Living In Thailand

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The Good and Bad of Living in Thailand

Reviewed by Kathleen Peddicord

Kathleen is the Live and Invest Overseas Founding Publisher. She has more than 30 years of hands-on experience traveling, living, and buying property around the world.

Thailand is one of the most popular expat destinations in the world. As well as from the United States, Canada, and Britain, expats flock here from Asia and Australia.

The popularity of Thailand shows no signs of waning, and with so many different lifestyle options on offer, this isn’t a surprise. Thailand has something for everyone.

From the Buddhist retreats to refereeing dwarf boxing, everybody who moves to Thailand has their own unique reason for doing so. A few common themes have emerged over time, however… One is that it’s cheap.

If you’re retired, your pension or social security check will go considerably further here than at home. Everything from food and drink to accommodation and even petrol is affordable. In essence, your standard of living in Thailand is going to be higher than you could afford at home.

Keeping with the subject of food, your options in Thailand are excellent. Not only is the cuisine superb but it’s cheap enough to be able to eat out for every meal. If you move to Thailand you could quite easily never cook again.

The food is fresh and low in preservatives, meaning eating out in Thailand is far healthier than eating out in the States. You could lose weight by default.

If you are looking for work, Thailand accommodates those looking to teach English as a foreign language. You can come here and take a four-week Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) course, although some people complain that concentrating can be difficult with such appealing views out the windows.

Complete the course, and you will be issued a certificate enabling you to teach English throughout Thailand. The wages are high compared to the cost of living here, and English teachers can find plenty of jobs. Teaching in Thailand can either be a full-time job or a useful way of earning extra income while you’re here.

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The weather in Thailand is tropical and, in most parts, hot. The occasional stormy downpours you associate with all tropical countries are part of life here. At times the humidity can be overbearing but generally, the climate is excellent. Most days are sunny, and you could spend every day at the beach if you wanted to. In some places, you’ll never need to wear a sweater or jacket again.

Public transport is outstanding in Thailand’s big cities. Bangkok is modern with a reliable metro and bus service. Getting around the country is also straightforward with a number of intercity buses.

Within the cities themselves, taxis, motorcycle taxis, and tuk-tuks (rickshaws) provide a cheap and easy way of getting from A to B, although the ride can be nerve-racking at times. Acquiring your own bike or scooter is a sound investment if you’re planning on staying for a while.

Thailand is home to a booming population of digital nomads. These are people able to work with only a laptop and internet connection. Not constrained by the need for an office, they come to Thailand for the weather, low costs, and lifestyle.

If you want to move to Thailand or spend a significant amount of time here, you will need a visa. Most visas in Thailand are for 90 days and need to be renewed once the 90 days have passed. This is done by leaving the country and getting a new 90-day stamp on your return. You can cross over the border and return the same day.

You don’t need to spend a set amount of time outside of Thailand. Using this method, it’s possible to stay in Thailand indefinitely. Such is its popularity, an entire industry is devoted to this method. Buses and coaches will drive you and others on a “visa run” to the nearest border point, allowing you to extend your stay in Thailand.

Best Places To Live in Thailand

Ao Nang

If you’re looking for jungle landscape that opens out onto white-sand beaches, Ao Nang is the place for you. If you also require clear-blue seas bordered by limescale rocks with a backdrop of jagged mountains, then start to seriously consider living in Ao Nang.

Situated close to Krabi International Airport, Ao Nang in Southeast Asia is popular with expats and tourists alike. Despite this popularity, it’s managed to preserve parts that still feel undiscovered. Perhaps this is because a lot of tourists tend to pass through on their way to one of the surrounding islands, which can be reached from Ao Nang. As well as keeping Ao Nang quiet, the islands also provide a quick getaway from time to time for residents.

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If you’re a digital nomad, you’ll appreciate the Wi-Fi and the availability of western comforts. Many have been drawn here by the reliable internet and promise of working by the beach.

The nightlife in Ao Nang is laidback. The main strip has plenty of excellent bars and restaurants, but if you’re looking for all-night parties and nightclubs you’re better off heading to Bangkok.

Ao Nang is a well-presented town, and unlike some areas of Thailand that can appear a little rundown, Ao Nang has clean, tidy streets. Unfortunately, the orderliness does not extend to the roads, which are as chaotic as everywhere else in Thailand.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui is a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand. It receives a lot of tourists and has a large selection of western-style shops. In Chaweng, the region’s big city, prices are high, but they fall back in line with the rest of Thailand as you move into the surrounding countryside.

If you’re looking to spend your time in Thailand close to the beach then Koh Samui is the best destination for you. The beaches are spectacular, clean, and often quiet. Away from the town and throngs of tourists you can find peaceful beaches.

Koh Samui has a selection of well-run schools and excellent health care facilities… Koh Samui offers some of the best facilities outside of Bangkok, in fact. As a result, Koh Samui is a popular place for those with families and young children.

Koh Samui has little crime, and the police are familiar with tourists; most speak English. Many speculate the reason the crime rate in Thailand is low is the belief in karma, and it’s certainly an interesting theory.

Being a tourist area, you’ll find western supermarkets, fast food places, and department stores. Lots of the bars and restaurants have been made with expats in mind.


The best news about Bangkok is that it’s cheap. The general rule is that living in a big city costs a premium, but Bangkok remains affordable. You can get a modern, furnished apartment with security and maid services for a fraction of the price you’d pay in other major cities.

Bangkok has a reputation as a tourist town, and this comes with benefits as well as drawbacks. On the positive side, all the signs are in English and locals are used to dealing with English speakers. You can manage fine here without speaking a word of Thai. Bangkok has a heavy police presence making it a safe place to live.

Western products are also easy to source here. You can find most of your favorites from back home, no matter how obscure.

The negative side is that parts of the city can get a little crazy, especially at night. However, as in most large cities, the locals tend to stay away from the tourist hot spots; the crowds don’t need to be a problem. Make sure to check what the area is like at night before you commit to moving into an apartment there. It might seem quiet during the day, but in Bangkok, things are different at night.

If you’re looking to find employment in Thailand then Bangkok is your best bet. You can come here for a TEFL course; this entails a four-week intensive course after which you’ll be assigned a job. In addition, you’ll have your visa arranged for you, receive help finding accommodation and negotiating public transport, and so on.

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Hua Hin

The town of Hua Hin is a popular destination for retirees in Thailand. If you are looking to enjoy the quiet life in Thailand then this is the place for you. Lots of people move here after living elsewhere in Thailand when they start to yearn for a more relaxed pace of life.

One of the main attractions is the number of quality restaurants here. Not only Thai food but cuisine from all over the world is catered for and served at a high standard. The city of Hua Hin is on the coast where you can find lots of delicious fresh fish and seafood.

Hua Hin has modern hospitals including two private hospitals and several private clinics for other health care treatments. The town itself is safe with a low crime rate. Because it’s rural, you’ll need to purchase a car or motorbike to get around. Buying a vehicle is a straightforward process, and you should be able to pay for it and drive off within a couple of hours.

One benefit of living in Hua Hin is that it’s close to the border of Myanmar. This means you can cross the border to get the 90-day renewal stamp on your passport.

Hua Hin is one of the more expensive Thai towns. This is the area where the Thai royal family come to holiday, and it’s also favored by Thailand’s wealthy. The prices in the town for supermarket goods can be expensive, and lots of the locals drive to the nearby towns to do their shopping.

Chiang Mai

The ancient city of Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest places to live in Thailand and where many expats choose to settle. Digital nomads like this area for the prices and also fast, reliable internet available. During the day you will see plenty of these digital nomads in the coffee shops, tapping away at their laptops.

Unlike other areas of Thailand where English-speaking expats are in the majority, Chiang Mai is popular with Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese expats. Don’t worry though; you’ll still be able to get by speaking English.

Chiang Mai is cooler than many other parts of Thailand but does also receive the highest amount of rainfall.

Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s cultural treasures. In fact, over 100 Buddhist monasteries, also known as wats, can be found in the city. Numerous other temples and ruins dating back hundreds of years give the city a real sense of identity. Chiang Mai also has a moat, dug to protect the city against attack. Some of the gates and walls that were used as defense are still standing as well.

As well as having a variety of Thai markets, street food stalls, and shops, all of your favorite western goods can be procured in Chiang Mai. This includes department stores as well as fast food joints.

The housing market here is varied and has something to suit every need. Renting a property is refreshingly easy and comes without all the paperwork and references you’re used to filing. In most cases, handing over the deposit is enough to secure a property.

Phuket Province

Phuket has been voted as the best place in the world for expats to live and retire by esteemed publications like the Wall Street Journal. Also known as the “Pearl of the Andaman Sea,” it is Thailand’s biggest island.

Phuket is also something of a luxury destination and prices reflect this. Although not expensive by western standards, the costs here are higher than elsewhere in Thailand. With turquoise seas, beautiful beaches, jungles, and mountains, it’s difficult to argue Phuket doesn’t still offer value for money.

The price of houses is, again, more expensive than elsewhere, but you are guaranteed to be near to expat communities. It’s a good idea to look out for houses when you arrive in Thailand rather relying on internet research; many of the best deals are found by asking around and chatting with locals. These deals seldom make it online.

As a popular expat destination, Phuket has everything you need to make an easy transition overseas. Phuket also makes for a gentle first move into Thailand. Westerners find Phuket to be an easier place to adapt to. Once settled in Phuket you can consider moving further afield in Thailand.

Chiang Rai

If you are looking for a city retaining a quiet and peaceful feel, then consider Chiang Rai. The expat numbers are lower here than most other Thai towns. Karaoke bars and other tourist traps are likewise fewer here. This gives you a better feel of what authentic Thai life is like as well as making the streets more peaceful to navigate at night.

The temperatures here are also cooler than much of Thailand. You may even need a jacket during the winter months, which is unheard of elsewhere. An average temperature of 64 degrees Fahrenheit is as cold as it is likely to get.

Chiang Rai has an international airport, which means the visa runs can be completed in a hurry. It also provides you with easy access to the rest of Thailand and neighboring countries.

The health care in Chiang Rai is modern and more than suitable for day-to-day life. If for some reason you require specialist treatment, you may need to go Bangkok or Chiang Mai.

Chiang Rai is landlocked; if you are looking for somewhere with a beach then this isn’t for you. It does make a great base for exploring further afield though. Laos and Burma are both easy to reach from here, and the airport will take you to other nearby countries.

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Safety in Thailand

Safety is another perk of living in this country. There is a lower level of crime than you would expect in many other big cities.

24 hour stores and nightlife in Bangkok make the streets bright and safe at all hours, as long as you stick to the major transportation infrastructure and areas where there is a lot of traffic.

As with any other place, you should just use your common sense to determine what you need to do to stay safe. And especially, keep an eye on your valuables; while you aren’t likely to be subject to a violent crime in Thailand, pick-pocketing can be a common problem in tourist areas.


Throughout Bangkok and suburbs, there are major train and metro lines that transport a large mass of people each day. If you are trying to get out to other areas of the country, you could take small minivans to reach your destinations.

One challenge of Thai infrastructure is that you might need to make several minivan connections to reach destinations to the far North or South of the country.

But the benefit is that these trips are often very affordable. If you need to do a visa run to renew your visa, that often requires a cheap bus trip over the border to Burma or Laos.

If you are wondering, “how long can I live in Thailand?”, that will depend on your country of nationality and your job status, so check with your state department for more specific details. Many countries get a 90 day starter visa to Thailand, which can be extended if you apply for a work visa.

Social Life in Thailand

Living in Thailand is a social experience, where you will meet many different kinds of people. Depending on where you live, locals can be very friendly and curious about you and your culture.

As long as you are respectful and open-minded, you will have no trouble making new friends. There are also many other expats in Thailand in many towns, due to the popularity of Thailand as a place to settle in.

You might find yourself on outings to a local night market, or at a local restaurant with colleagues, or exploring the nightlife if you are in a bigger city.

Cultural Challenges

Of course, successfully living in Thailand will take a certain type of person. It can be difficult to navigate a new country if you don’t speak any of their language. The food may be different than what you’re used to, and it can be hard to order food when you can’t read menus. There’s more food cane spice than what you’d expect. Some houses may not have fully equipped kitchens. There are also social customs to get used to, such as the Wai and other polite social gestures. Some people would consider these as cons, but others delight in learning a new culture and becoming comfortable despite cultural barriers.

English In Thailand

English is widely spoken and understood throughout Thailand. This is truer of the cities and true to varying degrees in rural or remote areas. Still, almost any Thai person you’ll meet will have a working knowledge of English.

It’s advisable to bring a translator when tackling administration, though, when you you’re opening your bank account or getting a local driver’s license, for example. Almost all road signs are translated into English (more or less successfully).

There are many notable English-language local papers published in Thailand.

Chiangrai Times, Hua Hin Report, and Hua Hin Today

In Bangkok:

Phuket News, Phuket Gazette, Business Day, Daily Xpress

There are even French and German newspapers.

Cities are also home to bookstores that sell new and used English books. Any Hollywood movie played in theatres would be played in English with Thai subtitles

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