If you have the flexibility of a remote software engineer, you may wonder whether moving out of the country will benefit you. I'm here to tell you it is. Here are seven reasons you should consider moving to Thailand for at least part of your digital nomad days.
In January 2020, I began my Thailand experience with a planned six-month stint as a digital nomad. Corona hit during my trip to Thailand; after a difficult decision process, I decided to continue living in Krabi Province. From there, I continued to work remotely, eventually meeting my girlfriend (now wife) Nid (นิด), who introduced me to all things Thai.
This relocation has shown me that it's a great opportunity for other remote software engineers for many reasons, from the cost of living to the freedom gained from living in a picturesque location. Join me as we explore why you should relocate to Thailand to try your hand as a digital nomad.
Lower Cost of Living
While living in Thailand, I have enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle at a relatively affordable cost, even compared to nearby cities and countries. Thailand is one of the most budget-friendly locations to live in, especially when the tourism industry saw a decline during the border closure due to Corona.
As a remote software engineer living (or any remote worker) in Thailand, you can expect your expenses to be around USD 1,000 per month or less. This estimate includes transport, housing, entertainment, and food. My first apartment in Krabi was $250/month, only 5km from the beach. Those who wish to live more lavishly or those with large families can expect monthly expenses to be closer to USD 2,000.
For cheaper accommodation, relocate to Thailand during the low season (July to September). During this time, tourism is typically lower as it's the rainy season. With fewer tourists visiting, the cost of accommodations (short-term and long-term) are typically lower.
Ideal for a Remote Software Engineer
Transitioning to working in Thailand is not always an easy feat. However, the ample Wi-Fi available throughout the country ensures you can stay in contact with clients while developing apps. Because of this, those with developer jobs can continue their work with relative ease (and without fear of being left with no Wi-Fi).
Additionally, Thailand’s time zone offers the ability to work with clients in other various areas worldwide more easily, especially businesses in Europe and America. I have noticed this benefit while I’ve built my online app and consultancy business.
Foreigners who plan to work or conduct business in Thailand must obtain a valid work permit before they can legally earn income in the country. Even if you are working remotely for a non-Thai company, but physically present within Thailand, you will still need a work permit. Please read also my related article.
It is important to note that a tourist visa does not allow you to engage in any kind of employment or business activities. If caught working without the proper documentation, you could face heavy fines and even deportation from the country.
However, there are some exceptions based on the type of work and length of stay. For example, certain professions such as journalists or those participating in cultural exchange programs may be exempt from obtaining a work permit under specific conditions. It is always best to consult with an immigration lawyer to determine your eligibility for exemption.
As mentioned, my wife first introduced me to the local Thai cuisine, ensuring I could better immerse myself in the culture. While many restaurants centre on some form of Thai food, there are also a few Indian, Western, and European-inspired eateries in Krabi for those who crave variety or feel homesick.
A must-visit location for food is Maharat Market (also known as Maharaj Market). This market has a little bit of everything, produce, fish, meat, pre-cooked meals, and a few stalls with clothes for sale. As a bonus, visiting locations like this allow you to practice and learn how to speak Thai as you're ordering food.
Another area you won't want to miss in Krabi is Krabi Town's Walking Street. This night market is only open on the weekends, between 4 – 10 pm. It offers access to many market stalls, ranging from goods to cooked foods. The central section of the market contains most of the food stalls, so ensure you visit this section to take in the food offerings. You can find many types of food here, including pizza, sandwiches, sushi, and desserts, all for a relatively low price.
Welcoming Thai People
You'll notice Thai people are generally welcoming and quite hospitable once you arrive in the country. I felt that the local people and my wife's loving family received me with open arms during my adventures here in Thailand. It’s known as one of the friendliest places in the world, ranking as the 4th friendliest country in 2022 according to Conde Nast’s 2022 Reader’s Choice Awards.
Thai people are especially welcoming to foreigners, often offering knowledge and advice to make your stay more comfortable such as top restaurants or transportation tips. Many of these characteristics mentioned developed due to the country's religion - Theravada Buddhism, which focuses on loving kindness, generosity, and patience.
Finding a location to live, which feels like home, helps make the transition easier when moving from country to country. With the kindness and warmth Thai people offer, you'll quickly feel a sense of community. This sense of community greatly helps the transition to Thailand, as remote work can become lonely, especially when you first arrive and are only beginning to learn the Thai language.
Beautiful Sightseeing Opportunities
A major benefit of moving to Thailand is the sightseeing opportunities outside your door. As I mentioned, my first apartment in Krabi Province was 5km from the beach. Once I finished my remote software engineer duties for the day, I could head to a spot like Railay Beach, a picturesque spot with crystal clear water surrounded by greenery-covered limestone cliffs.
Being a digital nomad, I have more flexibility than a standard 9-5 job, allowing me to explore many of Thailand's breathtaking attractions. The Nahkon Thammarat Province is one of the most stunning locations in the country. It’s home to the highest peak in Thailand - Khao Luang and lush rainforests. Besides the Nahkon Thammarat mountains, beautiful undeveloped beaches and temples, like Wat Phra That Woramahawiharn, are available in the area.
Additionally, Ubon Ratchathani, where my wife was born, is worth visiting. Ubon Ratchathani is a magical place with natural attractions like the Huai Sai Yai waterfalls and the Pha Taem national park. It's also home to the Grand Canyon of Thailand.
While living abroad as a remote software engineer, ensuring you have healthcare is essential in case any issues or accidents arise. Thailand is one of the leading locations for healthcare, offering affordable prices for patients with various ailments. It's common for those living in Europe and America to travel to Thailand for procedures, such as a hip replacement, to save money on their healthcare bills.
In 2002, Thailand began its universal coverage program, which allowed every Thai citizen access to healthcare. Because of this program, many locals can utilize this program without paying out of pocket. However, ex-pats are typically not covered under this program unless they work for a Thai company offering insurance.
Instead, you’ll likely need to get private insurance. I opted for international health insurance, which is ideal for those who plan on staying in Thailand for more than a year. This type of insurance covers items like maternity needs and medical expenses.
Luckily, I have not had to use my insurance often while in Thailand. However, I did get sick during the Corona lockdown, which required a hospital stay. This instance proved the necessity for insurance while living abroad.
Exciting Cultural Events
Since my wife introduced me to Thai culture, I have been fortunate to continue exploring it by joining the local festivities. Krabi has many festivals throughout the year, including the Songkran Festival in April. Songkran (Thai New Year) is a playful holiday celebrated at Ao Nang Beach by locals, ex-pats, and tourists. Expect a colourful parade, fun water fights, and a joyful atmosphere as Krabi rings in the new year.
Beyond the Krabi festivities, I have enjoyed joining my wife in her hometown during the holidays. These celebrations offer the ability to take part in Buddhist traditions. One of the largest festivals during the year in Ubon Ratchathani is the Candle Festival. During this festival, incredible intricately carved candles are paraded through the town, marking the beginning of Buddhist Lent.
Each town in Thailand has its own celebrations and traditional ceremonies to experience while you're here. Regardless of which area you move to in Thailand, whether you prefer Krabi or Chiang Mai, you can easily enjoy the local festivities and festivals.
Additionally, Thailand has launched a few programs that aim to bring in skilled residents in recent years. In 2018, Thailand began offering Smart Visa, a program which offers a 4-year visa to skilled workers in 10 areas. This program allows you to skip a work permit while you live and work in the country.
There is also a newer Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) program which launched in 2022, for those interested in a longer stay in the country. The LTR program allows digital workers, retirees, and skilled workers, among others, to live and work in Thailand for ten years. Additional benefits include a 17% personal income tax rate and multiple entries during the 10-year period.
While there are challenges in every country, I believe Thailand's positives far outweigh the negatives. The stunning scenery, welcoming locals, exciting culture, mouthwatering food, and cost of living are enough to keep me in Thailand for a while. I hope you'll join me in Thailand, so you can enjoy a slice of heaven too.
If you’re a remote software engineer needing assistance with projects as you transition to living in Thailand, I can help with app development as you settle into the area. Or, if you’re interested in my app customization services or bug fixes, get in touch for more information.