Choosing to live in another country can be a scary prospect. However, how well it goes will depend on your openness to new experiences, discerning the right location, and general common sense. As one of the largest cities in Asia, Bangkok has attracted a huge number of immigrants from around the world, many of whom have made it their permanent home for good reasons. As you contemplate if this is the right move for you, here are some considerations to make.
Cost of Living Is On You
Thailand is generally considered one of the most affordable nations in Asia. From food to accommodation, it can cost a fraction of what you would spend in most countries in the West. However, this is largely down to how much of a bargain hunter you are and your willingness to live like a local.
For instance, when it comes to food, if you prefer high-end restaurants and western fast food, you will likely find that your food bill is not as low as you thought. Those that talk of spending less than $2 on meals are mainly referring to street food and humbler restaurants that serve local cuisine.
Being willing to indulge in local foods, even from restaurants, can cost even less than cooking at home. However, if you love to cook and opt to live in more rural and coastal areas, you may find it easy and cheap to access fresh farm produce and seafood.
The same logic applies to housing, transport, and other expenditures. The humbler an accommodation you are willing to accept and travel around like the locals, the less expensive it will be to live in Bangkok.
Permission To Work
There was once a time that authorities in Thailand would turn a blind eye to foreigners working locally. However, times have changed and immigration and labour officials are stricter on this issue. If you intend to move to Thailand as an immigrant and make a living here, you need to ensure you qualify for a work permit.
Certain visas do not allow for a work permit to be issued, so you need to ensure you have the right one. On initial travel to Thailand, you should have a non-immigrant visa. Once you are in Thailand, you can then apply for a work permit. You and your employer will need to submit certain documentation for this application. You also need to ensure that the kind of work you intend to do is not prohibited to foreigners.
Those on retirement visas are not permitted to work. They are however required to prove they can support themselves through meeting certain financial requirements that may include security deposit and monthly incomes from an overseas source.
The bureaucracy involved in moving to Thailand can be somewhat stressful, hence the reason many use legal firms and immigration assistance service providers. They can help you identify the most suitable visa for your circumstance and guidance on assembling the necessary documentation for the application.
Crime dramas and other media tend to showcase criminal elements like gangs and drug trafficking as being commonplace in certain parts of Asia. It can make a busy city like Bangkok seem like a hotbed of crime, but the truth is much more boring. The crime rate is fairly low compared to many major cities in the US, though the occasional petty crime does happen.
Bangkok is a fairly safe city where the police are ever vigilant and locals do not appreciate criminal activity that would interfere with their simple lives. Foreigners do live comfortably in the midst of it all and find that locals are quite friendly. They genuinely like to be helpful and it is in their nature to be welcoming to strangers.
Overall, if you act sensibly, like avoiding seedier parts of town late at night and not being flashy with cash and expensive jewellery, you should not have any problems. You are more likely to encounter chaos when it comes to traffic, so do not be shocked to see even kids riding motorbikes like it is legal.
Speaking of traffic, Bangkok roads can be quite hectic. Traffic jams on major roads are commonplace, often making it a better option to stick to public transport like the BTS and MRT systems. These trains arrive at stations every few minutes and link to every direction in the city so once you get used to the schedule, you should not have a problem getting around. They are also kept quite clean but can get packed and stuffy, especially during rush hours.
The bus service is also good and covers over 100 routes. There is a mix of both private and public bus and mini-buss providers, with options ranging from the bare bones to air-conditioned options that are more expensive. In between, you can easily get around the traffic jams by using motorbike taxis but do be prepared for something of a wild ride that most people quickly become accustomed to.
Try Before Your Lease
Bangkok is a city of diverse localities. It is hard to know what neighbourhood you will find most suited to your interest, lifestyle, and pocket. A good option lies in trying before you buy. Whether you intend to buy a condo or rent a house, you need to first test out the neighbourhood to see if it is a good fit.
A good way to get a handle on this would be to simply stay in a hotel or Airbnb in the area for a while. Get to know the local shops, eateries, available schools, transport links, and so on. If you are interested in living with fellow ex-pats, focus on cluster communities like Phrom Phong which is an upscale neighbourhood with many Korean and Japanese ex-pats, or the Sukhumvit Road area which is popular with westerners.
Note that if you are looking to enjoy a more laidback lifestyle with easy access to outdoor activities, you may want to consider living further away from Bangkok. There are many other cities and towns in Thailand that may be better suited to the kind of lifestyle you want and still have good transport links to Bangkok when you want to get back.