Moving To Thailand: A Guide for Expats to Live Here

Moving To Thailand A Guide for Expats to Live Here

Moving to Thailand is exciting and nerve wracking all at the same time.

Because there’s so much involved with the major life change, our long-term Thailand expat writers put together this guide to help you prepare for and adjust to your new life in the country.

If, by the end of this guide, you’re interested in further resources that will help you master your move to Thailand, avoid timely and expensive pitfalls, and save thousands of dollars, check out our premium subscription.

That said, this guide is broken down into four major areas:

  • why you should move to Thailand
  • preparing for your move to Thailand
  • moving to Thailand
  • settling into life in Thailand

Let’s jump into the first section.

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Life in Thailand

Generally speaking, living in Thailand is a rewarding experience.

You get to immerse yourself in a culture that is most likely the complete opposite of your own. This helps build empathy, compassion, understanding, and patience – if you allow these things to happen.

Living in Thailand is also an everyday adventure. Even after nearly a decade in the country, we continue to experience new places, foods, and people.

This isn’t to say that the country is a utopia, though.

As an expat, you will no doubt grow frustrated at times with Thai immigration’s bureaucratic measures. You may also find yourself as a permanent outcast, never quite being accepted even if you’ve lived here longer than some of the Thai children and, for some of us – teens or adults, that you come across every day.

Some of the other difficulties you may face when living here are the language and cultural barriers and differences in social norms and etiquette.

But the pros of living in Thailand (relative low cost of living, welcoming people, cheap healthcare, and overall quality of life) undoubtedly outweigh the cons, or we would have been gone a very long time ago.

Why Move to Thailand?

Although everyone has different motives for moving to Thailand, most people can agree that the reasons below played somewhat of a role in their decision-making process.

  • crime and safety
  • cost of living
  • medical care
  • living standards

Let’s look at each one more closely.

Crime and Safety

Since November 2022, the U.S. State Department has listed Thailand as a safe place to travel to. The website reads:

Level 1: Exercise Normal Precautions.

U.S. State Department, November 23, 2022

In terms of crime, police and independent agencies tend to disagree over each other’s statistics. However, according to Statista, crime in Thailand has dropped from 91 instances per 100,000 people in 2017 to 51 per 100,000 people in 2021.

Numbers aside, in general, most expats will tell you that they feel safer in Thailand than where they came from.

In fact, we feel safer in Thailand than in London or New York City – even while walking around alone at night. We feel this way because in Thailand, it seems that trouble rarely comes looking for you.

In some major Western cities, you can mind your business and still fall victim to a robbery or violent crime. In Thailand, you really have to go seek out trouble to find it.

That’s not to say people won’t take advantage of you here. In the beginning, before you’re hip to the game and know how to speak Thai, people will overcharge you for certain things. But that’s mostly the extent of what you have to be careful for.


Of course crime does happen in Thailand, even to non-Thais, so always practice common sense and take the above opinions as generalizations, not facts.

Also, tourist areas do tend to attract opportunists, so you have to be wary in these areas. Check out our guide on staying safe in Thailand to find out more.

Cost of Living

One of the biggest reasons people move to Thailand is for the country’s relatively low cost of living.

Out of all the major cities around the world, Bangkok is ranked 298 on Numbeo’s 2023 global cost of living index. That’s a long way off from being number one.

According to Numbeo’s 2023 Asia cost of living index, Bangkok still doesn’t even crack the top 20 most expensive cities. Currently, it’s at 32.

However, Bangkok is the most expensive city in Thailand according to statistics. That means that if you decide to move to Phuket, Chiang Mai, or Pattaya, the cost of living in those places is even lower. Some expats, though, will argue that Phuket is becoming more expensive than Bangkok.

To give you a good idea on the initial costs of moving to Thailand, here’s what one of our writers spent.

  • Accommodation (US$1,250): A serviced apartment for six weeks followed by hotels around Thailand for two weeks. Then, the first months rent, US$150, for a studio apartment.
  • Food and drink (US$1,750): Eating and drinking during the first few months. From shopping malls to drinking beers on beaches, bills add up.
  • Clothes (US$300): Some expensive work clothes and shoes from an international chain in a shopping mall. Also, new T-shirts and casual shoes contributed to these costs.
  • Household items (US$200): First apartment was furnished, but needed several items such as bedding, kitchen utensils, and hangers.
  • Visa runs (US$450): Leave Thailand to get a new business visa, and then re-entering the country. This was the total cost for travel, accommodations, and visa fees.
  • Tourist attractions (US$300): A number of must-see sights around Thailand during the first few weeks, from famous temples to national parks.

For more detailed cost of living breakdowns, we’ve written a few guides to give you a better idea on how much you could spend each month in Thailand.

Because many people come to Thailand to teach English, you may be interested in knowing how much it’ll cost you live as a teacher here.

In most cases, you can get by on a THB30,000 per month government school teacher’s salary, but that won’t leave you much for traveling and saving.

You’re better off trying to get into one of the international schools that pay over THB100,000 per month.

If you plan to teach English in Thailand,’s cost of living page covers the incomes and expenses for teachers in the country. Even if you don’t want to teach you should check it out. It gives you a good idea on the lifestyle you can live by varying budgets.

If you’re looking for something more specific, you can use our free Thailand Cost of Living Calculator to estimate your monthly expenses on rent, food, transportation, and more.

Medical Care

Thailand is becoming a popular destination for medical tourism thanks in part to its quality healthcare and low costs. So, as an expat you’ll get top-of-the-line treatment when going to private hospitals in Bangkok.

This is because most of the doctors at private (and some public) hospitals have trained overseas. And the equipment they use is the latest in the world. Plus, doctors at private hospitals can spend more time diagnosing you because there’s not a queue of hundreds of people waiting to see him or her.

When it comes to medicine, it’s also extremely easy to get what you need from local pharmacies in Thailand. Just ask the person working at the hospital’s medicine counter to write down what you need, and you can buy it in your neighborhood.

You can visit government hospitals or premium clinics, too, where some doctors from private hospitals also practice, and pay up to 25 percent less for treatment. The wait times are a lot longer, however.

Local clinics can be found all over Thailand as well. They can help you with common ailments such as colds, food poisoning, and sprains. But staff at local clinics most likely won’t speak English.

Living Standards

What you get for the money goes a long way in Thailand, at least when it comes to accommodations.

Most mid- to top-tier rental properties in the major cities throughout the country come with a gym and pool. A lot of them are also located near public transportation or in city centers.

Comparatively, what you’d pay US$2,500 a month for in the U.S. you could get in Thailand for US$400 or even less. This leads to a quality of life that is hard to capture in the West.

With the “why” of moving to Thailand out of the way, let’s look at how to plan for your move.

Preparing for Your Move

If you’re not yet in Thailand, and depending on the amount of responsibilities and commitments you have back home, you’ll have to take care of a lot of things before moving here.

We cover some of the more common aspects below, starting with personal matters.

Break the News to Friends, Family, and Work

When you’re close to moving to Thailand, be sure to talk to friends and family about the idea. You most likely won’t see them often if you move away, and that could be concerning on their behalf.

Reassure them that either you will visit them, or that they could visit you, each year.

Also, if you’re currently employed, be sure to talk to your manager and give him or her a one-month’s notice at the least. You don’t want to burn any bridges, because you never know if you’ll return home looking for employment one day.

Apply for the Right Visa

One glance at the different Thai visa options is enough to make you dizzy.

A Thai visa in a passport
You’ll need to get a valid visa in your home country before moving to Thailand.

Tourist visas will cover you for 30 or 60 days, but if you plan to be here long term you need the right documents. Leaving the country and returning with a new tourist visa, often called a visa run, is no longer reliable.

If you’re applying for a long-term Thai visa, make sure you get one that corresponds with your reason for moving to Thailand.

Getting a business, marriage, or retirement visa, isn’t too hard as long as you have the right paperwork.

If you need help with getting a visa, have a look at our Thai visa guide, which lists references for visa agencies in Thailand.

However, if you have some money to spend, the Thailand Elite visa is the best visa to get.

It’ll get you five to 20 years in the country, and with it, you won’t have to file the dreaded annual documents and paperwork required by other Thai visas.

Set Up Mail Forwarding

Sometimes people need to forward mail to Thailand, such as loan and bank statements. If you need any mail sent here, you can set up a mail forwarding service at your local post office.

You can also sign up for paperless billing and statements. This way, everything goes to your email and not your old mailbox.

Make a Budget

Making a budget will let you know roughly how much you have to spend each month in Thailand, which then tells you what kind of lifestyle you could afford to live in Thailand.

If you don’t make a budget, you could spend more than you should each month, and you may run out of money before you find a job.

During your first few months you might spend money on tourist attractions and overpay for things. But after a while, you adjust and know where to go for the best bargains.

Depending on your visa type, you also need to show a certain amount of money in a Thai bank account. The visa section in this guide explains this in more detail.

For potential retirees, you may be thinking about how much you need per month to live in Thailand. Some people say it’s possible to live on less than US$1,000, while others wouldn’t dream of it.

Decide Where to Live

Before moving to Thailand, it’s a good idea to think about where you want to live. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I want to be next to the beach every day?
  • Do I want to live on rolling farmlands?
  • A big city?
  • In the mountains?

That said, here are some of the more popular expat locations and what you could expect from each of them.


Bangkok is the city most people first visit when they arrive in Thailand.

Bangkok at night
You can find everything in Bangkok, from the best paying jobs to malls to international cuisine.

Here, you can find the best paying jobs, a variety of restaurants, malls, leisure activities, and people from all over the world. Bangkok is also the major transportation hub of Thailand – you can travel to anywhere via bus, train, or plane.

There are a few downsides to being in the capital, though.

The traffic is bad, some areas could get noisy, and things tend to be a lot more expensive here than elsewhere in the country.

However, if you want access to everything an expat needs, Bangkok is the place.

Chiang Mai

The home for digital nomads, long-term travelers, and retirees, Chiang Mai has long been a popular choice for expats in Thailand.

chiang mai night market.
Chiang Mai combines city life and with the adventure outdoors.

Chiang Mai offers beautiful mountainous scenery and plenty of outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, camping, and more. But because it does have a city center, you’re never too far away from the province’s diverse array of food and people.

The downside to living in Chiang Mai comes between February and April, where the burning season makes the air you breathe hazardous.

But expats have figured out a workaround to this issue – they usually head to the south of Thailand or Bangkok until the pollution subsides and they can return home.


The nightlife and existing expat scene in Pattaya make it a popular destination for people looking to call Thailand their home.

pattaya during daytime.
Pattaya can be very peaceful during the daytime.

The city has a lower cost of living than Bangkok, the beaches are kept in good condition, and there is plenty of local and Western food to indulge in. Plus, pristine islands like Koh Kham are just an hour away.

Pattaya isn’t without its flaws, though. Some areas near the beach can get seedy and temptation lurks around every corner.

However, plenty of expats who raise families in Thailand live on the “dark side” of Pattaya – the section east of Sukhumvit Road – and they praise the city for all it has to offer.


Phuket is one of the most visited places in the world, but some expats love it so much that they plant their roots on the island.

Maya beach in Phuket
Many people call Phuket paradise on earth, but the cost of living is also among the highest in Thailand.

Like some of the other popular areas for expats throughout Thailand, Phuket has it all – beaches, outdoor activities, international schools, and employment opportunities, especially in hospitality.

But be prepared to pay more for certain things here. Officially, Phuket is ranked the second-most expensive place to live in Thailand next to Bangkok. However, people who live on the island will tell you that Phuket is just as expensive, if not more, than it’s centrally-located counterpart.

If you enjoy the island life, then Phuket may be the place for you.

Koh Samui

Like Phuket, Koh Samui is another popular island with expats in Thailand and, over the recent years, more and more people have been making it their home.

Koh Samui
While Koh Samui is known as a place to party, many expats call it home.

It may not have the same level of international schooling, private hospitals, and the like, but it makes up for that in quality of life. On Koh Samui, you’re never too far from a pristine beach.

Koh Samui also hasn’t yet been hit with the same price increases as Phuket, so condos, houses, and food tend to be a little bit cheaper here.

Also, the island has a variety of international restaurants where retired expat chefs tend to work to keep up with their craft.

One downside to living on Koh Samui is that, unlike in other parts of Thailand, expats don’t tend to stay very long. The island is still known primarily as a place to party, so people often come and go, making it hard to find long-term friends.

Hua Hin

Just two and half hours south of Bangkok is Hua Hin, a popular beach town destination for many retired expats in Thailand.

Hua hin city
Living in Hua Hin is similar to Pattaya, but quieter.

Hua Hin has everything you’d expect from a retirement destination, including affordable houses, private hospitals, and quality of life. For those who aren’t retired yet, the city has international schools, a hip local scene, and plenty of nightlife.

There aren’t many downsides to living in Hua Hin, but it’s small and quiet. Depending on your personality, you will either like this lifestyle or not. It’s also a bit far from Bangkok according to some, and hospital choices are a bit limited.

But if you don’t have to travel the capital very often, then this beach town could be the place for you.


The Northeast of Thailand, or Isan, is famous for farming and is a common place for retired expats to relocate to. Most retired expats living in this region have Thai spouses and/or kids.


If you’ve never lived in a rural area, Isan may take some getting used to, as everything you do requires a car and a great deal of patience because things move at their own pace.

But if you don’t mind being surrounded by vibrant green rice fields in the rice growing season, this could be one an option – just don’t expect to find too many jobs in this area.

Moving to Thailand

You don’t have to handle the following steps in the order they appear, but you should take care of each of them at one time or another when moving to Thailand.

Get Health Insurance

It’s a good idea to get health insurance, or at a minimum, travel insurance, when moving to Thailand. After all, you never know when medical emergencies will happen in the country, and when they do, it could drain your bank account.

But when you get health insurance, be sure to do so before you arrive here. This way, you’re covered from day one and can enjoy life in Thailand with peace of mind.

Also, insurance companies will be able to recommend a private hospital to you, taking a lot of the work of finding a suitable place out of your hands.

If a multinational company hires you to work in Thailand, you’ll most likely get a relocation package that includes health insurance.

On the other hand, if you’re going to find work in Thailand after arriving here or you’re going to retire in Thailand, you’ll need to get health insurance yourself.

For more advice, check out our guide to health insurance in Thailand. For a more detailed at look at what kind of coverage you need and what you can skip, check out our guide to all types of insurance in Thailand.

You may be thinking about getting travel insurance, but this is only suitable for short-term stays in the country.

Book Flights

These days, you can get international flights into several key cities in Thailand including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket.

Thai Airways is the national carrier, but these days every major airline flies into Thailand. Emirates is also good, as it seems to have the best connections at the most reasonable prices. They also fly A380s, which is an added bonus.

For flights within Thailand you have many choices. Thai Airways offer plenty of national routes but tends to be the most expensive.

Lion, Nok Air, Air Asia, and Thai Smile (Thai Airways’ low cost option) are the main budget choices, and they are all close in price. If you book early you can get one-way flights for as little as THB800 including taxes. Budget between THB2,500 to THB3,000 for a round-trip ticket if booking a few months ahead.

Thai lion air in Phuket
Many budget airlines offer flights throughout Thailand.

Bangkok Airways flies out of Koh Samui but has a limited selection of international flights. In general, flying from the island is more expensive compared to other departure locations. Because of this, people often fly to nearby Surat Thani Airport and take a ferry to Koh Samui.

Once you land in Thailand, you can take a look at these airport transfer options to see which one is suitable for you. Check out this guide for Bangkok airport transfers.

The easiest way to find the cheapest flight is to book through a comparison site such as CheapOAir. Once inside the country, you can get anywhere with a direct flight.

You can also find out how to get cheap flights to Bangkok.

Import Your Pet

It’s possible to bring your furry friend with you to Thailand, but make sure it will be able to handle the tropical climate.

French bulldog in Thailand
If you want to bring your furry friend to Thailand, make sure it can adapt the tropical climate.

There’s a trend of buying Siberian Huskies in Thailand, but since this breed loves cold weather, it might not be able to adapt to the tropical climate.

For more info, check out some of our popular pet guides:

Pack the Necessities

You can bring everything you need with you to Thailand – although, to be honest, this isn’t the most efficient way of going about this.

Since you can buy most things you use back home in Thailand, you don’t have to bring everything with you, but quality furniture and electronics are more expensive here, so it’s best to ship those things from home.

The items that are usually more expensive in Thailand are:

  • books
  • imported foods
  • electronics
  • car seats, high chairs, etc.
  • vitamins and supplements
  • brand-name clothes and shoes

If your company is relocating you to Thailand, you might not have to worry about shipping your things to the country, as they’ll do it for you.

But if you’re coming here on your own accord, you need to figure this part out yourself. Luckily, we have a shipping to Thailand guide that you can use to help pick an international mover and method.

If you’re ready to pack your bags and your bags include more than you can carry onto the plane, you can get free quotes from moving companies.

Check Important Documents

One thing you’ll learn about Thailand is that officials here love paperwork.

signature and lines
It’s customary to strikethrough copies you sign in Thailand.

We’ve come to dread how many copies of our driving licenses, passports, and school degrees are floating around various government offices.

Below we’ve put a list of important documents you must bring. If possible, bring original copies with you.

  • passport
  • driving license
  • birth certificate
  • list of contact numbers
  • home ownership deeds
  • proof of income or pay slips
  • medical certificates or reports
  • marriage or divorce certificate
  • degrees and transcripts
  • taxes, social security cards, national insurance numbers

There’s also the chance you’ll need these documents either translated into Thai or verified by your embassy.

The Thai government doesn’t accept civil partnerships or gay marriage certificates. This may change in the future, so keep updated on this via media or your embassy.

You should sign, date, and double-line strikethrough any photocopied documents. Write a sentence stating what this signed copy is for as well. This way if there are any dishonest people who get hold of these copies, they won’t be able to use them.

Settling In

Once you’ve moved to Thailand, it’ll be time to start settling in. You’ll have to find a place to live, find a job, and much more.

We’ll cover that in the sections that follow.

Rent a House, Condo, or Apartment

Don’t rent a place long-term before arriving in Thailand unless it’s a part of a job offer. Even then you should ask if it’s possible to arrange a viewing when first arriving.

Instead, you should plan to spend at least the first few days or even weeks in a hotel or short-term rental. Book at least a few nights in a Bangkok hotel to figure out where you want to live.

Real Estate Agents

To speed up the process of finding a rental, talk to a real estate agent. It’s basically free for you.

Agents will give you a list of properties based on your wants and needs and be able to show you places in your ideal neighborhood. They will also know the inside scoop on that neighborhood, so they’ll be able to tell you where to eat, shop, and hang out.

Using a real estate agent will save you both time and money, so find a reputable one online by searching related Thailand Facebook groups. Most likely, many expats have used agents before and can vet the good ones for you.

Short-Term Rentals

Before you commit to a long-term rental, find a short-term one first.

You can rent some condos by the month, although many of the better ones will require you to sign at least a six-month lease.

Another short-term option is renting a Bangkok serviced apartment. You most likely won’t have to sign a lease at these places, but you will have to leave a deposit.

If you’re on a budget, look at But you won’t get a room with enough space for all your belongings if you’re moving here. However, we’ve met a few people who arrived in Thailand and stayed in a hostel while looking for a job, and they all said that the lack of privacy and facilities made things hard.

Long-Term Rentals

Once you find out where you want to live, you can then get a long-term rental. Long-term rentals can come in the form of a condo, apartment, house, or townhouse.

Renting a condominium is the most popular options for expats in Thailand, especially for those who live in Bangkok. This is because condos tend to be in convenient locations near either a BTS or MRT station and also supermarkets.

Many condos even have a convenience store and a laundry shop right inside the building.

But condos can be small. Studio condos in Thailand are only around 25 square meters to 30 square meters. If you need more space, it’s better to rent a house, which is as just as simple.

With a house, you’ll have more rooms for yourself and family members. Plus you’ll have a yard to hang out in. You do have to keep up with the leaves and yard, but labor is affordable in Thailand and you can always find someone to do that for you.

No matter which choice you make, you can sometimes cut your rent in Thailand by 40 percent through negotiating. We show you how in this exclusive guide for our supporters.

Related articles:

Buy Property

For those looking for something more long-term, we also have a guide for buying a condo in Thailand.

If you’re planning to buy property in the country, check out Keller Henson. They have a great selection of properties all over Thailand. You can filter your searches based on location, price, and even return on investment.

buy property in Phuket
If you want to buy property in Thailand for investment, it’s a good idea to contact an investment company.

However, be aware that you can’t own land in Thailand. So, you’ll have to lease it for 30 or 60 years.

Your best bet is to talk a property investment company like the one above and explain to them your situation.

Find a Job

Should you get a job before arriving in Thailand? Or should you get a job after you’ve arrived here? This is what you, as a future Thailand expat, have to think about.

We’ve found that most job opportunities in Thailand happen after living in the country for a few years. The type of work we’ve taken up isn’t offered to candidates applying from outside Thailand.

We’ve done things like teach English, videography and photography, sports commentary, and much more. We also know people who work as social media managers and who are given work visas for this type of roll.

There are also countless corporate careers to be had, such as acquisitions, customer relations, and so on. Bangkok is truly building an international workforce year after year.

On another note, schools look for teachers among the field of expats living in Thailand.

Working online in Thailand is illegal and, although there has been talk of finding ways around it, there’s always the chance of a crackdown by immigration on this matter.

In the future there may be ways to work online in Thailand under the new Smart Visa plan.

You can read our finding work in Thailand guide for more info. It uncovers the useful ways you can find a job and the opportunities available here.

We include a list of industry-specific job websites for teaching, IT, finance, NGOs, and other industries in this exclusive guide for our supporters.

Open a Bank Account

Open a bank account in Thailand to help manage your finances. You can start by going to the nearest bank branch and asking about the requirements.

Many banks won’t let you open an account on a tourist visa, but if you ask around enough, you may find one willing to give you an account.

One of our writers even opened an account on his marriage visa. It took some asking around, but eventually he came across a KrungThai branch that was willing to give him an account.

If you have a work visa, you’ll have no issues opening an account.

To open an account, bring you work documents, visa, and passport, and the bank will walk you through the process. You’ll get a ATM card that day that you can use to shop online and off.

Read more: Opening a Thai Bank Account: A Guide for Expats and Tourists

Pay Taxes

When you move to Thailand, taxes will be a part of your reality, just like anywhere else in the world.

Value-added tax, or VAT, in Thailand is calculated at 7 percent across the board. This goes for foods, goods, and some services.

Some expats also have to consider whether they are tax residents or now. If you don’t work in Thailand, but you live here for 180 days out of the year, you are considered a tax resident.

The government expects you to pay taxes every year on any money you make in the country. If you make any money outside of Thailand and transfer it into the country, you have to pay tax on that too. On the contrary, if you keep the money in an overseas account for the fiscal year, you don’t have to pay taxes on it.

If you work in Thailand, you have to worry about another kind of tax – income tax. You are taxed according to how much you make on anything after THB150,000 per year.

From there, the tax rate increases from 5 percent all the way to 35 percent, depending on how much you bring home every year.

Personal Taxable Income in Thai BahtTax Rate
150,000-300,0005 percent
300,000 – 500,00010 percent
500,000 – 750,00015 percent
750,000 – 1,000,00020 percent
1,000,000 – 2,000,00025 percent
2,000,000 – 4,000,00030 percent
Over 4,000,00035 percent

In addition to these taxes, you also have to pay into Thai social security, which comes out to THB750 per month.

Like other countries, you can take advantage of tax deductions in Thailand. Popular choices include buying SSF, paying for life insurance, and purchasing a condo. Expat and Thai workers get the same deductions.

Since taxes vary between each person, get in touch with a tax expert who knows how to help expats.

For more info on Thai taxes, check out these guides:

Enroll Your Kids in School

One of the most challenging things to do when you move to a new country is to find the right school for your son or daughter.

You have a lot of things to consider, including whether to send your child to one of the international schools in Thailand or a local school.

An international school that follows the same curriculum as the one used in your home country or your child’s previous school makes it easier for your kids to adapt to the new school and make it easier if or when you move back to your home country.

A local school, on the other hand, offers your child the opportunity to immerse themselves in Thai culture and get a deeper understanding of the language.

Local schools are cheaper than international schools. But price alone is not a good indicator of whether a school is the right fit for your son or daughter, or the quality of education offered at the school.

Read more: How to Pick the Best International Schools in Thailand for Expats

Deal with Immigration

Life is easy in Thailand when visiting on a tourist visa. You simply get stamped in and out by immigration at the airport or border. On the other hand, when you’re here on a different type of visa things get more confusing and time consuming.

Our visa article covers 90-day reporting, so we won’t go over it in detail here. In short, you have to visit immigration every 90 days to let them know you still live in Thailand and are residing at the same address.

To do this, you can go to the immigration center in the province in which you live, send the forms through mail, or complete the 90-day check-in online.

government complex changwattana
If you live in Bangkok, you may need to go to the immigration office inside Government Complex to file your 90-day reports for your visa.

Different immigration centers have different standards and policies. For example, if you report to Nonthaburi, they insist that you fill in form TM30 as well (house registration and landlord declaration of foreign guest).

But immigration in Bangkok at Chaengwattana doesn’t request this. It makes things confusing, but you have to go with the flow and get through it the best you can.

Immigration offices send a shiver of fear through expats as there are long queues, impatient people, and paperwork that must be 100 percent right. To get around this, you can use an agent to handle all the paperwork for you. If you work for a mid- to large-sized company, they should offer this service to you free of charge.

If you’re not working, then you can pay for a visa service. This can save you time if you don’t want to do it yourself.

You also have to be mindful of keeping your non-immigrant visa active, if you have one. This means getting entry stamps when leaving the country, staying within the limitations of your visa (for instance, not working on non-business related visas), and re-applying for the visa on time, every year.

Any red flags could get you banned from Thailand for 10 years, as it’s happened to a few people we know.

Stay Safe and Healthy

As mentioned earlier, Thailand is fairly safe. But some aspects of the country are not, so you have to say safe and healthy.

Thailand doesn’t have the best road safety record, and after a few days of being here you’ll see why. Over the Thai New Year alone, usually hundreds of people die in road accidents, but mostly in rural areas of the country. However, be careful when driving and make sure to wear a seat belt or helmet, even if others don’t.

With all the food and excitement Thailand has to offer, it’s challenging to live a healthy lifestyle. So you should get a health checkup every year. It’s better to have the peace of mind knowing you’re not sick, or that you’ve caught a potential problem early on, than it is to be sick in a foreign country with little support.

Basic Thai social security covers treatment in government hospitals but often has long waiting lists. This treatment will not be free and you’ll still be liable for some expenses.

Many lower paying jobs offer accident insurance. This will cover you for THB2,000 per day in a hospital, THB2,000 per year for dental, and around THB5,000 for other procedures.

Using this in a private hospital means you’ll still have a huge medical bill, and it won’t be enough if you have a serious accident or illness.

To give you an idea, a teacher we worked with got food poisoning and spent three days in a famous city-center hospital. Her bill was THB90,000. Her work insurance covered THB9,000, leaving her to pay the rest.

You can also check out our Thailand health insurance guide to find out the most suitable plan for your situation.

Mental health is a serious concern for expats here as well. Being so far away from family and friends does affect you at times. Every expat has those days when they miss home or wish they could see someone they miss.

Also, gyms are abundant in Bangkok. From facilities in your condo or housing estate to international gym chains, there are options to suit everyone. Take a look at our Bangkok fitness guide to see what’s available to you.

Set Up Utilities

The first thing expats want to do when arriving in Thailand is set up their phone and internet.

There are three main phone companies in Thailand:

They are all the same and offer a variety of plans based on whether internet or phone calls are more important to you.

Thais mostly rely on messaging apps such as Line or Facebook Messenger. For around THB300 per month you can get a package with a decent amount of internet data and a hundred or so minutes of call time.

Home internet is more dependent on where you live and the services offered in the region. Most internet companies try to sell you an internet and TV package.

This works out to around THB800 per month and includes a few English channels. For this amount, you should expect at least 200 MB of internet speed, a simple TV package, and 5G phone service6.

If TV is your thing then prepare to pay what you would back home to get movies and live premium TV (sports, Western channels, etc).

If English Premier League football is a must for you then TRUE has exclusive rights, so you must go through them. If football isn’t your thing, then AIS has some useful packages and sole rights to HBO. Premium TV and internet bundles cost up to THB3,000 per month, so it isn’t the cheapest at-home entertainment option.

You can also get Netflix Thailand. It starts at THB99 for a mobile plan and gets as high as THB419 for the premium plan.

Living in Thailand

Having been here for many years now, we understand a fair amount about Thai culture but not everything. There are still things that surprise us.

After your first few years, you’ll pick things up and over time become more understanding of how and why things happen like they do in Thailand. We can’t cover everything related to Thai culture in this section, but we’ve put a few basic points below.

Thai Office Culture

Your first few weeks in Thailand might seem like a vacation, but after a while you have to settle into working life, and this process could be challenging.

In the first few weeks there will be surprises and things you need to adapt to. You might have a bit of culture shock and, to be honest, it won’t be until after around three months that you began to feel comfortable in your new environment.

You won’t know where to go to do simple things, and you might lack knowledge of how to do important tasks. If you’ve been to Thailand a couple of times before for vacation, but you’re now here for the long-term, you could feel a little lost at the start.

Your first job may shock you. Employees may seem happy with you and help you when needed. But after a month of working here, you may realize it isn’t always easy to tell when someone is lying or hiding things.

There are little signs you won’t pick up, but soon will understand. Thais don’t usually say “no” to your requests, but they have no intention of following through or might deny me via email or Line rather than face to face.

This could be frustrating, so you might only want to work for international companies in Thailand.

This part of Thai culture, not always saying what you mean, still catches expats from time-to-time, and you have to be aware that the famous Thai smile is sometimes there to hide another emotion.

Hierarchy in Thailand

Thais really respect their elders. This means the pecking order may be different from your own country. Young people will greet their elders with a wai, the traditional Thai greeting, which elders may or may not return.

Some elders make decisions for and give advice to the younger people in the family. It also seems to me some Thai people do things to please the older members of their families, such as when choosing degrees or picking a career.

Yes, No, and Never Mind

One aspect of Thai culture that is hard to understand is that people don’t like to say “no.” Even the Thai word mai-chai, meaning “no,” translates “not yes.”

This creates confusion as people will say “yes” when they have no intention of doing what they have agreed to. Often, there are certain visual or situational clues they give that you have to pay attention to.

They hope you’ll pick up to understand they meant “no.” We’ve had workmen not turn up, services not provided, and drama caused over this. It used to leave us frustrated, but we’ve begun to pick up on these little clues to know when “yes” means “no.”

One of the first Thai phrases you’ll learn is mai bpen rai, or never mind. We find that there is a “never mind” attitude from lots of people here in Thailand, both locals and expats. This frustrates some expats, as it seems people don’t care. But that’s not always the case.

Familial Living Arrangements

It’s common for Thai people to live with their family until married, but this is changing with the younger generation. Asking a partner to move in before marriage might prove hard, especially among traditional families.

marriage in Thailand
It’s common for Thai people to live with their family before and even after marriage.

We’ve even met couples who live in different provinces due to work or supporting a child through university or school in a different region.

Thai Language

Some expats may never get the bug to learn Thai, but there are different ways you can learn the language here. There are also arguments about how necessary learning Thai is, but make no mistake about it – there are benefits to at least getting to a conversational level.

As an expat, you should make at least an effort to learn the basics and how to greet people, say “please” and “thank you.” The good thing is there are plenty of ways to learn, as you can see below.


Some expats learn their first Thai phrases at restaurants. Thais will usually approach and talk to you while eating. So, you’ll get to learn numbers and prices, food, greetings, and how to say a few important words such as delicious and spicy.

Some people may teach you Thai, yet others might teach you the Isan, or Northeast Thailand, dialect. So, you’ll get to learn a variety of words.

This method of learning is the best, as you get to see and talk about things in real life rather than in a Thai learning book.

Dating in Thailand will also give you the chance to learn the language. Thais find it cute when they an expat speaks Thai. You can learn the words for cute, beautiful, and fun through dating, and traveling with a date can lead to learning new words.

You can also pick up a couple of language books while here. 100 Thai Words That Make You Sound Thai by Stephen Saad is a good start. You can pick it up at Asia Books, and it includes useful phrases and words. It’s also a bit of a reference book and shows how to use the words in context. It’s not suitable for beginners, though.

Work is the other place where people can learn Thai, especially if you work for a local Thai company.


You can also start learning Thai online using Thaipod101. It teaches you to quickly communicate in basic Thai.

Some expats find a language exchange partner to meet up on Skype a couple of times a week. Or you can look for language partners on Craigslist Bangkok. The major downside to this is you spend half the time teaching them your language. This limits the amount of Thai you can learn.

Finally, you can watch Thai YouTube channels or Thai Netflix shows.

Air Pollution and PM2.5

Thailand’s air quality has been in headlines over the recent years. From about December to April of each year, PM2.5 levels reach hazardous numbers at times, raising a lot of concern about long-term health effects.

Air pollution has become an issue in Thailand in recent years during December to April.

Unfortunately, because farmers in Thailand and the surrounding countries practice slash-and-burn methods of removing old crops, air pollution is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

However, according to independent reports, the overall air quality (at least in Bangkok) is getting better each year.

There are ways to minimize your exposure to PM2.5. In fact, we’ve created a guide to Thailand’s air pollution to show you how.

Social Life

This part is interesting and is something some expats struggle with, at times. Some people aren’t committed to living in the country long-term. This makes long-lasting friendships harder to find.

We’ve managed to make some good friends here, though they have all come through work or neighborhood.

Thai friends are even harder to make. Expats may only be able to make one good Thai friend, but you should value that friendship.

In tourist areas it’s true there are other Westerners, but it isn’t always obvious who is here on vacation and who is here long-term.

There are also social clubs from golf to football teams where you can meet people. Be careful not to run afoul of the law like a group of elderly bridge players in Pattaya did in 2016. Your best bet to find these is to search on either Google or Facebook for the club that interests you.

It’s also possible to make friends with people randomly. Living in a condo can help you meet other expats.

In local restaurants, you can meet people. In general, you don’t have to go looking for friends, but find yourself lucky enough to make a few goods ones while here.

The final way to make friends is through your girlfriend or boyfriend. If you have a Thai partner, thy may be able to introduce you to some Thai friends.

Night Life in Thailand

When people think of nightlife in Thailand, they often envision the party scenes dotted throughout the country. However, that makes up just one small portion of Thailand’s nightlife.

There’s also quiet walks in the park, jazz music along the river, musicals, movie theaters, concerts, festivals, outdoor restaurants on the beach, in addition to the partying.

Whatever you enjoy doing at night, Thailand will have it on tap. You just have to spend enough time here to get to know your options.

How to Live in Thailand Permanently

Despite what people say, you can become a permanent resident in Thailand.

In a nut shell, you must fall into one of the five categories to apply:

  • investment
  • employment
  • humanitarian
  • expert
  • extra circumstances

Each one of these categories come with their own separate requirements that applicants must meet, so be sure to check the link below to find out more.

In general, you need to live in Thailand for at least three years under the same non-immigrant type visa, whether that’s a business visa, marriage visa, or dependent visa.

You also need to meet the requirements for each category above. With investment, for example, you have to invest at least THB10 million into one of the given options. With the humanitarian option, you have to be married to a Thai citizen for at least two years or be the mother or father of a Thai child.

As a permanent resident, you no longer have to do 90-day reports, you won’t need residence certificates, and you can apply for Thai citizenship after five years – just to name a few of the perks.

Read more: Thailand Permanent Residence: Cost, Requirements, and Procedure

Moving to Thailand from America

For the most part, you can follow this guide to a T and smoothly transition from the United States to Thailand.

In short though, we can list a few of the pros and cons of moving from America to Thailand.

Being an American in Thailand is not that difficult. For one, the US Dollar goes far in Thailand. So, if you come here with a decent savings, you can afford a comfortable lifestyle.

Also, more opportunities in the workforce (especially teaching) open up to Americans who are also native English speakers. Thai parents often want their children to sound American rather than English or Australian or Filipino, so they request American teachers.

There are some drawbacks to being an American, though. One of them is that people tend to stereotype you. They think you live on either end of the spectrum – either you have money out the wazoo or you’re here for less than skillful things.

If you’re into watching videos, Kylie Abroad has a YouTube video about what she wish she knew before moving to Thailand as an American. It reveals a lot of insights from a female’s perspective.

Related articles:

Moving to Thailand from the UK

One of our friends, Carl, let us know what his biggest challenges in the country are as a British expat, and what he likes best about living in Thailand.

As for challenges, he said he doesn’t like when the admin from his daughters’ school uses their photos to advertise to Thai parents that luk krueng – or mixed-race children – go to the school. They did this, he said, without his permission.

But he loves that his life is simpler here in Southern Thailand. He doesn’t have to work as much as he would’ve in the U.K. to afford a comfortable lifestyle while still having time to spend with his family.

Read more: Moving to Thailand from the UK: How and Why I Did It

Moving to Thailand from Australia

Dan, a friend of one of our editors, is from Australia and gave his input on living in Thailand. One of his main choices for moving here was the lower cost of living. He said it’s becoming harder and harder to raise a family in Melbourne due to the increasing food and property prices.

He is also able to send his children to a private school in Bangkok, which he would never be able to do in Australia.

Since he owns a company in Thailand, he does face many challenges. His biggest is that everyone in the chain of business has to get paid for any deals or selling of products and services. This increases his costs, which he then has to pass on to his customers.

We don’t yet have a guide on moving to Thailand from Australia, but our guide on Ditching the Desk at 53 and Retiring in Thailand was written by two Australians. There are a lot of key takeaways in the article for those coming from Australia, so be sure to give it a read.

Moving to Thailand from Canada

We have an entire section of our site dedicated to Canada, but like Australia, we haven’t yet published a detailed guide on moving to Thailand from the Great White North.

However, Greg Jorgensen – one-half of The Bangkok Podcast – hails from Canada and often talks about the experience of moving to Thailand on the show.

An avid reader of ExpatDen, Vinny – from Montreal, said that his biggest challenges weren’t so much in Thailand, but in returning to Canada. After being in Thailand for 15 years, he’s lost touch with the things that people talk about back home. So, when he visits Canada every year, he feels extremely out of place.

Within Thailand, Vinny said he still faces a lot of the challenges that some other expats have. First, he’s tattooed from head-to-toe, so he’s often judged for his appearance. Second, the Canadian Dollar doesn’t go as far as the U.S. Dollar. Because he owns rental property in Canada, his income fluctuates with the exchange rates.

As for the pros of living in Thailand as a Canadian, that was easy for Vinny to answer. He has escaped the bitter-cold winters of the north for the year-round warm climate of Thailand.

Moving to Thailand Checklist

To summarize everything you must do to move to Thailand, here’s a checklist.

Emergency Numbers

It’s always good to be prepared for emergencies. Should you ever need it, here’s a list of emergency phone numbers in Thailand.

Tourist Police1155
Highway Police1193
Public Ambulance1669
Private Ambulance1724 or 1719
Fire Department199

Now, on to You

Hopefully the above has covered any major concerns you might have in regards to moving to Thailand.

If there’s anything else, or you have further questions, feel free to leave a comment below and either myself or one of ExpatDen’s team members will get back to you.

Richard moved to Thailand in 2013 to enjoy the tropical climate, golf in the sun and working in a new culture. During this time he has started a website, put down roots and experienced a lot of what Thailand has to offer. When not working Richard is normally playing sport, scuba diving or planning a new vacation.

5 thoughts on “Moving To Thailand: A Guide for Expats to Live Here”

  1. Hi Richard,
    Thank you for your advice. I am a European, born in the UK. Living in France for the last 9 years. Now looking to retire to Thailand, to escape the cold that becomes worse as i get older.
    You have covered most of the things that would concern me. So once again i say thank you.

  2. Thank you Richard, I’ll be moving to Thailand early next year, so tips were very welcome, hope to meet you there and go for a cofee.

  3. Thank you so much for this helpful information. I have only just begun my research, but this was all very informative; it’s great that you took the time and effort to help out fellow wannabe expats!

  4. Hello Richard

    Thank you for your article- I have looked at similar information and find what you have written very helpful and encouraging. I’m a 46 year old male looking to move to Thailand next year. I have a good friend who has lived in Bangkok and I visited last year.

    Many years ago i worked at an international school in South Korea and would like to teach in Thailand. hope to find work in Bangkok initially. Would you recommend I study TEFL in Bangkok or attempt to find work armed only with my CV and degree certificate?

    Many thanks



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