One very common question I get revolves around how one goes about relocating to Thailand. Basically, should I move to Thailand type questions. Naturally there are as many answers to this question as there are people out there dreaming of relocating to a new and exotic locale.
I’m going to try and give some general ideas of things to consider if you’re contemplating a move to Thailand. This should give you a good baseline and allow you to further consider how your own situation applies to a dramatic move like this. The answers are tailored to those thinking of moving permanently or at least semi-permanently (say 5+ years).
All my thoughts are based on the same questions I’ve asked myself before finally deciding to make the move to Thailand.
Some people have asked me about moving to Thailand and after further email discussions with them I’ve found that they’ve never been to Thailand or at best have spent maybe 2-3 weeks there as a tourist. Honestly you need to get a better feel for the country than this. Life in different parts of Thailand can be dramatically different, from the cost considerations to the pace of life to the availability of western goods and western associations.
If you’re planning on making the move I recommend that you spend a minimum of 2-3 months living in Thailand on a normal (not tourist!) type budget. I believe it takes this long for culture shock to start to set in and to get a feel for what your life might be like if you move to Thailand.
I know it can be nearly impossible for some of you to get this amount of time away from work, but consider the consequences if you drop everything, head off to Thailand and after 4-5 months decide that it’s not for you. Yes you’ll likely be able to move back to your homeland, but wouldn’t it be much better to plan a longer trip to get a feel for things before you cut all ties back home?
Some people thrive on the differences in Thailand and some begin to be annoyed by even the smallest things. You need to find out which you are BEFORE the move. There are definitely some good character traits to have if you’re planning a move such as this. I would consider these to be an adventurous spirit, adaptability, patience and a certain amount of ingenuity and creativity just to name a few. I’m sure you can come up with more.
Obviously an adventurous spirit will do better in most cases, but if you don’t have the cash to fund an occasional trip outside your home city or town you could easily become quite frustrated living in Thailand. And this brings us to the next subject…
Financial Considerations – Show Me The Money
It’s often been said that Thailand is cheap. While this is true in some respects, in all actuality if you want to enjoy yourself, especially in Bangkok or any of the tourist locations you need money. Maybe not as much money as you would need in America, the U.K. or Australia, but I guarantee that your life will be much easier and enjoyable if you’re not living on a shoestring budget in Thailand.
Unless you’re not planning on staying long (maybe 1-2 years) or if you’re still quite young with limited needs, you’ll want to have a stash of cash before your move. Quite likely the older you are the larger your stash should be as retirement age looms closer. There are no government safety nets in Thailand, especially for you living there as a guest.
The amount of your stash is based on your own discretion, but I would say at a minimum you’ll want enough for a ticket back home as well as 3 months living expenses (6 is better). Moving to another country is no reason to throw caution to the winds, on the contrary, it requires more planning, budgeting and discipline. Once you have your initial funding you’ll need to think about your monthly expenses once you’re set up and living in Thailand.
So, how much is enough for a monthly budget? Obviously this is up to your own personal preferences, family situation and lifestyle. A minimum figure of 30,000 baht is frequently bandied about in popular forums and websites. As a single person you can probably get by with this amount assuming you’re not a drinker. Many Thai’s live on considerably less and seem to be quite happy. Let’s be clear though…you are not Thai and most likely you’re used to a different standard of living. If you want to be able to go out on the weekend, enjoy trips to the islands or even to other SE Asian destinations (and why wouldn’t you?) and occasionally eat western foods you will need more than 30,000 baht a month. And if you have a wife and kids you can probably double that figure at a minimum.
Personally I don’t think I would consider making the move if I couldn’t be sure of at least 45,000 baht a month as you’ll see in my own personal budget when I post it. So, how will you get the money you need to live?
Supporting Yourself – Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees
Obviously for those of you that are older you will have pensions, savings and the like to live on. Those younger than retirement age will need to find some other way to come up with the money they need each month. Thailand doesn’t make it easy and there aren’t a lot of jobs that foreigners can do while living in Thailand.
If you’re working for a company that has offices in Bangkok your best bet is to find some way to get an expat package. I wish that was my situation.
Otherwise you’ll need to find employment in Thailand. Three fields come to mind as being popular ways for foreigners to live and earn while in Thailand. The first is teaching English. This is a viable solution, especially if you have a university degree, are willing to get a TEFL cert and can be entertaining and patient with kids. You should also be a native English speaker and if you’re blond or a woman you have a definite advantage. Keep in mind that you will not get rich teaching English. Salaries start around 35,000 baht a month in Bangkok (less outside the capital) though you should be able to supplement that with private teaching once you get established.
A second way to earn a living is to work in the offshore oil industry. This will actually mean that half your time is spent outside Thailand on the rigs, but I believe you’ll make much better money than you would as an English teacher. This is probably a better alternative for single guys since you’ll be away from home so much. If anyone knows more about this kind of employment in Thailand I would love to hear from you either in the comments below or directly.
The third alternative is to create a portable income through online work. This is ideal for those in computer fields such as programming and graphic design. Some of you might even get lucky enough to find a telecommuting job in your home country that allows you to work from Thailand and get paid in dollars, pounds or euro’s. There are also many sites you can use to find freelance work online, if you plan on going this route I recommend starting now since rates typically start pretty low until you build a client base and a name for yourself. The good thing about creating an income through online work and freelancing is that you are pretty much in control of your income. If you need more money simply take on a few more projects, if you need more time take on less. Here’s a list of 18 freelancing websites to get you started if you’re interested.
This was not meant to be a comprehensive guide to living in Thailand, but rather something to get you started thinking about what you’ll need to do to get ready to make the move. Thailand isn’t going anywhere so there’s no need to make a hasty move. I’ve been planning the move for over 3 years now, so you know I’ve put a lot of thought into it already.
I’m not saying that you can’t drop everything and just take off, some have done just that and have been very successful. If I was 24 again I might make the same impulsive move myself. Now that I’m older I am a bit more cautious and want to make sure that my new life gets off to the best start possible. Hopefully this post has given you all some things to think about. Maybe you’re more ready than you thought you were to make the move and maybe I’ve pointed out some things you haven’t thought of. And hopefully you’ve thought of some things that I haven’t mentioned and you can help us all by letting us know in the comments below.
Whatever situation you’re in and whatever you decide is best for you I wish you all the best in your dreams and plans to move to Thailand and start a new chapter of your life.