Moving to Thailand: A 10-step guide
Thailand is a beautiful and fascinating country with an excellent quality of life. As a place to live it attracts people through its value for money, quality beaches, vibrant culture and untouched jungle. The north of Thailand is traditional and mainly rural, offering jungle treks and ancient capitals to explore, while the centre is more vibrant and industrial, and the south is popular for its islands and famous beaches. But relocating is never easy so read on to discover your options in moving to Thailand.
Step 1: Research your country and visa options
Thailand has very strict policies on entry to the country and it can be quite confusing which one applies to you. This is a good page that explains them all: http://www.thaiembassy.com/. For more information regarding which Thai visa is right for you, use this (http://www.mfa.go.th/main/en/services/123) guide from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
We advise that you do your research on Thailand and where you will be living. If you can, take a trip there to experience it before you move and begin to register your residence in Thailand.
Ultimately, if you want to become a resident in Thailand, you MUST have been in the country for 3 consecutive years and have held a 1 year or 3 year multiple entry business visa. The application process has a lot of fees and you need to be aware of the restrictions in place. This website (http://www.thaivisa.com/residence-permit-thailand.html) gives details on the different requirements and qualifications in order to obtain a residence permit. A quick warning, making derogatory comments about the royal family in public can be punished (heavily) if heard, so find out about what’s acceptable when it comes to social life.
Step 2: Find Accommodation
Like anywhere, finding a place to live in Thailand, depends on where you are working, so while you might be looking to live in Bangkok as part of an international company, someone else may be going there to work as a diving instructor in Krabi. To help you decide, take a look at this site (http://www.thailand-property.com). It’s user friendly and easy to zoom into the part of the country where you want to find housing or real estate, as it is known in Thailand. You can search by region or by your own requirements so think about what is right for you before you begin. You will most likely be looking for condo or villa type accommodation.
It is also very common to find properties in the real estate sections of Thai newspapers, so try to get some as part of your research. Maybe the easiest one to start with is the Bangkok Post, as well as Siam Real Estate and Five Stars Real Estate.
Real estate websites in Thailand:
- Bangkok Post (http://www.bangkokpost.com/property/)
- Siam Real Estate (http://www.siamrealestate.com)
- Five Stars Real Estate (http://www.fivestars-thailand.com)
Step 3: Get moving
Thailand is famous for its Tuk-Tuks and you will find them EVERYWHERE. These little 3 wheel vehicles are the best way to get around as they are cheaper than taxis and perfect if you are taking short trips, or if you need to get into town quickly. The rates will vary between drivers but they are usually cheap. It is always worth bartering and you will soon learn that this is a big part of Thai culture.Beware of Tuk-Tuk petrol scams though! This article (http://www.lonelyplanet.com/asia/travel-tips-and-articles/77630) will help you avoid different scams during your stay in Thailand.
Travel between cities: When it comes to travelling between cities in Thailand, you have several options for a relaxing journey:
Flights: Naturally, the easiest way to travel between cities is by plane. When it comes to domestic flights, you can rely on Asia’s Boutique Airline, Bangkok Airways (http://www.bangkokair.com/eng) for comfort and ease, although at a price. If you are looking for a cheaper yet still comfortable option, then try Nokair (http://www.nokair.com/nokconnext/aspx/Index.aspx)
Trains: This is Thailand’s state railway site (http://www.railway.co.th/checktime/checktime.asp?language=Eng) but also try this site (http://www.thailandtrainticket.com/index.html) when it comes to booking your tickets or finding more information on train travel.
Bus: Travelling by bus is, as expected, the cheapest form of transport in Thailand, but it takes longer longer. Visit Pombai (http://www.pombai.com/en) if you plan on booking bus tickets to your destination.
Car: If you are moving to Thailand for a longer time period then consider getting yourself a car.That obviously means sorting out your license and learning the road signs but, here (http://www.thaivisa.com/thai-driving-license.html) is some helpful information on the procedures you need to go through to get a license.
Travel within cities: One great way to get around in Bangkok is to take the sky-train (http://www.bts.co.th/customer/en/main.aspx), which offers a better view of the city and welcome relief from a stuffy bus.
Another means of transport to consider is the long boats that operate in Bangkok. With these you can get out of the crowded city and take to the open water.
Step 4: National Insurance and what you need to work
Now that you have some basics about living and getting around, the requirements for working are next on the list.
To work in Thailand, all foreigners must have the correct documentation as laws are extremely strict. You will need a visa and a work permit to successfully work in Thailand.
Furthermore, there is a long list of jobs that are not available for foreigners and reserved for Thai workers only. Some of these jobs include construction work, making shoes and dress making. There is a full list in the Thai Embassy website: http://www.thaiembassy.com/thailand/working-thailand.php.
There are strict guidelines for work permit applications and you will need to pay some fees to get one. Below are some helpful links to walk you through this process step by step. It might seem daunting at first but knowing the procedures and working through them will make life a lot easier when you get there.
- Thai Work Permit Fees (http://www.thaiworkpermit.com/thai-work-permit-fees.html)
- All About Work Permits (http://www.thaiembassy.com/thailand/work-permit-rules.php)
- Different Work Visas (http://www.thaiembassy.com/thailand/working-thailand-2.php)
Unfortunately there are some boring but important legal aspects to working in Thailand and securing the correct visa. For anything you can’t find the answer to, the Thai Embassy (which hosts the pages above) has a live chat service, which is handy for information.
If you have a background in computing you can register for an ICT (Information and Communications Technology) knowledge certificate which the Thai Embassy is offering to foreigners to help boost ICT skills in the country. Again, there are certain pre -requisites and procedures to follow but having one could be very useful when looking for work. Check out this link for more information on how to apply for one. (http://www.thaiembassy.com/thailand/ict-certification-thailand.php).
Step 5: Look after your health
When it comes to your health in Thailand we recommend you sort it out before you move because there can be big fees to pay for foreigners, and there are also a lot of different illnesses around. You will need to take a series of inoculations against diseases like Hepatitis A and B, Japanese Encephalitis and Typhoid. Visit this site for more details: (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/thailand).
Once that is taken care of any small problems or ailments requiring treatment can largely be dealt with at a pharmacy. The pharmacists speak good English and although they sometimes try to sell you things a lot of things “you need”, you can trust them with good treatment. Due to the number of tourists and travellers around Thailand, the pharmacies have a good level knowledge and will have the most common medicines, treatments and creams available.
For more serious problems, the larger cities have multiple hospitals but there can be big medical fees to settle, so again we stress the need for adequate health insurance when living in Thailand.
You can take out health insurance in your home country or in Thailand and there are pros and cons for both options. The general consensus from many expats in Thailand on blogs and forums is that taking out a policy in Thailand will make it easier for the hospitals or healthcare provider to claim back any money. If you take out a policy in your home country then it could delay the process and mean extra hassle. Whichever you decide make sure you use a globally reputable company for your health insurance. BUPA operate in Thailand and they would be a good place to start looking. Overall, you need to know the terms of your policy as some insurers will not pay out for certain hospitals or restrict the amount they pay out.
Insurance companies in Thailand:
- LMG Pacific (http://www.lmgpacific.com)
- AIA Thailand (http://www.aia.co.th/en/)
- Bupa (http://www.bupa.co.th/en/individuals.aspx)
This (http://www.siam-info.com/english/comparison-hi1.html) is a great web page to compare of health care policies and mentions other companies in Thailand that provide reliable healthcare.
Here are some basic tips for finding health insurance in Thailand:
– Buy from a reputable company, and don’t look for cheap options as you will be left out of pocket at a later date;
– Check your policies through and make sure you know what is covered and what isn’t;
– Compare prices and policies to see what best suits your needs.
Step 6: Money and utilities
Currency: The currency in Thailand is the Baht (THB), which consists of 100 Satang. 100.00 THB is a little over USD 3.00, so when moving to Thailand, the exchange rate should be fairly strong in favour of your currency. Of course you will need somewhere to put all of your crisp, new Baht. This website (http://phuketdir.com/info/thailand-banks-currency/#currency_coins) explains the currency and lists all the banks in Thailand, which will be useful when opening your Thai bank account.
Bank Accounts: Opening a bank account will require identification and most banks will ask for your work permit as well. Bangkok Bank explains well how to open a bank account with them (http://www.bangkokbank.com/BANGKOKBANK/PERSONALBANKING/SPECIALSERVICES/FOREIGNCUSTOMERS/Pages/Openinganaccountnew.aspx).
Here are a few other banks to consider:
- Siam Commercial Bank (http://www.scb.co.th/en/home)
- Citibank (http://www.citibank.co.th/global_docs/citith_home_en.htm)
- HSBC (http://www.hsbc.co.th/1/2/bkh2/)
Again, there can be regulations and charges for transfers and withdrawals on your account, so ask about any extra fees when transferring money to Thailand. Once set up, a Thai bank account will allow you to withdraw without any charges to your bank account at home and it also means your new job can pay you. Quite helpful to have!
In case you were worrying, the big banks will offer their services in English and that is a good reason to choose one of the globally recognized banks. They should also online banking, which is a helpful extra.
Mobile Phones: Another essential to arrange in Thailand is your mobile phone as those calls back home are probably not going to be cheap. AIS and DTAC are the biggest phone companies in Thailand and they have English websites. It is wise to stick to the big names for most things when you are in Thailand as you will get a more reliable service and hopefully encounter fewer problems if anything goes wrong with your phone or contract.
- AIS (http://www.ais.co.th/main.html)
- DTAC (http://www.dtac.co.th/en/)
If you only need to buy a Thai SIM from these phone networks then you could look for a phone in the big city department stores which have several floors dedicated to electronics. Try to haggle for a phone, but if a brand new phone comes with the benefits of professional support through a network contract then it means extra peace of mind.
Household Bills: Wherever it is that you are living, it is essential to pay your bills to prevent disruption to your electricity, gas, water and internet. You may find these included in your rent which would certainly make life easier.
Electricity: One way to pay your electricity bill is to go to the local EGAT (Electricity
Generating Authority of Thailand), although you may have problems finding an employee there who speaks English. Another easy way to go about paying your electricity bill is to go to a 7-11 store. But make sure that it has a blue sign outside with a small, yellow half moon on it. This means they accept payments. Usually, there is a surcharge of 10 Baht per fee. You may also pay through your bank or an ATM machine (just hold on to your receipt as proof of payment).
Telephone: For a land line bill, you can again pay at a 7-11 store, department store, post office or bank but if you are past the due date, you must go to your nearest telephone company to pay. For a mobile phone you can either pay at any of the locations mentioned above or at a branch office of your telephone company.
Gas: In Thailand, instead of receiving gas through an indoor pipe system, you have to buy it in bottles and attach them yourself. Ask your landlord which gas company they use and set up deliveries with the company.
Internet: There are two main internet companies in Thailand: True and TOT. You first need a telephone line in place by either of them in order to receive the internet. You can pay your bills at one of their offices, which will be in any mall.
Step 7: Buy some supplies
Thailand has some excellent dishes that are available in restaurants (cheap) and street vendors (even cheaper), but when it comes to cooking something at home we suggest Tesco Lotus, which is the main supermarket brand for westerners and widely found over Thailand. Carrefour, the French supermarket is another visible brand for westerners.
These two are the best options for food shopping if you are not feeling adventurous enough to try the local products. Another brand you will see virtually everywhere is 7/11. While 7/11 is not a supermarket, it is certainly handy to top up on any home essentials, although it has a limited range of fresh cooking ingredients.
Thai cooking courses are a great way to try new cuisine and become familiar with local ingredients when you barter at the markets.
- Silom Thai Cooking School (http://www.bangkokthaicooking.com)
- Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School (http://www.thaicookeryschool.com)
- Samui Institute of Thai Culinary Arts (http://www.sitca.net)
Markets and small grocery stores are everywhere in Thailand and are a fun and very affordable way to develop your cooking skills.
Step 8: Entertainment
Nightlife: Thailand is well known for its wild and wonderful nightlife (think The Hangover Part II). There is partying in Thailand to suit anyone. If you are in Bangkok we recommend a visit to a rooftop bar. They have fantastic views of the city. Try Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel which started it all.
TV Channels: When it comes to nights in True Visions UBC is the biggest satellite TV provider and comes with a lot of English speaking channels. They offer different packages and costs, which will depend on the channels you choose. Check out Angloinfo (http://bangkok.angloinfo.com/information/housing/setting-up-home/television/) for more information on the television system.
Step 9: Learning the language
When moving to Thailand, you may wish to improve your English skills if English isn’t your first language, or you could try learning the Thai language. Learning Thai would certainly show the government you are serious about staying in Thailand when it comes to applying for visa extensions, and of course it is extremely useful in day to day life.
There are lots of different courses both online and on location at various language schools in Thailand for both English and Thai:
- Thai Language Hut (http://www.thailanguagehut.com/learn-english/english-language-courses/)
- British Council (http://www.britishcouncil.or.th/en)
- Thai Schools (http://www.learn4good.com/great_schools/thai_language_courses_thailand.htm)
Step 10: Find yourself a job
Thailand has limitations on jobs for non-Thai nationals, so use some of these job sites to help you start your search. One of the more popular jobs for foreigners is teaching English which can be applied to both children and adult learners.
- TEFL Thailand (http://www.teflthailand.com)
- Ajarn (http://www.ajarn.com)
If teaching really isn’t your thing then here are some job sites for Thailand:
- Monster (http://www.monster.co.th)
- Jobstreet (http://www.jobstreet.co.th/en/)
And for something a little different but potentially an amazing change in lifestyle, the south islands are a scuba diving hotspot for travellers and tourists. Koh Tao is one of the favourite diving spots for foreigners as it is regarded as an amazing diving location with some great marine life. If you like the of idea teaching scuba diving or already have some diving experience, then there are plenty of places to look for jobs when you get there. Meanwhile, try this: (http://www.instructor-kohtao.com).