Thailand has become a top retirement destination for many people around the world. There are multiple reasons for this including the lower cost of living, welcoming people, cultural and natural attractions. However, when it comes to making a choice on which particular city to relocate to, many retirees often become confused. There are several great options to choose from, which we will highlight here.
As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok is a good representation of what you will find in most other parts of the kingdom. It is famous for its affordability and food. Whether you like to live frugally or lavishly, you can do so here at a fraction of what it would cost in the west. There is a wide variety of housing to choose from and excellent transport links to other parts of the city and country.
There is also the convenience of a designated retirement visa that allows holders to make renewals from within the country. So you can pretty much extend your stay indefinitely as long as you keep meeting the stipulated conditions. Given its convenient location, many retirees take advantage to make Bangkok their base as they explore other parts of Asia. Ensure you apply for a multiple entry visa to make it easier to travel in and out of the kingdom.
When it comes to food, local dishes will often cost about $1-$2. Western staples are also widely available but will cost more. Although Thai cuisine is spicy, most eateries often adjust their cooking to accommodate western palates. There are also many markets and shopping complexes, meaning even foreigners should be able to find any type of local or foreign commodities easily. The nightlife in Bangkok is unparalleled with many bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and cabaret shows to be enjoyed.
Bangkok is a major medical tourism hub in Asia, with many state-of-the-art hospitals and numerous medical experts in various fields. With retirement visa holders expected to have health insurance, you should be able to easily access quality healthcare when and as needed. Locals and medical staff are fluent in English, so it is unlikely to suffer communication problems.
Chiang Mai often features on the list of top retirement destinations in multiple publications for good reason. Located some 600 kilometres north of Bangkok, it is famous for offering a very relaxed atmosphere. With a population of less than 130,000, the region’s low density makes it ideal for retirees looking for a slower pace of life.
This sparsity has also helped in the development of multiple ex-pat communities from across the world. The abundantly green mountainous landscape is ideal for those that love the great outdoors. Maintaining an active lifestyle is easily accomplished here. Given the mountain ranges around it, Chiang Mai is a tad less hot than most other parts of Thailand, making it more conducive to spend time outdoors and get around.
The cost of living is also lower than even Bangkok. Not surprising as it is a more rural area. Here you can comfortably live on less than $1,000 a month or even half that if you opt for a frugal lifestyle. Even with frequent dining out, expenses can be kept quite low as many dishes can cost less than a dollar. You can easily get around using public transport or opt for a motorbike rental.
Another financial upside is that medical care is far less expensive in Thailand than in most western nations. Even cosmetic and dental procedures are cheaper. The medical expertise and technology are of high quality, which has helped make cities like Chiang Mai a prime destination for medical tourism in Asia. Given that holders of retirement visas are required to have health insurance coverage, then you can expect to pay little out of pocket should you need to seek treatment.
A simple online search will confirm the many social networks groups that exist in Chiang Mai. It is easy to find helpful information for ex-pats on how to adjust to living in the community and plenty of events and meetups where you can make new friends within the ex-pat communities. The social scene is alive and kicking so whenever you feel up to socialising, you should find plenty of opportunities. The locals here are also said to be even more genuine and amiable to foreigners than other parts of Thailand.
Pattaya is a coastal city just a two-hour drive from Bangkok and has increasingly become a popular retirement destination in the kingdom. For many years Thailand’s ‘Sun City’ has been famous for its luxury hotels and resorts, coupled with a popular nightlife where revellers can find many nightclubs, bars, and restaurants to while away their time. The locals are highly conversant in English and friendly to foreigners.
Now it has a growing ex-pat community made up primarily of US and British nationals, alongside other foreigners. It is an excellent option for retirees looking to enjoy a coastal life but still prefer an easy commuting distance back to Bangkok. Its pristine and lengthy coastline makes it suitable for outdoor types that want to indulge in water activities. Scuba diving, snorkelling, sea walking, surfing, sailing, and sports fishing are just a few of the popular activities.
Another highly popular outdoor activity in the region is golfing. There are about 30 championship standard courses that golfing enthusiasts will love to try. The region also has an abundance of cultural attractions including temples like Wat Phra Yai and Anek Kusala Sala. Much of what makes this region appealing for tourists is also what can help keep retirees busy.
There is also a good variety of housing available in Pattaya. From beachside villas to small Thai style apartments, most foreigners should not find it hard to access affordable and comfortable accommodation. Food prices in the region are also comparable to the rest of the country, with most local dishes costing about a dollar and slightly more for western cuisine. Pattaya also has good infrastructure that makes it easy to travel around and get back to destinations like Bangkok. It also has 3 major international hospitals that are well equipped and staffed.
This is the top choice for retirees to Thailand that want to avoid the hustle and bustle of busy Bangkok entirely. Phuket is both the name of the island and its major city. Dubbed the ‘Pearl of the Andaman Sea’ this natural paradise is over 800 kilometres from Bangkok by road, with good infrastructure and many flourishing ex-pat communities in places like Cherngtalay and Rawai. The housing costs here are also quite low, often as little as a third of what you would spend on similar accommodation in places like Los Angeles. It gets cheaper the further away from the city you choose to live in.
With its many miles of pristine coastline you are never far away from a beach and the Andaman Sea. Here you can indulge in all sorts of outdoor enjoyment including fishing, sailing, scuba diving, surfing, and so on. Further inland there are also many other outdoor activities to try including rafting, zip-lining, and biking. The island also has many high-quality golf courses, some of which have hosted PGA tours.
If you want more rigorous entertainment, there are many hotspots to choose from where you have multiple options in terms of bars and nightclubs. In fact, some of these businesses are foreign-owned or managed, offering some the opportunity to make new investments in their new home area.
With the varied mix of new developments and sleepy towns, retirees have much flexibility in determining how fast-paced or relaxed an atmosphere they will live in. Phuket has good transport links back to Bangkok and other regions and offers a stunning land and seascape to enjoy life in. Locally, public transport is not highly reliable, but you can easily secure a motorbike or car rental. Alternatively, just use tuk-tuks or taxis when you need to get around.