Why Retire To Thailand?
Thailand is a popular exotic retirement destination for baby boomers because the cost of living is so great. For retirees looking for the laid back, foreign, beachy way of life, Thailand can be a retirement paradise. From larger resort towns to smaller villages, expatriates have settled all over this southeast Asian gem formerly known as Siam.
Thailand’s Low Cost of Living
Thailand is famous for offering retirees a low cost of living in their golden years. This fact accounts for much of the country’s appeal. It is estimated that a retired couple can live on $1000 per month in Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand. This city provides lots of outdoor activities as well as 300 Buddhist temples to explore. As many expatriates live in Chiang Mai, nightlife is popular here.
Another popular retirement haven, Hua Hin, located in the south of Thailand on the Gulf of Thailand, is filled with expatriates (up to 15 percent of its population of 70,000 is approximated to be foreign-born). Hua Hin is filled with golf courses, shopping and gated communities, and lies about three hours south of Bangkok. As it is so filled with expatriates, English is widely spoken there. Hua Hin has been a bit too westernized for some retirees who are looking for a more authentic Thai retirement destination. However, for those who crave the familiar, Hua Hin offers an affordable retirement destination for baby boomers.
Ao Nang, in the southeast part of the country, is close to Krabi International Airport and a popular spot for tourists and retirees. This part of Thailand combines the jungle and the beach and provides a nice getaway from some of the more populated areas of the country. A laid-back feel that still offers nightlife and restaurants is another reason many retirees settle in Ao Nang.
Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, is another place in which baby boomer retirees may decide to settle. It is known for its busy nightlife and fine cuisine. As it is mainly a beachy area, seafood is quite popular here. The cost of living is a bit more expensive in Phuket than in other areas of Thailand, as it is known more as a luxury destination.
Koh Samui is a beachy area in the Gulf of Thailand that attracts tourists and retirees. It is more western-oriented than other parts of the country. Its low crime rate and the fact that English is widely spoken here makes Koh Samui popular with many baby boomer retirees looking for a familiar way of life in Thailand.
Bangkok, the largest city in Thailand, is called Krung Thep Maha Nakhon in Thai. It is in Central Thailand and houses 14 million people. For some baby boomer retirees, Bangkok is just too busy for the ideal retirement destination. Others, however, love the city’s nightlife, shopping, tourist attractions and bustling way of life. It is very cheap for a retiree to live in Bangkok, with estimates of $1000 per month providing a nice lifestyle.
Chiang Rai is a smaller city in the mountains of northern Thailand, featuring waterfalls, forests, hot springs and authentic Thai villages. Many baby boomer retirees love the smaller town feel and friendly natives of the more undeveloped Chiang Rai, as well as its low cost of living.
No matter where a retiree chooses to settle in Thailand, the options to rent or buy property are usually available. Apartments, condominiums and houses are all housing choices in various parts of the country. Rent and property prices are both much cheaper than what most expatriate retirees are accustomed to, so the choice whether to rent or buy property generally depends upon what fits best into one’s lifestyle and retirement plans. Rents in the larger cities such as Bangkok average from $250 to $500 per month, while rents in outlying areas can be about $700 per month. Foreigners cannot buy land in Thailand but can buy apartments and condominiums. One-bedroom apartments average $40,000 in Bangkok, while larger apartments may be from $80,000 to $100,000. Condos can be purchased for an average of $100,000.
Expats who love a hot, tropical climate will feel right at home in Thailand. In April, the country’s warmest month, temperatures average in the high 80 degrees Fahrenheit. December, the coldest month, finds average temperatures in the high 70s. There are actual seasons for those living north of Bangkok. From November to February is a drier, cooler period. From March to May, northern Thai experiences a drier, hotter period. From May to November is the monsoon season.
For those living south of Bangkok, the climate experiences just two seasons: a dry season from November to March and a rainy season from April to October.
Things to Do in Thailand
Because of its favorable climate, baby boomer retirees who settle in Thailand will find lots of outdoor sports in which to participate. Water sports, fishing, hiking and boxing are all popular sports in the country. Wellness is also part of the customs of Thailand, with massages and spas abounding across the country.
Eating out is a popular pastime for retirees in Thailand, mostly because the food is so good and so cheap. Thai cuisine, of course, is available, as is cuisine from Japan, Italy and many other countries. As Thai food is traditionally healthier than Western food, many retirees find themselves becoming healthier the longer they live and eat in Thailand.
The arts are big in Thailand among baby boomer retirees. Classes in painting, pottery, music, and book clubs are all available to those seeking creative pursuits. Expatriate groups can help new retirees to find these types of activities. Classes to learn Thai are also available should one wish to learn the local language.
History is very much a part of Thailand today. Those who are history enthusiasts will enjoy visiting the country’s abundance of ancient sites and temples. There are many Buddhist structures to visit, such as Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom; as well as Khmer monuments and temples from the time when the Khmer empire controlled the country ten centuries ago.
Public transportation in Thailand’s cities is quite good and will enable retirees to travel all over quite cheaply. Internet service in the cities is also high quality, due to the fact that many who work “from home” or even remotely work for a company in another country settle in Thailand to take advantage of the great weather and laid-back lifestyle. Many who live in Thailand enjoy exploring the rest of the country in their spare time, utilizing the country’s great transportation system.
As 95 percent of Thailand’s population is Buddhist, many Buddhist values are intertwined into Thai culture. This includes importance of the family and of a hierarchy system. Conservative dress is commonly respected in Thailand, as is removing shoes and hats when entering a temple. Additionally, feet should always be pointed away from any Buddhist images, and monks are not to be touched by females.
The greater emphasis placed on an outdoor lifestyle in Thailand means that some baby boomers experience an improvement in their health upon moving to Thailand. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables also contributes to a healthier lifestyle. Ultimately, relaxing, socializing and enjoying retirement in an exotic paradise will contribute the most to a baby boomer retiree’s health in Thailand.
Health Care in Thailand
Baby boomer retirees will be pleased to discover that health care in Thailand is of a high quality and not expensive. In fact, many medical tourists come to Thailand each year to receive medical care that they either cannot get or cannot afford at home. Hospital facilities in Thailand are top-notch, especially Phuket International Hospital and Bangkok Phuket Hospital. Medical procedures in Thailand average up to 80 percent less than they would cost in Europe or North America.
Medical insurance may be obtained cheaply by retirees in Thailand, but with the cost of medical care so low, some choose to simply pay out of pocket. Prescription prices are also much cheaper in Thailand than they are back home.
Visa Requirements for Retires in Thailand
In order to retire to Thailand, United States retirees must first obtain a Non-Immigrant Visa. This involves showing your passport and proof of funds to the Thai consulate. This can be done through opening a Thai bank account with 800,000 THB (Thai currency- 1 USD = 34 THB); or having a monthly income of 65,000 THB; or a combination of the two.
Next, a one-year Retirement Visa may be obtained if one is at least 50 years old with a Thai bank account.
Third, one must obtain an extension of stay notice and re-entry permit, allowing you to re-enter Thailand if you leave.
Finally, Retirement Visa holders must report to the Immigration Police every 90 days to verify address. Having any type of criminal history will exclude a retiree from being able to obtain a Retirement Visa in Thailand.
The visa process is similar for retirees from Great Britain and Australia.
Baby boomer retirees who make the decision to settle in Thailand will find sun, warmth among the climate and the people, many other expatriates with whom to socialize, and much to do, all on an easily affordable budget. Having a thorough understanding the country’s culture and history can go a long way towards fitting in as a retiree in a foreign country such as Thailand as well.