Live on $1,800 a Month on Koh Samui, Thailand

With year-round sunshine, a dazzling array of gorgeous beaches, and lots of modern amenities, Koh Samui makes a great destination for anyone looking for a dream retirement by the sea.

You can live well here on a budget of $1,800 to $2,200 a month. And if you rent a smaller, older home and do most of your shopping in the local markets, you can do it for even less.

“This island has lovely beaches, great restaurants, and wonderful hotels,” says U.S. expat Greg Beeston. “Many retirees who come here rent. And many of them are quite happy renting.”

It’s understandable why renting is popular. Property ownership rights for foreigners in Thailand are subject to change, and the right to continue living in the country is not guaranteed. Visas need to be renewed every year.

The best ways to find affordable, long-term digs on this island are by word-of-mouth or by driving around the island looking for rental signs. Most real estate agencies deal with short-term tourist rentals, and these can be very expensive. But during my time on Koh Samui, I came across many decent-looking properties that would never have been listed with local real estate agencies.

You’ll probably have more luck in towns away from the island’s main tourist hub. One of Koh Samui’s most popular expat areas is Bophut, a northeastern town with a slow pace of life. But it’s still close enough to its hectic, overdeveloped neighbor, Chaweng, to the south that you can get your fix of nightlife within a 20-minute drive.

Samui International Airport is minutes away and offers daily flights to destinations around the country and abroad. Private and public hospitals in the area also offer excellent medical care at affordable prices.

On Koh Samui, it’s easy to find 500- to 750-square-foot villas to rent for $515 to $590 a month. With a little looking around, I found smaller places (484 square feet) for about $295 a month. Many of these are detached houses with a small garden included.

If you spend time in the expat hangouts or chat with the locals, you’ll learn which properties are available. On one of the island’s scenic back roads, I found a couple of modern one- and two-bedroom homes renting for $440 and $550 a month. These types of places are difficult to find unless you spend time roaming the countryside by scooter or car.

One- and two-bedroom homes in the small seaside village of Maenam can be found for $440 and $550 a month, respectively. If you seek a simple life, you can rent a small, furnished room for $235 a month only minutes from the quiet beach.

If you’re after an authentic local experience, Nathon Town on the west of the island offers a mixture of new and old, where rental prices are even lower. Old Chinese shop houses sell an eclectic range of goods, but they have been joined by Irish pubs, modern grocery stores, souvenir shops, and international restaurants. There’s also an excellent public hospital. If you check out the notice boards throughout the town and chat to locals, you will quickly find reasonable long-term accommodation.