Advice On Living In The LOS
This submission is in response to MaiTaiTime's Heaven on Earth submission as well as anyone considering the move or an extended life break here. This is what I did and what I have learned in my short stay so far, so I hope this can be of some good use for you.
The following 4 questions were the most important in my decision to make the move:
1) Can I change my mindset to live in a country that does not have the same amenities as what I was used to in the US? This is by far the most important. Many people think they can just up and move somewhere because of the fantasy, but reality is a whole different world.
2) Where in Thailand will I live? This is very tough if you have spent little to no time here.
3) What is the minimum amount of money (including entertainment) I need to survive? Will discuss below.
4) What kind of job can I do or am qualified to do in Thailand? This is assuming you are not planning to come here and do nothing the rest of your life. Will discuss below.
So, let me delve deeper into each of the above categories. Each could have their own submission, so I will be as brief as possible.
As I said above this is the most important in my opinion. Moving to another country has its initial illusions and feeling of adventure, but as we all know reality can hit you like a Mack Truck! You need to figure out what amenities (cable, food, etc.) that you enjoy in your life and try to do your best on what you think you can live without. Can you deal with "no rules of the road" while driving? Can you deal with all farang food being ridiculously expensive as compared to your home country? This is basically a result of the import fees to get it here. Not necessarily a cheap restaurant, but more for shopping for your food that you like in the US. And many times you will not find your favorite brand of anything. Can you eat the local cuisine? Can you deal with power outages, slow internet and not having your option to watch all sports whenever you want? Can you deal with the time difference with the US? (Specific for MaiTaiTime) I say this because if you want to watch any sports you will be doing it at +11 hours EST until DST then it is +12 hours EST. Can you deal with living in a country where many do not speak your native tongue effectively? These are but a small snapshot of some things you may want to ask yourself with 100+ more questions easily.
Where will you live? The most common thought is Bangkok. Personally it was not my first choice and I chose Chiang Mai. I did this for many reasons, but mainly because I wanted to live in a big city, but not a 13 million+ with hectic traffic, pollution and just a pain in the ass to get anywhere on time. Unless you live next to the BTS and you only go to BTS stops for your needs, then maybe it will suit you. Again, this is determinate on your needs. There was no way I was ever going to live in some village somewhere (knock on wood) and no way I wanted to live far from a city. This is also a factor for the next two topics (money and job). There are so many wonderful places to choose, but you have to decide.
This is a very debatable topic and has been discussed many times. This is also a factor in where you want to live in Thailand. I will speak for Chiang Mai as I do not have the same experience in Bangkok. First, what kind of house/apartment is good enough for you or simply put, meets your minimum standards. Well this is Thailand, so some houses you may want to live in will not meet your expectations. So, then you may choose a condo/apartment, which I see many expats do at first. This is my recommendation for anyone first living in Thailand. Get an apartment for 6 months and then go from there.
1) Apt: Can get an apartment for 5000-15000 baht/month and along with air-con, water and internet will run you between 7000-17000 baht/month. Just go with 20,000 baht ($650 US) to be safe and any you save is a good thing. You can get a house for the same price 5-10 minutes from city, but this is just an example.
2) Food: If you just eat Thai food then you can do for 150 baht/day. So, read as 5000 baht/month. Now again you may want dinners here and there at different restaurants, so go with 10,000 baht.
Adding those two, you come up with 30,000 baht/month. This is very high for me, but I do not know your lifestyle and you can actually live decent for 15,000 baht/month.
3) Entertainment: I have no way of assuming or knowing your needs, so this is something you have to figure out. You can see newly released movies for 90 baht. You can buy the DVDs for 90 baht, etc. If you are a drinker and monger this can add 20,000 to 50,000 to your monthly total if you feel you need to get drunk and buy women all the time. Again, you figure out that one.
So, to go on the high end without considering boozing and whoring, I would say 40,000 baht/month is way more than sufficient for Chiang Mai. Multiply this by 6 and you get 240,000 baht which is roughly ($7500 US). So to be safe, if you have $10,000 US, you can come to Thailand for 6 months no problem. This does not mean you should not have extra money set aside for emergencies or an immediate departure if something happened in your homeland and have to return. Also note that the average Thai worker here in Chiang Mai makes between 6,000-10,000 baht/month and they seem to still live and be happy. Again this goes back to amenities and your personal needs. Most Farang can not just come to Thailand and live like a Thai, so I would not even recommend that to anyone.
Most people know the common job for a Farang is being a teacher. This is another nightmare topic as you have to change your mindset for what you think is being a good teacher to dealing with the Thai bosses as well as the Thai students. You can read Sawadee2000's submissions about his own frustrations as well as other websites for this topic. Many Farang are unaware of the allowed jobs in Thailand and get surprised by this topic. This website is a quick rundown FYI http://www.ajarnmichael.com/JobsThailand.html The reality for most people who want a job in Thailand is:
1) Being a teacher.
2) Working IT or some type of online business/program.
3) Working for a multi-national company.
4) Having your own business in country.
The 4 listed above is not an all/all statement, just the most common. There are many exceptions, but these are the majority. Again, you decide what may or may not be available and if you can work out a 6 month on in the US with a 6 month off in Thailand, then more power to you.
So that is a brief synopsis for the 4 questions one should ask themselves when making the move. Now lets talk about some of the other considerations.
This topic can be very confusing and there are so many opinions and differences on this topic, that I will tell you what I know as of now. Also, Stickman has a link on his home page for the types of visas and what happens if you overstay, etc. I will just cover the common ones for you real quick as my personal knowledge differs from Stickman's knowledge on this topic. And sadly many immigration departments in Thailand do different things, so it can be quite frustrating. If you are under the age of 50 there are really only 3 types of visa available for the common person (tourist, work permit and education visa). Of course there is marriage and investment and other types, but I will cover the basics of the 3.
1) Tourist: This is the easiest and can be obtained in your home country at the nearest Thai embassy. If you do not have the time or have been to busy, then a common one is fly to Thailand (get your 30 day visa upon arrival) and then go to Vienne Tienne in Laos (or another country) to the Thai embassy for your tourist/double tourist visa. This is a very common one. Stick explains in his link. One exception is the extension. Here is an example: Fly to Thailand and you get a 30 day visa. The only way to extend this current visa besides going to a Thai embassy outside of Thailand for a specific visa is 1) go to the nearest immigration office and you get a 7 day extension for 1,900 baht 2) walk across a border and come back for a 14 day visa from that date or 3) take a quick round trip plane flight to the nearest country for a new 30 day visa, which will be dated from the date of your arrival and is not really an extension per se. If your tourist visa is a 60 day with a 30 day extension, then you get the 30 day extension.
This is why many of the arrivals just head to the nearest embassy outside Thailand to get the double tourist visa. The 7 day and 14 day extensions are good for people that need the few extra days in LOS.
The US policy with Thai immigration is that you can not exceed 90 days in a 180 day cycle. This prevents people from trying to arrive here on the 30 day visa and every 30 days fly roundtrip somewhere. They will stop you and tell you to go home, so don't waste your time. The 90 day rule does not apply to any real visa you obtain at a Thai embassy outside Thailand. This was a tough one for me to figure out as it took a lot of research because the US state department was not very clear nor Thailand's immigration website. Bottom line is that they do not know what you are doing in Thailand when you just fly out and return every 30 days, or crazily enough keep trying to walk across the border. You can thank past shit-bags for screwing that up for us.
2) Work permit: This is a nightmare if your company is not familiar with the required paperwork for you. Large companies are solid, but some teaching institutions can cause you to do a couple runs because of incorrect paperwork. If you have a business (coffee shop, bar, whatever) then hopefully your lawyer is smart in all the paperwork necessary. Also, there seems to be a lack of consistency for work permits in that some may require you to leave every 3 months, 6 months or may allow you to stay for 1 year. I have seen so may problems with this and it will take patience and thoroughness on your part to get the facts correct and what requirements are necessary.
3) Education: This is a common one for the long term expats under 50. In Chiang Mai it is still limited problems. It is normally an initial 3 month visa with a follow up at immigration for a 1 year extension. Basically it is a 15 month visa initially. At no time do you ever need to leave the country. Just do the 90 day reports, which immigration is always nice enough to put a piece of paper in the back of your passport telling you the 90th day. Now, the scam part of this that has affected Bangkok and Pattaya is that the immigration officers are now asking people questions in Thai (if you are doing a Thai language course, this being the most common) and if you can not speak any Thai there will be some problems. Also, it is free for me here in Chiang Mai for my 90 reports where in Bangkok and Pattaya, I have been told every 90 days they pay 1,900 baht. This is supposedly to get more money from the expats as well as all the problems they have had with the scam language schools.
The inconsistencies with immigration throughout Thailand can be a frustrating issue, but once you figure things out (which will never be 100%), you can get along just fine. On a personal note, make sure you are dressed appropriate and maintain a positive attitude no matter what they say to you. Appearance and attitude go such a long way at immigration. A fellow classmate of mine went for the 1 year extension and on his 90 day reporting gets grilled for 20minutes+. I get asked no questions and sent on my way. The reason, well he dresses like a Seattle grunge reject and speaks little to no Thai and is in a Thai language course. It is such and easy thing to overcome, but some Farang feel they do not need to follow common sense guidelines when dealing with immigration. These people totally control your future and I don't care who you are, you better be a total ass kisser when you go.
This is a huge topic talked about numerous times on this website. My only comment is this: Do not (if you are able) get your 'booty' calls lined up before you get here. Many Farang go to the Thai dating websites and start single and many times multiple relationship plans before they get here. It is already a difficult task to move to a different country and then they throw a wrench in the works by getting their tee-rak's set for their arrival. Show up single, get set up and then by all means go on the hunt. Use websites, bars, nightclubs, whatever you fancy, but as a solid piece of advice DO NOT have anything here waiting when you arrive. Get it all after the fact. I have heard this from many expats living here as well as had personal experience with this. Once you get settled in and find the places and/or people you like it is always different than the plans you had before you arrived. Again the fantasy becomes reality and it is totally different. As the Thai say "up to you", but I highly recommend not lining up anything prior to arrival.
Ok this was just the basics and a quick overview. Do your research, get your basic plan and then come enjoy the kingdom. Listen to the many Farang that complain, because that seems to be the normal status here. Maybe a Farang is not happy unless he has something to complain about? Who knows? With that you can decipher what is applicable to you and what you think is a silly thing to complain about. You do not have to make yourself crazy trying to figure out every possible problem to be encountered, but should have a basic plan and not just a backpack and a lonely planet to guide you.
I am the same as you and did not want to wait until I was 70 to go live abroad. I wanted to do it while I was young and if everything fails can always go back and work in the US. I have that luxury that many do not. Will I ever go back? I do not know. I just know I am very happy I did this now. Life can be an adventure and if you are ready then I wish you the best of luck.
Take care gang,
Some good info on staying in Chiang Mai.
With regards to the education visa information, I am guessing that you have confused 90-day reporting with extension of stays. For sure, a visa extension costs 1,900 baht at *every* immigration branch and for sure, 90-day reporting is free at all. Different language schools handle things differently. Some may be able to get you a full one year visa extension while others get you 90-day extension after 90-day extension. Anyone signing up with a language school which offers the year visa specifically so they can stay in Thailand long-term should be sure to find out just what the benefits are.