Thousands of new expats move to Thailand every year, but in the first few weeks of living in a new country, don’t always know what things they need to buy immediately.
Most expats move into furnished apartments, so their immediate needs are taken care of, but other things are important too, to not only make their lives more comfortable but also make it easier to settle in.
If you are new in Thailand or planning on moving here soon, make sure you put these hings on your list of things to buy as soon as you get here.
Mobile Phone and Phone Card – Having a mobile phone (cell phone) in Thailand is vital. Many apartments don’t have dedicated lines so having to make phone calls that cost upwards of 5 baht (10 cents) per call can get expensive, especially when you are trying to set a lot of things up.
Buy a mobile phone – MBK Mall in Bangkok has millions of them and at good prices. You can also buy a ‘phone card’ there at the same time. The phone card will put from 100 to 500 baht’s worth of calls ($3 to $15), which will last you up to two weeks or more. You cannot get a contract for your cell phone in Thailand until you have a work permit, and that can take a month or two to set up, but this will keep you going until then.
Having a mobile phone will also mean anyone can contact you immediately (even worried family and friends back home), and you can add more money to it at any 7-11 or phone shop as soon as you use up the value from your first phone card.
Thai Phrase Book – One of the first things I bought when I moved to Thailand was a Thai phrase book. Many Thais do not speak English, especially outside Bangkok, so having a phrase book can really help if you can’t figure out how to get somewhere, where the bank is, or how to order the food you want. Available at any book shop in Thailand and cheap at around $5.
A Map – Especially if you are in Bangkok, a map is necessary if you plan on trying to get around the city. With almost 13 million inhabitants, Bangkok is one of the world’s largest cities and very easy to get lost in. Particularly, if you are also job hunting and going for interviews, having a map will be the difference between arriving on time and being hopelessly lost. A
vailable at any bookshop and even at area department stores and 7-11s, a map of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket etc. is only a few dollars but worth its weight in gold.
Western Food – When I first moved to Thailand, I immediately found a supermarket that sold western food as eating Thai food every meal was something my stomach wasn’t used to. Thai food tastes very differently in Thailand than it does in the west and can take some getting used to, so make sure you have a stock of your favorite food and snacks at home.
Try Villa Supermarket, Food Land and any Carrefour or Big C supermarket. You are bound to find some western food you can eat there.
Flip Flops – Weirdly, buying a pair of plastic or rubber flip flops is important when you first move to Thailand. Especially if you arrive in the rainy season (which is about six months of the year), you can go somewhere in your best dress shoes, come out of the building you’ve been in and it’s pouring rain. Much of Thailand floods very fast, so Thais always make sure they have a pair of flip flops with them.
Do the same and, that way, you can change into them before heading into the rain, and not destroy your expensive shoes.
Bottled Water – Water is actually clean in many areas of Thailand and perfectly safe to drink. However, many expats prefer to drink bottled water, use it for cleaning teeth, and making coffee so buy a big pack of 12 litre bottles when you first arrive, which should get you through at least your first week in Thailand.
Sky Train or Underground Card – If you are in Bangkok, make sure you get a sky train or underground train many trips card. If you pay per trip, it can work out quite expensive, but if you buy a card valid for many trips, your sky train or underground train trips can be as cheap as 15 baht (40 cents), which will save you a lot of money every month.
Baby Powder – Honestly, I have never used as much baby powder in my life since I moved to Thailand. It is hot all the time and you sweat copiously. Putting on baby powder before you leave the house and carrying some with you to apply throughout the day makes you smell better and feel a lot more comfortable. I
go through at least a bottle a week, and my Thai friends say the same thing. Both Thai men and women use a lot of baby powder, which is probably why they smell so much better than many of the westerners here!
Buy Some English Books – If you didn’t bring a lot of English books with you, you will find yourself quickly having read the ones you did bring. You waste a lot of time in Thailand sitting in traffic, waiting for trains, waiting for customer service reps to help you etc. and having a book with you, in my experience is invaluable.
If you’re in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket, you’ll find many book shops selling English books. Other areas of Thailand may be more difficult, so you might want to stock up on a few if you’re in Bangkok before you go to where you’ll be living.
These things, I think, are vital when you first move to Thailand. Of course, other expats will have other lists, but if you buy these ten things upon your arrival in Thailand, you’ll find yourself feeling much more at home and less panicked about all the things you still have to do. Welcome to Thailand, you’ll love it. Honestly.