Studying in Thailand as an international student

With over 20,000 international students making the journey each year, Thailand is quickly becoming a popular university destination.

In fact, in a study of thousands of international students, Thailand was picked as the number 1 destination in Asia for higher education. But what makes it such a good place to study?

7 reasons for moving to Thailand for study

Welcoming people

Thailand is one of the few countries in South-East Asia that has never been colonised by a European country, and perhaps this explains why people in Thailand have developed a diplomatic mastery at being hospitable. If you are considering studying in Thailand then you would know it’s often referred to as “the land of smiles” due to its friendly population. 

Locals are used to tourists and are generally ready to lend a helping hand. While traveling around Thailand or staying as student for an extended period of time, don’t forget to be polite when you interact with the local community. One way you can do this is by greeting locals with a “wai”- bowing slightly while pressing palms together – which will show respect and be appreciated. 

Low cost of living 

The low cost of living makes Thailand a popular choice for foreign students (and other expats too for that matter, like retirees).  According to Numbeo, monthly costs for a single person are $563 USD (without rent). Rent for a one-bedroom in the city centre is roughly $409 a month, but student accommodation is even cheaper. You can buy delicious street food and a soft drink for under $3. 

Public universities in Thailand are also more affordable than their western counterparts.

English-friendly country

Almost one third of the Thai population speaks English (keep in mind that not all of them speak fluently, though). This is true especially in major cities or tourist destinations in Thailand, so you shouldn’t have trouble shopping, buying bus or train tickets or getting essentials. However, if you visit small villages or rural parts of Thailand, then it will be much harder to find locals who are conversant in English. 

High quality medical care  

Thailand has become a hub for medical tourists, offering high quality and pocket-friendly healthcare. For international visitors, most doctors across the country are able to converse in English; however language barriers can persist outside of examinations rooms depending on who you come into contact with – be it nurses or administrative staff.

As good as the medical system is, visiting a local GP in Thailand may prove tricky as they are in short supply. If you’re looking to book an appointment with one while living there, your best bet would probably be going through the local hospital and seeing a specialist on whatever specific issue that need addressing.

As with most countries, there are longer wait times with the public hospitals than private hospitals in Thailand so it’s worth getting private health insurance so you can get your medical needs seen to promptly. 

Beautiful beaches and scenery 

Students in Thailand can explore temples, palaces and markets in their study breaks, not to mention go island-hopping down south. Whether it’s exploring the extravagant temples at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, bike riding in the ancient city of Chiang Mai, climbing Doi Inthanon (the highest mountain in Thailand) or swimming in the pristine waters of Erawan Falls in Kanchanaburi, the choices are endless. 

Thai beach, James Bond Island

Great base for exploring Asia

Thailand is centrally situated so it’s easy to travel to other Asian countries. While you’re on university break you can easily fly to surrounding countries on cheap flights, for example you can fly from Bangkok to the capital of Laos, Vientiane, for as low as $50 USD, or to Hanoi or Kuala Lumpur for $55. 

High quality universities

Most Thai universities follow the western semester system to work with the global community. Here are the best universities in Thailand as voted by Best Global Universities Rankings:

Mahidol University

Mahidol University is currently listed as the top university in Thailand. It has a beautiful multi-level campus with tropical gardens and is located in Salaya, a 40-minute drive from Bangkok. 

Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok

Chulalongkorn University recently made its way into the list of the world’s top 200 universities according to Times Higher Education World University Rankings. 

Founded over a century ago, Chulalongkorn University is known for its excellent academic programs, world class faculty and teaching styles that capitalize on student interaction and practical application of knowledge. The tuition also happens to be lower than many other international universities, plus it has a wide variety of courses in both English and Thai. 

Chiang Mai University (Chiang Mai) 

Chiang Mai University was founded to train locals to benefit not just the local region, but the country as a whole. It boasts an impressive 27 faculties, offering many fields of study. It is located in the northern city of Chiang Mai, a cool mountain town known for its rainforests and elephant sanctuaries. 

King Mongkuts University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) in Bangkok 

One of Thailand’s 9 research universities, KMUTT offers programs in science, engineering and design. The main campus (KMUTT Bangmod campus) covers 52 acres and is located on the west side of Bangkok. 

Prince of Songkla University 

PSU was established as the first university in southern Thailand, and like KMUTT, it is another one of the 9 research universities in Thailand. It offers many facilities like banking, cafeterias, libraries, childcare and medical clinics. It is also large enough to have its own international student’s association and many multicultural student clubs. 

What are the cons to living in Thailand?

As great as studying in Thailand is, every country has its downsides. Thailand gets very hot and muggy, and the rainy season (which lasts from August to October) can be unpredictable with sudden downpours and thunderstorms. 

When you go shopping at markets, be aware that foreigners may be charged a higher price for things. It’s a good idea to practise bartering, not only so you can get the best price, but also so you’ll fit in with everyone else!

What about the economy?

If you are planning on studying in Thailand, then we have good news for you. Thailand’s economy has been growing rapidly for the past 40 years, pulling millions of people out of poverty.

The economy grew at an average rate of 7.5% during its boom period and 5%, post Asian Financial Crisis (1999 -2005). This growth has led to many people transitioning from low to middle class status. Education has improved for children along and health insurance coverage is now readily available.

How do I get a student visa in Thailand? 

In Thailand a student visa is called a Thailand Education Visa (“ED” visa). To qualify for this visa, you need to be enrolled in a Thai educational institution in a course where you are in class for at least 15 hours of class per week. Before applying, you need to have paid at least 50% of the total course costs to apply for this visa.

You can apply for the ED visa on the Thai Immigration website:

What are the steps to apply?

  1. Enrol in a Thai educational institution and receive your acceptance letter 
  2. Apply for a Thai Student Visa (Non-Immigrant Visa Category “ED”) at a Thai Embassy or Consulate near you
  3. Submit your documents and visa application at the Thai Consulate near you (either in person or through the post, they will let you know)
  4. Collect your passport and visa when they are issued

Documents you’ll need

  • Passport with validity of no less than 6 months (if you’re applying for one year visa, your passport should be valid for another 18 months). 
  • Photocopy of your passport
  • A completed and signed Thailand Student Visa application form. 
  • A Letter of Admission from your school in Thailand, addressed to the Thai Embassy or Consulate
  • The Thai School or Institution’s registration documents 
  • Passport-sized pictures of yourself
  • Proof of sufficient financial means to cover the duration of your stay (20,000 Thai Baht if you are traveling alone and 40,000 Thai Baht if you are traveling as a family).
  • Police clearance certificate issued by the authorities in your country, which proves you do not have a criminal background (only if you will take a course which is at least 1 year)
  • Payment of the Thai Student Visa fee.

Even if your course is a year or more long, you will only be issued with a 90-day visa. Before it expires, you can apply to extend it for a fee of 1900 Baht. All foreigners residing in Thailand have to report their address to the Immigration Department every 90 days, no matter what visa they have. It’s important you remember to do this or you will be issued with a fine.

Make the most of your time in Thailand 

Getting to know locals will not only help you understand Thai culture but will also enrich your study experience. To settle into a Thai community, you’ll need to learn common cultural practises and ways to show respect and friendship. 

It’s worth pointing out that Thai culture is quite conservative, despite it being a popular partying destination for foreigners.

It’s important for Thai’s to save face, which refers to the common Asian value of protecting one’s dignity or honour. Face can be given by complimenting someone, and it can be taken away by criticizing someone or pointing out their errors, particularly if you do so in public. 

Thai people adjust the way they interact with each other depending on age, class and education. So don’t be surprised if locals ask you personal questions to help them work out how to address you and behave around you. 

Remember to speak in a calm voice with locals. Raising your voice or showing heated emotions could cause someone to lose face. Show respect to elders especially and try to show gratitude by reciprocating gifts. 

Thai temple

Key social values

Being loyal to family and friends will override all social rules in Thailand. Freedom is also highly valued, perhaps evading being colonised by European nations has contributed to this. 

The king is given utmost respect throughout Thailand and this is noticeable in daily life with pictures of the recent king displayed in every shop, restaurant, and educational institution- even market stalls will often have his picture.

It’s illegal to talk negatively about the monarchs, so remember to speak respectfully of them should the topic arise. If you don’t, you will get into trouble. Often foreigners who are sent to prison for insulting Thai royalty are released shortly afterwards, but it’s best not to get yourself into that situation in the first place!

Local delicacies

Locals are especially proud of their cuisine, and so they should be. You can’t leave Thailand without trying an authentic Tom Yum Goong (hot and sour Shrimp soup), Pad Kra Pao Moo (stir-fried Thai basil and pork), a noodle-based Pad Thai or a Yellow, Red or Green Curry, all of which are cooked with coconut milk.  

You can literally eat any of these meals at any time of the day. If you’re in a city, you can eat at 3am if you want to.

If you are thinking of studying in Asia, there are a lot of reasons to put Thailand on the list.

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