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So what do you need to do before moving to Thailand? What you do mainly depends on what your initial plans are. If you’re coming over for a few weeks to check it out, there’s not much to do, apart from booking a flight and hotel. So this section is really for those that have decided to come here long-term. Each of you will have different circumstances, so the best solution for each person will be slightly different. So, what follows is what worked for many other expats.
Probably the first thing you need to consider is if you have enough money to come and live here full-time. How much is enough for you depends on where you will end up living and what lifestyle you want to live while you are here. Some expats that live in Thailand on 20,000 baht a month ($670, £450), while others spend well over 100,000 baht per month ($3,300, £2,250).
Many expats that teach English earn around 25,000-30,000 baht per month and are very happy here. They might spend 8,000-10,000 baht on accommodation, with the same amount on food and entertainment. But the exact amounts vary widely between teachers. A teacher at a top international school in Bangkok could earn as much as 100,000 a month, so their lifestyle would be completely different.
Since moving to Thailand, we’ve spent most time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. The average monthly spending in Bangkok was around 70,000 baht per month, while in Chiang Mai, it’s only about 40,000 baht per month. So where you live can make a big difference. Expats that live in the Isaan region, in the northeast of Thailand, could get by on 25,000-30,000 baht per month easily.
A breakdown of our monthly spending in Bangkok would be roughly 25,000 baht on a 1-bed condo, 2,000 baht for electricity, 200 baht for water rates, 500 baht for internet, 20,000 baht for food, and 20,000 for entertainment and miscellaneous items.
In Chiang Mai, we stay in a long-stay hotel that costs 9,000 baht per month. Other costs include electricity 2,000 baht, water rates 200 baht, internet 400 baht, food and drinks 20,000 baht, with miscellaneous items making up the rest.
These figures should give you a rough idea of how much you’ll spend when you move here, but only you can tell if you have enough. Most expats that come to live in Thailand already have at least some sort of regular income. Their income could be a pension, rental income from a property they own, or an online business income. Many also have savings that they can draw on, or use for emergencies. We would advise against moving here if you don’t have enough money. In that case, it would be better to stay where you are, start saving, and find ways to earn a regular income without having to work here.
Some come here to work, and they don’t need an existing income if they plan to earn money here. But it’s still important for these people to have some savings to fall back on in an emergency. It’s not fun being stuck in a foreign country without any money and without any means to get home. Many that come here to work end up teaching English. We’ll talk more about this in the Working In Thailand section later in the book.
So, assuming you have decided to move to Thailand, and have enough money to do so, what should you do next? The most obvious thing to do is to book your flight and hotel. If you’re on a budget, then it would be a good idea to come during the low season, as flights and accommodation will be cheaper. Arriving during the main season will mean prices are higher, and you may feel more like a tourist. You’ll get a better feel for the place during the low season. But if you’ve decided you want to come right away and have enough money, there’s no need to worry about the part of the tourist season it is.
Along with booking your flight and hotel, you’ll need to decide what to do with your current property and possessions. When we left the UK, we sold almost all belongings and rented out the apartment. We use the rental income, as well as some other income, to live in Thailand. We didn’t think we’d be going back, and it didn’t make financial sense to keep the stuff in storage for a year or more.
Having spoken to many expats about what they did, we found that there was a complete range of answers. Many like to make a clean break, and sell everything, often including the house in which they lived. Others rent out their property and use the rental income to live here. A few put everything into storage, just in case they want to return one day. What you choose to do is up to you, as getting rid of possessions can seem impossible to some people. But if you still have stuff left behind in your home country, then you never feel as if you’ve truly left. So, for us, selling everything was the obvious choice.
The final decision to make is what to bring with you. The general advice, which we agree with, is to bring as little as possible. Almost everything is cheaper here, so there isn’t any point in bringing a few suitcases full of all your old clothes. If you’re coming from a cold country, you won’t need any of your old clothes anyway. We’d suggest a couple of pairs of jeans or other trousers, a few t-shirts and shirts, some underwear and some light shoes. Most people here wear flip-flops, and you can easily pick up a pair when you get here. You will also want to bring your favorite toiletries, as the Western brands are more expensive here. It is also wise to bring any electronic equipment you need, such as a laptop, cell phone, camera, etc. Electronic equipment is more expensive in Thailand, and some are harder to find. Anything else, you can buy it when you arrive. If you have a choice, it’s better to bring too little than too much. We made the mistake of shipping over six boxes of belongings when we first moved here. We gave away four of the boxes, as we never needed whatever was in them.
You may also need to get a visa, but we’ll discuss that in the next section.