Living like a Thai in Thailand is part of the fun of being in the country. While most westerners arrive in Thailand and still live a stereotypical western lifestyle, if you want the real Thailand, living like a Thai local is the way to go.
Living Like a Local in Thailand – Thai Apartments – The first thing you should do if you want to live like a Thai is rent an apartment in an area of the city you’re living in where Thais live. Avoid the expat apartment areas, as they’re expensive and you’ll be surrounded by westerners.
In Bangkok, for example, rent an apartment at the end of the sky train or subway line. You’re still only 15 minutes from downtown Bangkok and will still have every amenity you could want. But where a western-style apartment in an expat area will cost you upwards of 35,000 baht ($1,180) a month, something similar in a Thai neighborhood is only 6-10,000 baht ($200-$340).
Another option is to rent a Thai-style apartment. This is one room (a studio), with a tiny Thai bathroom (toilet and shower head coming out of the wall and spraying over the bathroom and no hot water. The wash basin will be on the balcony). These studio apartments are safe, clean and great if you want to keep your rental costs to a minimum. Costing around 2,500-3,500 baht a month ($88-$116), you’ll still get a great night’s sleep and you’ll have tons of Thai neighbors too. Plus, you don’t need hot water – it’s too darn hot.
Living Like a Local in Thailand – Eating – Buying food or going out for meals like a Thai does will save you hundreds of dollars a month. Western restaurants in Thailand are still cheap compared to restaurants in the west, but are many times higher than a Thai restaurant.
Thais usually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner out because it’s cheap. Eating at a food stall for $1 a meal will give you the experience of trying foods you’ve never seen before let alone eaten. Noodles, rice dishes, curries, fried chicken, pad thai, fried fish, sauteed vegetables, fresh fruit, ice cream – you name it, it’s all sold at food stalls out on the street and from only 60 cents to $1.25 per dish.
You can also eat at some fine Thai restaurants, indoors and with air-conditioning. Many of these restaurants may cost you 80-150 baht per dish ($2.80-$5), but that’s still cheaper than eating in a western restaurant.
Stay away from McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC too. Fast food is not cheap compared to Thai food and only the middle class on up eat at them.
Living Like a Local in Thailand – Transportation – The majority of Thais don’t take taxis so even though taxis are cheap (average $1.30 per trip), other modes of transportation are cheaper.
Take the bus (around 45 cents per trip for air-con and 35 cents per trip for non-air-con), a songtaew (red pick-up trucks with benches in the back for passengers (35 cents per trip), or hop on a motorcycle taxi (35 cents per trip).
If you want to live like a true Thai national, buy a used motorbike. For only a few hundred dollars, you’ll get a cheap mode of transportation plus a motorbike is much easier to manoeuvre through the horrendous traffic jams.
Living Like a Local in Thailand – Thai Friends – The vast majority of expats in Thailand hangout only with other expats and have no Thai friends. Make friends with Thais.
You’ll learn more of the language, they’ll take you to cool places you would never have found on your own, and you’ll also learn about real Thai culture. Thais are truly the nicest and most helpful people you’ll ever meet. They’ll delight in getting to know you and also in practicing their English and forcing you to speak their language.
Follow these quick tips if you come to Thailand for longer than a couple of weeks and you’ll be living like a local in no time. Too many westerners arrive in Thailand, eat western food, live in western apartments and hang out with farang (western) expats. Seriously, they might as well stay at home. Don’t be one of them.
Photo – If you want to live like a Thai, eat at an outdoor food stall now and again – copyright motoyen, Creative Commons License