Retire in Thailand Visa
You’re probably tempted to apply for a Thailand retirement visa, whether you’re a Brit, an American, a European or an Australian. Between the amazing food, the pristine beaches and the great cost of living, what’s not to love? Seniors flock to Thailand because their pensions can go a long way there. Expatriates are always nearby, creating welcoming communities in case you’re feeling homesick. Check out this guide for tips on money, budget and leisure for retirees in Thailand.
The currency in Thailand is called the Thai baht. It is denoted with the symbol ฿ or the code THB. One baht is subdivided into 100 satang, and it’s the 10th most-used currency in the world. As of January 2019, here are the currency exchange rates for some common currencies:
In Thailand, the incredible standard of living draws visitors and expats from all over the world. Consumer prices are reasonable, housing is cheap and you’ll be able to afford luxuries that aren’t available to you in the west. If you’re adventurous enough to cope with the culture shock, your budget will thank you.
Here are some estimated costs of things in Chiang Rai.
|Item||Most recent cost in Chiang Rai|
|loaf of bread||35 THB|
|chicken breast||200 THB/Kilo|
|one beer in a bar||100 THB|
|McDonald’s meal for one||99 THB|
|monthly pass for fitness club||800 THB|
|meal for two at mid-range restaurant||300 THB|
|one pair of jeans||1,000 THB|
|monthly rent, 1-bedroom condo||7,000 THB – 15,000|
|monthly rent, 3-bedroom house||15,000 THB – 30,000 THB|
|petrol, one liter||36 THB|
|Volkswagen golf, new||800,000 THB|
|monthly rent for a 2 bedroom house||5,000 THB – 12,000 THB|
|basic utilities for a 2 / 3 bedroom house||1,000 THB / 1,500 – 2,000 THB|
|basic utilities for a condo/apartment||800 THB|
To retire comfortably in Thailand, there are a few baseline numbers to think about. With a cushion of $25,000 in savings, and a modest pension of $1,500 per month, a retired individual could live a comfortable life.
Even though many people move to Chiang Rai, Thailand because it’s cheap, it’s still smart to have some savings to account for surprise expenses. Still, the average Thai resident lives on less than $1,000 a month. To live cheaply, you could live quite well on a budget around this amount.
A luxurious retirement in Chiang Rai, Thailand is available for around $3,000 a month. This means employing maids and cooks, living in a premium location downtown and still having enough for entertainment. If you’re looking to buy, you can also pay for a spacious condominium on this budget.
In Chiang Rai, the climate is determined by three seasons: a dry and cooler period from November to February, a dry and hotter period from March to May and a monsoon season from May to November.
Retirees in Thailand tend to pursue a range of leisure activities. The warm climate means water sports, hiking and fishing are generally available. History buffs have countless temples and ancient sites to visit.
Sport is also common in Thailand. Thai boxing is a vigorous, energy-intensive sport so if you’re on the active side, you’ll have access to the world’s best Thai boxing experts here. When you’re not feeling as active, wellness activities are a very popular part of Thai customs. You’ll find many spa treatments and traditional massage therapies.
The most popular places that people choose to retire in Thailand are:
- Chiang Mai
- Hua Hin
- Chiang Rai
Bangkok is the most-visited part of Thailand. It has a diversity of restaurants, temples, canals and art museums. If you’re looking for easy public transportation, you’ll find it here. There are also a lot of resources for expats, like meetup groups and English bookshops. Along with the 9.5 million people comes horrendous traffic and unhealthy air. It’s okay for a holiday but I could not live there.
Chiang Mai is another popular destination in Thailand. It’s considered the center of northern Thailand and has the adventurous reputation to go along with it. Active retirees will find plenty of outdoor activities, from hiking to mountain biking to kayaking and whitewater rafting. You can explore over 300 Buddhist temples around the area. There’s plenty of nightlife since Chiang Mai is home to thousands of expats. However, Chiang Mai comes with a price. The price, your health. The haze from daily air pollution in Chiang Mai is so severe that on most days one cannot see Doi Suthep.
In Phuket, you’ll be closer to Thailand’s beaches. Phuket is Thailand’s largest island. It’s also known for its nightclubs. Cuisine skews toward seafood here, as you’d expect from a beachside area. You can also find Japanese, Italian and Indian cuisines. However, Phuket has the reputation of being the most expensive city in Thailand. Don’t even think about living there on less than about $2,500 USD per month.
Hua Hin is a more unorthodox choice for retirees, but it’s popular among low-key retirees. Historically it was a quiet fishing village, but these days it’s better known as a vacation area for Thailand’s elite thus the weekends become quite crowded. There’s a large expat community mixed with a small-town vibe. You’ll find diverse restaurants and agreeable, beachy weather. Again, though, like Phuket, Hua Hin is not a cheap place to live.
Chiang Rai, my obvious favorite, is probably the most budget-friendly city in Thailand. It’s in the far north of Thailand, and is more peaceful and far less crowded than its capital city cousin, Bangkok and its sister city, Chiang Mai. You’ll find rice paddies, waterfalls and mystical mountains. There are 6 good hospitals and 3 shopping malls, as well as numerous restaurants, but still, with less than 100,000 people life in Chiang Rai feels more rural than your average city.
There are four steps to acquiring a visa to retire in Thailand. First, you have to obtain a non-immigrant visa by providing the Thai consulate with your passport and proof that you have enough funds. The financial requirements are:
This is what is required to apply for a non-immigrant O visa when you are in Thailand. Unlike the non-immigrant OA visa, which is issued in your home country, the O visa does not require $100,000.00 health insurance coverage.
First you must have a 90 day non-immigrant visa. To get this you must be at least 50 years old and you will need.
- A Thai bank account with THB 800,000 . This account must be in your name only.
- An income of 65,000 Baht per month demonstrated by monthly deposits into a Thai bank account from overseas.
The second step is to obtain a one-year non-immigrant visa. To receive this, the 800,000 must have been in your bank for no less than 90 days beforer your visa application. Additionally, your bank balance can never drop below 400,000.
If you use the income method as proof of funds, you must be able to demonstrate that the funds are from overseas and that they have been paid monthly for 12 months directly to your Thai bank account. Your bank manager will write a letter attesting that you have received the funds monthly and this along with copies of your bank book and bank statement will suffice.
If you plan on travelling outside Thailand more than 3 times during the year you could get a multi entry permit which allows you to come and go as you please. If you only travel once or twice, you must obtain a re-entry permit, each time before you leave which will allow you to re-enter the country. Failure to get a re-entry permit before you leave will cancel your visa.
You are not permitted to do any work, not even voluntary.
Lastly, you must report to the Immigration office every 90 days to check in and verify your address. If you leave the country at any time, you must also report to immigration within 24 hours of your return. On a retirement visa, you will not be allowed to work for the duration of your visa.
If you apply in your home country for a 90 day non-immigrant OA visa read this.
First you must have a 90 day non-immigrant-O visa. To get this you must be married to a Thai citizen and have;
- A Thai bank account with THB 400,000. This account must be in your name only
- An income of 40,000 Baht per month demonstrated by monthly deposits into a Thai bank account from overseas.
If you use the income method as proof of funds, you must be able to demonstrate that the funds are from overseas and that they have been paid monthly for 12 months directly to your Thai bank account. Your bank manager will write a letter attesting that you have received the funds monthly and this along with copies of your bank statement will suffice.
The second step is to obtain a one-year non-immigrant-OA visa. The financial requirements are the same except that the 400,000 must have been in your account for at least 2 months before you apply. You will need to provide your Thai bank book, bank statements and a letter from your Thai bank.
If you plan on travelling outside Thailand more than 3 times during the year you could get a multi entry visa which allows you to come and go as you please. If you only have a single entry visa you must obtain a re-entry permit, each time you leave which will allow you to re-enter the country. Failure to get a re-entry permit before you leave will cancel your visa.
You are permitted to work but you must first have a job offer then apply for a work permit.
If you apply in your home country for a 90 day non-immigrant OA visa read this.
Retirees in Thailand will find plenty to be happy about. From the great weather to the focus on wellness, the interesting culture and amazing food, it’s definitely an exotic choice. Exotic as it is, the many international retirees there, means you’ll be in good company.