Thailand is best known to the rest of the world as a beautiful, exotic tourist destination. Non-Thais move to Thailand to enjoy the paradise-like destination and some are moving there permanently — even with under the dark clouds of political instability. The warm and welcoming Thais and their striking culture make living in Thailand interesting and enjoyable for non-Thais.
While the Thai tend to move to the country’s capital, Bangkok, because of the burgeoning job market, Non-Thai tend to fan out across the less populated regions. Plainly there are significant differences and advantages and disadvantages to living an urban or rural lifestyle — cities are lively and industrialized, but are also clogged up with traffic and pollution — whereas rural areas have fewer amenities and is less polluted. Koh Samui and Phuket are two popular destinations for those who want to live in Thailand and get away from the hustle and bustle of a big city.
Many non-Thai relocate to Koh Samui and Phuket as they are attracted by year-round tropical weather, pretty good infrastructure — some great hospitals — clear, clean seas lined with beautiful white sandy beaches — and because it’s only a one hundred minute hop to Bangkok. Non-Thais love to live in Koh Samui for pretty much the same reason, but with a slightly slower pace – if that’s possible!
Koh Samui is an island of natural beauty and a melting pot of budget travelers and wealthy patrons spending the days in beachfront bungalows and luxury villas. Koh Samui is Thailand’s second largest island and is referred to as “coconut island” as the fruit is abundant and plays a major part in its economy – over two million coconuts are exported to the mainland and abroad each month. All these are picked by highly trained monkeys, who have also become a star tourist attraction. The central part of Koh Samui is mostly unspoiled tropical jungle.
Tourism in Koh Samui has been boosted by an increasing number of resorts and luxury private villas near the beach and the island has seen a jump in visitors from Europe and across Asia. It also now has one of the highest rated small airports on the planet.
Koh Samui is characterized by a low cost of living and non-Thai can live on a monthly budget of around US$1,100. Amazing Thai dishes are available for less than US$4 a plate and properties in Koh Samui start from US$274 per square foot (sq. ft.). There are plenty of accommodation on the island. Chaweng and Lamai are the places to go if you are looking for a nightlife on the island. Meanwhile, Mae Nam and the South Coast are for quieter beach experience.
The view in Phuket is just as breathtaking — it’s a paradise for many non-Thai and Thai alike. The pristine beaches surrounded the island and the fertile land of the island consists of mangrove forests, rubber and pineapple plantations and shrimp farms. An influx of buyers and residents means that the island has transformed into a prime destination for an easygoing lifestyle. The most popular tourist area in Phuket is Patong Beach, which tends to be somewhat overcrowded with not the most salubrious people. Most of the nightlife and shopping places are in Patong and the area is more developed compared to other areas in Phuket. The island is also teeming with restaurants offering local and international food. Aside from fresh seafood, the island has plenty of great non-Thai cuisine — with gourmet restaurants scattered across Phuket. Supermarkets also sell imported products to cater to non-Thai tastes.
Tourism has become the island’s main money-spinner. Since the 1980s, Phuket’s beaches have attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists each year. The island is well developed with new hotels, apartments, and houses.
The cost of living in Phuket is higher than on Koh Samui and Phuket property starts from US$223 per sq. ft — there are also multi-million dollar villas — so something for all tastes and budgets.