A Popular Choice for Many Good Reasons
Thailand is fast becoming the number one choice for people wanting to retire, live a quality life and have their money stretch as far as is possible so that they can enjoy life in their golden years.
Thailand is a richly diverse country offering large cities like Bangkok to the more quiet and relaxed Chiang Mai and regions with beautiful white sand beaches to those with mountain forests. The following article is how Guroo Asia can assist you in the planning and execution of retiring in Chiang Mai, but you can certainly use this information as a guide to retiring anywhere in Thailand
“Chiang Mai—The Beauty of Diversity” by NOXimage showing just how beautiful this city is.
Why Retire in Chiang Mai?
Obviously, we here at Guroo Asia are biased towards retiring in Chiang Mai. Here the temperature is cooler, the city is smaller and easier to get around, property is cheap, there are amazing gardens, temples, arts and crafts and a generally more laid-back and relaxed feeling. No beaches here, but also not many sexpats either. Chiang Mai is a comfortable base with an airport that has several daily flights all over Thailand and to other Asian countries. It is easy to use this city as your base if you decide you want to investigate other locations in Thailand.
Retire in Thailand & Live on $1000 a Month
Yes it can be done! That’s how inexpensive Retirement in Chiang Mai, Thailand can be. One of the growing concerns for people approaching retirement age is that the pension is just not enough for many people to live well in their own countries.[hr]
The First Question is: Have you Been to Thailand?
The most obvious benefit to Retiring in Thailand is that it is inexpensive. But do not forget that it is another country with a different culture. The number one question you need to answer for yourself is … Do I like Thailand?
If you have been here for a holiday then you obviously know the answer to this question. If you are basing your entire choice of Thailand based on the internet, articles and media then you need to ensure that your expectations are as realistic as possible. The Guroo Asia website is a good start. Our blog posts and articles are pretty devoid of opinion and personal bias – they tend to just present the facts without attempting to color the information with a sales pitch.
- Come to Thailand on a Tourist Visa: Come as a tourist and travel to a few cities you have narrowed your selection down to. Once you are here it is a simple process to apply for and get your Retirement Visa.
- Take the Plunge: Apply for and get your Retirement Visa before you leave your own country. It is valid for a year and gives you the opportunity and freedom to base yourself in one location and visit other parts of the country. Renewing your Retirement Visa each year is easier than getting your initial one.
- Less than 2% of Guroo Asia’s customers have decided that Chiang Mai is not the city for them. Granted, our customers have the added benefit of having friends the moment they arrive and we introduce them to other Expats and the local social community. Chiang Mai is the number one retirement city for a reason. It is a good choice to start.
- Once you are here, any documents certified by a lawyer in your own country are useless. The process for applying for a Retirement Visa in Thailand is different (and easier) than getting one before you arrive. In fact, you do not even need to have the funds to retire. We can provide you with an instant Retirement Visa for 35,000 Baht (includes a bank statement in your name with funds). All you need is your Passport and 2 Photos. If you have all your documentation and the money (doing it the official way) the fee is 6,000 Baht to process and obtain your Visa.
- Book your accommodation before you arrive. We have an excellent selection of monthly apartments which we get for you at the same cash price as you would if you were here in person. When you order through us, the Arrival Package is automatically added to your purchase. This includes picking you up from the airport, delivering you to your new temporary home, a motorbike (if wanted), a phone SIMcard and, of course, instant access to people who know Chiang Mai.
Guroo Asia Advantage
If you decide to choose Chiang Mai as your base location, we are in business to help assist people come and stay – but more importantly ENJOY Chiang Mai. Once you arrive we continue to offer services that make living in Thailand easy and stress-free. Social introductions, hiring a Thai-speaking person to assist you, getting bank accounts, drivers license and so much more. You can rely on us as we teach you how to become familiar and comfortable in your new country.
The Retirement Visa
The Retirement Visa is a pretty simple and easy process (once you know what you’re doing) – but the first time it can seem like a daunting chore. You have two primary options.
Retirement Visa Options
- Apply from your Home Country: This allows you to have your Visa in your passport and from the moment you are here you can have access to the benefit of having a retirement Visa (Bank Accounts, Driver Licenses, etc).
- Apply from within Thailand: This option is much less stressful, because of the easy access to Visa agencies that can take care of everything for you. Yes, there is a fee attached to having the professional look after you, but like so many other things in Thailand – the cost is small.
Qualifying for a Retirement Visa in Thailand
Requirements for a Non-Immigrant Visa ‘O-A” (Retirement):
- Must be 50 years of age or over.
- Passport (must have at least 1 year (18 months preferred) remaining until it expires.
- The holder of this type of visa is allowed to stay in Thailand for 1 year.
- Holding the nationality or permanent residence of country of application.
- Proof of financial requirement.
- Letter from bank showing proof of deposits.
- Employment of any kind is strictly prohibited (including volunteer work).
Eligibility for Retirement Visa
- Applicant must be aged 50 years and over (on the day of submitting the application).
- Applicant is not prohibited from entering the Kingdom as provided by the Immigration Act B.E. 2522 (1979).
- Having no criminal record in Thailand or in the country of his/her nationality, or the country of his/her residence.
- Not having prohibitive diseases ( Leprosy, Tuberculosis, drug addiction, Elephantiasis, third phase of Syphilis) as indicated in the Ministerial Regulation No 14 B.E. 2535.
- You must have at least 18 months validity on your current Passport.
How to get a Retirement Visa in Thailand
Step by Step Instructions to apply for your Retirement Visa
Get all the forms, know what documents you need and gain a better understanding of how to apply for a retirement visa to come and live in Thailand
Retirement Visa Considerations
- Thailand Immigration wants to ensure that people retiring in Thailand are also bringing their money to Thailand. Once, Expats would put the required amount of money into their bank account and apply for the Visa and remove the money. Immigration decided (not yet dated on a blog post concerning the topic) to prevent this. Your financial bank deposit needs to be in the bank for a two-month period prior to applying for your Retirement Visa.
- Another reason for having these funds is that if you require emergency medical treatment and you do not have funds in the Bank, the hospital will not perform the required treatment.
- Obtaining a Retirement Visa from a Tourist Visa needs to be done at an Embassy outside of Thailand (unless getting the aforementioned all-inclusive package). You will have to re-enter the country with your Retirement Visa if you decide to obtain one while already being in Thailand.
Guroo Asia Advantage
We offer extensive help and assistance with Visas. At Guroo Asia we do not process Visa applications ourselves. Rather, we work in conjunction with a few Visa companies. This allows us to select from an unbiased position which of the various Visa companies can provide the best service for you. You pay us the same price as you would them, so you can be assured that what we offer suits your unique situation.
Cost of Living in Thailand
While you are required to have assets each year of 800,000 baht (or 400,000 plus income of 2000 US$) in order to maintain your retirement Visa, you can live here quite comfortably for almost half of that. The following tables come from numbeo.com and were derived from July 2015 for the City of Chiang Mai. You can use the link to find out the costs of any other city you might be interested in.
Cost of Food in Chiang Mai, Thailand (USD)
Cost of General Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand (USD)
Cost of Accommodation in Chiang Mai, Thailand (USD)
Considerations for Cost of Living in Thailand
Everything is much cheaper in Thailand except for imported beer, wine, and dairy products. Eating Western food will cost you 2-3 times more than eating local food but is still affordable.
Your biggest expense will be your accommodation. In Thailand, a Westerner can only own 49% of any land, so unless or until you have a Thai wife or husband, most people choose to rent a condo or house or purchase a condo. You can lease land that a property is located on for 30 years plus – but gifting property to dependents (unless they are Thai) is a difficult process and not worth considering for a few years after you arrive.
Renting a condo in the city areas will cost about the same as a 2-4 bedroom house in the countryside. Property is incredibly inexpensive in comparison to the Western world, but it is the location that is important. Do not rush into getting permanent accommodation until you are familiar with the area. Stay first for a month or so in a monthly apartment before committing to a longer term lease.
Finding a Place to Live
Accommodation is very affordable in Thailand, especially in the Northern parts of the country such as in the cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Even in the tourist locations of Phuket and Pattaya, the cost of renting a place to live is usually far less than in your own country. One thing to be aware of is that most people live in Condos which range in size from 30 sq.m (small) to 180 sq. m (3 bedroom place). Houses, of course, are as small or as large as they would be in any country. The following Blog Post details the steps and procedures of how to go about renting a place of your own.
We strongly suggest, however, that you first live in a monthly apartment and get to know the areas around town for a month or two before you commit to a lease.
Another problem many people face is dealing with Thai real estate agents. Many are great, but (and this is a generalization), many also do not comprehend or understand what you are used to or how strongly you might want what you say you want. Countless people who want to entertain and desire a Western kitchen are shown place after place without one (because Thais eat out, generally). Their ability to understand your demands for a property to qualify as something you want to view is not great.
You can look online and find many amazing places available to rent only to find out when you call that they have been rented already, or that they will be available in a month, but then have the existing tenant stay on. Thai people and many Thai agents tend to just leave their property listings on websites, which can make searching on your own a frustrating experience.
How to Lease a Condo or Rent a House
Step by Step Instructions with Checklist and Suggestions
Have a detailed look at the types of places you can live in and how much it will cost. included is a checklist of things you may not have thought about – but are important.
How much does it cost to Lease a Condo in Chiang Mai?
A 30 sq.m Condo with kitchen and modern amenities will start at around 6000 baht (US$180). Increase the size to 45 sq.m and you are looking at the 9000-12000 baht range (US$270-360) per month. Larger 80-120 sq.m 2 bedroom places are around 18000-25000 baht (US$549-760). One of the first things many new arrivals notice (especially from America) is how small the Condos are here compared to where they are from. You very quickly adapt and begin to enjoy the smaller units, with less cleaning required, ease of getting around from kitchen to bathroom, etc. Price will often depend on the extra facilities of the Condo: gyms, pools, massage and better location will all add to the price.
How Much Does it Cost to Rent a House in Chiang Mai?
Houses are available in the inner suburbs and city itself, and these tend to be older (often Thai style) and can start from as low as 5000 baht to, maybe, 8000 baht for a two bedroom. The further out you go, the bigger and newer the houses come with more Western features. Many expats decide that they want to rent a house in a Moo Baan (gated community) which are usually located in the Hang Dong and surrounding areas. Older style houses are found closer to the city areas (and also outside of the city). Those are typically smaller and basic, sometimes with a yard, but usually close to the neighbors.
Solutions for Finding Accommodation
Rent a Monthly Apartment First: Many people choose to stay in a hotel or resort for their first week and then rush into signing a lease without knowing the city. So many people find a place close to where they first arrived in Thailand only to find later that they are miles away from the area they prefer or people they later meet. If you are coming to Chiang Mai, we have a selection of 20 places we have chosen (having looked at over 80 personally). You can look for yourself at the Monthly Accommodation in Chiang Mai
Get a Western Real Estate Agent: The effort you use to find a Western or Western-thinking real estate agent will pay you many times over in results. Don’t worry, it will cost you nothing: agents take their payment from commissions in the lease (you might pay a little more than finding a place yourself – but you will not waste your time looking at property that is not available).
Considerations for Finding Accommodation
Many people find the idea of a smaller accommodation than they are used to is not their first choice; until they try it. In Thailand, you just do not need to have a huge kitchen (cooking at home costs more than eating out) and, let’s face it: when you are retired you just do not need to have all that extra room for family and friends to stay with you.
Renting vs. Buying? On average, if you purchase a property and rent it, it might take 15-30 years before you start to get a return on your investment depending on the location. In addition, it is difficult to transfer the title of the property to someone outside of Thailand so it might just be the case that the Thai Government takes over your assets if you die. Consider renting!
DO NOT get a place sight unseen for any reason. It does not matter if you have fallen in love online and have decided to move to the beautiful countryside to buy a house for the person you love (and maybe not yet met). It does not matter what you have read online (including this website)… Maybe the only reason you might do this is if you already have a friend here and you want to live close to them. The number one reason we get customers at Guroo Asia is because they saw online somewhere how easy things were to do … and then came here to find out this was not the case.
Guroo Asia Advantage
One of our prime functions is to provide budget monthly accommodation in the most desirable area of Chiang Mai. In addition, we offer our Thai staff to call and negotiate leases on your behalf (prices tend to go up if a Westerner is calling) and an American owned Real Estate agent who can find you exactly what you are looking for. In short, we have all of your accommodation options covered.
Health Care and Insurance
As with most living costs in Thailand your medical treatment and insurance is not only incredibly inexpensive, it is of such high standard that Thailand is a top location for medical holidays. In all major cities, there are hospitals that tend to place the Westerner in the priority queue (while we pay very little, we pay more than Thais on Social Security systems).
How to Find Cheap Insurance in Thailand
Learn about the different types of policies for getting Insurance in Thailand: Travel Insurance, Health Insurance, Life Insurance with an estimation of how much it is likely to cost you, Home and Content Insurance, Medical and Accident Insurance and much more.
While medical treatment and dentistry are remarkably affordable in Thailand, so too are the insurance policies that cover your costs. The major benefit of having insurance based in Thailand is that it comes with your own agent who will go and take care of everything on your behalf. This saves money!
When Westerners are taken or admit themselves to a hospital, the assumption is that they all have financial resources in abundance. The treatment reflects this, and more than is required is usually done. Wonderful if you have the money as you will get treated as if you are the President and then be amazed at how little it cost you compared to home.
When you have an insurance agent, the agent is called and will go visit you (because the agent is paying). More importantly, the agent will find out about your condition and tell the hospital what tests and treatments they will get paid to do. Your Insurance agent knows what is needed and what is not, and your premiums remain low because of non-excessive use. This is very important as you grow older and are likely to require medical treatment more often than you used to.
Solutions for Health Care and Insurance
- Get Basic Travel Insurance from Home: Insurance is cheaper here, you do not need to cover yourself for everything before you come. Much better to get basic flight and travel insurance for a couple of months and then purchase insurance after you are in Thailand.
- Register with a Local Hospital: Each Hospital has a membership or registration card – get one. It costs nothing or very little and contains your history and can have your medical records transferred from your home country.
Considerations for Health Care and Insurance
Driving in Thailand involves a completely different set of mental dynamics. If you are going to ride a motorcycle here, the long and short of it is that at some point you will have an accident. It pays to have insurance because no matter who is or was at fault, it is ALWAYS the Westerner who will end up paying. Local Insurance covers both you and the other person for medical bills and replacement of the bike.
The last thing you want if you are in a hospital in Thailand is someone from your home country’s insurance company trying to speak to someone who may or may not speak English to discuss payment and treatment. In fact, you are almost always required to pay cash and claim later. If you are living here don’t rely on insurance from another country, no matter how good your past history with them has been.
Guroo Asia Advantage
If you are planning on retiring in Chiang Mai, we have extensively searched and found the best providers we can find with our local knowledge. This includes a wonderful Insurance agent who can find a policy to meet almost any budget. Let us provide you with an introduction to this agent who has national and multinational insurance policies she can provide at low prices.
Social Life and Friends
Of course, it goes without saying that a major component of how much you enjoy life is who you have to enjoy it with. The Expat community is large in Thailand and almost every city will have an Expat Club, Facebook groups for Expats and Retirees, and general information about what is happening in your chosen city.
Unless you are wanting to disappear and avoid people, you would do well to join and check out a few Facebook groups in the cities you are thinking about, and also the Number One forum website ThaiVisa.com .
It is a mistake to come solely because you have fallen in love online. It is even more of a mistake to decide to live in a rural province because your new girlfriend wants you to be close to her family. You are going to miss the comforts and security of the familiar – even if this is just hearing the same types of accents you have grown accustomed to in the past.
Make sure that there is a community that reflects what you are used to. If you are Greek, see if there are Greek people who meet and organize events. Same goes for German, Dutch and so on. Most retirees in Thailand are American, British and Australian. In some regions in the south of Thailand there is a big Russian population, but not so much up in the northern parts.
Considerations for Social Life and Friends
If you have been to Thailand and/or have friends here already, this is less of a problem. If you belong to a smaller community and your own food, music and traditions are important to you, it would pay to investigate where there is already a community of people like yourself.
Guroo Asia Advantage
We have as part of our service an Expat Relocation Tour, which shows you the places to shop, get medicines and eat and drink with other people visiting and living here in Chiang Mai. In addition, our Facebook Page lists events from all over Chiang Mai to inform you of what is happening. We alsohave the occasional dinner party inviting our old and new customers to meet socially.
Thailand is a wonderful place to retire, with Chiang Mai being the most popular location for many people. If you wish to consider Chiang Mai as a location, we here at Guroo Asia offer a range of affordable services to make this as easy and as stress free as is possible.