Move to Thailand in 7 Steps
1.Make a plan one year prior to moving to Thailand. This step is the most important step. Without it, the following steps are more expensive, time consuming and extremely frustrating. There are plenty of things you can do in your home country before you book the flight. What do we mean?
One of the best recommendations we can offer is to get a credit card with a rewards program. Once you get your card and activate the reward features, start making all of your purchases with that card. All your groceries, gas, holiday gifts, auto repairs...everything. We saved nearly $400 on airfare by changing our buying habits. We don't like credit card trails anymore than most of you out there, but it really does take the bite out of the flight expense.
Review your assets and ask what you can do to monetize them now or down the line. You could start an Ebay account to sell unused items around the house. You might want to make an investment in the stock market or perhaps and investment in yourself. If you already have a college degree we recommend you get your TEFL/TESOL certification online. The program is something can be done for about $100 at home in a month's time. The combination of a university degree and TEFL/TESOL certification will provide you the foundation in terms of documents you need to teach English in Thailand.(in addition you must have your sealed college transcripts, letter of verification from your university and police clearance from your home town) We don't recommend coming to Thailand to teach English, but it is a great back up plan.
Have a look at all the American companies that do business in Thailand. From that link, make a list of 10-20 US companies that intrigue you. You will need to do a little research, send out some resumes, check the career boards. If you are lucky you will get hired and earn US dollars abroad. If you are web savvy, set up some form of eCommerce site, monetize a YouTube channel or blog about getting ready to "take a journey of a lifetime". It will be much easier setting up your online business while you are in the US. Bottom line is, have some money in your pocket and a game plan in your head before you pull the trigger and book the flight.
2. Get your travel documents in order and book the flight. If you are from The US, UK, Canada and a number of other nations, you are not required to have a visa to travel the Kingdom of Thailand as a tourist. However you still need a valid passport with three months remaining and a few open pages. If you don't have a passport, all the steps to obtain or renew a passport are clearly explained here. It will take about three to four weeks for standard processing, or as little as 24-48 hours if the situation is an emergency. If you can show proof of a booked and paid for international flight, you can request an expedited passport as well. Be cautious when attempting to expedite the process. It will be more expensive and there is a always a possibility of rejection or re-booking fees with the airline simply due to bad timing. We have found the standard process never takes as long as stated, and our passports were returned within three weeks of submitting the request. A final note on obtaining your passport, it is a good idea to get the 52 page book. The Thai visa as well as the neighboring countries visa's will consume one full page. In addition to the full-page sticker, you will get numerous stamps for every entry, departure and extension of stay. Your virgin-fresh passport will fill up faster than any country boy could skin a buck or run a line. You will be a travel slut in no time....with the ink stains to prove it!
You can use the visa tool above to quickly check if you need a visa to enter Thailand. Though not necessary for US citizens (and many European countries), it is recommended that you obtain a tourist visa prior to your journey to Thailand. It will make life easier while you are looking for employment, a place to stay etc. You can do this in person or through the mail at the Thai Embassy in Washington DC, The Thai Consulate in Chicago, The Thai Consulate in New York, or in Los Angeles. It only takes about five days by mail and two days if you make the request in person. If you choose this method you will not have to leave the kingdom for 90 days. If you arrive in Thailand visa exempt, you have thirty days then it's off to Thai immigration to report and request a 30-day extension of stay. Following that, you will have to leave the country for a proper visa. Citizens from visa exempt countries can enter again without a visa, receive another 30-day visa-exempt stamp with the option to extend another 30 days. This is known as the out-in method (I know what you're are thinking) if done by plane, or a "border-run" if done by land. You can get by using these methods for a few months with no problems. However, you will be viewed with suspicion by immigration if you push it too long. How long is too long? Well that really comes down to what immigration officer you get and the kind of mood they are in that day. I have heard of people on visa exempt status for over a year, with no issue. However, we feel it's not worth the risk of pushing it more than four months. Besides, Thailand is currently offering free tourist visas to US and other visa on arrival nationalities in 2017. Ultimately it's less time in a government office and money spent if you just get the free visa. Who knows, maybe you like hanging out in government offices and giving them your money. We do not.
Chose a reputable carrier and book your flight 45 days in advance. This will ensure you a good price, a good seat, fewer layovers and ample time to send your passport to the US Thai Embassy for your tourist visa. You will need to download and complete the form from the Embassy or Consulate where you will be making the request. Attach 2 recent (6 month) 2'x2' color photos with your first and last name on the back side. You will also need to include copies of both a recent bank statement showing a balance of at least $500USD, and copies of your flight reservation. Be sure to review the full requirements on the respective consulate's website as things can change. One last note, if entering Thailand on a tourist visa or visa exempt, it is recommended you book a return flight with flexible options. For an additional fee many airlines will allow you 6 months to a year to change your return flight date. Trust us, things will go much smoother with the Thai Consulate and Thai immigration if you can show a return ticket..
3. Shipping. Getting your things safely and successfully from point a to point b is going to be challenging. The good news is you have options, the bad news is they all cost money. Your first option is to pay the additional fees to ship with your airline carrier (pricing based on weight and restrictions will vary by airline). This is a great way to get a small to medium sized load over to Thailand. The bad news is, the airlines are rough with your shit and if you are flying multiple carriers your cargo could get separated and lost. The most expensive, but likely the quickest and safest is to use FedEx or DHL. Both are well established in Thailand and have a large support network. Finally, if you have a lot of stuff and don't mind waiting, you might just consider freighting your junk by sea. Pricing can be reasonable, but the downside is it will likely take months to arrive. Your stuff will ship out weeks before you step on the plane and it will be several more before you see them again. The upside is you will have time to explore, look for a job and a place to stay before worrying about a container waiting of your stuff held in customs. j/k
It's hard for us to give figures and estimates as everyone's shipping needs will differ in terms of weight and distance. We assume you know how to use Google and will do your own research to find the best solution for your needs. Whatever method you choose, we stress you travel light. If you can manage with just a couple carry-on bags and one checked bag we recommend you do so. Most things can easily be purchased right here in Bangkok.
4. If you haven't done so before you booked the flight, the next step is finding employment (If you are rich or retired you can skip this step...lucky bastards). We believe it's best to look for work before locating a more permanent residence because you could end up in a situation where your room is far from your work place. This can be a real problem in Bangkok with the daily traffic and a nightmare during rainy season. Bangkok is a big city, 605 mi2 with more than 10 million people, and some of the worst traffic in the world. Entering a contract for an apartment or condo before you have found employment is not recommended.
We would like to mention, at this point you should have already purchased a SIM card for a phone Thailand. You can buy them in the malls, cell phone stores and even 711. The major carriers here are dTac (True) and AIS. Phones and plans are not nearly as expensive as in the west. A good monthly package will run you between $15-$25. Currently dTac has the rights to 4G and the other companies rent bandwidth on True's towers. Once you get your phone, make sure you create a LINE profile. Not just for girls, but employers will expect you to have LINE as well.
Believe it or not, a great tool for finding work here in Thailand is Facebook. There are several of expat groups you can join and we recommend you do this before you arrive. Building relationships and creating opportunities before you arrive will give you an edge. The best site for teaching jobs in Thailand is ajarn.com. For other types of employment you can check out jobsDB, and as a last resort craigslist. Be advised you are prohibited by Thai law from engaging any form of work while on a tourist visa. Even when you do have a business visa most forms of employment will be restricted, even if you are married to a Thai national. It's actually easier for us to tell you what you can do than what you can't. We mentioned teaching earlier in this article, and though we don't recommend you make this your first option, it is the most readily available employment for foreigners. Past that as long as you get a Non-Immigrant B visa and work permit you can work in Thailand as a software and web developer, a musician, an exporter, as a rental, insurance, sales or marketing agent, as a model or in film, work for your country's embassy, customer service or call center for an international company, translator, as a chef, become a glassware manufacturer, mining and rock salt mining. Oooo I bet salt mining has always been high on your list of careers to try before you die! You also have the option of starting a business, but unless you are an American citizen, your company must be 51% Thai owned. Hopefully you are starting to see why step one is so important.
5. Now if you followed the above suggestions, it's all downhill from here. Finding a place will be easy because you have a job, you know your budget and the area you must travel everyday. Now pay attention, because what we are going to tell you next is a little known secret unless you live in Bangkok. Are you ready? Bangkok is a renters market. It has been overbuilt here in terms of flats, condos, apartments, shopping plazas, malls, rec centers...you name it. If we apply the basic economic principal of supply vs. demand you will see what we mean. Ask yourself, who is renting / buying these new condo developments? There is limited work available to foreigners, and the average Thai's monthly salary is around $300 USD. Most of these rooms start around $250 a month and can go into the thousands depending on your location. We've seen brand-new condo developments sit empty for years. Point is, you have flexibility when negotiating the price of the room. Use it to your full benefit. In Thailand, business advantages for your average foreigner are not a common phenomenon.
You now know there are too many rooms and not enough people in Bangkok with the bank roll to fill the vacancies (Supply vs Demand). If you are American or European, and you have a job in Thailand accompanied with a work permit and a business visa, you are an owner's / agent's wet dream. Schedule viewings of places you can afford and maybe a few you think you can't. You will initially be offered a price that is roughly 2,000-3,000 baht too much. Take good notes and pics (if they will allow) inside and outside. Do this not only for your protection should you rent, but also it will come in handy when you are presented with a price. Remember, you are in position of advantage, so play it cool. The agent will likely say they have someone else is interested and other showings today. Of course they will have the contracts in their hand when telling you this...fucking wolves. Anyway, thank them for their time and tell them you will be in touch, but have other viewings later in the day. Let these leaches sweat for a day or so and contact them again. If their initial offer is 15,000 baht you can bet a more realistic market price for the room is 13,000 baht...maybe only 12,000.
These people are starving and want every baht they can squeeze. Don't let them. I know it sounds a little cut throat, but when you consider that upon signing you will pay the first two months rent in full, plus a security deposit (totaling about three months rent) it's easy to see why you must play hard ball. Avoid agencies if you can, and try to find a building that is on a government electric program. Your electric bill will be significantly cheaper through the government. Also inquire about the internet...is it cable or dish? The dish can have problems during the monsoon and during times of high solar activity. Remember Thailand is much closer to the equator and thus less protection from the sun's radiation.
6. Open a bank account. It is nearly impossible to have a Thai bank account on a tourist visa. Thai logic is if you are here on tourist visa, you have no need for a Thai bank account. It's hard to argue their logic on this topic once you understand how tough their visa laws are. When you do go to the bank, you will need to bring your passport, work permit and about 300-500 baht with you when you open the account. As far as recommendations go we can tell you that Bangkok Bank is the largest bank in Thailand. Also, the Bangkok Bank at BTS Phrom Phong has, in the past, allowed individuals to open an account while on tourist visa. We cannot guarantee this is still the case, but maybe worth a try. The only thing they can do is say, "Sallee meesta, cannot ka". Moving on, SCB and Kasikorn are quite popular and have numerous ATM's throughout the city as well. Krungthai is owned by the government and used by nearly all of the government workers here. Keep in mind it is possible the choice will be made for you by your employer.
You may also want to consider getting a credit card. This can be a bit challenging, but not impossible. If you are working here you will need to provide your paystubs and an offical bank statement. It is a good idea to have worked for about six months before you attempt to apply. Remember no matter how good (or bad) your credit was at home, it means nothing here. We recommend starting small, get a Tesco Lotus card and a credit card through your bank here in Thailand. Standard Chartered Bank is very good about extending credit to foreigners. Just remember to play it cool and have all documents with you, passport, bank statement, paystub, and it wouldn't hurt to have a letter from your employeer. Don't expect to get a huge line of credit at first. Remember even though you have established credit in your home country, here in Thailand you are starting from scratch. One last note, if you have good credit in your home country, keep it that way. You never know when you might need to get the hell outta Dodge.
7. Transportation/Entertainment/Eats/Hospitals/Pharmacy/ Recreation/ Fitness. Ideally all of this will fall into place quite nicely when you have done the above. You will live close enough to work that you can likely walk, take a motor bike, or a quick ride on the BTS/MRT. Unless you are deep in a back soi or yaak, you always have a Pharmacy, 711, Family Mart, or Max Value within walking distance from your room. There are street vendors and small family restaurants everywhere. Don't forget, exploration and experimentation are part of the adventure. Check our other articles, Western Food in Thailand and Thai Food, for more info on the subject. As for hospitals, if you are in Bangkok we recommend Bumrungrad. It is world class and far less expensive than any center in the United States. We don't recommend public hospitals as they are typically just waiting rooms. You know, crowded rooms for you to wait in while you die. If moving here for the long term, it really is the a good idea to get some basic heath insurance so you can go to a better hospital if needed. Most packages start around 30 USD a month.
Bangkok has plenty of entertainment, recreation and fitness options for nearly everyone. As far as shopping goes you will never run out of malls. Bangkok is kind of one giant mall when you consider there is a mall in the airport when you arrive, and one or two at nearly every train station throughout the city. Temples, live music, cabaret shows, cinemas, laser tag, batting cages, bowling allies, amusement parks, massage shops, cultural exhibits, markets and bazaars are all accessible by taxi or train. Most decent condos will have a small commons with a study, fitness center and pool. Branded gyms like Fitness First and We Fitness are readily available near the BTS or MRT. Quick heads up, you will pay more for gym memberships in Bangkok than in the states and most want a year commitment. The local clubs and youth centers are more affordable, but the equipment is likely old and not in the best condition.
In closing, remember, coming to Thailand is not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is. Start planning and prepping a year ahead of your trip. Use the flight search below to find the best prices. Follow the rest of the points we mentioned and most everything will fall right into place. Chok Dee muppets!