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How to live in Thailand

If your looking for information on how to live in Thailand then you have come to the right source. While i'm not about to write a whole book about how to live in the land of smiles I can just offer some advice and basic costs of living in Thailand that you might not find anywhere else. If you do need further advice or have a question about ways to live in Thailand or have a question about life in Thailand then please use the comments section to ask your question, I will respond personally to each one.

What visa do you need to live in Thailand

There was a time when people would live in Thailand continuously using Tourists visas but since the Thai government started cracking down on the practice the common way to stay here without leaving the country is that of the Language school. Doesn't hurt to know a bit of Thai also. The other most popular way is to retire here on a retirement visa. There are other ways but these are the ones that I suggest especially if you've never lived here before. If your looking for more information visit the Thai Visa page.

What visa do you need to live in Thailand

Where in Thailand you should live

Your probably not reading this page because you don't know where to live in Thailand and if you've already made up your mine that's cool. Move onto the next section which might help you better. But if your still undecided then let me tell you about the best place to live in Thailand, Chiang Mai!

Chiang Mai is located in the North of Thailand and without the tourists it's a relatively small city though still bustles with life albieit more on the slow side. In fact nearly every province in the North of Thailand has a place that is perfect for someone.

Where in Thailand should I liveChiang Mai is a great place to retire in Thailand has been for a long time now it's relatively cheap in fact you could live here on $10 a day! Chiang Mai is so easy to get around on scooter, traffic is bearable and cheap eats are easy to find. There is a huge expat community here so it's easy to make and find friends with similar interests.

Cost Of Living In Thailand

Everyone lives life to a different budget and that can't be more true in a place like Thailand. Some people might like to live in an expensive condo or someone else might like to live in a cheap apartment in the ghetto. Whatever your choices I've made my own choices for my standard of living which is OK, not flashy, but I sleep comfortably in air conditioning have a girlfriend, kik, and go out 2-3 times a week. I've made a few trade offs but one thing I'm not trading on are (comfortable bed, good food including western, and getting laid by as many sweet Thai girls I can find).

What I'd like to show you is a basic Cost of living calculator for living in Chiang Mai (which would be the same as if you lived in Phuket or Pattaya) if you live in a more rural area of Thailand take 15% off the estimates below if you live in Bangkok then add 45% to the figures below.

Your standard of living would be something like an air conditioned studio apartment approximately 30sqm you would eat Thai 5 days a week and Farang food 2 days a week. You'd go out to the clubs or pubs twice a week. Ride a scooter everywhere and head out of town once every few months. You also pay for your visa/requirements and health insurance (a must!). Obviously if you have a g/f which you pay for things increase. Take a look at the chart below for what I usually spend.

*Assumes you own your own motorbike and if you have a kik she owns hers

Live In Thailand

Rent                      3500
Utilities                 1500
Food                      4200
Groceries              2200
Visa                       2300
Entertainment     5000
Transport             1600
Misc                       2500

Total                   22800

Live In Thailand
With girlfriend

Food                      3000
Groceries              2200
Entertainment    2000
Transport               700

Total                +7900

Live In Thailand
girlfriend plus Kik

Rent                      3000
Utilities                 1200
Food                      3000
Groceries              2200
Entertainment     3500
Transport             1600

Total               +14500

As you can see having a Kik or basically a girl your sponsoring (typically for university) can be expensive as much as twice as it would cost your girlfriend (if you can get them to live together which i've yet to be able to do), now I've had kiks that you don't pay anything for and then there are ones you spoil like this. All depends on your budget really.

How do you earn a living in Thailand

How do you earn a living in ThailandHow do you earn a living anywhere really, you either work or you live off Social Security. Me I've never had benefits from anywhere so the only way I've made money anywhere is by working. But working in Thailand doesn't mean you have to be a teacher! Even if your a professional poker player you could still live in Thailand but of course your work is poker. No one makes money sitting around doing nothing, even retirees had to work and pay taxes for decades to be eligible for those benefits.

If you decide to be a teacher in Thailand which most people who are not retired do then please keep the following things about Thai people in general in mind.

Thai people and students especially, lack both self esteem and courage. You will be tested every day to encourage students to speak. Thai kids all cheat and you'll expect that every piece of work they hand in will have several other pieces of work that all look exactly the same. Thai people will be running the show and since there is no tenure here you can't speak up no matter how stupid and even incompetent their way is, you will have to suck it up until you can't stand it anymore. Unless of course you enjoy that sort of challenge.

Me I don't have the patience to deal with kids for a life of teaching. If you don't want to be a teacher and you have some good skills you could find a good job in Thailand. But there are many different ways to make money in Thailand.  Plenty of people open businesses I'd say 95% of foreign owned small businesses in Thailand are in the restaurant/entertainment services but maybe you don't have the capital or the will to create something that big then you could always do something online, there are thousands of people who live and exist in Thailand living solely of Internet revenue (myself included). This really isn't the page to go into too much detail on how exactly to do this but maybe this video will help.

The reason why I don't think teaching is a very good career to have in Thailand is simple economics. Although inflation is relatively low it still hovers around 4% annual. And if you get a teaching job it's rare that you will ever get a raise for most teachers so your standard of living will gradually decrease each year.

What's accommodation like if you live in Thailand

Best advice I can give you is to book a hotel in Thailand first before you decide on what condo apartment or house to live in. Just because the room looked lovely on the Internet when you were sitting at Starbucks back in Houston when you arrive it could be next to a house with barking dogs and a mattress that is harder than steel. Sure use the Internet to map out the general area you want to stay but there is nothing like walking down the street to see exactly what it's like.

room you could get if you live in Thailand

A typical room in Chiang Mai for roughly 3500 baht per month

If you live in Thailand you should learn the language

The Thai language isn't really that difficult, most of the common expressions in Thai are made of compound words so if you know 1000 words in Thai you can basically say 6000. If you really want to learn the Thai language Quickly then I suggest you start with the Thai Alphabet as a starting point because it's the gateway to being proficient in the Thai language.

If you want a good quality of life, friends with Thai people, being self sufficient and also being able to get in and out of any situation you need to know the Thai language, this is even more recommended if you are on a limited budget. Think about all the money you could save, scams you can avoid and if your single the girls you can talk to. There are plenty of Thai girls out there that want a Farang boyfriend but have never had one before because they don't speak English, why limit yourself to the small 10% of girls that can communicate with you while people like me get the other 90%. Statistically speaking you can trust a Thai girl more if she doesn't speak English.

Fun things to do in Thailand

Everyone comes to Thailand for a different reason, some come for the abundance of young single Thai girls others come for the friendliness of Thai people but everyone comes here for the easy life and cheap living. No matter what your budget is in Thailand or what your after there are a million plus fun things to do in Thailand for everyone. I'm sure if your already looking for how to live in Thailand then you already know the fun things you want to do in Thailand. But if you do enjoy the nightlife please visit the Thailand nightlife page on this site.

Advise on how to live in Thailand

As for any advice I can give people who want to live in Thailand it's not that hard. Before you get the Visa, the apartment etc Make sure you have your funds sorted out. Make sure you have the money you need to live in Thailand. Even if your due for a pension soon make sure you get it before you decide to move to Thailand. If your looking for a job sure you'll need to come here first but don't make any big commitments until that's certain. People complain about how arduous and difficult the Thai Visa system is but it's nothing compared to trying to earn a living here.

Once your here and even before you come make a concerned effort to speak the language. Some people can do well here without the language skills but they all wish they could and jelous at those who can speak well like me. If you decide to have a kik do it on the cheap after a few months or so she'll leave herself if you don't pay her enough. Good, that's what you want, changing the kik adds more fun to having one otherwise your basically just having another girlfriend.Oh yeah don't forget if you come to live in Thailand or already here sign up to my newsletter to stay in touch.

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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. He has lived here for over 10 years and speaks reads and writes very good Thai.

20 Responses to How to live in Thailand

  1. Jon December 5, 2011 at 2:12 am #

    Hey Chris,
    Again your writings are all accurate. Especially the one about Thai students. I encounter all the things you mentioned especially the cheating or copying. Maybe Im going about it the wrong way and I admit I feel suck at teaching but love it and try my best everyday but all the things you mentioned is what I cant get Thai students to change and I feel this is what holds Thai students curve low compared to other Asian Countries. Another thing I experience is that Thai students cannot think on their own. If I ask them to imagine something or to think on their own, they simply cannot do it. This is even for the ones that try hard in class.
    I too have an interest in Chiang Mai and is planning on relocating there with my family next year.
    I feel your blogs are great because you tell it straight and think with reason to everything and not with feeling.
    Keep up the great work on the blogs.

    • Chris December 5, 2011 at 2:41 pm #


      Well Jon I thinks it’s great what teachers do well good ones anyone, those teachers that try to make a difference which sounds like you are trying to do. And your right, Thai’s have trouble thinking on their own and coming up with ideas is something they are not taught to do I guess. But the ones who can do really well here. I’m glad your thinking of Chiang Mai it’s a great place if you need to know anything shoot me a message happy to help.

      • Jon December 6, 2011 at 4:27 am #

        Thanks. If I have a question I will definitely ask.
        Take Care,

        • Jon December 6, 2011 at 8:55 am #

          Oh I have a question about Chiang Mai. Do you know if there are places to rent near Chiang Mai University? I’m looking to try to rent a place around that area. Probably a small place first. Then, when my wife and kids come over I will try to move to a bigger place preferably a house.
          Thanks in advance

        • Chris December 6, 2011 at 9:11 am #

          I live right behind Chiang Mai university. for a 40sqm studio apartment with balcony fully furnished for 3 months cost about 4500 baht a month there all pretty much the same but you won’t find them on the internet. Food is cheaper behind the university than it is in front of it. Houses near the university I would look at staying in Mae Hia which is only 5min away from the uni and absolutely no traffic!

  2. Jon December 7, 2011 at 12:11 am #

    Thanks for the info Chris,
    Now I know I dont have to worry about
    a place when I try to move to Chiang Mai. one more
    question, if the places for rent are not found
    on the internet, where can I find information
    on places for rent?

    • Chris December 7, 2011 at 3:47 am #

      You just have to come here. Get a bike and drive round taking a look at places. I know a guy who rented a place in Chiang Mai over the internet got here then found out the place was next door to a recycling plant that has piles of trash and an unwelcome smell out the front. Anorther guy I know books a place at the Huay Kaew residence but didn’t know that they literally have harder than concrete beds. If you know the area you want to stay in then finding a place is pretty simple just walk around and start looking at rooms.

      • Jon December 7, 2011 at 4:00 am #

        I will try to register the birth of my new baby in Chiang Mai and drive there from here with my wife and kids if I have time after I finish off this last term working here and before I get on the plane to visit my home town of Hawaii. That way I can scope the place out with my wife to help me find a place. Thanks for the advice though and I have crossed off trying to find a place online on my list.
        Thanks again for your help,

  3. Jon December 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Hey Chris,
    Sorry, I have another question for you. There are many things about Chiang Mai that interests me to pack up all my things here in Ban Nawk and to move to Chiang Mai dragging my family there too. One of those things is that I wanted to start training Aikido at Chiang Mai University where they have an Aikido club. By any chance, would you know anyone who trains at the Chiang Mai Aikido Club?
    Thanks for all your help on my questions on moving to Chiang Mai.

  4. Andrew January 15, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    very well described my friend,iv’e been researching thailand for a while now and am planning on moving there by next year,so reading info like yours is a wonderfull thing,thanks for all the great advice,and information,im starting to learn the thai language Asap,please keep me in touch with new events and stories….maybe someday i’ll see ya there!..peace

    • Chris January 15, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      If your ever in Chiang Mai hit me up and we’ll go for a beer for sure.

  5. Tewaporn January 31, 2012 at 1:21 am #

    ฉันคิดว่าแต่ละประเทศมีข้อดีข้อเสียต่างกัน ไม่ว่าจะเป็นด้านสังคม วัฒนธรรม การเมือง เศรษฐกิจ การศึกษา ที่อยู่อาศัย ผู้คน ล้วนแล้วแต่มีความหลากหลายไม่เหมือนกัน ผู้คนก็มีทั้งคนดีและคนไม่ดี ถ้าคุณเจอคนไม่ดีคุณอาจจะโดนหลอกได้ แต่ถ้าคุณเจอคนที่ดีคุณสามารถอยู่เมืองไทยโดยไม่ต้องใช้เงินเลยสักบาทคนเหล่านั้นจะคอยช่วยเหลือคุณเอง
    ฉันคิดว่าไม่มีประเทศไหนคือประเทศที่ดีที่สุดในโลก แต่สำหรับฉันเองรู้สึกดีใจมากที่ฉันได้เกิด และอยู่ที่นี่ “ประเทศไทย”

    • youthana December 24, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

      Well said !!! I was born in thai myself. Living in usa now but will go back to live and die there.

  6. craig armitage August 19, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    “Even if your due for a pension soon make sure you get it before you decide to move to Thailand”

    good advice, it is those people who are due a pension but don’t get and decide to move to Thailand it that I worry about.

  7. Javaid Ishaq December 15, 2012 at 3:02 am #

    Your explanation is very clear and interesting. Will mail you now and then, if you dont mind.
    With the best of wishes and happy living.

  8. Maji December 24, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    thanks for all the info about Chiang Mai.
    I am looking for cheap and clean lodging for May 2013 near the Lanna Hospital, can you think of a place?

  9. Andrew January 10, 2014 at 5:25 am #

    Hi Chris
    I must say that I owe you big hug for be able to get so much information first hand.
    My friend living with Thai wife in Australia never really gave me any good idea or guide what should or not do when thinking about living in Thailand.
    I was coming here as tourist here for last 8 months having breaks from work in Australia.
    Practically working far north qld on contract 3/1 FIFO I was able to come here every 3 weeks to have good (or best time ) in my whole life.
    I fell in love not only in Thailand but also a Lady who unfortunately or fortunately does not want to go to Australia with me .
    She want me here…
    I read all your guidance like best book .
    I still have 3 years to my retirement and started looking for any possibilities to make my move to Thai as much smart way as possible.
    Yes , I know. …speaking a Thai is a MUST…option and I already learning Thai alphabet..
    I really wish you best in continue to run this website and helping people to understand most simple way that living here needs a lot of adjusting of their western habits …all the way.
    I am here in Pattaya already more then month and having mixed thoughts when and how to start slowly to emerge into this country.
    I was in Chiang Mai once but only 3 days and if I could today to meet your there I really would like to shake your hand for this what you doing for people like me seriously loving this country and be able to have so much guidance from you.
    I must say …thanks God or Budda for creating Thailand… for people like me who must finish work and die in disgrace in Australia or stand up to all odds and merge to Thai community to be between people with hearts .
    In addition ..I must say that I already migrated 33 years ago to Australia from Poland (communistic at those times) building my life there with hope my bones will stay in this country forever.
    One way today I feel cheated not be able to finish my life in Australia as human being after so much I gave to this country but knowing that still I can be between same people like me in Thai make me even more strong today.
    Thanks Chris and other people who are contributed to help this site to exist.
    I am happy to see and be here knowing that still good people exist in this world.
    Thanks to all of you !!!

  10. Rain January 13, 2014 at 2:48 am #


    Your page is really good. After I read it,I can get some. But I still have question to ask you. I am Cambodian people,I used to travel to Thailand. I really like the living life in Thailand, and I plan to live there. But I don’t know clearly about how can I get successful to live there. Can you tell me more detail about it. Best regards,

  11. Bruce November 29, 2015 at 9:57 am #

    Hi from australia have a thai gf met her few times now we plan to live together im not retiring age so need to work as i dont think 5 millionn baht will last that long im a trades man but never taught what qualifications do you need to teach or is it easier to do other business
    I trust my gf bit people say only want my money how can you be sure or do you find most ladies honest

  12. rain July 8, 2017 at 10:12 am #

    I am Thai woman. I lived in Chaing Mai. I appreciate your suggestions about my city, at least it make a choice for interesting people who want to move to my city. but I have some
    questions about Kik and girlfriend in Chaing Mai. At my position I am Thai woman, What you want to present?

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