More than 40,000 Americans have chosen to make Thailand their permanent home and most of them are retirees.
Retiring to the Southeast Asian nation is very easy and the low cost of living, endless sunshine and excellent medical facilities make it very attractive to do.
Here’s what you need to know about how to retire in Thailand.
Why People Retire In Thailand
Why would you want to retire in Thailand? After all, isn’t it a developing nation? Yes, it is. But there are many reasons to live in Thailand as a retiree:
- Low cost of housing. You can buy a place in Thailand for as little as $40,000 (though foreigners can only own condominiums) or you can rent a home for as little as $300 a month. Life in Bangkok is a bit more expensive than this, but it’s still cheap.
- The food is amazing. As we get older, our taste buds tend to become less sensitive, the spicy food culture of Thailand is world famous. It’s super tasty and cheap.
- Healthcare is amazing. Thailand is a center of global medical tourism. The hospitals are every bit as good as at home (and yes, they speak English) but they cost much, much less.
- It’s tropical. It’s warm and sunny all year round in most of Thailand and even those places that do get cool in Winter, such as Chiang Mai, don’t see frost or snow.
- Your money goes further. Thailand may be a developing nation but much of it is very similar to any first world nation, except for the prices, which are almost always lower.
- The people are amazing. Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles”. They also have a culture which respects older people as a matter of course.
There are, of course, many other good reasons to retire in Thailand but the list above tends to be the biggest draw for most people.
How To Retire In Thailand
Step 1 – Get A Retirement Visa For Thailand
If you want to visit Thailand before you retire then you don’t need a special visa.
You can either get a tourist visa from your local Thai embassy or just fly and get a 30-day visa waiver at the airport.
However, to retire in Thailand, you need a retirement visa.
This is relatively easy to obtain as long as you are over 50 and will pass a Thai criminal background check.
You will also need a passport that is at least 12 months before its expiry date.
Then you need to show that you meet the financial criteria for retiring in Thailand and these are:
- Either, place 800,000 Thai Baht in a bank account (this is about $24-$28,000 depending on the exchange rate at the time)
- Or, have a monthly pension that provides an income of 65,000 Baht a month (that’s just over or under $2,000 depending on the exchange rate)
- Or, have a combination of the two (for example, 400,000 Baht in the bank and a pension of 35,000 Baht a month)
You can then apply for a retirement visa from your Thai embassy or in Thailand (though you will need to go to an embassy outside of Thailand, often Savannakhet in neighbouring Laos, to finalize the paperwork and pay the fees).
The visa itself costs only 2,000 Baht (that’s about $60-$70) and lasts for 10 years!
However, while the visa is a multiple entry visa and you are free to come and go as you please, if you are in Thailand for a period of 90 days or more, you are required to report to Thai immigration every 90 days for that period or the visa becomes invalid.
Step 2 – Make Sure You Can Cover Your Living Expenses
Thailand is cheap, but it is not free. You cannot draw on the money that you place into a Thai bank account to secure your visa.
So, you will need an income of some kind to sustain you.
You might want to check out the best paid work for retirees or the lowest stress work you can get as a retiree if you don’t have a pension.
Where you live in the country, will fix many of your expenses.
You can live in provincial Thailand for next to nothing. A 3 bedroom, furnished house on a security controlled compound in Isaan province, might set you back just $300 a month.
Whereas a one-bedroom apartment in a nice building, with access to a pool and gym, in central Bangkok could cost up to $1,000 a month.
You’ll also want to budget for healthcare (either insurance or pay as you go – it’s cheaper in Thailand but big operations are still expensive).
Then there’s food, water, Internet and electricity. All of which are lower cost than in the US and many people say they can cover all these expenses for $2-$300 a month. Though some spend much more.
After that, you probably need a budget for fun and hobbies and that will vary depending on what you like to do in your spare time.
We’d estimate that the bare minimum for a decent life in Thailand for a single retiree in good health, living outside of Bangkok, is about $1,000 a month and, inside Bangkok, around $1,500 a month.
Two can live almost as cheaply as one, though and extra expenses for a partner would be around $500 a month.
Step 3 – Jump On A Plane and Move To Thailand
This bit is the, relatively, easy bit.
You need to know where in Thailand you’re heading before you book your flights and the good news is that the country has an excellent network of local airports.
With a bit of sensible planning, you should be able to end up no more than a 30-60 minute taxi ride away from home once you deplane.
If you have health issues, you might want to consider flying business, long haul flights can really make life hard for some people.
You can expect to pay around $700-$1,000 for a one-way flight in economy to Thailand and about $2,500+ for a business class flight.
If you can fit most of your possessions in a suitcase, then moving is super easy.
If, on the other hand, you intend to ship most of your stuff from the US, you will need to negotiate not just a removal service and container transport to Thailand but also the intricacies of Thai customs and excise.
We recommend that unless you really have to ship things, you sell off most of your stuff at home and buy anything you need in Thailand.
Final Thoughts On Retirement In Thailand
The author hasn’t, yet, retired in Thailand (though it’s coming soon) but he has spent a lot of time in Thailand and it’s an excellent choice of destination to retire to and it’s not difficult to do, either.
You might also want to consider retiring in the Philippines, mind you. There are some great reasons to do that too.