How to retire to Thailand: A complete guide

23.08.17
6 minute read
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You’re probably tempted to retire in Thailand, whether you’re a Brit, an American or an Australian. Between the amazing food, the pristine beaches and the great cost of living, what’s not to love? Seniors flock to Thailand because their pensions can go a long way there. Expatriates are always nearby, creating welcoming communities in case you’re feeling homesick. Check out this guide for tips on money, budget and leisure for retirees in Thailand.

What’s the money like there?

The currency in Thailand is called the Thai baht. It is denoted with the symbol ฿ or the code THB. One baht is subdivided into 100 satang, and it’s the 10th most-used currency in the world. As of 2017, here are the currency exchange rates for some other common currencies:

  • 1 EUR is 37.8 THB
  • 1 USD is 34 THB
  • 1 AUD is 25.6 THB
  • 1 GBP is 43 THB

What's the cost of living like in Thailand?

In Thailand, the incredible standard of living draws visitors and expats from all over the world. Consumer prices are reasonable, housing is cheap and you’ll be able to afford luxuries that aren’t available to you in the west. If you’re adventurous enough to cope with the culture shock, your budget will thank you. One way to lessen the pain of expenses is through using TransferWise; you can transfer money to any local Thai bank account from your home country, while saving on fees and surcharges. TransferWise uses the real exchange rate and applies a low fixed fee - leaving you with more money to enjoy your retirement.

Here are some estimated costs you’ll see in Thailand:

Item Estimated cost in Thailand
loaf of bread 35 THB
chicken breast 43 THB
one beer in a bar 100 THB
McDonald’s meal for one 170 THB
monthly pass for fitness club 1,700 THB
meal for two at mid-range restaurant 600 THB
one pair of jeans 2,000 THB
monthly rent, one-bedroom apartment 13,800 THB
monthly rent, three-bedroom apartment 29,000 THB
petrol, one gallon 105 THB
Volkswagen golf, new 800,000 THB
one-way ticket on local transport 20 THB
monthly transport pass 1,000 THB
basic utilities for an apartment 2,247 THB

How much money do I need to retire in Thailand?

To retire comfortably in Thailand, there are a few baseline numbers to think about. With a cushion of $25,000 in savings, or on a modest salary of $2,000 per month, a retired couple could live a simple but comfortable life.

Even though many people move to Thailand because it’s cheap, it’s still smart to have some savings to account for surprise expenses. Still, the average Thai resident lives on less than $1,000 a month. To live cheaply, you could survive on a budget around this amount. You’ll probably have to skip out on travel, eating in restaurants and paying for premium healthcare.

A luxurious retirement in Thailand is available for around $5,000 a month. This means employing maids and cooks, living in a premium location downtown or by the beach, and still having enough for entertainment. If you’re looking to buy property in Thailand, you can also pay for a spacious condominium on this budget.

What’s daily life like?

In Thailand, the climate is generally hot and tropical there, so if you’re looking to escape the cold you’ll be going to the right place. The warmest month is April, which has average temperatures of 31°C (87°F). In December, the coldest month, you can expect temperatures of 26°C (79°F).

North of Bangkok, where most people live, the climate is determined by three seasons: a dry and cooler period from November to February, a dry and hotter period from March to May and a monsoon season from May to November. South of Bangkok, the climate is determined only by two seasons, the rainy season from April to October and the dry period from November to March.

Retirees in Thailand tend to pursue a range of leisure activities. The warm climate means water sports, hiking and fishing are generally available. History buffs have countless temples and ancient sites to visit.

Sport is also common in Thailand. Thai boxing is a vigorous, energy-intensive sport so if you’re on the active side, you’ll have access to the world’s best Thai boxing experts there. When you’re not feeling as active, wellness activities are a very popular part of Thai customs. You’ll find many spa treatments and traditional massage therapies.

What are the best places to retire to in Thailand?

The most popular places that people choose to retire in Thailand are:

  • Bangkok
  • Chiang Mai
  • Phuket
  • Hua Hin
  • Chiang Rai

Bangkok is the most-visited part of Thailand. It has a diversity of restaurants, temples, canals and art museums. If you’re looking for easy public transportation, you’ll find it here. There are also a lot of resources for expats, like meetup groups and English-speaking bookstores.

Chiang Mai is another popular destination in Thailand. It’s considered the center of northern Thailand and has the adventurous reputation to go along with it. Active retirees will find plenty of outdoor activities, from hiking to mountain biking to kayaking and whitewater rafting. You can explore over 300 Buddhist temples around the area. There’s plenty of nightlife since Chiang Mai is home to tens of thousands of expats.

In Phuket, you’ll be closer to Thailand’s beaches. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. It’s also known for its nightclubs. Cuisine skews toward seafood here, as you’d expect from a beachside area. You can also find Japanese, Italian and Indian cuisines.

Hua Hin is a more unorthodox choice for retirees, but it’s popular among low-key retirees. Historically it was a quiet fishing village, but these days it’s better known as a vacation area for Thailand’s elite. There’s a large expat community mixed with a small-town vibe. You’ll find diverse restaurants and agreeable, beachy weather.

Chiang Rai is one of the most budget-friendly cities in Thailand. It’s in the north of Thailand, and can feel more peaceful than its capital-city cousin, Bangkok. You’ll find rice paddies and waterfalls and mystical mountains. There’s a hospital and a shopping mall, as well as numerous restaurants, but life in Chiang Rai feels more rural than your average city.

What are the visa requirements for me?

Requirements for American retirees

There are four steps to acquiring a visa to retire in Thailand. First, you have to obtain a non-immigrant visa by providing the Thai consulate with your passport and proof that you have enough funds. The financial requirements are:

  • Bank account with THB 800,000 or
  • Monthly income of at least THB 65,000 or
  • Combination (bank account and income per year exceeds THB 800,000)

The second step is to obtain a one-year retirement visa. You must be 50 or older to receive this, and have a Thai bank book and a letter from your Thai bank. You’ll also need to provide photos and a departure card and passport.

Third, you must obtain an ‘extension of stay’ notice and a re-entry permit, which will allow you to re-enter the country if you ever leave it.

Lastly, you must report to the Immigration Police every 90 days to check in and verify your address. You may not be accepted on a retirement visa if you have any type of criminal history.

Australian requirements to retire in Thailand

The steps required for an Australian to retire in Thailand are the same as for Americans. Note that these retirement visas are only valid for one year at a time. To renew, go to the embassy in-person with your passport and sign the visa paperwork with the immigration staff.

UK pensioners looking to settle in Thailand

UK pensioners must go through the same process as Americans and Australians to receive a retirement visa in Thailand. If you get this visa, you will not be allowed to work for the duration of your visa.

Go out there and get settled

Retirees in Thailand will find plenty to be happy about. From the great weather to the focus on wellness to the interesting culture and amazing food, it’s definitely an exotic choice. Exotic as it is, the many international retirees there, means you’ll be in good company.

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