Moving to Thailand
Advice on moving to Thailand
I retired at 62, and relocated to Phuket, from the U.S., in 2009. I sold everything I had in America and came here with 6 suitcases and a large duffel bag. It’s cheaper to pay the airline than it is to actually ship it. My biggest error was selling my excellent motorcycle helmets in the U.S.
Visas: Tourist and “O”
This visa type, as its name states, is issued to foreigners entering Thailand as tourists. It must be obtained abroad before traveling to Thailand. Upon arrival a stay of 60 days will be granted, which may be extended by another 30 days (β1900 at local immigration office) for most foreign nationals. This type of visa, often called the “Retirement Visa” may be extended to long term stays of up to one year if you meet the retirement requirements.
The "O" visa is good for 90 days. It costs a little more, but, you won’t have to make a trip to immigration and pay to extend it, which cannot be done.
In both cases, you'll have to do the visa run a week or two before the visa expires.
You'll see many people say get the standard tourist visa because it's less expensive. This is true, but, it's good for 60 days. It can be extended ONCE for 30 days, but, it costs B1,900, so, it's not really cheaper. The "O" saves you extra trips to your local immigration office.
Visas “O” and Retirement extension, if applicable.
Thai visa rules by your country of origin.
But, to get a retirement visa you must be 50 and have some sort of provable income, whether it's retirement income, or $800k in a Thai bank.
First, get an "O" visa. This is the only one you can then convert to a Retirement Visa, which is a misnomer. It's not a visa, per se, it's a one year extension on your original Thai "O" visa. You have to renew this extension yearly with the same proof you used the first time.
Visa Runs. If your visa is due to expire, you have to go on a "Visa Run" to a Thai embassy or consulate in another country. You will usually get the same type of Visa you had originally. Visa runs are not required if you have the "O" Visa retirement extension. I did visa runs for many years. The last on was 3 years ago to get an "O" visa that I could use from then on for the extension. Visa runs in a van are scary. The drivers all speed and drive recklessly. They seem to believe it's smart to go even faster and tailgate even closer, when it rains. All Thais seem to do this.
If you're eligible for the Visa Extension, come here on an "O" Visa obtained from the Thai Embassy in your country. After 60 days, you can get the extension by supplying bank/income proof, and residence information i.e. lease, bills in your name with your Thai address, internal and external photos of your address.
If you aren't eligible, still get the "O" visa because it's good for 90 days. You'll have to do the visa run every 90 days. You'll see many people say get the standard tourist visa because it's less expensive. This is true, but, it's good for 30 days. It can be extended twice for 30 days, but, it costs B1,900 each time, so, it's not really cheaper. The "O" saves you extra trips to your local immigration office.
The one year visa extension is 1,900 while the separate multiple re-entry visa costs 3,800. You only need a re-entry visa if you want to travel out of Thailand and return within the validity period of the one year visa. A single re-entry visa is cheaper but of course only good for one out and return trip.
Not having a re-entry visa if you do travel out of Thailand is a major problem as your one year visa gets cancelled at immigration on return to Thailand - you get issued with a 30 day permission to stay stamp and then have to go through the whole one year visa application process again from scratch.
The biggest problem with getting advice about Thai visas is: 1-Different rules for different home countries. As a result, advice provided can be inaccurate if they come from a different place. There's a ton of misinformation passed around by people who heard how someone else did it. Almost always wrong. 2-Inconsistencies between Thai embassies and consulates as to what the law is. If you go to the one in Scotland, you may get conflicting stories with different people.
Thai bank accounts + ATMs
Open an account at a major bank using your current address. I used BoA, but, most are fine. Get an ATM card (and a 2nd if you can). Sign up to do everything electronically. Direct deposits, transfers, communication, bill pay ... everything. If you do this, the bank will have no reason to use a snail mail address.
Most banks will charge a 3% on any ATM withdrawal. The Thai ATM you use will charge $5-10. Usually, the max you can withdraw at a time is 30,000 baht. I use Krunsri and Siam banks. You should open an account at a Thai bank and get their ATM card. This will save some of their fees. It's very easy to open an account at a bank branch in Phuket. Bring passports and B5000. When you have account #, bank will give you all the information you need to transfer the rest.
Writing a check on an American bank for depositing here is a real headache. The charge is more than an ATM withdrawal and it take around two weeks for the check to clear.
International money transfers between banks, while fast, is also more expensive than the ATM 3%.
Riding cycles + Helmets.
You will probably be riding a scooter or motorcycle during your stay.
If you have no experience on one, start practicing now in the U.S. Don't try to learn here. It's a no man's land.
Bring with you a good motorcycle helmet for each in the family. They run around $300 each (Bell, Arai, Shoei). You can't get bigger sizes in Thailand because Thai heads are small so a good helmet that fits is difficult to find. In Thailand, they’ll cost 3-4 times as much because of the high import tariff. Most Thai helmets are $15-30. They'll do nothing in a head impact. That's why they're called "Brain Buckets." Pack them in a sizeable duffel bag. You can then pack smaller items in the helmets.
Employment in Thailand.
Not as easy as people think. Thai law says no foreigner can have a job that a Thai can do. Being transferred here by a current employer resolves this one. But, just coming here and getting hired is extremely difficult.
That’s why being an English teacher appeals to so many. And, because there are so many, actual jobs are scarce.
Moving to Thailand
Actually ship as little as absolutely necessary. Very expensive.
Bring as many suitcases you can handle. Much cheaper to pay the airlines.
Set up someone in the states who will ship U.S. purchases you make on the internet, package them (USPS offers a reasonable 20 pound max rate of about $100.), and ship them to you. There will be things that you'll need.
If you need any further help, let me know.