Waves gently lap the shore. The water and fine sand on my bare feet is cool, calming, and refreshing. As another evening draws to a close on the Thai island of Phuket’s northern coast, the sun slowly sinks into the ocean in a blaze of orange, red, and pink. Who doesn’t savor beautiful sunsets over a clear blue ocean?
Appropriately, for Jill Pattridge, living close to a beach with sunsets was one of her key criteria when it came to selecting a retirement destination. After six years of living on the island, she hasn’t tired of it.
Originally from Minnesota, Jill first visited Thailand in 2003 and fell in love with the beaches, the color of the water, and the glorious scenery. At that time she was already a seasoned expat living and working in Spain, but Thailand won her heart. It took a while before she made the jump, but she finally moved to Phuket permanently in 2015.
Like many retirees living there, Jill leads an active lifestyle. She radiates vitality, has an infectious zest for life, and, at the age of 65, is a picture of health. She keeps in top shape partly by working out regularly at a modern, well-equipped gym. “It costs about $60 a month and I’ve made lots of friends here. Moms with kids in international schools, working people, and retirees. Everyone is friendly and we often have coffee together after our workout.”
Speaking of company, Jill explains “It’s so easy to make friends by attending events posted in the expat groups online. I often go to the Beach Club events and lunches organized by the Phuket International Women’s Club. These Facebook groups are also great for getting information and just keeping up with local happenings.” As restrictions are easing, more events and gatherings are being posted, including New Year celebrations.
Jill bases herself in Bang Tao, on Phuket’s north-eastern coast, “I live on my own in a cute little two-bedroom, one-bathroom house. I open my door to the Andaman Sea. For that, I pay $510 a month. In the U.S. I would pay $1,700 to $2,000 for much the same property. Rents here are so much cheaper.”
Jill’s costs work out to around $1,000 a month.
That’s no exaggeration. Jill has friends who rent a one-bedroom, 430-square-foot condo for $180 a month, and she says there are plenty on the market in the $450 a month range for villas and houses.
Having your own wheels is a must on Phuket, as taxis are expensive and the bus service is patchy. Jill rents a 2021 Toyota Yaris for $240 a month. The leasing company takes care of insurance, registration, and servicing, leaving Jill free to enjoy her life. She finds driving a breeze; the roads are good and easy to navigate.
When it comes to general safety, she feels secure, having had no safety incidents at all in her time on Phuket. She says she is comfortable going out day or night, driving by herself, walking to her car, and feels safe and at ease in her house.
Altogether, Jill’s cost of living works out to around $1,000 a month for rent, transport, food, entertainment, shopping, and general expenses. Her health insurance is $150 a month.
Jill finds it costs much less to live in Phuket, yet she can still get most things she needs. Imported goods, particularly wine, imported spirits, and cheese, are more expensive than in the U.S., but she finds alternatives or simply accepts that some things cost more. She eats a lot of salads, buying from a local farm, a restaurant supply business, and food markets. Even eating out is cheap, a plate of chicken kebabs and rice costs about $4.50.
Close to where Jill lives is the Boat Avenue shopping precinct, which is extremely popular with expats. With an excellent supermarket, boutiques, massage and beauty shops, bars, and trendy cafés and gym, it has most everything she needs.
On Friday nights, Bang Tao hosts an excellent street market. According to Jill, this is the place to buy clothes. “I find designer label clothes, handbags, even hats. Some are second-hand, but they’re often brand new. Recently I bought a black sequined dress, and paired it with some feathers for a “Roaring 20s” party. It cost me $6. I just wash and sterilize them at home.”
Healthcare is top-notch, especially using JCI-accredited hospitals. Following a broken knee and ankle, Jill had operations for both breaks, costing about $5,235. She got 90% of that back from insurance. “It pays to shop around,” she says. Two friends needed treatment following an animal bite and scratch. One hospital quoted $1,140, and the other just $240.”
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island, boasting beautiful beaches, lush tropical rainforests, jaw-dropping viewpoints, and friendly, welcoming locals. For Jill, Phuket checked all the boxes, and six years on, still does. While the west of the island is pretty built up and developed for tourism, the northern part of Phuket is the first choice for long-term visitors and expats. World class golf courses, natural beauty, easy access to the international airport, and the low cost of living prove irresistible.
As Jill puts it, “What more do you need?”