What do foreigners need to know about living in Thailand?

Thailand is an incredibly attractive place to live and people from all over the world have chosen to make the country their home. There will be some considerable differences when compared to living in your own country, however, and here are a few things you need to know.

Table of Contents
  1. Why living in Thailand?
  2. Where to live in Thailand?
    1. Bangkok and Pattaya
    2. Phuket and Chiang Mai
    3. Koh Samui
  3. How to get a visa for a long stay in Thailand?
    1. Visa on arrival and tourist visa
    2. Investment Visa
    3. Elite Visa
    4. Retirement Visa
    5. Marriage Visa
  4. How to buy a property in Thailand?
  5. The long-term rental options in Thailand

Why living in Thailand?

Thailand is one of the world’s premier tourist destinations and has a large expatriate community. Many people are drawn here by the relatively relaxed lifestyle, and the Thai’s welcoming nature. Visitors get to enjoy the laid back and quiet beach life of the islands, to the busier cities with their legendary nightlife. The country has excellent medical facilities, especially in the cities, along with other modern amenities.

According to the BOI in Thailand, it ranks 4th overall for ease of settling in.

Thailand also has a strong economy and is a member of the ASEAN trading bloc. It is also a quite safe country, even though it is prone to political upheaval from time to time.

The cost of living is also fairly low, with the capital, Bangkok, ranking at 40th overall in the list of the world’s most expensive cities.

The country also has a national rail network and a sophisticated motorway network.

Internet speeds are also quite advanced, and there is a wide range of quality accommodation to choose from.

Overall, there is a lot to offer to people who want to live in Thailand and the country also has a lot to offer to people wanting to do business in the country, and regionally.

Where to live in Thailand?

There are numerous places in Thailand where foreigners will enjoy staying.

Bangkok and Pattaya

Among the most popular is the nation’s capital, Bangkok. This large city is modern and people who stay here have access to everything they could need.

Approximately 150km away is Pattaya which has a large expat community and is very well geared up to catering to foreigners.

Phuket and Chiang Mai

There is also Phuket which is an island that is also a major global vacation destination. In addition to beautiful beaches, the island also has many amenities and facilities.

In the north is Chiang Mai, a beautiful city with a slow pace of life with a stunning mountainous backdrop.

Koh Samui

Koh Samui is another destination preferred by many expats looking for a place to live in Thailand. Reasons for Koh Samui’s popularity include its natural beauty, the relaxed way of life, and the amenities on the island. Koh Samui is also a popular choice for people who are looking to invest, and our agency offers various solutions if you’re looking for a house, a villa, a land or a condo to buy.

How to get a visa for a long stay in Thailand?

As with any other country, foreigners are expected to get a visa that will allow them to live in Thailand. There are various types of visa available, and each one will give you different rights when in the country.

Visa on arrival and tourist visa

  • The most common is the visa on arrival. This is granted to eligible arrivals that arrive in the country with no other visa and will usually be used by people who are on a short-term vacation. These visas allow most visitors to stay in the country for 30 days.
  • You can also get a 60-day tourist visa which can only be applied for at a consulate outside Thailand. This visa can be extended to grant the visitor another 60 days in the country.

Note that the visa on arrival and the tourist visa do not allow visitors to work or do any other business.

Investment Visa

An investment visa in Thailand could be the best option for people who want to stay in the long term.

To qualify for the visa, you will need to be investing a minimum of 10 million baht (approx. $321,000) in the country. The investment will need to be deposited in a fixed deposit Thai bank account, be used to buy enterprise or government bonds, or used to buy condo units in new developments.

This visa in Thailand will grant you the citizenship by investment for 1 year and it can be renewed annually. The visa holder’s immediate family is also eligible to apply for the visa.

It should be noted that while the visa does allow the holder to stay in the long term, it does not allow them to work.

Elite Visa

The Thai elite visa in Thailand is a long-term visa that gives foreigners the right to stay in the country for 5-20 years. The visa also gives the holder privileges such as not having to wait in immigration queues, access to airport lounges, airport transport, discounts on services, and memberships to golf clubs.

One thing that prevents a lot of people taking advantage is the application fee. The elite visa entry level (5 years) cost 500,000 baht (about $16,000). It should also be noted that even with a Thai elite residency visa you will not be permitted to work in the country.

Retirement Visa

Foreigners can also qualify for 1-year retirement visa. To qualify, they must meet the following requirements:

  • Be 50 years old and above.
  • Have no criminal record.
  • Have no prohibitive disease.
  • A bank statement showing a monthly income of at least 65,000 Baht (about $2,080).
  • Statements showing at least 800,000 Baht in a Thai bank account (about $25,600).
  • Health insurance with at least 400,000 baht (about $12,800) IPD coverage, and 40,000 OPD coverage (about $1,280).

Note that retirement visa holders are not permitted to work in Thailand.

If you want to know more about the process, visit our dedicated article about the retirement in Thailand as foreigner.

Marriage Visa

Foreigners who are married to a Thai national can qualify for a Non-O visa. This visa gives you 3 months to live in Thailand, but can be extended to 1 year. To qualify for the extension, the foreigner must have at least 400,000 baht (about $12,800) in a Thai bank account.

A marriage visa does not give the foreigner the right to work in Thailand, but a foreigner can apply for a work permit with a Non-O visa. A work permit can be applied for at the Department of Labor.

Another common type of visa that allows foreigners to apply for a work permit is the Non-B visa. To qualify, the foreigner must have the relevant documents from an employer and the visa must be applied for at a Thai consulate outside of the country.

How to buy a property in Thailand?

Thailand has limitations on foreigners owning land, but you can invest in Thailand and have a place to live.

  • One relatively common option is to buy a condo unit. Foreigners have the right to fully own their own condo unit in Thailand, provided foreigners do not own more than 49% of the condo units in the complex. Foreign owners of condos in Thailand also have other rights, like the right to sell the condo or transfer it, and the right to rent it out.
  • There is also the option of opening a Thai company. This company can then own property, effectively making the business owner the owner of the property. However, foreigners are not permitted to own any more than 49% of shares in a Thai company. They can still own more shares than any other shareholder, however, and it is normal for the other shareholders to sign over their company rights.
  • There are also some financing options for property in Thailand for foreigners, including mortgages. If asking for a mortgage from a bank, the foreigner is likely to be expected to be holding a valid work permit.

The long-term rental options in Thailand

The requirements that need to be passed in order to buy a property are prohibitive for a lot of people, but still there are other options available.

One of these is a leasehold agreement. A leaseholder basically purchases the right to use the land for a limited period of time, up to a maximum of 30 years. The leasehold can be renewed, but the landowner is under no obligation to do so. However, this option will still give the leaseholder a home of their own if they want to live in Thailand in the long term.

There are many rental options in Thailand for foreigners. From basic houses, apartments to luxury villas, the only restriction on what you can rent is your budget. Standard accommodation in Thailand is typically safe, clean and comfortable.

Many foreigners prefer to live in serviced apartments. These are modern and comfortable, and you will also get services like room-cleaning. Many apartment buildings also have pools and other facilities like gymnasiums and convenience stores.