Chiang Mai, Thailand

Retirement in Bangkok can cost as much as in many major U.S. cities, but  prices drop significantly once you are out of the city.  Most expat retirees either lease housing or buy condominiums because foreigners generally cannot buy land, only structures.   Money used to buy the condominium must also come from abroad.  Expats can also engage a Thai nominee to purchase property using an expat’s money and have a lease registered on the property.   

Housing ranges from luxurious to functional, depending on where you decide to retire.  Rentals up country are usually in the $100 per month range.  In Bangkok, a small but comfortable home in a nice neighborhood can go for $675 per month and up.  A larger home with 4 bedrooms averages $1,500-$2,800 per month.   When purchasing in Bangkok, buyers will pay anywhere from $100,000 to $400,000 for a comfortable, 1,500 square foot home.   Luxury houses are more expensive.   Free-standing homes on a quarter acre of land up-country can be built for less than $25,000.

Western retirees need to keep in mind, too, that much of Thai housing, particularly the less expensive real estate in out-of-the-way areas, is not “senior-friendly” and may have narrow hallways, steep stairs, less-than-adequate lighting and in general be designed for people under 5’6″.

Thailand is a peaceful and welcoming place.  High-strung Western personalities do not always adapt well; courtesy and harmony are valued above self-promotion and hectic activity.   The vast majority of Thai are Buddhists, and they accept Westerners, known as “farang,” as long as they learn to adapt and respect the Thai people and their customs.

The Thai infrastructure works fairly well.  The airports are well-run, and the roads are in decent shape.  Public sanitation is a priority, but the bathrooms do not always work.  Water systems generally work as expected, although Westerners should drink bottled water, just to be safe.  Thai food is cheap and very tasty indeed!

Whether exploring the hundreds of Buddhist temples in Bangkok, scuba diving in one of the stunning southern resorts, or trekking to ancient jungle ruins, there is always something to see or do.   Living costs are so low that most retirees have enough extra cash to enjoy the wonders of this magical country.  

Medical care is very good and inexpensive.  Medical and dental treatments here are less than half of U.S. costs, and many of the professionals attended Western medical schools.  The best doctors and dentists will generally be in larger cities, especially Bangkok.   Medical insurance is available, and if a retiree forms a small group, or gets in a group, he or she can get a BUPA policy for around $275 per year.   The drawback is that the BUPA policy ends at age 70.

Thailand is generally safe although the U.S. State Department advises all foreigners to be aware of terrorist activities.   Retirement here can also cause intense culture shock and should be carefully considered.