Moving to Thailand: A guide for expats

22.09.15
4 minute read
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Idyllic beaches, vibrant cities, a cheap cost of living and a way of life so relaxed that it is practically horizontal. It's no surprise that the Land of Smiles attracts thousands of Britons every year who want to live and work in this delightful and fascinating part of South-East Asia.

Quick Facts About Thailand

  • Population: 67.01 million
  • Number of British expats: There are no official figures, but approximately 55,000
  • Most popular city for expats: Bangkok and Chiang Mai
  • Currency: Thai Baht
  • Official language: Thai
  • Main industries: Agriculture, forestry & fishing; Tourism; Manufacturing

What Visas and Paperwork Do You Need?

In order to work in Thailand you will first need a B Visa, which you can get if you have a letter of approval from the Thai Ministry of Labour (your prospective employer will need to get this for you) and a letter from your employer. Once you have this visa you can enter Thailand and apply for your work visa. British people are entitled to stay in Thailand for 30 days without a visa. Many people use this route in order to try and get work on arrival, especially as the length of the visa can effectively be extended by a “visa run” which involves travelling into a bordering country such as Laos and then re-entering Thailand. However this route to a working visa is much more difficult and less likely to be successful. Working without a visa can lead to deportation.

The Cost of Living

Thailand offers excellent quality of life for a very reasonable amount of money, especially to Western eyes. It is possible to live for very little money indeed, or you can live perfectly respectably in a northern city such as Chiang-Mai on £450 a month, or in Bangkok for £650 - a few hundred more a month and you will feel like royalty. To drill down into the detail of what day to day living costs look like in Thailand, check out the data-crunching website Numbeo.

Setting Up Your Finances

Some international banks have a presence in Bangkok - including HSBC, so if you bank with them in the UK you should speak to them about their international accounts. The biggest Thai banks are Bangkok Bank, Siam Commercial Bank and Krung Thai Bank. Any of those will offer you an account, as long as you have a work permit and the usual address and personal ID. Once you have opened your Thai account, make sure you register with TransferWise in order to transfer money between your UK and Thai accounts. It is a safe, secure service that can save you on the fees your bank will charge you to move money internationally.

Finding And Getting Work

A few lucky British expats move to Thailand with lucrative employment packages set up by their company, but that is rare. The biggest work areas for English-speaking non-Thai people are in tourism and teaching. The jobs market is highly competitive and difficult to break into - but it is possible. There are strict rules for Thai companies wanting to employ a non-Thai person - there must be a certain proportion of Thai workers for each non-Thai, and the company is liable for the administration fees involved in the visa, so it is also an expensive process. This blogpost from a British expat gives a good overview of the system, with some excellent job-hunting resources.

Finding Somewhere To Live

Most expats will rent their accommodation, as buying property in the country as a non-Thai can be an arduous and often impossible process. Many properties for sale are only, by law, allowed to be sold to Thai citizens. The expat rental market is therefore buoyant with many and varied properties available, especially in the larger towns and cities. Rental properties are advertised in English-speaking newspapers and websites, or you can engage the services of a local rental agent.

Education And Schools

Due to the language barrier, most expats who move with their families choose to send their children to one of Thailand’s international schools. The International Schools Association of Thailand website has information on what is available and where.

Healthcare

Thailand has seen huge improvement to its health service over the past few decades, but spending on healthcare is still far lower than in Western Europe. Thailand has a universal healthcare service, meaning that treatment is free for Thai citizens. Expats will need to get medical insurance. A major stumbling block in accessing treatment is the lack of GPs - there are far more specialists in Thailand, which is great for the hospitals but less so if you just want to speak to someone about a general health concern. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s comment on Thai healthcare is that many of Bangkok’s hospitals are up to Western European, but outside of the capital the standards can drop.

Other Useful Resources For Expats In Thailand

Before moving abroad, take a look at our handy time-sensitive checklist to remind yourself of everything you need to do to get organised.

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