Thailand is an appealing country for many of expats. It is very cheap, very beautiful and has fabulous food and a relaxed approach to life. It attracts a wide range of expats from retired people, the business community, students and teachers. So what’s not to like?
As with all big moves, it’s good to find out exactly what you can expect before you get there, to avoid any major surprises.
It is relatively hot and humid all the time in Thailand but there are distinct seasons that vary depending on which part of the country you are in. The weather in central, northern and north eastern Thailand (the landlocked provinces) can broadly be split into three seasons, whereas in the southern coastal regions, it is only two.
So inland, November until May is mainly dry and November to February is mainly cool with the hot weather starting in March. In May, the rainy season starts and lasts until November.
On the west coast, where Phuket, Krabi and the Phi Phi Islands lie, there are heavy storms from April to October, whereas on the east coast on the Gulf of Thailand where Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao lie, September to December are the main rainy times.
Bangkok is six hours ahead of GMT.
The currency in Thailand is the Thai baht (pronounced – baaht). One baht is made up of 100 satang and coins come in denominations of: 1, 2, 5 and 10 baht, as well as 25 and 50 satang. Banknotes come in denominations of: 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 baht.
The most commonly used coin is the 10 baht and the most commonly used note is the 100 baht. Banknotes feature a portrait of the King. The Royal Family are highly revered in Thailand and you should never joke about, or criticize, them. More of this later.
In Thailand, foreign nationals are not allowed to own land, although they can buy an apartment as along as no more than 49% of the building is occupied by foreigners.
They can also buy detached properties but cannot own the land that it sits on, and can only lease it for 30 years at a time. This has led to some expats entering into complex legal arrangements to get around the Thai laws, whereby they set up a company to buy the land and they find a Thai national to ‘own’ the company but not have a financial interest in it. But beware that these arrangements can end in disaster, and also the Thai Government is cracking down on such deals which aim to bend the rules: those who fall foul of the tough new laws could be deported.
Renting is therefore your safest bet and compared to many countries, it is very cheap. Location is the key however and prices will vary enormously according to what you choose. In Thailand, expats live in anything from an incredibly modern apartment in Bangkok to a shack on a beach on one of the islands and anything in between. A good place to start your property search is one of the main property portals. From a budget point of view, a high specification apartment in Bangkok could be THB 30,000 or as little as THB 2,000 for a small studio.
The vast majority of expats who choose to live in Thailand with school age children, choose an international school. These are located almost entirely in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket and offer high standards of education taught in English. Beware trying to cut costs with education, as although some establishments offer lower fees, standards are often much lower. Obviously getting your children’s educational needs met will be of the highest priority, so do your research well – here is an excellent source of initial information.
Bangkok is notorious for its congestion not aided by the Thai’s love of double and triple parking! Although public transport is good for getting around the country, you may still want to have a car and for this you will need an International Driving License. A license from most major western countries including UK, USA and Australia would be valid but if you are not sure, contact your local Embassy. After three months, many insurance policies will not cover anyone on a foreign license so you will have to apply for a Thai one from the Department of Land Transport Office, which has a series of local offices.
You will need to take a series of documents, fill out an application and take various tests, so take a Thai translator with you!
6. Public Transport
Travelling around Thailand is relatively easy by plane, train, bus, car or boat. However in rural areas it may be a slightly chaotic. Generally speaking, it is a good idea to book trips well in advance, although as the options are plentiful, you can normally get where you want to go.
The principal language spoken in Thailand is Thai, although there are large numbers who speak Chinese, Lao, Khmer and Malay. A large percentage of the Thai population speaks English though, and aside from official bureaucracy where you should employ a translator, you can get by with English.
Thailand is about 95% Theravada Buddhist, and a lot of its customs and culture derives from that. One of the most distinctive and well-known Thai customs is the wai. This is used in greetings, leave-taking, or as an acknowledgement, and it comes in many forms which is determined by the relative status of the people greeting one another. Generally speaking, it is a very positive culture and smiling is very important: expats are advised not to use argumentative tones in discussions.
9. Law and Order
Thailand is currently under military rule, although life has carried on much as normal and in some respects, it has become safer. There are no special instructions for travellers and expats, although that is always worth checking in the run up to your departure. However, it is worth noting that this situation may affect your insurance, and you should be careful not to offend the Thai regime in anyway, which includes posting anything disrespectful about the Royal Family or the ruling military, on social media channels. Keep an eye on sites like this one to see what the situation is, as well as the international sections of large media outlets.
If you are considering a move to Thailand PSS International removals can help. We are a family run company and our desire is to ensure your family receives a friendly, professional and stress free overseas move. We have specialised in international removals for over 33 years, so whether you are planning on sending a full or part household removal, excess baggage or a vehicle we recognise the importance of ensuring our customers receive the same level of care and attention that we would expect ourselves.
Contact us now for a free estimator’s survey, or simply fill in our online moving or baggage quote form.
Image: Thailand – Wat Mahathat by Melenama https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/