Ask the expats on Phuket and they will tell you…despite a few complaints about expensive taxis, overdevelopment, and the monsoon weather…Phuket is the best place for expats to live, in the best country for expats to live. Many even say that retiring in Thailand is the best decision they have ever made. And as you look out over the sparkling, turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea, from any point on Phuket’s picturesque coastline, it is difficult to argue with them.
Thailand’s largest island is still considered paradise by expats and tourists alike. With jungle-topped mountains and white-sand beaches surrounded by warm and clear waters, it has been aptly named the “Pearl of the Andaman”. While it is not unusual for temperatures to reach the 90s F, the ever-present breeze tends to keep the averages closer to 80 F.
Phuket offers an easygoing lifestyle, or a club-hopping, center-of-the-action one, depending on your preference. For instance, you can go for a swim and a relaxing lunch on quiet Naithon Beach, or you can join the buzz in the bar-lined Patong area, where music throbs and cabaret shows continue into the night. And with Thailand’s second-busiest international airport, you can easily catch a flight to a range of destinations, without transiting through Bangkok.
As in other locations around the country, expats are drawn to the comfortable, convenient lifestyle. A wide range of restaurants serve a huge selection of Western and Asian food. Phuket is especially famous for having some of the best seafood in the country at very affordable prices. There are few amenities that are lacking. Imported foods, great shopping, spectacular golf courses, sailing…it’s all here. And top-notch medical care is available at a fraction of the cost of back home.
With a little homework, you can still find deals in some of the more popular beach areas, such as Patong and Kata. Certainly, it is easier to find a more affordable lifestyle on some of the other parts of the island. Phuket Town and Thalang are two areas recommended to those on a strict budget and who want a more authentic, less tourist-driven living experience.
In the Thalang area, a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment with a pool, just a five-minute walk to Surin Beach, rents for $720 a month. In Phuket City, you can rent a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with 1,300 square feet for $1,000 a month. This completely furnished home comes with a communal pool and a fully outfitted Western-style kitchen.
Talk to Locals for the Best Deals
There is not really a close-knit group of foreigners on the island; expats are spread from one end of Phuket to the other. But whatever your budget, there’s something for everybody. Although small studios with amazing sea views can be found for as little as $500 per month, you will probably pay more than $800 for a larger living space. As in other parts of Thailand, you are likely to find good deals by putting the word out to the local residents once you have arrived. Sometimes the best solution is to explore the area by foot or vehicle and look for private rental signs.
Bob Barnett moved to Rawai on the southeast coast of Phuket a couple of years ago. Phuket City is only a short distance to the north, and easily accessible by car or scooter. He pays about $600 per month for a Thai shophouse. He operates a small internet café and car rental business on the ground floor and lives in the apartment upstairs. Nai Han beach, one of the best beaches on Phuket, is only a few minutes’ drive away.
Bob figures you can still live on Phuket for $1,500 to $2,000 per month. “As always, it depends how you live. If you eat like a local and drive a scooter rather than a car, you can still live very cheaply. On the whole, everything can be affordable. A lot of the retired people here live in relatively inexpensive apartments,” Bob says.
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