Are you thinking of moving to the “Land of Smiles”? From the hustle and bustle of city life to the tranquillity of pristine beaches, Thailand has something to offer for every expat’s taste.
So, grab your passport, pack your suitcase and embark on a journey to discover your perfect slice of paradise in the “T-land”!
Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand, is a popular choice for many expats starting out in Thailand.
It’s a modern and lively city with excellent public transportation. It includes a well-connected BTS Skytrain and MRT subway system and a network of highways and expressways, making it easy to get around.
There are numerous shopping malls, supermarkets, hospitals, and international schools.
You will find reliable and affordable high-speed internet available in most areas.
Suvarnabhumi International Airport, one of Thailand’s major international airports, is located about 30 kilometers east of central Bangkok – super convenient for international travel.
The cost of living in Bangkok varies depending on the location and type of accommodation. In popular expat areas such as Sukhumvit, Silom, and Sathorn, the average monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment can range from 20,000 to 50,000 THB (approximately $600 to $1,500), depending on the size, condition, and facilities of the apartment.
Generally, a minimum monthly income of around 50,000 to 70,000 THB (approximately $1,500 to $2,100) per person can cover basic living expenses, including rent, utilities, transportation, food, and entertainment.
You will need more for a more luxurious lifestyle or to cover additional expenses such as international school fees or healthcare costs.
Find out more about various Bangkok areas in our guide to the best Bangkok neighborhoods.
Love contrasts? Check out Kanchanaburi.
This little town just outside of Bangkok is the opposite of everything the capital represents. There’s much less traffic, clean air, mountains and forests are on your doorstep and life here is much slower and cheaper. And because of this, Kanchanaburi is now the premier weekend destination for Bangkokians.
It is an excellent place if you want to live outside of Bangkok but still be close to natural sites like Erawan National Park.
Kanchanaburi’s main expat groups are retirees and ESL teachers.
The town has reasonable amenities. There’s a shopping centre, many local markets, and even a Tesco-Lotus.
The locals are amiable, and the cost of living will surprise you pleasantly.
You can get a big house with three bedrooms and a garden for about 5,000 baht/month ($145) or an apartment for 1,500-3,000 baht/month ($45 – $90).
The internet is excellent.
As to entertainment, you can meet other expats at local bars like Berne’s Blue’s Bar or No-Name Bar or go to the numerous Thai cafes and eateries.
Kanchanaburi is only 78 miles/126 km from Bangkok, but traffic can make the journey two and a half hours. You can take an air-con coach from the Southern Bus Terminal or a train from Bangkok Noi railway station.
3. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, located in northern Thailand, is great if you want more affordable city living than in Bangkok.
More affordable and great internet is precisely why the city is full of digital nomads of all types and classifications. Finding great co-working spaces here is easy, the community is fantastic, and the general atmosphere is positive.
You can live comfortably on a budget of about $1,200 per month. This includes everything from food and transportation to entertainment and healthcare. Rent in Chiang Mai is also very affordable, with a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costing around $300 per month.
In terms of amenities, Chiang Mai has everything you need, from modern shopping malls and cinemas to traditional markets and street food stalls. There are also plenty of entertainment options, including live music venues, night markets, and cultural festivals. The city is surrounded by mountains and lush greenery, which is excellent if you are a nature lover.
Chiang Mai has an international airport with direct flights to many destinations in Asia and domestic flights to other parts of Thailand. The city also has an extensive public transport system, including tuk-tuks, songthaews, and motorbike taxis, which makes getting around the city easy and affordable.
As to the downsides, the city can be crowded and noisy at times, and traffic can be challenging during rush hour. One thing to be aware of is the poor air quality during the Burning Season from January to March/April. This is when farmers burn their fields and biowastes, causing high levels of air pollution. Many expats escape to cooler and cleaner places in the South during this time.
Phuket is one of the most popular beach destinations in Southern Thailand. It is well known for its stunning beaches, clear blue waters, luxury resorts, and water activities.
There are plenty of opportunities to swim, snorkel, and scuba dive here.
The nightlife in Phuket is also lively and exciting, with plenty of bars, clubs, and restaurants to choose from.
Phuket has a diverse international community, with expats from all over the world living and working on the island. This makes it easy to meet new people and make friends.
Phuket has everything you need. There’s no shortage of modern shopping malls here, with Central Phuket being the biggest one on the island.
There are also several international schools here.
The main private hospital on the island is Bangkok Hospital Phuket.
Phuket is well-connected to other parts of Thailand and the world, with an international airport on the island that offers direct flights to many destinations in Asia and Europe.
However, living in Phuket can be expensive compared to other parts of Thailand. It’s very touristy, and many real estate buyers are investors that buy to rent, which affects overall property prices. You can find a 1-bed apartment for around 32,000 baht a month, nearly $1000. The average asking price for house rentals in Phuket is 139,446 baht (just over $4,000)
The island can get crowded and noisy during peak tourist season, and some areas have become overly commercialized.
Another popular coastal destination is Pattaya on the Eastern Gulf of Thailand.
Pattaya is cheaper than Phuket in terms of transportation, food, and accommodation. It is also closer to Bangkok. You can summarize Pattaya as a noisier, livelier, more exciting and less Westernized version of Phuket for less money.
You can rent a condo close to the beach for 15,000 baht a month (around $400) or a 3-bed house for 28,000 baht ($817). A meal in a low-end local restaurant can be as cheap as 100 baht (under $3). And if you buy from street vendors, you can eat for 35 – 40 baht per dish ($1-1.2).
There is a good choice of international schools, entertainment and sporting facilities, and all the amenities and infrastructure you need including fast internet, hospitals, and clinics catering for expats.
Digital nomads are the biggest expat crowd here, attracted by the affordability, good internet connection, convenient travel links, and abundant co-working spaces.
If you’re tired of all the excitement and bright lights of Walking Street, the center for entertainment and nightlife in Pattaya, and want to relax on a quiet beach for the weekend, you will appreciate how close you are to the beautiful island retreats of Koh Lahn, Koh Chang, and Koh Samet.
6. Hua Hin
Hua Hin is a seaside resort town located on the Gulf of Thailand, about 200 kilometers south of Bangkok. It is known for its relaxed atmosphere, golf courses, and royal heritage.
It is also a very safe and peaceful place with low crime rates. It is not (yet) overrun by tourists as many other coastal places.
Hua Hin is much more affordable than Bangkok and other popular tourist destinations in the South. You can rent a small condo here starting at 12,000 baht a month ($350). A 3-bed villa will cost around 40,000 baht monthly ($1170).
Local transport is cheap, so many expats don’t bother to have a car here.
Many developments in and around Hua Hin offer good value-for-money villas both for rent and sale.
Hua Hin is more relaxed and slow compared to big cities like Bangkok. It has a good mix of modern conveniences and traditional Thai culture. Living here, you will enjoy seafood, golf courses, and various water sports like kitesurfing.
It’s a brilliant place to live if you have children. There are a couple of pretty spectacular amusement parks around, such Vana Nava Water Jungle Park and Santorini Park.
Climate-wise, while the weather can be pleasant during the cooler months from November to February, it can be sweltering and humid during the hot season from March to June.
7. Koh Samui
Koh Samui, an island in the Gulf of Thailand, offers a laid-back and tropical island lifestyle with beautiful beaches, lush greenery, and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s cosmopolitan and safe, with low crime rates and a generally chilled-out atmosphere.
The island has a thriving expat community and also caters for tourists, so many recreational activities are available, such as water sports, yoga, and numerous wellness retreats.
Koh Samui has an international airport with direct flights to regional hubs such as Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur.
The cost of living here is reasonable. However, you can find all the luxuries you want if your bank account stretches far enough.
Meals at local restaurants can range from $2 to $10 per meal, while Western-style restaurants may be slightly more expensive. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in a popular area like Chaweng or Lamai can range from $300 to $800 per month, depending on the location and amenities. Utilities, including electricity, water, and internet, can cost around $100 to $150 per month.
Koh Samui is popular with retirees or part-time retirees, and many foreigners own a second home here.
Most expats who live here full-time reside in the northeastern region around Lamai, Chaweng, Choeng Mon, Bophut and Maenam, where you will find the most shopping and amenities.
A few international schools are on the island, mainly concentrated on the east coast.
While internet connectivity in Koh Samui has improved over the years, it can vary depending on the location and service provider. In general, urban areas and popular tourist areas tend to have better internet connectivity than the island’s more remote or rural areas.
You can find more information in our Living In Koh Samui guide.
8. Chiang Rai
For the next destination, we travel back to the country’s north.
Chiang Rai is rivaling Chiang Mai as a darling of digital nomads. The city has a laid-back and friendly atmosphere and is very affordable. It is also located near the borders of Laos, making life for visa-hoppers much easier.
Chiang Rai is more affordable than Chiang Mai. For example, monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment can range from 5,000 to 12,000 baht (approx. $160 to $380), depending on the location and type of accommodation. Essential utilities such as water and electricity are also reasonably priced.
You can have a meal at a local eatery for 40 to 100 baht (approx. $1.30 to $3.20).
It’s a great location if you love exploring nature. Chiang Rai is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, including mountains, waterfalls, and temples, making it an excellent destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Chiang Rai has an international airport, Mae Fah Luang Chiang Rai International Airport, which offers flights to various domestic and international destinations. This makes it convenient for expats to travel both domestically and internationally.
Krabi, located in southern Thailand, is a province known for its picturesque landscapes of limestone cliffs, beautiful beaches, and islands.
Krabi has an international airport, Krabi International Airport, which offers flights to various domestic and international destinations.
It’s a very affordable area, especially compared to Phuket or Bangkok. Monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Krabi can range from 5,000 to 15,000 Thai Baht (approx. $160 to $480). Meals at local eateries can range from 50 to 150 Thai Baht (approx. $1.60 to $4.80) per meal.
Krabi Town, the provincial capital of Krabi, is a functioning town with a laid-back and affordable lifestyle. Unlike the major resort areas, tourism is only a small part of the picture in Krabi Town, making it a casual and inexpensive place to live.
Krabi Town is becoming increasingly popular with freelancers who are discovering the province. It offers all the essential amenities like supermarkets, grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants, and a couple of good co-working spaces with reliable internet and affordable prices.
It takes about 25 minutes to drive to Ao Nang Beach, the nearest beach to Krabi Town.
If you want to live by the beach, check out Ao Nang. It might feel small and too much of a resort, but if you love the seaside, that’s where you want to be. All the amenities you need for comfortable day-to-day living are here. You will even find a couple of supermarkets on the outskirts.
The province has a friendly local community. You can enjoy a peaceful and tranquil environment with a good balance of nature, outdoor activities, and amenities. You can find more information in our Living In Krabi guide.
10. Khon Kaen
Another affordable city living option, Khon Kaen in northeastern Thailand, is a growing city that has been gaining popularity with expats.
The city is small enough to be manageable but big enough so you don’t feel like you are out in the sticks. Another significant advantage is that many residents here speak English, maybe thanks to several university and international students.
Khon Kaen is also an affordable city. You can rent a one-bedroom apartment from 5,000 to 12,000 baht (approx. $160 to $385). Meals at local eateries can range from 30 to 100 baht (approx. $1 to $3.20) per meal.
The area near the lake in the South of the city is especially lovely. It is less than 10 minutes from the city center, and Songthaew (shared taxis) routes pick up near the lake. That’s where many expats choose to live.
As in any city, traffic in Khon Kaen can be an issue. If you plan to have a car and drive around a lot, rent somewhere with easy access to the Bypass, the ring road around the city.
Khon Kaen has an international airport, Khon Kaen Airport, which offers domestic flights to various destinations within Thailand. For international flights, you have to use Bangkok Airport, which is approximately 5-6 hours away by car or bus, or you can take a short domestic flight from Khon Kaen Airport to Bagkok and then continue your journey from there.
Final thoughts on the best places to live in Thailand
Thailand is a fascinating and diverse country with many options for expats seeking an exciting and fulfilling life abroad.
Whether you prefer the vibrant city life of Bangkok, the laid-back beach vibes of Phuket, the cultural richness of Chiang Mai, or the hidden gem of a small town, Thailand has something to offer for everyone.
So, grab your sense of wanderlust, embrace the unknown, and get ready to create your own story in this captivating and dynamic country.