Thailand - Retiring In Thailand
The concept of retirement nowadays is very different to how it was perceived in previous generations. No longer does retirement mean working to the statutory government retirement age and then relocating to Bournemouth to sit on a freezing beachfront wrapped up in blankets.
Maritime Park Hotel resort in Krabi
People are generally living longer and giving up full-time employment at an earlier age. In good health, and with their minds still alert, there are a lot more options in life now than there were for my grandparents' generation, and even for my parents' generation.
The world has also become a lot smaller in the last 30 years. Not only is it possible to travel around the globe very cheaply but the Internet allows us to carry out lots of essential day-to-day tasks from wherever we are in the world.
Novice monk collecting alms
As developing countries continue to develop, this is probably a Golden Age for many Westerners of a certain age who want to enjoy the rest of their lives elsewhere in the world. Thirty years ago it was impracticle, and in another 30 years time - when the cost of living is the same in developed and developing countries - Westerners will not have the financial advantage that they have now. A lot of that advantage has already disappeared since I arrived to live in Thailand in 2003.
Some of what I have written on this page is replicated on other pages. This page was written purely for people considering retiring in Thailand. If you are such a person, I would suggest having a quick look around this site for any other topics that may interest you.
If you still have questions, feel free to contact me. I have been visiting Thailand since 1987, I have lived in Thailand since 2003, I have been married to a Thai girl since 2010, and I now have quite a lot of general experience.
However, there are many specific areas that I know nothing about. If, like one person who wrote to me many years ago, you want to know more about buying and operating a beer bar in Pattaya, I am definitely not the right person to ask.
All monetary values are given in Thai baht. To work out how much they are in your own currency, you can use the XE - Universal Currency Converter.
How Much Does It Cost To Live In Thailand?
Although this is an impossible question to answer because we all have very different ideas about the things that are necessary in life, I have attempted to cover it in a separate article.
Regarding this subject, I just have one word of warning.
Don't believe people who give you false information
Completely disregard websites that claim it is possible to retire to Thailand for very little money, for example US$400 per month. They may sound convincing, but they are written by people to attract visitors to their websites by selling an impossible dream.
In recent years the cost of living has soared in Thailand and if you are living on an income from abroad the Thai Baht has been very strong; in fact, some analysts say it is overvalued. If you are unfortunate enough to have an income in UK pounds the situation will be a lot worse because the pound is so undervalued after the Brexit referendum.
If you are single with no dependents, stay in a grotty apartment, live an extremely meagre life, don't travel anywhere, don't suffer any health problems, eat rice and noodles every day, and have no other expenses it would be possible to live in Thailand for $400 a month. However, in reality this doesn't happen, and anyway would you really want to live this way? I certainly wouldn't.
Many single men who move to Thailand do so to find partners, which is not difficult because there are so many Thai women whose only way to escape the poverty trap is to find a foreign husband. Many of these women have children and it is very easy to acquire dependents in Thailand.
We all get sick and even if you are healthy at home the change of climate and food in Thailand can cause problems. Depending on the problem and where you go for treatment, medical bills can be expensive. Two nights in a private hospital will wipe out US$400 very easily, possibly a lot more, and that won't be very good for your US$400 per month budget.
I ate mostly cheap Thai food the first couple of years I was in Thailand, but it became very boring and I started having lots of Western food cravings. Good Western food isn't cheap in Thailand, even if you cook it yourself.
Thailand is a great place for a two week vacation when you have an unlimited budget, but if you have no money to do anything it can become very boring. Travelling around the country is cheaper than in many other countries, but hotel, food and transport expenses start to add up.
And don't forget the money you will need to get your visa every year. The financial requirement for a retirement visa in Thailand is either Bt800,000 deposited in a Thai bank or an income from abroad in excess of Bt65,000 per month (currently about US$1,870).
Not everything is cheap in Thailand. Thai goods and services tend to be quite cheap, but anything from abroad is far more expensive than in its country of origin.
From experience I have also discovered there are lots of costs that I didn't anticipate. My education in the UK was entirely free and my parents didn't pay a penny for three children. That isn't the case in Thailand.
The government schools are very poor and sending my children to a decent private school is very expensive. In addition, out of hours tutoring is regarded as being essential in Thailand and all children do it. This is also expensive. If you want your children to attend an international school, it is even more expensive.
Cheap and expensive are relative terms. Thailand is cheap compared to places like Singapore and many Western countries, but it is no longer a cheap place to live and suggesting that you can live permanently in Thailand for US$400 is simply irresponsible.
If you plan to retire in Thailand you need to be realistic about how much it will cost.
Nowhere is perfect but Thailand comes quite close and the country provides almost the best of all worlds. If you want to experience vast expanses of classic Southeast Asian rice fields, Thailand has them - lots of them in the central plains and the north of the country. There are even rice fields close to my home in the deep south where you wouldn't expect to find rice fields.
Relatively unknown Phattalung province
If you want tropical beaches and islands, no problem. There are plenty in the south. If you want Western standards of living and Western style shops and restaurants, don't worry. Thailand has world class restaurants, shops and hospitals.
You can live a life as simple or as complicated as you wish, but even if you opt for a simple lifestyle you will still have access to the things in life that many Westerners regard as being essential. Medical and dental care is excellent, ATMs are abundant, Internet access is available everywhere, and you can find good Western food apart from in the very remote rural areas.
Many Thais speak English to some degree, and written English is fairly widespread except in remote rural areas. Culture shock can be a big problem but in many parts of Thailand where there are lots of foreigners, it is hardly evident that you are in a foreign country.
Monks watching the sunset in Phuket
Most Thais are friendly and very welcoming to foreigners. The friendliness may not always be as sincere as it appears to be at first, but friendly smiles and a culture of non-confrontation make for a generally pleasant atmosphere.
Without beating around the bush, Thailand is also a very popular country with single males from other countries for the ease at which they can meet long term partners or just have paid-for casual sex. The country is home to many women from poor, rural backgrounds who are looking for a foreign husband primarily to support them and their families; and also to huge numbers of prostitutes.
2008 - The year everything changed
Many single men visiting Thailand for a vacation - especially those of a certain age - get hooked and want to return on a permanent basis to live there for the rest of their days. Who can blame them?
Street scene in Thailand
The 'mai bpen rai' (never mind) attitude of the Thais makes it an easy place to live, the weather (if a little too hot at times) is comfortable, the food is good (and all types of food are available), the cost of living is cheap, and of course the girls.
Up until 2008, retiring to Thailand was quite easy for many men - provided the man hadn't been through an expensive divorce or had expensive child maintenance to pay.
The average property-owning man could retire early, sell his house (which I assume he owned outright), put the money - along with any savings - in a high interest account and live well in Thailand. Men over 50 wouldn't have a problem with visas as they would be eligible for a non-O retirement visa. What a life.
With the advent of the so-called 'credit crunch' and the consequences that unfolded in 2008 everything changed. I will speak about this from a UK perspective as the UK is the country I am most familar with. However, it will be similar for many other countries.
The following is just hypothetical and not based on my situation or the situation of anyone I know. However, there may be some similarities between this and the situation of myself and others. Don't pay too much attention to the accuracy of the figures as they are only approximate, intended only to demonstrate my point.
As things were, when the base interest rate was sitting at 5.75% our hypothetical man could quite easily have got 5% interest on his savings. Let's assume his house was worth £250,000 and he had savings of £150,000, to make a total of £400,000.
The annual interest for that amount would have been £20,000, or £1,666 a month. With an exchange rate of Bt70 to the pound that amount would have equated to almost Bt120,000 each month. Many Thais survive on less than Bt10,000 a month so you can see that with Bt120,000 you can live very, very well in Thailand.
However, by the end of 2008 everything had changed. If the man had been using his savings to invest in the stock market for this idyllic retirement, he would have seen a 30% to 40% drop in the value of his investments. Let's assume the man's savings were partly invested on the stock market and had reduced to £100,000 by the end of 2008. The value of his house had also fallen significantly so that it was only worth £200,000.
He now only has £300,000 to play with. He puts this into a savings account but with the base interest rate having fallen to an all time low, he only gets 1.5% interest. This earns him £4,500 per year, or £375 a month.
Train station in Thailand
He earns this interest from a savings account in the UK and when he draws money out from an ATM in Thailand he realises that the exchange rate has now dropped to around Bt50 to the pound. He finds that his monthly income is about Bt18,750.
This is still a good monthly income for a Thai but there aren't many foreigners who can survive comfortably in Thailand on less than Bt20,000 a month. It really is a case of 'survival' on that amount of money. I once kept my monthly spending down to around Bt23,000 and it was the most boring month I have ever spent in Thailand.
For basic living, I estimate you need at least Bt40,000 a month in the provinces or at least Bt50,000 a month in Bangkok. This is purely for basic living though and in order to have enough for emergencies, fun things, and other expenses you really need a lot more.
If you are considering a permanent move to Thailand, you may want to consider renting your house out instead of selling it for cash and earning interest. Renting can be a hassle but the monthly rental income should be higher than selling your house and receiving bank account interest with interest rates currently so low.
Originally, you may not have had any plans to work in Thailand but by earning a salary in Baht, this will make a big difference. Realistically, when we talk about foreigners working in Thailand, we mean teaching English in Thailand. You may therefore wish to consider doing some TEFL training before you come - or doing it in Thailand after you arrive.
When I did my TEFL course in 2002 the cost was US$1000 but it was well worth it. The money I earned from teaching in Thailand was very useful and, in order to be able to teach, you really need to do some training. The fact that you can already speak English just isn't enough to qualify you to be a teacher of English.
In the world of economics anything can happen. Interest rates and foreign exchange rates can fluctuate wildly. If you keep all your eggs in one basket and things go against you this can be a big problem.
Try to diversify and hedge so that if you lose out in one way, you will gain in another.
Where to retire in Thailand
This is a very personal choice and also a very sensitive issue. All foreigners living in Thailand have to make a decision about where to live and many get very defensive about their new home in Thailand. They don't like other people criticising where they live. My view is that asking someone else where you should live is like asking someone else what you should eat for lunch. It depends on your own personal preferences and what is important for you.
Rice fields in beautiful Chiang Rai province
I hated Pattaya for many years, but when I returned for a visit in 2016 it had improved. Lots of Westerners, and especially Russians, seem to think it is the greatest place on Earth. We are all different.
There are so many factors involved that I would never presume to tell someone else where they should live, neither do I take kindly to people telling me where I should or shouldn't live in Thailand. I am not them and they are not me.
Do you have a dream about the kind of environment you want to live in? My dream has more to do with mountains and rice fields than busy cities, and - for me personally - islands and beaches are not at all important. For many foreigners, living close to the sea is very important. We are all different. Thailand can offer all of these environments, but which one is important to you? Only you can choose.
You also need to be honest with yourself about how easily you find it to adapt to new countries and new environments. Do you have what it takes to learn to get by in a new language? Would you be happy in an environment where you are effectively deaf, mute, and illiterate - not being able to talk to anyone, and not being able to understand anything that is said to you or written down?
Do you have what it takes to learn to speak and read another language, or would you be happier in an expat bubble where you are surrounded by foreigners rather than locals?
Do you want to be surrounded by Thai people in Thailand, or exist in the artificial bubble of an expat community? Be honest about your true motivations for wanting to live in Thailand. Do you really want to experience Thailand or do you want things to be as similar to home as possible but, additionally, with the obvious attractions that Thailand can offer?
A Phuket sunset
Honesty is what it is all about. It's perfectly OK to want different things but if you want Pattaya don't go to live in Phattalung because the difference is night and day.
How are your finances? One of the major benefits of retiring in Thailand - if not the major benefit - is the low cost of living. However, this really only applies to areas where there are mainly Thais.
If you need to live in a fancy Bangkok condo or Phuket villa, and your taste in food is more suited to Keith Floyd's restaurant in Patong rather than the street stall selling fried rice for Bt30, living in Thailand isn't going to be particularly cheap.
Thailand is a wonderful country for people with enough money for their needs and desires but it can be a pretty miserably place if you want a Mercedes lifestyle and can only afford to run a motorbike.
Phi Phi Island from the air
The choice of where to live may be easier for people who come to live in Thailand to enjoy a hobby. Scuba divers will obviously go to the best places to scuba dive and golfers will find more golf courses in certain areas than others.
The great thing about Thailand is that with so much cheap accommodation available to rent or buy, there is no need to make an immediate commitment. My advice - if you aren't sure - would be to travel around for a while to find where is best for you personally.
This sounds obvious but remember that visiting somewhere and living there permanently are very different things.
Many farangs have this notion of 'paradise' and their definition of 'paradise' consists of turquoise seas, white beaches and palm trees - a bit like the photo of Phi Phi Island above.
Places like this are OK for a few days or maybe a few weeks (personally I couldn't last more than a few hours before getting bored), but what are you going to do if you live in a place like this permanently?
You're going to need medical treatment sooner or later so you want to be reasonably near good hospitals and doctors. If you are planning to retire in Thailand don't treat it like you would treat a two week vacation.
The other thing to point out is that many foreign men in Thailand don't choose where they live; they have the decision made for them.
Many foreign men moving to Thailand get involved with Thai females and because of the close family ties in Thailand, they end up living close to the girl's family.
If your route to a longterm relationship with a Thai girl starts in the beer bars of Pattaya, Patong or Samui you should probably start getting used to the idea of village life in rural Isaan.
Up until 2006, it was possible to effectively move to Thailand permanently without having to submit a single piece of paper or to have any checks done. It sounds unbelievable, but it is true.
View from a beach restaurant in southern Thailand
A foreigner could arrive in the country and get a no-questions-asked 30 day stamp to stay for the purpose of tourism. This was as a result of the Thais wanting to make it easy and convenient for genuine tourists to enjoy their country.
However, there existed a little loophole whereby no limit was placed on how many times foreigners could obtain back-to-back 30 day stamps.
It goes without saying, that the system was abused by many. When their 30 day stamp was about to expire, they would leave via the nearest border, return immediately and get another free 30 day stay.
Some foreigners lived in Thailand that way for 30 years and a huge industry sprang up organising so-called 'border runs'. The only downside was that passports got filled up very quickly and needed to be replaced often, but it was all perfectly legal even if it didn't run with the spirit of the law.
As you can imagine, this ability to be able to live in an easygoing country almost anonymously appealed to a lot of the wrong kind of people and Thailand started to become a popular refuge for all sorts of undesirable foreigners.
It wasn't unusual for these people to find work as English teachers even though they weren't qualified and may have had criminal records, including previous convictions for child abuse.
In 2006, however, there was one story too many about yet another child abuser who had been discovered in Thailand teaching English and the net came down. I suspect that as well as Thailand wanting to clean things up, the Thais had probably been subjected to a lot of pressure from the international community to act against the perverts.
The first major change was that a limit of three back-to-back 30 day stamps was introduced. Later, changes were made to the tourist visa process whereby tourists were asked to show details of hotel reservations and onward flights.
In a nutshell, the door was still very much open to genuine tourists but closed to people pretending to be tourists who were living permanently in Thailand. Changes were also made tightening the processes for other types of visa application.
The obvious choice for a person wishing to retire in Thailand is a non-immigration category O-A retirement visa. The basic requirements are actually straightforward:
- Over 50 years.
- Not prohibited from entering Thailand.
- No criminal record (a police clearance check is required).
- No contagious diseases.
- Able to support themselves financially (this means being able to show Bt800,000 in a Thai bank account that has been there for at least three months at the time of the visa application, or evidence of having an income in excess of Bt65,000 a month).
The Thai Visa forums are a good source of information for current visa information provided you can get past the bitter and twisted comments from disaffected farangs who spend their entire lives on the Thai Visa forums.
A retirement visa isn't the only option to 'retire' in Thailand though, depending on how you define retire. Completely off the wall, you could ordain as a Buddhist monk. Not so off the wall, you could enrol as a student to learn Thai and get an education visa.
If travel around Southeast Asia is going to be a part of your retirement and you only plan on spending half your time in Thailand, you can stay in Thailand for short periods of time between trips on 30 day stamps. This way, no visa is required. I had an idea along these lines before I got tied down with marriage and kids.
If you opt for a Thai wife, you can then apply for a non-immigrant O marriage visa. The financial requirements for this kind of visa are lower than for a retirement visa but choosing the wrong girl to marry could be a very big drain on your finances and ultimately it could be disastrous.
There used to be a few other options, such as buying a condominium for Bt3 million or more and then being entitled to an investment visa, or buying a Thailand Elite card which gave the holder special visa privileges, but these options no longer exist. I did hear that the retirement visa option had returned, but now you need to invest Bt10 million.
The bottom line is that there are a number of options open and some will be more suitable than others based on an individual's personal circumstances.
Other Important Documentation
If you decide to live in Thailand permanently there are number of documents that are either essential or very useful to have.
I have provided information about these documents and how to get them on a separate page.
Thailand is a hot tropical country. As most people get older, their tolerance for cold weather decreases so this is a good thing. There are times when it can get uncomfortably hot but it is easier to cool down in hot weather than it is to get warm in cold weather.
A storm gathers bringing some welcome relief to the heat of the Thai hot season
The southern region has just two seasons: hot and dry; hot and wet. At no time of the year does it cool down enough to warrant the use of any warm clothing.
Northern regions have three seasons: hot, wet and cool. The cool season can actually mean nighttime temperatures of 0°C with very pleasant daytime temperatures, but the hot season in these regions gets hotter than the south and can be quite oppressive.
Most of Thailand is hot all year round
In the wet season, expect sudden, frequent and torrential downpours that can cause flooding and flash-flooding.
Flooding problems in Thailand are getting worse, not better. There were bad floods in 2010 and 2011. When looking for somewhere to live ask lots of people in the locality if the area suffers from flooding.
Don't underestimate the severity of flooding. My house was badly flooded in 2010 and it's no fun.
After getting a visa, the least of your worries in Thailand is finding somewhere to stay. I have read that it is a nightmare trying to find a place in India these days because supply just doesn't meet demand and, when you do find a place, rent is very expensive plus you have to pay a huge deposit. It is the other way in Thailand.
My second rented apartment in Thailand
There is an abundance of cheap and comfortable places to rent all over the country. Prices are higher in Bangkok and those locations where there are lots of Westerners, such as Pattaya, Samui, Phuket and Chiang Mai but even in those places there will be cheap places available.
For many things Thailand has a dual pricing policy where foreigners are charged more than locals but this doesn't apply to rented accommodation.
What you should realise though is that some places target foreigners because of their ability to pay higher rents. These places aren't interested in poor locals and are the ones most likely to have fancy web sites.
Any place that has an English language web site is bad news. It means that their target customer is foreign and not Thai, and therefore it means their prices are higher than can be afforded by local Thais.
My brother's villa in Phuket
Don't panic about finding a place to stay and don't try to arrange this before you arrive. Just turn up, check into a hotel for a few days (hotel rates are also cheap in Thailand), put on your most comfortable walking shoes, and hit the streets.
As a rough guide, Bt2,500 in the provinces will find you a basic room and Bt6,000 will find you a very comfortable room. There will be small, additional charges for water and electricity based on usage. Some rooms come with a TV, fridge, and Internet access while others can offer these for a small charge.
Most places just consist of one room (where you sleep and do everything else) plus a small bathroom. Foreigners living in Thailand always talk about their 'apartment' when talking about these places but it is a fanciful description.
If you are wealthy and want to live in luxury in the provinces, the problem you may have is finding somewhere suitable. This won't be a problem in Bangkok or other tourist areas. What you will never have is the problem of finding somewhere cheap enough.
At the other end of the rental market you can rent penthouse suites in Bangkok for Bt250,000 per month.
Buying Or Renting A House
House prices in Thailand are very cheap, especially compared to countries such as the UK. Much of the cost of a house is taken up by labour charges and Thailand has a vast army of cheap labour. In addition to poor Thais, the construction industry employs a lot of migrant workers from countries such as Burma. These people are paid very little, which isn't fair, but it keeps house prices low.
House for rent in Hat Yai
New houses can be bought for under Bt1 million and many cars being driven around on Thai roads cost more than many houses. Renting a house is normally cheaper than renting a room in an apartment building.
The cheapest houses tend to be terraced townhouse designs with shutters at the front of the house instead of a front door. I used to rent such a house and I paid Bt4,500 a month.
It was fairly new and fairly spacious, but poorly constructed. Donstairs, there were two rooms, a kitchen area and a small bathroom. Upstairs there were two bedrooms, each with a bathroom and a laundry room.
The rent was cheap but when we moved in the house was bare, disgustingly dirty, and without a lot of things I regarded as necessities. There were people living there before but there is a big difference in the way farangs live compared to poor Thais.
I spent a small fortune getting it to a suitable standard to live in. I wasn't prepared to live with swarms of mosquitos so had screens fitted everywhere. I also installed burglar bars, a lot more power outlets, a water tank and pump, and had the interior repainted.
Thais couldn't believe what I was spending on a rental house but I wasn't prepared to live in the house as it was. However, it still worked out cheaper to pay for the work myself rather than renting a better place that was of a higher standard but much more expensive.
The previous tenants never cleaned the house and never spent a Baht on maintenance. There were several lightbulbs not working and leaking toilet squirters had just been tied off instead of replaced. It was a mess but Thais won't spend a single Baht on rented houses.
Finding a suitable place to live can be difficult. Many Thais live in rented accommodation and ten Thais living in a house is the cheapest way to live so there is lots of demand.
Houses for rent are normally advertised using signs written in Thai stuck to lampposts. If you can't read Thai this could be a problem.
As I discovered, some Thais live in disgusting conditions and any place you find will probably need some work. The owner will probably not consider this work necessary so won't pay for it.
Renting can be convenient but what I found was that finding a suitable place and then getting it to a decent standard took a long time and cost quite a lot. Of course, I also had to buy all the furniture we needed.
House for rent in Hat Yai
Buying a house in Thailand has some disadvantages but many advantages. Let's look at the disadvantages first.
Foreigners can't own land in Thailand. A house needs land to stand on and therefore foreigners can't buy houses. There are ways to get round this, of course, but nothing is risk free.
A foreigner can set up a Thai company and he can then buy a property in the name of the company. The company must employ a certain number of Thai nationals and the foreigner can't be the majority shareholder.
I have very little knowledge of this but I understand that the foreigner can be set up to own 49% while the other 51% is split between six Thais. This satisfies the legal requirements.
I've heard of foreigners taking on established companies just for the purpose of buying a house and then finding that the company has big outstanding debts.
Also, if you have a company I believe that the company has to have a certain annual turnover, accounts must be submitted, and taxes must be paid.
If you are very wealthy it isn't a problem but potentially there can lots of problems. If you plan to purchase a property this way make sure that you get good advice from someone who you can trust.
Another problem I've heard about with buying property in Thailand is that the person selling doesn't own the land or property they are trying to sell. Be very careful.
Probaly the easiest way to buy a house is to marry a Thai woman and buy the property in her name. It's easy but if the property is in her name and she decides to boot you out later there isn't much you can do. Getting involved with Thai women can be very risky if you get involved with the wrong ones.
Once you've figured out the best way to buy a property, most Westerners will be pleasantly surprised at how much house they can get for their money compared to the West.
A basic house, depending where it is located, can be bought new for less than Bt1 million. New detached houses can be had for Bt3 million and if you double that figure you can buy something really fancy.
My brother has a six-bedroom villa in Phuket with a big garden and a swimming pool. It was originally on sale for Bt20 million but the house remained unsold for five years. He bought it for Bt13 million, which was a veritable bargain.
If it has always been your dream to design you own home, this can be done for a very reasonable cost in Thailand. Just buy a piece of land and then acquire the services of an architect.
The home you always wanted may be beyond your means in your own country but in Thailand it can become a distinct possibility.
However, another word of warning. The ever-growing foreign presence in Thailand has pushed land and propert prices up in certain areas. There will always be somewhere in the country where you can find or build your perfect home, but if you had in mind a beachfront property in a prime area of Phuket expect to have to pay a lot of money.
The biggest advantage of living in Thailand compared to the West is the low cost of living. If you choose to live in a location where there are lots of other foreigners then that advantage starts to disappear because a big foreign presence anywhere in Thailand drives prices upwards.
This is the decision you need to make about where to live.
On the basis that people looking to retire - or semi-retire - in Thailand will likely be over the age of 40, healthcare is an important consideration.
Chinese medicine shop in Trang province
Apart from age-related conditions, there are lots of physical hazards in Thailand. In a Western country there might not be much chance of falling down an uncovered manhole cover, being bitten by a venomous snake, or being run down by a teenage motorcyclist who ignores red lights, but that is not the case in Thailand. Thai roads are extremely dangerous.
In addition, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other nasty micro-organisms thrive in the hot and humid conditions. Some years ago, well known Thai pop singer drove his car into a canal where he contracted a particularly nasty fungal infection which killed him a couple of years later. I almost lost an eye due to a fungal infection and even though I kept my eye, the cornea is permanently scarred now giving me poor vision.
The public health system is excellent. Not only are there lots of hospitals, but lots of private clinics too. Pharmacies in Thailand can sell lots of drugs over the counter that are normally only prescribed by doctors in Western countries.
For minor ailments, the drugs and care provided at pharmacies, clinics, and public hospitals needn't necessarily be expensive.
Thailand also has many world-class private hospitals and encourages 'health tourism'. The doctors and staff can speak English and the hospitals have all the latest equipment. Most Thai doctors have worked or trained abroad and can up to date with industry developments.
Although cheaper than hospitals in Western countries, a lengthy stay at a private hospital in Thailand will still result in you being presented with quite a hefty bill. If you need major surgery or expensive chemotherapy or something, the bill could be significant.
If this is a concern, the obvious option is some kind of an insurance policy, and there are international companies operating in Thailand which provide such cover. I have a policy with AXA, which works very well and enables me to get the best healthcare at the best hospitals (with the prettiest nurses).
Premiums are based on age (normally in five year bands) and the amount of in-patient and out-patient cover you require.
For the Axa policy I referred to above, the maximum age at which you can apply is 59 and the policy can subsequently be renewed until age 65 but after that the company won't insure you.
There is some more information here: Health in Thailand
For older people, or those with severe medical problems, who cannot take care of themselves, there are various alternatives in Thailand.
Some men simply opt for a Thai wife who is willing to take care of them. These are normally women from the lowest social backgrounds in Thailand; they normally have a fair amount of 'history'; and they are not normally young or attractive. However, will an 80 year-old man really care about any of this if all he needs is someone to change his adult diapers?
I have met and spoken with such men. They may not have the most romantic marriages that can be imagined, but they have something that works for them and it also works for their wives. The women get money to send back home to their families and they will probably inherit their husband's estate when he dies.
In Thailand, a country that still has an enormous population of poor rural people, there is no shortage of such women - poor, unmarried, and past their prime - who would be happy to enter into such an arrangement.
A rich, old man could even get a young, attractive, poor girl but he should be careful if he has any heart problems.
On a more professional basis, care homes are springing up all over Thailand specifically to take care of ageing foreigners with degenerative diseases. This report by The Nation describes a facility in Chiang Mai that has been set up specifically to take care of Europeans suffering from Alzheimer's.
A woman once got in touch with me who works for an organisation in the UK that takes care of the needs of thalidomide victims. One of the men she looked after had relocated to Thailand.
Facilities for the physically handicapped are very poor in Thailand, generally speaking, but it is always possible for a foreign man to find a Thai girl to be his right hand.
Working in Thailand
For financial or other reasons, you may wish to work in Thailand. What this means, effectively, for the vast majority of foreigners working in Thailand is teaching English. I have covered this subject elsewhere but will add a few key points here.
Security guard working in Thailand
Teaching English in Thailand can be a very different experience depending on where you work and salaries can vary enormously. It can be fun but when I see miserable looking middle aged farangs pounding the streets of Bangkok wearing the standard English teachers' uniform obviously on the way to their next teaching assignment I am reminded that it can be quite depressing too.
To work legally in Thailand requires the foreign employee to be in possession of a valid work permit. A work permit does not act as a general licence to do any kind of work anywhere. It is very specific and entitles the employee to perform a specific kind of work at a specific location.
The work permit can be amended and I have had additional locations added to mine to allow me to teach English at various places legally.
You need a work permit to work in Thailand and a visa to stay in Thailand. There is a very clear distinction and the two things are handled by different government agencies. However, I still see the term 'Work Visa' used occasionally which indicates that some people do not understand this. There is no such thing as a 'Work Visa'.
A work permit will not be issued to someone with a retirement visa. These visas - as the name implies - are granted for people to retire, not work.
If you wish to obtain a work permit and work legally in Thailand, you will need to get another type of visa. This can be a non-B business visa or a non-O dependency visa if you have a Thai spouse and/or children.
You should also be aware that because of all the problems in the past with foreign paedophiles living 'under the radar' in Thailand and teaching English to support their lifestyles, the Thai government is introducing all kinds of additional requirements for those wanting to teach English in the Kingdom.
That's the official line, anyway.
Unofficially, thousands of people still teach illegally; there are very few checks; and in some cases it seems to be a surprise to both employers and employees that these requirements actually exist.
Teaching English in Thailand
I have spoken to people who freely admit they are teaching without a work permit, while staying in the country on tourist visas. I also see a lot of older guys who look like classic 'retirement visa' retirees but dressed in a way that shouts 'English teacher'.
There is evidence to suggest that spot checks are performed in Bangkok but not once have I heard of any such checks being carried out in the provinces. Small language institutes have a desperate need for native speaking teachers and, to avoid paperwork, prefer everything to be done on a casual basis so they actually encourage foreigners to break the law.
It is always me that has to tell Thai employees what the situation is and then assist them to provide the paperwork I need. Presumably though, most people don't bother.
Technically, the penalties for working illegally can be severe. The Thai authorities can throw anyone working illegally into a detention centre, fine and deport them. To be blacklisted this way means a permanent ban from Thailand.
Because of the potential severity of being caught, I would never recommend to anyone that they work illegally. However, the chances of getting caught are remote and it is a personal choice.
While on the subject of teaching English in Thailand, here is another point to ponder. Speaking English and teaching English are two very different things. A bit of extra money might seem to be attractive but can you teach English?
Thai students pay out what equates to a lot of money for them and it is only fair that they get a teacher who gives them value for their money.
One of the major reasons - if not the major reason - for Westerners choosing Thailand as a retirement destination is the ease with which it is possible to find wives and girlfriends, or simply with the ease it is possible to engage in casual sex.
Have some fun with the bad girls but don't enter into relationships with them
I have covered this extensively elsewhere and the Internet is full of stories about farang men meeting Thai women. (The vast majority of expats in Thailand are men.) I won't go through it all again but will make the following points:
- A decent Thai girl with good intentions will never, ever approach a foreign man.
- All foreign men, without exception, claim the particular bar girl they have met is an exception and is different to the rest.
- Thai girls worth getting to know are extremely difficult for foreigners to get to know.
- Certain Thai girls have mercenary attitudes and prey on gullible foreign men.
- Those girls go to locations in Thailand where there are lots of foreigners (obviously), and are expert at picking out gullible, lonely men who look lost outside of their own environment.
- What you see on the surface is never how things really are in Thailand. Deception is an art form and to cheat and get away with it is something to be proud of.
- Being in a relationship with a Thai girl can be your best dream or your worst nightmare.
- No matter how clever and streetwise a foreigner thinks he is in his own country, Thai girls hold all the cards in Thailand. In addition to speaking and reading English to some extent, they are fluent in the local language and understand Thai culture and society. It is unlikely you can read or speak any Thai, or have much of a clue about how Thai society works.
- Casual sex also has its risks; the girls have lots of clients and some carry some pretty nasty STDs. Some girls show no symptoms themselves but can transmit the diseases they carry. Many STDs are viral and therefore there is no cure; which means you will suffer for the rest of your life.
It isn't unusual to see foreign men who have just arrived in Thailand walking around grinning constantly from ear to ear but I have also seen the other side when they return home in tears as a result of losing their woman and/or their money; or the realisation that they have a particular nasty STD, and thus their sex lives will never be the same again.
Thai promotion girl
Thailand is not the sexual paradise that some men imagine and there is no such thing as a free lunch. Unless you want to be ripped off, or simply end up being an ATM for a poor rural girl and her extended family, finding a good Thai girl can be a difficult task which requires a great deal of time and effort.
I came to Thailand with the expectation that I could get whatever girl I wanted, whenever I wanted. After many problems it took about six years to find my wife.
Lots more here: Thai Girls
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. Each link on the right will take you to the relevant page on the Agoda website where you can see photos, read reviews, and book on-line. I use Agoda to book all of my own hotels in Thailand and the Southeast Asia region. Agoda hotel rates are usually always the lowest and I have received good customer service, therefore I am happy to recommend the company to other people. Here is some analysis I did regarding booking hotels in Southeast Asia.
Booking.com used to be more expensive than Agoda, but when I have checked hotel prices recently I have found their rates to be quite competitive. Unlike Agoda, you don't need to pay at the time of booking with Booking.com - you can simply pay at the hotel when you check in. Also, Booking.com show you total prices whereas Agoda show you a price and then add on 17% for tax and service charge.
If you wish to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined.
Images of Thailand