Recent surveys have ranked Thailand among the leading digital nomad destinations globally. This is not surprising considering what it has to offer. Besides its enduring reputation as an island paradise, the country presents some of the most buzzing and innovative cities in the world.
You have probably read about and even seen images of its pristine beaches, lush green jungles, and peculiarly formed mountains in the sea. This, combined with its busy cities, high-rise buildings, and quiet towns with rich history, promises something for everyone, even for short stays.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Visa application
- 2 Cities and towns popular with digital nomads
- 3 The crypto community
- 4 Culture and social norms and expected behavior
- 5 Political and economic stability
- 6 Language and language barriers
- 7 The health sector
- 8 Telephone and internet plans
- 9 The population of ex-pats
- 10 Payment services and infrastructure
- 11 Transport infrastructure and services
- 12 Climate and seasons
- 13 Cuisine
- 14 Tax requirements on digital nomads
- 15 Medical Insurance options
- 16 Common concerns
That being stated, let’s jam-pack this discussion with the relevant information you could ever need as a Thai-bound digital nomad.
The Visa application
Thailand offers varied visa options for anyone seeking entry permission. Currently, citizens from 64 countries can visit without visa restrictions for up to 30 days. Among these are the US, UK, South Africa, much of Asia, Europe, and South America.
Countries that enjoy visa exemption.
|Argentina (90 days)
|Brazil (30 and 90 days)
|Cambodia (14 days only)
|Chile (90 days)
|Korea (30 and 90 days)
|Myanmar (14 days only)
|Peru (30 and 90 days)
|United Arab Emirates
Citizens from these countries are granted this visa exemption under the following conditions.
- Your visit must strictly be for tourism purposes
- You must show your return ticket
- Have at least $300 for the duration of your visit.
Visa available for digital nomads
By default, a digital nomad from any of the 64 countries under the Thai visa exemption can visit and use the thirty days whichever way they choose. Of course, the permission doesn’t allow working, but it is technically difficult to enforce such a requirement since only a nomad knows what they do in their hotel room.
The Thai Tourist Visa (Single & Multiple entries)
As a digital nomad, you can apply for a 60-day tourist visa which may be extended for another 30 days to give you a 90-day stay in Thailand.
15-day Visa on arrival
Thailand offers a 15-day Visa on arrival to 18 countries. It costs 2000 Baht (roughly $55), and you must have an outbound confirmed flight to qualify. Note that these 18 countries are not party to the 64-country visa exempt list.
Thai Retirement Visa for those 50 years or older
Under this option, the one-year Non-Immigrant O-A visa is extendable yearly. The other one is the 5-year Non-Immigrant O-X Visa that you may extend every five years. The latter is only available to passport holders from the US, UK, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, Italy, Germany, France, Finland, Denmark, Australia, and Japan.
In case you have a family, you may happily bring them along. However, if any of them doesn’t qualify for the O-A or OX retirement visa, they can be admitted on a Non-Immigrant Visa O or ED. In this context, family refers to your spouse and a child under 20 years of age. More importantly, an applicant needs an income declaration and health insurance to qualify for these two plans.
Business Visa via Employer of Record Schemes
Some companies may offer digital nomads an Employer of Record service. Under this arrangement, you work for them on the agreement that they charge you a flat monthly fee that caters to everything you need, including healthcare, business visas, work permits, and local tax remittances.
To qualify for this Visa, you must be at least 22 years old and hold an IT-related university degree. Your training must lean towards software development, design, blockchain, e-commerce, business development, and other techy/digital practices. Other requirements are
- Commit to a one to a three-year contract
- Bill at least $1500 per month
- You must show an existing client base.
The Long-Term Residency Visa
This 10-year Long-Term Residency Visa was proposed with wealthy ex-pats and high-end digital nomads in mind. The creators of this product are persuaded that accommodating these elite professionals for extended periods would positively impact the country’s economy.
Does Thailand have a digital nomad visa?
Not exactly. Currently, though, most digital nomads are staying on a tourist visa that gives the applicant up to 90 days of stay. However, aspects of the anticipated Long- Term Residency Visa will cater to the specific needs of the digital nomad community.
Besides enjoying a ten-year residency in Thailand, a digital nomad living on this Visa enjoys a lower tax rate. For example, instead of paying 35%, digital nomads will pay only 17% in taxes. However, the conditions for acquiring this Visa are strict, and it remains to be seen if many of these professionals will embrace it.
One hurdle is the requirement that you must have earned a personal income of $80000 for the past two years to qualify. Such a figure may be prohibitive to the larger crop of lower and middle-income nomads.
The process of applying for a Visa
The digital era has made the visa application process much easier. In this case, all you have to do is visit the Thai e-visa official website and apply online. Here is the simple process;
- Create an account
- Fill in the application form
- Upload the required documents
- Pay the visa fee
- Wait for the Visa to be processed
- Approval or disapproval is communicated via email
Requirements to qualify for Visa
Requirements for a Thai Visa depend on the type of Visa you are applying for. For example, a digital nomad applying for a tourist visa must meet the following requirements.
- Passport (expiry date no less than six months)
- Fill out the visa application form
- A single, recent 4×6 cm passport size photograph
- Return ticket
- Proof of financial capability (Roughly $300)
- Proof of accommodation booking
- Visa fees.
The Cost of applying for a visa
The Cost of applying for any Thailand visa varies depending on your country of origin and the local currency. However, a Tourist Visa would cost you roughly $30-$50 for a single entry visa. Multiple entry visas will ask you for about $150-$250.
Cities and towns popular with digital nomads
A quick search for a list of Thailand’s main cities will likely yield one with Bangkok city at the top. As Thailand’s central city, Bangkok is a busy metropolis with magnificent buildings and excellent coworking spaces. According to PopulationU.com, Bangkok covers an area of 1568 sq km with a current population of 10.72 million. In a recent survey, Instant offices ranked Bangkok as the second best place to work from.
However, the northern city of Chiang Mai is a more popular digital nomad destination, with most people calling it the country’s digital nomad hotspot. This is where you find the famous Nimman road, a nomad hotspot hosting numerous coworking spaces with stable and optimal internet speeds.
Chiang Mai is a much smaller town with only 1,197,931 people, making it a quieter and more favorable city for digital nomads. Other popular destinations include the towns of Ko Pha Ngan, Phuket, Krabi, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Koh Lanta, Chiang Rai, and Koh Chang.
Each of these towns presents a unique set of features that give nomads a reason to settle there. For example, Ko Pha Ngan is known for the full moon party on the night of every full moon. Digital nomads and backpackers are attracted and thrilled by this event.
Cost of living and Cost of living arbitrage
Thailand is particularly attractive to retirees and digital nomads because it costs much less to live there. According to Numbeo, a research site that collects worldwide data about the cost of living, you would save between 40%-75 % living in Bangkok compared to someone living in the United States.
An average monthly budget of $1500 (All expenses inclusive) in a laid-back city like Chiang Mai is good enough for you to afford a modest lifestyle. And according to one digital nomad, the same lifestyle in Bangkok would cost you about $2050 (All expenses inclusive).
Interestingly, the amount you would live on for a whole month in any Thai city is not even enough to pay for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City.
Such a perfect geo-arbitrage window, right?
Well, this means that a digital nomad who moves from New York City to Bangkok or Chiang Mai will save at least $1500 per month, depending on the lifestyle they adopt. Assuming you went to stay on a 10-year Long-Term Residency Visa, you would have saved $180,000 in geo arbitrage at the expiry of the term.
According to Booking.com, the weekly price for a one-bedroom villa in Chiang Mai is roughly $297, translating to 1188 dollars per month. However, that is on the higher side as you can rent a similar apartment in this town for between $400 to $600. Of course, these rates cut across other towns with slight variations depending on the local factors.
In Bangkok, for example, the cost of living may be rounded off at $1237 per month, which is quite reasonable for an average nomad. A one-bedroom studio in downtown Bangkok would cost you $400, including a gym, pool, and other condo facilities.
Internet (connectivity, speed, and Cost)
According to the latest UN data, Thailand’s population is 70, 183,431. As of January 2022, there were 54.5 million internet users, accounting for 77.8 % of the total population. As a leading digital nomad city, Chiang Mai’s internet speeds are critical to user convenience and the growth of the digital nomad community. Accordingly, most workspaces and cybercafes leverage standard download speeds ranging between 13 and 33.5 Mbps. However, some coworking spaces have reported speeds of up to 100mbps.
In Bangkok, internet speeds are slightly higher, with some providers delivering downloads of up to 35Mbps. But, it is not all rosy since many serviced apartments and related housing rentals run significantly slower speeds. (about 10 Mbps down and 5 Mbps up).
You may have to subscribe to internet providers that charge approximately $25 per month to get faster speeds at home. For mobile users, though, $15 per month is enough to buy a reasonable 4G bundle.
Best coworking spaces
Cities in Thailand have set up diverse coworking spaces to enable nomads to accomplish their projects easily and conveniently. From the wide spaces, ergonomic chairs, productive networking events, and game rooms, you can leverage the array of modern amenities to get your projects done as you bask in the beauty of Thailand. In Chiang Mai, for example, you will find centers like the following;
- Yellow Coworking
- Punspace THA PHAE GATE
- Punspace WIANG KAEW
- The Brick Startup Space
- Hub53 (Coworking & Coliving)
- Code Space
- Buri Siri Cafe & Coworking space (coworking & coliving)
- Alt_ChiangMai (coworking & coliving)
These spaces offer seating areas, fast internet, a lush garden, an event area, office space, shower rooms, and coffee shops. At joints like the Hub53, Alt ChiangMai, and Buri Siri, you will enjoy both Coworking and Coliving services.
The crypto community
Despite being a top holiday destination, Thailand also ranks among Southeast Asia’s most popular blockchain hubs. Various sources agree that as of Dec 2021, over 3.6 million (5.2 % of the country’s population) people owned cryptocurrency. The Kingdom owns among the largest share of investments from the ASEAN fintech companies, with about 8% of investments focused on Blockchain technology and about 43% on e-payment.
The relationship between Thai authorities and crypto has been a bitter-sweet affair, with the government flip-flopping regarding digital assets. Since 2014, it (govt) has initiated a few temporary bans as it continues to weigh its options around the digital resource’s legality. Still, cryptocurrencies are not considered legal tender. Instead, May 14, 2018, Royal Decree on Digital Assets recognized them as “digital assets .” Therefore, if crypto trading is part of your nomad mission in Thailand, you are free to pursue your activity.
Given the country’s great interest in Blockchain technology, you would expect places like Bangkok to host several blockchain hubs and crypto startups. They include;
ArthSwap: A DeFi protocol that majors in liquidity mining, staking, swapping, and more
PrimeXBT: A fast-growing global crypto trading platform
Human Technology & AI Research Co.LTD: A startup on a mission to create employment opportunities.
Blockchain coworking spaces
These physical spaces connect blockchain researchers, innovators, and creators to develop new ideas into life-changing products and services. Thailand has several of these, especially in leading digital nomad cities like Chiang Mai and Bangkok. Here are some;
- Yellow Coworker: A Chiang Mai coworking space and blockchain incubator
- The Company Bangkok: A creative, collaborative coworking space that started operations in Fukuoka city, Japan, in 2016.
- Antares Offices: Offers diverse workspace solutions that suit any business size and budget.
Under the new Royal decree, transfers of all digital assets on licensed crypto exchanges are exempted from a 7% value-added tax. However, sections 50(2)(f) and 50(2)(a) of the decree specify how residents and non-residents should pay a 15% withholding tax for gains made from cryptocurrency transactions.
Crypto as a method of payment
Thailand forms the growing list of countries that allows cryptocurrency as a means of payment for goods and services. For example, by August 2019, over 5 million merchants were ready to accept Zcoin as a means of exchange for goods and services. The Kingdom has several Bitcoin ATMs, with four located in Chiang Mai and 1 in Phuket.
Popular recreational activities and fun spots
There is almost no end to the recreational activities and fun spots that Thailand has to offer. Besides enjoying a view of its stunning landscapes, you may venture out for scenic nature walks in wildlife reserves and national parks. You could also go hiking in the mountains or spend your day at the beach.
Other popular fun and recreational activities include scuba diving, island hopping, rock climbing, sea kayaking in the Marine Parks, dancing at the Full Moon Party, and much more.
Nightlife in smaller towns is rather dull, but Bangkok and other major cities have excellent hangout joints with top DJs playing the latest tunes.
Security and safety concerns
Thai citizens are generally good, law-abiding people. However, the country struggles with prevalent drug abuse, largely blamed for petty thefts and serious crimes. According to the 2022 Statistics published by worldpopulationreview.com, Thailand ranks at number 89 with a crime index of 39.35.
There are reports of organized crime with these actors running the gambling and sex industries. But, as a digital nomad, you are probably more concerned about muggers or the snatch-and-run syndicates that operate in Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and other places.
So, how do you stay safe in Thailand’s cities? Well, here are some safety tips to observe
- Avoid crime-prone areas
- Always keep your phone and other valuable out of sight
- Switch your backpack and suspend it over your chest.
- Don’t walk around with excess cash.
- Avoid public transport at night and use private taxi cabs instead.
Whether in Thailand for work, leisure or business, it is important to familiarize yourself with the country’s cultural and social norms.
Before you land in Thailand, it is good to know their local greeting. As you utter the word “Wai,” press your palms together at the nose or chest level while bowing slightly. This shows respect and may be used interchangeably to say thank you, goodbye, or hello.
Try to remain calm
Never raise your voice to pass your point across. Thais consider this an act of losing control or a signal of aggression.
Being a constitutional monarchy, the royal family is revered throughout the country. Therefore, never make demeaning remarks about this family online or in person and whenever you hear the national anthem being played, pause and stand in the King’s honor.
No head touching
Never touch or pass over someone’s head. That part of the human body is considered sacred in Thailand.
It is considered disrespectful to point at a monk or pictures of any royal family member.
Thailand is fairly liberal as far as attire is concerned. However, you are advised to cover up well when visiting shrines and temples. Wearing short skirts, sleeveless tops, and revealing outfits will deny you entry into a sacred place.
A 2021 US Report on International Religious Freedom revealed that 85 -95% of the Thai population subscribes to the Theravada Buddhist faith. Only 5-10% are Muslims, with the remaining percentage following the Hindu, Christian, Confucius, Jewish, Sikh, Taoist, and Animist faiths.
Political and economic stability
Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, although the King wields little direct power from the constitution. Instead, he exercises his control through the council of ministers, the courts, and the national assembly in keeping with the 2017 constitution. In 2020, data shared by the world bank ranked the country’s political stability and the absence of violence and terrorism at 24.53%. The 2014 Global Peace Index placed Thailand among the three least peaceful countries. And, as if that wasn’t damning enough, she had also ranked less peaceful than all her neighbors except Myanmar.
More recently, there has been a sustained push for constitutional review, reform of the monarchy, and a closer timeline for new elections. For example, end of October 2021, large protests were organized in Bangkok to resist the resumption of the Royal Defamation Law.
The country’s economy registered an annual 2.5 % growth during the 2022 June quarter.
Language and language barriers
The majority of Thai citizens speak ‘Thai,’ which is the national language. It features several dialects: Central Thai, Isaan, Southern Thai, and Northern Thai. Thais are generally poor English speakers, with a 2021 assessment reporting that the Kingdom’s English proficiency is the 13th worst globally.
Other languages spoken
Out of the 51 indigenous dialects spoken in Thailand, five main discernible languages may be filtered out to represent them. These are Austronesian, Thai, Hmong-Mien, Sino-Tibetan, and Mon-Khmer.
The health sector
Thailand generally has an efficient and high-quality healthcare system, with around 99.5% of its population accessing its universal healthcare program. Although fluctuating, its overall ranking on the US magazine CEOWORLD list has been impressive, with the 2019 results placing it sixth among countries with the best healthcare systems.
Therefore, if you are visiting from countries with quality medical care, there should be little cause for concern. Major cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Nonthaburi have good hospitals established on international standards with world-renowned physicians using the latest cutting-edge technology.
These include Bangkok International Hospital, The Bangkok Christian Hospital, MedConsult International Clinic, and several others.
The Center for disease control and prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone be updated on mandatory vaccines before flying to another country. For example, to get a Thailand visa, you must show proof of having taken the Polio, Chickenpox, Shingles, Measles, Tetanus, and Influenza vaccine. You must also produce your Yellow fever, Typhoid, Rabies, Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Covid 19 vaccine certificates.
Common insects that spread diseases
Thailand’s main tropical diseases include Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, and Dengue fever. Japanese Encephalitis is prevalent in areas surrounding Chiang Mai, with seasonal peaks from May to October.
Therefore, while on tour in such places, you must carry along a well-treated mosquito net and take other precautionary measures as the international health authorities recommended.
Telephone and internet plans
AIS, DTAC, and TrueMove H are the Kingdom’s leading mobile and data service providers. Thailand was among the first countries to launch 5G around the Asia Pacific region, with TrueMove H and AIS launching their 5G commercial services during the first quarter of 2022.
Can you buy a sim card in Thailand?
Yes, and of course. This is a rather quick and easy process. Before leaving the airport, walk into a sim card store and produce your passport or any other requested identification document. With stricter regulations around acquiring a sim card in Thailand, you may have to take a photo to complete the registration process.
Mobile plans and Cost
AIS Thailand offers different plans at varied costs. For example, with only US $19.90, you get 3GB of data, 15 THB worth of calls, and 15 THB worth of SMS. This credit is valid for 8ays. In a competitive market, you should expect rates from other service providers relative to the ones quoted here.
The population of ex-pats
An answer to the exact number of ex-pats living in Thailand is still a mystery. For example, a study at Mahidol University based on data from 2010 suggested that Thailand hosted roughly 440,000 ex-pats (23000 French nationals, 24000 Germans, 40000 Americans, 46000 Indians, 80000Japanese, 85000 Britons, and 141000Chinese nationals).
However, recent estimates have scaled down that figure to between 150,000 and 263,000. The reasons for this discrepancy are unclear, but it can be explained in two ways. One, there must have been a general decline in Thailand’s ex-pat community over the past 12 years. Otherwise, the murky differences may have been engineered by the various approaches by which government departments and agencies classify foreigners as ex-pats.
Payment services and infrastructure
Payment systems are essential in enabling the secure and uninterrupted functioning of a country’s economic activities.
Popular domestic payment services
Thailand is an exciting and potentially lucrative market boasting a tech-savvy population that often uses mobile payment systems. For any business person looking to go international, this could be a hot destination to consider. According to the US Department of Commerce, roughly 30% of Thailand’s e-commerce is cross-border.
To facilitate these operations, most transactions are powered by digital wallets such as PromptPay. This is Thailand’s preferred real-time interbank payment method. The system allows bank users to move money using a phone number, tax ID, Citizen ID, QR code, or a specific bank account.
The service enjoys government backing, and by mid-2018, over 40 million people were registered. Alternative e-wallet payment methods are TrueMoney and Rabbit-LINE Pay.
Traditional bank transfers are still a popular payment method, with one local survey reporting that 45% of Thais have used the method.
Accessible international payment services
For international payment services, Visa and MasterCard are the widely accepted credit cards, followed by American Express. However, Diners Club and Discover are less popular. You can conveniently pay for goods and services online and wherever else any of them is accepted locally.
Cryptocurrency trading and investment are allowed in the Kingdom. However, beginning April 1st, 2022, the government disallowed the use of such digital assets as a method of payment for services and goods, citing a risk to the country’s financial system. Nonetheless, you can still use your tokens to pay for goods and services online.
Currencies and exchange rates
Thailand’s official currency is the Thai Baht. As of mid-Sept 2022, I Thai Baht is equivalent to $ 0.027
Transport infrastructure and services
Six international airports connect Thailand to global air travel. These are the Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang, Hat Yai, Chiang Mai Phuket, and Mae Fah Luang Chiang Rai airports.
Availability and reliability of public transport
The Airport of Thailand (AOT), in collaboration with state enterprises, state agencies, and state organizations, has regularly developed transportation networks to ensure all commuters access the airports quickly, whether traveling by taxi, bus, or electric train.
Traditional taxi cabs are readily available in strategic urban locations. However, most people nowadays prefer app-based taxis due to their unrivaled booking convenience. The popular taxi-hailing apps in major Thailand cities are Grab Taxi, GoBike, and All Thai Taxi. Uber ceased business in early 2018 and sold its operations to Grab. Under that arrangement, the world-famous app now claims a 27.5% stake in Grab.
Climate and seasons
Although Thailand’s temperatures are regularly high throughout the year, the country receives enough rainfall. The “monsoon,” or rainy season, runs between July and October. The first few months bring heavy but inconsistent rain, only lasting a few hours. However, they become more intense towards the end of the season. Therefore, the best time to visit is between March and June during the hot season.
Thai cuisine is endowed with spicy flavors and mouth-wetting aromas. The diversity is so vast that creating a list of 50 dishes wouldn’t even suffice as an introduction. The following recipes are available in most eating outlets:
- Guay Teow (Noodle Soup)
- Som Tam (Spicy Green Papaya Salad)
- Yam Pla Dook Foo (Fried Catfish with Green Mango Salad),
Just to mention a few.
Tax requirements on digital nomads
Under the anticipated 10-year remote worker visa, digital nomads will pay a personal income tax at a reduced rate of 17% instead of the regular 35%.
Medical Insurance options
Whether entering as a tourist or expat, it is essential and mandatory to have comprehensive health insurance in Thailand. For instance, the long-stay non-immigrant O-A visa requires that you purchase an outpatient coverage of at least 40,000Baht (roughly $1100) and 400000 Baht (roughly $11,000) for inpatient services.
You also need a policy that covers at least $100,000 in COVID treatments. Policies are varied, meaning some will fulfill this requirement while covering you for other health situations. And, to qualify for the imminent 10-year digital nomad visa, you need to purchase at least $50,000 in health insurance coverage.
The choice to move and work from Thailand evokes its fair share of concerns, with the more common ones being:
- Poor infrastructure for people with limited mobility
- Boat services operating between the islands and mainland pose a high risk, especially during the monsoon seasons.
- Drug-related crimes are prevalent
- The potentially volatile political situation
- Low English proficiency amounts to a language barrier.
For anyone keen on saving cash spent on the high cost of living in their home country, Thailand is a destination to consider. Whether a regular tourist or a retiree, there is something for everyone. And, for digital nomads, it even gets more favorable considering the Kingdom’s fast internet speeds and the well-equipped coworking spaces.