Digital Nomad in Thailand - Places, Pros and Cons
14 min read
Since worldwide lockdowns, the life of the digital nomad has become more attractive and more accessible than ever before. Many people grew used to working from home and can't stomach the idea of silencing their early alarms and going back to their work desk, and who can blame them? Being your own boss, choosing your hours, traveling the world, and more. It sounds like a dream. But maybe it doesn't have to be just a dream for you.
Increasing numbers of westerners are moving to Thailand to embrace the nomadic way of life, and it isn't hard to see why. It's never cold. It has big cities, beaches, mountains, and a rich culture with many western conveniences. Whatever type of person you are, Thailand has something to offer you. And though it may sound like a daunting move, we've created a guide of everything you need to know about Thailand, which will save you hours of research.
To enter the Land of Smiles, you must apply for a visa well in advance of your trip. You must apply for this in your home country. Since Thailand is a popular destination for expats, it is possible to apply for a long stay or repeated short stays. Many other countries will question or prohibit repeated entries in the same year. If you wish to conduct business in Thailand, you will need a Business Visa. This is for anyone who is traveling to Thailand to work, open their own business or invest in Thai properties. Depending on where you live, this visa costs around $100, and you will need a minimum balance of $700 in your bank.
This visa is valid for three months and allows you to enter Thailand once. During the three months, you can apply for a work permit, which will allow you to apply for a yearlong visa. If you obtain a yearlong visa, you must report to the Thai Immigration office every 90 days. This visa can be renewed each year.
The Kingdom of Thailand is a large country, so it is important to consider where exactly you want to live. Do you love big cities? Are you looking for mountains? Or perhaps beaches? To make things easier for you, we have picked three popular destinations and included the pros and cons of each.
Bangkok is usually the first choice for expats. The capital is a metropolis that is home to 14 million people. Expats love it here because of the relatively low cost of living, interesting culture, and modern conveniences. It has huge shopping malls, cinemas, galleries, and a host of bars and restaurants. Also, hospitals are of as high quality as western countries, and the transport is excellent – from the two airports here you can travel almost anywhere.
The main downside to living here is how overcrowded it can be. Also, it can reach 40 degrees and be very humid. And due to its popularity, the traffic is constant which results in pollution.
Alternatively, you could venture to the North of Thailand. Many expats will tell you that Chiang Mai is the best option. It is full of history, yet it is Thailand's second-largest city, so it has become very modernized. It has shopping malls, hospitals, an airport, and coffee shops with fast, reliable internet. You can ride a scooter to the nearby mountains or visit the city's old, fortified walls.
The only drawback of Chiang Mai is that from March to May, the pollution can be bad, and as a result, many decide to leave during these months.
If you are looking for a beach trip, Hua Hin might be for you. It's a big city with a wide beach that has many excellent restaurants, bars, and hospitals. Accommodation prices are not as high as in other parts of Thailand, and there are lots of activities to do such as diving or snorkeling. It is essentially a seaside city.
The disadvantage is its closeness to the main road that leads to Bangkok, which causes pollution and noise.
Money & Tax
It's best to take cash with you on your trip, as your bank will charge you for any ATM withdrawals in Thailand. You use debit cards in most hotels and shops, but you will need cash to shop at the markets.
The North of Thailand is the cheapest right now. The average cost of living in Chiang Mai is around 20-30,000 Baht ($600-$900) a month. Bangkok is more expensive, likely because there are so many places to spend your money. You would need to spend around 40-60,000 Baht ($1200-$1800) per month.
It's important to note that western food is available in Thailand, but it generally costs twice as much as Thai food.
One benefit to Thailand is that digital nomads who work for employers overseas and spend less than six months in Thailand will not pay tax. This will give you far more economic freedom than in Western countries.
Health & Safety
Hospitals in Thailand are of similar standards to the Western world, with treatments and surgeries that are so competitively priced that tourists travel here to have procedures at a much lower price than in their homeland. That being said, general health care can be somewhat expensive. There is no NHS equivalent, so each visit to a doctor or hospital will cost. Therefore, you must invest in medical insurance since one accident could bankrupt you.
In Thailand, you can register with a hospital and see a specialist chosen by you. A one-off visit will cost around 500 Baht ($15). Doctors in Thailand can prescribe lots of pills which you will also have to pay for. One small packet of antibiotics will cost between 50-150 Baht. They may also send you to additional check-ups, which cost too.
You will also need various vaccinations before and after you enter Thailand. The most important ones are Hepatitis A, B, and Typhoid. It is also strongly recommended you get shots for Tetanus, Cholera, Diphtheria, Japanese Encephalitis, and Rabies. Note that the Rabies vaccine doesn't protect against the disease. It simply buys more time if Rabies is contracted. So, if you will be staying close to a hospital, you probably don't need this one. Make sure that you get any jabs at least six months before your trip.
Also, there is a chance you could be infected with Dengue or Malaria, but sadly, there are no vaccines for these diseases. The best way to protect yourself is to regularly use mosquito spray and cover your body as much as you can.
In Thailand, you can easily rent in a condominium, either a small studio or a one-bedroom flat. Be careful that you check the size of these, as sometimes they can simply be studios divided by glass. Also, nomads who like socializing rent properties with other foreign dwellers as this reduces rent costs and allows them to meet new people. In some areas, renting a house and sharing it with other people would be much cheaper than renting your own flat.
Internet in these condominiums is often free but can, unfortunately, it can be unreliable. So, it's a good idea to set up your own Wi-Fi, which costs between 500-700 ($15-$21) Baht per month.
Utility bills are paid monthly in addition to rent, and they can be anywhere from 500-2,000 Baht per month depending on your usage and the size of your accommodation.
When you arrive in Thailand, you will quickly see that cooking your own food is much more expensive than eating out. For this reason, many flats do not have a kitchen. It is cheaper to eat out as street food is available everywhere and is usually at a low price. It's important to remember that Thai dishes are usually cooked in oil or fried, so it's not the best diet for your health. Also, Thai portions are typically smaller than in the western world as Thai people prefer to snack in between meals rather than overeating.
Popular dishes amongst foreigners are red, green, and yellow curries which are usually served with meat, vegetables, and rice. You can get these dishes for around 40-50 Baht. You might also like to get skewers of grilled meat or mushrooms, which cost about 10 Baht. For a snack, you can get a small bag of watermelon or pineapple for 10-20 Baht.
If you are a vegetarian, you don't need to worry about finding food. One option is to find a bar that serves a cheap buffet. Here you can pile your plate for only 20-30 Baht.
If you fancy some western food, the Kingdom has many Italian and American restaurants, but it can be hard to find decent quality western dishes for a good price. You will be charged 150-250 Baht for a pizza or a burger, much more than Thai dishes.
Finally, you must stay hydrated in the hot climate. In a 7-11, 5 liters of water will cost 30 Baht, and a crate will be around 100 Baht. Some places also have clean water dispensers which will allow you to fill up a bottle for 5 Baht, and some bars will give you drinking water for free.
Compared to Europe, transport is cheap in the Land of Smiles. Bangkok has the BTS – an overground train that is fast and even has air conditioning. Tickets are usually 15-52 Baht. However, its lines don't go everywhere in the city so that some places will require a taxi or bus. Bus journeys cost 7-8 Baht, but they can sometimes be unreliable.
Bangkok also uses boats as a form of public transport that can get you just about anywhere. A ticket usually costs 15 Baht, and the stops are easy to locate. Unfortunately, there is a lack of air conditioning, and the boats can become overcrowded during rush hours.
Bangkok also makes use of motorbike taxis which will take you anywhere for around 20 Baht. There are also normal taxis, but they have a reputation for scamming foreigners, so be sure to ask the driver to put the meter on before you go anywhere.
Transport in Chiang Mai is a little different. Songthaews are popular – these are pick-up truck taxis that cost 20 Baht. You can also ride in tuk-tuks, which are open bus-like vehicles, but these are pricey at around 100 Baht.
You can also buy scooters that are a few years old for 20-25,000 Baht ($650-$750), or alternatively, you can rent for 150-200 ($5-$7) Baht per day. Old cars are available for roughly the same price as the scooters, and you can also rent a car for 1-2,000 ($30-$60) Baht a day.
In Chiang Mai and Bangkok, cinemas can be found in the shopping malls, and a ticket will cost you 150 Baht. If you enjoy swimming, water parks and pools can be found in hotels, and they will charge 50-100 Baht for entry.
You can also buy a six-month gym membership for around 5,000 Baht. But if you wish to exercise without being charged, many parks have running paths and outdoor gyms.
In Thailand, nights out can be pricey. The cheapest beer will cost 100 Baht in a bar, and clubs will charge you much more than this. Spirits are also expensive.
In 2020, Thailand went from 9th place to 3rd place in the Speedtest Global Index Rankings. This is probably due to the increase in Wi-Fi usage during the pandemic, which clearly helped the Thai internet become more reliable. This has helped make the country even more attractive for digital nomads.
As you can see, now is a better time than ever to ditch the desk and travel to Thailand. It has everything that you're used to at home, as well as a world of opportunity and new experiences. Sure, you could keep paying to live where you've always lived, or you could start all over again in the Land of Smiles.