Travel & Expat Lifestyle Magazine

5 Reasons that Thailand is the best Asian country for expats

Phuket MallBy now it seems everyone realizes that Asia is booming and it’s also home to many of the most modern countries on the planet. With so many expats considering moving to Asia, including those looking for work as well as those looking to retire in a cheaper place, it’s worth spotlighting the clear winner in so many categories.

As we’ll discuss below, Thailand is a combination of modern, inexpensive, and convenient that no other Asian country can match. Of course, it’s not the perfect choice for everyone, but it’s one that everyone should probably consider before locating elsewhere permanently.

1 – Thailand is cheapest of the modern countries

While Thailand is actually among the more expensive countries in Southeast Asia, behind only Singapore and Malaysia, it’s still cheaper than any other Asian country that has a large selection of Western modern conveniences. The other countries that are also “modern” enough for most expats include Japan, Korea, and the large cities of China, including Hong Kong. All of these have higher costs of things including housing and food, and in many cases much higher costs. Thailand is certainly the bargain in this category.

2 – The weather is decent all year round

Again, comparing the Thailand climate to the other modern countries, Thailand generally has the best year-round weather. Of course everyone has their own preferences, but most people like it sunny most of the time, and Thailand has more than its share.

Those who don’t mind it hot and steamy all year long will appreciate Bangkok, which is actually the hottest (on average) capital city in the world, or perhaps the beach areas nearby like Pattaya or Hua Hin. Phuket has a similar climate and a more relaxed atmosphere, but even for those who prefer it a bit cool in winter you have Chiang Mai up north, where they actually sell jackets and sweaters in the winter.

3 – The transportation is excellent

Thinking a lot about it, Thailand has perhaps the best transportation system in the world, when you factor in cost, availability, and comfort. There’s a rail network that connects many of the more important hubs, with comfortable cabins and low prices. But better still, Thailand (along with Malaysia) has arguably the best buses in the world, and they are cheap. Due to the lack of freeway overpasses, the buses in Thailand can be 5 meters tall or more, with two decks of comfortable seats, or one deck of super-luxurious VIP seats (only 3 across).

If you prefer to fly you’ve got Air Asia and a few more options, that connect all the major cities several times per day in most cases. The seats are comfortable and the fares are incredibly low if you book far enough in advance.

4 – You can find almost anything you want in Thailand

Most people know that Thailand has nearby neighbors of Vietnam and Cambodia (along with Laos) where most things are actually a bit cheaper. That’s great for adventure travelers or even a beach holiday, but if you want to live somewhere year round you want access to bigger stores with international products. As one example, there are no McDonald’s in all of Vietnam, and there are very few chain stores or restaurants of any kind.

In Thailand you still have the Buddhist culture with monks living among the masses, but you also have a 7-Eleven almost on every block, plus big hypermarkets with grocery stores and nearly everything else you can find in the US or Europe. It might sound more romantic to live in an area where the West has yet to properly invade, but for most expats, you appreciate having all the options.

5 – With so many expats, language isn’t a problem

For all the reasons mentioned above, and many more, Thailand is home to more expats than all of its neighboring countries combined. This density along with a big travel industry, means that English is widely spoken. For simple things like shopping it’s usually easy to get by with whichever local you are dealing with, and for more complicated things like finding healthcare or unusual products or services, you can find expats to help and even many who speak Thai.

In fact, with so many retired expats living in Thailand, a great many people learn the language, often with the help of a local partner. So once you find a social circle, you’ll probably have expat friends who speak Thai, and ways to learn yourself.


3 thoughts on “5 Reasons that Thailand is the best Asian country for expats

  1. I just returned from 6 months in Thailand. I was based out of Chiang Mai which is a very popular expat city. It is not one of the well known ‘sexpat’ cities, although things can be found. That’s not my thing so I can’t report specifically.

    I’m going to make a blanket statement and will take on all comers, LOL. 🙂

    Thailand is not a cheaper place to live for the retired than is rural USA. The only things which are cheaper are rent and utilities including internet. Food is also cheaper but only if you buy local food from locals. Thai food is wonderful but frankly I got tired of it as a steady diet.

    Western food and sundries and anything else imported is outrageously expensive. Thailand tacks on import tariffs and VATs that can break the bank. For instance the cheapest bottle of wine I ever saw was $US16 and the cheapest Western cheese was $8 a pound.

    You will not buy a new Toyota Camry for less than $US30,000 – the same car you can buy in the US with a factory rebate and some negotiating for $20,000. Forget about importing your car. Whatever it’s worth in the US, will be added as an import tax and then you’ll hire a local lawyer to get it properly registered. It’s cheaper to just buy one there.

    The big kicker for retired people is health care. In the US my Medicare Advantage costs me $125 a month including prescription drugs. In Thailand at my age I can’t get real insurance. Yes, the costs of excellent health care in Thailand may be only 20% what they are in the US, but if you give up your residence and Medicare in the US, and get seriously ill in Thailand, you’d better have some cash. If you can’t prove you can pay, they won’t treat you! Yes, they’ll let you die even from an auto accident.

    Thailand imports a lot of everyday things and they are incredibly expensive. Laundry and dish washing soap, bar soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo – unreal prices. Of course the natives don’t need toilet paper. They have “bum guns” by each toilet (which may well be a squat toilet) and they wash themselves with this hose and their hand. This bum gun looks much like the spray hose most Americans can pull out from the kitchen sink. It is almost always cold water, so have fun. They think you are leaving yourself dirty if you just use toilet paper so you be the judge.

    I could move to rural Alabama or Mississippi or even Georgia and live in better infrastructure than in Thailand and for less money if I was minimally budgeting. I would have health insurance. I would also have hot humid weather to almost match the unrelenting heat and humidity in Thailand.

    Weather in Thailand? Did anyone mention the few months of “rainy season” which we would call the monsoon season? Bangkok gets about 60 inches of rain a year and has severe flooding right down town. 60 inches? Where in the US could you find 60 inches other than Forks, Washington which is near the Olympic Rain Forest?

    I love Thailand. I go in the Fall, about October, and spend part or much of what the US calls winter. I miss the rainy season, but this is what they call the “high season” meaning heavy tourism season and prices skyrocket. Thailand has about 20 million tourists each year and they like November through February. I do too.

  2. Great little article. What about Singapore too? My friends went there recently and loved it, said it was quite modern.

  3. Liza, Singapore is fantastic, but it’s very expensive. If you have a high-paying job with a corporation it’s one of the nicest places on earth to live. But for anyone else, it can be a struggle. -Tom

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