Guide to retiring to Thailand
By Maria Thermann

Guide to retiring to Thailand

Amazing food, pristine beaches and low cost of living, what’s not to love about Thailand? Retirees from the US, Australia and the UK flock to Thailand because their pensions stretch that much further there. A vibrant expatriates community makes it possible to settle in quickly and make new friends without feeling too homesick. Here is a quick guide for all those considering retiring to Thailand:

Cost of Living

Thailand's currency is called the Thai baht, which is subdivided into 100 satang. One euro is about 37.8 THB, one US dollar is about 34 THB, and one GBP equates to around 25.6 THB. Having a beer in a bar costs around 100 THB, while eating out at a fast food chain restaurant costs around 170 THB for one person or 600 THB for a meal for two at a mid-range restaurant. Renting a one-bedroom apartment starts from around 13,800 THB, while renting a three-bed apartment costs around 29,000 THB per month, according to web portal Transwise, which publishes a use list of day-to-day expenses one might incur in Thailand.

In other words, a couple can live quite comfortably on a modest salary or pension of $2,000 a month or with a $25,000 nest egg in the bank, because Thailand's cost of living is so cheap. The average Thai resident gets by on just $1,000 or less a month. If you cut out eating in restaurants and use public transport rather than keeping your own car, you can cut down living expenses even further.

Retirees with a generous retirement package of ca. $5,000 a month can expect to live like a king in Thailand. You'll have money to pay for cooks and maids, and will own a condo by the beach or in a premium downtown location.


The prevailing climate is hot and tropical, making Thailand an ideal place for all those who want to retire in warmer climes. April is the warmest month, with an average temperature of 31C or 87F. December is the coldest month, with an average temperature of 26C or 79F.

What to do and see in Thailand

There are more temples and palaces in ancient Bangkok than one could possible see in a lifetime! In addition, the warm climate means one can enjoy hiking and fishing and water sports all year round. Thai people also enjoy spa treatments and a wellness-related lifestyle, so there are plenty of places where one can indulge in such treatments.

Top Destinations for Retirees

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

If you love city life and a wide range of cultural thrills, Bangkok is the best place for you to retire to in Thailand. It is simply brimming with art museums, shops, restaurants, temples and canals. It also has the widest range of expat groups and English-speaking book shops available.

Chiang Mai is also a popular choice for expats to retire to. Considered the centre of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is ideal for active retirees who enjoy outdoor activities like white-water rafting, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking. History buffs also have their work cut out: there are more than 300 Buddhist temples in the area that one can visit. Tens of thousands of expats have made the city their home, so there's a good smattering of nightlife too.

Renown for its party scene and lively nightlife, Phuket is Thailand's largest island paradise, simply bristling with world-class beaches, seafood restaurants serving international as well as Thai cuisine and plenty of beach parties, surf clubs and water sports amenities.

Chiang Rai is perhaps the most budget-friendly choice for retirees. Located in the north of the country, it is far more peaceful and tranquil than Bangkok or Phuket. Here you'll find the Thailand of yesterday, where bright green rice paddies stretch for miles and miles and waterfalls tumble down from mystical mountains whose peaks are permanently shrouded in mists. But you'll still find a local hospital, numerous restaurants and a shopping mall for all your daily needs.

Originally a fishing village, Hua Hin is ideal for those seeking a quiet life among the well-to-do, for this has become a holiday destination for Thailand's elite. However, you'll find a large expat community here, together with beaches to die for, plenty of restaurants and an agreeable climate that's not too hot.

Thailand Retirement Visa for UK Citizens

Expect to pay legal fees of at least GBP 600, when applying for a retirement visa. The process starts off with a 90-day visa or a one year non-immigrant O visa that one must apply for in one's home country or country of residence prior to making the application for the Thai Retirement Visa.

Retirement Visa Qualifications:

  1. The applicant must be 50 years of age or over.
  2. Must not have any criminal history and can travel to Thailand.
  3. Must meet the financial requirement:
    • A security deposit of THB 800,000 must be held in a Thai bank account for 2 months prior to the visa application; or
    • One must have a monthly income or pension of at least THB 65,000. An affidavit from the foreigner's embassy or consulate has to be obtained as proof of the income; or
    • One must have a combination of the Thai bank account and yearly income - with the total amounting to 800,000 THB.

Benefits of the Thai Retirement Visa

(the application process is roughly the same for US, UK and Australian citizens)

The Thai Retirement Visa for UK, US and Australian citizens provides the following advantages:

  • Multiple-entry travel to Thailand.
  • Valid for use for a period of one calendar year.
  • The visa is renewable every year and can be renewed inside Thailand (provided the applicant meets the requirements for the visa renewal).
  • Ability to open a bank (savings) account in Thailand.
  • Ability to apply for Permanent Residency after successful renewals.

To renew, one must go to the embassy in person with one's passport and sign the visa paperwork with the immigration staff.

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