Changing Life and Becoming an Expat

The seeds of changing life and becoming an Expat were sown two years ago after reading an article on how cheap it was for Expats to live in South East Asia, in particular Thailand. Following the loss of some of our loved ones, we started to reassess our life.

With the feeling that life shouldn’t be wasted, my husband and I sat down to talk about whether becoming an Expat would be for us. These are some of the factors that would eventually guide us into taking our first steps into changing life and becoming an Expat.

Changing Life and Becoming An Expat

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PRO’S of Changing Life and Becoming an Expat

Cheaper living:

We love to travel:

It would be an adventure:

We could immerse ourselves in a new culture:

It wouldn’t be boring:

CON’S of Changing Life and Becoming an Expat

Leaving family behind:

Renting the house:

It would be scary:

So with these factors in mind we put it on the back burner and let the thought brew, we talked about it a lot with friends but did nothing about it until June 2015 when we knew we would have to make the decision or forget about it. We decided that if we didn’t give it a try we would regret it for the rest of our life. We can always come home.

Now that we had made our decision

Ok so we decided to make the big move and we asked ourselves:

What do we do now?

How do we go about moving to a new country?

This is where we wished we had a guide to tell us what to do, but we didn’t so these are the steps we took.

Choose a country and city:

Check Visa requirements:

Check Language:

Check Safety:

Check Infrastructure –  Health Care, Banking, Internet/Mobile Phone & Transport:

Check Accommodation:

Choosing a Country

There are many South East Asian countries that are very popular with Expats from around the World. Thailand is one of the most popular because of its infrastructure but Malaysia and Vietnam are gaining in popularity. We chose Thailand because of the infrastructure and because we had visited before and liked the people. We arrived in Thailand with two places in mind, Phuket and Chiang Mai.

We enjoyed both places but decided on Chiang Mai because of its laid back charm and we did find it cheaper than Phuket especially in high season. Chiang Mai being in the North and in the mountains is a little cooler than Phuket which appealed to us

Check Visa requirements

Check the Visa requirements of your chosen country. There are many web sites that will help you with this, for Australians we found the Royal Thai Consulate-General Sydney their website will show you a range of different kinds of entry Visa’s. We chose the multiple entry OA retirement Visa for people over the age of 50, which allows you to stay in Thailand for a year. We decided to obtain the documentation needed for the Visa ourselves, which was a lengthy and costly process. There are companies that will help you with process of obtaining an OA retirement Visa but they can be very expensive.

Whichever way you go even after gathering all the documentation and having it processed and paid for there is no guarantee that it will be grated to you. We were extremely lucky that ours was accepted. If you are Australian and would like more information on the visa process check out our article on obtaining a Thailand Retirement Visa. For countries other than Australia check Thai Visa requirements in the country applicable to you.

Check Language

Check the language of the country, if you don’t feel comfortable learning a new language choose a country where some English is spoken. It is very hard to set up home and infrastructure if you can’t communicate in the language. We found that though it was sometimes difficult, Thailand has a large proportion of population that can speak English and if people did not understand they were friendly enough to try and help.

Check Safety

Research the safety record of your chosen country. Consult your local Health Care Professional as to any inoculations that may be needed for diseases affecting the country of destination. We felt like pin cushions after our visit to the Doctor.

Check Infrastructure

Research infrastructure such as, Health Care, if you get sick or injured you want to feel sure that you’re going to have proper medical attention. Will I need health insurance? What about banking? Are you able to access bank accounts from home?

We found that in Thailand cash is King and a lot of businesses don’t accept credit cards, so you need to be able to withdraw money from either the ATM or the bank. Make sure you have everything in place before you leave home.

Internet & mobile phone are very important to us, they allow us to keep in contact with our family and friends. It is vital that the countries we live in have a good service. Thailand has an excellent internet and mobile phone services, very fast and our internet provider very prompt with installation. Prices are considerably cheaper than home.

Accommodation in new Location

Research accommodation. We looked at real estate sites such as Siam Real Estate and Perfect Homes Chiang Mai  and found them a great way to gauge prices of long term accommodation. Accommodation becomes cheaper the longer you stay but it is a big commitment to take out a one year contract if it is your first time in an area.

We stayed in a Guest House for two weeks and through Chiang Mai Expats Club were put in touch with the lovely Staff of Perfect Homes Real Estate. Perfect Homes took us apartment hunting and made the process of choosing and signing up for an apartment very easy.

Peaks Garden Condo
Peaks Garden Condo Pool

We signed up for a 4 month lease on a furnished one bedroom apartment in Peaks Garden Condominium which is one of three apartment complexes which include Twin Peaks and Peaks Avenue. Located south east of the moated Old Town on Chang Klan Road, the area is within walking distance to the Anusarn Market and Night Bazaar, a shopper’s paradise with many restaurants that showcase Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern and Western cuisines. This is an area chosen by many Expats with numerous Western style restaurants for those times you need comfort food from home.

Changing Life and Becoming an Expat

There are many fine areas of Chiang Mai to live in, we have friends living in a superb furnished one bedroom apartment in the D’Vieng Condominium on Hussadhisaee Road. Just north of the moated Old Town this is a more Thai style neighbourhood with lots of cheap and delicious Thai restaurants and interesting markets to explore. When wandering through the maze of small streets (Soi) there is always something interesting to see.

Another friend lives in a furnished one bedroom apartment at The Siri Condominium on Siri Mankalajarn Road lane 1. Just to the west of the moated Old Town this modern apartment is in the very trendy Nimmanhaemin Road area. Surrounded by coffee shops, restaurants, bars and a short walk to MAYA Department Store and Central Department Store Kad Sun Kaew you have everything within your reach.

There are many options, new condominiums are being built all the time, and they are very modern and stylishly designed.

Summary of Changing Life and Becoming an Expat

After arranging Visa’s, Healthcare, banking, packing up and renting out the house, putting all our worldly goods in storage and the hardest of all, saying goodbye to family and friends was it Worth It?

Changing Life and Becoming an Expat

The answer is yes, most definitely yes! We have a good quality of life, we have met many new friends and are doing things that we would never think of doing at home and most of all we live in a fascinating country, with lovely people where we learn something new every day.  Until such time as we become home sick we will make Chiang Mai our home.

I’m wondering what other people think about Changing Life and Becoming an Expat. Tell me about your experience in the comment section below.

8 thoughts on “Changing Life and Becoming an Expat”

  1. Hello,
    I am Australian living in Brisbane and very seriously considering a retirement move to Chiang Mai.
    I read your blog about the visa and doing the application for an OA yourself from Australia.
    You say it was a lengthy and costly. What are the expenses other than the application fee if you don’t mind me asking. Are there any hidden things I should be wary of?
    Kind Regards

  2. Hello George

    Thanks for writing. As part of the application process we had to get original Bank Statements, a medical certificate signed by our Doctor and a national Police Certificate (name check which can be applied for on-line) and once these were obtained the original and three copies of all the documents needed to be bound and signed by a Notary Public then sent by registered post to the Thai Embassy in Canberra with our passport. Also need to include a pre paid return address envelope for the passport.

    As far as costs are concerned we had the doctors fee, the police check fee, and the Notary Public fee which was by far the most expensive cost and because three copies of all documents had to be sent with the original the Notary Public had to photocopy and sign the copies. All up these costs were around $500 for each of us excluding the application fees.

    We have talked to other Expats who have had their documents witnessed by a JP rather than the Notary Public which worked for them but the official documents stated that a Notary Public was required so we chose that option. Unfortunately if the application is rejected the application fee is not refunded so it is very important to get it right the first time.

    The whole process took a little time but can certainly be done. Good luck with your application.

    Kind Regards

  3. Hi,

    very interesting, my partner and I have been to Chang Mai several times and love the place. Currently we are expats in the UAE but contracts may end late April this year so CM is very high on our list.
    What advice would you give with regards as what to bring with you from home, i.e. furnishings, etc., or is better just to arrive with a few suitcases of clothes?

    It looks like quite a few apartments are advertised as furnished, I imagine this may be a bit basic? Again appreciate your thoughts.

    Best regards


  4. Alan Cuthbertson

    Hi John

    We chose to come here with very little in the way of material items as we wanted to see if Chiang Mai would be the place for us. You will find that a lot of the apartments come furnished and are quite well appointed most including fridge, TV, table, lounge suite, washing machine, etc. even down to bed linen so it’s usually possible to move straight in. Most will only have a couple of hotplates and microwave for cooking (no oven), but we have found that most times it is cheaper to eat out. Unfurnished condos are also available, though not as popular, for those who have their own furniture.

    Kind regards


  5. Nice article. I have been living in Chiang Mai for over 7 years now and just love the place. Arrived with a suitcase and rent a fabulous 12th floor, fully furnished Condo with views forever. Infrastructure of Internet (Fibre Optic), Mobile Phone, costs a fraction of what I used to pay in Australia. The people are great, Thai history is fabulous, have no need to go back to an expensive Australia…. I now really enjoy my twilight years!
    Let me share a very simple and economical method of obtaining a long stay Visa. Arrive in Thailand with the normal 30 day tourist visa, get a 30 day extension if necessary, visit the near Airport Immigration Office and using Form TM86 apply for a Non Immigrant O ‘change of Visa’, 2,000 Baht. This gives you a 90 day Non O Retirement Visa! Then, using Form TM7, apply for a 12 month extension of stay within 30 days of the Non O expiry at the Promenada Immigration Office, 1,900 Baht. Australian Embassy do outreach visits to Chiang Mai and will sign and stamp an Income Statement Statutory Declaration for 500 Baht. So, total cost 4,400 Baht
    Check and fulfill the requirements for the TM86 and TM7 online. Easy. Visits to the Immigration Office(s) are clumsy and inconvenient, but I have the time, so no problem.
    I chose Condo living as opposed to a house, although a house would be cheaper, I enjoy the security and facilities offered in a Condo building. No need to buy a car or motorbike. Public transport using Tuk Tuk and Song Teow is very cheap, I can rent a new car when needed for less than 1,000 Baht a day.
    A couple of nagging doubts linger at the back of my mind. 1. Although my health is good, any serious medical problem would cost me big money. As I am aged 75 it is impossible to get health insurance. 2. As my sole income is the Aged Pension from Australia, any more tinkering by the Government will dramatically jeopardise my lifestyle.
    Hope this is useful, Warik

  6. Rosalind Cuthbertson

    Hello Warik,

    Thank you for taking the time to write and your kind words. We really appreciate your tips, they are very useful and we are always interested in learning more about living as an expat.

    Kind regards

    Rosalind and Alan

  7. Hi A and R

    Can you assist with more information regarding how the health system works for us Australians in Thailand.

    The things to do to ensure we are protected and how to obtain ect ?
    We are locating to Pattaya .

    Also the meaning of expat ?


  8. Alan Cuthbertson

    Hi Jim

    Thanks for taking the time to write. It’s possible for Australians to get Health Insurance in Thailand. I know in Chiang Mai that there are insurance brokers that deal specifically with Expat medical insurance. My suggestion would be to look up Insurance brokers in Pattaya that may be of assistance for your particular requirements. I also believe that Bangkok Bank offer customers a medical insurance plan so that may also be worth looking into.

    An Expat is a person that is temporally or permanently residing in a country other than their own.


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