The expat community in Pattaya continues to grow, with an unofficial 40-50,000 year-round residents from countries all over the globe. This number is swelled by part-time residents who come and go for part of the year, and weekenders from Bangkok. Although some expats try, and often succeed in, running a business here, the majority of Western expats are retired.
The entertainment scene, activities (especially golf), beaches, nightlife, the relaxed way of life, as well as the availability of Western goods and services, are among the best Thailand has to offer, which is why Pattaya has one of Thailand’s largest foreign communities. Many who come to live here soon fall into a friendly social circle, befriend plenty of friendly Thais and find that the atmosphere in general is very relaxed, enjoyable and hassle free.
Pattaya has a nice climate, as well as access to all the facilities available to Western people in their own countries. Thailand is a lot cheaper to live in than equivalent Western retirement areas and the price and quality of property means that more and more people are coming here to live every year. The quality of hospital care offered in Pattaya also brings many retired people here, and medical insurance is also cheap to buy (BUPA Blue Cross, for example) – medical facilities available in Pattaya rival most international centres and often at a fraction of the cost.
Since foreigners have been living here for decades, and the city is a popular tourist spot, you could quite easily live a very similar lifestyle to that in your home country, with social clubs, local bars, international restaurants, cinemas, shopping malls, and more. In fact, Pattaya is perhaps one of the least Thai places in Thailand and few of the expats living here bother to master the local language, or boast many Asian friends.
Houses, condos, apartments and rooms are easy to rent on six-month or 12-month agreements. The cheaper, single-room apartments start at around 5,000 baht per month, comfortable studio condos usually go for 8,000 baht (plus service charges) and small houses at around 10,000 to 15,000 baht. These prices exclude utilities, which are typically around 1,500 baht a month. Such places will have many Western domestic facilities, and the more you pay monthly the more you will expect in this regard. The farther away from the beach you get, the cheaper the rent is, generally.
During the 2002-2008 property boom there was a surge in property development and, of course, prices. Many Bangkok expats and Thais snapped up weekend pads here, and this increased prices and the quality of what’s available went through the roof. How much it costs you to live here depends entirely on your preferences, but Pattaya does have plenty of distractions, especially young ladies willing to be a companion. You can live quite comfortably, though modestly, on about 25,000 baht (US$800) a month in Pattaya provided you stay away from the tourist places.
There is currently a very buoyant market for investment properties and the burgeoning industrial development on the eastern seaboard means many multinationals are willing to pay 20,000 baht to house their foreign staff in Pattaya. Generally, rents can vary considerably depending on the location, view, age and status of the building, facilities included. Foreigners can own a condo in Thailand but not a house – unless it is placed in the ownership of a Thai, or company.
Many expats have done this and the local property market is very well developed, with plenty of professional and honest agents. Some expats who settle or retire in Pattaya manage to buy a nice house with swimming pool and a bit of garden for 3 or 4 million baht (£45,000/US$100,000). For a similar price in Pattaya you can get a 70m² condo in a decent apartment block.
If you have plenty of Western money, it is comparatively easy to become an expat as long as you can face the long, and sometimes frustrating, process of obtaining the correct visa. If you are over 50 you should be able to obtain a retirement visa, as long as you can show you have a Thai bank account with sufficient funds (400,000 or 800,000 baht depending on your marital status), or an income from outside Thailand of 40,000/65,000 baht per month. If you are under 50 and married to a Thai, a similar ruling applies.
Other methods of legitimately staying here are to obtain a multiple-entry non-immigrant B visa (ostensibly to take up employment or study), for which you will need some certified proof, or to gain a work permit through a company. Many simply resort to making fortnightly visa runs to the Cambodian border, but you can only do this three times and then need to leave the country. The immigration department has a reputation for bureaucracy and obstinacy, so it’s best to use the services of one of the visa application firms widely advertised (Visas Plus and Easy Visa, for example). The paperwork for setting up a company and obtaining a work permit is almost not worth all the effort, cost and red tape.
Working in Thailand is not that easy, but not impossible. The law is designed to ensure that all indigenous people are employed have led to the policy of non-employment of foreigners, except in specific roles, such as technical advisors, educators or as sources of foreign capital. This makes it difficult to obtain a work permit unless you intend to work for a company who will assist you, or you work for a government concern. The red-tape is mind-boggling. If you intend to work here it is important you do your homework first. More on Living in Pattaya.
There are two busy and popular Pattaya expat clubs which meet on the weekends and offer an invaluable source for anyone thinking of living here. The clubs are multicultural and multiethnic and support both the long-term and short-term interests of everyone staying in Pattaya.
Bet you didn’t know that!
More than 200,000 foreigners have settled in Thailand, with the number growing by more than 10 per cent a year. Many come to retire here, while others work for multinationals in Bangkok or establish businesses in the tourist trade. Only a limited quota of permanent residence permits are issued per year, despite the fact there are more Thais reckoned to be living in California than farangs staying in all of Thailand.