Thailand Provides Best Value for Expats

Although still under military rule after a coup d’état launched in May of this year by the Royal Thai Armed Forces, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand is still a place of value for those looking to set up a base in Asia.

Bangkok, the capital city, dropped 22 places from 66 to 88 in a 2014 Mercer consulting survey of 211 cities worldwide. The annual survey is one of the most comprehensive in the industry. It compares more than 200 cost-of-living items that vary from accommodation, transportation to entertainment. Rankings are based on currency fluctuations against the U.S. dollar, and the impact of inflation on a country’s basket of goods and services.

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Obviously, major world events including political and economic turmoil would have major effects on the survey’s results. Additionally, some relatively cheaper cities, like in Africa, are negatively impacted by wild currency swings, and the lack of proper accommodations that most professional expats require when living abroad.

Political and economic dislocations are nothing new to Thailand. It has been apparent since the May government surrender that the market, foreign corporations, and tourist industry blinked, shrugged their shoulders, and moved on like the 2014 coup never happened. As a matter of fact, the recovery from the crisis has been nothing short of incredible. Yes, markets bounce back, but for the entire country to recover so quickly must be some sort of record in the history books. How many countries in the past have bounced back from a coup d’état in a matter of a couple months? Couple decades maybe… but months?

The government is on the verge of completing its twentieth constitution, and seems intent on not disrupting Thailand’s progress and future prosperity. Once the constitution is completed then the “third stage” of the military’s interim government will begin which includes reforms, elections, and “organic laws” that will be put into place once the constitution is put into force.

In the meantime, the country carries on, and so does its growth potential.

Although Bangkok can no longer claim that US magazine Travel & Leisure thinks it’s the best city for travel and leisure (Kyoto, Japan snatched that away this year), the city—the country—still has a lot to offer any retiree, foreign corporation and its staff, and/or an entrepreneur.

In a recent property survey released by Japan Real Estate Institute (JREI), Bangkok placed nearly at the bottom, just above Ho Chi Minh City and slightly below Kuala Lumpur, in rental comparisons of high-end condominiums throughout the Asia region—which is quite amazing when things like entertainment, the availability of imported goods, and overall health factors are taken into consideration. HCMC is still in many ways a frontier market, and KL, well, if you care about your health it’s not the place to be during the summer burning months.

In addition, Bangkok placed at the very bottom in rental comparisons of prime central business district offices—ahead of it were KL, Taipei, Jakarta, HCMC, Seoul, Beijing, Singapore, Shanghai, Tokyo, HK, respectfully. Again, considering many factors from internet connection speeds, traffic, public transportation, local staff, salary, etc., Bangkok screams value at the moment.

Thailand is also popular for the traveling techie who can work remotely from any locale. “Levels,” a nomadic techie, has created a rating site specifically for those who want to take to the road and work out of a backpack. Thailand has two cities in the site’s top ten, Chiang Mai at number one and Bangkok at number three. The site takes many things into consideration, mainly issues that effect tech start-up entrepreneurs like coworking space price, coffee places with WiFi, cheap hotel rent, friendliness to foreigners, climate, etc. Granted, not every single city in the world is listed, but many in Asia are and Thailand’s above and beyond with two near the very top.

That said, the traveling entrepreneur should tread carefully though, because Thailand’s immigration is not as lax as years before. The Thai government has recently cracked down on the “out-in” visa trips that were so prevalent and widespread—whether this new government policy will be upheld remains to be seen, but for now “visa runs” look to be dead.

All things considered, Bangkok has never looked better as a base for foreign operations and expats. It might not have the safety of Tokyo, the talent of HK, the ease of language like Singapore, but as a metropolis and a major airline hub in an exciting region of the world flooded with opportunity, very few cities can compare at the moment.

The value in Thailand won’t always be there, it never is, so don’t expect things to stay as competitive for very long. As a continent, Asia has that ever-changing effect on everything—you can never be too sure which way the wind will be blowing tomorrow….