If you’re looking to stretch your retirement budget as far as you can and are up for an exotic adventure, consider retirement in Thailand. This country has a low cost of living as well as some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. However, the culture shock of living in Thailand can be significant for Americans. Before considering a move overseas, ask yourself if you will find the reality of life in Asia thrilling and invigorating or intimidating and stressful. Here’s what you need to know about retirement in Thailand.

Retirement and the Cost of Housing in Thailand

Renting before you consider a property purchase is a good idea. The cost depends on the location. You can rent in some parts of the country for as little as 6,000 baht ($190) per month, but accommodation that tends to appeal to American retirees generally starts at around 10,000 baht ($318) per month.

Most apartments and many houses come furnished. Utilities are usually paid by tenants, although extras like Wi-Fi and cable TV are sometimes included in the rent. Most contracts are for a year, but six-month leases are also common. Upon signing you’ll typically hand over the first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit of one month. If you use a real estate agent to find a place, the standard commission is one month’s rent for a 12-month contract and is paid by the landlord.

Foreigners can own property in Thailand with restrictions. You can own a condo as long as total foreign ownership is less than 50% of the building. Foreigners cannot own land unless the purchase is handled by a competent lawyer.

Owning a Car in Thailand

There are many affordable public transportation options in Thailand. However, if you decide to invest in a car of your own, you’ll find that vehicles are reasonably priced in Thailand, as many are assembled here. Insurance is affordable, and full coverage on a midsize late model car should run about 20,000 baht per year ($635). However, financing is normally unavailable or difficult to obtain as a foreigner.

Thailand Transportation Alternatives

Motorbikes and scooters rule the roads in Thailand. They are cheap to own and operate. A new Yamaha Fino automatic scooter can be purchased for 44,000 baht ($1,400). You could rent the same motorbike for about 3,000 baht ($95) per month. They are easy to drive, maintain and park. For Thai families, the household motorbike is an indispensable necessity, and many foreign retirees and expats come to feel the same way.

Three-wheeled tuk-tuks can be loud and hot, but they are affordable, and they do have a certain charm. Even more ubiquitous than tuk-tuks are the bright red “baht buses” or songtaews. A songtaew is a heavy-duty pickup truck with a cabin and seating built onto the bed. Never get into a tuk-tuk or songthaew without agreeing on the price in advance. When possible, ask a local how much the fare should be, so you know if you’re being overcharged.

Retirement Visa Options in Thailand

You can apply for a 60- or 90-day visa from your home country through the Thai Embassy or Consulate or apply for a retirement visa. To qualify, you must be 50 years of age and be able to show an adequate income from outside Thailand or deposit 800,000 baht ($25,400) in a Thai bank. While “adequate income” isn’t formally defined, unofficially it’s about $1,800 a month. The retirement visa is for one year and must be renewed annually. You can process the paperwork yourself and pay about 2,500 baht ($80), or you can seek help from an attorney who will charge 10,000 to 15,000 baht ($318 to $475).

Food Markets in Thailand

Local Thai markets are usually open-air establishments either in a static location or recurring at a set place and time weekly. Most markets offer a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and other cooking products. Thai markets also offer prepared foods, most commonly roast duck and chicken. A rotisserie roast chicken costs just 140 baht ($4.50). Spicy salads such as som tum (papaya salad) can be made to order for 30 baht (95 cents).

Street Food in Thailand

Food carts are a way of life in Thailand. Most carts are attached to a motorcycle, and many operate from the same spot for decades. Try one thing at a time until you acclimate to the local food. Returning to the same vendor again and again is a great way to make a local friend. One unique kind of street food is fruit. Vendors offer fresh pineapple, mango, watermelon and even stinky durian. Smiling vendors slice up the fruit into bite-sized chunks and hand it to you in a plastic bag with a bamboo skewer. For about 80 cents, you get a bag full of fresh and healthy fruit to go.

Alcohol in Thailand

While Thailand is a very affordable place to eat, drinking can be expensive. Prices for alcoholic beverages are inflated thanks to import duties and taxes. Beer can be affordable if you drink locally produced brands such as Singha, Chang and Leo, which sell for about 30 baht (86 cents). Foreign brands that are licensed to be produced in Thailand like Heineken, Tiger and San Miguel Light are available for slightly more. More exotic imports can cost as much as $5.50 each. The biggest import duties are slapped on wine, causing outrageous prices. An average Australian table wine that would cost about $8 in the United States is $27 in Thailand. Many foreign restaurant owners offer by-the-glass wine promotions to attract diners.

The Cost of Health Care in Thailand

Quality health care is widely available in major Thai cities at affordable prices. Patients are flown from all over Asia for life-saving and one-of-a-kind procedures that can only be performed in Bangkok. Bumrungrad International Hospital hosts a million medical tourists per year. Professional athletes come to Piyavate Hospital for orthopedic surgery critical to their careers. Health professionals here are trained all over the world, including Germany, France, Switzerland and the United States. A visit to the dentist that includes a cleaning and cavity filling is less than $30. Most surgery costs 30% to 40% less than in western countries.

Language in Thailand

Even for the linguistically talented, Thai is not difficult to learn.  Many Thai people speak English. However, do not expect to find English spoken or understood everywhere you go. You should learn how to count at least to 10, direct a driver, order food, ask for the price and ask directions to the bathroom. Just those few phrases will make life much less stressful.

Part-Time Retirement in Thailand

While the weather is hot and humid year-round, some months of the year are hotter than others. And in some parts of the country, farmers burn their fields from the middle of March through May to prepare for the next planting, creating air-quality concerns. For these reasons, Thailand can be a top choice for part-time retirement overseas. You could create a retirement overseas plan that allows you to enjoy the best months of the year in Thailand.

Retirement Calculator for Thailand

Retirement Calculator aims to make you aware of savings and investments. It also helps you to reach your financial goals and manage your taxes. It is not intended to introduce any deposit, loan, investment, portfolio management or insurance product. A retirement calculator is a tool to help prepare for various financial goals. Using a calculation formula based on personal financial planning. A retirement calculator cannot be used as evidence regarding the achievement of financial goals.

By Kathleen Peddicord

Retire in Thailand recommends that you arrive on a tourist visa which can then be very easily converted to a retirement or marriage visa. Applying for a retirement visa in your home country, gets you a non-immigrant O-A visa which requires you to have expensive health insurance. Converting your tourist visa to a non-immigrant O visa removes the requirement of expensive health insurance.

Additionally, if you want to purchase land in Thailand and build a house,  Retire in Thailand can assist you with that process.  Retire in Thailand can also teach you the basic language in one-on-one lessons that normally take 30-50 hours.