So, you’ve decided to move to Bangkok?
But just before you pack up those bags and hop on the next flight over, there’s a few things worth knowing and preparing yourself with beforehand.
Bangkok is one of the greatest cities in the world — but we wouldn’t recommend simply turning up and seeing what happens with no forward thinking.
Here’s a checklist of the things you need to be prepared with before your move to Bangkok.
1. Get your Thai visa in advance
Unless you want to be running around Southeast Asia like a headless chicken within a month of your arrival, it’s best to arrange your visa in advance – especially if you want to stay in Thailand on a long-term basis.
If you’ve already arranged a job for yourself in Bangkok, the company administration should help you procure a three month Non-B Visa. They can send you all the necessary paperwork and you can apply for the visa at the Thai embassy in your home country.
If you’re planning on staying as a tourist in Thailand, you can choose to come in on a Visa Exemption stamp or a Visa on Arrival at your arrival into Suvarnabhumi International, depending on your nationality. Visa Exempt stamps allow for a 30-day stay, while Visa on Arrival allows for 14 days.
Check which one you’re entitled to here.
If you want to stay for longer than that, however, you will need to arrange a Tourist Visa in advance – and ideally in your home country.
There are two types of tourist visa: a single entry visa, allowing for a 60 day stay (which can be extended by another 30 days once you’re in Thailand); and a multi-entry visa, which is valid for 6 months from the date of issue (and again, can be extended).
2. Bring enough money
Don’t count on having immediate income when you move to Bangkok – unless you plan to live off savings or a pension, or have a job already lined up here, it’s always best to bring as much money as you can so you don’t run out.
Most long-term apartment rentals will require two months of rent as a deposit and one month of rent paid upfront too. Remember, you’ll also need enough cash to feed and entertain yourself, as well as pay your bills.
It’s possible to live very cheaply or very lavishly in Bangkok – just make sure you haven’t plundered your savings in the first week.
3.You can buy (almost) everything over here
Don’t waste your money on shipping all your belongings from home, or paying for extra cabin baggage.
Clothes, furniture, books, stationery, kitchen equipment, gadgets – you name it, practically everything can be bought over here (although they may have an import tax attached if you’re buying foreign-made products).
Products that may be harder to buy are particularly large sized clothes and shoes – you’ll likely need to shop at more expensive, foreign stores to find these specialist products.
4. Many Thais are fatalistic
If you’re moving from a developed Western country, you may be surprised at just how ambivalent many Thais are towards the dangerous driving culture – only a minority of passengers wear helmets on motorbikes, while speeding and dangerously weaving in and out of traffic is a common occurence.
The Buddhist religion believes in reincarnation, and many Thais subscribe to the notion that if they or others die, they will simply be reborn again.
Consequently, it sometimes seems as though there is less value placed on individual life.
Thais are also very superstitious – thanks to a combination of Buddhist, Hindu and Animist beliefs – and will often ‘make merit’ (give donations and offerings) to temples, monks and spirit houses. This is meant to ensure that they reach the heavenly afterlife.
5. Watch your tongue
It’s likely that you already know about Thailand’s strict Lèse Majesté law, which allows for heavy punishments for anyone found guilty of insulting the Thai royal family in any way.
This law is enacted often; it is best to simply not discuss the royal family – including past monarchs and dynasties – or their work at all.
Suing for libel and slander is also a relatively common practice in Thailand so be very careful about how you speak of people in person and online.
The current ruling government of Thailand is the NCPO, borne of a 2014 military coup. In various bids to stabilise the country and enact reform, they are active in tackling political activism and opposition.
6. You need travel insurance
Just like anywhere, it’s easy to get yourself in a scrape while you’re in Bangkok.
Road accidents are common – particularly on motorbikes – and you’ll quickly find out that ‘health and safety’ standards aren’t quite up to the expectations of the Western world.
If you buy travel insurance while you’re still at home, you’ll be able to take advantage of the cheapest prices.
Just buy it, and then hopefully you’ll be able to forget about it and never need it – it’s worth it for the peace of mind alone.
7. Bangkok isn’t just ladyboys and red light districts
Some people are under the impression that Bangkok is little more than a hedonistic paradise, populated with enigmatic transgenders and mysterious bar girls, all searching for a Western man to sweep them off their feet and ‘save’ them.
Certainly, this is a part of Bangkok – and all some foreigners see when they jet here on a two-week holiday – but it’s hardly all there is to the city.
The red light districts of the city are very clearly demarcated, and are generally very self-contained across a few small streets.
If you arrive in Bangkok with the Miss Saigon fantasy of saving a young and beautiful girl from a life of prostitution, you’ll likely quickly find yourself wrapped around the finger of a girl who’s seen and heard it all before, and who knows how to turn that to her advantage.
8. Age matters
In an almost direct reversal of life in the West, you’ll find that age commands respect in Thailand and that the young will generally defer to their elders.
You’ll be expected to give up your seat on the BTS or MRT for an older person, and you’ll frequently see them push to the front of queues while in shops or waiting for public transport.
Many Thais respectfully refer to older people as “Auntie” or “Uncle”, even if they’re not related.
9. Locals will think you’re rich
There is an association that a white person equals a rich person, and many Thais will assume you have wealth based entirely on the colour of your skin.
This is particularly prevalent when it comes to white men dating Thai women — in some cases, you will be expected to routinely pick up the cheque. You may need to re-educate them on this early if you don’t want this to set the tone for the relationship.
Sometimes this can extend further than just your girlfriend and partner to the rest of their family – some Western men find themselves having to send money to their girlfriend’s family for the care of sick grandparents, or even farm animals!
10. Phones are the centre of the universe
Thais love their smartphones and it’s a common sight to see people, regardless of age, buried into their screens while on the BTS, walking the streets, in shops, and even on dates!
If you want to assimilate in Bangkok and make Thai friends quickly, get yourself a smartphone and download the LINE app. This is the Asian equivalent to WhatsApp, and you’ll find most Thais spending a lot of time chatting to their friends and family on it.
Before you know it, you’ll be part of a huge LINE group with all your new friends!