If you’ve ever considered becoming an expat, summer’s the perfect time to explore what Thailand has to offer. There are lots of different reasons that people decide to live somewhere other than their native countries. Sometimes it’s wanderlust, sometimes a transfer undertaken for work, other times it’s to make pensions and savings go further. Whatever your reasons, jumping into ex-pat living without taking a look before you leap is not the way to go. Just as neighborhoods have their own qualities where you live, cities and neighborhoods in Thailand have their own flavor and rhythms that are unique.
Thinking about Your Move
What constitutes a great neighborhood for a single twenty-something artists might not flow so well with a family of thirty-something professionals with elementary aged kids. Likewise, retirement aged individuals might want to savor that empty nest feeling and live in communities that are populated with people their own age. Depending on your interests, your work, and your financial picture, you may find that renting an apartment, condo, or villa is the best way to get your toes wet before you go full expat.
Some basic things you’re going to need to think about are obvious, like finding an apartment. There are a lot of scams out there, just as there are for renting an apartment in any country, and you need to keep these things in mind:
- Once you wire money, or use your debit card to transfer money, it’s gone and you’re never getting it back. These payments are the same as sending cash. Never send money to “hold the apartment” or to pay a security deposit.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Even with the exchange rate between your currency and the Indonesian rupiah, there are some things that should be viewed skeptically. If the place has great amenities, a waterfront view, or lots of other perks, and the price is better than for comparable units in the same area or complex, odds are that it is a scam.
- If you find an ad, try searching for the same ad on Google. If the same ad appears for listings in other cities, you may have stumbled on a scam.
- If you know someone in the city to which you will be traveling, ask them to get in touch with the agent and view the apartment for you. Otherwise it’s a safer bet to take a hotel room, and then go apartment hunting when you get there.
- It’s important, when you are using a listing service to search for an apartment to go with a legitimate service. Using sites like DDProperty to search for properties for rent or for sale allows you to view multiple listings from the same area with the assurance that such offers are legitimate.
You should also be aware that the BBC has exposed major property scams in Phuket that targeted expats who were seeking to build up quantities of property purchased with their retirement savings. This scam collapsed leaving many without recourse to regain their property or have their money returned.
You will also need to think about such factors as employment (if you are not being transferred), how to secure health insurance, currency exchange, obtaining a mortgage should you decide to buy a home, and banking. Other needs can include transporting pets, obtaining help with your taxes, visa and immigration services, and finding schools for your children.
Other Words of Advice
As publicized in the Economic Times of India, Thailand is currently pushing ahead with strict crackdown against foreigners who are overstaying their visas and/or committing criminal acts. Visitors must obtain a 30 day visa on arrival at the airport, and this visa is only good if you are visiting for tourism purposes. Overstaying your visa can result in a five-year ban on returning to the country. Visas are issued for tourism, business, education, retirement, or marriage to a Thai national. The tourist visa can be extended to 90 days, the business or education visa for up to one year. In many cases applying outside Thailand at your nearest Embassy or Consulate is the easiest route to take, rather than simply showing up and fixing it later.
This summer might be the perfect time to explore what Thailand has to offer people seeking the expatriate way of life. There is a lot to explore between Phuket and Bangkok, Pattaya and Chanthaburi and so much that the country has to offer. Even if you decide only on an extended stay, your encounter with Thailand will change the way that you live and think. Start planning your extended stay, and find out if being an ex-pat in Thailand is the way to go for you, and for your family.