Welcome to the Land of Smiles! Thailand has a rich history as a wonderful place to live within Southeast Asia, providing a wonderful lifestyle, delicious food, gorgeous landscapes, and incredible people.
There are plenty of guides and information about Thailand online, such as Lonely Planet Guide Thailand. You will also receive a Thailand Lonely Planet Guide upon your arrival.
Regardless, we have put together some information about living in Thailand and hope it helps.
Disclaimer: The information on this page in regards to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is provided for general information only. We make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, or reliability with respect to the information. Questions involving interpretation of specific foreign laws, services, or requirements should be addressed to the appropriate embassy or consulate.
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Before You Move
There are so many things to consider when moving abroad but here are some general tips and information that may help to make the transition a little easier. When you move abroad you’re likely to see your family less than before. This is a concern but there are a couple of things you can do to help. Firstly, teach your family how to use a video chat program and talk about time change, etc. to help to plan staying in contact. Secondly, remember to bring a few personal items from home such as framed family photos, etc. to help remind you and keep you connected. Finally, let your family know that you will be coming back regularly for visits or they can come to visit you.
Thailand is relatively safe but there can be danger in any country you go to. You can avoid bad situations and be aware of tourist scams that could affect you as an expat. Most important is to consider some type of travelers insurance to ensure you have major medical coverage. OPD or Out Patient services are relatively inexpensive when compared to western countries but extended hospital stays can severely test any budget.
As mentioned earlier, consider bringing some personal items with you such as family photos, etc. You will have to decide how much to bring with you but remember that some things can be obtained when you arrive. Additionally, kitchen appliances may not work here because of voltage issues and can be more expensive to ship that to simply bring them. For example, branded clothing and vitamins and supplements can be just as expensive though there are cheap options out there, especially tailored clothes. Consider arranging with family or friends for a regular "care package" of items that you think you may need such as specific toiletries or food items. Even electronics can be just as expensive here in Thailand so consider investing in a good notebook or tablet prior to coming.
Finally, remember to bring all the important paperwork that you may need. Make digital copies to store somewhere that are easily accessible. You will need originals of your passport, driving license or ID (if any), medical certificates/reports, criminal background check, degree certificate and transcripts, and insurance documents (if any). You can also consider bringing copies of your birth certificate, social security card, and list of contact names/addresses/phone numbers.
And don't forget your budget (see "Finance" below)
After You Move
After you arrive in Thailand, you will be spending a lot of time and energy settling in as well as preparing for teaching. Below you will find information for some important topics to consider such as obtaining (and paying for) housing, obtaining cell phone and bank account, and how to go about processing your non-immigrant B visa.
Additionally, when you arrive you will take short-term accommodation in Bangkok when you arrive but prior to heading to the school. We recommend minimum of 2-3 nights to recover from travels while also giving time for your on-boarding. Suggestions for accommodation will be provided that are both affordable and clean yet conveniently located for your on-boarding training. Additionally, we will be at the airport to greet you and take you to your hotel for the short stay.
At this time, you will also want to have all your documentation needed for the non-immigrant visa process: degree that has been legalized/motorized by embassy, your transcripts, your original certificate(s) background check, and passport with your tourist visa or VOA (visa on arrival).
With regards to life in Bangkok, take a moment to read through our advice but consider joining some forums or facebook groups such as BKK Expats to learn more and seek advice or tips. You can also check out our Helpful Links page. We are also always available for advice and information to help your transition go smoother.
Please check out the Visa, Finance, Health, Thai Culture, and Thai Language information below.
You will need to get a visa to travel to Thailand but a 30-day tourist visa is granted on arrival which can be extended (for a fee) at Thai immigration office, if needed. Our suggestion is that you obtain a single-entry tourist visa from your home country prior to departing because these visas are for longer (60-90 days) which will allow time to complete all the non-immigrant B visa and work permit paperwork.
Your non-immigrant B visa requires multiple documents and other items such as a medical certificate, local police background check, etc. The process can see daunting but patience is the key. If you have enough time left on your tourist visa, you can convert it to a non-immigrant B visa within the country...again, for a free. Alternatively, you will have to travel to a Thai embassy or consulate outside of Thailand.
The final process is your work permit which is processed by up to 3 different ministries. It is a long and complex process but most of the documentation will come from the school. Your documents will have already been provided by your obtaining a non-immigrant B visa.
Again, the key to this process is patience. Obtaining a visa for work in any country is time consuming and full of little details. Regardless, we are here to help guide you through the process.
You can find some information and links on our Helpful Links page. There is also lots of great advice online to help you understand the process or get advice such as Thai Embassy website, or BKK Expats or Thai Visa Advice Facebook groups.
Keep in mind that once you obtain your visa/work permit, you’ll pay approximately 750 baht per month for Thai Social Security program. You’ll also pay personal taxes based on your income as shown in the chart below though this is subject to change.
Comparatively, Thailand has a lower cost of living though some things are on par with western prices. Regardless, you will need to have a budget to support yourself during your relocation and settling in over the first 2 months. It is always best to over budget than to under budget and find yourself in a lean financial situation. When considering a budget or finance for your relocation, the big items will be accommodation and visa run but there are also others.
Accommodation: There will be short-term housing when you first arrive which can be planned/budgeted or even paid prior to leaving. There is also your long-term housing. Much will depend on your needs (family, pets, etc.) but single people can plan to bring about $1,500.
Visa Runs/Processing: Since this is such a critical item similar to housing, it is always best to over budget. We would suggest you budget $400-$500 but less could be needed if the visa run is not needed. Better to over budget than under budget.
Food and Drink: Food and drink in Thailand is plentiful and affordable if you eat and shop local. Western food and restaurants can be more expensive. Budget about $250.
Work Clothing: Many already have the work clothing but it may not be "climate friendly". This is really up to each person. Regardless, we always recommend bringing about $200 to visit a local tailor to make some slacks/skirts and shirts/blouses.
Household Items: This budget is really up to you depending on what you bring with you and what you need. Are you the person that needs a high-end juicer? It is best to make a list of your "must haves" which can be anything from plates to kitchen appliances and budget accordingly.
There will be many incidentals that you will find you need after moving so plan your finances accordingly. Consider what you can bring and what you should simply purchase here. There are many local businesses to help you set up your house such as Big C, Tesco Lotus, Ikea (Bangkok only), or even Chatachuk Weekend Market in Bangkok. There are also e-commerce sites to order which will ship directly to your home. For an example, check out Lazada Thailand which is the "Amazon" of Thailand.
Though salaries in Thailand are much lower than the US, the cost of living is also much lower so you are able to live comfortably on the salary.
Consumer Prices in United States: about 45% higher than in Thailand
Rent Prices in United States: about 150% higher than in Thailand
Restaurant Prices in United States: about 185% higher than in Thailand
Groceries Prices in United States: about 35% higher than in Thailand
The cost of living in Bangkok is higher than other cities in Thailand, especially for rent. As such, your Baht goes further outside Bangkok:
Consumer Prices in Bangkok: about 5% higher than in other Thai cities
Rent Prices in Bangkok: about 40% higher than in other Thai cities
Restaurant Prices in Bangkok: about 10% higher than in other Thai cities
Grocery Prices in Bangkok: about 10% higher than in other Thai cities
When you relocate to Thailand, there will be 2 accommodations to take care of. The first is your short-term accommodation once you arrive. The second would be your long-term accommodation once you relocate to the area of your new school.
We will have recommendations for your short-term stay when you first arrive after we pick you up from the airport. Our recommendations will be based on what we feel would be most affordable yet safe while allowing us to be able to meet to provide you with the on-boarding, advice, and training you need.
If you would like to consider your own short-term accommodations or just get a better feel for what is available and the prices, good websites to look for a place to stay in Thailand are Agoda.com and Booking.com. If you’re looking for somewhere cheap then look at HostelWorld.com though we tend to recommend a private room at a hotel for better security for you and your belongings.
As with the short-term, we will have recommendations for long-term apartments for you to consider with convenient transportation options which are located near the school. Regardless, we understand that each person has unique requirements and needs when it comes to housing. They also have varying budgets they would be willing to consider.
If you would like to look at your own options, the best way to find what is available is by word of mouth or simply walking around. There are so many apartments and deals available that are never advertised or simply have a sign at the entrance of the street saying "For Rent". Regardless, you can always check out some local websites to get a better feel for what is out there though it is not all that is available: DD Property, Rent Hub, 9 Apartment. Keep in mind that online sites always cater to a higher end market so the prices are at the top tier. Additionally, they "put their best foot forward" so the images are not always telling the whole picture. For our recommendations, we actually visit the apartments to take our own pictures.
Medical treatment in Thailand is much lower cost when compared to western countries. There are numerous local pharmacies where you can get basic medications. Additionally, hospitals have out patient services that are relatively inexpensive for minor health issues. Regardless, we always strongly recommend that you consider health coverage whenever relocating to another country.
Some schools will offer basic accident insurance. Additionally, Thai social security covers treatment in government hospitals but often has huge waiting lists. This treatment will not be free and you’ll still be liable for some expense. We will ensure that you are fully aware of what will be offered as part of your school employment contract so you can plan accordingly.
We always recommend you consider travel health insurance. We hope you never need to use it but better safe than sorry. While Thailand is inexpensive with regards to health care costs, unforeseen emergencies can create a financial situation. International travel/health insurance providers will also provide repatriation services to get you back home in case of medical emergency. Places you can get estimates:
You can also consider local health insurance coverage providers to provide care, if needed, within Thailand:
Mister Prakan is a great online tool to compare many local Thai health insurance providers.
Every culture is different so expect the unexpected and learn to adapt and accept that some things will not be the same. Nothing is more embarrassing that a foreigner saying loudly "Well in my country, we..." because you are not in your country so it is irrelevant. That being said, understanding the local Thai culture will help you to relax and enjoy your time. Remember, Thai people are open to you and your culture as long as you respect there’s too. In general Thai people are accepting of foreigners since they have so many tourists visiting each year. Regardless, there are certain people who will try and take advantage of you which it typically found in most countries with heavy tourism. Remember, Thai people are open to you and your culture as long as you respect there’s too.
Some things to know when you get here:
Elders: Thais respect their elders in all situations. This means the social order may be different than from your own country. Young people will greet their elders with a respectful wai which elders then return. Older people tend to be in positions of authority and will make decisions and give advice to the younger people which will most always be followed.
Remember: Students will also show respect to teachers. Keep this in mind and act in a way worthy of that respect.
Feet and Head: In Thai culture, the head is a holy part body and feet are the least clean. As such, never touch a Thai person on the head for any reason. With regards to feet, don't put your feet on anything or raise them up (keep them on the ground) nor point to anything with your foot. Always take your shoes off when entering a house. Also, don't sit on furniture. It is typical in Thai culture to lean or sit on a desk but that is frowned upon in Thai culture.
Emotion: Thais typically shy away from outward displays of emotion such as anger. Remember to never raise your voice or get angry because that will simply result in a lack of respect. While logic can help someone to understand your situation, Thais also have a great capacity for empathy so respond with their heart in many situations. Also keep in mind that a smile from a Thai is not because they think something is funny. It can actually a sign of embarrassment or sympathy. Here is an interesting video about What Thais Think About Showing Frustration or Anger.
Disagreement: This is an aspect of Thai culture than many foreigners struggle with. Thais in general do not like to say "no". Even their word for "no" actually translates as "not yes". This can create a lot of misunderstanding or confusion when someone will say "yes" with no intention of agreeing or doing what they have agreed to. Be aware of their body language and visual clues they may given which will help you to judge whether it is a polite "yes" because they don't want to disagree with you.
(Saving) Face: Part of avoiding disagreement or no, is a very important part of Thai culture called "saving face". Thais do not like to "loose face" or cause someone else to "loose face". Most Thais don’t want to be embarrassed or look like a fool, nor make someone else feel the same. Some westerners would say that it is dishonest but we all do this by telling "little white lies" or glossing over the truth. In Thailand, they just take it a little further and will actually tell a little lie, remain silent, or simply agree to avoid disagreement. Think of saving face as Thai currency. It can help you get farther and soothe any problems perceived in the present because Thai culture is a current culture in that they are thinking of today because tomorrow is not here yet. If you lose face or cause someone else to, your currency has lost its value.
Royal Family: Simply put, Thais love the royal family. You will see pictures of the royal family everywhere and when you go to the movies, you must stand in respect for the King before the movie starts. Whatever your views on monarchies you should keep them to yourself unless they are 100% positive as it’s a criminal offense to say anything negative.
Many Thai have a basic understanding of English but, naturally, they prefer to converse in their native language in everyday situations. As such, there are benefits to at least getting to a conversational level of Thai to help you maneuver in your daily life, whether it is telling a taxi where to go or asking for things at a local store.
As a foreigner you should make at least an effort to learn the basics to greet people and say please and thank you. There are a myriad of ways to learn the language, offline (tutor) or online, but as a language teacher you will understand it takes practice!
There are always the industry leaders in language learning such as Rosetta Stone or even local Thai language schools or private tutors. Additionally, there is also an abundance of free online resources to help you get started.
Below are some possible online tools to help you learn some basic Thai.
Icon Group (Thailand)
Icon Recruit is a member of Icon Group (Thailand).
Icon Group (Thailand). Based in Ayutthaya, Thailand and founded in 2009, Icon Group focuses on value-added solutions for K-12 teaching resources, teacher recruitment, and teacher training in Thailand and throughout Southeast Asia.