Ever since coronavirus started last year, it has changed the way we work by a great deal. Companies no longer bound their employees to the office and many of them allow remote working as an option. With some vaccinated travel lanes (VTL) opening up to other countries, many more people might consider going overseas for workation. A key question among many people is: will this trend continue or will only be temporary? From a McKinsey research report, remote working will likely continue even after the pandemic.
Most people globally have been working away from the office for around 1.5 years. Some are working from their home, and some even choose to work remotely away from the country of their employment.
According to a recent news published by CNBC, Bangkok was ranked as world #1 destination for Workation. We have spent almost one year now working remotely from Thailand since Coronavirus started, so we would like to share some considerations for anyone who may be considering Thailand for remote working.
Table of Contents
Working remotely in Thailand: finding a good “workplace”
Reliable Network infrastructure
Remote working means everything is done online or via phone, and you will need a good network infrastructure to make sure things run smoothly. In this aspect, Thailand has a reliable telecom infrastructure, which means a relatively fast and stable internet. In Southeast Asia, Thailand’s internet connection is among the best, even during a high demand period like this pandemic.
Other than being reliable, the Internet packages in Thailand are affordable. We are paying THB 400 (~USD13) for unlimited 4G data and THB 200 (~USD7) for broadband connection. These are lower end packages which give us up to 50 Mb/s connection. Better packages can give you over 1 Gb/s connection speed but would cost at least THB 600 (~USD20).
With these affordable packages, you can enjoy a stable connection most of the time. We have had no issue conducting Zoom/Meet/Team meetings or calling business partners via Whatsapp. Netflix and online gaming are also largely smooth. However, we are speaking of our experience in Bangkok and we have yet to try the quality of the network outside of Bangkok.
Thailand also has a lot of workspace, whether you are looking for a home office, a co-working space or coffee shops.
According to the property company CBRE, there should be 150+ co-working spaces across Thailand. The options range from affordable ones (as low as USD 100 per month) to top-tier spaces like WeWork. An example of co-working space in Chiang Mai.
If you love your coffee, you will have a lot of coffee shops in Thailand where you can work. There are 10,000+ coffee shops in Thailand, but of course not all of them will allow you to work there but most do. Most of the modern coffee shops also offer free WiFi and charging outlet, so you can get work done at the cost of a cup of coffee.
Another option for you to work away from the office is to work at the convenience of your home office. In Thailand, the range of apartment rental rates can be huge. For example, even in Bangkok, monthly rent for a 30-35 sqm apartment can be between THB 8,000 (~USD 250) to THB 25,000 (~ USD 800). If you rent anywhere in the middle range, it would give you sufficient space to set up a work desk with monitor, keyboard, and other equipment.
Finding a good community of foreign professionals and digital nomads
We are social beings and we crave connection. However, working remotely means you are not close physically with your colleagues and might find it harder to build real connection. Finding your own community in Thailand, where you can feel a sense of belonging, becomes increasingly important.
Thankfully, there are many digital nomads in Thailand, and on top of that Thailand has over 4 millions foreign workers in the country, according to the UN Migration. However, the bulk of this number would be migrant workers. Still, there are about 200,000+ foreigners on skilled worker permits and retirement visas in Thailand. In conclusion, the community of foreigners in Thailand is huge and your chance of finding your own tribe is quite high! Most of the foreigners in Thailand are people from Japan, China, the Philippines, India, the UK, and the US.
Working remotely in Thailand: Taking a break from work by taking vacation
You can take an escape from work to beaches or mountains throughout Thailand (or you could even be working from your vacation home by the beach or resort place in the mountains). Even if you choose to stay in a big city like Bangkok, major tourist destinations are within an hour of a plane ride away. This is possible thanks to the country’s well-developed domestic airport network. Other Southeast Asian countries (like Vietnam) are also nearby (~2 hours flight). Personally, we are a fan of Vietnam (and Vietnamese food).
Actually we are in Thailand right now working remotely. And we are in the middle of planning our vacation to the beachside and mountain in the coming few weeks. From Bangkok, we can easily go to Huahin beach area (4-5 hour drive) and Khao Yai hill/mountain area (2.5-3 hour drive).
One major problem: Thailand lacks of a digital nomad visa
There are a lot of foreigners who are keen to be a digital nomad in Thailand. However, visas would be the biggest issue you need to solve before you can work remotely there.
There are 2 key questions you need to ask yourself when it comes to visas (aside from the Thai language barrier):
How long can you stay in Thailand?
Thailand has a great visa exemption program which supports over 60 nationalities. visitors can stay up to 30 days (currently extended to 45 days), however longer stay will require the visitors to apply for another visa. Examples include tourist visa and Special Tourist Visa (STV) that allows visitors to stay in Thailand up to 60 to 90 days. See the official Thai embassy website for more info.
Is it legal for you to work remotely in Thailand?
In the point above, both visa exemption and STV are for tourism purposes. In many cases, remote working in Thailand is NOT illegal. However in reality, this is a grey area and we have another post to examine this in more details.
Thailand has introduced a “SMART visa”, which aims to provide up to 4 years of permission to stay and work in Thailand. This solution, however, is quite restrictive at the moment and less than 1,000 applications have been approved so far. A plan to relax the requirement has been proposed, and this should come into effect soon. This could potentially be a solution to people interested in working remotely in Thailand.
Lastly, if you want to be a digital nomad in Thailand, you also need to understand the Thai tax law. While Thailand mostly looks at income generated in Thailand, if you stay in Thailand longer than 180 days within the year, Thailand will also look at the portion of your overseas income and investment return that you bring into Thailand.
In February 2022, the Thai government has approved a plan for the long-stay visa to waive personal income tax for a few groups of foreigners, and a remote working professionals is one of them. We are waiting to see more details on this plan once they come out.
Is Thailand the right remote working location for you?
Thailand is an attractive destination for digital nomad and remote workers. This is due to many factors like great infrastructure, relatively lower cost of living and proximity to local and regional vacation destinations.
However, staying and working in Thailand could be restrictive without a proper visa. Many digital nomads are solving this by re-entering the country and staying in the grey area. If you want to ensure that you are legally working in Thailand, our recommendation would be to apply for a proper visa. The development of “smart visa” looks promising, but it will still take some time before it becomes a visa type for every digital nomad in Thailand.
Other useful contents about Thailand: