Category Archives: Finances

12 Ways to Earn Money & Make a Living While Travelling Asia

You’ve been travelling for a while on your savings, sooner or later you are going to decide that you need to start making money again.  I’m lucky, I can live on a relatively low income – around $500 New Zealand Dollars (or 13,000 Baht) per month, but eventually I’m going to deplete my savings account.  The question is, how can you make money while living overseas and not end up getting deported or going broke.

While I’ve been travelling Europe and South East Asia I’ve done various odd jobs, from DJ, Sound Engineer, Backstage Manager, Promoter, Artist Liaison and more at Clubs, Bars and Festivals. I’ve cold called bars, pubs and venues in the UK from an island trying to sell them the latest in Irish satellite receivers for the football season, attempted to start a backpackers hostel, and more recently settled into a regular routine of online work including blogging, content writing, SEO, WordPress and social media marketing.

NB: There are a couple of affiliate links in here, don’t worry they won’t bite and provide services that I use myself for transferring money and finding work.  It would be great if you signed up for them using my referring, it will help me continue travelling! 

Here are 12 ways my friends, housemates and I have made an income while living in South East Asia

1) Freelancing:

I’ve recently become a big fan of freelancing via, one of the most popular freelancing websites on the web, I’ve seen others recommend, though I haven’t personally tried it. Setting up an account is very straight forward, simply fill out your profile, work experience, a portfolio of previous freelance work etc. There are both paid and free options, although the free option does limit the sort of jobs you can apply for if you have a wide variety of transferrable skills. Members of are from across the world, so you will find yourself competing with some very low priced competition on certain roles. I’ve found that when bidding on jobs from western clients, make it very clear that you are a western, native language/first language speaker and include supporting information to justify your extra expense. Using the site has been straight forward and I’ve even made a potential long term New Zealand client out of it. I’ve done everything from social media marketing, business consulting, content writing and blogging all from the comfort and safety of my own room. This is my preferred way to work now – with a low cost of living I can earn enough to live off working for a paintball and toothpaste company in NZ part time, everything else is a bonus.

For time tracking and invoicing, I use Paymo, its got a built in time tracker app, or you can run one natively in OSX or windows.  It allows for time tracking right down to the minute, invoicing in multiple currencies, can handle loads of projects and clients, lets you know when you’ve been paid and more.  Sign up using my link and I get cashmoney too!

2) Writing & Editing:

While I’ve already covered some writing under freelancing, many people write blogs such as this, and have monetised them through guest posts, advertising, sponsorships or just plain freebees. I’ve got other friends that write for online and print magazines and newspapers, or who cover events as they are happening. It takes a while to build up a portfolio, but for some its worth it. University students will often require editing of essays or assignments, especially if they speak english as a second language – shops and businesses often have atrocious menus or signage opportunities are endless.

3) Web, Design and WordPress:

For those of us who are digital natives, setting up a CMS based site such as is easy, things get a little bit harder setting up self hosted sites, and even harder for e-commerce based sites. There is plenty of opportunity to set up, manage and write content for peoples websites. Chances are pretty much every business you run into will have an absolutely atrocious, poorly optimised, badly written website – opportunities are endless. Basic design, photoshop and layout are also great skills which you can take with you anywhere and can help you customise websites even more for a higher income. I’ve got a friend making around 12,000 baht/450 NZD for each new self hosted WordPress site he creates (including domain registration, hosting for a year, WordPress install and basic modifications).

4) English Teaching:

Probably the most common job for expats in Thailand and South East Asia, though one I haven’t done due to my strong Kiwi accent. Pay isn’t great, the hours can be long once you count lesson preparation, and office politics can suck. That said many expats love it, and spend years teaching over here – the most popular place to get a job in Thailand is via the website, in other countries Daves ESL Cafe is also popular. Remember to bring a colour scan of your University Degree, a TEFL or TESOL certificate and references are handy, and some people even get asked for their University Grades, so have everything available and you should find work fairly quickly. This is the easiest way to work legitimately and legally in South East Asia.

5) Scuba Diving:

Banyan Bar

I’ve got plenty of mates who live in places like Koh Tao or other islands in Malaysia, Thailand and beyond who make a living as scuba diving instructors. Often they will go to an island on Holiday and never leave. There are opportunities to teach PADI, SSI, underwater photography, tech diving, compressor maintenance and more. Fully qualified dive instructors are some of the most highly paid people on the islands and the skill is easily transferrable anywhere there is water.

6) DJing :

Golde Koh Phangan

DJ work is fairly easy to find in certain areas, and I‘ve personally spun tunes in clubs, parties and resorts in Croatia, England, Thailand and Malaysia. Touristy areas are always a good start, as they tend to look for music that closely suits the tastes of travellers, don’t expect the gear to be in top notch condition, and be prepared to play on a midi controller if needs be. Local DJs can be protective of their “jobs” even if they suck and can often have all the bars stitched up. Have some mixes ready, always carry USBs with tunes on them, have your Facebook fan page up to date and remember to drink where you want to play. And always be prepared for work to dry up at a moments notice. Its still one of my favourite ways to make a bit of extra cash – personal highlights have been opening for Goldie on Koh Phangan, DJing on the Audio Doughnuts stage at Dimensions Festival in Croatia, massive beach parties in Langkawi, Malaysia and holding down a 3 month DJ residency at Bar Next 2 on Koh Tao.

7) Acting and Extras:

I’ve got friends who make a living as professional actors, as extras or as stunt people in Thailand. Although this almost never has the protection of a work permit, due to its short term contract nature its very common. There are numerous Facebook groups dedicated to casting in Thailand and Malaysia and all looks, ethnicities and body types are in demand for TV and film in SE Asia.

8) Photography:

I’ve got friends who photograph parties, others who make stock photos of their travels. If you have good camera, some photography know how and an eye for detail, your travel photos could make you cash on a variety of stock photo websites.

9) Tour Guide:

This one is illegal for foreigners in Thailand, and some other countries. That said – typically these countries lack tour guides that can speak anything other than their native languages and English or other common languages. I’ve got a flatmate who often travels to Laos and Cambodia to work as a tour guide for Polish speaking tour groups, as you don’t get many Polish speaking Laos or Cambodian tour guides. I’ve got other friends who have worked for Tour bus companies or even for sail boats in Croatia. Beware though – there have recently been numerous arrests of Russian speaking tour guides in Phuket, Pattaya and other Thai cities, so its not recommended in Thailand.

10) Bar tending, Cheffing & Hospitality:


Bar tending is another job thats technically illegal for foreigners in Thailand, and you’d never attempt it in places like Bangkok. That said, there are plenty of places where foreigners are able to get away with it, though there is some risk. Look around you and see if its common, places I’ve lived in the past have had a high number of foreign bar staff, especially if the area is remote and has a high expat population.  If you have more hospitality experience you might even be able to land a well paying, legal job as a bar manager in a high end area or as a foreign chef in a hotel, restaurant or your own business – or at the other end of the scale run a pub crawl like my friends in Cambodia.

11) Hostels:

This will depend on place to place, and again the work permit situation is a big one. But hostels are a great place for someone to work, either for cash (don’t expect much) or in return for accommodation. Common sense is required as there are often crack downs on these places in Asia, but if the owners have a good relationship with local authorities it can work out for you. Just don’t try to start one, I did that, wasted 3 months of my life without pay, spent a few thousand dollars and almost ended up with some run ins with immigration and the cops while waiting for my business visa and work permit to get processed!

12) Referrals:

Long term stay in a hostel or touristy area is an ideal way to make commission based cash and kickbacks from introducing tourists to tour operators, pub crawls, activities and more. I’ve made thousands of Baht in commission just in referring people I’ve met to a friend in the dive industry – not bad for just having a conversation to someone in the street.

Other Things to bear in mind:

Work Permits, Tax and the Law.

Often the biggest barrier to work is legal or work permit situations, especially in South East Asia. Getting a work permit here in Thailand can be an expensive and time consuming situation and working without one is technically illegal and can result in deportation. Generally speaking though, if you are working online, or working from home it shouldn’t be a problem. The same goes for english teachers working in schools, though the risks are always there. There are some regions of various countries that are more “lawless” when it comes to foreigners working, these will be pretty obvious when you visit them and notice that all the bars are run by foreigners rather than locals! Don’t forget about tax, some countries tax you for your overseas earnings (although they might be hard or impossible to prove if they are in cash or a foreign bank account). You also have very few ways to ensure that you actually get paid if you are working under the table. The best place to keep up to date with changes to the law regarding work in Thailand and other nearby countries is

How are you going to get paid:

If its cash thats easy, grab your brown envelope and spend it – but what about if you are working online for a company overseas. Make sure that you have all your banking details sorted before you go overseas, set up a PayPal account, but also a Skrill account (which is excellent for transferring money internationally) combined with a local bank account for lower transfer and withdrawal fees.

So how do you earn money while you live and travel overseas long term?

Eat for less than 300 Baht Per Week in Bangkok

Despite being a crazy Vegan (when it suits her), Sarah is absolutely amazing in the kitchen, and manages to feed both of us for less than 300 Baht each (not including booze of expensive treats) for lunch and dinner. Although I love to eat my meat, I’m kind of put off most of it here in Thailand after visiting the wet markets and seeing how its stored, the flies that have a nasty habit of landing on raw meat, and well just the general lack of hygiene standards anywhere, so I’m vegetarian unless I go to a restaurant, then its steak and bacon everywhere – this definitely keeps our costs down.


Many expats I’ve met don’t bother cooking due to “how cheap” food is here in Thailand. While it is comparatively cheap compared to home, you can only spend so long living off 40 baht street food, pork on a stick, pad thai or fried rice. Eventually you want something decent. Eating this way we are able to enjoy curries, home made friend rice, noodle soup, pastas and more and I’m spending less than $15 NZD per week. Other expats who are cooking tend to go shopping at their local supermarket, or mall, and purchase pre packaged stuff and brands from home – or live off microwavable/toasted 7/11 food – I should know, I was one of them!


Tescos and similar supermarkets are great for things such as rice, cooking oil, and other stuff, but for fruit and vegetables the secret to really keeping your costs down is to find your local wet market. We make a weekly trip to ours across the Chaopraya River at Thewes (4 Baht each way) and have a few favourite vendors that we visit all the time.


You can literally get anything at these markets from live fish, frogs and eels, fresh vegetables straight from the farm, and some fairly questionable meat, and you are pretty much guaranteed to be the only foreigners there.


Heres what we get for our money (Approximately 480 Baht):
Stall 1 (100 Baht): 5 x Fresh Squeezed Mandarin Juice
Stall 2 (20 Baht): 2 x Tofu
Stall 3 (180 Baht): 1 x Coconut Milk, 1 x Mushroom Sauce & Mushrooms (Shitake and one that we have no idea what it is)
Store 4 (180 Baht): Chillies, Lemongrass, Kale, Carrot, Tomatoes (2 Types), Red Onion, Garlic, Lettuce, Potatoes, String Beans & Ginger


Add rice, noodles and some spices and this provides us with yummy curries, rice dishes, noodle soup, scramble tofu and more – and gives us heaps of left over cash to save for when we want to go to a nice restaurant or drink some expensive imported craft beer!

How to Set Up a Bank Account in Thailand with a Tourist Visa

If you are sick of paying 150 baht every time you make a withdrawal from the ATM on top of international ATM fees, and want to have a local bank account.

We tried walking around various banks, and got the same answer every time – no work permit, no bank account.  The trick is to go to a banks head office in the Central Business District of Bangkok, otherwise known as Silom.  In my case I went to the Bank of Bangkok (Address: 333 Silom Road), but I’m advised that you can also do the same at other banks as well.

You will need:

  • A Passport
  • Secondary Photo ID (Valid Home Country Drivers Licence, Firearms Licence, Social Security Card etc)
  • 500 Baht Minimum Deposit
  • 300 Baht for an ATM Card

This will allow you to open a savings account with a limited Visa Debit Card which you can withdraw or deposit cash, or receive money from overseas using a service such as Skrill.  You will not be able to use the Debit card at shops or online unless you have a chequing account which can only be obtained with a Non-B Visa/Work Permit, Education or other Non Immigrant Visa.  There is also no internet banking available with an account on a tourist visa.

The process is quick and simple, you are given two forms to fill out, and a bunch of papers to sign or initial twice.  With this you will receive your card and bank book.  The card can be used at any ATM in Thailand (I haven’t tried it overseas yet) and the book can be used at any branch of your bank alongside passport ID. 

Selling the car

The (T)rusty steed – my 1997 Nissan Stagea RS4 – off to get repainted, lowered, body kit and front mounted intercooler added apparently.  Expect to see it on a future episode of Police 10/7 – Whangaparoa edition. 

I’ve owned a car since I was 15, car ownership is pretty much a right of passage here in New Zealand, without one, you are pretty much stuck due to our urban sprawl and rubbish public transport.  The longest I’ve been without driving in the last 12 years has been 5 weeks, and even then I had a car to come back to.  Over the years I’ve owned a Honda Integra, two Accord Wagons (including one SIR that lasted about a week in my hands..

My favorite car I’ve owned, a 1999 Honda Accord SiR Wagon – unfortunately it died, laden with strippers, 5 days after I purchased it in 2009, on the way back from PHAT Festival on the west coast of the South Island. 

This week I made the final major step towards a) selling all my shit and b) long term travel.  I sold my car.   So after .. ahem.. acquiring a WOF and Rego, it went on trademe (with a full disclosure of require repairs for the next WOF) and after having all manner of boy racers come in to test drive it (The RS4 is relatively uncommon, especially with factory NISMO Mags, and the fully specced leather interior, mock carbon fibre dash, and 1997 “modcons”) it finally sold to a panelbeater in Whangaparoa.

It is now destined to become his daily driver/project car, and I understand will be getting a full makeover in the next few months.  I look forward to seeing it on a future episode of Police 10/7 that it so rightfully deserves.

Now I just have to survive the next 10 days in NZ without my own transport, and without going insane with cabin fever. Still – selling the car has paid for my airfares and insurance.  A good start.

Travel Insurance – Comparing Suppliers

Getting travel insurance sorted is going to be interesting, as I’m not sure how long I’ll be travelling, or where I’ll actually be.  I do however know that I plan to go to Europe and South East Asia, and don’t have any intention of visiting the USA or North America at least in the short term.

I also plan to play paintball, which seems to be covered, or at least not “not covered” in most plans, and will be travelling with a Macbook Pro ($1800 NZD replacement value), iPhone 4s ($1100 NZD Replacement) and a Serato SL3 ($1300 NZD Replacement).  For all insurance quotes online it has the following assumptions.

  • 1 Year premium length starting Sep 2012
  • Macbook, iphone and serato are all covered by insurance
  • I’ll be playing paintball
  • I’m a 28 year old male, NZ is primary place of residence, non smoker, no pre existing medical conditions and will be travelling to Europe (Slovenia, Croatia & UK at least) and SE Asia (Thailand and Malaysia at least).

Travel Insurance Direct – $899 NZD $844 NZD (Specifically mentions Paintball is ok) – $598-$654 (no specific mention of laptop/phone/serato)



Edit: Not finished yet, more quotes/comparisons and conclusion to come!