Chiang Mai, Thailand

Situated roughly 470 miles northwest of Bangkok in Northern Thailand is Chiang Mai, a province of nearly 2 million people and a city of about 170,000 people.   Expatriate retirees, as well European businesspeople and students from Europe, Canada and the United States all call this simple, unpretentious city home and enjoy the relatively temperate climate, slow pace and inexpensive cost of living.

Chiang Mai dates from 1296 and it is Thailand’s second largest city  Although it is becoming more modern, it does not possess the hectic pace of Bangkok and has a certain tranquility.   There are 300 Buddhist temples which attract tourists, and this influx of foreigners can help expatriate retirees adjust more readily to life here since it is possible to find fellow countrymen if desired.  Standard Thai is the official language, but many Thais speak some English, and English is spoken in banks, tourist-related businesses, government offices and health care facilities. 

Most expatriate retirees in Chiang Mai lease condominiums/apartments, most of which are only available with year-long leases.  The majority of these are studios; larger accommodations can be found but not always easily.   Rents for studio condos are less than $100 – $150 per month and usually come with television, a kitchenette and a washer/dryer.  More expensive dwellings are also available. Keep in mind that foreigners can buy structures, but, with few exceptions, cannot buy land in Thailand; instead, land can be leased for 30 years with two pre-paid 30 year extensions for, effectively, a 90 year lease. 

For those planning to retire in Thailand, a non-immigrant “O” visa is needed.   Applicants must be at least 50 years old, have a valid passport, a certificate of health (no communicable diseases) and meet financial requirements.  These requirements are a bank statement showing roughly $27,582 (800,000 THB) and a monthly income of $2,200 (65,000 THB).  This retirement visa takes one to two months to receive, should be obtained in one’s home country and lets one stay in Thailand for a year.

Chiang Mai is a relatively safe city, for both men and women, at least when compared to most large U.S. cities.  Keep an eye out for are gem scams (foreigners being duped into buying precious stones which turn out to be glass) and “tuk-tuk” (three wheeled taxis) drivers charging too much.