Moving to Thailand

by Jose Marc Castro on August 4, 2009

movingtothailandIMAGESituated in Southeast of Asia, Thailand has experienced a number of years of economic growth prior to the military coup of 2006 that would stall any growth in the immediate future.  While the coup did not have much of an effect on the day-to-day operations of the country, there are concerns about the date of the promised democratic elections.  There is pent up demand with regard to foreign investment, but the actually materialization of these plans and programs are uncertain at the moment.

The main focal point of the country continues to be Bangkok, which has an official population in the region of 8 million according to 2009 Wikipedia (although independent estimates put this closer to 14 million).  The city is one of the main tourist attractions of the world and a common stopping over point for Europeans making the long journey to Australia.  Tourism is fast becoming a massive part of the Thai economy, opening up foreigners to the beauty and mystique of this ancient country.

The Thai immigration system is fairly simple for Expats wishing to live in Thailand. While it is possible to arrive in the country without a visa, it is recommended that visas are arranged prior to travel especially if you are looking to stay more than 40 days.  It is also recommended that you do not overstay and ensure that your visa is updated if your stay is extended.  There are situations where if you are found to have an invalid visa you may be detained in an Immigration Detention Center – until your case is heard and you are deported. The timing for this is all up in the air.

Content: Culture in Thailand | Employment in Thailand | Property in Thailand | Key Facts on Thailand

Culture in Thailand

Thailand is a unique state in the history of the Far East, having been one of the few countries never to be colonized by any of the European super powers.  This was due to a deep sense of national pride together with great leaders of the past, which served the population as well as could be expected.

The country itself is dominated by a range of Thai speaking ethnic groups who have all had an impact upon the culture of the nation, although the Central Thai’s have the largest impact.  The Central Thai dialect has become common throughout the whole of the country, in tandem with the various localized languages evident in various parts of Thailand.

The culture of Thailand is based upon Thai Buddhism, with a deeply spiritual connection with the past, a social hierarchy and strong sense of generosity and giving. Deeply ingrained in the culture is respect towards ancestors, elders even elder siblings towards younger ones.

This is perhaps the reason why the country is becoming more and more popular with foreign nationals.  While nowhere near the main contributor to Thai culture, the country has a significant part of the population descendent from Chinese ancestry – and they have brought many Chinese traditions and values with them.

While the country has a strong culture based upon the past, food is also one of the more traditional ways in which the culture is promoted.  Thai food offers an interesting blend of sweet, spicy, sour, butter and salty with a variety of sauces – something which has been easily exported to many overseas countries.

Employment in Thailand

Thailand has a predominately export driven economy, and while it has taken some time to build up and expand the relatively new focus of the economy, it has been very successful.  The economy was the best performing in the world between 1985 and 1995, averaging in excess of 9% growth per annum.  This has formed the basis for the Thai economy that we see today, with particular strength in the areas of rice, textiles, rubber, jewellery and electrical appliances.

This impressive performance was abruptly halted for 12 months in 1997 with the onset of the Asian crisis, which had a massive impact on the Thai currency (as well as other currencies in the area).  The Thai currency was then revalued to combat the issue of currency speculators taking advantage of the weakness – during this period the economy shrunk by some 10%.  The economy then resumed a growth period from 1998 onwards until the current financial worldwide financial crisis. Now, the country’s GDP real growth rate is at a stable 4.8% and all the indicators show a rebound of the economy by next year.

Thailand has an excellent record on employment with under 2% of the population unemployed,  which in 2009 is at 1.5% is one of the lowest in the region. Another expanding industry is the growing number of short and long term stay immigrants contributing more and more to the economy, and the quality of the economic revival.  This has resulted in Thailand being rated as the 21st largest economy in the world.

While the short-term situation is being driven by the military leaders who instigated the coup, the medium and longer-term prospects are still very good especially in the midst of the worldwide recession.

Property in Thailand

As you might expect from a country that is as diverse as Thailand, the property market is both varied in styles and prices.  The price of property is areas such as Bangkok continue to grow as the influx of immigrants continues, although overall there is expected to be a slow down in the market.

Initial forecasts at the start of the year were for 10% growth in 2007, although this has recently been revised down to 5% (a big difference from 10%, but still encouraging).

In 2009, all indicators show that still are unlikely to recover for some time as demand has been shrinking and there is an oversupply of development projects being mothballed. The cause is some concern that financial institutions in Thailand have been fairly cavalier in their recent approach to lending.  If interest were to rise any further in the short term then the pressure on property owners would increase dramatically.  Many are looking for the government to assist in bring lending back under control.

While there is a danger of a short-term economic growth bubble, the longer-term prospects for the country are still very positive.  Many expats have, and continue to make their home in Thailand and the while there is some confusion about the current authorities, the positive promotion of Thailand to expats has never been in doubt.

Even after the rise of recent years, the Thai property market is still fairly young and under developed in many areas, offering great potential for long term economic growth.


A strong cultural background has served Thailand very well, giving the country a distinct identity when many have been influenced by other countries.  This national pride has ensured that the economy has performed very well over the last 20 years, and the prospects for the long term are still upbeat.

The country is becoming more and more popular with those looking to relocate to the Far East, although some have delayed decisions until the political scene becomes more settled.  Thailand is definitely on the up and Bangkok has proved to be a very useful location to catch the attention of travelers.  Tourism seems to be growing year on year, with visitor number rising all of the time. The Thailand Expat Forum has provided many positive reviews of the Thai tourism industry, as the post in May 18,2009:

“But most of it is simply untrue!

The Beaches here are clean. Not a bit of rubbish on them.
The Sea is SO clean you could drink it. If it wasn’t salty.
The Roads are smooth as billiard tables. Not a pothole anywhere.
The Road users are polite and safe. Can’t recall seeing an accident this year. No not one!
The Air is far cleaner than Chang Mai’s. That’s for sure.
Walking St is kept free of traffic, so that a guy can stroll along without fear of being hit by a motor vehicle whilst his attention is on the many lovely ladies in the many inexpensive Bars.
Those lovely Ladies will accompany one, if you are feeling lonely. Away from the wife and all that. They only charge a small fee for a relaxing massage in the comfort of ones room, and as they do so, will discuss Nuclear Physics, the parlous state of the World Economy, or whatever…….
This the Reality of life in dear old Pattaya. God Bless it…….

In fine, living in Thailand is summed up in this post from in March 27, 2009 on the Thailand Expat Forum:

“For me, it’s the lovely warm climate here in Pattaya. Couldn’t bare to go back to the grey skies of the UK…….”

More facts about Thailand:-

Capital : Bangkok

Official Language : Thai

Government : Military Junta

Size : 514,000 km2

Population : 63 million

Currency : Baht

International Dialling Code : +66

Economy : 21st largest in the world

Religion : Buddhism

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

movers February 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm

when moving to any far off land you have to plan the relocation effort and realize that most if not all "international movers" are going to be handing off your shipment to other parties. Make sure you have an independent source of insuring your load while it travels near and far that is not associated with the movers. Take a very good and detailed inventory with video if possible. Also try to get in order documentation as to the cost and purchase date of items to be shipped as well as independent valuations of very high value items (do this before the shipment is moved and provide this information to whom ever is providing your insurance coverage)


Alexander Duncan April 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm

I Am trying to find a professional who can counsel me on obtaining a retirement visa for Thailand (I am Canadian). My biggest concern is, it seems one has to apply for the retirement visa in country. What if I am rejected? I want to apply from here and know that I have been accepted before I travel to Thailand. I wrote to the Thai embassy here and they ignored me. I wrote to two banks in Thailand and they said that I have to be working in Thailand to obtain a bank account there (which is a requirement of obtaining a retirement visa). Can anyone recommend how to get authoritative answers to these questions? Please email [email protected].


Wayne Morris April 24, 2011 at 6:21 am

I am Australian and moving to Thailand as soon as possible want to know what I can take with me as far as House hold, Guardening and of cause my tools and equipment that I have collected over the years.


PutLen September 18, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Pattaya has been experiencing some very heavy rain with flooding occurring in many areas. Monsoon season is not the best time to go to Thailand.


Ernie September 19, 2011 at 10:43 pm

I too am looking into moving to Thailand and have a job… No one seem to be able to tell me what it is I have to do to live there. All I keep seening is visa for this and passport for that. Is there anyone who can tell me how can I just move to Thailand and live there with no red type?


greg October 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Unfortunately you need a work visa to get a job here. You would need to check into immigration every 3 months, and ther will be red tape unfortunately. It is tough to find employment here and I would advise anyone to think long and hard before moving here. Sorry i couldn’t give you a more positive slant on working here.


Untika September 29, 2011 at 10:52 am

In reply to the Question from Ernie, Bangkok is a great place to live but on the downside there is lots of red tape. If you have a legitimate job with a company who can provide you with a work visa then this is make life much easier.

If you don’t have a work visa you will have to either do multiple trips to Cambodia every 90 days to renew your toursit visa. Another option would be an ED visa – this is an educational vis (not permitted to work) and you can spend a few hours per week studying thai and not have to worry about the visa runs!

Just remember when you are ready to move to Bangkok make sure you Rent apartment there are many areas and districts in Bangkok and the accommodation prices can vary dramatically


Rob Conner October 2, 2014 at 3:06 am

Untika. I am also thinking in regards. I have been twice for a month at a time, but wish to stay long time. I have a great deal of skills in manufacturing and the structural steel industry. I have a degree in Administration of Justice. The struggle I see is networking; To make a contact and be able to sell my skills there for employment and find work. It is very hard to do from across the Pacific in the U.S. I could easily come with ample finances for 2-3 years without income. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Debbie Derenthall November 5, 2011 at 4:43 am

Hey does anyone know of a site that may have an example of an Inventory / packing list of a shipment that has actually moved by Ocean freight? I have no idea how to describe all these contents and not throw red flags at customs. This is a shipment for a returning Thai Citizen from the US. Any good suggestions would be great at this point. This was all just handed to meand I have no idea how to do this. I have a excel form from the shipping company and thats it. thank you in advance


Lyle Martinez June 28, 2012 at 6:46 am

I have an identical situation. My wife is a Thai citizen and will have a duty exemption. Any good suggestions from you? I am particularly worried about the old wood furniture and possible taxation. I feel your pain, this is the most stress I have ever dealt with.


Lulu May 19, 2013 at 3:28 am

I have been hired t teach in Bangkok and now need to decide what to bring with me. Should I just bring the essentials… clothes, toiletries, medicine, and buy the rest when I arrive, or should I ship my life over there? I'm young and will need to rent a furnished apt. I know everything is cheap, but is it really cheaper to buy it there rather than ship it over from the US? What is essential that I bring that would be difficult to get there? Any suggestions would be great.


greg October 23, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Everything is cheaper here. Just bring the bare minimum for clothes, etc. and you won’t be sorry. Good luck…


Jon May 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Interesting article on Thailand! Thanks for the insight, in particular countering the common myths of living in Thailand and the advantages to living in the country. I also agree that it has been able to keep it’s cultural heritage very well.

One thing you didn’t mention though, is the ease at which navigating Thailand’s lesser traveled areas by learning the Thai language before you go. We have multiple students that are taking Thai language classes with us to help prepare for their travel overseas. It helps with culture shock as well.


Rose April 26, 2015 at 11:32 pm

Kia ora. I am going to visit Thailand for the first time shortly and stay for about a month. I want to see and get a feel for the place before I make a decision on whether to live and work there. At 52 and the fact that my three children have their own lives now, it is time for me and a new career. I am on a budget when I first travel so have to source good comfortable accommodation and air fares. Can anyone help me with any travellers tips?


john dutton February 13, 2016 at 4:00 am

hi I live in namchun lomsak phetchabun I love Thailand but I am struggling to find a solicitor I built a house on my wife’s land but the owners of the land next to us are giving us grief I would love some help yours john dutton


Eric Brown June 15, 2016 at 11:01 am

Hi I am moving to Thailand from New South Wales to does anyone know of a container company or company that will relocate a small amount home contents.
Regards Eric


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