Best Country for Expats?
With so many people looking to retire or work abroad these days to ‘escape’ or ‘live the dream’, the following questions often crop up:
‘What is the best country for an Expat?’ Or ‘What is the best value country for an expat?’
‘What is the cheapest place to live in Asia?’
So here at Buriram Times we’ve being doing some thinking and come up with our opinion which we hope you’ll find interesting and maybe even a little surprising.
So first off, what about Thailand?
Well I’d love to draw up a top ten and put Thailand number 1. Having lived in Bangkok and on a tropical island for two years (Koh Chang, Eastern Gulf ), personally it has a special place in my heart and I consider it my second home.
Thailand is hard to beat in terms of activities and has genuine uniqueness. Someone once said, “If you’re bored of Bangkok you’re bored of life.” That’s all before mentioning my love for rural Isaan and vibrant Buriram. Both are yet to see the inflated prices of some tourist areas whilst retaining a charm all of their own.
I said I would love to put Thailand number 1, but can we still justify that?
Well back to Thailand in a minute but what of our neighbour, Cambodia? It has its own improved beach resorts now, better infrastructure and it’s claimed that you can live like the wealthy elite on $2000 a month! Also you can get a hassle free long stay visa including for business purposes.
Cambodia, once seen as a poor neighbour that nobody really wanted to live in, at least not long term, has caught up with Thailand. Cambodia certainly is great value and less hassle to stay there from an immigration point of view.
One problem with Thailand’s is its visa rules. The legendary visa run was bewildering to me as only Cambodia, or another surrounding country, ever made any money out of it at the border. You returned to Thailand free after paying the other country’s visa. Anyway now they have outlawed the visa run to deter the undesirables abusing the system (actually all sorts of people were abusing the system because that was the system).
Thailand this year brought in a new multiple entry visa. You still have to exit the country every few months ( or ‘confirm residence’ every 60 days on other types of visas such as retirement or business). The introduction of bank account checks and long winded forms for any type of visa has made things less than simple. The people here make you feel welcome but I have had some frustrating times at immigration.
Having said all that, you get used to the visa issues. You expect to have to wait at immigration once every few months. Is it worth it? Yes, I would say because the country still has so much going for it. The country itself and the people make this place great regardless of the immigration or political situation.
On a recent visit to Kap Choeng Immigration to renew a retirement visa we can report the following:” Staff were fantastic, couldn’t have been more helpful. Smiles, jokes, interaction with people waiting, free coffee. It was busy and in the past I’ve been in 3 to 4 hours. I was out in an hour and a half.” So things are looking up in that direction, certainly in Buriram.
The Cambodian people are great too, we can confirm this as we have 25% Khymer population in Buriram Province. The rise in the fortunes of the country and people has been great to see. We hope that continues and the new Asean agreement should help.
As with any country in the world these days you must treat the capital city differently than the rest of the country. That goes without saying. Even if you are thrifty you can haemorrhage money in the capital cities.
So is Thailand still a top country for Expats? Everything in the blogosphere says ,”Well yes but….”then lists a load of issues. If you fall in love with Thailand the first time you visit, a bit like a woman that may last a lifetime or it might not. If it does last you’ll find it hard to live away from her.
Lot’s of other countries (especially in South America) rank highly these days such as Ecuador, Panama or on the slightly cooler side, Argentina.
Partly for their low cost of living India and Nepal are often mentioned also.
When people talk about the best value or the lowest cost of living, the figures mentioned always seem to me to be still doable in Thailand. Just depending on how you roll really! But still doable. Of course you can live very well here with more money.
If you come to Burriam you’ll see it is great value for money with lot’s going on and an ideal base to explore the rest of Asia. We prefer it to Cambodia but don’t take our word for it, the border is a few hours away, check it out for yourself.