There is no better country to be an expat than Thailand. I first came here when I was 12 to go on something like a “mission trip” where we lived with locals and helped build a community center in the north. I returned 10 years later (in 2016) and really fell in love. The kindness and way of life of the people was so different from what I was used to in the US, and the country’s diverse and beautiful landscapes makes it hard not to love.
Since fully moving to Thailand in 2018 I have lived in Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Phuket was my least favorite of the three as I found it overpriced with too many Russian men in speedos at the beach. I ended up leaving Phuket and moving to Bangkok which was more my style – full of conveniences and comforts, and easily accessible to other parts of Asia.
Many people think of Bangkok as a grimy, dirty city. However, in reality, it’s clean, modern and organized. Bangkok is a great place to be as a foreigner. I also constantly crave being in nature and the city is not the best place for that, so my favorite place that I have lived in Thailand is Chiang Mai. This city is beautiful. The people are laid back and the cost of living is low. Chiang Mai is surrounded by rainforest and endless things to experience.
Stay in Chiang Mai for a Lower Cost of Living
My living situations in Thailand have changed over the years. I currently live in a renovated condo in an older building in Bangkok. It’s a 130 sqm, four bedroom with two bathrooms. I pay 30,000 baht per month which is about $900 USD. However, this was a pandemic discount and the price is usually 50,000 baht. To be honest, Bangkok is quite an expensive city.
Of course, if you have low standards, you can live cheaply as an expat in Thailand’s capital but if you are looking for the same quality as home it will definitely cost you. For those worried about prices, Chiang Mai in the north is a fraction of the cost of the big city and I would say that the quality of life is better. Rent and food prices are almost half of what they are in Bangkok.
Doing my Best to Immerse in the Thai Culture
As a creator, I am constantly working and traveling. So while I would love to immerse more in the local way of life, it’s not always the best use of my time. I have many Thai friends and love staying and eating with locals when I travel around the country. Thai people are known for being friendly and kind, and while that is certainly true, it’s not always the case in Bangkok.
I have learned a little bit of Thai but it’s my goal to become fluent within the next year. I see myself staying here long term and think it’s important to learn to integrate into society. That being said, I have found it super difficult to learn Thai and it may take more time than I am anticipating. The alphabet and tones are quite different from my native English language.
Thai food is another amazing benefit of living here. I have always loved Thai food, so adapting to the new foods was not too challenging. However, I will say there are some unusual Thai cuisines that I have not ventured out to try yet like pork blood soup, bull penis, dancing shrimp, insects and more. I will stick to the normal curries, rice bowls and other classic Thai dishes for now.
Why Thailand is an Expat Dream Destination
Thailand is a phenomenal place to live for foreigners for many reasons. The low cost of living, the peaceful way of life, the incredible culture, the food and some of the world’s best travel experiences are all here. There are tons of foreigners living here, it is a popular place for expats. It does present some challenges though. For one, getting a visa to stay is quite a process. There are not many great options for young digital nomads like myself.
I have lived on multiple different visa types here. At first it was an education visa, then a volunteer visa and now I am working to secure an elite visa which would give me 20 years in the country but at a cost of about $30,000 USD. Visas can be super confusing and tricky for young people who want to stay in Thailand for the long term. I would recommend inquiring with a quality visa agent in Thailand as everyone’s circumstances are different.
Tips for Moving to Thailand as an Expat
- A lot of things in Thailand are done in a way that doesn’t make much sense. Just stay open minded and relaxed, it goes a long way here.
- Learn how to drive a motorbike – it’s one of the best ways to get around.
- Try to find a water service like Sprinkle that delivers water, so you are not using plastic bottles. It’s important to live and travel sustainably.
- Respect the culture and remember you are a guest in their country.
I have had many incredible experiences in Thailand over the years. One of my favorites was a recent trip I took to Chiang Dao where I stayed in a small fairytale cottage in this magical town. I made a video about it on my YouTube that you can see at Southeast Somewhere. Be sure to give it a watch and subscribe to my channel and Instagram for more Thailand expat adventures. If you have any questions feel free to send me a DM!