Relocating with Children in Thailand

The biggest thing on most parents’ minds when they move overseas is education, childcare and the health and happiness of their child or children. In this guide, we look at 12 key issues when you are relocating to Thailand with children, from registering your little one at pre-school, to finding a nanny, a doctor, a dentist, and shopping for family food.

Choosing the right district to live in

Finding the right district will depend on many factors, not least your work location, access to transport to work, the commute time, your children’s school location and your budget.

If your children will be attending an international school, it’s worth noting that most of those schools offer a mini-bus transport service. So, you don’t necessarily have to factor the school run into your choice of property location.

Most expats in Thailand with children live in Bangkok, Saraburi, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Khon Kaen, Pattaya, on Phuket, or Samui. Bangkok is a huge city, with lots of accommodation choices.

How to choose the right pre-school

Thailand does not have official or obligatory pre-schooling; parents are free to choose the level of pre-schooling, if, indeed, they choose any at all. Many of Thailand’s private schools offer an attached pre-school or kindergarten facility, and there are lots of private kindergartens to choose from in most of the areas where expats tend to live in Thailand such as Bangkok, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Pattaya.

Expats working in Thailand, who need to leave their children at pre-school as a form of childcare, may find it easier to find a pre-school that’s either close to their work or en route to avoid the problem of navigating through morning and evening traffic. This applies mostly to Bangkok where commuter traffic is particularly bad.

A pre-school place at an international school that you hope your child will eventually go to may be the best option as it will give your child the opportunity to get used to the environment before joining ‘big school’.

As with all childcare-related services, check a facility’s credentials: ask the director for certificates, ask other expats in person and through forums for their opinions, even drop by during the busy drop-off and pick-up time to observe the way the place is run and if the attending children are happy.

How to register with a school

First you must decide on the type of school that your children will attend. There are three options in Thailand:

1) Local school - the curriculum is taught in Thai. Foreigners many only send their children to a school of one parent is Thai and the child's birth was registered in Thailand.

2) English-Programme (EP) school: the national Thai curriculum is taught in English, but some subjects are taught in Thai. So, this type of school is bilingual and maybe private or public (state run). 

3) International school - following a curriculum of the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, France, Switzerland, Germany, or Australia. 

Each school will have a slightly different application procedure, and some will have entrance exams. However, the basic documentation needed to apply to any school includes the following:

  • Passport valid for six months beyond intended length of stay
  • Non-immigrant ED visa
  • All documentation from previous school (if applicable)
  • Birth certificate
  • Health certificate
  • Immunization records

The following documents are required for foreign students enrolling in a higher education school:

  • High school certificate or equivalent
  • Academic records from previous schools
  • Non-immigrant ED visa

Home schooling

Home schooling is legal in Thailand. You must submit an application to home school to the Ministry of Education (MoE), detailing which curriculum you and your child will be following. You must register your child for exams with the appropriate national examination board. The MoE will assess your child each year.

How to register with a paediatrician

Thailand does not typically have doctors’ surgeries as such. General practitioners, family doctors and paediatricians all practice from hospitals. There is no need to register with a doctor.

If you go to the outpatient clinic at any major hospital, they will get you an appointment quite quickly with a specialist, and in most cases, that day.

Here are three hospitals that have child-specific centres:

Most expat families will have private medical insurance. The usual procedure is to pay for the healthcare and then be reimbursed by the insurance company.

Vaccines

Thai doctors follow the standard vaccine schedule endorsed by the American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP). However, only the BCG (tuberculosis) vaccination is compulsory. In addition to the AAP programme, Thai doctors recommend children have the vaccine for Japanese B Encephalitis.

How to register with a family dentist

You do not need to register with a dentist, as you might in the UK, US and Europe, but you will need to make an appointment, which could be a few days ahead of when you’ll see the dentist. The bigger practices have a paediatric dentistry service.

Most expats will have private dental insurance. Though the price may not be an issue, it’s worth remembering that more expensive doesn’t always mean a better service. It’s well worth asking other expats who they use.

Three dental practices that are popular with expats are (in order of fees from high to lower): Bangkok International Dental Centre; Bangkok Smile Dental Group; and Thantakit International Dental Centre.

Entertaining your child: holiday time

It’s for very good reason that Thailand ranks highly as a place to take children on holiday as the tourist infrastructure is well-developed. Thais are helpful, thoughtful people who love children, and there’s a huge choice of natural and man-made activities for all ages. Now you live there you’ll have the advantage over tourists as you get to know the mainland and islands.

School holiday time in Thailand will vary depending on whether your child goes to an international or local school.

Local schools have two main holidays in the year: one month starting at the beginning of October and two months from the beginning of March to the end of April.

International schools will vary slightly, depending on the curriculum, but generally they have a six to eight-week holiday in July and August and two weeks at Christmas and Easter.

Something that will hit you all hard, and especially children, is the heat and humidity in Thailand. So be prepared for outdoor exploring with lots of water bottles, hand held fans and water wipes stored in cooler bags.

Most of Thailand’s cities and bigger towns have parks that are free to visit, and many have play areas and paddling pools. Be careful, though, some equipment in these parks might not be safe, or at least not have the same level of safety as you have been used to, so check the location before letting your children loose.

After school activities

All schools offer extra-curricular activities. The level and depth of what they offer will be dependent on the school’s location, facilities, teaching staff and funding. Typical activities include:

Sports, music computing, technology, music, theatre, art & crafts and learning about Thai culture, including Thai cookery! Ask each school that you are considering for your child for a list of their extra-curricular activities.

Top places to visit with children in Thailand

Beaches & Outdoor activities

  • Ko Samui and Ko Lanta islands – amazing beaches (such as Hat Chaweng on Ko Samui), snorkelling, diving, cave exploring, kayaking and all without too much tourist development.
  • Hua Hin – for its beautiful beaches and family atmosphere.
  • Naklua, near Pattaya – the best beaches for families. Pattaya is definitely a party town by night, but during the day older children will enjoy the water parks, the floating market, and ‘Big Buddha’ hill.
  • Go kayaking on the River Kwai from Kanchanaburi.

Animals

  • If your children love snakes, head to Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute where snake venom is collected, and snake handling performances are given.
  • Whizz through the air in Chiang Mai on a 5km zip line through the forest alongside gibbons. Chiang Mai is also a great base for trekking, with some options that are good for families of all ages.
  • Visit a butterfly farm – the first time a child experiences this is really something to behold.
  • Visit the monkey-mad city of Lopburi (between Bangkok and Chiang Mai).

As an aside, research animal-related attractions carefully before visiting. Some do not meet up to the animal welfare levels that you would hope for or want to expose your children to.

In Bangkok

  • Head for the Children's Discovery Museum - a big, interactive, free-to-enter play centre that’s considered by users to be best for younger children (less than eight years old). The museum is on the north side of Bangkok, near the famous Chatuchak weekend market.
  • KidZania: right in the centre of Bangkok, where children aged four to 14 can role play in life-like situations such as firefighter, nurse or pilot.
  • Just sitting on the Skytrain – also known as the BTS or Bangkok Mass Transit System – will thrill many children. This elevated train whizzes as if by magic through the air. Or head for a journey on one of Bangkok’s river taxis; the novelty will wear off eventually, but to begin with seeing the city from a water taxi will be exciting for most children.

Hiring home help

Many expats families hire a home help, maid, nanny or a combination position of nanny-maid. The amount you have to pay them will depend to a large degree on their experience, and other factors such as their English language skills, if they can drive, if they can cook and if they are live-in or live with their own family.

The monthly wage for a maid is about 14-16,000 baht; for a nanny it could be up to 20,000 baht and for a maid/nanny it could be up to about 25,000 baht. Nannies in Thailand do not hold certificates in childcare, as they do in most western countries, and the industry is not regulated. It is therefore essential to interview a prospective nanny and advisable to hire through word of mouth or an agency.

Where to shop for family food

At the beginning of your stay in Thailand, you might want to buy brands and goods that you and your children are used to. International and European supermarket chains have made an in-road into the Thai food shopping scene with Tesco, Carrefour, Bic C and Makro the biggest names. The latter two are bulk-warehouse style shopping, whereas Tesco and Carrefour are your more typical style supermarket.

Thai supermarkets that are popular with expats, but mainly confined to Bangkok and the immediate surroundings, are Villa Market, Foodland and Tops Market.

Once you are settled into life in Thailand, it’ll be time to explore the myriad of open air markets. These are fun, exciting, colourful places to take children. Save essential market shopping to a time on your own, when you can concentrate on what you want to buy and start to develop a relationship with the store holders. Expats with home help will often ask their helper to do their market shopping for them.

Who to call in an emergency

You have three main options:

1) Call a national service where the operators may only speak Thai (see phone numbers below). 

2) Call the emergency service of your preferred, local private hospital. International hospitals have an ambulance service and their staff will speak English. (Note: the cost of this may be very high, so it's advisable to check with your health insurance provider that ambulance services are covered). 

3) Call the consular office of the embassy of your country of citizenship. The staff at the consulate/embassy are there to help citizens of their country who are in distress due to serious illness or injury. 

Emergency Services

Telephone

Tourist Police

1155

Police (general emergency call)

191

Ambulance & Rescue

1554

Fire

199

National Disaster Warning Centre

1860

Crime

1195

Medical Emergency Care

1669

Private AirAmbulance (Siam Air Care)

02 586 7654

 

We hope you found this guide useful and informative.

 

 


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