If you are considering moving to Thailand, you will know that the reasons it is so appealing include the warm tropical climate, friendly people, stunning architecture, tasty food, and beautiful beaches. But before moving to “the land of smiles”, it is important to be aware of the key differences of Thailand and how these compare to life in most western countries.
Transportation in Thailand
There are many modes of transport in Thailand, and the best method depends on your location, your budget, and where you need to travel on a daily basis.
The tuk tuk is the most recognized mode of transportation in many towns and cities, but the pricing can vary from affordable to overly expensive, especially if you are not a local yet. Like most cities, there will be a few scammers waiting to take advantage of you — so just be careful and aim to negotiate a fee up front.
Songthaews are a good alternative to tuk tuks and operate similarly to a small bus. The main disadvantage is they are less direct and not as readily available as tuk tuks. But on the plus side, pricing is generally cheaper than tuk tuks. For the more adventurous, motor bikes offer direct and fast travel from point A to B. But the aggressive driving style might be too extreme for some travelers.
Cycling is another popular and budget-friendly way to travel around town, but again, you may have to compete on the streets with more aggressive drivers and larger modes of transportation. And in major cities like Bangkok, rail and underground services provide a more familiar feel for western expats.
Once you are comfortably moved to Thailand, buying a car might be the best option for you. You can buy new, like at this Nissan Service Center; there are also plenty of used car dealers. As always, just watch out for scammers as the sellers may feel inclined to take advantage of you and your money.
Culture & Local Thailand Customs
Thai people are known for being open, friendly, and welcoming. But it is worth being aware of some “do’s” and “don’ts” when moving to Thailand. One example is that feet are considered the dirtiest part of the human body, so washing feet and removing shoes is a common practice. Sitting in a cross-legged pose is also somewhat offensive, and many hand signals mean something completely different in Thai culture. So be sure to brush up on the local customs prior to travel.
Pace of Life
One thing western expats will immediately notice is the pace of life in Thailand is much slower. Governmental departments, businesses, and local authorities do not always operate as quickly or efficiently as you may expect. The laid back culture can also manifest in the quality of service. While you will no doubt receive a friendly welcome in most situations, the level of service you receive, for example in a hotel, may fall short of your usual western expectations. There’s not much you can do except adapt to this slower lifestyle change, so just prepare.
Obtaining a visa for Thailand is relatively easy for most western nationalities. Short-stay visas are available upon arrival and stamped in your passport. Visitors can claim a 60-day visa at the airport. This will most likely be the visa you will receive when first moving to Thailand. If you plan on staying longer, you can extend your visa depending on your eligibility. One way of doing this is to apply for an education, volunteer, or work visa. Numerous other types of visas are available as well — you just need to do a bit or research, or call your consulate.
Food and Drink
One misconception of Thailand is that all the dishes are extremely spicy. While spice is to be expected in some cases, there is likely to be a mixture of sweet, sour, and spice. It is certainly possible to source food with very little – if any – spice. Many expat communities will be able to advise on the best places for food. While on the subject of food, it is worth noting that chopsticks are mainly designed for eating noodles in Thailand, so do not worry about being an expert. Spoons, knives, and forks are readily available.