Living in Koh Samui – an expat’s guide

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Thinking about moving to the beautiful Thai island of Koh Samui? You’re not the only one. Many foreigners from all over the world have packed up and moved to Thailand’s paradise. Although Koh Samui is getting ever more popular, it’s still relatively cheap to live there and easy to transition into.

Cost of Living

Long term expats in Thailand recognise that Koh Samui is generally becoming more expensive as increasing tourist numbers drive up the prices. The local taxi companies on the island are probably the most well known example of this trend, with short trips costing much more than their counterparts in Bangkok, for example. However these examples are generally outliers and prices for many other essentials are similar to, or cheaper, than Bangkok. According to Numbeo:

  • Rent Prices in Koh Samui are 29.94% lower than in Bangkok
  • Restaurant Prices in Koh Samui are 4.66% higher than in Bangkok
  • Groceries Prices in Koh Samui are 20.06% lower than in Bangkok

Where to Live on Koh Samui

Hideaway Villa Koh Samui
Luxurious, comfortable, private and very well equipped

Unless you know someone who has lived on the island before, it can be hard to pick a neighborhood to make your home on Samui. You’ll want to find a suitable area, depending on whether you are with a partner or family. You’ll also want to find a trustworthy rental company, so be sure to do your research.

The largest expat communities reside in:

  • Bang Rak – on the Northeaster tip of the island, this is the location of the Big Buddha but relatively quiet so not for those moving without company 
  • Chaweng – The tourist hub, filled with luxury hotels, raving nightlife and the most developed beach on the island 
  • Choeng Mon – 10 minutes from Chaweng, a much more relaxed atmosphere but still close to the liveliness
  • Mae Nam – on the North of the island, this area includes a tranquil beach perfect for families due to the shallow waters 

As always, it is probably best to rent a villa or house for a few years in the area of your choosing, before committing long term and buying land or property. Horizon Homes are one property agent that provides a great variety of property rentals, as well as houses for sale on Koh Samui. They are a trusted real estate company on the island and they have helpful agents who can speak in Thai, French and English to help you find a home.

You can also check out prices for rental properties around Koh Samui on TripAdvisor.

Finding a Job on the Island

If you’re not planning to retire and you’re looking for work on Koh Samui, there are a few options for expats. If you are a native English speaker, becoming an English teacher is fairly easy. It is advised that you have a degree and a TEFL certificate in order to be hired. Thailand also requires native English speakers to be from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, England, and Australia.

If you’re from other English speaking countries or you’re fluent in English, you are required to take the TOEIC test in Bangkok. This can be quite expensive and a hassle to coordinate but worth it if you’re dedicated to becoming an English teacher in Thailand. Many schools have openings for English teachers and it’s suggested to drop off your resume in person rather than through email or searching Facebook groups for openings.

Since Samui is considered to be one of the most gorgeous islands in Thailand, the tourism industry is booming. Many expats find jobs in the hospitality or property industries on the island, even if you aren’t completely fluent in English or you can speak other languages. Other than that, many expats call themselves “digital nomads” since they work remotely for themselves or other companies.

Visa Options

B1 Business Visa

The B1 Business Visa allows an expat to legally work in Thailand. This is one of the hardest visas to obtain since there is a lot of paperwork involved. It’s recommended to hire a lawyer or accountant to do all your paperwork. If you are moving to Koh Samui for a job with a local company, they should be able to get one easily for you. The nice thing about the B1 visa is that it allows expats to stay for a long period of time instead of doing a border hop every couple of months.

Non-immigrant O Visa

The Non-immigrant O Visa is only good for those who plan to study in Thailand. This includes learning Thai from a local school so if you plan on enrolling in classes to learn Thai, you can apply for this visa.

Tourist Visa

You can stay in Thailand on a tourist visa but you will have to do a border hop to keep renewing your stay. When you arrive to Thailand by air, you will get a 30 day visa, if by bus, a 15 day visa. You’ll have to exit the country and go to another country next to Thailand’s border in order to get 60 days. Many expats find border hopping to be time consuming (Malaysia is the closest option for those in Samui) and stressful so if you have the option to get a legitimate visa, you should take that option.

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We wish you the best of luck in your new home on Koh Samui and hope these tips help you in your big move to one of the most beautiful places on earth!