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
For years, its warm climate, relatively inexpensive cost of living and laidback lifestyle have attracted tourists and expats from around the world for both short-term and long-term stays.
Some of the world's most beautiful beaches are located in the south of the country. From the bustling seaside resorts of Koh Samui and Pattaya, to the more tranquil islands of Phi Phi and Lanta, there is something for everyone who dreams of retirement in the tropics. Some expats prefer to live in the smaller villages that dot the coastlines on both sides of the country, where accommodation costs are much less expensive and life is slower paced. It is still possible to find furnished townhouse and condo rentals within five minutes of the beach for less than $500 per month.
Bangkok is the center of the country, both geographically and financially. From a small trading post in the 15th century to a metropolitan area with a population of over 14 million, this massive city dwarfs Thailand's other urban centers. Some foreign retirees have chosen to live in this populous capital and enjoy the hubbub atmosphere of the city. The colorful markets, modern shopping malls, numerous entertainment venues and efficient transit system are just a few of its inherent benefits.
Other expats prefer the serenity and inexpensive lifestyle of Chiang Mai in the northern part of the country. The "old city," now the center of a sprawling metropolis, is surrounded by a deep moat and remnants of a wall that once offered protection against the armies of the Mongol Empire. This Lanna cultural center of Thailand boasts over 300 colorful Buddhist temples, and several universities and technical colleges. Chiang Mai appeals to many expats because it has managed to retain its local traditions and culture while providing all the modern amenities that are sought after by its newest residents.
Although lacking in beaches, the northern part of Thailand is dotted with several large national parks. Here you will find Doi Inthanon National Park, where the highest mountain peak in the country is located. Those who enjoy the outdoors flock to this area of the country to partake in mountain biking, hiking, camping and touring the local mountain roads to visit the many interesting hillside tribe villages.
As with most other Southeast Asian countries, Thailand is alive with festivals throughout the year. During the Loi Krathong festival, thousands of people throughout the country assemble floating banana-leaf containers decorated with incense sticks, flowers and a candle, and float them on local waterways. This coincides with the Yi Peng festival in northern Thailand where thousands of glowing rice paper lanterns are released into the sky to produce a spectacular sight. The annual Chiang Mai flower festival showcases the flora and fauna of the region. The highlight of this celebration is the flower festival parade that draws thousands of tourists each year to the city.
Thailand is a great place to live—full- or part-time. After spending time in the country, many expats are told by their friends that they look 10 years younger. With the wonderful weather, great food, inexpensive healthcare and friendly local residents, it is not difficult to understand why many choose to call Thailand their second home.
Get Your Free South East Asia Report Now
Learn more about Thailand and other countries in our daily postcard e-letter.
Simply enter your email address below to sign up for IL’s free daily postcards and we'll also send you a Free Asia Report - The Best Islands, Beaches and Cities - South East Asia's Top 6 Retirement & Vacation Destinations.
Get Your Free Report Here
- 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
The famous white powdery sands that stretch around the islands of Phuket and Kho Phi Phi in southern Thailand have attracted international tourists for decades. But on the Gulf coast, just four hours from Bangkok is where you’ll find my favorite Thai beach town…Hua Hin.
Still an Expat Favorite It’s no secret that Chiang Mai has been a popular destination for several generations of tourists and expats. With its hundreds of golden temples, wide variety of international restaurants, stunning surrounding countryside and large choice of outdoor activities, this northern Thailand city has something to offer everyone. And the year-round tropical […]
Life is Good in the Land of Smiles Thailand continues to be one of the most popular destinations for tourists and retirees in Southeast Asia. Whether you are living in the steamy, urban capital of Bangkok, the northern Lanna city of Chiang Mai, or near one of the many spectacular beaches that have made the […]
For the most part, Thailand has two climates…hot and hotter! However, there are three distinct seasons—the hot season from March to May, the rainy season from about June to October and the “cool” season from November to February. When living in a tropical country such as Thailand, the idea of cooler weather takes on a new meaning.
Here you can have the adventure of a lifetime…and the comforts of a truly pampered lifestyle for pennies on the dollar. You can get in on one of the world’s most attractive retirement programs (it’s easy to qualify) and enjoy money-saving tax breaks…obtain a long-term visa…and live on an island with world-class beaches and a great culinary and arts scene…where you can rent an ultra-modern, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo for as little as $220 a month.
“Every day is a new experience,” says Kate Dixon. “We live a 10-minute walk from one of the best food streets. For less than $10, we can both have a delicious Thai meal with a couple of beers. We rarely cook at home anymore, and go out on average once a week to a Western restaurant. Even then, we rarely pay more than $15 for the two of us.
Importing crafts and folk art is a great way to fund your travels or create an income living overseas. You get to bridge the gap between an artisan producer in an emerging country and a market back home that can afford to pay top prices for unique, high-quality products. In the process, you can mark-up the goods to create an income for yourself.
Your voice could be your passport to an income overseas…and we’re not just talking about singing. Sure, if you can carry a tune, you can take that talent with you. Many expats make their money, or at least a supplementary income, from singing. Some even discover that carving out a singing career is easier overseas.
One of the most diverse regions on Earth, Southeast Asia is home to a myriad of different religions and cultures, many of which trace back thousands of years. And every year, the unique cultures of the Far East manifest themselves in a variety of colorful festivals, all free of charge, the likes of which you will find nowhere else on the planet. Add to this some of the world’s best beaches and street food, and you have every reason to stop by this neck of the woods.
According to the latest figures from the U.S. Social Security Administration, U.S. retirees overseas received more than $3 billion in Social Security benefit payments in 2013—an increase of $160 million year-on-year, when compared to 2012. American retirees can receive Social Security benefit checks in almost every country in the world. Statistics reveal that Europe is home to the most U.S. retirees drawing their benefits abroad (154,238), followed by Canada and Mexico (95,767), and Asia (70,586).
When 007’s speedboat cut through the waters of Phang Nga Bay in 1974’s The Man with the Golden Gun, he was zipping past some of the most breathtaking natural wonders in the world. Today you can tour this southern Thailand gem yourself. But with dramatic rock formations, turquoise lagoons, ﬂoating villages, and a vast array of exotic wildlife to view, you’ll need the whole day to fully appreciate it and a speedboat to see it all.
Blessed with some of the country’s best beaches—as well as great golﬁng—Hua Hin has been a Thai holiday hot-spot for almost 100 years. More recently, foreigners have also discovered everything this town of 80,000 people has to offer. New condo complexes and housing developments are springing up within a 10-mile radius, hand-in-hand with a burgeoning infrastructure of new malls, international restaurants, and tourist attractions that were much more difﬁcult to ﬁnd just a few years ago.
Chiang Mai, in the heart of northern Thailand, has become popular among expats like me for its low cost of living and many attractions. An ancient city with over 300 exquisite temples, it’s culturally rich, vibrant, and offers a wide variety of things to do. But don’t limit yourself to the city. While Chiang Mai proper can keep you busy with its many cafés, cultural events, bookshops, and expat hangouts, some of the best discoveries lie in the foothills beyond the historic city center…
Don’t let Southeast Asia’s “exotic” reputation fool you. Yes, this part of the world is rich with color and unfamiliar culture. But what you may not realize is that Southeast Asia is also one of the easiest places for English-speaking expats to get “set up” and start living very, very well…for a small fraction of what a comparable lifestyle would cost at home.
You must be really desperate to want to move to China!” said my 80-yearold mother as I broke the news of my new job. Actually, no; I wasn’t. At that time—almost 10 years ago—I had a great teaching position in rural British Columbia, with the end of my long career in sight. I was the kingpin in a small storefront school teaching all the local misfits, no boss looking over my shoulder, a decent salary, and enough regular holidays to keep me rejuvenated. So why did I decide to move?
In 2012, Dani Leis quit her job and left Portland, Oregon for Thailand with nothing but a single duffel bag and a dream to start a new life. She fell in love with the northern city of Chiang Mai. “The people here are friendly, kind, and open-hearted,” says Dani “They enjoy a culture centered on sanuk, meaning to take pleasure in what you are doing.
The place they now call home is a Cape Cod-style cottage on the hillside of a popular neighborhood. But this is a relatively recent development. For nearly two decades, they’ve been sailing around the world together. Years ago, they discovered that a sailing retirement was a lot easier (and cheaper) than they ever could have realized. And they didn’t need a vast amount of knowledge to get started.
“The main attraction is the beach. People don’t come here to do stuff, they come here to relax,” says Canadian Robert Stanley, owner of Bobby’s Bar & Restaurant, a popular expat gathering place at the south end of the Thai beach town of Hua Hin. With a population of around 90,000 people, Hua Hin (pronounced “Wha Hin”) is around a three-hours’ drive south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand’s west coast. The country’s royal beach resort for almost 100 years, Hua Hin is also home to a community of between 3,000 and 5,000 expats.
Along with being a low-cost and tropical retirement haven, Thailand has long been an international destination for medical tourism. Why? Because healthcare is low cost and excellent quality. I should know. I’m a retired Canadian schoolteacher living in the northern city of Chiang Mai, with personal experience of two hospitals here—one public and one private. In both I felt welcomed and unrushed. And in general I’ve found the health professionals in this city maintain a high quality of empathy and caring for all their patients.
“The main attraction is the beach. People don’t come here to do stuff, they come here to relax,” says Canadian Robert Stanley, owner of Bobby’s Bar & Restaurant, a popular expat gathering place at the south end of the Thai beach town of Hua Hin.
According to the latest figures from the U.S. Social Security Administration, U.S. retirees overseas received more than $3 billion in social security payments in 2013. That number shows an increase of $160 million since 2012—and has nearly doubled since 2013. In total, 373,224 U.S. retirees received their social security payments as residents of a foreign country in 2013. Europe is home to the most U.S. retirees drawing their social security payments abroad (154,238), followed by Canada and Mexico (95,767), and Asia (70,586).
The concept of having food delivered to your home is something many of us take for granted. But when you move overseas, you may find it’s not part of the culture. And it’s a convenience expats miss. Mike Sharma certainly missed it when he went to live in northern Thailand.
For millions of folks, golf satisfies something in the soul: hitting that one pure shot…breathing fresh air…and walking an immaculate course…the fast friendships forged on the fairway (and in the clubhouse bar). The game we know today has its origins in Scotland in the 15th century. popularized by British royalty, it soon spread throughout Europe and beyond.
Sipping my locally grown coffee on the sun-drenched balcony of my house in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I sometimes have to pinch myself. It’s a far cry from the numbing cold myself and my wife Nancy endured during our many winters in the interior of British Columbia. Chopping firewood, shoveling snow, and piling on four layers of clothing…I don’t miss any of it.
Something that we have grown to love after more than eight years of living in Asia is wide variety of street food that is always readily available in this part of the world. Whether strolling the chaotic back alleys of Chinese cities or browsing the numerous markets of Chiang Mai, we have always been able to find an infinite number of inexpensive dishes prepared and served within minutes by friendly street vendors. Each country and city has its own specialties that cater to the locals as well as more adventuresome tourists that are looking for new taste sensations.
The narrow lane spills onto a magnificent square. A group of young musicians fills the twilight with melodies. All around you are stunning buildings dating back centuries. And yet the people relaxing here and walking through these ancient streets are very much 21st century: students with books and laptops in hand. Folks from all over are enjoying evening drinks or dining on café terraces. Talk is of the art expo the town is putting on…an upcoming concert…or the latest news or trends…
The picturesque seaside town of Hua Hin, Thailand is known for its stunning beaches, burgeoning restaurant scene, and small-town feel. It’s famous as a royal resort, yet the sea breeze and stunning views come cheap in Hua Hin. You’ll find a low cost of living and good-value real estate.
Thailand is one of the world’s most popular locales for good living abroad. And there are lots of reasons why. For pennies on the dollar you get a year-round tropical climate and access to modern comforts and conveniences, including affordable, high quality medical care.
Silver gets no love. Most investors despise the stuff. But while everyone is happy to grind silver into dust, a funny thing is happening. Silver bottomed back in December. It’s been building a base for its next move. And this next move could be explosive. The last time silver had a big correction—back in 2008—the next three years saw a rally of 400%. This time, the sky’s the limit.
I ’d never seen a festival like it in my life, and I’d been living in Southeast Asia for 16 years: the massive procession of people winding its way through the streets, bearing aloft colorful offerings of fruit, flowers, and food, following a glowing chariot to the temple where they unburden themselves. Many of them adorn their bodies with ornate but painful-looking piercings and shave their heads as a sign of devotion.
Ever wonder what it would be like to work with elephants for a day in the jungles of northern Thailand? At the Patara Elephant Camp, you can. Not all elephant camps are created equal but this is one of the highest on the list when it comes to ethics and dedicated mahouts (elephant handlers).
Most expats who have settled either part-time or full-time in this country will attest to the large number of readily available doctors, dentists, and opticians, combined with accessible, well-equipped, modern public and private hospitals. These institutions employ highly trained doctors and use cutting-edge technology and modern medical equipment that rival anything available in Western countries.
I get a couple of emails a month like this from International Living readers: “I’ve been doing my research as you suggest. I know I want to make my move abroad, but no matter how many likely destinations I cross off my list, I still have too many to choose from. Where should I go?”
A long with being a low-cost and tropical retirement haven, Thailand has long been an international destination for medical tourism. Why? Because healthcare is low cost and excellent quality. I should know. I’m a retired Canadian schoolteacher living in the northern city of Chiang Mai, with personal experience of two hospitals here—one public and one private. In both I felt welcomed and unrushed. And in general I’ve found the health professionals in this city maintain a high quality of empathy and caring for all their patients.
Imagine a place of rich, earthy smells, dappled light, soaring tropical hardwoods, and thick underbrush…the dawn calls of birds and the nighttime chirps and whistles of insects. From your terrace it’s as though you have Eden on the doorstep—a thousand shades of green and nature’s bounty. These days, living in a jungle home, you can have the best of both worlds: the feeling of being set apart, while enjoying conveniences like high-speed internet and air conditioning in your own paradise.
A new report from the editors of InternationalLiving.com ranks and profiles the five best tropical-island paradises for retirees today. Spread throughout the world, these islands are unique—but they share certain characteristics: They’re warm, offer good infrastructure, provide acceptable healthcare facilities either on-island or nearby, and they represent good value—a couple can live comfortably from $1,500 a month, housing included. “Something about the word ‘island’ makes the mind race to ‘escape,’” says InternationalLiving.com’s executive editor, Jennifer Stevens. “On an island, the pace slows, you live in the present, you shed concerns right along with your closed-toed shoes.
In this article, we outline the best five tropical island paradises for retirees. These places meet all the criteria needed to make them perfect retirement havens. As well as looking the part, all five of these islands—spread throughout the world—are becoming easier to get to as more and more flights open up to and from North America. Many tropical getaways have been consumed by commercialism, leaving them beyond every reasonable budget. But the islands on our list remain affordable, as attested by our expat experts on the ground. On some, it’s possible to live for as little as $1,500 a month including rent.
In International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2015, we ranked and rated the 25 best retirement havens in the world. You can stretch your dollars in any of them and live better than you can back home—for less. But the ﬁve below offer the lowest cost of living and come out on top in the Cost of Living category in the Index.
Residents of the country pay into La Caja. The fee is 7% to 11% of the person’s monthly income, which provides coverage for a spouse as well as a dependent. “After you pay your monthly fee, you receive free care,” says InternationalLiving.com Costa Rica editor Jason Holland. “Anything you need is available through a nationwide network of clinics and hospitals: doctor’s visits, medical testing, prescriptions, major surgeries, and hospitalization,” Holland says.
“I love the greens and blues,” says Washington native Deb Crofutt of her new life on a tropical island. “I love the smiles on the faces of everyone I make eye contact with. I like being away from the hustle and bustle of home and the pressure to own ‘things.’ I spent so many years working in the corporate world just to have stuff. This is a simpler, better life.” Imagine the feel of the warm sun on your shoulders as you walk along a pristine white sand beach stretching to the horizon, fringed by palm fronds and the sumptuous blue ocean.