The Only Moving to Thailand Guide You Need

Poker players Thailand
In recent years there has been a growing number of online professionals moving to Thailand. And this is for good reason.

Thailand is the perfect place for many online professionals due to the low cost of living, great weather, great beaches, great food, quality internet, friendly locals and the abundance of other online professionals who have already moved there.

Anyways, since I have lived in Thailand for the better part of 5 years now, and have met many online professionals here, I am going to discuss what it is really like to move here.

One Way Ticket to Bangkok!

Before I begin, I want to be clear that I am in no way advising anyone to just pick up and move halfway around the world on a whim. That would be silly.

Even though I did in fact end up booking the proverbial one way ticket to Bangkok (from Vancouver) I thought about it thoroughly for 6 months in advance before deciding that it was the right thing for me to do.

For many people, doing something like this is simply too crazy of an idea to even consider. That is fine. I am not here to change your mind.

I will say this though, being on the other side now, what seems crazy to me is the idea of living your entire life in the same little bubble and missing the boat completely on what this world has to offer.

And no, your weeklong vacations to Hawaii/Mexico or your plan to finally go out and experience life when you are 60+ years old and well past your physical prime don't count.

So this article is for that small subset of adventurous people who want a little bit more out of life, who don't settle for mediocrity. But this article is also for anyone who is curious in general.

poker players thailand

What Type of People Move to a Place like Thailand?

It should be mentioned also that just because you "move" to a different country does not mean that there is anything permanent about it. Many people go back to their home countries after a certain amount of time or travel somewhere else.

I certainly did not come here with any intentions beyond staying for a few months. And like most of the people I know here I do not have any long term plans at this point.

There is an enormous expat population all over Thailand. And the amount of people working online in some capacity moving here has exploded in recent years.

My work station near the beach:

So you do not have to fit the profile of some new age hippie to check it out here. There are many retirees, young kids working online coffee shops, English teachers and everything in between.

Lastly, this post is just about Thailand. I definitely don't want to make it sound like this is the only place to go.

There are many other great destinations all around the world for anyone looking for a change of pace. The most popular are almost always in Southeast Asia and Central and South America due to the low cost of living and great weather.

In this post I am going to try and provide as much information as I can on all of the day to day details of living in Thailand.

Benefits of Moving to Thailand

  • The weather
  • The low cost of living
  • The food
  • The beaches
  • The people
I will discuss some negatives about living in Thailand at the end. 

I don't want to paint this country as some magical wonderland. There are many great benefits to living here, but it is still a developing country and has some of the problems associated with that.

Also, any time you are living in a foreign country there are additional issues for you to deal with such as cultural/language differences which I will discuss later on as well.

The Weather in Thailand

The weather in Thailand is very different than what you are probably used to if you come from North America or Europe. It is a tropical humid climate with high temperatures year round. 

There is a rainy season between the months of June-October (this varies a bit depending on where you live in the country).

The rain here is generally extremely heavy when it comes down. Life (which is already at a very slow pace in Thailand) sort of stops for 30 minutes or so. 

The rain then subsides and dries up quickly due to the heat and people go on with their day.

One of my favorite vacation spots, Koh Samui, Thailand:

You can expect this to happen once or twice a day in the rainy season. This is the way it typically is in the north anyways. 

In the southern islands you can expect to have days during the rainy season where it pours like crazy all day as well. Bangkok will be somewhere in the middle of these two.

The rest of the year is hot and mostly dry. From November to May you will see much less rain. Again, this varies a bit depending on where you are. 

Rainy season lasts longer in the southern islands. During the peak tourist months of November to February there will likely be no rain at all and the temperatures are a little bit more moderate although still fairly hot.

For me, coming from the cold and rainy west coast of Canada the weather is so much better here it's ridiculous.

The Basics of Thai Food

Here is one of my favorite little Pad Thai places. This is at a local market in central Bangkok and it costs $2.

I think everyone knows about Thai food already. It is one of the best cuisines in the world. I don't know anyone who comes here and doesn't like it. It is often very spicy though. Say "mai pet khrap" (not spicy please) when ordering if this is not your thing. Most of us eat Thai for most meals.

Noodle soup, Pad Thai or one of the many Thai curry dishes over rice can be had for as little as one or two dollars in the markets and street side food stalls that are literally all over Thailand. Honestly you could just eat this all day long and probably never get sick of it.

The secret greatest Thai food of them all. Somtam (spicy papaya salad). All Thai people absolutely love this dish. So do I!

People eat out far more often in Thailand than in western countries. In fact many are surprised to learn that most apartments here don't come with a kitchen at all, just a small fridge.

Western food will cost more. It is everywhere though and will still cost quite a bit less than in your home country. The fast food joints are everywhere here also, McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks etc. I don't go to these places very often but the prices are a little bit lower on average than what they are in the West.

You can also just use an app similar to Uber Eats in America but it's called FoodPanda here. I use this all the time and just order any type of food on earth straight to my door. 

The Cost of Living in Thailand

Note: I have tried to update this article as best I can over the years but inflation happens everywhere. And at some point, it just becomes too much for me to keep updating it.

So, please add 50% to any price listed in this article, unless otherwise noted.

One of the best things about living in Thailand and many other countries in this region is that it will cost you far less than in your home country. 

You can effectively double or even triple your quality of life over night.

Using the power of geo-arbitrage we make money in a currency (USD or EUR) that is worth far more than the currency (Thai Baht) in the place that we live.

At the time of this writing you will get about 30 Thai Baht for 1 American/Canadian/Australian dollar. You will get about 42 Baht for 1 Euro.

[2023 Edit: The USD sits at about 35 Thai Baht for 1 USD in late 2023, the Euro is at 38 Thai Baht].

In the northern city of Chiang Mai a small but certainly liveable fully furnished studio apartment with air con, tv, wifi, private bathroom and balcony can be had for as little as $150 a month. This is literally unheard of in any Western city.

A mid level place in a much nicer and newer condo which will also likely have a pool and fitness center will run you about $300 a month. And if you are ballin' out of control and have $600 to spend you can rent a large house or a luxury condo.

Keep in mind that Chiang Mai is the cheapest major city to live in in Thailand. You should expect to pay around 25% more for the same apartment in Bangkok.

Phuket is a bit difficult to price because it all depends on how close to the beach you are. However, if you are fine living inland a little bit you can still easily find very cheap apartments in paradise.

Finding and Renting an Apartment in Thailand

Finding an apartment when you get here is very easy. You just walk in and see the room. If you like it, you show them your passport so they can make a photocopy, you pay the rent and move in.

It's literally that freaking simple.

There is no nonsense and BS about needing references and work history like you will find in most Western countries.

Now if you are renting a reasonably nice place you should expect to pay a security deposit up front and they may ask you to sign a lease as well: 3 months, 6 months or a year.

In Bangkok you may want to consider getting an agent to help you as the city is massive and the options are endless. But you could just do it all yourself in Bangkok as well.

Bottom line don't stress apartments at all. It's all incredibly easy.

Bangkok from the 50th floor

Where Do Foreigners Live in Thailand?

Ok, let me briefly talk about where to live in each major city/beach location. Most foreigners will be found in 3 major locations, Chiang Mai, Bangkok or Phuket.

Chiang Mai is a small city in a mountainous region of northern Thailand. It is also the cheapest major place to live in Thailand, there are tons of foreigners there and the locals are incredibly nice.

This is why I recommend it for newbies to this country and retirees on a budget looking for a quiet life with lots of outdoors activities.

One quick thing to note about Chiang Mai though is you will want to avoid it during March and sometimes April and May as well. Farmers burn their fields and the air quality can be very poor.

Bangkok is the sprawling mega capital that never sleeps and never ceases to amaze. World class shopping, dining, markets, temples, nightlife. The beating heart of Thailand. You will never get bored here.

Bangkok is also an excellent travel hub with two major airports and tons of high rise luxury condos. Most people who are doing well in online will eventually choose to live here over Chiang Mai.

Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and also the most popular beach location. There are dozens of beautiful beaches along the western coast. Great watersports, golfing, muay thai/mma and many other outdoors activities.

Keep in mind that prices are relatively high in major tourist areas. I prefer to vacation here frequently rather than to live. Phuket is a 1 hour flight from Bangkok, 2 hour flight from Chiang Mai.

Koh Samui (and surrounding islands) on the Gulf of Thailand is another major beach holiday destination that I would highly recommend.

Pattaya, also worth mentioning, is another place where you will find a lot of foreigners and it is very cheap to live. However, Pattaya is well known for crazy nightlife/women etc. 

It's not a place where I would personally live, but for many others, it's paradise. So you might want to check that place out as well.

But I will focus on the big 3 below...

1. Chiang Mai - Foreigners live literally everywhere in the city. Nimmanhaemin road is very popular and trendy although slightly more expensive.

If you want to get a house look in Hang Dong or San Sai. Both are located about a 10 minute drive from the city.

If you are brand new to Thailand and/or new to traveling, I would recommend starting here. As mentioned, rock bottom prices, tons of foreigners, very friendly locals, small town feel.

Chiang Mai is perfect for beginners.

2. Bangkok - Most foreigners live along Sukhumvit road in Bangkok which is a massive business, entertainment and shopping district. But lots of them will be found in other areas as well such as Silom and Huay Kwang.

The key to living in Bangkok is to try and find a place as close to a BTS (skytrain) or MRT (subway) station as possible. Because then you can literally get anywhere fast.

This is my preferred place to live now. If you have a bit more cash Bangkok has the best quality of life that you can get in Thailand, and it's not even close.

Bangkok, of course, has the best restaurants, the best condos, the best networking with high quality people, the best malls, the best flight connections around the world and on and on.

This is one of my top 3 three cities on earth to live in.

And you have great beaches within Thailand, a short drive or flight away. The Bangkok traffic is legendary though, you have been warned! :)

3. Phuket - Almost all foreigners living here will be on the western side of the island as that is where all the major beaches are. 

They can be found mostly in Patong (party capital), Kata (little less crazy) or Rawai/Naiharn (chilled out, many expats living here).

I personally like going to Phuket/Koh Samui for vacation and living in Bangkok for the best of all worlds.

But hey, that's just me. You need to find out what works best for you!

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More on Cost of Living in Thailand

Note: Once again, this article was written several years ago. So please add 50% to any price listed in this article due to inflation.

If you want exact, up to date figures, check for the very latest.

Alright so let me dig into a few more commonly asked questions about the cost of living.

Food as mentioned is pretty cheap as long as you are eating Thai. A few dollars at the most per meal is normal. Bowl of noodles or pad Thai in the ever present street stalls or markets, $1 in Chiang Mai, $1.50 in Bangkok.

Electricity and water costs are cheap and largely not even worth mentioning. You should expect to pay around $50 a month at the most for these.

Other costs will be a motorbike (Read scooter: Honda Click or Wave etc) if you want one. Motorbikes represent at least 50% of the vehicles on the roads here.

When I am in Chiang Mai, you will often find me up in the mountains, a big bonus to living there:

In Chiang Mai you can rent one for 80-100 dollars a month. A better choice might be to just buy one for about $700 used or $1500 new if you plan on living here for awhile. Since you can affordably just live right in the city though often there is no need for one.

Prices for clothes are very cheap here in the markets and reasonable at the malls. But since you don't need much more than flip flops, shorts and t-shirts here year round you won't need a huge clothing collection anyways. 

Expect to pay about the same price for electronics as you would in your home country. So don't come here thinking you are going to get a great deal on a new laptop, tablet or phone. 

If you need a new phone I would probably buy it in Thailand though just to avoid any issues that you might have with unlocking when you get here.

Mobile data and calling plans are very cheap. I personally pay about $15 a month for unlimited data.

If you want to call home you can just make a free Facebook call these days. If you want to be able to actually call somebody's mobile or landline phone, get a Skype subscription for a few dollars a month.

If I missed anything check out this site:

Numbeo is a great site for comparing the costs of living in cities anywhere in the world. Plug in where you live and compare it to Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket.

Thai Beaches

There are lots of them here and many of them are stunning. The above is Chaweng beach in Koh Samui. Despite being a major tourist beach it is still very beautiful and one of my favorites.

You can just live at the beach here if you want as well. You will pay a premium though because often they are located on islands where they need to ship goods in. Also, the property values are a lot higher of course.

But there are many places in this country in non-touristy beach locales where you can live for very little. For example, I spent a month in a beach town in an 11th floor fully modern condo with a beach view for $233 a month a couple of months ago.

It is a spot dominated by Thais and not foreign tourists so the prices are much lower. Places like this (no I will not say where, I have to keep some secrets!) can be found if you look around a bit and stay clear of the popular backpacker/tourist spots.

Many of us choose to live in a major city like Bangkok or Chiang Mai though for the modern amenities and better social scene. We can just go on frequent vacations anyways. 

Domestic flights are very cheap and of course it takes no time at all to arrive in a world class beach resort such as Phuket or Koh Samui. 

The People and the Language

Thailand is often nicknamed LOS "The land of smiles." This is a country which is 95% Buddhist. 

The pace of life for most Thais is far slower than what you are probably used to. Family is huge to them. Having "sanook" (fun) at whatever they do in life is a top priority.

They are quite a bit happier and more hospitable than people in most western countries. The smile is not fake. They are often genuinely happy to see you and talk to you (there are exceptions in the heavy tourist areas). This is a breath of fresh air for me. 

The Thai language is very different than any of the Western languages and difficult to learn. The good thing is that you don't actually have to learn it to live here. Most Thais, at least in the big cities, speak a reasonable amount of English.

At least enough so that you can order your food, apartment etc. in English and have no problem. Also since there are so many expats here from places like England, America, Canada and Australia you could literally just surround yourself with people who are native English speakers all the time anyways. 

However, you will probably want to learn the language if you plan on staying here for a long time. It will enrich your experience so much more if you can have conversations with Thais that go beyond "Hi, how are you?" 

They will generally be happy to help you out with words that you don't know and will be honored that you are even trying to learn.


Hospital Care and Insurance in Thailand

This is a big area of concern for many people. 

There is a whole range of medical care here from small shady clinics to top notch hospitals with western educated doctors that would rival anything in your home country.

As you would expect, many of the best world class medical facilities such as Bumrungrad hospital are in Bangkok.

However, whenever I have used medical facilities in Thailand (and dental also), I have been very impressed by the facilities in other parts of the country like Chiang Mai as well.  

The prices for medical or dental, like with nearly everything else, are also far cheaper.

Many people (especially Americans) come here specifically to get big treatments done at a fraction of the cost of back home.

I had all 4 of my wisdom teeth taken out at the best dental clinic in Chiang Mai a few years ago for about $500. That would have been $2000 or $3000 in my home country of Canada.

That said, it is still a good idea to get some sort of insurance if you plan on living here. 

A couple of stitches or a checkup won't cost you anything but if you break your leg or something which requires some inpatient care it could add up in a big way.

Insurance is cheap and can be found very easily through a quick google search. Be aware though that most insurance plans DO NOT cover motorbike accidents.

The reason why it is often not covered is because by far the biggest reason that foreigners will require medical treatment here is due to a motorbike accident, which I will cover in a bit.

But first...

Covid Restrictions for Thailand 2022 Update

The world has changed a lot since I originally wrote this article, but a lot of people still read it because they want to visit or move to Thailand.

So I decided that it was necessary to add this section.

I wanted to provide a brief update as I actually just returned to Thailand in late 2021 and so I went through all of the Covid protocols and restrictions myself.

First things first, the situation is obviously changing quickly all over the world these days and there is no way that I can update this article every week when governments change their rules so frequently.

Bottom Line: International travel (to anywhere, not just Thailand) continues to be difficult in early 2022 and you need to be aware of the rules.

I had to get a litany of Covid PCR tests both before and after returning to Thailand, get Covid insurance, stay in a "Sandbox" program, stay in specific hotels for the first week, get tested again on day 5 and so on when I arrived.

There is also a new "Thai Pass" that you must apply for online before entering Thailand. Like I said though, anything I write here might be out of date by next week with the current world situation.

So just make sure you are up to date with the current rules. 

Thailand is a beautiful country and I am very happy to be back. But it is not as simple as just hopping on a flight to Bangkok these days.

Do your research several weeks in advance and follow all the rules and your trip will go a lot smoother. Alright on with the rest of the article!

2023 Update: All restrictions due to Covid have been lifted in Thailand. It is now back to completely normal, just like before.

I Would NOT Recommend Driving a MotorBike in Thailand

Alright, this one surprises a lot of people. I do not recommend riding a motorbike or a scooter in this country.

The carnage is staggering and I am so sick of hearing about foreigners getting maimed for life or worse here.

I honestly don't know anybody who lives here and drives a motorbike who hasn't at least had a minor accident. It just isn't worth it at all.

And I don't care if you are an "experienced" motorbike driver. It will take you at least a year to even begin to understand the driving culture here. It's not the same as where you are from.

Please believe me on this. 

I am speaking as someone who has years and years of experience driving in this country and I also went through the entire process of getting a Thai driver's license as well.

Thailand is consistently ranked as one of the top countries on earth where you will die in a traffic accident (latest data says 2nd highest in the world)

And as I will discuss in the next section, with the widespread proliferation of ride sharing apps these days, it is totally unnecessary to drive anymore anyways!

Now, I know that no matter what I say here though, most people will not listen to this warning. So let me give you a few safety pointers should you decide to hop on a scooter or big bike.

First and foremost if you plan to stay in this country for any length of time, please get a proper helmet. The rental shop will likely give you some useless little plastic lid.

I would highly suggest going to a Honda or Yamaha dealership (which are everywhere) and buy a proper big bike helmet for $50. Your life is easily worth $50.
poker players living in thailand
Typical scooter rental bike and the proper helmet ($50) that I bought.

Secondly, avoid driving at night completely. This is the most dangerous time when all the drunks and speed demons are out.

Lastly, keep the speed down. Again, I don't care how "good" or "experienced" on two wheels you think you are. You can't fight the math. 

The statistics do not lie. The roads in this country are very dangerous if you are on two wheels.

And this is specifically the case on the islands like Phuket and Koh Samui with windy mountainous roads and hordes of inexperienced drunk tourists driving on them.

The only place I would recommend using a scooter would be on tiny little islands like Koh Lanta or Koh Tao where there isn't much traffic, or other means of getting around.

Otherwise, believe me, it is just not worth it. Nothing will ruin your holiday or you day worse than even just a minor dustup on one of these things! 

Just take a Grab instead, as I explain next.

Public Transportation/Apps in Thailand (You Don't Even Need to Drive!)

There are tons of public transit options in this country. If you live in Bangkok like I do, there is no reason to ever drive. The skytrain and the subway are both excellent and there are taxis everywhere.

Up in Chiang Mai you can take the red taxi trucks for super cheap. And all over the country you can also use the Grab application, which is basically the same thing as Uber.

I use Grab all the time, it's super cheap and it's awesome! It is available for both Android and iOS.

Down in the islands like Phuket, it is a little bit more difficult and pricey to use public transportation or apps, but typically you aren't going to need to move around a lot that much anyways, just enjoy the beach!

Meeting People in Thailand

As I mentioned before there is a very large expat population here already. 

And also the number of tourists from Western countries is extremely high as well. So meeting people who speak your language (or are even from your own country) is not difficult at all.

The major communities are in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. There are Skype and Facebook groups for all three of them.

Get yourself invited to one of them and you can easily become friends with and meet up with all the grinders there. There are tons of regular sports events, meetups and the like in all three communities.

Negatives of Living in Thailand

  • Difficult language (for some)
  • Internet in some situations
  • Ability to degen hard

The language is very different and very hard for most Westerners to pick up. 

It is a tonal language and the same word can have 5 different meanings depending on how you pronounce it. There are sounds which are not used in the English language and the sentence structure can be very weird at times.

poker thailand
I rented this entire house, 3bdrm, 3bath, 4aircon, gated community, satellite TV, ADSL internet, 10 minutes outside Chiang Mai, $400 per month.

In the rural areas of Thailand there will be very little English spoken. As long as you stick to the main big cities though you will be fine. 

However, most foreigners living here tend to have very few Thai friends besides their girlfriend due to language issues. Many expats have made the commitment though and learned it. It is not impossible.

With the internet do not expect the blazing speeds that you are used to on a broadband connection in America, Canada or Europe. However, Thailand is not a third world country and you can certainly get decent broadband connections in nearly any city.

Many people choose to have a backup connection though just in case. Wifi connections can of course be a little more unstable. But most people coming here to grind will want to set up a plan with a local ISP and get a dedicated connection anyways.

2021 Edit: Actually I would now put Thai internet (at least in Chiang Mai or Bangkok) on par or exceeding that in most western countries. 100mbps+ internet connection packages can be ordered from major ISPs here if you are staying longterm.

I currently have a 200mbps/200mbps fiber internet connection in my condo in Bangkok which is lightning fast. The ISP I use is True Online. The price is $30 per month.

The Party Never Stops (For Some)

Ok I do need to mention this.

As most people know the partying/girls scene here is pretty crazy. If you don't keep your life in order it can be very easy to get consumed with that.

There are tons of old expats here wasting away especially in towns like Pattaya, the most degen place on the planet. Most of the younger guys, which includes most online professionals, learn to keep it in check though.

It is fine to go a bit crazy when you first get here, most people do. Go visit the famous go-go bars in Bangkok, drink a wild cocktail and eat some scorpions on Khao San road and then go party all night on a beach with 20k other people on Koh Phangan island.

After your hangover wears off go scuba diving in Koh Tao, parasailing in Phuket and then go ride some elephants and pet some tigers in Chiang Mai.

In short, go do the whole tourist thing! Enjoy yourself, this is an absolutely amazing country and a massively popular tourist destination for a reason.

But after that have a plan to settle into normal life. Get a place, a routine, a gym membership etc. and keep the craziness and the nightlife to a minimum.

Do check out Songkran (Thai New Year) though which is best in either Chiang Mai or Bangkok. This is a world famous water fight street party unlike anything you have ever seen and it is wildly fun.

This is the #1 holiday of the year for Thai people and it typically lasts for several days beginning on April 12th or 13th each year. For a more traditional Songkran experience (without all the tourists) go to Isaan.

A Few Final Notes About Living in Thailand

Let's talk about safety and cultural norms a bit.

Crime is pretty low here overall and I honestly feel safer walking the streets of Bangkok or Chiang Mai at night then I would in many parts of my own city of Vancouver (which is usually considered to be a very safe city).

There are a few small time scams though especially with taxi drivers that you will encounter in places like Bangkok. You will find this in most major cities around the world that have large numbers of tourists.

Just watch a few YouTube videos to learn all the hilarious little tricks they try to pull on tourists before you ever even come here. 

If you do get taken for a ride it's usually only for like $5 or $10. Just have a good laugh about it and move on.

Getting angry and making a scene about it will get you absolutely nowhere. That's not the way it works here and indeed in most Asian countries.

As I mentioned above, most expats in Thailand these days just use the Grab application for transportation anyways which is basically the same thing as Uber. 

Note that Uber does not even exist in Thailand anymore as of 2020. Everybody uses Grab here.

Regarding cultural norms, Thailand is a conservative Buddhist country. Always dress appropriately and show respect around temples and monks in particular.

Lastly, be aware that Thailand (and most of this entire region) have some of the harshest drug laws in the world. There are in fact huge signs at the airport telling you this!

Make sure that you spend a little bit of time learning the basic laws and cultural norms of Thailand before you visit this country (or any foreign country that you visit for that matter). 

This is something that you can learn in 10 minutes with a few basic Google searches while you are sitting in the airport waiting for your flight to Thailand.

Honestly, this is something that is just basic common sense for most people, but it bears mentioning here nonetheless.

Final Thoughts

Relocating abroad is definitely not for everybody. But for me and many of the other online professionals and expats it was a great decision.

Even though I travel a lot, Thailand for me is the #1 place on earth to live especially if you work online.

There is stuff that I didn't even mention, since this article is already long enough, such as $5-$10 an hour Thai massage to be found everywhere and the much slower chilled out and low stress lifestyle.

I don't know if it is the Buddhist thing or what but I absolutely love the soft spoken and relaxed nature of Thai people. Nobody even honks their horns here!

But whether you choose to visit this country or any other countless awesome places around the world I would definitely recommend that you simply get out there and just start exploring!

Seriously, you have no idea what you are missing. And I promise you will not regret it. The pros far outweigh any cons. And seeing how the "other side" lives will also broaden your perspective immensely.

The hardest part truly, is just getting on the plane.

Remember also that just because you travel to or even stay in another country for a few months/years doesn't mean you can't go back to where you are from.

I still love my home country of Canada and I travel back there all the time.

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