Over the almost-decade I’ve lived in Thailand I’ve met many expats who, when they moved here, must have brought everything in their house. With a Thai house or apartment suddenly packed full of household items that aren’t able to be used in Thailand or that they don’t need, many have said they wish they’d known someone to ask which household items were necessary to bring before they moved here. In Thailand, there’s also the problem of being charged tax on household items you bring into the country, so you need to know what will and won’t be tax-free.
If you’re planning a move to Thailand and don’t have a clue which household items to bring and which to leave behind, don’t worry, it’s easy. Just follow these quick tips .
What Household Items Are Available in Thailand? – Since I moved to Bangkok, Thailand almost a decade ago, things have changed markedly when it comes to what’s available. When I moved I brought things like a good garlic press and top quality tea towels, as both were difficult to find in Thailand.
Nowadays though, with anything you can find in America or Europe easily bought in Bangkok and, most other cities in Thailand full of mega-stores like Tesco Lotus, Big C, and Index Mall importing things from Europe, America, Australia and Japan, it’s dead easy to find just about every household item you’d ever need, without bringing it with you .
Do You Have to Pay Tax on Household Items You Bring? – The next thing you need to be concerned with is whether you’ll have to pay an import tax on household items you bring into Thailand.
If you’re just moving to Thailand and will be setting up a household here, in most cases, any household items you bring will not be eligible for tax. However, there are a few requirements:
a) The household items you bring must be used and not new ie: they don’t want someone bringing in tons of new items to then sell illegally when they get here.
b) For electronic items like TVs, radios, refrigerators, microwaves etc., only one unit will be tax-free. If you bring in more than one, you will be charged tax on the rest of them.
c) You cannot import any household items to Thailand less than one month before you arrive, or more than six months after you arrive. If you do, you will be charged tax on everything you bring.
d) You must have a Non-Immigrant visa stamped in your passport OR a letter from the Thai Immigration Department saying you have been given at least one year’s temporary stay in the
Which Household Items Should You Bring and Which Should You Leave At Home? – Now, let’s get down to household items you should bring and those you should buy when you get here.
Of course, it also depends on how long you’ll be staying in Thailand. If you’ll only be here for a year, honestly, leave most of it behind. Importing everything to Thailand and then exporting it back to your own country when you leave is a bit daft, especially as many Thai apartments and some houses already come fully-furnished and with a fair number of extra household items too.
If however you’re coming for a few years, or even permanently like I did, bring just about anything you’ll regret not having with you – including things that have sentimental value like ornaments, gifts people have given you, and irreplaceable items like photograph albums etc. Within reason (ie: as long as you’re not trying to import enough stuff for five houses, you won’t be charged import taxes on any of it).
Electronics – While some expats bring electronics with them, most leave them behind. You can buy most electronics in Thailand cheaper than you can in the west and, with the difference in electricity voltage, trying to get them converted or use a converter/transformer is more trouble than it’s worth. Many expats I know in Thailand say, even with a converter/transformer, their electronics just never seem to run the same here.
Unless you’re so attached to that blender or television, leave it behind and buy others in Thailand. You’ll start out with everything brand new and likely be surprised at how many incredibly cool electronics you can get here that aren’t available in your own country.
Furniture – Again, unless you’re incredibly attached to that table Great Aunt Martha gave you, or the sofa you’ve had since you got married – leave it or sell it before you move.
Furniture in Thailand is cheap and beautifully made and, in many instances, you can even buy made-to-order furniture for a fraction of the cost you’d pay in the West. Also, most apartments in Thailand, and some houses, come fully furnished, so you won’t need it anyway.
The only exceptions to this are if a) you’ll be here for years and b) your company is paying for your household items to be shipped here and back and c) your new apartment or house won’t be furnished. In which case, bring all your furniture with you.
Kitchen/Bathroom Equipment – While I recommend leaving behind the toaster and the blender, Items like cutlery, plates, cooking implements, tea towels, tablecloths, towels, bath mats, shower curtains etc. can easily be brought to Thailand and, often, it’s cheaper to bring them (particularly if a company is paying your moving costs) than it is to leave them behind.
Ornaments and Household Accessories – I’m a huge fan of ornaments and have bowls, vases, photograph frames, and items I’ve bought while on holiday in countries all over the world displayed in my apartment. Bring everything with you if you’ll be here for a few years.
Ornaments, knick-knacks and personal mementos are what make your home unique and personal. They also make you feel comfortable in your surroundings and feeling like you’re “at home”, even if you’re now on the other side of the world.
They’re also often light-weight and not too bulky. Bring them.
Books, DVDs etc – With these items, it honestly depends on how much you need them and how important they are to you. For me, I’m a collector of books and DVDs and I use them daily. When I moved to Thailand, I only shipped about 100 books with me and, over the years, bought more in the country. Looking back though, I wish I’d brought everything as I’ve ended up re-buying many books I already own, they just happen to be stored in boxes back in the US.
English-language books in Thailand are not cheap, unless you buy second-hand, so if you think you’ll be here for years and they’re things you’ll use, box them up and ship them.
As for DVDs, CDs etc., you can buy any western DVD or CD available anywhere in the world in Thailand, so it’s really your choice as to if you bring them or replace them by buying them again in Thailand. I brought
every DVD and CD I owned and, since moving to Thailand, I’ve added another 2,000 to my collection. But, I’m obsessed with movies and TV series – you might not be.