From the golden beaches..to the fabulous food...and friendly people....it's easy to see why Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. It's also the land of affordable living. The country has a lot of options. Some foreign retirees choose to live in the hubbub atmosphere of Bangkok. Some live in the north of Thailand where life is quiet, peaceful, and very inexpensive. Others choose the south for its beautiful beaches.
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- Population: 67,091,089
- Capital City: Bangkok
- Climate: Tropical; rainy, warm, cloudy southwest monsoon (mid-May to September); dry, cool northeast monsoon (November to mid-March); southern isthmus always hot and humid
- Time Zone: UTC+07
- Language: Thai
- Country Code: +66
With its tropical climate, low cost of living, and beautiful surrounding countryside, Chiang Mai is Thailand’s best-value retirement destination. In fact, it’s among the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the entire region, attracting thousands of North American, Australian, and European retirees. Among them are Nancy and Roger Lindley, who never looked back after moving to this northern city, home to nearly a million people, six years ago. “We came over for a month in 2006 on a reconnaissance mission and threw ourselves into all the expat activities,” says Nancy. “We decided it could work, went back to the U.S., and proceeded to unwind our lives there. We returned in 2008 and have been here ever since.”
With spiraling costs compelling more and more North Americans to retire overseas, retiring abroad has never been more attractive. But finding the right location among the myriad options available can be daunting. That’s what our Annual Global Retirement Index does. Using input from our team of correspondents on the ground all over the world, we combine real-world insights about climate, health care, cost of living, and much more to draw up a comprehensive list of the best bang-for-your buck retirement destinations on the planet. Keep in mind that, even though only 25 countries feature on our list, all of them are worth your attention. We selected them from among all the countries in the world for their qualities as retirement hot-spots, so even the lowest-ranked nation on our index is still very much an option worth considering.
Each morning I wake to a symphony of songbirds and roosters. Somehow, my wife, Nancy, usually sleeps through this, but for me it’s the start of another relaxed day in retirement. We live in a 968-square-foot condominium in the center of Chiang Mai, the principal city in northern Thailand. We have two balconies overlooking a large wooded farm—an uncommon rural oasis in this growing city. Despite this, we’re close to everything—trendy cafés, glitzy malls, and craft beer pubs.
When it comes to the ideal beach lifestyle abroad, many expats look to Koh Samui in Thailand where the palm-lined beaches, azure ocean, year-round tropical weather, and affordable costs make for ultra-easy living. Just an hour-and-a-half flight from the Thai capital of Bangkok, this popular spot offers something for everyone, whether you dream of a tranquil seaside retreat or prefer frequent nights out on the town. You can access quality health care, where a basic doctor’s visit costs as little as $20, and there’s plenty to keep you busy—from yoga and Pilates to salsa dancing and bridge club—when you’re not soaking up the sun on one of the island’s many beaches.
Located in Northern Thailand, just 85 minutes by air from Bangkok, the city of Chiang Mai has become a major draw for thousands of expats who, today, call this community on the banks of the Ping River, home. Affectionately nicknamed the “Rose of the North,” Chiang Mai is a vibrant university city famous for its many Buddhist temples, rich cultural offerings, and good food. The warm climate, low costs and excellent, modern infrastructure have attracted expats in big numbers, and that includes thousands of retirees from all over the world.
Thai handicrafts, jewelry, handmade paper, ceramics, a plethora of textiles and handbags galore…you can find it all and more at Bangkok’s Weekend Market, known as Chatuchak or “JJ” for short. No trip to the Thai capital is complete without a visit to this massive 35-acre market located north of the city, where you can get your shopping fix as well as a big dose of Thai culture. Just don’t forget to bargain!
The last decade has seen the rise of the low-cost carrier in Southeast Asia. Cheap, short-hop flights now criss-cross the region—much of it spread across the ocean in archipelagos like the Philippines and Indonesia. This boom in no-frills flights means cheap travel and it’s one of the reasons that my wife Lisa and I can travel so much. We live in Penang, Malaysia, but whatever Asian destination you chose for your home you’ll find it easy to explore the region.
When it comes to the ideal beach lifestyle abroad, many expats look to Koh Samui, in southern Thailand, where the palm-lined beaches, azure ocean, year-round tropical weather, and affordable costs make for ultra-easy living. Just an hour-and-a-half flight from the Thai capital of Bangkok, Koh Samui offers something for everyone, whether you dream of a tranquil seaside retreat or prefer frequent nights out on the town.
Imagine sleeping to the gentle bob of the tide or of a river current, then waking up to cast off the moor lines and set out for adventure. Or, more often, to stay at anchor, enjoying the lull of the water while having a fixed address and access to onshore services. That’s the life that houseboat living offers.
Upon arriving in Koh Samui, Thailand, on vacation in 2003, Jacqui Ashley knew she’d found the ideal location to raise her children abroad. “As soon as I landed, I had an overwhelming feeling of being home,” she says. “We were greeted with smiles from the Thai staff at the airport, and during the holiday we were overwhelmed by the friendliness of the people.”
No matter how affordable the destinations we talk about are, the simple fact is: You can’t live anywhere for free… But what if you had an income that went with you? An income that could give you the freedom you need to just pick up and go? You could spend half the year in your own cottage on the beach…work in the mornings and snorkel and relax in the afternoons. Maybe spend the other half of the year up in the mountains where it’s cool…and get paid while you’re at it…
Bang for buck, Chiang Mai is the best retirement haven in Southeast Asia. Testament to the variety of what’s on offer are the sorts of folks moving here. You’ll find retirees in great numbers, North American, European, Australian and Japanese, but you’ll also meet families on a year out with kids (there are good international schools), and lots of digital nomads—folks working on the Internet with portable incomes.
Argentina has welcomed its fair share of Italian immigrants down through the years. So it’s fitting that natives of the southern- Italian city of Naples will celebrate the tango with the Tanotango Festival from September 4 to 7. Theaters, bars, and streets across this ancient city will be packed with dancers, demonstrations, and music. Take a visit to the Cape Coast, Ghana, on September 6 to catch Oguaa Fetu Afahye, when local chiefs dressed in traditional garb lead a procession through the streets imploring the gods to keep the town healthy.
Affectionately nicknamed the “Rose of the North,” Chiang Mai is Thailand’s charmer; a laidback, yet vibrant, university city famous for its many Buddhist temples, culture and good food. The warm climate, low costs and excellent, modern infrastructure have attracted expats in big numbers, and that includes thousands of retirees from all over the world.
“Life here is easy, convenient, and what’s more I can afford to really enjoy it,” says Pennsylvania-native, Paul Matlin. “You meet so many interesting people from all over the world. The health care is great, the food is superb, and the weather is warm.” Founded over 700 years ago, Chiang Mai nestles in the mountains of Northern Thailand, on the banks of the Ping River and the good climate has acted as a major draw for thousands of expats who call the city home.
Whatever you dream about, come with that in mind. And dream big. Because at our Fast Track Your Retirement Overseas Conference in Las Vegas, we’ll pinpoint for you on a map the places where you can turn your dream into reality…for a small fraction of what you’d pay at home.
“Plenty of everyday people are choosing to live on the water full-time—in their retirement,” says InternationalLiving.com editor Jason Holland, author of the publication’s new report. “After a bit of training and hands-on experience at home, they’re tying up beside mega-yachts in the Mediterranean, finding large floating communities of like-minded expat sailors in the Caribbean, and island hopping in the Gulf of Thailand, heading wherever their fancy takes them.”
Southeast Asia is home to some of the world’s most acclaimed and mysterious ancient ruins. Many of these once-bustling cities and monumental religious sites lay forgotten until relatively recently, jungle-shrouded and known only to a few locals, who thought them the haunts of ghosts and spirits. These marvels of the ancient world are now more accessible to travelers than ever before. Some are well known and easy to reach, others are more of an adventure. Here’s a rundown…
“Yeah, right.” That’s the first thought I had when I discovered a lucrative writing discipline…way back in 2001. (Get the full details of that writing discipline in a free report when you sign up to the free Fund Your Life Overseas daily e-letter) I just couldn’t believe that it was possible to “make great money…writing just a few hours a day…from anywhere in the world.”
With its warm weather, low-cost living, and welcoming locals, Thailand is easily one of Southeast Asia’s most popular spots for entrepreneurs looking to launch a new business. Startup costs are affordable, there are fewer regulatory hurdles, and paying for necessities such as construction and manual labor won’t break the bank.
“Yeah, right.” That’s the first thought I had when I discovered freelance copywriting…way back in 2001. I just couldn’t believe that it was possible to “make great money…writing just a few hours day…from anywhere in the world.” There was just no way. WAY too good to be true.
When it comes to hedging against dollar debasement, few things have performed better than gold. Holding some physical gold might just qualify as the very definition of “preparing for the worst.” But even though the historical case for gold is strong, the raw supply/demand case for platinum and palladium might be even stronger.
When it comes to an enjoyable, affordable lifestyle abroad, many expats agree—it’s hard to beat Thailand. With its tropical weather, delicious cuisine, and welcoming locals, “the Land of Smiles” is an expat dream, whether you choose laidback mountain living, a cosmopolitan life in the big city, or a peaceful escape by the sea.
The grand old commercial, religious, and learning center of Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, is set to regain its previous status as a major regional player. This academic hub is returning to the significance it held before wars and political upheavals stopped people from flocking here.
Most evenings Sharon and Frank Moorhead can be found leisurely sipping sundowners and enjoying the sunset from their penthouse balcony. Theirs is one of the most scenic views on the tropical island of Penang.
You’ve just weighed anchor on another night of bliss, lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of your sailboat in the calm sea. Before you is a small cove lined by craggy cliffs. Clear blue waters end at a white-sand beach. You’ve had it all to yourself for the last week. It was supposed to be just an overnight stop. But it was so beautiful, you decided to stick around. After a quick dip, you’re enjoying a cup of coffee and a light breakfast on deck as you contemplate which island paradise you’ll go to next.
Costa Rica is one country that may truly have it all: A year-round tropical climate, modern cities, Caribbean beaches, Pacific coastline, rainforests, lush valleys, and majestic mountains. With its slower pace of living, warm, welcoming climate, healthy, fresh foods and reputation as one of the “greenest, cleanest” countries in the world with little pollution…it’s no wonder Costa Ricans are considered the “happiest people on the planet.”
Nick Fawcus-Robinson wakes most mornings well before the sun rises. Padding around his bungalow in bare feet to make a cup of tea, while the cocks crow outside, I’m sure he ponders his past life now and again. Maybe.
Nick was an officer in the army for many years and a highly paid corporate executive in the tobacco industry after that.
Everybody comes to the “Where overseas?” question with his own set of preferences. This one wants beach, that one cool weather. This woman wants to be four hours from home. And that guy is looking for a place to dock a sailboat.
When you’re pinpointing your ideal destination, start with list of what’s most important to you. And understand: No place is perfect. You have to prioritize. For a community she loves, “madame must-be-close-to-home” might just stretch her travel time to four-and-a-half hours.
Thailand easily ranks as one of Southeast Asia’s most liveable countries. From modern amenities and top-notch medical care to affordable costs and a year-round tropical climate, expats in “the land of smiles” enjoy a lifestyle they’d only dream about back in their home countries.
White-sand beaches…majestic mountains…historic colonial cities in Latin America…small-town Europe…whatever you dream about can be your reality a lot faster, more affordably, and easily than you probably imagine.
There’s no shortage of natural beauty in northern Thailand. There are dozens of rivers like the Mae Ping, which originates in the forest-clad Daen Lao mountain range and flows down through the temple-laden city of Chiang Mai. Waterfalls gush into fertile valleys like Mae Sa, where you’ll find elephant camps, orchid farms, and miles of lush jungle. This is a peaceful—some might say serene—part of the country, where for very little money you can enjoy a high level of comfort. With just $1,200 a month a couple won’t want for much, and that includes rent.
I happen to think that I’m one of the luckiest guys in the world. Not only do I live in Malaysia, a beautiful country on so many levels, but also I love what I do. I travel at will, pretty much at the drop of a hat. I’ve enjoyed complimentary meals and hotel upgrades along the way.
There’s no shortage of natural beauty in northern Thailand. There are dozens of rivers like the Mae Ping, which originates in the forest-clad Daen Lao mountain range and flows down through the temple-laden city of Chiang Mai. Waterfalls gush into fertile valleys like Mae Sa, where you’ll find elephant camps, orchid farms, and miles of lush jungle.
Asia beckons for many reasons. Tropical islands with white-sand beaches, lush rain forests filled with fragrant blooms, tree-covered misty mountains, and—if you’re more a big-city type—some of the most frenetic cities on earth, a heady mix of the ultra-modern and exotic traditions.
Over eight years ago, I decided to leave behind the urban jungle of American cities to travel. At the moment, I’m surrounded by the lush green suburbs of Buenos Aires. I’m constantly reminded of Jumanji out here. Thick green, leafy vines have completely taken over property walls and fences, wrapped themselves around tree trunks and flower pots. Palm trees and banana trees rise up like proud flags beside homes and office buildings.
A symphony of monks chanted as we sat kneeling on the grass. I held the wire rim of my enormous cylindrical paper lantern and waited for the cue. Finally, in one synchronized movement, a sea of hands—belonging to individuals from countless countries and cultures—let go.
Figuring out how to make some extra money doing something you love is a wonderful thing. And many of my fellow expats are doing exactly that. If you’re looking for inspiration, I’d like to share some of those stories with you. In fact, we know of so many such stories that my husband Dan and I devoted an entire chapter of a new book we’ve written to this exact topic. (More about that in a moment.)
Thomas O’Neal had never been to Malaysia. In fact he hadn’t been anywhere in Asia, which made his sudden decision to move to the tropical island of Penang a brave one. “I figured that I’d take a chance and move lock, stock, and barrel. I could have just visited but where is the fun in that? After just a few months here I love it. It’s home for me now. New York has changed over the years and although I’ll always be a New Yorker I needed to travel.”
Thanks to the location independence my career provides, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of making a living from some truly amazing locations all over the world. Places like the top deck of a ferry crossing the Gulf of Thailand at sunrise…in the sleeping cabin of a night train on the way to Sapa, Vietnam…in a pub on Dublin’s Temple Bar…