Retiring in Thailand
Retiring in Thailand is wonderful. Thailand remains a popular world location for retirees – the beaches, climate, access to good medical care and great food.
Please note: The information in this document is provided as a guide only. You should always check the latest information with a Thai Immigration official or a professional visa agent.
Credits: The Thaiger
There may be a few more potholes in the roads and some cultural aspects will remain perpetually confusing. But there is always an adventure in Thailand and the infrastructure continues to improve every year as the Kingdom takes its place as Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy.
The cost of living is still relatively low, first-rate healthcare is available in the main population centers and the weather is conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
According to International Living, Thailand ranks 9th in the world as a place to retire with relative ease.
Nestled between Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia, Thailand enjoys the warm-water coastlines of both the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. This is a country that has never been colonized by any Western or European countries, so Thai culture is untouched, rich, and ancient. What’s more, it’s ideal for ex-pat living – International Living
Within a few hours, you can visit a myriad of exotic countries, cultures, and sites. Getting around is increasingly easy with a growing number of airlines flying in and out of the Kingdom. Many western passports will give you access to most of the countries nearby with either visa-on-arrival or minimal visa requirements.
There’s already an international expatriate community in Thailand, more so than in the past when a handful of Europeans, British, Americans, and Australians were the most populous ex-pat populations. Now many Japanese, Chinese, Koreans and eastern Europeans also call Thailand homemaking ex-pat life richer and more exotic. Many retirees were here for work and decided to stay. Others moved here for retirement.
You can get just about any food you like in Thailand now, but international foods are not cheap, whilst the local Thai fare is ubiquitous and available on every street in the country, fresh and aromatic. Yes, you can still get a Thai meal for less than 50 baht (Approx. $1.60 USD).
You need a visa to be retiring in Thailand
The first obstacle to entering any country is getting a visa. Retiring to Thailand is so popular that there is a specific visa classification for that – the Non-Immigrant O visa covers a number of reasons for entering Thailand, as the name suggests, and one of them is retirement.
To qualify for a retirement visa, you need to meet two basic requirements:
• You must be at least 50 years old
• You must have proof that you can financially support yourself
• You can either have a monthly income of 65,000 baht
• Or you must have 800,000 baht in a Thai bank account
For the 800,000 option, you need to be able to prove that the money has been in your account for at least two months before applying for the visa. You must also still have at least 400,000 baht in your account for at least three months after you get the visa.
In other words, you need to actually have the money – you can’t just borrow it for a few days to meet the visa requirements. The visa will need to be renewed annually and you’ll still need to meet these requirements each time.
You need to report to an Immigration Office every 90 days, any immigration office around the country is OK. These days the 90-day reporting can be completed online, once registered.
If you decide to do a 90-day report in person, it doesn’t take long, once you get to the front of the queue. Arrive early if you want to keep your visit short. Dressing in a neat collared shirt will always go down well at the Immigration offices (actually that goes for just about anywhere in Thailand).
You’ll also need…
• Visa application form, completely filled out
• Passport or travel document with at least 18 months of validity remaining
• Recent passport-sized photograph (3.5 x 4.5 centimeter), taken within the past 6 months
• Evidence of adequate finances (as above)
• Proof that you have retired
Applying for the Non-Immigrant O visa isn’t too difficult but requires the paperwork to be properly prepared. There are also many agents in Thailand who will do the legwork for you and advise you as you go, for a fee. Getting a recommendation for a reliable visa agent is always better than trawling through the internet and hoping for the best.
There WILL be a few bumps along the way – all the paperwork and forms are in the Thai language to start with – and an agent on your team will make things a lot smoother. Of course, you can do all this by yourself but prepared for a few speed bumps. All immigration offices in the main population centers, have volunteer international staff who are an excellent first stop when you visit Immigration. They will check your documentation and advice before you end up sitting in front of a Thai immigration official.
While the requirement of an income when you’re supposed to be retired is counter-intuitive, this can take the form of a pension or passive income. So you’ll, therefore, need to set up a means of regularly transferring money into the country.
There are various options available for transferring your pension, or other passive income into the country. Thai banking is very modern and all banks have safe phone apps to do international transfers.
The quickest and simplest approach to transferring money from an international port is to use a remittance service as the fees are lower, the transfer is instant and the exchange rate is better. Using a bank transfer is also possible, but is slower and generally less cost-effective.
If you’re looking at how to retire in Thailand from the UK, it’s worth looking into QROPS (Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme), which may enable you to relocate your pension to Thailand so that it pays out directly into your Thai bank account, according to blog.deemoney.com.
However, retirees from other countries may have to look into private pension schemes and particularly into the regulations regarding how they payout.
Health insurance to retire in Thailand
Health insurance is a big consideration for older ex-pats and will eventually become a critical issue. Whilst Thailand has an excellent, and mostly free, public health system for Thais, and employees (including foreigners) of Thai companies, that doesn’t extend to Retirees.
As an ex-pat, you can use Thailand’s public health system, for a cost. The public system gets mixed reviews by foreigners but, generally, the medical care is good, if not as glamorous as the private hospitals.
But ‘public’ will cost you a LOT less than the country’s private hospitals. These are very good indeed but come with a high price tag. But note that most of the Thai doctors working in the Private system in Thailand usually work in the Public sector as well.
Once you’re over a certain age (70… maybe 75) many international private health schemes will drop you off their list. You need to check these details, the age limits, and your options once you are left to fend for yourself.
• Your best health asset as a Retiree is to avoid ending up in a hospital in the first place. Preventative health is your best option and opportunities for a fun and healthy lifestyle abound in the Land of Smiles. Sadly, there are many stories of ex-pat Retirees that get into bad habits, end up with health problems (and no insurance) who then fall between the cracks of Thai life and wither away. Don’t let this be you.
Buying a Property in Thailand
You can rent or buy property depending on what your goals are. The Thaiger would always recommend renting, at least for a while, to see how you settle in – perhaps even renting for a month in a number of locales to give yourself a chance to ‘try before you buy’ and commit to a long-term stay.
Buying property in Thailand is an entire post of its own.
Follow the link for information about investing for retirement