The Kingdom of Thailand can become home to anyone willing to embrace the Thai culture and lifestyle. While Thailand has many of the same amenities and commodities as the USA and EU countries, the way of life is likely to be different from anything you have ever experienced. The adjustment from a Western to Eastern way of life varies depending on the person and includes: A big change in climate, a change in sleeping patterns, a change in diet, a slower pace of life, and understanding the little do's and dont's of Thai culture (for example, it is considered extremely rude to pat someone on the head or to show the heel of your foot). Local Thais are kind, forgiving, and are willing to teach foreigners the Thai way of life. With a little time, patience, and common sense you will be calling Chiang Rai, Thailand your new home!
A couple of must-reads before coming:
- Foreign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier (a quick read which summarizes general cultural differences)
- Culture Shock: Thailand by Robert and Nanthapa Cooper
Thailand’s climate is tropical monsoon with three seasons: the warm season is hot and dry from March to May, the rainy season is from June to October, and the cool season is from November to February. Daytime temperatures range from 16 degrees C (60 F) to 36 degrees C (97 F). Evenings are a bit cooler. In the cool season you will want a light sweater, but for the rest of the year it will likely not be used.
If you intend on driving please get an international license, available through AAA in the U.S. (you don’t need to be a member). It is not too difficult to get a Thai driver’s license. Singles or young couples may choose to use bikes or motorcycles as their primary means of transportation, but families and people with long-term commitment will probably want to buy a car. Dependable used cars start at about 200,000 baht and hold their resale value. New motorcycles are about 33,000 baht. There are limited forms of public transportation available in Chiang Rai in the form of truck-style taxis that crisscross the city, taxis and “tuk tuks” for hire. CRICS is a fifteen minute drive from the Chiang Rai city center and is located mere minutes away from Mae Fa Luang International Airport and Rajhabpat University.
Chiang Rai’s main day market has everything from clothes, medicines, curries, cleaning products, and wicker wares to fresh hot foods. There are also flower and fresh fruit markets.Chiang Rai is well known for such its fresh fruit as pineapple, strawberries, mango, mangosteen, orange, banana, apple, tamarind and papaya. Dining out can be pleasant and affordable. There are a variety of choices such as Dutch, Italian, French, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Pakistani, Hindu/Indian, American fast food (KFC & Dunkin Donuts), as well as vegetarian fares.
Big C is a supermarket similar to Wal-Mart with everything from produce to paper goods. Makro, similar to Costco, is open to all shoppers (even if you don't have a member card, you can simply request a free temporary card at the store's entrance) and offers many goods in bulk.
In 2011, Central Plaza mall was completed and boasts an Apple store, McDonald's, Starbucks and a movie theater with English-language films. You can also find specialty/imported food items at Tops Grocery store on the bottom level of the mall.
Every evening from sundown to midnight Chiang Rai’s Night Bazaar offers a colorful variety of traditional home-made hilltribe crafts, along with food stands and two open air stages for cultural performances.
Tour and trekking agencies offer reasonably priced packages. There are also opportunities to take a long-tail boat ride or an elephant ride, go to the beaches in the south, see a zoo, or tour a hilltribe village. There are internet cafes and shops with electronic games. If you like museums and history, there are several places to visit such as the Hilltribe Museum, the Cultural Hall Museum, the House of Opium, the Chiang Saen National Museum, the Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park, or the Haw Shan and Tai Yuan art galleries.
At the height of the hot season, from April 13-15, there is a festival called the Maha Songkran Water Festival celebrated all over Thailand, which is known as the world’s biggest water fight! During this time water is thrown indiscriminately. When it comes to being doused with water, everybody and everything is fair game!
Chiang Rai offers several churches that meet in both Thai and English. There are also various Thai and minority congregations which meet throughout town, as well as small home groups. We are happy to help you connect with these churches upon your arrival.
Cost of Living
Below is an estimated budget for volunteers. For the most recent conversion rate, please visit: http://www.xe.com
Estimated Budget for Volunteers
Monthly costs in Thai baht:
- Rent and Housing Fees
-Single housing: +8000 baht
-Couple housing: +10,000 baht
-Family Housing: +15,000 baht
(Factors that influence cost of housing: roommates, location, how much the house is furnished, does the house have air conditioning in some rooms.)
- Utilities: ± 2000 baht for individual, ± 4000 baht per family (varies with usage). Electric bill will be high if a/c is used frequently.
- Drinking water: Large bottles delivered to home: 75 baht/month
- Tap Water: 150 baht/month
- Food/household items: ± 6000 baht/month per person
- Transportation: 1 motorbike: 3000 baht/month, 1 car: 6000baht/month (vehicle maintenance, gas, insurance)
- Medical: 900 baht/month (apart from medical insurance)
- Miscellaneous: 3000-4500 baht/month
- Internet: initial set up plus 900 baht/month
- Phone: 1500 baht phone purchase and set up plus 300 baht/month per phone
- Language Acquisition if desired (private tutoring about 250baht/hour, see language schools for their prices)
- Purchasing a used vehicle (varies: older car, standard transmission 120,000 baht, motorbike 30,000 baht; newer and automatic vehicles are more expensive)
- Unexpected expenses: 15,000 baht
- Set-up costs for home: 30,000 baht (to purchase specific things you would like for your home; this varies based on the house that is rented, how much furniture you need, if you need to purchase an a/c)
- Medical insurance
- Visa cost: Volunteers pay the cost of the visa and visa renewals. CRICS pays for work permits. Approximate cost per year per visa: $80 paid in country of origin plus 2900 baht for renewals. See Visa Costs for more details.
- Student Loans or other loans
- Travel Expenses for tourist travel
- Emergency Fund
- Families with children attending CRICS: Please inquire about the cost of schooling (tuition and other fees).
**The two biggest variables on the budget will be decisions made about housing and a vehicle. Many people find it is easier to live in Chiang Rai with a purchased vehicle because we do not have a developed public transportation system.
**It is possible to live very cheaply in Chiang Rai. However, keep in mind that prices go up the more you eat “western” foods and use more air conditioning.
Considerations when looking for a home:
Most CRICS families choose to locate within about a few miles of the school, for convenience and community. School activities can fill up afternoons and weekends, and many students and staff ride bikes to and from school. You may find cheaper rent if you locate elsewhere, but you will spend more on transportation and be more likely to need a car.
Many homes have air conditioners in one or more bedrooms. Some rooms may have ceiling fans. Floor fans are affordable and readily available.
Furnished or Unfurnished
Unfurnished may mean there is virtually nothing in the house—no cupboards, counters, sinks, appliances or hot water heater. Furnished means anywhere from a little bit of furniture to all you will need and perhaps some appliances. Sometimes landlords will move furniture in or out of the house to suit you.
Check to see if Fibre is available to the house. Mobile phones are readily and cheaply available throughout Thailand.
Electricity is 220-240 volts x 50 cycles, so bringing 110 v appliances from the USA is rarely worth it as they will blow out when plugged into a Thai socket. Monthly electric bills to run one or two air conditioners at night are usually less than 3,300 baht.
City water is cheap but not always dependable. Most houses have a storage tank. City water is not potable, but water for drinking is purchased in bottles from a water distributor who will deliver to your home weekly. There are also commercial filters that can be purchased and installed on your home’s water system. Water bills are hand delivered monthly and are paid in cash at your gate, at any 7-11, or at the office of the water company.
Can be purchased in bottles delivered to your home weekly for about 20 baht per 5 gallon bottle. Commercial filters can purchased and installed on your home’s water system.
Most kitchen ranges use bottled gas (LPG). If your home does not have a tank you can buy one from a shop that will deliver, usually within the hour. After that, the shop will trade in your empty when they deliver a full one.