Relocation · Retirement · Thailand
Moving to Thailand
Due to its low cost of living, diverse culture, and stunning natural scenery, Thailand has become a favored destination for Westerners seeking to relocate or retire. The country offers a high standard of living at a fraction of the cost incurred in many Western nations.
Expatriates and retirees can live comfortably, with access to affordable healthcare, exquisite food, and a plethora of outdoor activities.
Thailand also presents a broad array of housing options, ranging from luxury condos to beachfront bungalows, making it effortless for newcomers to find a home that aligns with their budget and lifestyle preferences.
Furthermore, the substantial expat community in Thailand eases the process of seeking help and establishing connections for Westerners. With its beautiful beaches, lush mountains, historic temples, and vibrant cities, Thailand stands as an exceptional choice for Westerners searching for a new home.
Benefits of Living in Thailand
- Outlined below are the primary benefits of relocating to Thailand for expats and retirees:
- Affordable living standards: Thailand offers a high standard of living at a fraction of the cost of many Western countries, proving an economical choice for retirees and expats.
- Accessible and affordable healthcare: The country boasts a well-developed healthcare system that is both affordable and accessible to expats and retirees.
- Diverse cuisine: Thailand is renowned for its delightful and varied cuisine, ranging from traditional Thai dishes to international fare.
- Natural beauty and outdoor activities: The country’s beautiful beaches, lush mountains, and dynamic cities offer a variety of outdoor activities and attractions.
- Strong expat community: A sizable expat community in Thailand makes it easier for retirees and expats to garner support and forge connections.
- Variety of housing options: The country presents diverse housing options, from luxury condos to beachfront bungalows, ensuring that individuals can find a residence that suits their budget and lifestyle.
- Advanced transportation system: With buses, trains, and flights readily available, traveling across the country is straightforward.
- Welcoming culture: The Thai people are known for their friendly and welcoming culture, helping retirees and expats feel comfortable in the country.
- Recreation: Thailand offers an array of activities and entertainment options, from the vibrant nightlife scene to cultural and historical sites, to adventure and sports.
- Climate: The tropical climate of Thailand, with warm weather throughout the year, permits continuous enjoyment of outdoor activities.
According to Numbeo (and verified by many sources), housing costs for expats in Thailand are relatively low compared to other nations. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs around $300 per month on average, whereas one located outside the city center costs around $180 per month. A three-bedroom apartment in the city center costs approximately $550 per month, while the same outside the city center costs about $350 per month. However, expats may experience slightly higher rents, particularly in tourist-oriented or upscale areas.
Expats and retirees in Thailand have a variety of housing options, including:
Apartments are available for rent or purchase in both high-rise and low-rise buildings. These can range from simple studios to luxurious apartments with amenities like swimming pools and gyms.
Houses: Detached and semi-detached houses can also be rented, but buying detached houses in Thailand is prohibited for non-Thais. Traditional Thai-style homes to modern western-style homes are available to rent just as condos and services apartments.
Villas: Some retirees and expats prefer to rent or buy villas in gated communities, golf courses, or on the beach.
Condos: Condos are another popular choice for expats and retirees, and they are available for rent or purchase in most major Thai cities. Yes, foriegners can buy condos with some restictions in Thailand.
Serviced apartments: Fully furnished and offering amenities such as housekeeping and laundry services, serviced apartments are another option for expats and retirees.
While the cost of housing in Thailand is relatively low, it can vary depending on factors such as location, condition of the property, and amenities provided. It is recommended to visit the area and look at various options before making a decision, as well as to consider the length of stay, as some options, such as purchasing a property, may not be appropriate if the stay is only temporary.
Thailand has several popular locations for westerners looking to relocate or retire. Some of the best places to visit are:
Bangkok is the capital and largest city of Thailand. It is a bustling metropolis known for its vibrant street life, ancient temples, and delicious street food. The city is a melting pot of different cultures, with a mix of traditional and modern influences. Bangkok is also a popular tourist destination, known for its shopping, nightlife, and cultural attractions such as the Grand Palace, Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), and Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha). Bangkok is also known for its famous street food, which is available at street vendors, night markets, and food courts. The city is also famous for its street markets, such as the Chatuchak Weekend Market, which is the largest market in Thailand. However, it is important to note that Bangkok can be rather chaotic, with considerable traffic and pollution. It is also slightly more expensive than other parts of Thailand, and it is not always possible to locate reasonable housing, particularly in the city center. Despite this, due to its rich culture and dynamic lifestyle, it remains a popular location for retirees and expats wishing to relocate to Thailand.
Chiang Mai, a city nestled in northern Thailand, is celebrated for its rich culture, historic significance, and natural splendor. This charming city offers a lifestyle that is more relaxed and unhurried compared to the bustling pace of Bangkok. It is well-regarded for its thriving arts and culture scene, in addition to its proximity to awe-inspiring natural landscapes.
As the largest city in the region, Chiang Mai serves as the economic, cultural, and transportation epicenter of northern Thailand. Encircled by mountains, the city provides a picturesque backdrop and is lauded for its tranquil atmosphere, contrasting with the lively nature of Bangkok.
Chiang Mai has become a preferred destination for retirees and expats seeking a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle. The cost of living in this city is lower compared to Bangkok and other major Thai cities, with notably affordable housing costs. Chiang Mai offers a range of properties suitable for retirees and expats, blending traditional and modern housing options.
Chiang Mai is also cherished for its cultural richness and historical significance, boasting numerous temples and historic sites such as Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Chiang Man. The city’s vibrant street food scene, bustling night markets, and traditional festivals further enrich its appeal. It is a favored destination for digital nomads and expats eager to immerse themselves in traditional Thai culture while enjoying the conveniences of a modern city.
However, Chiang Mai’s weather can be intensely hot and humid during the summer months. The city is also known for its “burning season,” a period from March to April when farmers set their fields ablaze. This practice can result in heavy smoke and deteriorate air quality.
Phuket, a substantial island nestled in the Andaman Sea in southern Thailand, is a renowned tourist hotspot celebrated for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant nightlife. This island offers a diverse range of activities, from water sports like snorkeling, diving, and parasailing, to cultural experiences such as temple visits and traditional markets.
Phuket is also famed for its delicious seafood and international cuisine, as well as its upscale resorts and spas. The island is a favorite destination for retirees and expats seeking a lifestyle that blends relaxation with entertainment.
Phuket provides a spectrum of housing options, from luxury villas and condos to more reasonably-priced apartments. While property prices are higher than in other parts of Thailand, Phuket remains more affordable than other major beach destinations in the west.
This island is highly popular for its fantastic beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lively nightlife. During peak season, the island can become quite animated and crowded, but its infrastructure is well-equipped to handle the influx of tourists. However, it’s essential to note that crime can occur in some tourist areas, and natural hazards like floods and landslides may occur during the rainy season.
Hua Hin: Situated approximately 200 kilometers south of Bangkok, Hua Hin is a popular coastal resort town on the Gulf of Thailand. It is famed for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and laid-back atmosphere. Hua Hin boasts a royal heritage, having once been a favored vacation spot for the Thai royal family, and continues to draw members of the royal family to this day.
Hua Hin is also recognized for its lively street food scene, bustling night markets, and traditional festivals. It’s a favored destination for retirees and expats looking for a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle. The cost of living in Hua Hin is lower compared to other parts of Thailand, and the housing costs are highly affordable. The town offers an appealing mix of traditional and modern housing options suitable for retirees and expats.
The town is also notable for its golf courses, with several international standard golf courses in and around the town. Hua Hin is a preferred destination for water sports enthusiasts, with activities such as windsurfing, kiteboarding, and wakeboarding readily available.
Pattaya, situated on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand and about 150 km (93 mi) southeast of Bangkok, is a popular tourist destination known for its picturesque beaches, dynamic nightlife, and a diverse array of activities. This city offers a variety of water sports, including jet-skiing, parasailing, and snorkeling. Pattaya is also well-known for its nightlife, shopping, boasting several expansive shopping centers, bustling street markets, and vibrant night markets. The city features an extensive array of international cuisine, with numerous restaurants and street food vendors.
This city is a favorite amongst retirees and expats seeking a relaxed and comfortable lifestyle withg lots of entertainment opportunities. Compared to other parts of Thailand, Pattaya presents a lower cost of living, and housing costs are quite affordable. The city offers a range of properties suitable for retirees and expats, blending traditional and modern housing options.
Pattaya is renowned for its energetic nightlife, offering a variety of bars, clubs, and entertainment venues. The city is also known for hosting numerous festivals and events, including the Pattaya Music Festival and the Pattaya International Fireworks Festival.
Koh Samui, a tropical island situated in the Gulf of Thailand, is celebrated for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation. This island is a popular tourist destination admired for its natural beauty and diverse range of activities, from water sports like snorkeling, diving, and kayaking, to cultural experiences such as temple visits and traditional markets.
Koh Samui is also recognized for its delicious seafood and international cuisine, as well as its upscale resorts and spas. The island is a favored destination for retirees and expats seeking a lifestyle that combines relaxation with entertainment.
Koh Samui offers a range of housing options, from luxury villas and condos to more affordable apartments. Although property prices are considered more affordable than other major tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, the island is also popular for its nightlife, boasting numerous bars and clubs.
It’s essential to note that each location offers a unique lifestyle and set of amenities, so it’s advisable to visit the area and explore different options before making a decision.
Westerners who want to visit or relocate to Thailand have several visa options, but these options change often. Thailand has very rapidly changing offerings and you should check for the latest visa information before planning your move. In fact, as of this writing new Visa rules and options are being considered and the current offerings are expected to change.
Tourist Visa: This is the most common type of visa for tourists visiting Thailand. It is valid for 60 days and can be extended for another 30 days by visiting a Thai immigration office.
Non-Immigrant Visa: This visa is for westerners who want to stay in Thailand for an extended period of time, usually for work, study, or retirement. It is valid for one year and can be extended for another year.
Retirement Visa: This visa is intended for westerners over the age of 50 who wish to retire in Thailand. It is valid for one year and can be renewed on an annual basis. This visa requires a monthly income of at least 65,000 baht or a deposit of 800,000 baht in a Thai bank account.
Marriage Visa: Westerners who are married to Thai nationals may apply for a one-year marriage visa, which can be renewed annually.
** UPDATE 8/31/2023: Elite Visas have been discontinued.
The new Privilege Visas are explained here:
The Elite Visa is a long-stay visa that allows westerners to stay in Thailand for up to 20 years and can be renewed every five years. To be eligible for this type of visa, the applicant must have deposited at least THB 10 million in a Thai bank account over a five-year period or have a monthly income of at least THB 250,000.
It’s important to note that visa requirements and conditions can change over time, so check with the Thai Embassy or Consulate for the most up-to-date information before making a decision.
See our recommended Visa for those over 50:
Non-Immigrant O Visa
More Visa Information
- Assist Thai Visa Services
- Retirement Visas
- Visa Guide / Thailand
- Atlys Visa Guide / Thailand
- Official Thailand Embassy
Thailand is well-known for its delectable and diverse culinary scene. Thailand’s cuisine combines sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. Thai cuisine is distinguished by the use of herbs, spices, and a delicate balance of flavors. Among the most popular dishes are:
Pad Thai is a stir-fried rice noodle dish flavored with fish sauce, tamarind, and palm sugar and typically made with tofu, shrimp, or chicken.
Tom Kha Gai: A coconut milk-based soup flavored with chicken, mushrooms, and lemongrass.
Khao Soi: A rich and spicy curry noodle soup made with egg noodles, chicken or beef, and a blend of exotic spices like turmeric, cumin, and coriander, garnished with lime and pickled mustard greens.
Massaman curry: A mild curry made with coconut milk, potatoes, peanuts, and various spices.
Som Tum (Papaya Salad): A traditional spicy salad made of shredded papaya, tomatoes, green beans, and peanuts in a spicy lime dressing.
Mango Sticky Rice: A traditional Thai dessert made of glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and served with ripe mango.
Khao Pad: A simple fried rice dish that can be prepared with a variety of meats, seafood, or vegetables.
Tom Yum Kung: A spicy and sour soup made with shrimp, mushrooms, and lemongrass.
Gai Tod: A popular snack made from marinated chicken that has been deep-fried until crispy.
Thailand has a diverse dining scene that includes street food, local markets, and high-end restaurants. Street food is particularly popular among both locals and tourists because it is relatively inexpensive and the vendors frequently specialize in a particular dish, allowing you to find some of the best examples of traditional Thai cuisine.
Overall, Thailand is regarded as a safe destination for expats and tourists; however, as with any foreign country, it is critical to be aware of potential hazards and take the necessary precautions. Although crime rates in Thailand are generally low, tourists and expats should exercise caution, particularly when it comes to petty crime such as pickpocketing and theft. It’s also important to be aware of the possibility of scams, especially in tourist areas. As a general rule, always be aware of your surroundings and keep your valuables secure. Furthermore, it is critical to be aware of the risk of natural disasters such as floods and storms, particularly during the monsoon season.
It is also critical to be aware of cultural differences and to follow local customs and laws. It’s important, for example, to dress modestly and avoid public displays of affection. Furthermore, it is illegal in Thailand to criticize or defame the monarchy, and visitors should be aware that this is taken very seriously.
It’s always a good idea to stay informed about the local security situation and to register with your country’s embassy or consulate so that they can contact you and provide you with information and assistance if an emergency situation arises.
Thailand’s official language is Thai, a tonal language with its own script and grammar. It can be difficult for westerners to learn and speak Thai fluently, but many locals, especially in tourist areas and major cities, speak at least some English. It is important to note, however, that English proficiency varies greatly, and you may find it difficult to communicate in rural or remote areas.
While not being able to communicate in Thai may not be a major issue for short-term visitors, it can be a problem for expats or retirees who plan to stay in the country for an extended period of time. It is essential to learn basic Thai in order to communicate with locals and navigate everyday situations. There are numerous language schools and online resources available to assist you in learning Thai. Furthermore, many expats participate in language exchange or conversation groups, where they can practice speaking Thai and meet other people who are also learning the language.
It’s also worth noting that many Thais are fluent in Chinese, Malay, or Indian, owing to strong historical, cultural, and commercial ties with these countries.
What Do People Say?
Expats and retirees in Thailand generally enjoy their time in the country. The low cost of living, friendly locals, and beautiful natural landscapes are some of the main advantages of living in Thailand, according to many. The warm tropical climate, delicious and diverse food, and a plethora of recreational activities and cultural experiences are also frequently mentioned as reasons why people enjoy living in Thailand.
Many expats and retirees in Thailand value the country’s well-developed infrastructure, which includes good healthcare facilities and modern transportation systems. Furthermore, the country provides a diverse range of housing options, ranging from high-end luxury apartments to more affordable housing options.
However, some expats and retirees in Thailand find the language barrier to be difficult, particularly in more rural or remote areas. Furthermore, the hot and humid climate, city noise and pollution, and heavy traffic can be difficult to adjust to. Some people find bureaucracy and red tape to be frustrating, and it can take a long time to get things done.
Overall, many expats and retirees in Thailand find that the positives outweigh the negatives and that the country provides a high quality of life at a reasonable cost.
We want to hear from you!
Have you ever dreamed of retiring or relocating abroad?
Whether it’s for the culture, the climate, or the cost of living, we want to know why you want to make the move and what countries are on your radar.
Share your story with us and be a part of our ongoing discussion about the joys and challenges of living abroad.
We can’t wait to hear from you!
– Anthony Bourdain
– Seth Godin
“The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
– Christopher McCandless
“Loving life is easy when you are abroad. Where no one knows you and you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are more master of yourself than at any other time. ”