The complete guide to moving to Thailand

Updated: Jun 6, 2017

Thailand isn’t known as the land of smiles for nothing, and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing when you relocate there. Of course, there’re the full-moon parties and fine-sand beaches, but you’ve also got beautiful temples and tempting street-food, night markets and magnificent hotels. Oh, and throw in tropical temperatures, idyllic islands and breath-taking scenery. There’s so much on offer in Thailand, you’re in for a cultural adventure no matter where you end up. Our guide is packed with all the essential info you need to get settled, so all you’ll need to do is figure out where the best place to eat Pad Thai is – and let us know when you do!

Getting through customs

Organise a visa

Australia has a visa-waiver scheme with Thailand, meaning that if you want to go and spend some time there before you commit to a move, you’ll have 30 days on entry without needing a visa. Most people will apply for a one-year, ‘non-immigrant category B’ visa. You’ll need to apply for this while still in Australia, from the Thai Consulate, although most of the forms can be downloaded in advance. In addition to the application form, have copies of your passport and recent passport-style photographs. You’ll also need to be able prove that you can support yourself, and if applicable, your family. This means as a single applicant you’ll need to have around 20,000 Baht per person in your bank account, which is roughly around $800AUD. The visa is valid for wither 9 months or 1 year, so double-check what you’ve been granted to make sure you don’t overstay your visa conditions. Do check with your company’s HR department, as you might find they will take care of much of the visa process for you.

You’re also not allowed to actually work in Thailand without a work permit. You can’t get a work permit without first being granted your category B visa. Practically all employers will apply for this on your behalf as there are multiple parts of the process that they need to do as a business. Do check before you sign your contract whether they will pay your visa fees or you’re responsible because you don’t want to get a large financial shock you hadn’t budgeted for. Make sure you have attested/signed copies of your degree certificate and/or other relevant qualifications, plenty of passport photos, CV copies. You may need to have some of your documents translated in to Thai – all of these things can be done both in Australia and in Thailand at the Australian Embassy if you decide to arrive on a tourist visa and look for work. As part of the visa restrictions, you can only work for the company applying for you, if you decide to change jobs, you will need to reapply for a new visa. As remote working has become more popular with younger expats and the lure of low cost of living, a large number of people enter on a tourist visa and do a regular ‘visa run’ out of the country to return on another tourist visa. The rules around this sort of thing are muddy, particularly if the work you’re doing isn’t for a Thai employer.

TIP: Liaise regularly with the HR department of your employer to make sure you’re both aware of who needs to do what in terms of visa processing.

Have a valid passport

It goes without saying really, but make sure your passport is valid – and isn’t due to run out. Although Thailand is closer than some parts of the world, you still don’t want to need to make an emergency 8 hour flight home. If you’re worried your passport is due to run out, don’t leave it until the last minute, head over to the Australian Government Passport Authority for all the details you’ll need about renewing – or applying for – a passport.

TIP: Have at least six months’ validity on your passport before you travel. You don’t want to have to leave quickly – or arrange for an emergency replacement.


If your relocation is permanent – or you simply just can’t be parted from your four-legged friend, there are options to bring your kitty or canine over to Thailand. First of all, complete an application form, this can be downloaded from the Thai Embassy website here: It’s worthwhile having a couple of copies of this, as you’ll need to show it on arrival in Thailand with your pet. You’ll need to supply a health certificate, signed and stamped by your local registered Australian vet. If you’re brining a dog in to Thailand, they’ll need to be vaccinated against Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Rabies and Parvovirus at least 21 days before your flight, and cats need to be vaccinated against Rabies and FPV. You can travel ahead of your pet, which might be a good idea as it’ll give you some time to get settled in your new home without the cat freaking out even more! You’ll need to apply in advance for an import permit, providing details of the flight itinerary, carrier and addresses of where your furry friend has come from and is going to. Although this is a straightforward process, it can be another thing on what’s going to be a long moving ‘To Do’ list, so thankfully here at King & Wilson, we can take care of the details for you.

TIP: Contact King & Wilson who can arrange all the pet paperwork and transportation for you.

Money, money, money


In Thailand the Baht is currency. Due to the exchange rate you may think yourself a millionaire – or wonder why it’s costing you a couple of hundred for a beer. It’s a good idea to do a bit of research in to the cost of living so you know roughly what to expect in the first few months. Obviously bigger cities like Bangkok will be more expensive – but they’re also more likely to have home comforts imported! Blog sites such as The Thailand Life will give you some ideas where to start.

TIP: Download an exchange rate mobile app for the early days of your arrival so you know exactly how much things really cost.


While there are over 30 licenced banks in Thailand, banking itself isn’t the same across the board. You’ll find requirements to open an account very between institutions – and sometimes even depending on the bank staff. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take as much documentation as you can, with photocopies if possible. One thing is for certain – you’ll need a work permit to be able to open a current account. Savings accounts can be opened without a permit. You’ll usually have to be earning a minimum salary, which can vary by bank, and you’ll need to prove it with a pay slip or letter from your employer.

It’s no surprise that international institutions such as HSBC, Citibank, and Australia’s ANZ are more popular with expats. However, depending on your circumstances and location, it might be easier to open an account with a local bank. The banks below all come with good reputations and are recommended for expats:

Bangkok Bank


Kasikorn Bank

TIP: If your employer can’t open a bank account on your behalf, take someone who speaks Thai to make sure your requirements – and their understanding of these is correct.


When you have lived in Thailand for 180 days – roughly four months – you’re officially considered a resident, at least in terms of tax. This basically means you’re now liable to pay income tax. There isn’t a tax waiver agreement between Thailand and Australia, so be careful if you still have income coming in at home; you’ll need to pay it either at home or on top of your Thai tax bill. This is something you don’t want to be liable for, as the double taxation treaty is high.

Apply for a Taxpayer Identification Number from the Revenue Department, within 60 days of receiving taxable income, and you’ll be enrolled in to the tax system. If you’re paid through your employer as PAYE, your tax will be handled by your employer and deducted from your pay each month. Anyone earning over 150,000 baht, roughly $2400 AUD a year will need to pay tax. This is calculated on what you earn and will be anything from 5% to 35% of your salary.

TIP: If you are self-employed make sure you get a local accountant. Tax laws are complicated in Thailand and many of the forms are not available in English.


Also taken out of your pay each month, is a contribution to the Social Security Fund, which will go towards public healthcare. All working expats are legally required to have health insurance. Public healthcare in bigger cities are good, though they’re not always comprehensive. Facilities can be basic and few-and-far between in more remote areas. For these reasons, most expats opt for a private healthcare package. Check with your employer to see if they have a scheme you can opt in to, or a preferred partner. Not all private healthcare will have an English-language policy, so do make sure you know exactly what you are covered for. Even fully-comprehensive policies will require you to pay upfront before seeing a doctor. Private clinics are also the best option if you want to see a GP, as many clinics only have specialists. This can prove expensive, particularly if you have a family with you.

As Thailand has a tropical climate, it’s worth keeping in mind some of the health issues to keep in mind. Before you move, have a full spectrum of vaccinations, your local GP will be able to advise you on what you need as some are more essential than others, but if you’re living in places like Chiang Mai in the north, you may need extra vaccinations that aren’t necessary in Phuket. If you need to bring any medication for existing conditions, it’s a good idea to have a stamped and signed letter from your doctor regarding the prescription as Thailand has strict rules regarding certain medications.

TIP: Websites such as Allianz have a facility for you to search hospitals and doctors close to you. This is worth looking at while you’re searching for a home.

Setting up home

Bangkok or bust?

Bangkok is arguably the most popular city for expats to move to, a sprawling, 24-hour city. Thankfully its size means you can always escape the smog – and people – and find somewhere a little more peaceful. Places such as Phuket and Chiang Mai offer unique experiences and if you have the luxury of deciding where you want to live, it’s a good idea to grab a coffee and spend some time online looking at what’s on offer. If you’re after a mix of laid-back beach time with working hard, party harder, then somewhere like Phuket might be where you’ll want to settle. Plus there’s a huge expat community here, which might help the settling-in process. Up north in Chiang Mai, you’ll find there is a beautiful mix of traditional Thai architecture and a relaxed way of life, particularly appealing if you’re not after partying until dawn or have had enough of massive cities. Wherever you decide on, Thailand offers beautiful views, fabulous food, and is a fantastic country to get out and explore.

TIP: Research the province or city you are thinking of heading for, and check it matches your personality, family needs or work industry.

To rent or buy:

The decision to rent or buy largely depends on how long you think you’ll be living in Thailand, or whether you want the option of an investment – or retirement – property. Thai law states that expats can own their own condos or apartments, however, in trying to maintain cultural identity, expats can only own under half of the building. In reality this means that although you might find the perfect home, you might not be allowed to buy it due to the number of other expats who own in the same building. As many expats want to live close to a metro station, prices in the vicinity can be high – and much higher to rent than to buy.

Renting isn’t always a formal affair, so it is wise to draw up at least a basic contract with your potential landlord, even just to have something in writing about your length of tenancy and who’s responsible for what. If you’re required to make a deposit on a home, do take photos before you more your furniture in, or have the landlord/letting agent do a home-check with you.


You’ll usually be expected to pay all the utility bills in your new home. If you’re living in a condo, some buildings already have contracts with suppliers, and you’ll simply need to arrange a connection.

For electricity, if you live in Bangkok, the Metropolitan Electric Authority will connect you, and for anywhere else in Thailand you’ll be supplied by the Provincial Electricity Authority. Keep in mind Thailand’s tropical climate, while AC is lovely to have, it can make your electricity bill sky-high, especially when you consider electricity is some of the most expensive in the world here.

Most homes are not connected to a gas mains, and if you have gas cooking facilities in your home, you’ll usually connect your gas by a canister. You can arrange delivery of these to your home, though you will usually need to go and buy the first one, with a small deposit. Many of the local convenience stores offer this facility, and they will take your empty bottles away, and replace them with new ones. Be aware that there are restrictions in place for older, high-rise buildings regarding the type of gas and size of bottle you’re allowed.

Water is provided by either the Provincial Waterworks Authority or the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority of Thailand. Nearly all homes in Thailand have water tanks and septic tanks, which will be emptied by the local authority, because of this don’t be tempted to use lots of chemicals in your drains should they become blocked. Your water connection is not for drinking. Do not drink the water in Thailand. Water vendors will bring large bottles of water to your home for you to drink and cook with. They usually come with a dispenser attached that you just refit to the next bottle when you need to.

With all your utilities, you can opt to pay them at the front desk of your condo – the building manager may put a small surcharge on there, but if you’ve yet to set up your online banking or connected your internet at home, it’s an easy option. Alternatively, most of the 7-11 convenience stores will have a facility for you to pay your bills through them. Look for either a small telephone or a tap sign in the window to signify they have this facility. It cost usually around 10 Baht to pay your bills this way, but it is in fact the most common way to do it. However, you have to make sure you pay the bill before the deadline, otherwise the 7-11 won’t be able to process it and you’ll have to take a trip to one of the authority offices to pay in person.

TIP: If you’re not paying your bills by direct debit, it can be so easy to forget about them. Set a reminder on your phone or laptop each month before the due date to remind you to go and pay.


Thailand has some good broadband access, which is continually improving thanks to location-independent expats and the love of online gaming. You might struggle for a decent connection in rural areas, but you should find plenty of easy access online in big cities. There’s no regulated internet access in Thailand, which means there a huge number of ISPs, and a range of customer opinions to match. It’s worth looking at what’s available close to where you live, and what offers they have that might include mobile phones and or TV.

Have a look on as a starting point. As with most services, you’ll need to provide your passport, visa and work permit to be able to connect. If you’re somewhere a little more rural, dial-up connection is still common in Thailand, and pre-paid internet packs can be bought from most stores.

Mobile phones

Surprisingly, nearly all the mobile phone usage in Thailand is through pre-paid options, and this is true for expats too. Calls within Thailand are cheap and pre-paid ‘contracts’ are easy to understand and often in English-language formats, too. SIM cards are widely available: you can pick them up everywhere from the airport to supermarkets. For keeping in touch back home, services like Skype and Whatsapp mean it’s rare you’ll use your mobile to call or text internationally. Post-pay contracts can be complex, with not all documentation in English and you’ll find there are often hidden extras and surcharges attached. However, if you know what you’re looking for, and you’re likely to use your phone a lot, this option may save you some money in the long-term. Always shops around and compare prices before signing up to anything. The three main providers are:




TIP: If you’re bringing your Australian handset with you, make sure it’s unlocked and use to check it will work with your Thai carrier.


TV in Thailand is great if you want to get to grips with the language, as nearly all the free-to-air channels are in Thai. If you’re missing out on your boxsets though, you’ll need to opt for satellite or cable. If you live in a new apartment or condo in Bangkok, check first to see if the building has an existing contract. TrueVisions have the monopoly on English-language channels and shows from entertainment to sports. Details of their packages can be found on their website:

You can set up an account online and arrange billing and payments, plus changing of your package – like adding a sports channel for that ‘must-see’ game.

Due to the popularity of paid TV services, there is no TV licence in Thailand.

Getting around

Public transport

There is only one metro system in Thailand, and that’s in Bangkok. The MRT has two lines and over 30 stations, covering the metropolitan area. You can get tickets for individual journeys, or invest in a MRT Plus card, which is the smartcard for the metro, which can be preloaded for frequent travellers. From 2019 there are plans to extend the lines. In addition to this there is the Skytrain, which is the quickest way to get around Bangkok. The Rabbit Card is not only a travel smartcard, but can also be used in shop shops. However, the Mangmoom Card is due to launch by the end of 2017, which can be used on both the MRT and the Skytrain. Ticket machines have instructions and maps in English, too.

Busses are cheaper than the train and offer access to a wider area – we’re talking over 100 routes – but often don’t have an English-speaking driver or route maps. So it’s a good idea, at least while you’re finding your feet, to have an idea of your route beforehand. Although, getting lost is a good way to explore a city! Prices will vary depending on the distance you’re going, but also whether you plump for a newer, air-conditioned bus, or an older make.

Taxis are another cheap option, and they’re usually easy to find. You can flag one down on the street, or use a smartphone app like Uber or GrabTaxi. And then of course, there are tuk tuks, such a symbolic form of public transport. While we’re not saying you shouldn’t use one, if you do, just keep in mind that they can be more expensive than taxis and don’t have a regular meter, so you must agree a fee in advance. Also stand your ground if your driver wants to stop off at various shops along the way, drivers earn commission from some shop owners.

TOP TIP: Carry the address of your destination, as many drivers do not speak English, and there is no qualification to pass to become a taxi driver.

TIP: Always carry a copy of the address of your destination, particularly when you’re new in town as many of the drivers do not speak English

Getting a driving licence

Before you leave Australia, make sure you get yourself an International Drivers’ Licence. This means you’ll be able to use this for the first three months. After this, you need to apply for a Thai licence. You can do this either at the Department of Land Transport in Bangkok or your local transport office. Take both originals and photocopies of your passport and visas, proof of your Thai address or work certification, your Australian driving licence and finally a medical certificate issued from a Thai hospital stating you’re fit to drive. You’ll be given a one-year licence initially, which you can then renew for a five-year duration. Don’t let this expire, as you won’t be able to renew it and will have to take a whole new driving test.

TIP: See if the HR department at work can arrange this for you, as many of the forms are only in Thai.

What will the kids do all day?

School options

All are offered free, state education from the ages of 6 to 18 even though education is only technically mandatory until age 14. Although Thailand has spent a lot on education and schools in recent years, class sizes are still large and practically all classes are taught in Thai, meaning it’s not always a suitable option for children who are already mid-way through their education. Students attend primary school from 6-11 and then move on to first stage secondary school for 3 years. After this, students usually decide whether to continue academically and prepare for university, or take on a vocational course that usually lasts around 5 years. For this reason, most expats choose to send their children to an international school. This means that your children can still carry on with their Australian curriculum, so they’re not too disrupted with a new education system to get their heads around. Of course, depending on the age of your kids – and how long you think you’ll be living in Thailand, you might decide to enrol them in to an international school offering a British curriculum, or indeed the International Baccalaureate (IB). The range of options and availability will vary depending on where you’re living – there isn’t much call for international schools in very rural areas.

As you can imagine, places are very competitive, and so as soon as you have a rough idea where you’ll be living, it’s worth looking at potential schools. The International School Associate of Thailand has a comprehensive website with a list of all international schools, web addresses and contact details

School fees can be expensive, particularly in popular schools. You’ll often have to pay a range of one-off fees when registering your child in the education system: the registration alone can cost $10,000 AUD. You may also find schools have an annual payment in addition to their fees, which can be around $500-$750 AUD, with the fees themselves ranging from $18,000-$36,000 per year, per child, depending on their age.

TIP: Start researching schools as early as possible, particularly if you want your children to continue their Australian curriculum.

Under 5s

Some of the international schools will have kindergarten facilities, and there are public playgroups for toddlers. However, for many expats, nannies are common. Depending on your needs, this can be either full or part time, with live-in options. The best course of action if you’re looking to employ a nanny, is to go through an agency. By doing this, you’ll ensure that any legal and paperwork stuff is taken care of – plus making sure any home-help receives their legal entitlements.

Work stuff

You’re not going to be able to work at all without having your paperwork in order. Whether you’re hoping to land a job before you arrive or are wanting to scope out the market when you’re here, use this time to polish your CV.

If you’re recruited from Australia, you may find you’ll be offered a generous relocation package, but if you’re already in Thailand, there’s not the same incentive from potential employers to try and lure you across the globe. However, given some of the complex visa rules, this doesn’t mean that the company won’t assist you in getting legalities in order, have a clear list of questions regarding remuneration that you can ask.

Think about your language skills, too. In expat hubs such as Bangkok and Phuket, English will be commonplace, but you’ll still find it is not as common as you might think. So, to get ahead of the game, you might want to start brushing up on your languages while you’re still in Oz. Once you arrive in Thailand, you can keep this up, with some companies offering language classes.

Most expats arrive with a job, if only because it’s the easiest way to get other essentials like a house, utilities, and in some cases, a bank account. Plus, as with many countries, Thailand is keen on employing Thai citizens first, and so you’re going to need to demonstrate what an asset you’ll be, and this usually means having a trade or skilled profession to work in. There is a list of occupations that are prohibited to foreigners, many of which involve the maintaining of heritage and cultural traditions, but also industries such as hairdressing and hospitality. Thai regulations are strict, and as part of the visa application you will need to submit a copy of your CV and your potential employer will have to submit a statement stating why you fit the skills and person specified for the role. Make sure you’re listing all your skills and achievements for everyone to see.

TIP: Ensure you have certified copies of your essential documents and qualifications in both English and Thai.

Pack up and close up shop

Book your flight

The earlier you can book your international flight the better price-wise. If you can travel outside the school holiday peak season, you’ll save money too. This usually means travelling around February to March, May to June, late July to mid-September, or mid-October to mid-December. The sooner that you can lock down your moving date the better so you can plan ahead and save. Check out this Australian Government education resource for school holiday dates.

Check out Skyscanner or Webjet, a couple of the handy air travel aggregators to help get you the best ticket prices possible. Especially if you are not fussy about which airline you fly with.

Cull the clutter

Packing up your life and starting a new one is a good chance to cleanse. Don’t stick everything you own into boxes and transport the lot to your new home. Take the time to cull! There are a few good reasons for this.

You may have been hanging on to old heirlooms from a previous life that don’t need to make the journey across the world. If the planned move is unlikely to be forever, then consider storing a few old boxes with a friend or relative or utilising King & Wilson’s long term storage services. You can revisit your old university text books again one day when you resettle back home. Or if the move to Thailand might be indefinite, ask yourself whether you need eight boxes of old cassette tapes from the early 90s before you realised that CDs weren’t a passing fad… and while you’re there, how about that CD collection?

For more on minimalist packing check out this interesting perspective from

Tip: Cull unnecessary belongings and possessions before packing boxes.

10 Weeks Before Moving Day

Give yourself plenty of time to plan the logistics of packing. A good international removalist, like King & Wilson will be your best friend in this regard – they won’t want you leaving this to the last minute either. A few things to think about 2-3 months out from the big day:

  • Put together a folder or box for all documents and receipts relevant to the move.
  • Start a conversation with an international shipping company such as King & Wilson to get an estimate.
  • Create a floor plan for your new home to get a sense of how many of your large sized furniture or appliances you may need to get rid of.
  • Your belongings will be arriving by sea; however, it only takes a couple of weeks for your boxed-up life to arrive in Thailand. You may therefore only need to pack some additional clothing, linen, towels and key crockery and key kitchen utensils in your flight luggage. You may also consider pre-arranging excess baggage as it is much cheaper to book in advance than turning up on departure day with more than your baggage allowance. King & Wilson offers a smaller air shipment service to cover off this need as well.
  • If you haven’t done so already, and you’re able to, get yourself a Thai bank account, and if possible start to pay a little in to it so you have a cushion when you arrive.
Tip: Start a conversation with international movers now rather than later

6 Weeks Before Moving Day

Now you are edging closer to the big move, you want to start ticking off what will and won’t make it on the journey. For example:

  • Take an inventory list of all items around your home that will need to come with you.
  • Start selling off large or redundant items via Gumtree or ebay that you don’t want to take with you.
  • Hold a garage sale or take advantage of any local market stalls or jumble sales
  • If you are not wanting to ship your car across, then start the process of selling your vehicle on Carsales or a similar online classifieds service
  • Begin getting any paperwork you need for bringing your pet, make any necessary vet appointments and have any vaccinations your animal needs.
  • Start to compile your paperwork: things like CV copies, letters of recommendation, health certificates, medication lists. Basically, anything you might need to register for a service, or secure a house/job.

4 Weeks Before Moving Day

With less than a month to the move, you need to start getting your hands dirty and actually packing a few things away, particularly items you are not using day to day:

  • Collect moving boxes and packing supplies. Or if you move your home with King & Wilson, simply use the international shipping cartons provided.
  • Start by packing things you don't use much currently like extra dining or kitchen utensils and seasonal clothing. Visit this resource from Energy Australia on the right way to pack when moving house or this interesting blog post on the subject by Frugal Mama.
  • Donate the things you don't need (or that you haven’t been able to sell off).
  • Think about consuming your pantry stocks and frozen goods as well as home cleaning products, shampoos and soaps.
Tip: Start by packing the things you do not use day to day

1-2 Weeks Before Moving Day

Eek! You are merely days away from the move now and need to be thinking about leaving behind a clean, empty home for a new inhabitant. You also need to think about tying up loose ends at home, the flight and what you need for your first days in Thailand:

  • Confirm all your travel arrangements.
  • Finish packing your essentials.
  • Clean and defrost your refrigerator 24 hours before you move, turn off all the pipes and make sure you didn't leave any appliances on.
  • Cancel the newspaper subscription, contact Australia Post to redirect your mail to your new address in Thailand, disconnect your utilities like the electricity, gas and internet.
  • If you know your new address in Thailand, you may wish to pre-arrange your utilities connection. A specialist international moving company like King & Wilson can arrange this for you.
  • Say your goodbyes, provide your new contact details and travel itinerary to your family and friends.
Tip: Don’t forget to redirect the mail to your Thai address.

On Moving Day

You’ve made it to the big day. The job now is mainly to get out of the way of the professionals and focus on your breathing:

  • Let the professionals do their thing. A good removalist will take care of packing your belongings carefully and thoroughly.
  • A good international shipping mover will also cover off all the necessary shipping documentation to facilitate prompt customs clearance and quarantine inspection once your belongings arrive in Thailand.

Get to the airport, put on those noise cancelling headphones and relax for 8 hours or so in anticipation of your new adventure!