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.
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PRO’S of Changing Life and Becoming an Expat
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 Infrastructure – Health Care, Banking, Internet/Mobile Phone & Transport:
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.