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Thailand receives a lot of attention as a retirement destination — and for good reason. The cost of living is low, which means you can stretch your retirement savings further. The country has a rich culture with delicious cuisine and friendly people. The weather is sunny and hot. If you want to visit beautiful temples or go for a hike, Thailand has options aplenty. Do you want to kick back on a beach? Thailand has lots of those to choose from as well. So let’s dive right in and look at the information you need in order to decide whether or not Thailand is the best place for you to spend your golden years.

Cost of Living and Housing

Many people consider retiring in Thailand, because it costs relatively little to live comfortably there. Estimates of for the cost of living in Thailand generally say it’s between 30% and 40% cheaper than living in the U.S. According to numbeo.com, a site that collects cost of living data from around the world, the average cost of living in Thailand is about 35% lower than the average cost of living in the U.S. Rents are 56% lower on average. So how do these costs translate to your monthly budget?

You should plan to live in Thailand on a budget of at least $1,500 per month. This will allow you to live comfortably without breaking the bank. A one-bedroom apartment in the center of a Chiang Rai, will run you about $200 to $400 per month for rent. When you factor in utilities, that cost reaches more than $300 to $500 per month.

If you are budget conscious, you can get by on less. Simply living outside of the city center could cut your rent nearly in half. However, you will probably have a difficult time living on a monthly budget of $1,000 or less.

In general, you can save the most by living and eating like a local. For example, international foods often cost significantly more than buying local produce or eating out at a small, local restaurant. The cost of alcohol can also add up quickly.

Retire in Thailand – Getting an Initial Retirement Visa

First of all, it’s worth noting that citizens of the U.S. and much of Europe do not need a visa in order to visit Thailand. All you need is a valid passport and a return trip (i.e. flight out of Thailand) scheduled before you enter the country.

If you wish to retire in Thailand, you will need to need to get a retirement visa. It’s possible to do this in Thailand.

To get a such a visa, you have to be at least 50 years old.  You also need to have a valid passport that doesn’t expire for at least one year. A passport that doesn’t expire for at least 18 months is even better. Lastly, you will need to meet certain financial requirements.

  • Have a Thai bank account with at least 800,000 baht (about $24,500)

Retire in Thailand – Next Visa Steps

Getting a retirement visa is simple, but that’s not the end of the story. There are many reasons why you might need to get additional permits or different visas.

Your retirement visa is valid for one year, but you still need to report to immigration every 90 days. If you fail to do this, your visa may become void. The retirement visa also does not allow you to work in the country. You will need a work visa for that. If you attempt to work or even to volunteer with only a retirement visa, it could void your visa.

The retirement visa also does not allow you to leave and re-enter the country. If you plan to travel, even just to visit home, anytime in your first year of residence, you will need to apply for a re-entry permit. The permit application is relatively simple. Besides the application form, you need to have a picture of yourself and various parts of your passport.

Once your retirement visa is nearing expiration, you will need to apply for a visa extension. This application is similar to the initial application with some additional requirements. For example, you will need to provide proof of address, copies of a bank statement and pictures of every page of your passport.

After you receive three consecutive one-year retirement visas, you can apply to for permanent residence.

Retire in Thailand – Healthcare

Healthcare is important to factor into your budget. There is no public health insurance for expatriates in Thailand. You will need to get private insurance. The average cost of healthcare is still lower than in the U.S., but costs can add up if you need regular medications of medical attention – particularly if you’re 60 or older. For some people, the best insurance option is to have traveler’s insurance from your home country. This may work for you if you plan to travel a lot or return home frequently.

Retire in Thailand – Taxes

Once you live in Thailand for six months you will need to pay income taxes on any money earned in Thailand.

Your best bet is to work with a tax accountant to file your taxes. Even if you can file the taxes on your own, everything is in Thai. Thailand also has agreements with a number of other countries to ensure that you don’t pay taxes twice on your income.

The Takeaway

There are lots of reasons why you may want to retire in Thailand. The cost of living is low, as is the cost of healthcare. There is a lot to see and do in the country. You will need to get a retirement visa, which is simple but still requires regular check-ins with immigration. You will also need separate visas or permits if you want to work, volunteer or travel out of the country at any point. Anyone considering a move should also make sure to research the Thai culture. It is not the most similar to U.S. culture. Those unfamiliar with it may suffer some culture shock.

Tips to Make Your Retirement Savings Last

  • Thailand is an affordable travel destination. As mentioned, a budget of $1,500 each month is enough for many people to live comfortably. Coincidentally, this isn’t much more than the average Social Security benefit.
  • Getting into Thailand is very doable, but you will need to satisfy some financial requirements first. Whether you need help saving or whether you want to talk about the process of moving internationally, consider talking with a financial advisor. An advisor who specializes in taxes could also help you to understand how taxes will affect you after your move.
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