I’ve lived in Thailand since 2009, two years in Bangkok, the rest in Chiang Mai. Most of that time I was a student; I now have a job at a local company. I’m sure there are others, but what follows is my experience.
The only time I’ve experienced “farang rates” is at large tourist places like Flight of the Gibbon or something similar. There are two rates at most national parks, but when I flash my student ID or work permit I get the local rate. As Adam already mentioned, all other things are usually a listed price.
Making local friends is very easy and very hard. People are people and if you talk to them they’ll usually talk back. It has only happened a few times in life that I spoke to someone who promptly ran away. Joking aside, the hard part is finding enough in common with someone from a different culture to continue hanging out.
As for banking, it’s pretty easy. Officially you should be a university student or have a work permit to open an account, but in practice this is never a problem. Many of my friends have opened accounts on tourist VISAs. You might have to try a few branches before someone will open one for you, but you’ll get it. This article from Tony will probably help.
Taxes can be hard to talk about. Not only is it a touchy subject with the digital nomad crowd, but also I’m not sure where you’re from or how you’re working. If you’re only here for a few months and don’t intend to setup a local company, you won’t have to worry about paying taxes to Thailand. It’s important to know that while the immigration office doesn’t seem to care if you work on your laptop, the revenue department does. Officially you need a work permit to do anything here, but the chances of running afoul of the revenue department are infinitesimally small. Here’s the personal income tax section from the revenue department website if you’re interested to read more.
As was mentioned earlier, most people get tourist VISAs and run to Laos or Malaysia when they expire. Every so often the government will change the policy to make it more difficult to continue this practice, but it does seem to be the preferred way as tourist VISAs are easy to get. Education VISAs are probably the second most common. If you would like to learn something, most commonly Thai language, but also massage, or something else, you could easily go this route, but know that there are attendance requirements. Another interesting option for Australian and New Zealand citizens who are college degree holders and under 30 years old is the Working Holiday VISA which will give you one year in country, no VISA runs required. I know almost nothing about this option, but have met a few guys doing it. I’m sure Google will get you all the info you need.
There is one more option for those wanting to stay long term. While I work for the company I’m about to discuss, it’s not my reason for talking about them. This option will be good for some, and not good for others. Iglu is a Thai company with Board of Investment approval. If you do something related to software development, design, sales or marketing, they may be a good option. The basic system works like this: you continue working for your clients and customers as you do now, but instead of billing them yourself Iglu does the billing for you. On paper you will look like an employee of Iglu. They will get your VISA and work permit sorted, provide you office space and pay your local taxes. Once you establish tax residency in Thailand most people are no longer required to pay taxes to their home country. So far so good right? But I hear you ask, “how much will this cost me?” And that’s why it won’t be a good fit for everyone. Iglu keeps 30% of the money they invoice for you. This 30% is it though, no more taxes or anything else. If you’re interested, do a search for “Iglu in Thailand,” they’ll be the first result.