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Wondering what to expect when you move to Krabi? It will certainly be different from being here on holiday. Here, we provide an expat living guide to Krabi, with details on the infrastructure, other practical info, as well as some possible causes of culture shock.
THERE are currently more than 200 non-Asian foreigners legally working in Krabi, so an educated guess would suggest that up to a thousand actually live here during high season (November - April), whether retired, working illegally, or with private means.
The permanent expat community in Krabi is small and tends to be fairly guarded towards newcomers; although it is not hard to meet friendly people, it will take a while before you are really accepted.
Below we have covered a few issues you may consider before deciding to move here, to Krabi - information and tips on expat life in general in Thailand are best sought on other websites dedicated to the subject, and we list some at the bottom of this page.
The other types of visas are called 'Non-Immigrant' and come in several classes. they are given for various reasons such as business, retirement, or supporting a Thai spouse, and have a validity of 3 months up to a year (multiple entry with maximum of 3 months' stay at one time). To qualify for a non-immigrant visa requires a certain amount of paperwork; please see www.thaivisa.com for up-to-date information on each visa type.
Please note that a tourist visa strictly forbids employment of any kind, including voluntary work.
Krabi Immigration Office is on Utarakit Road in Krabi Town. Phone: 075-611097. All visa extensions must be applied for in person at this office. To extend the two months’ permission of stay on your tourist visa by a further month, you will need to present two photocopies of each of the following passport pages: personal information, visa stamp and arrival/departure card number; two passport-sized photographs; and a fee of 1900 Baht.
30-day stamps given on arrival in Thailand can occasionally be extended up to a maximum of 10 days by the same procedure - at the discretion of the officer. The office is open 8.30am - 4.30pm weekdays only.
Please note that overstaying your visa is considered a serious offence in Thailand, punishable with a daily fine and/ or imprisonment. Your right to re-enter the kingdom in the future may also be affected.
But in other situations - work needing to be done in your home, buying electronics in Krabi Town, even making Thai friends - you may find your lack of Thai language leaves you in difficulty. English is spoken less well and by fewer people here than in almost any other tourist area of Thailand. So figure a Thai course to be essential (available here), and resign yourself to speaking 'pidgeon' English, affectionately known here as Coconut English. While you may not approve, practicality dictates that we all end up using it eventually.
Some expats who plan on living here for a while also learn to read and write Thai script. While not for everyone, it is highly recommended as it will give you a much better understanding of the language and culture.
Within the Thai school system in Krabi Town, there are a couple of bilingual (Thai-English) programmes, with native-speaking teachers (although not all are qualified as school teachers). The majority of expats send their children here; often undertaking to give them extra tuition themselves before or after school if they feel the teaching is not adequate.
There is also a bilingual Montessori nursery school in Ao Nang, which accepts children from age 3 until age 6.
BUPA Thailand offers health insurance, or you may be covered by your insurance from home. These schemes usually cover treatment in international hospitals, although you still have the problem of getting there in the first place.
Many drugs that are prescribed in the west are available over the counter in Thai pharmacies; if you have a regular prescription, you should be able to get it here directly from a pharmacy - remember to bring the generic name, as some drugs are marketed under different names in the Asian region.
Only foreigners with year-long, non-immigrant visas can own a vehicle in Thailand - and that too, only after considerable paperwork. If you do not have such a visa, you will have to buy in someone else's name, be it a Thai or qualified foreigner, or a company. Regardless of nationality, they should of course be trustworthy.
You will mostly be expected to pay for the vehicle in cash; although finance options may be available in some cases. Standard motorcycles cost around 40,000 Baht; new pick-up trucks, depending on their spec, range from 450,000 to 1 million Baht; and saloon cars start from 750,000 Baht upwards.
It is possible to drive with an international licence, but you are also able to obtain a Thai licence if you have a non-immigrant visa. This can be done at the Land Transport Office on Tharua Rd in Krabi Town.
If you would like to cook at home, choices are more limited - the restaurants tend to get their supplies from Phuket. There are no big supermarkets in Krabi - again, the closest is in Phuket. However, it is possible to find pasta, potatoes, cereals, imported meat and a limited selection of bread and cheese. Fresh ingredients such as fruit (apples) and vegetables (bell peppers, asparagus etc.) can be found in the morning market in Krabi Town. Dried herbs and imported sauces and seasonings are also fairly easy to get hold of.
Drinks-wise, good wine is quite hard to find. This also goes for beer - although there are specialist pubs in Ao Nang which have a better selection than most, including draught Guinness. Spirits and soft drinks are widely available.
Mobile telephones are widely available and quite cheap for domestic calls - most operate on a pay-as-you-go system, with top-up cards. Network coverage is widespread in all but the most remote areas - and look out for 'blackspots' behind one or other of those famous Krabi rocks.
Some western newspapers and magazines are available in Ao Nang and Krabi Town. A new service called Newspaper Direct has just been launched in Ao Nang, which downloads and prints the same day editions of more than 200 major newspapers on A3 paper (black and white). Prices are around 200 Baht per copy, including local delivery.
There are two English-language national dailies in Thailand, The Nation and The Bangkok Post, both of which carry Thai and international news, sport and features. The Phuket Gazette, a weekly newspaper, has local news for that area, and is available in Krabi.
Communities tend to form by nationality, but also by occupation - diving, hotel owners, retirees etc. But Krabi is still small enough that everyone knows each other, by sight at least. It is quite easy to meet people, especially in the bars and restaurants favoured by the locals.
There is no multiplex cinema in Krabi; the local movie theatre in Krabi Town shows blockbusters dubbed into Thai. But you will find plenty of stalls selling the latest releases on DVD. The girly bar scene is almost non-existent in Ao Nang and Phi Phi (what there is is fairly tame, with a mixed clientele, including women and couples uninterested in after hours activities); there is none whatsoever in Ko Lanta, Klong Muang and Railay. Krabi Town has a few sois of karaoke bars, mainly for a local clientele. Most nightlife is in the form of small bars and pubs, some with live music - there are no large nightclubs or entertainment venues.
The most common route to working in Krabi, however, is to set up your own business. A work permit is not then guaranteed but, if you have a skill the local labour force cannot provide, you have a better chance of getting one. Working without a permit is not recommended as, if caught, you could be deported and banned from re-entering the kingdom.
To receive money in Thailand without a bank account, you can use a service like Western Union, that delivers here; or use your ATM card to withdraw cash from an account in your home country - machines are widespread.
There is no train service in Krabi, but there is a reliable inter-provincial bus service for long-distance travel within Thailand.
General info on expat life in Thailand
Above: Although life is mostly sweet in Krabi, it pays to remember the practicalities of living in a foreign country
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