Travel, Teach, Live in Thailand
Situated, as it is, at the heart of the South East Asian region it is no surprise that Thailand is home to many expats. It is not only convenient geographically; it also has a modern infrastructure making it a convenient place from which to do business. The ease of living and the variety and beauty of places to live also mean that Thailand is also a popular place to retire. It is a country where a modest pension can go a long way.
For those wishing to make their home in Thailand the first and most important hurdle to jump is that of visas. Although visiting as a tourist is a simple process, negotiating the bureaucracy for a longer term stay is more complicated. If you are employed in Thailand you will need a work permit. This involves your employer providing proof that you are genuinely employed. You then apply for a non immigrant visa, preferably from your country of origin, which allows a stay of three months. During that time you need to complete the process of getting a work permit at which point you will be granted a one year renewable visa. For a retirement visa you need to be over fifty years old and prove sufficient funds.
Once established in Thailand you will need health insurance. Private health care is excellent and, compared to western countries, is also very cheap. However cheap it is if you should be unfortunate and need major medical the cost does mount up. There is not really any need to be covered for outpatient care since the insurance payouts are minimal and it is cheap in any case. BUPA BlueCross is an international company that can take care of all this.
Opening a bank account in Thailand is very simple. You do not necessarily need to show residency but it helps. The Kasikorn Bank is the one that seems most foreigner friendly. You will be issued with an ATM card that also functions as a debit card.
If you want to work in Thailand there are opportunities but it can be complicated. The single biggest need in all of Asia, given that English is the global language of commerce, is for people who can teach. These days you will need to be educated up to University standard and you will definitely fair better if you also have a TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) or TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification that qualifies you as a properly trained teacher. Apart from that there is work in the tourist industry if you have skills in diving or the hospitality industry. Wages in Thailand are generally fairly low if employed locally but then so is the cost of living. This works both ways. Many people choose to work “remotely” for companies in their own countries and with advances in technology and the reasonable living costs this is an increasing trend.
When living in Thailand the expat does have to get used to things that would generally not be an issue in Europe or the US. Although in many ways very advanced, Thailand is also very newly developed. One has to deal with a, sometimes, chaotic bureaucracy, a legal system that lacks definition and a police force that is underpaid and therefore unorthodox in methods of law enforcement. If you are asked for extra curricular payments and you are guilty the most important thing is to remain friendly and keep the costs down. In the main this will involve minor traffic infringements and the standard ‘fee’ to walk away is about 200 baht. When it comes to serious crimes, especially drugs, law enforcement in Thailand is punitive to put it mildly.
One thing that every expat in Thailand learns sooner or later is patience. Things don’t always happen as quickly as they should and sometimes they don’t happen at all. To show anger and impatience, however justified, will probably just make things worse. For the expat the first phrase of Thai to be learned is ‘Mai Pen Rai’ or ‘never mind’.
Alex Smith maintains, manages and writes for the Cheap Thailand Travel website at http://www.cheapthaitravel.com