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What I learnt bootstrapping my startup from Thailand for six months (levels.io)
188 points by pieterhg on Oct 12, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 184 comments

Living in Argentina is quite cheap too if you are from North America or Europe, the currency is devaluating so hard dollar is actually 10 to 1, meaning you can rent a nice place for $200 (no pool just a normal appartment), good thing is though, there are no prostitutes and such, and you wont get charged so much for beeing foreigner, Argentina is full of europeans forgeigners so nobody can really say if you are from Argentina or not unless you are asian or black, and even so, people just dont care.

Now dont go to the north though, I'm talkign south of Buenos Aires and below that is a whole different story xD

Why not north?

Well... In a nutshell the north is poor and south is rich and full of international tourism.

It's something weird of Argentina as a country, 50% of the population lives only in the capital, Buenos Aires. The capital has always had a lot of power (they used to have access to the only port of the city, so they kept ALL the taxes money, while all other provinces received none and were not allowed to have a port).

So, only people in Buenos Aires were rich, everyone else was poor, what made the south "not poor" is the fact that basically nobody lived there (because of "La conquista del desierto" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conquest_of_the_Desert), people moved south from Buenos Aires to find new customers, find new oportunities and just avoid the "city life".

Also, the south is full of international tourism, cities like Bariloche are full of immigrants and a beautiful Apine-styled architecture, tourists and outsiders are treated quite nicely :)

The north on the other hand has a very native south american culture as there are a lot of immigrants from Bolivia and Peru which have a strong native south american lineage, people is closed-minded and isn't really used to outsiders.

Great thanks! Always wanted to go to Argentina.

Argentina is great for international tourism I can assure you, cheap and classy, if you handle Euros or Dollars of course, if you ever come visit the country I highly recommend Bariloche, relly, it's beautiful, "El Bolsón" is nice also, a lot of green and nature, also full of international tourism.

If you want tango and city-life Buenos Aires is nice, but as all big cities it has bad parts and good parts :)

Be careful about that cultural isolation. I'm an arch-introvert with mostly online friendships. I lived in a small mountain community alone for a year and was happy enough. But I tried working from Ukraine for 3 months, and although it was fascinating, the cultural isolation made me leave. It's a strange feeling, almost like you aren't on the same plane as the society you're in, or as if you're watching from a bubble.

Cultural isolation defines me as a person. So no problems there. How did you like Ukraine? Where were you based? Was it cheap and comparable to Thailand for a place to bootstrap in?

The isolation is extreme when it's an unknown language and non-"western" culture. Though I would still consider Ukraine relatively western.

I was in Luhans'k, an industrial city with a college district, located near the eastern border with Russia. I worked remotely from a euro-style ($1200/mo) flat. It was 4 years ago.

I loved walking around the city in the snow, looking at shops and markets. The local tech scene was pretty much dead, at least for a foreigner who didn't speak the language. It might be as cheap as Thailand, but probably less accessible and fun. I have yet to visit Asia. I couldn't handle continuing to bootstrap there because of my isolation.

Edit: I think you'd have MUCH better luck in Kiev.

I believe even better chances in Lviv, in terms of not feeling so isolated.

The West of Ukraine is more orientated to the European Union, than the East of Ukraine, which looks towards Russia and has a large ethnic Russian population.

My, albeit brief, experience in Lviv was that enough people spoke at least basic English enabling me to communicate. Knowing German also helped in many cases, as did learning at least the basics of Ukrainian for simple daily situations.

Housing is expensive, if you want something other than a badly fading Soviet era apartment on the edge of town. Food and entertainment is reasonably cheap.

I think you're right, and I'd love to visit Lviv someday! There is also a lot more art there.

Only in thai u can hang out only with expats and not care about locals. Ukraine is much less fan in this sense

cultural isolation is painful, even for introverts (I'm with ya).

It's bizarre to watch people, and see them as fundamentally different, separate, and other from you. The chasm is tough.

I made Panda in Chiang Mai at the co-working office space, Punspace. I too have bootstrapped my business while working here on the cheap. Since I was on a budget I was living off of $600US a month, I authored the book "12 Weeks in Thailand" base on how I quit my job, moved to Thailand to live on the cheap.

Now that my business is successful, my budget is closer to $1,500 a month and I'm living a great life in Thailand. I have some video tours of life in Thailand at http://www.JohnnyFD.com - my blog

Thanks for the post, I now feel like I want to do similar thing sometime in my life. Is there any other interesting, safe, cheap place where you could live comfortably using at most $1000/month?

Props to the OP for being open to exploring a whole different continent. But frankly, there are plenty of university towns right here in the USA that'll fit the OP's 1000 USD budget very well. As a TA in a CS grad program, I made $800 per month. With that money, I lived in a comfortable studio & had everything the OP describes & when I graduated in 2 years, in addition to my Masters degree, I had managed to save $5000, which I used for downpayment on a car. Most students live like this & some of the frugal TAs manage to save much more than 5K.

$1000/mo in thailand is living WELL. truly paradise, gorgeous weather, go to nice clubs, best beaches in the world. no comparison with just passing time in a university town in the US.

you could merely survive for much less in thailand

Am just pointing out that bootstrapping a startup in a university town on 1k USD is definitely doable. You don't have to go all the way to Thailand and flout visa rules(yeah most of those rules are not exactly enforced but they are still on the books)

It's a fair point, but you'd never go to Thailand mainly to save money anyway: it's one of the most expensive countries in the region and certainly no easier to live in (beyond the tourist/expat ghettos)

True, I could even do it here in Berlin for €750. But it's going to be dark and cold soon. And the vitamin d and serotonin will slowly drain from my body. And my productivity and happiness will slowly plummet.

Accordingly, I will go to Bangalore, then further south.

And that is great if you are a US-citizen, but otherwise not so much. Even coming from rich Scandinavia and the EU, we are not welcome.

I think it's possible to live quite cheaply in most of the eastern members of the EU.

For example you can live just fine in many fairly nice areas in Czech Republic and Slovakia for $1000/m (wife's family is Czech & Slovakian, never lived there myself but visited very often & stayed with locals).

$1000/m? Bah, you must be spoiled. I'd put that at $500/m or so. (Or perhaps it's just me being a reclusive hermit... :-))

Out of curiosity, where did you do your CS grad program, so that you could live on less than 1k a month?

Morgantown, WV. But nothing special about that... you could do the same in Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, Carolinas, most places in south/sw...

Turkey. It's cheap, the variety and kinds of food is incredible and there is no racism at all since all western and asian cultures are mixed there. And the universities are completely free in Turkey, which leads the middle class grow faster and provide the companies dozen amount of engineers every year

What's the visa situation in Turkey these days? I know you used to be able to stay 60 days, pop over to Greece for a day, come back, and repeat as needed. Is that still the case?

Free for only turkish citizens or for everyone?

That's certainly more than enough money to live pretty well in Berlin, though a tourist visa will only give you 90 days in the Schengen Area.

$1000 is 737 eur/m, you can certainly live like a student in Berlin that way (e.g. with roommates) but I wouldn't say "live well" considering the recent rent hikes. We're moving there now and just renting a small 2-room (1 bedroom) apartment can easily cost 600-700 eur/m (gesamtmiete).

You can do well with 1000 eur/m per person tho.

This has been discussed often, some web sites keep cost statistics.

For example, Google: living costs london cluj

(I was outsourced to Cluj, Transylvania in Romania. I recommend it. 250 Euro/month for a nice, central 50 m2 apartment. People are nice, it is safe. Different. Beautiful women. Mountains, but no sea. University city. The food is very good, but could be more international -- a few sushi places and one(!) Indian. If you want more info, add a comment and your email in your profile.)

If I had a choice personally, I'd go for Japan. For culture/food.

I thought that maybe the Romanians pronounced the letter J similar to its original use in Latin; that consonant made when the letter i brushes up against another vowel, as in iudex, like an English Y. But no, I look it up and they pronounce it as [ʒ], almost like we do in English.

Therefore, I will make my corny joke: you don't want your software written in a place that sounds so similar to "kludge". :-)

Sadly, that term seems to have fallen out of use -- I have had to explain it to lots of young computer people in Cluj. :-)

If I had a choice personally, I'd go for Japan. For culture/food.

Isn't that too expensive? I have no first hand knowledge, just what I read sometimes about it

Japan has gotten a lot less expensive in the past 10 years.

Education visa is a good option for staying long-term in Thailand. You just need to enrol into a course (usually 60 to 180 hour Thai language or English language course) and that will give you 15 months visa that can be extended for up to 5 years. Total cost for 15 months is around 1000 USD and you don't have to leave the country every couple of months. Just Google "thailand education visa". It's also a good way to learn something while staying in Thailand.

Does that have any limitations, though? Like an age limit?

No age limit. Most courses are run by small private schools that are flexible with how and when you actually study. Education visa can be arranged before coming to Thailand, or for 500 USD you can change your tourist visa to EDU visa while in Thailand.

Interesting post. As someone who lives outside his homeland, and predominantly speaking a foreign language, I can completely identify with your comments about how hard it is to cope with the concept of being disconnected with your homeland's society and not fitting in with the new one.

Slowly things have improved for me as I have learnt to speak the local language, but deep-down I still feel like an outsider. I have a sneaking suspicion that this feeling never goes away, and I'm learning to just accept it.

Integration is hard. I imagine learning Thai is a much bigger challenge than a European learning French, German or Spanish for example.

Good luck to you I say!

Learning basic Thai is quite simple - you cover the basic food items, numbers and common touristy words. Things get difficult when you decide to read/write.

OP here :) I didn't necessarily mean it as a bad thing. It helps yourself to become more independent and less of a follower of your particular society's group-think, potentially giving you more unique ideas.

True. I guess it makes a difference if your stay is intended to be a permanent one or not! It sounds like yours is temporary, whilst mine is intended to be permanent.

Other post by OP is very interesting and helps to ponder upon such questions as:

1. Why it's cheaper over there?

2. What are the downsides and hidden pitfalls?


I've lived and built two companies in Thailand over the last 14 years. Before your pop your Macbook Air in a backpack, read my points.

1. Bangkok is not cheap. If you want to have a life that resembles anything you're used to coming from a Western country, you're going to live in Bangkok and you're going to live in a relatively expensive part of the city.

Yes, you can live in a concrete block with plastic furniture and eat noodles on the street every day. You can probably get by for not much more than $1k doing so. When you can no longer stomach that, you'll find the city is quite expensive.

A decent apartment in a favorable part of town will cost you $1300 - $2000 per month. I don't mean a family-sized place, I mean a 1 bedroom with a "livable" amount of room and furniture that doesn't give you the willies.

Once you're sick of your local noodle vendor you'll find food prices quite high as well. My wife and I spend more on groceries than we did when we lived in SF (we shopped at the Safeway in the financial district). As for restaurants: We grabbed two meals outside yesterday. One was dim sum that came to about $30 for the two of us. The other was a tonkatsu place and the bill came to about $25. While that's probably cheaper than the US (for the same quality) that's hardly a meal for $1. We spend over $100 for a meal often. I don't know anyone (Thai or foreign) that would consider that overly expensive.

Wine and imported beer are expensive and the taxes are going up. American craft beer is going to go up to $10/bottle direct from the distributor. If you can stomach the local swill (think Budweiser without the quality control) knock yourself out.

When you're sick of taking taxis and the BTS/MRT, have fun buying a car at 50% - 300% above US prices.

2. Visas are not easy. If you really want to fake it here it means constantly traveling in and out of the country. The problem with that (beyond the fact that it usually means traveling to the least interesting parts of the surrounding countries) is that they limit it to a certain number of tourist visas for every six month period or something similar (I can't remember the actual rules, sorry).

The common way around this is to use a "visa service" which basically means you're paying someone to bribe someone to look the other way. It's not only illegal, the rules for it change seemingly month to month, based on whoever ends up in a position of power in what embassy.

To do it properly: a) register a business with the requisite capital and Thai shareholders, b) get the appropriate visa c) get a work permit. I've been through it. It's not cheap or easy.

To not do it properly means breaking the law in a country where you most likely don't speak the language. Have fun with that.

3. Sex isn't everywhere. My wife and I go out for drinks 1.5 times a month and I can't remember the last time I saw a prostitute. If you're going somewhere with a free flow of hookers then you're probably seeking that out. I see young people do this quite often -- the only difference between these young people and so-called "sexpats" is that young people often go "ironically". They're all equally as stupid.

4. The local talent pool is mixed. The entrepreneurs here are generally managers, not doers, so you're probably never going to find a technical co-founder. Programming/technical ability on the whole is quite low. Try browsing the website of any publicly traded Thai company and you'll see what I mean. It is possible to find good graphic designers, administrative types, etc. Salaries are low here so that could possibly be an advantage. Having said that, I know people who have built large tech companies (100+ employees) and the consensus is that the disadvantages here outweigh the advantages. Most people I know in tech here outsource to Eastern Europe or somewhere else.

Investors are hard to find and mostly unsophisticated in relation to tech. Tech-savvy ones do exist, but they generally buy companies outright and keep you on as a glorified project manager.

5. When you're ready to put down roots, you'll find doing things legally is an expensive pain in the ass and -- here's the kicker -- you'll have to give up 51% of your company to one or more Thai people. If it's not someone you've known for a decade then, well, good luck with that. Yes, there are ways around this but they require you to put your company in a legal gray area.

6. Inflation isn't rampant. Cost of living has gone up considerably on the scale of decades but it's pretty hard to notice in a few months.

Re: apartments, that's simply not true. A 1-br apartments in Bangkok is not $1300 - 2000 per month. You might be paying foreigner/expat prices and getting heavily scammed. I found a 1-br apartment 5 mins away from the BTS (public transport) for $300-$500. That's with a pool. And not uncommon. Same with the food, you might have been paying foreigner prices there too. I'd pay $7 for a table full of sushi for one person. And that would be a very very luxurious place. I' always check the prices before entering a restaurant, like any place in the world really. Many foreigners simply go to the non-local places in tourist traps and end up paying too much. Bangkok doesn't help as it's already expensive relative to the rest of the country. Just like any big metropolitan city really. That's why I wrote, stay out of Bangkok. Yet even then if you want, you can live cheaply in Bangkok too if you're smart about it. Thai do it on $500/m in Bangkok.

Re: western food, I think it's obvious that if you're looking for Western products, you're going to pay more than in the West. You're not in the West after all! It's a bit spoiled to expect Western food to be the same price as in your home country. However, if you can assimilate, live, eat and drink like a local, you can live very cheap.

That's why I stayed in Chiang Mai. It has low rent, low cost of living, abundant nature and countless of coffee places to work from.

Re: sex workers, I don't know if you're in my age group (I am 27) so YMMV, but if you go clubbing in Bangkok or Chiang Mai, you will run into prostitutes. Everywhere.

Thai grocery stores are more expensive than (or at least comparable) the states even for raw fruits and vegetables, or rice! And this is at bangkok supermarkets aimed at locals, not even the fancy ones. Americans just don't realize how food they have it.

The problem is that Thai taxes are high and there are price supports for farmers so their living standards can improve; they also aren't as mechanized than in the states.

i believe the reason why thai supermarkets are so expensive is because the erm.. "real" thais buy their stuff from the street wet markets, rather than air-conditioned supermarkets. places like Tops are meant for expats, tourists, rich locals, etc.

Exactly. I'd pay 20 baht (USD 0.60 or EUR 0.40) for 4 bananas from a street vendor or market. I'd pay 10x that in the super market. Super markets here are for the high society, tourists and expats. It's not going to be cheap if you don't assimilate and start living like a local.

I don't think the wet markets pay taxes or are subject to much gov interference. A lot of Thais buy groceries at Tescos, its not just a "foreigner" thing. You also can't buy everything in a farmer's market, and at any rate, you aren't quite sure what you are getting.

Living in china, we are more worried about safe food than cheap food, not sure if Thailand has similar problems. 便宜没好货,好货不便宜 as they say.

As an Asian who has spent considerable amount of time in Thailand due to having a girlfriend there, I agree with most of your points except the part where you claim apartments cost $1,300 - 2,000 for a "livable" space. I find that it is simply not true - low-end but still nice condos in non-touristy areas can be had for between THB 15,000- 25,000 which is well below USD 1,000. You must be referring to the luxurious Sukhumvit condos, where the prices are higher probably because of the location and the fact that those are touristy, expat-y areas. Get a place in areas like Ratchada and you'll find the prices significantly lower for equal levels of comfort and luxury.

Life in Thailand can be much cheaper than you describe. I'll give another data point:

We are a family of 3, EU citizens, living in Hua Hin (a resort town 200 km from Bangkok). The city is popular with upper class Thais who own a lot of holiday homes here and visit occasionally as well as with foreign families and pensioners. Plus, the king of Thailand lives here. So, no bustling sex industry or crazy night life here.

We spend around 2000 USD per month:

- 500 USD for 50 sqm, 1 bedroom apartment in a secure complex with olympic size swimming pool, fitness and community office. - 400 USD for a very good international kindergarten, nursery level (3 yr. old) - 100 USD for a driver who drives us to my son's kindergarten. - 600 USD for groceries we buy in the supermarket. It would be cheaper to eat in local restaurants but we like to cook at home. - 200 USD for education visas (1000 USD per person per year, kids don't need visas). - 200 USD for travel health insurance (don't go without it), occasional vine, massage, public transport...

Of course, there is no upper limit of how much you can spend, if you want to. It is easy to find 1 MM USD+ homes and spend 100 USD for a meal. I guess young single people would find it boring here, but for us it is the perfect combination of quality family life, good working conditions without much distractions and healthy lifestyle.

EDIT: here is the view from our apartment: https://www.dropbox.com/s/llqf4uw1nxjq8pj/Pogled__balkona.JP...

I'm a little late to the discussion but I'd like to second your point (3)

I've spent the last half year on extended trips to Thailand (a few weeks at a time) and other countries in SE Asia to work on side projects and just decompress a little bit.

I've been staying in slightly more rural beachside communities. On Phuket that means anywhere besides Patong, and on Koh Samui that means anywhere besides Chaweng.

In the 2-3 months (accumulated) that I've spent in Thailand I think I've seen maybe one lady of the night. Like you said, if you're seeing a lot of it, it probably means you're seeking it out.

I spent 10 years living in Japan and I honestly think you'll be exposed to far more dodgy sex-industry stuff walking around Shibuya for 1 night, than a month in Thailand if you live a normal lifestyle.

Also want to make the point that Thailand != Bangkok. Same goes for other countries in SE Asia - if you're going to bootstrap just remember you don't necessarily have to swap your western city for an Asian city :) I quite enjoy hacking by the beach!

Just YES. +1

Thai national here, and as a fellow bootstrapper I would have to agree with most of the points of the OP. The reason why I left my well-paid job in Singapore and come back to Thailand to bootstrap my startup is due to the much lower cost of living and un-tapped talent pool.

I'd like to add that the quoted figure of $1,000 USD a month is rather high. Most Thais can get by with $500 USD. That is the current starting salary for undergraduates. Now, keep in mind that if you are a foreigner, there will definitely be a surcharge since it is expected that you are able to afford more. As a local, I can cheaply rent an apartment outside of Bangkok (granted without a pool) for $100-150 USD a month. If you include utilities, phone, and internet you might need around $250-$350 USD, and you will get air conditioning.

EDIT: As for food, his mentioned price of 40 Baht for a bow of chicken rice which has now supposedly increased by 25%. It feels slightly over priced to me, but not by much. The average cost of a bow of food is still around 30-40 Baht ($1 USD to $1.33 USD) per serving and have not increased, as far as I can tell, for the 2 years that I have been back. So if you're pretty frugal, you can definitely get by with $5-7 USD a day for food + drinks. If you really want to go for "ramen diets" then you can definitely get by with lower IMO.

The current going prices for co-working spaces in Thailand are around $7 - $10 a day, net, and most of these places open 7 days a week. But if you can work from home, you can ignore that cost.

Regarding the OP's point about the startup scene, he is correct. It's very much in its infancy and the local work-force are not as familiar with the startup ecosystem and are very risk averse. To add to that, most employees will not understand how equity work and will prefer to work for a safer and more secure jobs. This is a cultural thing so pushing the startup mentality is still a big hurdle that the great people at Launchpad and HUBBA are trying their best to overcome.

Overall I'm quite optimistic about the way Thailand is moving with regards to startups, but it is very much in its infancy and founders are not as well-informed. A lot of incubators and "startup schools" are in it for the fact that it seems like the cool thing to be doing, but most have no idea how to run one and no experience in the space. IMO, there isn't much right now that the founders can gain from the partnership since both sides are basically feeling their way around.

In the end though, I can't recommend Thailand enough as a place that you should come and bootstrap just for the cost of living, wonderful culture, and an assortment of holiday locations. Although, as a Thai, I may be completely biased.

EDIT: Of course, I'm not exactly familiar with the visa situation since I don't actually need it. Based on the OP, it seems pretty complicated, but still worth the hassle.

>EDIT: Of course, I'm not exactly familiar with the visa situation since I don't actually need it. Based on the OP, it seems pretty complicated, but still worth the hassle.

I lived in Thailand for several years and 'bootstrapping' your business there as a foreigner without a work permit is breaking the law.

You need a work permit to do ANY type of work in Thailand and although working out of sight is unlikely to get you deported, working in co-working spaces isn't exactly out of sight and a phone call to immigration would get you arrested, deported and blacklisted from the country.

Getting a work permit in Thailand is very very difficult. Foreign owned businesses have to employ Thai citizens and require silly amounts of registered capital deposited in Thai banks. It's marginally easier if you are an American.

Thailand is not worth the hassle and FFS research the law before you just up and go there!

Look I'm American who has been living in SE Asia (mostly Malaysia) for the past 10 years. I've spent lots of time and worked in lots of countries here including Vietnam, Thailand, Philipines, Singapore, India and obviously Malaysia.

In Asia a work visa is intended for foreigners working for locally incorporated companies. Regardless of what it says on the websites, if you have a tourist visa you are free to startup / bootstrap your new enterprise. If your coding up a new website, hosting it on Amazon and serving customers over the internet your not really doing business and the country your living and honestly no body cares. It's cool.

If you want to start selling to locals, offering consultancy services to locals then yes you should probably get a visa. But of course you don't need the visa until you are actually doing that.

People who quote websites stating "facts" about visa's in SE Asia obviously don't know how the law works in SE Asia. In SE Asia the law is a guideline and your clout / how you treat people is much more important than the words written on the page, when it comes to the courts and the interpretation of the law.

So if you want to bootstrap in Asia, chillax and just do it. If your too worried about it, your probably won't adjust well anyways.

Somebody who throws Singapore in with a list of other South-East Asian countries and goes on to state that laws are just a guideline clearly has no idea what they are talking about.

I can only speak for Thailand and Singapore and both are stringent on enforcement when it comes to visas. I've never heard of anyone walking away with a slap on the wrist or being able to bribe their way out of a situation with regards to visas.

In one of my first replies I said that if you are working alone and out of sight then yes you will probably get away with working in any of those countries.

My whole point though is that it's irresponsible to promote breaking the law here on HN and especially foreign laws at that.

Well... I am from Malaysia. As long as you are not employed, not conducting any activities that earn money from locals (ie. consulting, etc), not employing anyone, you are not technically running a business/being employed. So you are not running against the letter of the law

Come to think of it, there could be a lot of people coming here with business on Ebay... and keep checking their Ebay website every minute. It would be weird not to mention wrong to be checking anyone doing anything on a webpage on a coffee shop.

And if there is co working area, well, as long as you are not hired and not running local business, believe me, no one cares. Just by being there does not constitute you breaking the visa, when employment visa specifically talks about being employed.

And if you want to open a local company, that is easy too. I had a guy from Australia interviewed me after he had opened a company here. It takes somewhat less than a day to do.

If you want to hire foreigners however, that might take a while, since you need to go through the due process. But if you are in the tech sector, you could go for MSC status application, where you could hire foreigners as much as you want and even have tax exemption for few years.

The worse case is that you are here working for your company for few months before the MSC status is approved. Last time I worked it took about 8 months for it to get approved, all the time where my Italian boss and European colleagues keep leaving the countries after 90 days. From what I understand, even that is kosher, since they are in a payroll from an incorporated company in UK.

Bottom line is, at least for Malaysia, the government here is doing the best it can to get the cross pollination of talent from outside to the locals. And as many of the commenters here mentioned, if you are not causing trouble with anyone, no one has any reason to check on you.

This is exactly my experience worded better than I could have.

j1z0 So, out of the countries you mentioned, where one could engineer the best bootstrapping lifestyle? Why have you chosen Malaysia?

Honestly, who cares?

Work permits are to make sure you don't steal jobs from the locals. Working on your own project has nothing to do with that. So while it may be breaking the letter of the law, it's certainly not breaking the spirit of it. My point being, you shouldn't have ethical issues with it -- it's like driving 57 in a 55 zone.

I know people who have been deported for not having the right visa -- a phone call by an angry ex or housemate in every case. Nobody's going to report you to immigration unless you've seriously pissed someone off. So just don't piss people off. And worst-case scenario, you leave early.


The culture of the judicial system works in a wholly different way in developing nations than in the West. They don't practice laws like we do. When you cause trouble in Thailand, they'll find any law you might have broken, just to get you, but when you don't cause trouble, most of the times you're fine, even if you might be breaking the law in official terms. I heard it's the same in China.

Sure, it's a risk, but please tell me why all these co-working spaces everywhere are filled with foreigners without work permits and growing rapidly.

Remote working is a new reality, and it would be highly counter-productive for these countries to start striking down on people working there. Every single foreigner I met in Thailand was working on projects either focused on their own country or internationally, thus not threatening local jobs. In reality, many of the Thai learnt from the foreigners that'd teach them about their tech stacks. That's exactly how they're building their own startup scene in Bangkok now. Learning from foreigners.

I'd argue it may increase a developing nation's level of innovation to have remote workers around and governments should embrace this new reality asap.

> I heard it's the same in China.

Not in this case: they specifically target foreigners working without permits here, though mostly English teachers.

China isn't really a cheap place for bootstrapping a startup, so the random foreigner coding in starbucks isn't going to attract any attention. Kai Fu's Innovation Works, a YC-style incubator, can help get foreigners working visas for incubated projects, I think.

or you can take university classes, a win for both the visa and language situations.

the random foreigner who replies to a couple of job listings, has industry experience, and can crank out more than php or javascript spaghetti (because there are plenty of good developers here who will work for much less than sv wages) can definitely find startup-like situations. or maybe i just lucked out, dunno.

I did the Chinese school thing 11 years ago.

The low end tech scene is quite vibrant but wages for competent dev's keeps going up. China really just isn't that poor anymore; though you still have plenty of kids who are poorly trained but willingly to work hard on the cheap.

Most foreigners outside of the few American tech companies are entrepreneurs and/or managers. I'm quite unusual as a researcher.

yeah, i was doing the high-school thing at that time.

and plenty of kids who -- with or without formal training -- are solid hackers.

there are def more foreign businessmen than 老外 devs, and not without some cause: i'd definitely get more compensation from a startup in the bay or bank in ny than i do at my current job.

I work at Microsoft, we have plenty of laowai devs and PMs, though quite a small percentage compared to local and even haigui (returnee) talent. As I rise in level, my pay is becoming more similar to Redmond, combine with the fact that research jobs are rare in general, its a fairly good job for me. But the pollution in Beijing...is the biggest problem for me right now.

Most of the time I would agree with this sentiment, I don't think you're morally wrong to work on your own project while living in other countries without a proper visa; it's definitely not breaking the spirit of the law. Heck, you're spending your money here, all the better. It's obviously less of a risk if you work from home than a co-working space where you could be easily targeted if a random check does happen (as its meant as a "working space" and not a casual coffee shop.) Then again, I've also not heard of people being hauled off just yet.

In this case it was a profitable business and the guy was also hiring locals. There are probably tax considerations and I would say this is breaking the spirit of the law.

Those shared work spaces could be subsidized to encourage locals so taking advantage of that is problematic.

It would be different if he was just building his product, no business entity and no local hires...

He was hiring a remote filipino worker and his dutch friend apparently.

Was that in the article somewhere?

At any rate, there's some fine line where an activity that could otherwise be described as a hobby becomes work. It's the actual activity + intent + context + judgement of the authorities that matters... Presumably when you essentially establish residence, get paid, hire and manage other people, that line has been crossed.

Because clearly him spending his money there instead of somewhere else is a net negative for the country?

Here's the source for who he hired to work for his company: https://twitter.com/levelsio/status/389171438013267968

The issue seems to be about avoiding deportation rather than ethics.

The real question is How much would a bootstrapper need to pay off local authorities?

>Getting a work permit in Thailand is very very difficult. Foreign owned businesses have to employ Thai citizens and require silly amounts of registered capital deposited in Thai banks. It's marginally easier if you are an American.

It may sounds silly, but Thais are very scared of seeing foreigners taking over the country. This thinking is the most noticeable in lower-class Thais. I believe the result of this thinking is the ridiculous requirements for business visa. It's not only a bureaucrat problem, but also a social one.

Why would that sound silly? One example is European/US colonization and related efforts in recent times. Foreigners taking over your country is something you _should_ be worried about if you are paying any attention to history. The wealth differential in countries like the US, would be a huge advantage for foreigners to take over business markets if it weren't for laws like that.

I live in Cambodia (Phnom Penh) and over the last few years have seen many expats move from Thailand to here due to the relative visa situation (very difficult in Thiland, very easy in Cambodia). Cost of living here is about the same as Thailand. The number of decent places catering for westerners has increased dramatically over the last few years. Local people are very friendly. I reckon Phnom Penh an awesome place to live.

Been in Thailand 10 years - honestly most Thais don't care one bit about the letter of the law. A banal example might be that unless there's a helmet check stop, you can drive by any policeman without a helmet on - nobody cares.

The work permit situation is not that clear either - there are different interpretations depending on who you ask. If you are here, but your income is entirely in another country, it's legal according to officials - the law just was not made for that situation. The law is to prevent foreigners from working illegally in Thailand - if the foreigner basically "brings their own job" to Thailand it's a different story.

Who can prove what you're doing on your computer? Will they ask the NSA and the IRS for assistance to uncover the company you're building? And if not, how could they tell whether you're not a trust fund kid playing Counter Strike all day long?

Once you start hiring people here, you'll need legal assistance, but even that is relatively straightforward. I know many with BOI companies here, with 100% foreign ownership.

I highly agree that you should definitely research the law before packing your bags and heading for Bangkok to just start bootstrapping.

As hackerboos mentioned, it is illegal to "work" here without a work permit. As I understand it, even with a work permit, you're only allowed to "work" at the place that is specified on your work permit and no where else. If you are caught working outside your permitted working location, you can be deported.

It all sounds very harsh but I assume that this is often the way labor laws for foreigners are written by most countries; the main goal is to protect the local work force from unfair outside competition... that's just how it is.

1. You are allowed to do business meetings on a business/tourist visa.

2. You can do business meetings from a co-work office.

Now please tell me how being in a co-work office, working for a company incorporated abroad and not accepting local payments, can get one arrested.

You're wrong.

You can't conduct any type business on a tourist visa you will be deported if you are caught. People have been warned that they will be deported for singing on a karaoke in clubs as it's classed as work.

The business visa you are talking about (NON-B) is designed for employees of foreign companies who are conducting business with Thai companies. Not foreign businesses conducting business alone or with each other.

In fact without evidence of this you won't even get your NON-B visa.


Are you sure you can do business meetings on a tourist visa? On a business visa is fine of course as you've declared that your intention is to be there for business, but having a business visa also require you to have a company that is sending you there on business before hand. Plus, I'm not sure how long of a stay you'd normally get with a business visa.

With a tourist visa, I think you're strictly not supposed to perform any business activities. You might be able to pass off your meeting as a "casual chat" if you want to risk it.

In the countries I've been to the business travel visas are the same as the tourist ones, you just have to declare you are there for business purposes also. So the length is the same, 3 months.

I know colleagues (engineers) who were detained and kept under "hotel arrest" in Indonesia for being on the customer site without the correct working Visa (our guess - a tip off)

I worked in Thailand on assignment for a large company there and we got a wind that the authorities where going to come in on a certain day and check every single foreigners passports. We were told even that we had the correct Visa, work from home that day.

In Japan you can get a 3 month tourist visa on entry. I know many who have worked on the customer site with this. Once again - illegal, all it takes is a tip off from a local employee and your in big, big trouble.. don't expect to ever visit that country again.

I know someone who was working in Sweden without the correct Visa - a local employee (part of a work union) reported him.

Not worth the risk IMHO.

Are you sure about that with Japan? The visa-free entry (at least for Americans) allows business.

> A visa is NOT necessary for US passport holders visiting Japan for a short-term stay of less than 90 days with the purpose of tourism and business.


There appears to be a fine line between "business" (meetings etc) and actually doing productive work for a company entity based in Japan. I don't have clarification on this, and this is only second hand information.

On a different note, they do check the frequency of re-entries (on a tourist visa) as I know of one peer who was put into a room at the airport and questioned after re-entering a few times in one year. So if your "doing business" a couple of times a year with a few months in between, it may still look suspect.

Additionally I know of a guy's wife who was deported on re-entry after the 3rd time. She wasn't working and was banned from re-entring for 11 months.

I'll take your word for, I've only ever entered Japan as a tourist and they really don't look that closely at Americans entering Japan for tourism.

The probability may well be very low - There could be a statistical influence in why I have all these 'stores' due to being required to travel 70-80% for my employment for the past 5 years.

If you read blogs on these types of things you are only going to see the 'worst case scenarios' as the majority of people with positive experiences are unlikely to rush to their PC and write a glowing post about their Visa experience...

> Most Thais can get by with $500 USD.

As local, I can confirm this. Though it was roughly three years ago, ~$400 a month back then could get me a very comfortable life in outer area of Bangkok (Onnut), this includes an apartment with to-the-door food service, air conditioning, parking slot, 10 minutes walk to the BTS (train station) and 16Mbps internet. No pool, though!

The trick is to rent an apartment within BTS range at x minutes of walking in an outer area of Bangkok, where x is >= 10. An apartment with 5 minutes walk to the BTS can cost about $200 to $400, but past certain point in the same Soi, the cost could be reduced by more than 50%.

The cost could get much cheaper if you cook. Food are ridiculous cheap, but food ingredients are even more cheaper.

I found food in Thailand to be particularly expensive, even at the grocery store; especially, oddly enough, rice, where Thailand should be the largest exporter! It was at least comparable to the states, where grocery stores are cheap by world standards, but I found it to be more expensive than China in general.

Vietnam is the largest rice exporter, though Thailand used to be #1.


I spend about 10 usd for every meal bcause chicken with rice is so terrible and im tired of eating these rice with something every day. Prices in shopping malls are as high as everywhere in the world

I guess this this much more about cultural adaptation. Of course, when I referred to cheapness of food, I really mean the local food that you get just about everywhere on the street (which will usually be something with rice. That something could be a variation of hundreds or local side dishes so repetition shouldn't be a concern if you know how to order.) If you are looking for international cuisines then you will be paying high prices. Locals do not eat these daily and usually reserve them to Friday night outings or once a month kind of affair.

Any suggestions on how to avoid the 'tourist tax'?

Are there westerners set up over there to help other westerners find cheap rentals, etc?

The "tourist tax" is quite difficult to circumvent. The best way is to make close local friends and get them to do all your ordering or negotiations for you. Normally food and drink prices are clearly written and are not over-priced unless you're at a tourist destination. Taxis are meant to always take meter so you should never take cabs unless they go by the meter. Some tourist-congested places are notorious for this (i.e. Platinum Shopping Center and Chatuchak Weekend Market), but it's quite easy to walk a little further from the main location and grab a meter cab. (At these places they also try to over charge locals, so it's not really just tourists :P)

Now, there will be instances where even local friends can't help. Such as entrance fees etc, if you look obviously foreign, you're going to be hit with a tax no matter what, but these places are usually tourist attractions and you're expecting to pay those anyways.

Also get driver license

Yes, definitely biased :)

Check out my answer to scheff below for a different (non-native) perspective.

Ah, I'm so on the verge of doing this. I quit my programming day job a few weeks ago and really want to make this happen. However... I'm terrified of the SF real estate market when I return. I'm also torn about whether to give up my apartment or find someone to sublet (or AirBnB it?) to have something to return to.

Any advice, from anyone here who knows SF/SV, or has done something like this, about the above, or about what I could do returning to an ungodly housing market, in terms of the time it will take to find something as well as the price, with myself not likely having more than a couple thousand in the bank? And let's say I have ~ $13k now, so maybe I could return with a good enough cushion...

If you are scared of a real estate market, then doing a startup is probably not for you.

I did my own startup for a year and a half. It's reasonable to fear running out of money and plan accordingly.

Some practical tips for handling housing is what I was fishing for.

I'm actually in the market for an apartment starting next month...if you'd like to email me I'd be happy to discuss with you. username at g

Just for the record, what OP is doing is illegal. His main goal while in Thailand is work. By working while on a tourist visa he is breaking Thai law.

Besides investors and startups SF is terrible for living. Why? Go to thai.

Great write up! I'm thinking of doing the exact same thing. A couple of questions -

Why the limitation to being able to only do 6 months? Do they stop renewing your visa after that?

Have you looked at other neighbouring countries like Laos, Burma and Cambodia for a similar arrangement?


The most I could get from the Thai embassy in Amsterdam was a double-entry visa. If I wanted a triple-entry visa (giving me 3x90 days or 9 months), they required me to have booked all my flights in and out of the country beforehand. That was a bit too much planning for me.

I believe there's education visas if you study Thai at a school for a year, but that seems like too much of a distraction while starting up a business.

Yes, I'm actually trying Phnom Penh in Cambodia in 2014. Cheaper, although internet connectivity might not be up-to-par and it's a lot less safe from what I've heard.

I'm actually in Saigon right now! Do you have any recommendations for spaces to work? I am trying SaigonHUB on Monday.

Hmm, I was usually working out of my hotel room or cafe's along Phạm Ngũ Lão street.

Vietnam and cambodia are just shit compared to thai.

You should try Siem Reap - much nicer, and seems almost european.

Or if you want somewhere relaxed Battambang has most of the benefits of Siem Reap (even day trips to Khmer ruins!) but without the tourist circus.

Not particularly unsafe, I live in PP. Lived in NYC previously and I liken it to that, just different things to watch out for. Mobile internet is good (Cellcard is the best), I think I've gotten up to 300KB/sec, though there is some lag connecting to, say, my Linode in NJ.. maybe a 1 second delay in the terminal. Anyway it's currently $1.50 for 7 days or 1 GB, whichever comes first, and I can reload if I finish early. I go to a coworking space (CoLab) for faster internet, all-day A/C, and a good quiet working atmosphere. I consider that membership part of my rent, though rent is cheap here anyway. Have a two bedroom, two bath, estimating 2,000 sq ft + a covered roof terrace, for $300 / month. And it doesn't get cold here =)

In Phnom Penh you will get a decent 5Mb mobile connection reasonably cheap, but fixed 'broadband' prices are expensive, like $30/month for 256kb!!

It's probably because the OP had a double entry tourist visa.

You can renew easily -- or at least could, a few years ago. I lived in Thailand for two years, entirely on tourist visas.

Let me just add there's a marked difference between how OP describes his Thailand experience, and living outside of start-up/expat communities.

care to elaborate?

Why not. There's plenty of more detailed info out there, and I don't claim to be any sort of expert after mere two years, but here's two stereotypical extremes:

Tourist-eyes: beautiful beaches; nice weather; safe; cheap food; laid back, friendly smiling people -- PARADISE!

Live-and-work-there-eyes: rampant bigotry and racism (common to most SE Asia); dishonesty ("losing face" and all, again shared across SEA and not specific to Thailand); nothing ever gets done (the famous wait-for-crisis management aka the reverse side of the laid back culture); encouragement of keeping in line and professional mediocrity; (lack of) quality healthcare; dirt; systemic corruption and mafia; massive drinking in connection with ubiquitous handguns; relationships aka love the farang cash machine; farangs always 2nd class citizens no matter what (land ownership &c) -- BUSINESS OWNER'S HELL!

Now that's just to juxtapose two extremes, neither is "the truth".

When it comes to running a business, beware of that viewpoint #2. Freelancers who just hang out with other freelancers on the beach for a few months don't need to care, of course :) For serious business, Malaysia is much more organized and welcoming.

Hopefully I don't get downvoted for this paradise-shattering post -- I still have many Thai friends and I love the country despite all its problems.

I've spoken with a few of westerner businessmen in Thailand now, and they re-iterate much the same sentiments.

My view has become "go there as a tourist who happens to spend several months on business" as opposed to "go there with a view to doing business with the locals".

Likewise I have met some lovely Thai people. They are very caring and welcoming.

You're absolutely right on most of those points. With regards to the racism: I did experience it when I entered night clubs, and it felt weird I had to pay an entrance fee and the Thais did not. But on the other hand, I know foreigners (esp. Westerners, like me) simply cause a lot of trouble in night clubs and obviously hitting on their women. In a weird way, you pay that off with an entrance fee.

In my limited experience, much of the racism I saw Westerners deal with, was most of the times them behaving in a stereotypical Western way (loud, obscene and rude). I don't have a problem with that, but Thai do.

I've come very far by just being over-polite and friendly to everyone I met. Bowing a lot, smiling and always staying calm in conflict situations (e.g. outside at 4am with drunk people).

With regards to dating, I mostly dated hi-so girls, which in the end paid more for my drinks, than I did for theirs ;)

Actually, I meant racism toward dark-skinned people (Thais or otherwise), not so much toward Westerns.

To wit, skin whitening is a monstrous business in Thailand.

I'll never forget the forest of umbrellas on really hot days, or people walking in long sleeves, just to fend off the sun and "stay white" :)

Presumably also because working somewhere for more than 6 months usually means you are tax resident and the visa is a tourist and not a work visa?

Not that it is probably enforced in Thailand.

Yes, the law is not ready for this set-up yet. But as you mention, unless you cause trouble, it's not really in the Thai's interest to enforce that you might officially be breaking the law by working (even if it's for yourself).

How is the education there? I found locals to complain about the talent the schools produced.

That said, it's a wonderful country. Avoid the tourist traps and you miss much of the sleazy side.

If I were 23 I would take it over Iowa ten times out of ten.

Amazing article! I am doing the same (bootstrapping from Asia) and would agree with almost anything but the budget. I am currently in Ko Tao (=paradise) and during low season, you get a comfortable room for 8000 baht / month ($300) 5 min from the beach. In Chiang Mai I was renting a large bedroom on Airbnb for $9/day. Vientiane as well is a good option, they love foreigners there and there are a lot of french expats. I would stay away from Vietnam (Saigon and Hanoi) as you have constantly to be on your guards unless you go to Hoi An or Nha Trang. Has anybody tried the Philippines?

Of course during low season, there is quite a bit of rain, which helps focusing on developing your startup and not going to the beach.

But downpours = bad internet in Thailand :-)

Philippines is a good country for bootstrapping, there are plenty of good English speakers and low cost of living.

On one hand, it's a great article. On the other hand, it's really misleading! Lots of commenters in here would agree with "levels," but that's only because they are like-minded.

You can easily live on 500-600 euros per month, stay in beach bungalows, rented houses, or amazing bamboo houses where the owners bring you fruit every morning, and that includes unlimited 3G internet, the wireless internet they already have on site, and your bus and plane tickets around Asia.

No offense, but it's a little bit of a shame to accidentally mislead people on how much the costs are (a pool??!?!?!), and it's also a shame that the author didn't check out Malaysia, which is far less touristy, has almost no sex tourism, and has some really incredible places (with internet).

Shop at the markets. Eat at night markets, food stalls, and normal thai restaurants (but proper restos... not all stalls)... we went out with some local friends in Bangkok, ate famously, and the bill came to like 8 dollars (three different restos). Look for places like Chiang Mai... but also, move about yo! We did 3 weeks at a time in each place, moving down through sukhothai, ahyuthaya, etc., worked with laser focus, and spent way, way less money.

Really not much need for an incubator if you're confident in what you're doing.

Note: Using throwaway so my employer doesn't find out about my plan to eventually leave.

Are there any places similar to this in USA? Cost of living around $1000 (give or take), good internet access, no car needed, decently cheap food and rent, and possibly an affordable coworking space? I'm looking to bootstrap an internet company and while I don't mind living abroad, I'd be much more comfortable here in the US, seeing as I've lived here my whole life.

It's possible even in NYC.

Around Jamaica you can get a room for $400-$500. Although it's not an apartment, just a room in a big house, so you can't make parties and stuff but is otherwise quite comfortable.

Going to Manhattan also doesn't take too much time. E train goes directly and is express so it's a 45-60 min commute.

As for food, cook at home. If in Manhattan, there's a great $1 pizza on Bleecker St. Lots of free coworking spaces in Manhattan - Wix for example.

I wouldn't call it a luxurious life by any stretch of imagination, but it's doable to live in NY for $1000 a month and not really feel poor (or it could be just a story I tell to myself to feel better).

You're much better finding a room somewhere further in Long Island and taking LIRR to the city than the E train!

Back in college I used to rent 1 bedroom apartment in Austin for $400 a month near campus. I never had a car there either. Prices have gone up some, but still you can find cheap apartments there.

Pittsburgh is sort of doable without a car, and 1-bd/studio rents are under $500 in many parts of the city.

One qualifier to: "Thailand’s government is wholly responsible for this situation" (viz. rampant sex tourism).

I would clarify that it is fully but not uniquely responsible. Sort of like if two men set out to murder a third and they both poison his drink on the same night, they are both fully but not uniquely responsible for his death. Analogously, sex tourists share responsibility, as perhaps do other governments whose actions influence the kind of governments that Thailand is likely to have.

Just a minor point of mine on a side-observation! Otherwise, lots of insights I enjoyed. I hadn't given much thought to start-up culture in SE Asia. One thing that doesn't get mentioned is the language: Did you get by exclusively with English (and Dutch, lots of ex-colonies being out that way)?

If you're serious about growing a start-up over a long stretch of time in Thailand it seems like you would want to have some Thai, if nothing else to draw from a greater pool of local talent when recruiting.

The article seems to imply that it is impossible to live for less than $1000 a month (internet included) in the US in a remote area where you can focus.

I regularly travel out to Eastern Washington (close to the border by Montana) and the area is very rural and prices relatively cheap for rent (and house prices are not unreasonable if you're looking to buy). No one will come bug you if you live in the woods, and Satellite internet (while not perfect) is decent as long as you're not doing anything too bandwidth intensive. You can also always live near a bigger city and get Cable internet.

As far as food costs go, if you can fish, hunt and grow a vegetable garden, you can be self-sufficient most of the year.

I'm not saying everyone needs to go out and live that lifestyle, but I just wanted to challenge the assumption that you couldn't live for less than $1000 a month in the US. A lot of people do, and aren't necessarily poor or bad off either.

I hope you mean Idaho and not Montana. Spokane is cheap but not that cheap, in the more rural communities like Newport, you could probably do $1000/month with lots of work cutting wood and such. If you want cheaper, cross the border to Idaho or Montana, but the farther away we get from infrastructure, things actually become more expensive, not less.

I did mean Idaho, Colville/Metaline Falls area. It's true once you get far enough the cost of living goes up in a way, but I've found those parts to still be fairly cheap cost of living (on the face of it), assuming you already own land.

If you think you know the place after six month you are in for a loooot of surprises, e.g., culture shock, or to see that after some time you are not really a foreigner and not really a local anymore. You also have to apply to rules, just different ones from the locals. But that only happens after people learn to know you after some time.

> The enterprise loves C# coders. But that’s not necessarily the best language for a startup stack.

Why? It's quite easy, much more powerful, performance is great! Jeffrey Richter in his book "CLR via C#" says it's often more fasten than even compiled C/C++.

Have you heard about Entity Framework and ASP.Net MVC? It's growing like a mad thing, a lotta features, improvements and so on.

Maybe the license price is high? Yep, but with EF you can switch MS SQL database to any other one. And, moreover, you can obtain a license for free on bizspark. And, for sure, you can switch to Mono if you prefer Linux or Mac.

BTW, you comparing "proprietary language C#" to Java, but Java is by Oracle ;)

PS http://net.tutsplus.com/articles/editorials/why-many-develop...

I've always liked C#, and even like Visual Studio to some degree, but I would never develop it for anything other than a hobby application.



I'm not going to be tied to a an entire ecosystem like that. If MS was serious about being developer friendly, really serious, they would not tie developers to Windows. It might not make the most strategic sense, but in the day and age of the cloud and big clusters of no-cost image spinups, Windows doesn't make sense.

And, no, Mono is not a real alternative. There's too many good languages and frameworks to be fiddling with Mono in production.

As somebody who has administered Mono apps in production, Mono is a huge pain in the arse. This was a year or two ago so mono may have improved, but you're always going to be somewhat behind the cutting edge, and you'll be suffering through much more sysadmin headaches than if you were running a python app. This essentially means you've got to stick with Windows if you want to run C#. Any why would you tie yourself to a dying ecosystem like that?

Regarding this, you can also even get started for free by joining microsoft's bizspark program. Since they already know the tech, and its being produced cheap by Microsoft for start ups, I'm guessing most will figure that its worth it to just stick with C#.

1000$ is supposed to be enough to live in lots of european countries as well. Eg. Estonia, Greece, Austria

I found that number to be pretty depressing. I think I could get somewhere pretty close to that, here in North Carolina, USA.

In the original post the point was raised that at that cost of living you don't have to lift a finger. All your cleaning, laundry, and cooking are done by others.

It's trivially easy to find a really nice space to rent in the USA for $500 or so. The catch is you'll still be doing all your own cooking and cleaning. And you'll be surrounded by hicks.

I think your hicks comment is unnecessary and incorrect, but otherwise, this is a good point.

I think that number is only if you're living very very comfortably. Personally, on a normal standard of living, I can get by with around $500 USD a month, and that's normal 3 meals a day with internet, phone, apartment (no pool or facilities.) Street food, normal portions are going around $1 to $1.5 USD so it's pretty cheap.

Now of course, you might be able to only afford to go to socialize at bars and restaurants once a month or else you'll blow that budget, but it's possible.

Would you please tell more? Country/city? Weather, visas, etc? Thanks!

Oh, my above post is referring to living in Bangkok City in Thailand. Here are some visa information:


I believe you will need a business visa to legally work here (I am a Thai national so I do not have that issue) and getting one isn't a trivial task, unfortunately.

I suspect that the OP is most likely working using a tourist visa. IANAL but it is likely not legal if caught, but if you can get away with it, more power to you.

You can't live comfortably in Austria for $1000(~737 eur)/m. I've lived in Vienna for 8 years and that will just be about enough to live like a frugal student.

Living means living and enjoying. You clearly cant enjoy life for grand in europez.

Even France. A one-bedroom apartment near Paris is 400€.

Very informative post. I only have two questions. First, how difficult it is to get a good Internet connection there? Can you buy a "hotspot" device? Also, what about healthcare? If you get sick, can you get access to good medical care at a reasonable price?

You can get a 3G data card for $20/m from TRUE. That gives you fast 3G in all major city areas, and free ridiculously fast Wi-Fi all-over Bangkok. I'd upload 2GB videos for my YouTube channel daily on those connections. If there was no Wi-Fi, I'd tether my MBP to my iPhone's 3G connection. The network was always faster than I've ever experienced in Amsterdam.

I can not advice about your particular healthcare situation, but I'm a Dutch national on a standard Netherlands healthcare plan. That means I have worldwide coverage and all treatments are covered up to the price that the same treatment would cost at home. The Thai private hospitals are usually cheaper than those in my country while offering a ridiculously luxurious service. That means I pay nothing.

Fortunately, I haven't stayed there a lot. Only once, for food poisoning, when I visited Thailand a few years ago.

I went last December and bought a SIM for $30 for the month. We were getting about 10Mbps down most places, sometimes higher. As pieterhg mentions, there is wifi all over Bangkok. I wouldn't suggest spending a ton of time there though - much cooler places if you get out of the big city/tourist destinations.

I'll also add the Thai people are absolutely delightful. I've never met such positive happy people.

I've been traveling around the world for the last 5 years and have started various businesses on the road. It's been an incredible experience. I just moved to Sayulita, Mexico a week ago where I plan to finish my new startup ForkFox.com. I'll be here for 6-months. The downside is that there isn't much for resources. I'm basically here to just focus on programming but in paradise.

Having been to Thailand several times, the food there is AMAZING.

Any language barrier issues in Thailand?

"English is a mandatory school subject, but the number of fluent speakers remains very low, especially outside the cities." - Wikipedia.

Personally I think this depends largely on what types of community you're going to be around the majority of the time. If you're talking about living day to day, ordering food and getting around, you won't need much Thai to actually live here. Ordering food will require some pointing and sign languages at street food stores (most of them understand English numbers + sign language), but at restaurants in malls, English is "well-enough" understood and you won't have any problems (or they'll call the manager to talk to you.) Now of course, if you're in the startup scene, you're probably going to know some locals that can speak both languages well and are willing to help you around, however, you should alway try to learn the local language enough to get by on a daily basis.

In the startup community and the white collar working population, we understand English well enough to understand what you're saying but maybe not converse with you fluently 100% of the time.

EDIT: I'm only referring to Bangkok in this case.

Yes, from what I've heard, most do learn it in school but they don't practice it. So most can speak very rudimentary English but that's about it. The university-educated and higher society do speak English a lot better. In a city like Bangkok, with its international allure, they also speak it a lot better. The further you go outside the big cities, the less they speak it. Kind of like most developing nations.

I got by well though, by learning some basic Thai phrases and lots of hand gesturing and pointing.

My small amount of research discovered that you can live in a serviced hotel room for between 15,000 and 30,000 THB per month, which is $500 - $1000 USD. This was in Chiang Mai. I explored a couple of different hotels.

You can get serious discounts for booking a room for 3, 6 months. Combine that with eating out for every meal (instead of grocery shopping and cooking for yourself) and it's an incredibly cheap option. Meals are as cheap as $1 each.

Is the quality of hackers good in Thailand? I'm particularly thinking about skills to deal with javascript, node.js and MongoDB. I've heard mixed reviews in the past - and it's been touched on a few times here - but would be great to hear what the latest situation is.

The title says 300K + subscribers, but when I go to the YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/electromixshow it says there are 38K subscribers. Am I missing something here?

Hi znt, you're right, the aggregate of all my channels is 300,000 subscribers now. My biggest channel is here http://youtube.com/pandadnb. I've removed the heading, since it might come across as unclear, thanks.

Word of warning, 2 years ago I ran a large dubstep related channel which was shut down. Be very careful about copyrighted content, the record label will file dmca complaints even if you got permission from the artist! You only get so many warnings. I would even suggest having a backup channel and not to put all eggs in one basket!

Thanks xSwag, all my YouTube channels' content is licensed and legit. The artists and labels ask me to put it up. I've never put up anything I did not have permission to. Sorry to hear about your channel. YouTube copyright claims can be ruthless although it's getting better these days.

Inflation rising... I don't know what you are on about. Check your facts laddy :) http://www.tradingeconomics.com/thailand/inflation-cpi

Interesting story, however.

Very useful to know.

It makes a lot of sense to use your savings to bootstrap your internet/tech startup in a place where living costs are much lower, but internet access is pretty much the same. The savings will last much longer, giving you more time to work.

So interesting..especially the article you wrote about how this article has attracted 15K visitors to your site. Thanks

Excellent post. I've been considering Thailand and Vietnam for a while as places to work remotely for 6-12 months.


How did your family/friends react? What is your next stop?

Moving to Berlin next month to bootstrap.

They are quite used to me moving around a lot and just want to see me happy. I am now in Saigon and my next stop is probably Phnom Penh and then celebrate NYE in Hong Kong.

Berlin is awesome! What are you working on?

Quite nice to read your story. Btw, it will be great if you can make it to Yangon/Rangoon too. (: (I am from Yangon)

I live and work from Phnom Penh. Cambodia is much more welcoming than Thailand. I wonder why anybody would actually even consider Thailand? Thai ruk Thai. Thailand for the Thai people. I totally agree. Anybody who isn't Thai should never set a foot there.

Should be called "When I take my laptop to country "x" I call it bootstrapping a company, and now I will school you with my vast experience gained over 6 months in a hostel".....get a life, and a real job, you annoying tourist with a laptop

just to confirm if I go to Thailand and want to do a business road trip wherein i'm speaking at say a meetup.com event, I can get into trouble?

If you dont like sex tourism it is ur mental problem. Feel free to agitate in your europez but please leave my thailand as is. Every girl has a right to do anything and its not your business.

Yeah I'm surprised there's a decent amount of backlash against it this thread when I got the impression most people on here would think sex work should be legal.

Ps. Traveled around the world now living in pattaya. Asq questions.

Do you honestly believe those prostitutes enjoy sleeping with people like you?

If you think enjoyment is a prerequisite to doing a job, then there are several people working on crufty "enterprise" Java-based systems that would love to benefit from your crusade.

My question was in response to this post by the same person:

>"If you dont like sex tourism it is ur mental problem. Feel free to agitate in your europez but please leave my thailand as is. Every girl has a right to do anything and its not your business."

That seemed to imply that the prostitutes had willingly chosen their profession, which led to my question.

Oh so you imply they all was forced? Hell no. It is just better than clerq in 7 11 for 5 times less salary

That. Do you honestly enjoy writing PHP? Likely no. Nobody cares

> ur mental problem

Lol. It's "mental" to see whores, pimps, and johns and recoil. On the contrary, a malfunctioning disgust reaction to these things is more clearly a symptom of mental illness.

Disgusting reaction is a result of biased childhood. It asdociates w gang and guns. Herr it is safe

Immigrant founders might also decide to go back to the motherland for a while if things get rough in USA.

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