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Tips for Thailand Expats

Updated on July 7, 2015

Living Abroad in Thailand

More than enough travel guides and websites about Thailand give fantastic advice on hotels, sightseeing, nightlife and restaurants. If you've already read such guides, you already know what kinds of clothes you should bring and that the currency is in Baht. But for someone who intends to live in Thailand, there are many questions, concerns and needs not addressed in the travel guides.

Bangkok is a thriving, cosmopolitan metropolis with an abundance of activities and culture. Chiang Mai has become far more expat friendly, with many coming to retire or to take advantage of work opportunities and a milder climate.

Some cities in the northeast (Isaan) are thriving centers of commerce, such as Khon Kaen and Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) but this is the region to be if the slower pace of village life is what suits you, as most of Isaan is rural.

The south has Phuket and the other tourist destinations and many expats live and work in the tourist hospitality industry there. More centrally are the Hua Hin and Cha-am areas along the Gulf of Thailand and Pattaya; all three of these resort cities have many retiree communities and large numbers of expats.

These regions have the largest numbers of expats, so if you live elsewhere than these areas, you're likely to visit one of these towns or cities, and you're certain to come to Bangkok on occasion.

We all have our reasons for choosing a life abroad with Thailand as our host country. My intention is to make your transition easier or if you're researching a country to retire to, you can decide if Thailand is right for you and arrive knowing what to expect. This lens will cover quite a few, but not nearly all, of the concerns that people have about moving to and living in the Land of Smiles.

Cost of Living in Thailand

Wide range of lifestyles

The cost of living in Thailand varies tremendously. Bangkok is the most expensive of all the cities; however, the cost of living in Thailand will depend on your salary and the lifestyle you choose. Many multinational corporate executives earn several hundred thousand baht per month and many English teachers earn as little as between 25,000-30,000 baht per month.

Income and Benefits Vary

An English teacher with a few years of experience under her belt should command about 45,000 baht per month, where if your university degree is in Education, at a private school you could earn 55,000-60,000 baht per month. Many teachers tutor on the side and that brings in several thousand baht per month more. A qualified teacher working in a reputable international school can expect to earn in excess of 100,000 baht per month plus benefits.

Many of you will be fortunate enough to receive accommodation benefits as part of your employment package. However, many more of you will need to pay for accommodation out of your salary which will likely be your largest expense. If you work for a multinational company, your employer will likely give you a generous living expense and your flat, house or condo can run up to 80,000 baht in rent or more, but it will be well within your budget. More about the cost of accommodation is outlined in Chapter 5, Settling In.

Food Costs

How you eat will also determine your monthly expenses. You can eat from the street vendors or buy food to go at your local outdoor market and a meal will cost between 20-40 baht. Snacks are around 10-15 baht. This is the cheapest way to eat and this is how I ate during my work week - cheap and simple.

Restaurants will vary widely in expense. A basic Thai restaurant will likely be less than 120 baht per person, but there are also fancier Thai restaurants and prices will go up from there, much more if alcoholic beverages are part of the meal. Restaurants offering western fare usually cost about 250-400 baht per person and the really nice restaurants you are likely to spend a minimum of 1,000 baht per person.

Many expat families hire a maid whose duties include cooking for them, so eating out is not an issue and is likely more cost effective and healthier than dining in restaurants every day.

Bottom Line

Overall, you will live OK, if a bit frugally, if your minimum salary is 40,000 baht per month (less is OK if your employer pays your housing) don't eat at nice restaurants every day and take the bus often. As an example, a few years ago, I was last making 45,000 plus 2,500 for housing expenses and was able to save about 20,000 per month. I went to movies regularly, had beauty treatments, went out to eat at decent restaurants every weekend and traveled outside Bangkok every chance I got. My lifestyle was excellent compared to how I was living in my home country.

Those on executive salaries can live quite luxuriously, if so chosen, and there is a wide range of earnings, saving and spending. You will get a very good idea of the cost of things when prices are quoted throughout the guide.

For those of you who are pursuing teaching, this article is a great perspective of what you can expect to spend:

Ajarn's The Cost of Living

And a more updated (2012) cost of living report is from our friends at Bangkok Podcast with quite a lot of useful information, from apartment costs to internet and communications to transport. Don't miss this one.

Bangkok Podcast: Cost of Living

This particular episode does not cover costs such as insurance, banking and visa renewals, but it does cover other essentials like housing, transportation, entertainment, communication, water, electricity, etc.

How to Pay Your Bills

Very easy to do

A convenient way to pay your electricity, phone and water bills is to pay them at your always nearby 7-Eleven or some of the mail posting shops. You simply give your bills to the counter attendant and they go to a computer, type in the information, and then give you your bills back with receipts stapled to them. They don't need to keep any of your paper documentation. The service charge is about 10 baht per bill, but it's worth it not to have to go to the office to pay.

If you're late in paying, you will have to go to that office to settle the bill in person, and it's quite inconvenient finding the place. You may have to bring a Thai person with you to help you out if that happens. On the other hand, if you happen to have a maid or a driver, you can ask them to go for you, and, of course, it’s nice to give them a little extra baht for doing this extra duty.

Another convenient way to pay your bills is to sign up for the online service of your Thai bank. You can pay all your bills, with exception of your water, online – even your rent!

(Photo reference: 7-Elevens having the dark blue sign with moon and stars mean you can pay your bills there.)

Safety Tips in Thailand

Both men and women should take heed

Generally speaking, Thailand is a rather safe country to live in, but that does not mean you should be lazy in your safety precautions. Use common sense like not walking alone in unfamiliar or dangerous areas of town, dressing in revealing clothes or drinking alcohol with men you don't know well.

The one thought I always had that kept me on the straight and narrow is that I am in a foreign country and, if anything, I am more vulnerable than I would be in my own country. I cannot speak Thai fluently enough in an emergency, and when it is an emergency, it's impossible to translate in your head as quickly as you need to communicate. Always think about these issues before doing something even slightly risky.

Late Night in a Taxi

Probably the most pressing concern for western women in Thailand that I have heard time and again is about getting into a taxi late at night to go home. Whether you are a man or a woman, some safety tips to keep in mind when taking a taxi home late at night are:

  • Sit in the back seat, behind the driver if possible.
  • If you're going to a club where you've worn some skimpy clothing, carry a shawl or scarf in your purse and wrap it around your shoulders and chest.
  • Make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and that there is plenty of money on it.
  • Have a couple of friends with a mutual agreement that you can call on at any time, especially if you begin to feel uncomfortable in the taxi. Even faking a conversation can be OK if you don't have anyone to call. Talk about where you are, where you're headed and the taxi number you are in, making it obvious to the driver that someone is waiting for you.
  • Don't be hostile, but don't be friendly either. Maintain a blunt and self assured attitude - no small talk, no giggling.
  • When you know you will be out late at night, try to plan your evening with a group of friends and travel together rather than be alone at the end of your festivities.
  • If you feel anything is strange, don't be shy to tell the taxi driver to stop and get out.

Some more general safety tips to consider:

  • When using the ATM, look around you first before taking money out. Put your cash away quickly and make sure nobody follows you.
  • If you are going on holiday at a beach, stay near your bungalow for your night's partying and make sure your walk back is out in the open and safe. If you walk along the beach late at night, stay in a group.
  • Ladies, carry your purse or shoulder bag on the side away from the street to prevent thieves on motorcycles from snatching it. Men, don't keep a stuffed wallet in your back pocket.
  • Do not assume that entering a crosswalk (or zebra crossing) means that vehicles will slow down and stop for you. In Thailand, pedestrians do not have rights of way. See photo above!
  • Make photocopies of your most important documents and keep them in a safe place. I never kept my passport on my person; instead I photocopied the ID portion and kept that in my wallet and kept the original at home.
  • Never bring all your credit cards out with you, keep some at home as well. When walking across a street, do not assume vehicles will be traveling in the legal direction, or that the direction the traffic was going in the morning will be the same as in the afternoon.

    Bottom line: look BOTH ways several times before crossing a street.

  • Tazers are not illegal in Thailand, but one expat has said that Tazers purchased in Thailand do not work, but if this sounds like an attractive form of self protection to carry with you, you might want to take care of this purchase before arrival.

Expat Bloggers in Thailand - Get an insider's view before making the move

Here is a list of the blogs I follow. There are a ton of Thailand blogs out there, but these have been around for awhile and I personally subscribe to their feeds.

I'd Love Your Comments - Or suggestions and tips for expats living in Thailand

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    • Spirality profile image

      Spirality 3 years ago

      Your list of Expat Bloggers in Thailand is great

    • Amyji profile image
      Author

      Amyji 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Probably not. Since the time I lived there, more international stores have popped up offering more western sizes. To be on the safe side though, bring more of your favorite styles - if you have a favorite style of shirt, for example. There are lots of tailors who can make your clothes, too, but that is more of a pain.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      My husband is considering a transfer to Bangkok. I am curious about clothing size. If I wear a size 10 in the U.S., will I have difficulty finding clothing?

    • profile image

      trangman 4 years ago

      I think what the negative comments tell you is don't take what other people think to heart especially when they are so critical, stick to the facts and make the experience your own.

      This was an interesting lens about Thailand, I have lived here in Thailand for over 11 years and although I have had some problems on the whole I really enjoy my life here and would not change it.

      Keep up the good work.

    • Amyji profile image
      Author

      Amyji 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I'm sorry you had such a negative experience, Visitor. I had an exact opposite reaction living in Thailand. I guess it all depends on the social circles you run in, what your own personality and temperament are. Most expats I know do NOT have this experience, especially women.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Everybody thinking to move to Thailand, think again.

      Thailand is a country which people hate everything that is NOT THAI. Yes, they smile at you, they are friendly to you, why? Because they know Farangs bring money. Try to marry and live here and you will instantly realise the other side of Thailand. Hate, discrimination, accusation, abuse, even make up stories to imprison you or even try to kill you. As a Farang you are nothing, you count nothing and you will never be human. A straining sick street dog has more rights and privileges than a Farang in Thailand.

      Who writes this?

      A Farang who lived and worked in many countries and on 4 continents, including China (10 years) and ... gosh, do I miss China after being in Thailand, being cheated off all my money and experience nothing but hatred coming form the Thai.

      It's but not only me. In my book about Thailand I will tell countless stories from other Farangs, like one, who had been beaten half to death, because he didn't comply with his employers Cheat-Requests and quit his job, fearing he could incriminate himself by accepting his employer's THAI CHEAT CULTURE. Result = the mother ordered to kill him. All "VIDEO" evidence his one friend he had, secured, was lost by the police. But, he got a "Thai friendly smile and a "Kothot khrap" sure. Now he faces criminal charges against him for assaulting the "Killing ordering" Thai mother.

      Still thinking to come to this amazing Thailand?

      Still thinking you want to work here?

      Let me tell you, all you can do here is lay the millions of sluts, have a quick 5 second Thai Sensation and then piss off before they make something up to throw you into prison or kill you.

      Animals don't behave like Thai do. It's the worst of the worst country I ever experienced myself. Africa is still better than Thailand!

      Good luck to you all and may all the luck be with you when you et foot down on this rotten turf.

      BTW... I was writing this while still in this Country and my IP was blocked because of elevated abuse... HAHA, there you go ... THAILAND, an amazingly stuffed up place in so many ways!

      My tip, STEER CLEAR of this sick kingdom!

    • Amyji profile image
      Author

      Amyji 4 years ago

      @Stretchpants: Oh I don't think you'll have ANY trouble with makeup. Thai women go nuts over make up and all the major department store brands (ie Estee Lauder) AND drug store brands (ie Cover Girl) are abundant.

      I'm excited for your move!

    • profile image

      kulla 4 years ago

      Great information.

    • Stretchpants profile image

      Stretchpants 4 years ago

      Thanks! I'm moving to Thailand next month and researching as much as I can. I actually really liked your lens about Thai clothing sizes. (There's not a comment section there.) You're so right; guide/travel books don't address all the things women need to know about living in a new country. If you add any advice about makeup, let me know! I'm wondering how hard it will be to find foundation for medium/olive skin...

    • MicroMoose1 profile image

      MicroMoose1 4 years ago

      Just as a bit of clarification, STUN GUNS ARE LEGAL but only in self defense, you should not walk around with one in your pocket! If you go out it should be locked in your car!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @MrMojo01: let's do it:) I'm living here for 2 years and I'm happy. I work for a school now, I can help u get ED visa if u like. my e-mail is nedaaria@yahoo.com

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great article! Would love to see some info on volunteering in Thailand though. It's becoming an increasingly popular volunteer destination and there's tons of cool projets out there.

    • profile image

      Nightlife-Author 4 years ago

      didn't like your lens as its too much commercial

    • Roxtin profile image

      Roxtin 4 years ago

      Some great information here espically the crossing at a zebra crossing, nothing will stop for you

    • MrMojo01 profile image

      MrMojo01 4 years ago

      Great lens, I love Thailand and have often thought of living there for a year. Enjoyed reading this!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thank you for all the information. I am thinking about going to Thailand for 6 months to learn about Thai food, i am a chef, it is something i have always wanted to do. Is there any work for chefs. I Have a regular income of 35000 Bart each month but i still would like to work there. Any Help would be appreciated,

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 5 years ago

      Wow. You had some great information to share. Thanks for the good read.

    • Bill Armstrong profile image

      Bill Armstrong 5 years ago from Valencia, California

      Great info, thanks for sharing

    • profile image

      ispeaknow 5 years ago

      Hi, a new sources for expats who desire to learn Thai. LEARN ENGLISH, THAI, FRENCH AND CHINESE

      WITH A NEW & UNIQUE LEARNING SYSTEM! Enjoy our free lessons at: http://www.ispeaknow.com/free-lesson

      Let's try it out

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      VERY Useful Primer!

    • profile image

      CPDInteractive 5 years ago

      I like your lens, very useful and inspiring. thank you.

    • profile image

      All-About-India 5 years ago

      Wow! What a lens on Tips for Thailand Expats. I found out a great smilar lens here BEST OF THAILAND.

    • Sawasdee Kub profile image

      Sawasdee Kub 6 years ago

      great information here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi! this is a very great lens and I just press like-button and add this lens in my links for Thai or Thailand in lens name "Thailand Buddha Amulet" Don't miss for check its. Thanks for your sharing.

    • phuketbooknow profile image

      phuketbooknow 6 years ago

      Beautiful Lense, my dear squidoo friend! Keep up the good work! Check out my Phuket lenses when you have time.

    • profile image

      the777group lm 7 years ago

      Hi Amyji. This is a really useful lens for Thailand visitors. I've lensrolled in on my Funny Thai ads lens.

    • profile image

      Tara84 7 years ago

      Though I am not an expat, as a traveler I will keep your tips in mind while housing at bangkok accommodation next month.

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      [in reply to paradise girl]

      I found an interesting article on Pattaya and Thailand in general here.

      It takes you to a site that sells Neil Hutchinson's Money Number one series of humerous books about the antics of the average "farang" in Thailnd. The books are downloadable in PDF form.

      http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Pattaya-Bible&am...

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hi great lens, I really enjoyed it - I'm also an expat girl living on Ko Phangan, raising my baby girl, running a bar and restaurant www.thai-luna.com and writing for a living. I'd love it if you could feature my blog on your lens - www.thai-paradise-life.com and I'd be delighted to return the favor.

    • profile image

      hpotter1097 8 years ago

      Some thoughtful information; obvious that the writer has spent time considering what information would be useful to fellow travelers or expats. I'll have to look into "Amyji's" blog, and e-book.

    • profile image

      rrrrbbb 8 years ago

      from a experience traveler---thank you

    • profile image

      Garuman 8 years ago

      Great information for expats. Thank you!