Guide to Australians Retiring in Thailand
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With an ageing population more and more Australians are looking for alternative retirement options. As baby boomers we have worked hard all our life, as retirement age approaches we watch as pension age creeps further and further from our reach.
This leaves us wondering will we ever be able to retire? Will we still be healthy enough to enjoy our retirement? With prices sky rocketing, will there be enough money left in the pot to lead a good quality life in retirement? Some even question “will there still be a pension when I retire in Australia?”
With these questions in mind many Australians are looking further afield for retirement destinations.
Some choose to retire in Asia, an easy choice considering the short distance from Australia and the familiarity of the Asian region. After all Australians are some of the most well-travelled individuals on the planet.
- 1 Introduction to Australians Retiring in Thailand
- 2 Retire in Thailand from Australia
- 3 Is it hard moving to Thailand from Australia?
- 3.1 Will I be living in Thailand permanently or part time?
- 3.2 Should I rent an apartment or buy house in Thailand?
- 3.3 What is life like for Australians living in Thailand?
- 3.4 Will I get my Australian age pension living overseas?
- 3.5 Cost of living in Thailand
- 3.6 Chiang Mai Apartments – Condos
- 3.7 Best Place to Live in Thailand
- 4 Retiring in Chiang Mai
- 5 Helpful Tips for Living in Thailand
- 6 Internet in Thailand
- 7 Summary – Australians retiring in Thailand
Introduction to Australians Retiring in Thailand
When researching where to retire in South East Asia, Thailand is often at the top of the list, it’s a well-known destination to Australians and the number of Australians retiring in Thailand is steadily increasing.
Moving to Thailand is popular with Australians because of the good quality healthcare, modern amenities and infrastructure, making it one of the best places for Aussies to retire. The friendliness and graciousness of the Thai people is also a strong draw card when considering the life as an Expat living in Thailand.
Retire in Thailand from Australia
Many people ask, “Can I live in Thailand being an Australian?” the answer is yes, there are many Thai Visa options available to Australians, including a Retirement Visa which allows you to stay in Thailand for a year and is renewed annually. We reside in the northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai for part of each year and you can read more of what to see and do in Chiang Mai here.
Begin by checking Visa requirements by contacting the Royal Thai Embassy in Canberra Australia.
How to retire in Thailand
So, you have made the decision to retire in Thailand! Many Australians retiring overseas ask;
Thailand is one of the best places for Australians to retire overseas and you won’t be alone, there are already a massive number of Australian Expats living in Thailand. You will find many of these Aussies in the Expat enclaves of Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Phuket and Koh Samui, to name a few.
These Expats have already done most of the groundwork for you, a quick search of the internet will put you on to Expat websites such as the Chiang Mai Expats Club, a site that really gave us a feel for life in Thailand.
Facebook forums are another great way to connect with Expats living in Thailand, forums such as Phuket Living and Chiang Mai Expats Club are just a couple of my favourites.
International Living Australia magazine is a fantastic magazine for anyone thinking of becoming an Expat. The magazine showcases the lives of expats living in retirement destinations around not only Thailand but in destinations across the World.
Researching real estate prices is a must, again the internet comes to the rescue, we were able to get a feel for real estate prices and orientate ourselves to the different areas of our chosen destinations. Two of our favourite real estate sites are Perfect Homes Chiang Mai and Siam Real Estate.
As you can see there is a wealth of information available and with the internet at your fingertips you will have no trouble researching destinations before you go.
Is it hard moving to Thailand from Australia?
No! Most major cities in Thailand have English speaking real estates that will help you find somewhere to live. If you want to bring your belongings and furnishings from Australia there are removal companies that take the stress out your transition to life in Thailand.
Will I be living in Thailand permanently or part time?
This is something to think about, we spend a large portion of the year living in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. We originally came to Chiang Mai with the idea of staying permanently but with the success of our travel website we now share our time throughout other parts of the world.
Since we have been living in Chiang Mai, we have met people who live here full time and others who come to enjoy Chiang Mai’s laid-back lifestyle for a few months of the year. Both styles work, it depends on your budget and choice.
We know many people who live in Thailand permanently, they live in stylish apartments and comfortable houses, in cities that have all the modern amenities you are used to from home.
Some people like idea of keeping their property at home while still saving a large chunk of their hard-earned dollar by living a cheaper lifestyle for a portion of the year. Let’s face it living in Thailand is exciting, it has stunning scenery, culture and who doesn’t like the thought of an extended holiday.
Should I rent an apartment or buy house in Thailand?
Most people coming to Thailand rent for the first 6 months to a year to give them time to get a feel for their chosen destination. It’s super easy to rent an apartment or house and you will be surprised how cheap the rent is compared to Australia.
For those who want to buy property the best solution would be to buy an apartment, buying a house is a lot more complicated as you can own the house but not the land it is built on. There are ways around this, but you would have to go through proper legal channels and it can be tricky.
What is life like for Australians living in Thailand?
Life in Thailand is wonderful, you are living in an exotic land full of beauty with a lifestyle that many people only dream of.
Thai food is world famous and with each turn there is a new taste sensation waiting to try. Exploring the fresh produce markets, you will be amazed at the variety of fruits and vegetables on sale. So many bargains to be had, a large bag of tomato’s costing less than a $1.
Be tempted by the array of delicious market meals that start at a $1 per serve? Eating out becomes an everyday occurrence as restaurant meals cost as little as $3.50 and a beer $3.30.
Electricity and Internet are much cheaper than Australian prices and the internet comes with unlimited download. Going to the movies is a dream, a visit to an ultra-modern cineplex for the latest movie costs less than $5.
It’s not that hard to find many other Australians in Thailand also enjoying what this exotic country has to offer.
Will I get my Australian age pension living overseas?
Although we are not pension age, we have met many pensioners living overseas. These friends are still receiving their pensions and finding a better quality of life than being a pensioner living in Australia.
They are enjoying their retirement, lunch and dinner dates and having fun socialising are everyday occurrences, they are making the most of what life has to offer.
To find out more about Australian age pension overseas contact Centrelink.
Cost of living in Thailand
So, how much does it cost to live in Thailand? Though the cost of living in Thailand is very cheap, the cheapest place to live in Thailand is up to debate.
Each region varies, for example the cost of living in Phuket will be different from the cost of living in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, so this is something to take into consideration when researching your destinations.
We found after living in Thailand for a year that our average monthly spend was a lot lower than living in Australia. Apartments in Thailand are plentiful, and they can be found for $300 per month. However, this price is for a very basic studio type apartment and they wouldn’t suit everyone.
For a 1 bedroom modern apartment suitable for a couple in a city such as Chiang Mai you would expect to pay $600 and up. It’s a personal choice depending on the level of comfort you require. Food, entertainment and transport are much lower than Australia and many expats living in Thailand do so on a monthly budget of around $2500 per month. Some of course spend more again it comes down to what is acceptable in your circumstances.
Chiang Mai Apartments – Condos
For anyone looking for where to live in Chiang Mai, we have a preview of the type of condo’s Chiang Mai has to offer. See our video of our latest Chiang Mai condo. This condo is very modern and located in the Nimman area of Chiang Mai which is a very popular area full of restaurants, bars, shopping and coffee shops. Our condo rent includes one clean a month and fee high speed fibre Internet. The monthly rent is just over $900 per month for a six month lease.
For comparison also check our previous Chiang Mai Apartment / Condo which was in the sub $600 bracket. This condo was located in the night market area which is a very popular location for tourists. It was in an older building and did not include cleaning or Internet in the monthly rent.
For anyone wanting serviced apartments, Chiang Mai has many options. it’s very easy to engage a private cleaner either directly with the condo front desk or by private contractor. The average fee per clean is around $10 per time which usually also includes washing and replacing all linen.
Best Place to Live in Thailand
Like Australia, Thailand has some of the best beaches in the world and many people visiting for first time will stay at one of the many seaside locations such as Phuket, Krabi or the capital Bangkok. When choosing the best place to live in Thailand it comes down to deciding what type of lifestyle you want and your budget.
Do you want to be located close by the ocean or in a major city? Living in Bangkok has some advantages you won’t find in the smaller seaside towns such as access to greater transport options and all the amenities you expect to find in a large modern city.
The downside for anyone looking for the best pace to retire in Thailand that want a simpler lifestyle is that Bangkok is very crowded, and the lifestyle is fast paced. Living in Bangkok will also be more expensive than smaller towns.
The southern city of Phuket, with it’s crystal clear water and white sandy beaches was one place we considered living in when we first moved to Thailand. Although we loved our time there we found the prices higher than other parts of Thailand and this we believe is due to it being a popular tourist destination.
It’s still much cheaper than Australia and it is home to many expats looking for retirement at the seaside with all modern amenities.
Many people looking for the best place to live in Thailand also look at the northern city of Chiang Mai. As the second largest city in Thailand with a reported expat population in excess of 40000 it’s no wonder many people retire in Chiang Mai.
Expats from the United States, United Kingdom and Australia make up most of the nationalities that call Chiang Mai home. Life in Chiang Mai is laid back and the Thai people are very welcoming to foreigners which makes living in Chiang Mai very easy.Life in Thailand is wonderful, you are living in an exotic land full of beauty with a lifestyle that many people only dream of.Click To Tweet
Retiring in Chiang Mai
Thousands of Australians live in Chiang Mai. It’s one of the most popular cities in Thailand for Expats to live and it’s where we spend most of our time when in Thailand. Expat life in Chiang Mai is very easy as most amenities we are familiar with from Australia are readily available. From large shopping Malls with the latest department stores and cinema’s showing the latest movies, to sporting activity clubs frequented by like minded people. You will never be bored discovering what to do in Chiang Mai.
Cost of living in Chiang Mai is cheaper that some of the tourist hotspots such as Phuket and Koh Samui, which is part of the reason it’s become for many Expats the best place to retire in Thailand.
We noticed the price difference of Phuket on our last visit, and although still cheap compared to Australian prices, we paid slightly more for the same items we used in Chiang Mai. Also, much of the produce available in the other large cities of Thailand is sourced from Northern Thailand closer to Chiang Mai. This, together with its slightly cooler climate because of the surrounding mountains makes it an ideal place to live.
Most people when considering Chiang Mai as a potential retirement destination will often plan a short stay to see if it’s a good lifestyle choice, and we would recommend for anyone that hasn’t visited before that they do the same. Plan a stay for a week or two and get a feel for the place before fully committing.
When is the best time to visit Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai has what is locally called a smoky season. This period from around February to April is when surrounding crops are burned off by locals producing a smoke haze that often drifts over Chiang Mai. This happens because Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains and the smoke from the burning settles in the valley where Chiang Mai is located. Therefore, February to April is probably not the best time to visit Chiang Mai. Especially for anyone that suffers from respiratory problems.
It’s also the time of year that many expats choose to visit other parts of Thailand or take advantage of the cheap flights to explore neighbouring Asian countries. The smoky season doesn’t affect everyone, but it is a factor. There is currently an education program in place to try and encourage the farmers to look at alternative green methods to replace burning and hopefully this will eventually eradicate the problem.
The end of smoky season usually coincides with the famous Songkran festival with is held in April to mark the Thai New Year. This water festival is great fun and is an unforgettable experience as the city comes alive with 3 days of celebrations. You can read more about the Songkran festival here.
Where to live in Chiang Mai
The best place to live in Chiang Mai really depends on what lifestyle you are looking for. Some prefer the centre of the city with its abundance of Condos from budget to high end and others prefer the suburbs which have mainly houses for rent. The suburbs are generally cheaper, and some great bargains can be had renting large homes, however a vehicle is required, as transport is limited the further out of the main town you go. Whereas the city centre where we choose has plenty of cheap transport, so a vehicle is not required.
For anyone looking to retire in Chiang Mai, your choices are endless, and if you decide to call it home as many have already found out you are certainly in for a treat and can in no time meet many other Expats with similar interests.
Essential reading on retiring in Thailand
Helpful Tips for Living in Thailand
Using Credit or Debit Cards
Unlike Australia whereby almost any payment can be done via credit or debit card, Thailand is still very much a cash society and you will find when you live in Thailand that many restaurants and most small shops won’t accept cards.
Larger retailers and chain stores found in the modern shopping malls or the tourist hotspots may accept cards, but many will also charge a fee for accepting them. You will find it much easier and cheaper if you pay with cash. This also includes monthly rent payments to landlords who normally prefer direct deposit into a bank account.
Local Banking Arrangements
For anyone living in Thailand for an extended period access to funds is essential. Withdrawals from ATM’s with a card from a bank outside Thailand will attract a fee of around $10 each time plus the conversion fee of foreign currency into the local Thai Baht.
Anyone living in Thailand for a year or more will find it far cheaper to open a Thai Bank Account. Opening a Bank Account is fairly straightforward providing you have a valid Thailand visa and proof of residence such as a lease agreement.
Once you have a Thai Bank Account it becomes much easier to avoid the excessive foreign currency conversion fees as you are then able to electronically transfer money directly from an Australian Bank to your Thai Bank Account.
We have found that the best rate for us when transferring money is via a third party money transfer service rather that any of the major Banks in Australia. We use a company called WorldFirst which enables us to transfer from our Australian Bank to our Thai Bank for a much cheaper fee and better currency conversion rate.
Insurance in Thailand
For anyone living in Thailand long term Insurance should not be overlooked. Australia does not have a reciprocal health agreement with Thailand, so expats need to make their own arrangements to find what cover is suitable for their own circumstances. Health insurance companies in Thailand are available for coverage and some of the Thai Banks also offer health insurance plans for customers.
Private insurance companies and brokers are also available that can help with different types of coverage such as accident, personal and health coverage and most Expat Clubs in the major areas of Thailand popular with expats can offer advise on the services and contact details.
As a new arrival in Thailand a popular choice is to purchase a Travel Insurance plan which will be sufficient for at least the first 12 months. A company which we use for Travel Insurance is World Nomads who also cater for people with flexible travel plans.
The appeal for us with World Nomads is that it’s one of a few companies that will enable insurance policies to be extended without the need to return to your home country. For example, if you purchase a policy for a certain period of time then decide to extend you travel plans it’s very easy to extend your policy online to cover the extra time abroad.
For instance it would be ideal if you are visiting Thailand and need the flexibility of a policy that you can lock in for a couple of months while you decide if living in Thailand is for you, then if you find you will be staying just extend the policy.
On one of our trips we had to make a claim and it was paid out quickly. We will continue to use World Nomads and have recommended them to many of our friends.
World Nomads are also trusted by some of the biggest travel companies.
Internet in Thailand
Internet access is readily available, and many service providers offer great deals on home broadband connections depending on the speed required. Moving into an apartment building with fibre broadband access is common in the major cities and during our time in Thailand we have no problem accessing fibre internet to any on the apartments we have lived in.
Prices vary slightly between Thailand broadband providers, so it pays to shop around but as an example a fibre connection with one of the largest providers with 50 Mbps speed and upload 20 Mbps speed with unlimited download costs approximately $30 per month. Thailand unlike Australia has unlimited data downloads on all home broadband connections.
If fact when we first went to sign up for an Internet connection and asked how much download we would be getting per month on the plan we chose the staff member behind the counter did not understand what we meant. We have since discovered that the concept of paying for data downloaded on home broadband plans is foreign in Thailand.
Mobile broadband and phone access is also readily available throughout Thailand. Unlike home broadband, many mobile plans do have a download cap each month, but these are generous compared to Australian standards. The plan we use is $12 per month for 2.5Gb download with 4G access. Again, it pays to shop around and fortunately there are plenty to choose from.
Summary – Australians retiring in Thailand
If you would like more information on getting a Retirement Visa for Thailand, click here to read more about our first hand experience on how we went about getting a Thailand visa. Australia has many expats living in Thailand enjoying a good quality of life and it’s a destination more and more Australians are calling home.
Hope you have been inspired by retiring in Thailand from Australia. It’s well worth weighing up the pros and cons to see if it’s right for you. If you are considering spending time in Thailand do check our Thailand page for further articles on what to see and do in Thailand and other popular destinations.
Also if you have any specific questions about life in Thailand, or Australian expats in Thailand. Just leave a comment and we will be happy to help.
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