will then supply you with all the information and paperwork necessary to make your visa application.

When here you’ll need to report your current address to the Thai immigration office every 90 days. After the first time you’ll be able to do further 90 day reports online.

You’ll also need a re-entry permit for leaving and re-entering the country during the validity period of your visa.

If you have a child or children in school here, as the parent you can obtain a guardianship education visa otherwise known as a non immigrant O visa. One visa per parent of one child. The school will help you gather all the necessary paperwork for this visa and it will need to be renewed once a year.

Business/Working Visa

If you are looking to work in Thailand as a foreigner, Thailand expats will need to obtain a work permit or a non immigrant B visa.

You’ll need a letter of employment, medical certificate, educational qualifications and other documentation. Also your Western or Thai employer or the Thai company you work for, will need to provide a raft of documents regarding their company and your role as their employee.

This process can be complex, so it’s important you get the necessary guidance when you’re here. Your employer can help with that.

living in thailand - girls selling braceletsTwo little girls selling their homemade jewelry at the Moken Village in the Surin Islands

Apec Card

An Apec card is a special visa that allows foreigners living in Thailand to stay in the country for longer periods of time. This type of visa gives you certain privileges and benefits, such as more flexible travel options, easier access to your finances, and greater flexibility when it comes to finding employment.

An Apec card allows holders to stay in Thailand for up to one year, and can be renewed as long as you are still a legal resident of your home country. To be eligible for an Apec card, you must be a citizen of one of the following countries: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, China (including Hong Kong and Macau), Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Philippines, Russia (including Siberia), Singapore or United States

If you are living in Thailand and are interested in obtaining an apec card, there are several requirements that you must meet in order to be eligible. You must first be either a citizen of one of the 21 participating countries, or have a valid residency permit for Thailand. Additionally, you will need to demonstrate that you have been living in Thailand for at least six months, and that you have a steady source of income.

To apply for an apec card, you will need to complete and submit the relevant application form along with all required supporting documentation. This may include proof of your residence in Thailand, as well as documentation showing your income. You may also need to provide a copy of your passport or residency permit.

Once your application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the relevant authorities to determine whether you meet all of the requirements for an apec card. If approved, your apec card should be issued within a few weeks, and will allow you to take advantage of benefits such as reduced tariffs on certain goods and services. So if you are living in Thailand and are looking for a convenient way to take advantage of all the benefits of living here, an apec card may be just what you need!

The Thailand Elite Visa

If you are living in Thailand and are looking for an easy way to take advantage of all the benefits of living here, the Thailand Elite Visa may be just what you need!

The Thailand Elite Visa is available to foreign nationals who demonstrate financial soundness and a willingness to make Thailand their primary living destination. It is open to individuals, couples and families, and provides a number of benefits including tax exemptions, visa-free travel, and access to high-quality healthcare.

This visa offers a number of exclusive perks and privileges, including access to special airport lounges, reduced tariffs on certain goods and services, and VIP treatment at major tourist destinations.

The cost of the visa varies depending on your nationality, but starts at around USD$2000 per year. To apply, you will need to complete and submit the relevant application form along with all required supporting documentation. This may include proof of your residence in Thailand, as well as documentation showing your income. You may also need to provide a copy of your passport or residency permit.

Ultimately, the type of visa that is right for you will depend on your individual circumstances and goals. If you are looking to start living and working in Thailand full-time, it is important to do your research and carefully consider all of your options before making any decisions.

beach in Thailand

Cost of living in Thailand

Thailand is a popular destination for expats looking to live and work in a tropical country with a lower cost of living than many other developed nations. The cost of living in Thailand varies depending on your lifestyle and spending habits, but overall it is relatively affordable when compared to most Western countries.

Some of the main expenses you can expect to incur while living in Thailand include rent or mortgage payments, food costs, transportation expenses, and utility bills.

In general, you can expect to pay less for basic necessities such as food and transportation, while housing and utilities may be more expensive than what you are used to paying back home. This of course depends on which part of Thailand you choose to make your home.

However, living in Thailand also offers a number of opportunities to save money, including low-cost healthcare and entertainment options.

At the time of writing inflation is increasing globally due to the fallout from the Covid pandemic and the war between Russia and Ukraine affecting energy costs and grain supplies.

It’s no different in Thailand, with notably food and rent costs increasing quite steeply over the last year.

In Phuket for example, an average 3 bed pool villa will cost anywhere between 30,000THB to 120,000THB a month ($900 – $3500) depending which area you choose to live in.

A weekly shop at Macro for a family of 4, will cost around 8,000THB ($230) (without alcohol). Electricity costs are extremely high coming in at anywhere between 8,000THB – 15,000 THB/month ($230 – $430).

Renting a car, long term will cost around 10,000THB a month ($300), short term up to 15,000THB a month ($430) and sending your children to an International school will cost between 300,000THB – 800,000THB a year per child ($8500 – $23000) depending on which school you select.

Please note however, this is for a very comfortable expat family lifestyle. If you’re happy with a more traditional Thai style home, eating out every night at the local shacks and street food outlets and don’t have kids, you could easily live a fantastic life here for less than $1500/month.

Also Phuket is one of the most expensive places to live in Thailand. If you compare the costs to say living in Chiang Mai or even in Bangkok, all the costs including rents, food and utilities will decrease.

Before moving here, make sure to research the specific area you’re interested in, focusing in particular on the rents for the kind of accommodation you want to live in, car hire, utilities, food, and schooling if relevant.

living in Thailand - layan beach

Moving to Thailand

When moving to Thailand, there are a myriad of considerations to take into account.

  1. Decide where in Thailand you want to live
  2. Research accommodation costs, schooling and living expenses
  3. Find out which visa you need and what documentation is required
  4. Pack your belongings and arrange shipping!
  5. Move and live forever more in the sunshine!

When we decided to move here, we came with almost no belongings. Just 3 suitcases, a 4 year old child and big smiles!

Friends of ours have shipped their entire households over and it’s an expensive and long process.

When leaving your home country, I personally recommend using the change to have a big clearout. Do you really need those old plates left for you by your parents or grandparents?

Do you honestly need to keep all your old school papers, your old vinyl records, your 1980’s CD collection etc etc.

Since selling almost everything I’ve ever owned I’ve had a sense of freedom, not just physically, but emotionally which makes for an extremely uncluttered mind. The more stuff we gather, the more full my mind becomes.

And remember you can’t take any of it with you and none of it really means that much in the end anyway. Memories and experiences are what make a rich life.

So rather than packing up all your stuff into 40 boxes and paying the earth to have them shipped, consider what you can finally get rid of and start afresh in your new home and country.

phangnga bay

Managing Your Money in Thailand

Opening a Bank Account

Opening a bank account in Thailand is relatively simple and straightforward, with most major international banks having branches throughout the country.

Before you can open an account, however, you will need to provide some basic documents such as a passport copy and proof of address. It is also important to note that many banks will require you to have a valid work permit or student visa before they accept your application.

However, we found the SCB bank, Siam Commercial Bank, easiest to open a bank account. All they needed was our passports, visa and tenancy agreement and we were able to open a bank account and do online/app based banking.

Once you’ve gathered all your documents together, you will need to visit the bank in person in order to sign the agreement and complete any additional paperwork needed for the account opening process. Banks are usually well-equipped with English speaking staff who can help guide customers through the process if needed.

Once an account has been opened, there are various services available such as debit cards, internet banking and direct deposit options. It is also possible to obtain credit cards depending on your history and financial status. Additionally, many banks offer special discounts or privileges when using their services, so be sure to check with them directly when setting up your account.

When living in Thailand as an expat, it is important to remember that all transactions must be completed in Thai Baht (THB). This means that any payments made from foreign currency accounts must be converted into THB first before they can be used by local merchants or banks. Additionally, ATM withdrawals from overseas accounts may not be accepted at some ATMs due to security reasons so it’s best to double check on this before attempting any transactions.

I also recommend opening a Wise account online. Wise (formerly Transferwise), is an online bank which allows you to send and receive money in over 50 currencies. They’ll supply you with a debit card, plus you can create digital cards on the app which you can use for one off online payments.

The biggest benefits of Wise however, are how fast you can send or receive money. In most cases it takes seconds. The low costs associated with sending and receiving money and the fact you’re never required to ‘go into a branch’!

wise account

Paying Taxes

If you’re living in Thailand, it’s important to be aware of the country’s tax laws and what is required of you.

I’m not a tax advisor and how you manage your taxes is down to your country of residence and work status, however here is an overview of basic Thai law regarding taxes.

In general, Thai tax law is fairly straightforward and there are a number of resources available to help expats understand their obligations. The main taxes that expats living in Thailand are typically subject to are income tax, property tax and value-added tax (VAT).

Income Tax

The Thai government imposes income tax on all individuals who earn a salary or other form of income in the country. The rate of taxation depends on your individual income and ranges from 5% to 37%. In order to file a tax return, you will need to complete a Form 56 which can be obtained from the Revenue Department website or from any local Revenue office.

Property Tax

All property owners in Thailand are required to pay an annual property tax if they rent out their homes or use it for commercial purposes. The current rate is 12.5%. Property taxes must be paid by 31st January each year and can be paid either through direct debit or by cash/cheque at any local bank .

VAT

Thailand’s value-added tax rate is 7%, which applies to most goods and services in the country. To claim a VAT refund, you will need to obtain a VAT Refund Form from any local Revenue office and present it along with your purchase receipts when making international purchases of THB 2,000 or more.

Please ensure you get individual advice from an accountant before moving here to ensure you understand and adhere to the tax laws.

living in thailand - similan islands

Healthcare and Insurance in Thailand

The Thai healthcare system is fantastic. If I were extremely ill and wanted the best care and attention I would come to Thailand rather than going to a hospital in my own country. In fact, I truly believe that had we been able to bring my own Mother here for treatment she would still be alive today.

That’s how much faith I have in healthcare over here. The hospitals are modern and clean, the doctors are highly trained and the staffing is such that you don’t sit in a corridor waiting for treatment. There are rarely queues or long waits.

When I suffered from mild decompression sickness after a 4 day diving expedition, I was admitted and in an oxygen chamber within an hour.

The downside is that treatment can be quite expensive, so you’ll need to ensure you have the correct insurance while here. We personally insure via Cigna and they have been an excellent choice.

Additionally you may want to insure for repatriation costs in case of long term illness or injury.

islands around thailand

Sending Kids to School in Thailand

International schools in Thailand offer a number of benefits to students, including a curriculum that is relevant to their home country, smaller class sizes, and a sense of community among students from different backgrounds.

Unfortunately however, it will cost you!

This has been one of our biggest expenses living here. Our daughter has been attending International school since she was 9 years old (she’s now 16) and the school we chose charges between 600kTHB – 800kTHB/year ($17k – $23k), increasing as they move up each year.

The benefits outweigh the cost however, in that, she’s been in smaller classes, the facilities are excellent, her group of friends are from every culture or religion you can think of and she’s in an extremely safe and inclusive environment.

Unfortunately the school we picked does happen to be one of the most expensive on the Island and there are fantastic International schools here who charge anywhere between 300kTHB – 400kTHB a year ($8.5k – $11.5k).

Sending your child to school here is not cheap. However, the schooling is first class and the kids grow up with an incredibly inclusive mindset. I’m so happy that my daughter will forevermore be color blind and never judge someone based on their culture or religion.

However, over the years my attitude has changed towards education and in all honesty if I knew then what I knew now, I would have world schooled my daughter and never sent her to school in the first place. However, that is the subject of an entirely different blog post.

british international schoolBritish International School Phuket

Thailand Culture and Customs

Religious Festivals

Thailand is a Buddhist-majority country, and religion plays a significant role in Thai culture.

There are many festivals and rituals which take place throughout the year and which all Thais participate in, whether they are religious or not.

One of the most popular festivals in Thailand is Songkran, which marks the start of the traditional Thai New Year.

This festival takes place from 13th – 15th April and as well as temple gatherings to pray and pay respect to Buddha, the locals throw water on one another in celebration. The practice has origins rooted in cleanliness and purification, as it’s thought that bathing oneself in water washes away any bad luck or misfortune from the previous year.

In addition to throwing water, locals will often offer blessings to each other by pouring fragrant oils on their hands or shoulders and smearing white talcum powder on their faces.

Another important Thai festival is Loi Krathong, which occurs annually in November and celebrates when Buddha made his journey across India by boat. For this festival, Thais create small rafts out of banana tree trunks decorated with flowers and incense sticks that are then set afloat down rivers as symbolic offerings to Buddha for good fortune and wishes granted.

loy krathongPer Meistrup, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This ritual also serves as a way for Thais to express gratitude for all that they have received throughout the year.

Loy Krathong also coincides with the Lanna (Northern Thai) festival of Yi Peng. Yi Peng refers to the full moon day in the second month according to the Northern Thai lunar calendar. So to celebrate alongside the krathong floating, thousands of floating lanterns or ‘khom loi’, are sent into the sky as a way to make merit in Buddhism.

living in thailandLeon Contreras | Unsplash

It’s a beautiful sight to behold!

Thailand’s culture also features numerous other festivities such as Chinese New Year (which mostly occurs either in late January or early February), Chakri Day (April 6th) which celebrates the founding of Thailand’s Royal Dynasty and the infamous Vegetarian Festival.

Every year, the Vegetarian Festival (also known as ‘nine emperor gods festival’,) ignites with a vibrant display of color and spirit during the 9th lunar month according to Chinese tradition—this typically falls in either September or October.

This festival is an age-old celebration among the Chinese community centered around their belief that abstaining from meat and other stimulants can lead to better physical health as well as inner peace.

The festival is renowned for its daring and extravagant celebrations. From firewalking to body piercing, participants perform acts intended to invoke the gods. Self-mortification has become increasingly spectacular every year as mediums of the gods take on bolder challenges in an attempt to please them.

It can be quite jarring to watch as the locals stab themselves with various sharp articles, but it’s an intriguing and energetic festival not to be missed!

living in thailand - vegetarian festivalGert Chesi, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These are just some of the many traditions celebrated in Thailand throughout the year that foreigners living here can participate in (or at least witness)!

From religious rituals such as giving offerings at Buddhist temples to more festive occasions like parties thrown after weddings or large family gatherings; living in Thailand has plenty of unique cultural experiences waiting to be had!

The Thai Royal Family & Lese Majeste

Living in Thailand means living with respect for the royal family and their traditions.

As a foreigner living in Thailand, it is important to remember that displaying disrespect or dishonoring the royal family is illegal and can lead to serious consequences. It is expected that visitors and residents alike show respect when discussing the royal family, their titles, or anything related to them.

This includes standing during any ceremony or playing of the national anthem and respecting the royal portraits which are found in many public places.

When attending a cinema, visitors are asked to stand to the King’s anthem as it plays before each movie, out of respect for the royal family. When we first came here ten years ago, everyone in the cinema stood. It was such a great show of respect, it would always put a small lump in my throat to be honest.

However, since the old and longest serving King Rama IX died in 2016, many local Thai people no longer stand as instructed, which is so sad to see. As visitors to their country however, we still stand, even though sometimes we are the only ones.

Thailand’s monarchy has been a cornerstone of Thai society for centuries and the law of Lese Majeste is still very much in place, so as a foreigner living in Thailand, I choose not to get involved in local politics and beliefs and simply respect the rules as they are laid out for me.

Touching

Thailand is a country with many customs and traditions which should be respected by both visitors and residents. One of the most important aspects of Thai culture is the way in which people interact with one another. There are a number of general customs which should be followed in order to avoid causing offense.

One such custom is that it is considered impolite to touch a Thai person on their head, as the head is seen as the most sacred part of the body.

Another tradition related to touching is that it is generally considered rude to touch someone’s feet, especially if they are not your close friend or family member.

In addition, Thais always use their right hand when shaking hands or handing something over, as the left hand is seen as dirty.

These are just a few examples of the many cultural customs found in Thailand; respecting them will help you to live peacefully in this beautiful country.

lady selling corn on beach

LGBTQ+

In Thailand, LGBT people are protected by law from discrimination and hate crimes.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done in order to make sure that all members of the LGBT community are treated equally. While there is some progress being made, there is still a lot of resistance from certain parts of Thai society.

One of the biggest challenges faced by LGBT people living in Thailand is discrimination from their own families. Many families still view being gay or transgender as a shameful or undesirable trait, and unfortunately this can lead to many members of the community being shunned by their families.

Fortunately, there are resources available for those who find themselves living on the streets or struggling with mental health issues due to family rejection.

Another challenge facing people in the LGBT community in Thailand is securing adequate healthcare. While some medical providers are sensitive to the needs of their queer patients, others are not so understanding, and may refuse to treat them or even verbally abuse them due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

In addition, access to reproductive health services like hormone therapy can be a challenge, especially for trans people who are looking to transition.

Despite these challenges, living in Thailand as an LGBT person can also be a rewarding and enriching experience. There is a thriving community of queer people who come together to support and empower one another, and many queer-friendly groups have emerged throughout the country.

Additionally, there are many opportunities available for members of the LGBT community to get involved in politics or activism, helping to create a more inclusive society where everyone has equal rights and opportunities. So if you’re thinking about living in Thailand as a member of the LGBT community, know that you will find both struggle and support during your time here.

thai pride festival 2022Chainwit., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Sex Workers & Finding a Thai Wife

It would be remiss of me not to mention the reason why so many male expats make Thailand their home.

For many male foreigners living in Thailand, their primary motivation is the availability of sex workers. Whether it’s visiting brothels and bars or searching for a Thai wife, the sex industry is an important part of life for many expats.

While some people may find this troubling, (me included) others (mainly men) argue that it reflects more broadly on Thai culture as a whole.

Prostitution has long been a part of Thai society, dating back to ancient times when women were given as gifts and traded among different villages. Therefore, the sex trade in Thailand is a complex and multi-layered issue, with no easy answers. There are many factors involved, from cultural beliefs to economic realities.

The sad fact is that due to culture, poor education options (which are improving) and lack of job opportunities, sex work is a lucrative choice for many.

I have met Thai women who were forced into sex work by their fathers, while their brothers attended University and were afforded every opportunity.

Despite this cultural acceptance of sex work, there are still challenges facing those who engage in the industry. For example, due to immigration laws in Thailand, most prostitutes cannot legally work outside of designated red-light districts. This means that many sex workers living in Thailand are living and working on the margins, vulnerable to exploitation and harassment from authorities.

As is always the case, the industry is rife with dishonest people trying to make a quick buck and amongst the women who appear to have chosen prostitution as a career choice there are those who have been trafficked, drugged, and raised from an early age as a sex worker and know no different.

Furthermore, due to the prevalence of foreigners looking for sex workers, many Thais now see prostitution as a “foreign” thing, which can lead to discrimination against those involved in the industry.

That being said, it’s all around us and it’s not unusual to see an aging 70+ man, holding hands with a beautiful 20 something Thai girl.

So if you’re thinking about living in Thailand for this reason, please be aware of the negative effects that can come from seeking out sex workers here, and at all times treat your fellow humans with respect.

Top Tips for Living in Thailand

living in thailand - bang tao beach

Sim cards

One of the great things about living in Thailand is the availability of cheap sim cards. It costs me around $9/month for unlimited internet and calls.

I do have a UK phone contract also to use when I need to access my home bank accounts etc, but that only gets turned on when needed. For my daily living my Thai DTAC sim is brilliant.

Once you’ve purchased your sim and added credit which can be done at a DTAC store or any local 7/11, simply download the DTAC app and pick the package you want.

Plug sockets

The type of plug socket used in Thailand is a Type A/B two-prong plug. This is the same plug that is used in North America and Japan, and features two round prongs of different sizes.

It is important to note that most electronics brought to Thailand will require an adapter or power strip in order to be able to plug in.

Basic language skills

While English is widely spoken in Thailand, it’s always a good idea to learn some basic phrases in Thai. This will help you to connect with locals and get around more easily, and you’ll find that the people of Thailand are warm and welcoming towards foreigners who make an effort to learn their language.

Some key phrases to learn include greetings like “sawadee ka” or “khop kun kha”, as well as phrases like “thank you” and “how much?”

Please note that women say ‘Kha’ at the end of their sentences and men say ‘Khrap’. So when asking how much, a woman would say ‘gee baht kha’ and a man would say ‘gee baht khrap’.

koh phangngan

Cultural norms

It’s important to be aware of some of the cultural norms of living in Thailand.

For example, it is customary for people to take off their shoes when entering someone’s home, so be sure to wear clean socks and bring a pair of slippers or flip flops with you.

Additionally, people in Thailand typically make direct eye contact when speaking with others, so avoid looking away or down when engaging in conversation.

Thais also greet each other, and you, with a slight bow and a prayer gesture, known as a ‘wai’. The lower the bow and the higher the prayer gesture the more respect is afforded. Be sure to adopt this gesture, particularly when greeting elders or monks.

living in thailand - wai

By familiarizing yourself with these cultural norms, you can ensure that you are respectful and well-received during your time living in Thailand.

Mosquito protection & dengue

Living in Thailand also means living with the risk of contracting dengue, a serious mosquito-borne illness that is common in tropical and subtropical regions.

To protect yourself from dengue, be sure to use insect repellent whenever you go outside and be aware of any symptoms of dengue, which may include a high fever, muscle aches and pain, and a rash. If you think that you have dengue, be sure to seek medical attention right away.

Please note we have lived here for over ten years and haven’t as yet contracted dengue so don’t let it scare you, but it is quite a fierce illness so just be aware.

mai khao beach

Sun Exposure

While the tropical climate is appealing, it also means that you will be more exposed to harmful UV rays when outdoors. To protect yourself from sun damage and skin cancer, be sure to wear sunscreen whenever you go outside.

Also use an umbrella or hat for super sunny days, and stay inside or under shade during the hottest parts of the day.

Haggle

Negotiating prices is an important part of living in Thailand, especially when shopping at markets. Many vendors are open to bargaining, and you can save money by haggling for a better price.

Before negotiating, it’s a good idea to do some research to find out the typical cost of items in the area so that you have a baseline for what is a reasonable price. Then, when you’re shopping, start by offering a low price and work your way up from there until you reach an agreement.

Never worry that you’ll offend someone with your low ball offer. They can always say No and they often do!

Use Metered Taxis or Bolt/Grab

When living in Thailand, it is important to be aware of the taxi mafia that is rampant in certain parts of the country.

The mafia often forces drivers to charge tourists inflated prices and can even threaten physical harm if they don’t comply.

To avoid this situation, it’s best to use metered taxis or ride-sharing services like Bolt/Grab, which are cheaper and more reliable than traditional taxis.

living in thailand - tuk tukChris Arthur Collins | Unsplash

Tipping custom

In Thailand, it is customary to tip service providers such as waiters, taxi drivers, and hairdressers. The amount you tip depends on how pleased you are with the quality of service received.

Generally, a 10-20% tip is considered appropriate. However, it is important to note that tipping is not mandatory in Thailand, so if you don’t have the extra money to spare, you can choose not to tip.

Water

The water in Thailand is known for being dirty and unsafe to drink.

This is because the water is not filtered or treated like it is in developed countries, so it can contain harmful bacteria and parasites.

For this reason, it is important to only drink bottled water in Thailand, and avoid drinking from taps or using ice cubes.

Food

The food in Thailand is amazing. A big tip is to eat from shack style local restaurants as then you’ll experience traditional Thailand dishes. However, remember the real thing is different from watered down Western food options, so watch the spice! It gets hot fast!

Alcohol Laws

Please note in most places around the country you are unable to purchase alcohol before 11am and between 2pm and 5pm. Don’t ask me why!

Join Forums/Groups etc

If you’re considering living in Thailand. Be sure to seek out groups on Facebook or forums online for expats. There are a lot of people in your position or who have moved to Thailand who can help you with some of the questions you might have.

Also a good account to follow is Richard Barrow in Thailand who regularly updates his facebook page and twitter account with recent Thai news, events that affect farangs, great places to visit etc.

layan beach

Living in Thailand Summary

Thailand is a beautiful country.

It has amazing weather, great food, friendly people and can reduce your cost of living substantially from your home country if you pick the right place.

It’s also a very safe country and a great place to raise smaller children.

It’s not without its challenges however. The culture is very different from what you’re likely used to. It’s consistently in the top 10 most dangerous countries to drive in (and the road accident levels are appalling), the opportunities afforded women are still way behind the times and unless you live in Bangkok, access to museums, art galleries, concerts etc are limited.

However, the International school system here is superb (but expensive), the hospitals and healthcare system is first rate and your access to Vitamin D is most definitely beneficial to the body and soul!

Be sure to do your research, holiday here before moving and starting your new life, and engage in online communities to make your move smooth and successful.

Good luck and perhaps I’ll see you when you get here! 🙂

yourlifestylebusiness

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