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From Bangkok’s neon lights to Buddhist temples set against awe-inspiring natural settings, Thailand is a land of diversity and opportunities. Whether wanting to enjoy their retirement, work in its booming medical tourism industry or supplement a long-term vacation with English teaching, expats are faced with a world of possibility in Thailand.
Living in Thailand as an expat
Best known as a beautiful, affordable and exotic tourist destination, expats moving to Thailand often get to enjoy paradise on a more permanent basis. A warm and welcoming Thai culture, striking landscapes and a chance to experience a truly different way of life make living in Thailand both interesting and comfortable for many expats.
Finding work that pays well can be a major challenge for expats who want to live in Thailand. The majority of job opportunities in the country can be found in Bangkok. Many new arrivals descend upon the already bustling Thai capital for this reason.
Rural life in Thailand often lacks modern amenities, while urban environments are in overdrive, inundating residents with noise pollution and a lack of space. This can make it difficult to find a balance. Expats often find that weekend getaways from Bangkok are key to handling its frenetic energy.
Although less popular than living in Bangkok, some expats scatter across the northern regions such as Chiang Mai to enjoy a quieter and more traditional Thai lifestyle. Chiang Mai in particular is well known as a hub of digital nomads.
The beach resorts of Krabi and Phuket are also popular choices, as tourism-related jobs and idyllic beaches lure retirees and expat workers alike. Another popular option for expats wanting to work in Thailand is teaching English. These sectors may not necessarily allow expats to enjoy the standard of living they may have been used to back home, but many of the expats who live in Thailand actively choose to live a simpler life.
Cost of living in Thailand
The cost of living in Thailand varies. On the whole, living expenses are low, but expats who indulge in all the luxuries they had back home will find that costs quickly add up. Imported goods, Western-style housing in exclusive areas, and international schools all come at a high price. Those who opt for a simpler lifestyle, as the locals do, will find that it's not necessary to earn a high salary to enjoy Thailand.
Expat families and children
Expats may be surprised at how family-friendly Thailand is, especially in the thriving city of Bangkok. Boredom will be a problem of the past in this city brimming with things to see and do. Bangkok has plenty of excellent international schools, as well as a number of the country's best and most prestigious public schools. Good-quality healthcare at a low price is easily found in the capital. Thailand is also situated in the perfect spot for regional travel, ideal for family holidays to exciting destinations such as Malaysia and Singapore.
Climate in Thailand
Thailand's tropical climate brings hot and humid conditions to the country for most of the year, with the exception being the cool, dry season from November to February. The hot season is from March to June, and temperatures can be stifling during this time of year, commonly reaching 93°F (34°C) or higher. Following June, the rainy season commences and downpours are regular throughout Thailand with especially wet conditions in the south, which receives about twice the amount of rain that the north does.
Though the weather may not always play along, life in Thailand can have the feel of a never-ending holiday, especially for those living on the islands. Compared to the rat race of the West, many expats find that they can take it easy in the Land of Smiles.
Official name: Kingdom of Thailand
Population: About 70 million
Capital city: Bangkok
Neighbouring countries: Thailand shares borders Myanmar to the west and northwest, Laos to the north and northeast, Cambodia to the southeast, and Malaysia to the far south.
Geography: Thailand's natural features, such as the Mekong River and various mountain ranges, define its northern, eastern and western borders. The Gulf of Thailand forms the country's southern coastline.
Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Major religions: Buddhism is the majority religion in Thailand, with Islam and Christianity being the two most prominent minority religions.
Main languages: Thai is the official language. English is widely understood in tourist areas, but there are fewer fluent English speakers in rural areas.
Money: The Thai baht (THB), which is divided into 100 satang. It is usually possible for expats to open a local bank account and ATMs are widely available in urban areas, many of which accept foreign cards.
Tipping: Tipping isn't customary or expected in Thailand, but adding a tip will usually be appreciated. Depending on the situation, this may be in the form of rounding up the billed amount, adding 10 percent, or leaving loose change behind.
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz. Both flat and round two-pin plugs are frequently used.
Internet domain: .th
International dialling code: +66
Emergency contacts: 191 (police, general), 1554 (ambulance), 199 (fire)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. Roads are usually in good condition but traffic in Bangkok is notorious for congestion and drivers can behave erratically. There are good public transport networks in Thailand with most long-distance travel done by bus and most short distances by motorcycle.
"The quality of life on Samui is excellent. The Thai people are wonderful, friendly, laid-back and it’s hard not to take on their easy-going way of life when you are here." Read more about Rosanne's expat experience in Thailand.
"Thailand offers opportunities for adventures and shenanigans that – to your average salary worker in the West – are outrageously exotic, and sometimes life-changing." Read more of Greg's comments about living in Bangkok.
"Phuket is a beautiful island, especially in the dry season, with a laid back atmosphere. I love being able to look outside the window and see the beautiful sea right in front of our apartment." Read Frei's full interview about life in Thailand.
Are you an expat living in Thailand?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Thailand. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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