When you think about immigrants to Thailand, you probably picture backpackers, teachers, and retirees. But what about families? Believe it or not, they are one of the largest segments being lured to the cities and beaches of this Asian powerhouse. Why? Because the low cost of living, culture, weather, travel opportunities, health and education offerings, and general family-friendly atmosphere make it highly attractive. Indeed, according to a recent HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, respondents felt that the work-life balance was better in Thailand than in many other countries and that it was easier to integrate a family here than back home (i.e., UK, US, Australia).
For most younger people and professionals, Bangkok is their go-to spot for Thailand relocation. But what about island living? Phuket offers much when it comes to affordable and varied eating, sleeping, working, sporting, and partying options. From health clubs and language groups to pottery meetups and dance classes, there is something for everyone in this cosmopolitan enclave. Not to mention that a short drive or boat ride will have you discovering even more amazing places in the surrounding islands and nearby mainland (Phang Nga Province).
Nicknamed the ‘Pearl of the Andaman Sea’, Phuket is renowned for its stunning beaches and world-class facilities. From stylish accommodation and efficient infrastructure to top-notch schools and hospitals, and friendly locals, there isn't much not to like on this small but mighty island.
If you do make the decision to relocate to the Land of Smiles, there are several key things you’ll need to consider: housing, schooling, working, traveling, visas, etc. In this article we’ll cover three of the main items, as per their relevance to family living in Phuket. So, without further ado, let’s discover what life on the island is all about.
In this short article, it’s impossible to list all the amazing family activities in Phuket that are available. As such, we’ll content ourselves with listing some of the most beloved and popular activities favored by local and expat families alike. At any time of year, come rain or shine, you'll find plenty of indoor and outdoor endeavors to keep kids of any age happy and engaged. From live shows to elephant sanctuaries and sea kayaking, there is plenty to keep mum, dad, and the children happy 24/7.
Younger children in the 4-8 age-bracket, will love the Aquarium at Cape Panwa, Trickeye Museum, Splash Jungle Water Park, Mini Golf at Dino Park, paddle boats at Nai Harn Lake, Phuket Bird Park, Upside Down House, and the innumerable kids' clubs at hotels and resorts across the island.
Kids in the next age range (8-12), will find thrills with the following activities: a private sea canoe or snorkeling trip; a mountain bike jungle tour; wakeboarding or windsurfing lessons; bowling, movies, and arcade games at JungCeylon and Central; Blue Tree Phuket (sport and recreation venue); and taking in the Phuket FantaSea show.
And lastly, kids activities in Phuket for the 12-16 age group consist of paintballing, scuba diving, go-karting, whitewater rafting, zorbing, ATV driving, sailing, zip-lining, elephant trekking, kayaking, and more!
Obviously, if you’re moving to Thailand permanently you’ll want to carefully consider how to keep your family healthy and well-educated. On both scores, you need not worry, as Phuket provides a plethora of world-class hospitals and schools.
Don't come to Thailand thinking your access to good and affordable healthcare will be compromised in this part of the world. In reality, the opposite is the truth. Thailand is ranked 7th in the world of health services and is renowned as a hub for destination healthcare.
To be clear, we are talking about private healthcare, the services available at public institutions, whilst very cheap, are not usually on par with Western standards. At private hospitals and clinics, you'll get fast, effective, and English-speaking services at a fraction of the price back home.
Families, in particular, are advised to get full international health cover, which should include both IPD and OPD. If you don't arrange this before you come you can seek out a local provider once you arrive, such as LUMA, Thai Vivat, or MTL. We recommend having good coverage as OPD services, in particular, can quickly run into thousands of baht.
As with healthcare, public schools in Thailand are not an option for expatriate families as they are only taught in Thai and the curriculum is very much localized. You're much better off finding a quality international school that will prepare your children for further study — aka university — abroad. In the major cities, you can find schools catering to different nationalities and curriculums (AP and IB), be it Australian, American, British, French, Chinese, or German.
Just be advised that these schools charge a hefty amount for the tuition fee; not to mention additional fees for registration, lunch, transport, uniform, books/supplies, and field trips. On average, a top-tier school will charge from $USD 10,000 to 30,000 a year for tuition from elementary to high-school level.
Like in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Pattaya, Phuket offers a range of different accommodation options for foreigners. Whether you’re buying or renting, you’ll be able to choose between an apartment, condominium, house/villa, or Airbnb, particularly good for short-term stays or while you seek out long-term accommodation.
No matter your preference, finding suitable family accommodation in Phuket is not difficult. To rent an apartment in Phuket is easily done as the island is suffused with experienced realtors. Just tell them your requirements and budget and they’ll find a variety of suitable options. The same is true for condo and house rentals. Bear in mind that a 12-month contract is standard, along with a two-month deposit (plus the first months’ rent upfront). Most places come fully or partially furnished. Most buildings have shared facilities like a pool, gym, and kids’ play area. Some newer buildings might even have a library, co-working space, sauna, and shop (e.g., 7/11). The same is often true for houses, particularly those that are found within a gated community (known locally as a ‘moo ban’).
If, on the other hand, you’re open to trying something new and exciting, may we recommend you look into co-living. If you’re not too sure what this is, let us explain. Co-living, sometimes referred to as 'cohousing', consists of equal parts shared community, sustainable living, and secure privacy. It's this close-knit communal atmosphere that makes co-living so appealing to residents; particularly people who are looking for a similar outlook, values, and mindset in others. Nowadays, co-living communities are becoming more and more popular with families, professions, retirees, singles, entrepreneurs, and artists.
Families, in particular, are drawn to this way of living because it has the potential to ease the burden of childcare. As the old saying goes, 'It takes a village to raise a child.' In many ways, modern-day parenting is the opposite of this mentality, with each family living in their segregated bubble. By residing in a co-living space, people get to know their neighbor, connect lives, and support each other.
Co-living communities exist in both city and rural settings, they usually comprise either single-family homes or condo-style apartments, connected to communal spaces. These spaces typically include guest rooms; laundry facilities; kitchens and dining areas; recreational facilities and libraries; event spaces (e.g., movie theatre, yoga studio, etc.); gardens; and, of course, co-working spaces.
But each co-living development is different and caters to varying local tastes, environments, and target residents. For example, HOMA Phuket Town is perfect for families as it offers spacious two- or three-bedroom apartments, along with communal living spaces, a kids’ room, games room, and babysitting service.