Things to Do When You Arrive in Thailand

On one of our posts, we’ve talked about the important things to consider before moving to Thailand. We’ve mentioned there some tips about the budget you need, what to do with your current properties, what to bring, booking your hotel and flight, and as well as the visas that you can get. Assuming that you’ve done all of that and the date of your flight is quickly approaching, it’s normal to feel a bit nervous, especially when you think of the things that you need to take care of once you arrive in Thailand.

Settling into a new environment, more especially to a new country, always involves a bit of culture shock. But you do not need to freak out because your first month after moving to Thailand is an exciting time and there is a lot of things to do. Today, we are going to give you some tips about the things to do when you arrive in Thailand.

In the Airport

Most of the people who go to Thailand arrive at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. Once you arrive at the airport, you will need to be cleared in the immigration first. The process can take about ten minutes to one hour, depending on what time you will arrive and as well as the number of immigration officers on duty.

After you go through the immigration, you need to collect your baggage which is on the baggage carousels behind the immigration desk. After getting your things, you will walk through customs and then out into the main airport area. You will find here some shops that sell SIM cards. You can buy one here immediately. But if you do not have the chance to buy one, you can also find them in local 7-Eleven stores.

Changing Money

As soon as you arrive in Thailand, you’ll want to get your hands on some local currency. You can exchange most major currencies for Thai baht at currency exchange counters in the airport. However, you may not get the best rate there. If you have a large amount of cash with you, you can just exchange a small amount at the airport which will be enough for your first day. Then you can exchange the rest of your cash at a private exchange company that offers a better rate.

It’s also easy to get baht by withdrawing money at an ATM from your savings or checking account back home. In Thailand, ATMs usually charge 200 baht for using foreign cards. Most ATMs here will show you the rate they are exchanging at and will ask you if you want to accept this rate. If you choose to continue without conversion, you will then get the Visa or MasterCard exchange rate which is better.

Getting Around

Once you’re out of the airport, you have two options to be able to get into Bangkok. The first option, which is the convenient one for a newcomer, is to ride a taxi. There are lots of taxis lined up outside the arrivals hall of the airport. You can simply let the driver know which hotel you are going to and you will be on your way. The fare here to most places ranges from 250 to 300 baht. But you’ll also need to pay the road toll charges to the driver as he goes through each toll, and this may add another 100 baht or so to your total fare. Aside from that, you also need to pay an additional 50 baht to the taxi driver for airport departure. When you choose to ride a taxi, it usually takes around 45 minutes from the airport to the city center.

The other option aside from riding a taxi is to ride the Airport Link train. This is a faster way which can only take about 15 minutes and the fare costs 150 baht. This also connects the BTS system in Bangkok which is great if your hotel is near a BTS stop. However, this is not a great option if you do not know your way around. Therefore, riding a taxi is more convenient because you will get a door to door service.

Stay in a Hotel First

When you first arrive in Thailand, it’s better to book at least a few nights in a hotel because you’re likely to be a bit overwhelmed and disoriented. Staying in a hotel will make your few days a bit easier compared to trying to find a place to stay in a new country, especially when you don’t know yet how to find your way around and speak the language. But you don’t need to spend more than a week in a hotel because you will most likely find a place more suitable once you’ve been here for a few days. Also, hotels in Thailand are cheaper if you just turn up with cash in hand. Booking online in Western countries is sometimes more expensive.

There are some people who chose to book long-term stays in condos before they arrive in Thailand. However, this is not a very good idea because condos advertised in English on the internet are expensive compared to the ones you can find here yourself when you arrive. Also, it’s best to see the condos in person so you will be able to choose the best one that will suit your lifestyle.

Spend Time in Bangkok

If it’s your first time in Thailand, it’s best if you can spend a week or so in Bangkok first. It’s because more English is spoken here and you will be able to find your way around more quickly. However, if you’re not a big city person, then you can always fly directly to your intended destination without visiting Bangkok. But it is an interesting city and you might miss out a lot of things if you don’t spend at least a few days here.

A street in Bangkok, Thailand
A street in Bangkok, Thailand

Wherever you end up in Thailand when you first arrive, it’s great if you can take a few days to walk around your area. Try to taste different foods and find out what the place is like. You can also check places where you’d like to stay for a long time or where you want to live. You can also enroll in a Thai language course because the sooner you start, the sooner you will be able to mingle with Thai people, which will also make it easy for you to find your way around.

Look for Longer-Term Accommodation

Once you’re getting the hang of going around your new place, it’s also time to start looking for longer-term accommodation. This is actually very easy to do, especially when you’re in bigger cities. There are lots of choices when it comes to condos here. Bangkok is probably the easiest place to find longer-term accommodation in Thailand. They also offer prices that suit all budgets. In fact, most expats that come to live in Thailand end up living in Bangkok, at least initially.

The first step when finding long-term accommodation is to set your monthly budget. That will help you determine what areas you can start looking in. If you’ve been exploring the area in your first few days when you arrive, then you will have at least some idea of the place you do and don’t like.

In Bangkok, most foreigners live in Sukhumvit or in Silom. If you want to hang out with other expats, then these places are great options. Aside from that, they are also the center of nightlife in Bangkok. You can rent a studio in a brand new building for as low as 5,000 baht per month or $170. Or you can also opt for a 3 to a4-bedroom condo in a great building in a great location for as much as 100,000 baht per month which is equal to $3,300. It will depend on your budget, but everything is available in Thailand.

Get an Internet and Mobile Phone Service

Once you’ve found a place to live in for long-term, it’s likely that you will be needing an internet connection as well. There’s a good chance that the building you are staying in has its own internet, however, it can be painfully slow since it is shared. In Thailand, you will be able to get a dedicated internet connection under 1000 baht per month. However, the choice of provider here can be limited to what your building is currently wired up for. The internet providers, as well as the mobile phone companies in Thailand has service centers in large shopping malls. Therefore, you can take care of both with one trip to the all.

Complete Your Work Permit and Visa Extension

Your work permit and visa extension can be done on the same day in you’re in Bangkok at the one-stop service center. It is located in the Chamchuri Square Building on Phayathai Road. If you’re in Chiang Mai, the work permit can be applied for at the City Hall office in a large government complex on the far north side of the city.

When your work permit is completed, you will then bring it to the immigration office to get your non-immigrant visa extended to one year. This whole process can be completed within two weeks. Meaning, you will be able to have your work permit and 1-year visa ready by the end of your first month in Thailand.

Open a Local Savings Account

You will also need to open a savings account at any local bank in Thailand. You will be needing your work permit to be able to open a savings account. You can open a local account with online banking and a debit card that runs on either MasterCard or Visa systems depending on the bank that you will choose.

Get a Thai Driving License

If you plan to buy a vehicle in Thailand so that you will be able to drive around, you will need to get a Thai driving license as soon as possible. You can use an international driving permit for the first 60 days of your stay when you arrive in the country. However, beyond that period, you should be using a Thai driving license.

In Thailand, there are separate licenses for driving cars and motorcycles. If you have a valid license from the country you can from, then it’s easy to acquire a Thai license and there’s no need to take any exams aside from vision and reaction tests. However, if your home country license only allows you to drive automobiles, then you will need to take theoretical and practical exams to obtain a Thai motorcycle driving license.

These are some of the things to do when you arrive in Thailand. After a month of your move to Thailand, you should start to feel comfortable in your new home. Moving to a new home involves an adjustment period, more especially in Thailand because they have a unique culture, climate, food, and language that are different from what you’re used to. If you’re thinking about how you will be able to adjust in life in Thailand, you can check out our post on Understanding the Thai Culture for more information.