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4 Best Places to Live in Thailand

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Thailand has long been a favorite for expats, digital nomads, and travelers alike. While most have dreamed of long days in the warm sun, surrounded by the Land of Smiles, it can be tough to choose exactly where to unpack your bags in Thailand.

It's a big country and one you certainly should explore once you land but first thing first is finding where your home base should be.

From the mountains of northern Thailand to the stunning beaches of southern Thailand and the capital city right in the middle, there's a big diversity between the cities and towns that most expats and nomads are drawn to.

So, without further ado, let's go through the 4 best places to live in Thailand so you can choose the best spot for you.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

💭Thailand offers a bustling capital city, cultural mountain towns, and a variety of islands for expats and digital nomads to choose between.

🛂Most expats live in Thailand are on a working visa, education visa, or tourist visa.

📚Make your transition easier and get a headstart learning the language with Mondly.

🏙️My top 4 recommendations for best places to live in Thailand are:

  • Bangkok
  • Chiang Mai
  • Phuket
  • Koh Pha Ngan

Bangkok: For Big City Life

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If you're chasing big city life, you'll love living in Thailand's capital city, Bangkok. Over 10 million people call Bangkok home so you'll be one in many.

A great perk to moving to Bangkok is you'll have a huge expat community. So many people from all over the world move to Bangkok so you shouldn't have trouble finding a friend group, even if you haven't learned Thai yet.

Bangkok is also known as a really fun city with a vibrant nightlife and incredible shopping malls. There's always something to do be it special markets on the weekends, parties hosted at bars, or cool restaurants to try. On top of that, you'll have easy access to the famous temples, a plethora of local markets, and a variety of international schools.

If your goal while living in Thailand is to travel as much of Southeast Asia as possible, the international airport in Bangkok is the most well-connected.

While there's a lot to love about living in Bangkok, it's not all sunny days. Since it is such a large city, that means traffic, noise, and trash...the typical big city problems. You'll still get your fair share of Thai culture but as most capital cities are, it's more international than the rest of the country.

📍If you're thinking about moving to Bangkok, book a stay at a hotel or vacation rental home before you sign a long-term lease. We recommend staying somewhere in the city center or in Asok, a well-connected neighborhood:

  • Budget Stay: The LOL Elephant Hostel: Choose a dorm or private room with a bathroom at this hostel. Not only is it affordable but it's a great place to meet people, too.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Saan Hotel Sathorn: This is a great choice if you want a larger room and a shared pool without breaking the bank.
  • Luxury Stay: Floral Court Hotel & Residence: Rather live the good life? Go for this luxury one-bedroom apartment where you can fully settle in while you house hunt and get your teaching job.

Read more about living in Bangkok.

Chiang Mai: For Like-Minded Community

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While Bangkok tends to be the most popular choice for expats, Chiang Mai is the most popular for digital nomads.

Like Bali and Medellin, Chiang Mai has long been regarded as one of the digital nomad hubs. Because of this, this small city is more accustomed to foreigners than other Thai cities but has still been able to maintain its own culture with plenty of locals still living here, too. It's located in northern Thailand and while the weather is still warm, it does see a change in temperature throughout the year.

For many this makes Chiang Mai the perfect mix.

If you work online, you'll find a lot of others in the same position. Coworking spaces are common, expat and digital nomad meet-ups happen often, and there are plenty of other amenities and things to do, be it geared towards foreigners or more tied to Thai culture.

The biggest con most people agree on when it comes to living in Chiang Mai is the burning season. This happens around November until March each year and creates really terrible air pollution from nearby farmers burning their land to prepare for the next season.

Many digital nomads and expats that call Chiang Mai home leave the city for the burning season and only spend the other parts of the year there.

📍Before you decide to move to Chiang Mai, I suggest you book a hotel or vacation rental for at least a night or two to get a real feel for it at all hours. This will give you the best chance to see which area is best for you. Start of centrally located at one of these spots:

  • Budget Stay: The Cube: It's hard to beat the space you'll get at this price point. Enjoy a private bedroom and bathroom with shared kitchen and living area, great for meeting people as soon as you arrive.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Astra Sky River Condo: For a slightly higher price point, you'll get a lot more bang for your buck here. Enjoy a fully private apartment and a shared rooftop pool, sauna, and gym.
  • Luxury Stay: Changklan Night Market House: Moving to Chiang Mai with your family or friends? This 2-bedroom villa has air conditioning and plenty of workspace for all the digital nomads in your group.

Read more about living in Chiang Mai.

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Phuket: For Long Sandy Beaches

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Heading down to southern Thailand, Phuket has long been a popular destination for backpackers and travelers but many overlook it as a great place to live in Thailand.

The thing is, most tourists stick to one or two areas of the island but Phuket is actually much bigger than most realize. The parts of the island outside of these popular bits are completely different from what most expect, making it a fantastic place to live.

It’s relaxed, outdoorsy, active lifestyle focused, has amazing food, and of course the friendliness of Thai culture still rings true here too. You'll have beautiful beaches, stunning islands, and modern conveniences whenever needed.

The areas of the island that are recommended for expats to move to are Rawai, Bangtao, and Phuket Town.

📍If you're thinking about moving to Phuket, book a stay at a hotel or vacation rental home before you sign a long-term lease. We recommend staying somewhere outside of the tourist bubble, like in one of these spots:

  • Budget Stay: Rawai Valley Resort: The one-bedroom house has everything you need, plus a shared swimming pool, for a comfortable stay while you house hunt for a long-term home.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Tropical 2BR Pool Villa Kate: Want more space and more privacy? This 2-bedroom villa has its own swimming pool and more space for you and your family.
  • Luxury Stay: The Title KR Beach Condotel: If you're looking for a great stay right on the beach? This condo offers studios and one-bedrooms where you can take advantage of all the amenities at this luxury hotel turned condos.

Read more about living in Phuket.

Koh Pha Ngan: For a Quiet Beach Life

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Koh Pha Ngan is one of the most beautiful islands in all of Thailand and that's saying a lot! You might have heard of this island before thanks to its wild full moon parties but that's just one night of the month and not the norm in this otherwise peaceful spot.

While Phuket is large and popular enough to have its own international airport, Koh Pha Ngan does not. It's only accessible by ferry so if you want the feeling of being far away, this is a great choice. While there are plenty of amazing beaches on stunning islands in southern Thailand, this island blurs the line between rustic yet developed.

The best areas of Koh Pha Ngan to live in are Sir Thanu, Chaloklum‍, Baan Thai‍, and Thongsala‍. Haad Rin‍ is the main party area so it's likely not where you'll want to live but only visit if you want to soak up all the excitement of the nightlife.

📍If you're thinking about moving to Koh Pha Ngan, book a stay at a hotel or vacation rental home before you sign a long-term lease. I'd suggest trying to move here between May-June or August-November to get the best prices. Check out these places to start settling into life in Thailand:

  • Budget Stay: Baan Bhuwann Holiday Apartment: Located right on Chaloklum Beach, the studios here are simple yet clean and well-positioned to get to know this area of the island.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Island's Pearl: If you're looking for a true jungle experience, you'll love this one-bedroom villa in Sir Thanu area.
  • Luxury Stay: Hin Kong Sunset Beach Front House: Rather be able to dig your toes in the sand whenever you want? This one-bedroom beachfront house is impossible to beat.

Read more about living in Koh Pha Ngan.

How to Stay Long-Term in Thailand

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Now that you're sold on the best places to live in Thailand, it's time to figure out the technicalities on how you can legally stay put.

In the past, it was pretty easy to live in Thailand on a tourist visa and doing visa runs when needed but now immigration has gotten more strict and it's not as easy as it once was. While you'll probably meet plenty who are doing this, I'd guess they're giving a few months in between the runs but are otherwise getting lucky.

You can give it a shot but know that you run the risk of getting denied entry at the border. If you want your life in Thailand to be more secure, I recommend going one of the legal routes to live in Thailand long-term.

Teaching English

The most common route to move to Thailand as an expat is by teaching English. This will get you a work visa to legally stay in the country as long as you have a job. The main requirements to teach English in Thailand are:

  • Bachelor's degree in any subject area (it doesn’t have to be English)
  • Clean criminal record
  • Basic health check
  • TEFL certification (not required but preferred by almost all schools and certainly anywhere with a good reputation)
  • Non-native teachers can work in Thailand but you usually need to prove your fluency with a TOEIC/IELTS score or verifiable references

The most job opportunities are in Bangkok but there are English teaching jobs throughout the entire country.

Keep in mind that teaching English is different than teaching at international schools. To teach at an international school you need to be a certified teacher in your home country but if you are, I suggest getting hired at one of these over an English teaching position for better pay and perks.

Other Visa Options

If teaching sounds like a drag, there are other visa options you can choose from. A few of the most common visas those of us living in Thailand are:

  • Regular Tourist Visa: This is the route many digital nomads use, taking long trips and spending time in neighboring countries to reset their tourist allowance.
  • Work Visa/Business Visa: It's possible to get this type of visa for other jobs but the most common route is through teaching English.
  • Education Visa in Thailand: This student visa used to be a more common route to go but the government has been cracking down on those that get this visa but don't actually study. If though you're serious about learning Thai, this is a great visa option.

Other Great Places to Live in Southeast Asia

A rooftop at sunset in Da Nang, Vietnam

Now sold on living in Thailand? Southeast Asia offers far more than just this beautiful country.

If you're still on the fence as to if Thailand is the right choice for you, also consider:

  • Da Nang, Vietnam: This is a coastal city that has a large digital nomad and expat community. Although the city has more than 1 million residents, it offers a laid back beachy vibe.
  • Singapore: Looking for somewhere super urban? You'll love living in Singapore. This tiny island nation has a little bit of everything and the cost of living isn't as high as many expats assume.
  • Kuala Lumpur: Another great option is the capital city of Malaysia. Like Thailand, Malaysia is a tropical country that has so much beauty to offer those that call it home.
  • Bali: While not my personal top pick, if you're chasing a large community and a convenient lifestyle, you might love living in Bali.

Check out even more great places to live in Asia.

Where in Thailand Will You Choose

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Now there you have it: the very best places to live in Thailand and how you can legally move there. Regardless if you choose city life, a small island, or a mountain town, you're in for delicious food, smiling locals, a rich history, and stunning destinations to explore.

Generally the cost of living isn't too high but do know that whatever type of lifestyle you want to build, you can in Thailand. Everything you could ask for is at your fingertips but you will have to pay for it.

So the only question you need to answer is which of these 4 best places to live in Thailand will you choose?

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