I couldn’t escape. After a brief stint in Europe, Bangkok was calling me back. Add this to the winter that was beginning in Denmark, and I was more than eager to jump on a plane. There is something exotic and magical about Thailand that had me hooked. Despite the traffic and the pollution, I was itching to be back.
For anyone considering remote working from Thailand, first you need to understand this. The law states any foreigner working in Thailand requires a Non-Immigrant Visa and Work Permit. This goes for both paid work and volunteer. After four years of living and working here, I’ve spoken to many people on the subject – lawyers, immigration officers, and other expats. My views are as follows, but definitely do not take this as legal advice. Talk to an immigration specialist to determine the best solution for you.
If you are working for a company and going into an office everyday. Definitely yes, you need a work permit. Eventually you will get caught, meaning deportation if you don’t have a valid work permit. Usually it’s a disgruntled former employee who makes an anonymous call to the authorities.
Working remotely, where your only connection to your overseas clients is a laptop, it’s a grey area. You don’t work for a Thai company, you’re a freelancer, or are employed by a company in another jurisdiction. So long as your salary is being paid into an offshore account, it becomes very difficult to prove you have actually been working. I have not heard of anyone that was ever caught working remotely, a good number of my friends have been operating exactly like this in Thailand for many years. Ultimately, it’s up to you.
Now we have the serious stuff out-of-the-way, this is why I love Thailand.
1. Getting a long stay visa is simple
Most countries have strict tourism and immigration rules, and it can be difficult to stay in one place for an extended period of time. Thailand is the same. On a Tourist visa, most visitors get a short stay of only 30 days. You do have another option. A year’s worth of language class will cost around $800-850 USD, buying 4 hours a week of class, and a permit to remain in Thailand for 12 months. If you decide to stay longer, you can purchase additional classes, extending this visa up to three years. This is the easiest way foreigners can remain in Thailand for a long period of time.
2. The start-up community is growing
Four years ago nobody in Thailand knew what the IT scene was. There was no push to develop a community of entrepreneurs outside of Singapore, and it was difficult to find like-minded people. Today, the opposite is true. There are a growing number of successful IT start-up’s based out of Bangkok. What’s also great, the community isn’t too large. You will always meet new people, but you can form strong relationships with the regulars. As it’s developing, more and more entrepreneurs that have had successful buyouts are now onto their third and fourth venture. They are coaching the next round of entrepreneurs to further success. There are strong communities organizing events every week, and large start-up competitions and exhibitions every few months. You won’t be alone over here.
3. Wide variety of places to work
If sitting in your apartment bores you to tears, you now have a wide range of options to get you out. It’s nice to have a change of scenery from the Starbucks and your regular window table. Co-working spaces are springing up all over the city. The first of its kind, Hubba has started a craze with entrepreneurs, both foreign and Thai alike. They bring together like-minded people in a “flexi” office environment. With desk rental ranging from $3 to $6 a day, you aren’t going to find a cheaper location to remote from!
4. The food
Without a doubt, the availability of food is a fantastic upside. Most Thai’s eat out three times a day because it’s so easy to get great food, and its ridiculously cheap. At midnight you can find awesome seafood restaurants still working, many stay open all night to cater for the night owls in all of us. My personal preference is local markets, you can’t beat the taste of hot cooked food from a street vendor. I also love the prices, a freshly made som-tum salad or a chicken-rice dish sets you back about a dollar.
5. The location
Bangkok is huge. With 9.3 million people living here, it has all the traits of a big city. Traffic congestion, problems with litter and pollution. But its location is fantastic. Drive two and a half hours north and you can relax alone in a national park. An hour and a half east and you’re on the beach at Pattaya. Or simply book a cheap flight and go anywhere in South East Asia. Cambodia is an hour away, Singapore is two, Hong Kong three, and in four hours you can be on the beach in Bali. My last trip to Cambodia was $130 return. Why not right?
6. The islands
What I love most is the islands, especially in the south of Thailand. There are so many places to visit you will not have enough time to explore them all. After 4 years, I’m still not even halfway through my to-do list! Koh Surin, Koh Similan, or Koh Lipe, all have beautiful beaches, and unspoiled reef just offshore. The best part, is that cell phone reception will be bad on the island, giving you a perfect excuse to unwind and catch up on that book you have been wanting to read.
7. The people
The land of smiles. The old catch phrase is quite adequate in describing the way people are here. Everyone is very relaxed and accepting. Whatever you want to do, be, look like or have, most Thai’s won’t even blink. They are so friendly to you, that soon you will have a large network of local people who remember your favorite dishes in their restaurants, or even just smile and say hello when they see you.
8. The cost of living
I touched on it earlier, but the cost to live here is ridiculously low. A decent studio apartment will set you back around $300 a month. I used to spend this in a week in Sydney! In an apartment building, rent normally includes internet and TV, and a maid service a couple of times a week. The only other bills are power and water, blasting air conditioning all day it’s going to add another $100 on top of your rent at the end of the month. This is insanely low compared to anywhere in the Western world, and means you can live here on a much lower salary, and also save a greater percentage of your monthly income.
9. The weather
It’s 30 degrees. Everyday. OK, maybe an exaggeration, it ranges from 27-32 throughout the year, but never strays far from this benchmark. Insane right? It’s always summer, perfect weather for a weekend trip to the beach, or a hike into the mountains.
10. The women
Let’s face it, there are so many western guys with beautiful Thai women, this one had to make it into the list. I’m happily married, but definitely appreciate this last reason that brings many guys over to Bangkok. Thai women are typically easy to get along with, love to laugh, and see western men as ‘exotic.’ Most single guys that come to Thailand soon find themselves in a relationship. For the girls, I’ve yet to meet someone here who has said Thai guys are the reason they first moved to Bangkok, though have met quite a few who are in happy relationships with a Thai.
I arrived in Thailand with a two-year contract. Without a long-term plan I wasn’t opposed to staying longer, until an opportunity came to leave. After six months of European weather, closed stores over the weekends and expensive beer, Thailand drew me back. I have never been happier. October 2013 marked my fourth year in the land of smiles, and I am looking forward to many more to come.
Author: Travis Bennett