As the world becomes smaller, and distances become less relevant due to fast flights and constant connectivity in the digital age, many people might begin “thinking outside the box” in terms of possible retirement destinations.
Thailand conjures up images of tropical paradises and adventures – and rightly so; however, this Southeast Asian gem is also a highly attractive retirement alternative for those living on a fixed pension or social security check, yet seeking serenity and an uncomplicated daily life in advanced years.
While everyone has differing criteria in evaluating retirement options and no place on earth is genuinely flawless, here are 12 potential pluses of making Thailand your “home away from home” in your retirement years:
Just Pack Your Bags
There is little need to ask yourself or friends on what to pack when moving to Thailand. One pleasure of life living in this country is that many things are downright uncomplicated and convenient.
Most all merchandise and services are readily available. Many apartments or houses on the rental market come furnished, so you needn’t be concerned about buying household furniture.
As there is, really, only one temperature – hot – you’d have a light suitcase with just summer attire.
Pharmacies are abundant for medication needs. Little laundry shops can be found everywhere, and you’ll be happy to drop off your bag of laundry in the morning and then pick it up in the evening – washed, dried, smelling fresh and neatly folded, for just a few dollars.
Food stalls abound, so you’ll never need to worry about finding a delightful meal around the corner, usually within easy walking distance. Not to mention that there is a convenience store like 7-Eleven just about everywhere you turn, in case any need pops up.
Perhaps You Can Live Well on a Modest Pension After All?
The cost of living is, of necessity, usually a top consideration for everyone.
While what is considered a comfortable lifestyle will vary significantly from person to person, many people discover they can live comfortably on anywhere between $900 – $1600 per month in Thailand.
A beginning ESL English teacher’s salary, for instance, might be roughly $1000 per month. Essentially, the cost of most of life’s necessities – housing, food, transportation, and healthcare – is substantially lower in Thailand than in much of the United States or other western countries.
You can easily find a small one-bedroom apartment, with all the amenities (perhaps even a swimming pool), for under $525 per month (and less outside of Bangkok). Basic rooms with just the necessary furniture, a fridge, and A/C can be found for much less if a “minimalist” lifestyle suffices, as can simple or unfurnished, little houses in the countryside.
Leave Your Car Behind
Public transportation is rather good, overall, and in any larger city, very good and affordable.
Bangkok’s traffic can be notorious, so you’ll be glad for the plethora of public transit choices available – taxis (very inexpensive), the iconic tuk-tuks (three-wheeled motorized rickshaws), songthaews, subways, buses, or motorcycle taxis have you pretty well covered, depending on where you live.
No more need to worry about auto repairs when the car breaks down, car insurance, or the price of gas. You may just find that riding around on a motorcycle taxi, in a tuk-tuk, or with a songthaew is an experience to write home about, too!
Diverse Scenery and Locales
Thailand is blessed with beautiful nature and a variety of appealing places you might want to put down tentative roots.
The Southern region of the country boasts some of the world’s most famous and gorgeous beaches and islands. In the Northern area, you can enjoy hills, low mountains, or forests.
Enticing cities dot the country, from the vast, bustling capital of Bangkok, to Chiang Mai with its glorious Buddhist temples, to Pattaya or Phuket or Chiang Rai, to name just a few. Each place has its unique charm, magnetism, and pace, so finding which area of the country or which town best suits your style might take some time and experimentation.
Tasty, Healthy, and Inexpensive Cuisine
Thai cuisine is renowned around the globe for its unique flavor combinations and healthy ingredients.
Even Quentin Tarantino, the famous movie director, writer and actor from the Kill Bill series, Django Unchained, loves Thai Food, with Pad Kra (stir-fry basil chicken) being his favorite.
You might feel as if in a gastronomic heaven, wandering lively streets where street vendors whip up mouth-watering delicacies, quickly and efficiently, right in front of you, or while walking through fresh markets that stretch for blocks and which are overflowing with a rainbow of vegetables and exotic fruits.
Don’t be surprised, either, when you pay just $1 – $1.50 for filling and scrumptious street meals or snacks.
Never a Dull Moment
Entertainment, like food, comes in all forms and tastes in Thailand. From Bangkok’s non-stop effervescence to romantic river cruises or off-the-beaten-path canal rides, from café-hopping in Chiang Mai to deep-sea diving near an exotic island, from shopping in glitzy malls to browsing flea markets, from museums to Muay Thai boxing, from relaxing Thai massage to elephant nature camps – there is something to fulfill any interest.
Just taking a leisurely stroll and witnessing a breathtaking buffet of cultural stimuli and the vibrancy of street life is entertaining. You might also find yourself among those enamored, simply, by a general sense of Thai hospitality, graciousness, and the oft-mentioned “Thai smile.”
Excellent Healthcare at Bargain Prices
While navigating the insurance marketplace for a solid healthcare plan can be a bit tricky and may have some limitations (especially regarding pre-existing conditions), this might well be offset by the low cost of medical and dental care in Thailand overall.
There is a good reason that so-called “medical tourism” has become a booming industry – and Thailand is one of the countries at the forefront of this trend. Many people from all around the world visit Thailand’s hospitals and dental clinics to obtain superb care or to have specific procedures done at a fraction of the price in their home country. If needed, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, or domestic helpers are also available at reasonable prices.
No More Frigid, Dreary Winters
Some people yearn for warm weather and to escape the brutal cold of winter. If you enjoy a year-round hot, tropical climate with a good deal of sunshine (as well as a rainy season) and never having to think of a winter wardrobe again, Thailand fulfills your desires.
Bangkok, for instance, is considered one of the world’s hottest (84.5ºF/ 29ºC on average, according to the World Meteorological Organization) big cities in the world. If you stick around during the Thai New Year (“Songkran Festival”), however, you’ll get to have some fun cooling off a bit by participating in what is considered the world’s largest water fight on the streets.
Living in a tropical country often means spending more time outdoors and thus closer to nature.
Whether your preference is exploring flora and fauna close-up in jungles, forests, hills, or in the sea, visiting national parks, or just indulging a love of photography or a sunset walk along the beach, a spectrum of beauty is never far away. A feeling of being in harmony with and more receptive to nature might just blossom within you.
A Retirement Visa
Thailand offers a longer-term visa opportunity in the form of a so-called “Long-Stay Visa” (or “Non-immigrant O-A Visa”). Other Southeast Asian countries, such as Malaysia or The Philippines, for example, offer variations of retirement or long-stay programs as well.
Conditions and visa types are subject to change over time, so thorough research and vigilance are necessary; however, this type of visa, which is renewable, is available to persons aged 50+ who meet certain other specific criteria, and allows for a one-year stay each time.
Thailand is a land steeped in tradition and etiquette. The “wai” is a beautiful, traditional Thai greeting, and also used for showing gratitude or respect, among other things.
Before embarking on a sojourn here, one is well-served to study the country’s traditions and culture. As a possible retiree, you may come to admire and appreciate some of these wonderful traditions.
Perhaps you’ll even venture into learning the Thai language in depth, studying Buddhism, or building new friendships with a large and growing expatriate community or with your new Thai neighbors.
In the Heart of Asia
Thailand is also an ideal location if you want to travel around Asia. Its main airport in Bangkok (which is, by the way, one of the world’s most visited cities) is modern and a hub for flights to any destination in Asia (or beyond). Other countries in Asia you might want to explore – from South Korea to Japan, from Singapore to India – are within easy reach.
Countries with which Thailand shares a border – Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Laos – also provide fascinating excursion opportunities.
You’ll also take comfort knowing that most major airlines service Bangkok with excellent connections, and thus flying “home” whenever they wish or need arises – whether to the U.S., Europe, Australia, or elsewhere – is a breeze.
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