We all think about retirement once we hit a certain age. When that time comes, a question that most people ponder is, where should they retire – at home or abroad?
It’s a huge decision. You’ve worked hard all your life, and you deserve to live out your twilight years on your terms.
For those who dream of retiring abroad, it is essential to consider and research all the options. To weigh up the pros and cons of each location and select the right one.
And if Thailand is at the top of your retirement plans, you’ve come to the right place. This is your complete guide on the best places to retire in Thailand and what makes them ideal for ex-pat retirees.
Retirement Research: 2 Questions to Ask Yourself
Thailand is a favored retirement destination because it has such variety. From its bustling Bangkok to its idyllic islands and its countryside villages to its vibrant beach towns – Thailand has a place for everyone.
With the many locations available and each offering different pros and cons, it can be confusing to know what place in Thailand is best for your retirement.
Here are two key questions to keep in mind as you consider your options:
1. What are your necessities in life?
As you approach retirement, it’s fair to say that you know yourself pretty well by now.
Knowing your priorities and the absolute necessities can help you decide which place would be the most suitable for your retirement.
Choosing a city like Bangkok would be the best for those who are active and who prioritize the conveniences of a big, urban city. Whereas living on an island would be suitable for those who want to live at a slower pace and be surrounded by nature.
Visualize a lifestyle that will make you the happiest during retirement, and pick a place that offers that lifestyle. It may sound simple, but you’re more likely to find your dream destination if you are clear on what matters to you the most.
2. How much are you willing to adapt to new life ways?
We are creatures of habit. You may have lived your life the same way for decades. As you embark on retirement, it helps to consider to what extent you are willing to live a different life.
Living in Thailand definitely has its pros and cons. So it’s important to know what kind of cons you would be able to endure and what kind of pros would make your ex-pat living more enjoyable.
Retiring in Thailand undoubtedly brings plenty of unexpected adventures and unique experiences. For some, the culture shock might be too much to handle, while others might embrace the excitement.
Finding the best place for your retirement is not an exact science. Even if you know what you are looking for and you plan it out perfectly – things do not always turn out the way you expect.
Being true to yourself and your willingness to adapt will help you determine what risks are worth taking.
5 Best Places in Thailand to Retire
If your answers to these two questions still point towards retiring in the Land of Smiles, the next question (and most important of all) is, where is the best place for ex-pats to retire in Thailand?
To decide where in Thailand is best for your retirement plan, let’s take a look at the lifestyle each place can offer retirees:
1. Chiang Mai
Pros and cons of retiring in Chiang Mai:
- Surrounded by nature
- Pleasant weather
- Lower living costs
- Culture and festivals
- Easy and affordable to eat out
- High level of PM 2.5 due to forest fires
What makes Chiang Mai a good place to retire:
Known as the “Rose of the North”, Chiang Mai is highly regarded as one of the best places to live for retirees.
With its low living cost, modern infrastructure, and high-quality healthcare, Chiang Mai was ranked as the fourth-best “affordable place” to retire overseas for Americans. (U.S. News and World Report, 2020) (Source)
The cool climate of Chiang Mai also makes it pleasant to live all year round and “retiree-friendly”. The maximum temperature in Chiang Mai ranges between 57° F to 95 °F (14°C to 35°C). But on average, the weather tends to be a bit milder than those maximum ranges. (Source)
Due to this cooler climate conditions, the humidity in Chiang Mai (around 50% to 60%) is also not as bad as in other places like Bangkok or Pattaya. It does not carry the same risk of heat strokes like other parts of Thailand during the hottest periods of the year. (April is considered to be the hottest month.)
Chiang Mai also has all the infrastructures and conveniences of an urbanized city, but without the chaos. Chiang Mai has a slower-paced, laid-back vibe compared to the nation’s hectic capital, Bangkok.
Positioned in northern Thailand, the region is surrounded by nature with lush, green mountains.
Home to a population of around 1 million people, Chiang Mai is big enough to offer every amenity you will need. For example, major hospitals, dental clinics, and shopping centers are all accessible in the city. In fact, Chiang Mai was ranked as the top city in South-East Asia for overall healthcare system quality by Numbeo’s 2022 Mid-Year Health Care Index. (Source)
Chiang Mai also has an international airport that offers direct flights to other parts of Thailand and abroad. As for other transportation methods, you can get around Chiang Mai by using Tuk-Tuks, baht buses, and taxi services.
Greener transportation methods such as renting a bike or an e-scooter are also possible in Chiang Mai. It has a convenient system where you can hire a bike around the city center for a cheap ride of around 10 THB (30 cents USD) per trip.
As for the living costs, you can rent a two-bedroom bungalow with a garden for less than 12,000 THB (330 USD) per month or settle into a 3 bedroom villa with a private swimming pool for no more than 30,000 THB (830 USD) a month.
The cost of living (especially the rent) is much more affordable and consistent compared to Bangkok. In Bangkok, rent can vary according to the part of the city you choose to live in.
With an abundance of affordable restaurants and food stalls in Chiang Mai, many foreign residents argue that it is cheaper to eat out than to buy groceries. So if wish to avoid cooking at home during your retirement, this may be the place for you.
But retiring in Chiang Mai is not only about a quiet life and saving money. The city has a variety of places to explore and things to do for foreign residents.
Chiang Mai is home to many of Thailand’s most famous festivals, such as the Lantern Festival and Flowers Festival. Hiking and trekking are also possible in Chiang Mai as mountains are nearby the city outskirts.
With lower living costs and exciting culture, Chiang Mai is a perfect place for retirees who want to enjoy a peaceful yet urbanized environment.
Pros and cons of retiring in Pattaya:
- Great location
- Entertainment central
- Developed beach town
- Crowded with tourists
- Poor beach quality in areas
- Can be expensive to live
What makes Pattaya a good place to retire:
Once a quiet fishing village, Pattaya has been transformed into a vibrant beach town with all kinds of western amenities. You’ll find shopping malls, quality hospitals, cafes, bars, restaurants, and luxury resorts all over Pattaya.
Also, because Pattaya is an established tourist city, foreign languages like English or Chinese are widely spoken here. If you’re concerned about whether Thai people speak English, you’ll have no such worries in Pattaya.
Unlike Chiang Mai, Pattaya offers endless entertainment options. If you’re looking for an exciting lifestyle during your retirement, then look no further than the notorious “Sin City” of Thailand.
Pattaya often gets labeled as a place for sex tourism, and while it is not untrue for some parts, this seaside city offers more than just wild nightlife.
If you plan to golf your way through retirement, Pattaya has some of the best golf courses in the country. There are over 20 full-length courses just one hour’s drive away from Pattaya, and about half of these courses are known to be of excellent quality.
They are known for a good price-to-quality ratio and versatility. Green fees for good courses usually cost around 1000 THB (28 USD) in Pattaya. Whereas it would cost twice the amount in other popular beach destinations. (Source)
And even though Pattaya is a seaside city, several high-class hospitals (such as Bangkok Hospital Pattaya and Pattaya Memorial Hospital) are available for those who require medical services.
Similar to Chiang Mai, Pattaya also ranked high (in 4th place) on Numbeo’s 2022 Mid-Year Health Care Index for cities in South-East Asia. Another proof that retiring in Pattaya has more to offer than just partying. (Source)
Pros and cons of retiring in Bangkok:
- World-class infrastructure
- Convenient and clean public transport
- Full of entertainment options
- Good health care service
- Abundant job opportunities
- Quality education
- High living costs
- Traffic jams
- Air pollution
- Hectic lifestyle
- Flooding during rainy season
- Crowded chaos
What makes Bangkok a good place to retire:
The capital of Thailand is highly urbanized with skyscrapers, luxury shopping malls, and well-kept public transportation systems. While it has some underdeveloped areas, there is a general misconception that Bangkok is a dirty city.
Due to the number of foreign residents and tourists visiting Thailand and its capital every year, English is used almost everywhere. Therefore, it is very easy for you to get around the city even without basic knowledge of Thai.
Bangkok boasts world-class healthcare. Bumrungrad International Hospital, which is located in the middle of the city, is widely regarded as one of the best hospitals in the world.
Many hospitals in Bangkok (especially the private ones like Bumrungrad) have special departments for foreign patients that provide translation and visa services. Many doctors in Thailand have also trained in foreign countries, such as the U.S or the U.K and can easily communicate in English.
These factors make Bangkok a perfect place for retiree who is looking for Western standard health care at an affordable price.
When retiring in Bangkok, rental costs vary. The average rental cost ranges from 300 USD to 900 USD (10,000 to 30,000 THB) per month. Rental rates are around 35% lower on the capital outskirts.
For foreigners who wish to buy property in Bangkok, the cost per square meter ranges from 3,000 USD to 7,000 USD for properties inside Bangkok. On the outskirts, property prices are approximately half the price. (Source)
For the monthly cost of living in Bangkok, it can range from 1,000 USD (35,000 THB) and upwards, depending on your desired lifestyle. As a ball-park figure, a retirement budget of 1500 USD (52,000 THB) per month is advisable for comfortable living.
Bangkok also is rich in culture and has a lot of places for you to explore. If you’re looking for a highly active retirement, this vibrant place is for you. It is impossible to get bored in this city.
If you are a “foodie,” you will also find retiring in Bangkok very enjoyable as it offers many delicious street foods and international cuisines.
Bangkok also makes it easy to join a retirement community while in Thailand. There are plenty of foreigners and ex-pat communities on Facebook. For example, “Bangkok Expats” has over 100,000 members. If you choose to retire in Bangkok, you’ll have no problem connecting with like-minded people in this super-social city.
Pros and cons of retiring in Phuket:
- Lots of options to enjoy
- Large expat community in Thailand
- Easy access to medical care
- Too crowded
- High cost of living
- Can be a party island if you make it one
What makes Phuket a good place to retire:
Thai islands like Phuket are well-known among foreign retirees for their beautiful beaches, emerald oceans, and relaxing atmosphere. And most islands in Thailand offer exciting nightlife and activities that keep you entertained and active.
Phuket offer the best of both worlds – the relaxing atmosphere away from the mainland area of the country, fused with an exciting nightlife.
A popular area in Phuket, such as Patong beach, is home to various bars, pubs and clubs. It is also home to the famous Bangla Road. A must-visit, but perhaps not a place to spend all of your retirement time!
Nature and wildlife lover?
In that case, Phuket also has some of the most stunning natural beaches in the country, such as Nai Harn, Bang Tao, and Nai Yang.
Just like in other parts of Thailand, Phuket also is blessed with many hospitals. Bangkok Hospital Phuket and Mission Hospital Phuket are located in the southern area of Phuket, with Thalang Hospital in the northern area of the island. Most hospitals on the island are well-equipped, except for some smaller government hospitals.
5. Koh Samui
Pros and cons of retiring in Koh Samui:
- Authentic island lifestyle
- Beautiful coastal area
- Has most of the daily necessities
- Not quick and easy to access the island
- Premium property prices
- Lacks cleanliness due to inadequate waste disposal systems
What makes Koh Samui a good place to retire:
Koh Samui is another excellent place for retirees. Especially if you want to live a quiet island life away from all the bustling city noise.
Retirees who wish to settle on the island can choose from a wide range of accommodation- from expensive beachfront villas to cheaper apartments (15). However, property prices tend to be quite expensive compared to some areas in Thailand as prices are expected to rise due to the influx of investment from other Asia countries’ guests (15).
As for the other infrastructures like hospitals, schools, and restaurants, Koh Samui has several international schools for retiree families with kids, as well as many delicious eateries and street food stalls.
Although it is not as easy to get to Koh Samui as it is to other beach areas like Pattaya or Hua Hin, it is possible to fly into Koh Samui relatively easily.
Whatsmore the island contains most of the necessities you are likely to require while living on the island as a retiree. However, the island is famous for having a trash build-up due to poor waste management facilities.
Requirements to Retire in Thailand
Once you have chosen your retirement location in Thailand, it’s time to get your paperwork in order.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as just booking your one-way plane ticket. You have to apply for a visa.
Any foreigner who wants to stay in Thailand as a retiree needs to apply for the Non-Immigrant Visa-Retirement (O-A) Long Stay visa, and some of the requirements for the visa are as follows:
1. The applicant must not be under the age of 50 years by the date of application.
2. The applicant must not have any criminal record and cannot be prohibited from entering the Kingdom.
3. The applicant cannot be permitted to work in Thailand.
4. The applicant must have health insurance that covers the whole period of stay in the Kingdom. The health insurance policy must cover at least 400,000 THB per year for Inpatient treatments and at least 40,000 THB per year for outpatient treatments.
5. The applicant must be able to submit a bank statement that shows a deposit of the amount equal to no less than 800,000 THB or an income statement that indicates a monthly income of no less than 65,000 THB. As an alternative, applicants can show a combination of bank deposit and income certificate that indicates an income of no less than 800,000 THB per year.
The period of stay granted for such type of visa holders is 1 year. During the period of stay, the foreign retirees are required to report their status to immigration officials every 90 days. (Source)
Dos and Don’ts as a Retiree in Thailand
As a country that grants 50,000 – 100,000 retirement visas annually, Thailand is a place that is generally tolerant of cultural differences.
Most Thai people are welcoming and make effort to understand foreigners. So, it is relatively easy to live in the Kingdom as a retiree. However, you might notice some unique things about Thai culture compared to your own.
You’ll want to avoid doing anything that may upset the locals. Therefore, being aware of Thai traditions and cultural codes is advantageous.
Many Thai traditions are based on Buddhism – such as forbidding the usage of Buddha statues as a decoration and not being able to wear revealing outfits to temples.
Thai people also do not allow others to touch their heads, as they consider the head to be the holiest part of the body. It is also offensive to speak ill about the Thai Royal family. This should be avoided as it can land you in serious trouble.
Is Thailand the Best Place to Retire in Asia?
Thailand is a popular retirement destination for a reason. Blessed with such variety and uniqueness, Thailand is undoubtedly a fantastic place to enjoy your golden years.
So it should be of no surprise Thailand was ranked as the best country in Asia for foreigners to retire and the 11th best country to retire worldwide. (Source)
However, South-East Asia is not all about Thailand. The region is blessed with many excellent retirement destinations. So, if you’re dead set on retiring in Asia but are questioning if Thailand is the right place for you – there are more countries worth considering.
Here is a summary of the other best places to retire in Asia and their approximate costs for easy comparison.
If you are a retiree looking for adventures, Malaysia is worthy of your consideration. The country is relatively large and has a wide variety of terrain, glorious rainforests, and beautiful beaches. (Source)
English is also regarded as an unofficial second language of Malaysia. It is more widely spoken compared to Thailand. This will naturally make it easier to settle there if you are concerned about language barriers.
The average cost of living per month in Malaysia is estimated to be around $2000. It is believed that you can have a comfortable lifestyle on a budget of around $2500 per month. (Source)
Regarded as one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world, Bali is a dream destination for many foreign retirees.
Bali is not only about relaxing and unwinding on its stunning beaches. It also caters to the active retiree. Since Bali is surrounded by oceans, the island offers world-class surfing, diving, snorkeling, and parasailing for water sports enthusiasts.
Located on the southern side of Bali, Sanur is also a top choice among retirees who wants to indulge in a 5-stars luxury lifestyle on a 3-stars level budget. The monthly total cost of living in Bali ranges from anything around $1000 to $2000 for a retiree couple. (Source, Source)
With a generous climate, stunning scenery, charming towns, and an abundance of delicious and healthy food – Vietnam’s popularity among retirees has skyrocketed in recent times.
Da Nang is a famous destination in Vietnam for foreign residents. It offers a nice blend between a modern city and ancient history, consisting of skyscrapers, quality infrastructure, and malls while having three UNESCO World Heritage Sites within close proximity.
Many foreign residents and retirees can live a comfortable lifestyle in Vietnam for a monthly living cost of approximately $900 – $1400. This includes living in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, which are the most expensive cities in the country.
Although getting a long-term visa in Vietnam is challenging, it is certainly worth the hassle. (Source)
Thailand has so much more than beautiful beaches when it comes to living as a retiree in the country.
It is widely considered the top Asian destination for retirees due to its blend of affordable living costs, high-quality health care, and foreigner-friendly locations.
Whatsmore the Kingdom is home to delicious cuisines, cultural amazements, and friendly local people – which just seals the deal for many ex-pats who choose to retire there.
Wherever you decide is the best place for you to retire in Thailand, you’re unlikely to feel alone. The country’s popularity among ex-pats means that it is full of retiree communities.
On the other hand, if you’re having second thoughts about retiring in Thailand, South-East Asia offers plenty of alternatives.
Like always, if you want to discover more about Thailand, stay guided with ThaiGuider. You might learn something you never knew about this unique country.
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