Both Thailand and Bali are at the top of the list as preferred destinations for international contractors. But which is better, Bali or Thailand for a life changing experience? How does one choose between Thailand or Bali for contractors?
Working abroad as an independent contractor involves much more than just your work role and client. You will be entering an entirely new culture, full of rewards and unexpected challenges. This can mean discovering new aspects of your profession and personality, while living and working in a foreign culture.
The answer to that will depend upon whether you want to eventually settle and retire in one of the countries. Or, if you are just exploring new locations for both work and leisure, with a minimum of compliance issues.
Table of contents
- Pros and Cons: Thailand or Bali for International Contractors?
- How to Get Paid as a Contractor in Thailand
- Thailand or Bali for Contractors: How Can an Umbrella Company Help?
- Questions on Choosing between Bali or Thailand
- More on Contracting and Thailand as Digital Nomad Destination
Pros and Cons: Thailand or Bali for International Contractors?
Either Bali or Thailand for expats presents a good choice of an exotic destination. Many foreigners arrive in Thailand or Bali for family holidays or a honeymoon, or even retirement. But deciding between Thailand or Bali for contracting demands a different level of scrutiny.
Bali is of course a part of Indonesia, but remains the primary draw in the country for expats of all types. Many contractors will think of Bangkok in Thailand, so the real choice may be between Bali and Bangkok. This was the dilemma facing one expat couple looking for a new home.
Expat Profile: Prema and Benjamin deciding between Thailand or Bali for contractors
Prema and Benjamin had been working as independent contractors for several years. The freedom to choose their workplace was one of the main reasons they pursued this career path. The couple had been working remotely from their home country for quite some time, and now they were itching for a change of scenery.
They were drawn to the idea of living and working in Southeast Asia, but they were torn between choosing Thailand or Bali for work and as their next base.
To make an informed decision, Prema and Benjamin decided to research the pros and cons of Thailand or Bali for contractors. They started by looking at Thailand.
They found that Thailand had a well-developed digital nomad community, particularly in cities like Chiang Mai and Bangkok. But, the beach locations were not as appealing in Thailand compared to Bali.
The cost of living in Thailand was relatively low compared to Bali. The country also offered a variety of co-working spaces in Bangkok where they could work and connect with other professionals. Thailand’s visa policies were also more favourable for digital nomads, providing options for longer stays.
On the other hand, Bali had its own unique appeal. It was renowned for its stunning beaches, lush landscapes, and a laid-back lifestyle. The island had a thriving digital nomad scene, especially in Ubud, known for its artistic community and wellness retreats.
Bali offered a diverse range of accommodation options, from affordable guesthouses to luxurious villas. However, the couple discovered that Bali’s visa policies were slightly more restrictive compared to Thailand, requiring periodic visa runs or a more complex long-term visa process.
In the end, Prema and Benjamin chose Bangkok over Bali, for the dynamic Asian city life. They knew they could easily visit local beach areas during holiday, and didn’t need to live full time in a place like Bali.
Thailand had easier visa options as well, as Bali had recently scrapped its plans for a digital nomad visa. When it came to deciding which is better Bali or Thailand, it was the practical aspects that won out.
How to Get Paid as a Contractor in Thailand
Because Prema and Benjamin chose Bangkok, they had to figure out how to navigate the immigration rules. Prema landed a full-time gig with a Thai company after they made their decision, which she had not expected.
This was a good opportunity, but meant giving up some freedom. On the other hand, she would have full support in getting a work visa.
Benjamin was going to continue to work remotely for his foreign clients, so they now had very different visa requirements. They were not married, so could not use each other’s visa status to live and work in the country.
Work as a Remote Freelancer
If all of your clients are non-Thai, you can work online as a freelancer. There are some visa options for this route, but you might find some of the requirements difficult. This is where Benjamin started to explore his options, looking at the new ‘O’ visa which allows work activity.
Become an Employee of Your Thai Client
If you enter Thailand to work with a Thai company, they would have to hire you as an employee. You can’t work as a freelancer in Thailand for Thai companies. The Thai client would sponsor your work permit, assuming you met the criteria for foreign workers. Prema would fall under this option, and rely on the Thai client for her visa and tax compliance.
Work Through a Thai Umbrella Company
If you want to work for several Thai clients then you can use the umbrella company solution. In effect, the umbrella company is your local employer and visa sponsor, and takes care of all tax withholding. You can read more about it in the next section.
Thailand or Bali for Contractors: How Can an Umbrella Company Help?
Both Thailand and Bali do present some barriers for remote workers due to visa requirements. If you are going to work in either country for a local client, then it is somewhat easier to get a long term work permit. In both cases, an umbrella company offers you a solution to obtaining work permits and complying with tax laws.
The umbrella company is an intermediary to the contract with your client, and makes sure there are no issues in payments or invoicing. Because the umbrella company is a local entity, you don’t have to manage language or cultural differences on your own. It becomes a true ally as you pursue international contracting.
Other benefits of umbrella companies include:
- Manages all client payments, tax withholding and any social contributions
- Issues you a payslip each month, to a local or foreign account
- Sponsors work permits
- Helps set up the contract with the client
- Moderates any disputes with your client
- Advises on access to totalization and double taxation treaties
If you have questions about how an umbrella company can help you as an international contractor, please contact us!
Questions on Choosing between Bali or Thailand
As with most countries, it will depend on where you are located. There are no pervasive security issues in either country. But if you are in Bangkok you will want to avoid certain areas of the city at night. Bali can seem safer due its rural nature, but crime can occur anywhere.
If you are located in Bangkok, you can easily find inexpensive accommodation and food. It’s a diverse city with choices to fit every budget. You might have more competition for the cheapest lodging in Bali, but it is still much more affordable than most western countries.
Bangkok, Thailand is probably better for digital nomads. Although Thailand is strict about multiple tourist visas for digital nomads, there are other visa options. Bali seems to be making it more difficult for digital nomads. They recently halted plans for a digital nomad visa, and are focusing on welcoming long term residents and retirees to the country.
Their economies are different, and Thailand has a higher per capita GDP. But Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia by sheer size. Thailand relies primarily on tourism and exports, while Indonesia is more industrialised.