Despite all the visa hassles of trying to live in Thailand full-time, it’s one of the most popular destinations in Asia for expatriates and digital nomads. Thailand has a lot going for it: good food, cheap prices, lots of beaches, an interesting culture, and all the hedonism you can get your hands on. The air connections to Bangkok and within the country are terrific, plus you’ve got trains and buses to go overland.
It’s also a darn good place to get some work done. If you wanted to find other people running an online business who you could collaborate with or learn from, Chiang Mai has to be on any short list of the best places for digital nomads to put down roots for a while. You’ll have 50 new friends before your first month is up probably, so it’s also not hard to find employees or contractors—or just someone to grab a drink with. The internet is reasonably fast, there’s no censorship on what you surf, and there are coffee shops with WiFi all over the place.
Whether it’s a cheap place to live or not depends a lot on how you live. You will find plenty of articles online about living in Thailand for $500 a month, but that’s hard to sustain over a long period. Most people I’ve talked with who live there spend between $1,000 and $2,500 a month. If you’re spending more than that though, you’re probably living it up in Bangkok or acting like a tourist in Phuket.
For the first interview, here’s my Kyrgyzstan hiking buddy and business owner Matt Gibson of XpatMatt.com. He lives in Thailand in a town by the sea a few hours south of the capital.
If you’d rather not watch two scruffy dudes talking, here’s Alexandra Baackes of Alex in Wanderland. Like Matt, she didn’t live anywhere near the two big cities when we filmed this interview. She was based in the chilled little island of Ko Tao, a great place for diving and hanging out on the beach. (Please excuse the guy making fruity rum drinks in the background…)
Have we talked enough about visas yet? Well sorry, but it’s what everyone who lives in Thailand talks a lot about too. Well everyone except the retirees. If you’re age 50 or older and have saved some cold hard cash over the years, you can put that in a Thai bank and be set with a Thai retirement visa. Here’s what Spencer Montague—who lives on Ko Samui—said when I interviewed him for A Better Life for Half the Price.
I’m on a type OA retirement visa so I report every three months to immigration (only to provide an address). I renew my visa yearly, and at the end of the first year I had to meet and maintain the financial requirements. I keep 800,000 baht untouched in a Thai bank account.
You can get around putting that much in the bank if you show earnings close to $3,000 per month, but most I’ve talked to don’t really look at the bank deposit as a burden. When you get to retirement age you’re not making big investment bets with that money anyway and sometimes exchange rate fluctuations can boost returns.
You can read more about the retiree options in this post I did a while back: Live in Thailand More Easily Thanks to New Visa Options. As Robert Halloway pointed out in that article, you can get a longer visa if you apply from home, without being retired. You just have to plan well ahead.
Since my Committed and All In Package groups have had access to this audio for a while, I’m going to post it here now for anyone who is pondering a move to Thailand.