Moving to Thailand can cause anxiety—I should know. Both of my own past transitions to life in Thailand were incredibly stressful, albeit more because of the events that precipitated them than anything about the Kingdom itself.
Below, I’ll delve into factual nooks and crannies such as where to live in Thailand and how much money you need to live there. I’ll then explain my own experiences there—not so much for the purpose of show-and-tell, but the hopes that my own insights my provide you clarity.
Whether you’re drawn more to the prospect of Thailand expat life, or want to fully immerse yourself amid locals—to become Thai, as much as that’s possible being a farang—I think you’ll navigate away from this page a lot more certain than you were when you first clicked it.
The Time(s) I Called Thailand Home
I never really thought much about moving to Thailand, at least not to the extent it caused me stress. Both of my stints in the Kingdom were necessary flights—in 2012, from a toxic relationship in Berlin; in 2017, from the nascent presidency of Donald Trump. In both cases, Thailand forced me to confront the demons I thought I’d run from; I departed Bangkok a better (or at least a stronger, and maybe smarter) person than I’d been before.
With this being said, living in Thailand was overwhelming. I departed both times swearing I would never come back, except to visit. While I have no immediate plans of moving back to see if the third time in, in fact, the charm, I never rule anything out in life. Especially not now, during the time of coronavirus—literally every possibility is on the table, at least when living one’s life with some semblance of choice is once again possible.
Things to Do Before You Move to Thailand
Get your immigration cards in order
Whether you get a job (and, thus, a Thailand residence permit) or plan to slip in and out every month on a visa exemption, you need to make a Thailand visa strategy before you arrive in Thailand. This is especially the case if you take the latter approach, which can require having a contingency plan in place in the event you’re stopped at the border after a so-called visa run.
Figure out your finances
Another essential piece of the moving to Thailand puzzle is money. If you’re a digital nomad you’ll probably have more than enough—Thailand is among the cheapest countries where such professionals set up shop. On the other hand, whether you plan to teach English or work in the corporate sector, I wouldn’t recommend signing a job contract for less than about 60,000 Baht (2,000 USD) per month.
Commit to learning the language
Studying Thai in Bangkok was a frustrating experience for me—the teacher of my group class was so chronically late the school offered me free private lessons, which presented their own annoyances—but I’m ultimately glad I did it. Unless you plan only to visit foreigner-focused establishments and cavort with people from Western countries, speaking at least some phaasaa Thai is essential for living an authentic life in Thailand.
(And understanding the Kingdom)
Moving to Thailand isn’t just about the nuts and bolts, like getting your financial and literal houses in order. You should make a point not only of exploring as much as of the Kingdom as you can, but seeking out friendships (and, if you’re single, romantic relationships) with local people. I’ve never understood people who move all the way to the other side of world only to remain in their own bubbles; this makes especially little sense in a place like Thailand.
Formulate an exit strategy
Irrespective of your ultimate goal—living an amazing expat life in Bangkok, or having the “local” experience in Chiang Mai or Krabi—one thing is for certain: Nothing lasts forever, not even your time in Thailand. You’ll eventually need to take a break (maybe a permanent one) from the Land of Smiles, whether because of burnout, or simply to broaden your horizons. Be mindful of when you feel like you’ve had enough.
Popular Places to Live in Thailand
Another important decision to make when it comes to living in Thailand is where, specifically, you will make your home. Here are the top options:
- Chiang Mai
- Koh Samui
- Koh Lanta
Need personalized help weighing your options moving to Thailand? Consider seeking out my expert insights in a more formal way!
Is Moving to Thailand Worth It?
Irrespective of the Thailand destinations that appeal most to you, or how you end up making a living and passing your time while in the Kingdom, Thailand has a way of getting under your skin. This isn’t always pleasant—it’s often extremely irritating—but then again, you don’t move to the other side of the planet to seek comfort and complacency. (Or at least you shouldn’t, in my humble opinion.)
Living in Southeast Asia in general, with the possible exception of Singapore, puts into practice a mantra that aroused bravery in me before the first time I expatriated myself—more than a decade ago, to Shanghai: Comfort is the enemy of progress. If moving forward—leveling up—in life is more important to you than feeling good or having it easy, I would definitely recommend moving to Thailand.
Other FAQ About Moving to Thailand
Can you just move to Thailand?
I can say from experience that yes, you can just move to Thailand. If you have a modest number of belongings, you can enter Thailand on a tourist visa and “set up shop,” so to speak. I don’t recommend this if you don’t have the resources to live in Thailand without needing to get a job there, however, or if you aren’t able to leave Thailand at least once every 30 days to avoid an illegal overstay.
How much money do you need to live comfortably in Thailand?
If you plan to live in Bangkok, I’d recommending having at least 2,000 USD per month available to you, and ideally $3,000-5,000 or more. While costs may be less in smaller cities and towns of Thailand, the more money you can have, the more comfortable your life in Thailand will be.
What are the downsides to living in Thailand?
Thailand is a wonderful place to travel and live, but it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Environmental factors like pollution can make living in Thailand challenging, as can social factors like poverty and prostitution. You should be clear-eyed about these downsides before you ever set down roots in Thailand.
The Bottom Line
Moving to Thailand isn’t easy, nor is living in the Kingdom. But if you make adequate preparations, and create space in your life for the shifts that are sure to take place within you, a year (or 10) in Thailand can chance your life. I should know—I’ve lived in Thailand twice, and a third time is something I think about often. My goal in creating this page was not only to speak to these more ethereal issues, but also to help you address practical matters, such as which Thailand destination might make the best home for you, and how you should go about funding your escapade. Want to chat more? Hire me as your trusted Thailand coach!