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How much it costs to retire comfortably in Thailand


As some of our long-time readers may know, my parents are semi-retired in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They are here for an extended visit so I thought I’d take this opportunity to pick their brains on how much it costs to live there. I’m very curious to find out because we are planning to live in Chiang Mai for a few years after Mrs. RB40 retires.

See my credit card page for instruction on how to travel hack and which card to signup for today.

A little about Chiang Mai

how much it costs to retire comfortably in Thailand

Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. There are about 160,000 people living in the city itself and nearly 1 million people in the surrounding urban sprawl. If you have been to Bangkok, you know it is extremely hectic there. Chiang Mai is a little calmer and you don’t have to deal with gridlocked traffic all the time. The cost of living is also quite a bit cheaper than Bangkok.

The climate is tropical. It’s hot and humid, but it’s better than Bangkok. There are many temples, festivals, and activities to do around Chiang Mai. The city also gets about 5 million visitors per year so they are used to foreigners.

Why retire in Chiang Mai?

Here are some reasons why I want to live in Chiang Mai for a few years.

  • Travel Headquarters – We would love to explore Asia more and Chiang Mai would be a great HQ. Burma and Laos are within driving distance (long drive.) Chiang Mai also has an international airport with flights to many other surrounding countries. I would love to visit China, Japan, and Korea again.
  • Healthcare – Mrs. RB40 will retire before Medicare kicks in for us. We can get public healthcare in Thailand and that can save a ton of money. If the public system doesn’t work out, then we can use the private hospitals. The cost of healthcare is much more affordable there than in the US.
  • Cost of living – It’s cheaper to live in Thailand than in the US (at least for now). We probably have to try it ourselves to know for sure if we can do it.
  • Family – I still have some relatives in Chiang Mai and it would be nice to catch up and spend some time with them.

How much it costs per month to retire in Chiang Mai

My parents are pretty frugal. My mom, in particular, doesn’t like to spend money at all and lives a simple lifestyle. My dad is usually very cheap on most things, but he likes to splurge on good food and wine.

  • $200 Housing – They live in a condo they own free and clear. Their bills include HOA, electricity, water, and phone. They do not have internet connection at home. You can probably get a nice 1 bedroom condo in the city for around $60,000. It depends on the location, of course.
  • $350 Groceries – Mostly seafood. My dad loves seafood and dislikes chicken, pork, and other more affordable options.
  • $350 Eating out – They eat out about 4 times per week – two lunches and two dinners. Food used to be very cheap in Thailand, but it sounds like eating out in restaurants is getting much more expensive lately. Takeouts from the market and street foods are still very affordable.
  • $200 Beverages – My dad drinks about 5 bottles of Johnny Walker whiskey a month. He’d rather have wine, but wine is very expensive in Thailand and the quality is generally bad. While he is here in the US, he drinks about 1/2 to 1 bottle of red wine per day.
  •  $0 Healthcare – Their healthcare bill is usually 0. Public healthcare is available for Thai citizens. They also get free prescriptions from the hospital. My dad had cataract eye surgery earlier this year and he paid about $300 to cover the hospital stay and surgery equipment – lens, stitching, and scalpels. The operation itself was free (public hospital) and it turned out well.
  • $100 Entertainment – Movies, live music, and other entertainments. There are also free classes at the university for the seniors.
  • $100 Transportation – This is just the cost of gasoline. Cars are very expensive in Thailand due to the tariffs. The traffic is also pretty crazy so I’d rather use taxis and public transportation, which are plentiful.

They don’t keep track of every dollar so this is just an estimate, but they generally spend about $1,300/month and live quite comfortably. My dad likes to eat seafood so that’s why his food expense is so high. Locals who eat out every meal at cheap food stands or take out can probably keep it under $200/month on food.

Did I miss anything? Let me know if you have any specific questions and I’ll get the answer for you.

Foreigners spend more

My dad rents several condos to Japanese retirees. They have pensions and it’s much more affordable to live in Thailand than in Japan. Many of those retired folks live part time in Thailand. Here is an estimate of their living cost in Thailand.

  • $500 Housing – Rent in a comfortable 1 bedroom condo in a high-rise (about 600 sq ft.) The location is conveniently located in the central area of Chiang Mai. It’s probably cheaper to live outside of the core area.
  • $700 Groceries – Mostly food. They buy more imported food so that’s why it’s more expensive.
  • $500 Eat out – They eat out 4-5 days per week. They prefer Japanese cuisine which is more expensive than Thai food.
  • $600 Beverages – My dad says they each drink about a six-pack/day… They drink mostly beer and cheap wine.
  • $? Healthcare – Most of them have health insurance coverage purchased in Japan. It must be pretty expensive.
  • $700 Entertainment – They go golfing 4-5 times per week and it costs about $35 each day. They don’t really go to movies or theaters.
  • $50 Transportation – There are many Japanese retirees in the area and they often share the cost of transportation when they are out and about.

The Japanese retirees spend about $3,000 per month to retire in Thailand. They probably could cut costs a bit. I guess they have pensions and don’t mind spending it to have a more luxurious retirement.

Some uncertainties

Health insurance is still a big question here. My parents don’t have health insurance and rely on public healthcare. One of my uncles had a stroke a couple of years ago and went the private care route. My dad guesses they spent around $25,000 to deal with the stroke and the aftermath.

Inflation is also quite high in Thailand. The data shows that inflation is around 3-4% each year, but my dad said it feels like more. Everything just keeps getting more expensive.

Anyway, I would love to live in Chiang Mai for a few years. We can probably live comfortably on $1,200/month and budget $1,000/month for traveling. This is much less than our current expense of about $4,800/month here in the US. It would be great to visit the surrounding area. Once we get tired of SE Asia, then we can move to South America for a few years. When Medicare kicks in, we can move back to the US part-time. It’s a long way off though so there might be a lot of changes by then…

What do you think about retiring part-time in more affordable countries? It’s a great way to explore and get to know other parts of the world.

2016 update: I went to Chiangmai to check out a retirement resort and get an update on the cost of retiring there. See the Retirement Options for Foreigners in Thailand.

See my credit card page for instruction on how to travel hack and which card to signup for today.

Photo credit: wikipedia

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, the job became too stressful and Joe retired from his engineering career to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. Today, he blogs about financial independence, early retirement, investing, and living a frugal lifestyle.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is increasing his investment in real estate with CrowdStreet. He can invest in projects across the U.S. and diversify his real estate portfolio. There are many interesting projects available so sign up and check them out.

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help DIY investors analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.

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{ 115 comments… add one }
  • Ken F March 1, 2018, 1:58 am

    Honestly, it’s hard for me to imagine how a retired couple could spend THAT much money living in Chiang Mai. After all, my girlfriend and I lived in Phuket on only $1300 a month, about $700 of which went to rent a beautiful and very modern new house which was built around its own swimming pool. And although my girlfriend cooked most nights (Thai food) its just as cheap to eat out in Thailand. And the great thing is that the tastiest food always comes from the cheapest places – either the little hole in the wall open-air places where you sit on cheap plastic chairs, or in the food courts of shopping malls and department stores. So if you like Thai food there is really no reason to spend a lot on your food. Also, despite the fact that Thailand is the second most dangerous country in the world to drive in, I chose to have a motorcycle rather than a car so transportation costs were minimal.

    • retirebyforty March 1, 2018, 6:17 am

      Thanks for your input. Phuket is a great place to visit. I’d love to live there for a while and explore more places.

    • Kelly phelps April 8, 2020, 5:11 am

      I think thats a little low on the estimate. I,m single and spend 4000 per month. I have no car or motorcycle. And no i dont live extravagently.

      • Sam Tarley June 22, 2020, 12:20 pm

        You spend $4000 a month in Thailand and you don’t think that’s extravagant? Kindly break down your monthly budget and how many people it supports. I don’t even spend $4000 a month in my Washington DC suburb and I pay mortgage and child support.

      • Christopher M. Diamond August 10, 2020, 9:02 pm

        I have a studio condo 150 meters from a MRT station on the purple line (Bangkok side, not Nonthaburi), pay utilities, water, internet, cell phone (x2), food (x2, and a mix of street food and mid-level restaurants), groceries for 2, car insurance, gasoline, clothes, shoes, needs, wants, travel (x2) and as a couple we average around $1,850 per month. How in the holy hell do you spend $4,000 per month without living at least somewhat extravagantly?

  • Joel April 9, 2017, 1:23 am

    It’s interesting comparing the cost to living in Phuket – http://lovinglifeinasia.com/my-cost-of-living-in-phuket/

  • google November 13, 2016, 7:17 pm

    Great information. Lucky me I recently found your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
    I’ve saved it for later!

  • todd yowell March 26, 2016, 11:50 am

    nice write up i might do it by 40 but i am 51 now and looking into it when i turn 57 and i probably live south near phuket and enjoy the beach but my first 2 years i plan to buy a street glide if harley still makes them i know the cost twice as much but i want to ride through Laos Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia and of course Thailand, i know i have to keep a residence there in order to stay there to retire, and obtain a multiple entry visa to do that

  • alfred March 16, 2016, 10:38 pm

    If you could email me back I’d greatly appreciate it I’m 31 years old and I’m retired military so I make about 34 hundred a month I do have a lot of medical needs more or less I need for scriptions for things such as pain high blood pressure stuff like that are those medications readily available or do you have to get them through a doctor like for instance my blood pressure medication and my pain medication in Mexico I could go to the corner and purchase them at the local pharmacy in Thailand what I have to go to a doctor’s office get the prescription to get them filled or are there local pharmacies

    • Rich April 11, 2020, 8:40 pm

      Retired military at 31? I smell PTSD payout.

      • RetiredEarly August 10, 2020, 9:07 pm

        $3,400 per month is approximately the pay out for 100% VA disability. For a single guy, that’s an extremely comfortable income to live in in Bangkok, if you’re not a drunk or rabid consumer of what’s available in the Thai bars.

  • Gary Gwilliam December 27, 2015, 8:47 pm

    Having travelled throughout Asia as both a professional, and a tourist, I understand the value between living on company time, and living on my own dime. I will admit that I am neither frugal, or spend thrifty, regardless of whose dime I am on, I always opt for what I like and make no reservations or excuses about certain indulgences. Those being how I live, and what I eat.

    I agree on that having a budget is key to both a healthy lifestyle, and a life fulfilled. I do not agree on counting dimes on a daily basis to save a penny so that at the end of the month I can splurge on an indulgence either with saved change at the end of the month. That is ridiculous. To live like that is to live a life short changed, and to be forever wondering “Is this all?”

    If you live on a budget at home, adopt the same budget in your chosen home, Eat as you would, dance as you should, and sleep in like everyday is a Sunday. How do you do that you ask? Visit beforehand. Visit more than once. Put your thumb in the pie, your finger in your eye, and spend a night looking at the sky. Make a friend, a local that is. Share a table. Ride a bus, a train, and even a ferry. After all that, return home, count your smiles, friends, kisses, and maybe even a tear or 2, and then dig deep to see what it is all worth.

    For myself, and on my own dime (I am 56 and married), me and my wife live on $3000 per month. That is renting a furnished home that will allow friends to visit. Buying monthly bus and train passes. Renting a scooter, and traveling once a month to some other country for 3 to 5 days. Also, we do not eat at home……..ever. I buy local medical insurance for us both, and still save for an escape plan if needed.

    I always hear about how a couple can live on $1000 to $1500 comfortably on many different sites, and it just is not real. That is by keeping the same lifestyle they maintained in the US. 90% will never own a car. 75% will never buy adequate medical coverage (will spend $1000’s to fly home if needed, but will not spend 1/3rd of that for annual coverage that is 100% better than US medical services). And almost 100% will never take the effort to learn the language of their adopted home!!!

    If you choose to leave the US to live in another country full-time, learn to assimilate, adapt, embrace, and take on the whole culture. Isn’t that why you moved? Otherwise, just move to Florida.

    • Hank Cheranichit September 21, 2019, 4:50 pm

      I really love your comment. I visited Thailand twice in the last 4 years and I sensed that I probably end up moving to Thailand someday when the time is right.

  • Amanda Hawaii December 25, 2015, 5:41 pm

    I guess my tastes must be more on the simple side! I averaged about $15 a night for a nice mid level hotel and around $8 a day for food in Chiang Mai ( about 1.50 breakfast / lunch and $5 dinners ). I’ll have to add up my yots for a monthly figure!

    • retirebyforty December 28, 2015, 10:16 am

      My taste is very simple too. My dad, on the other hand… He enjoys going to nicer places and doesn’t like eating at food stalls.

  • Robert June 13, 2015, 4:58 pm

    I’m planning to visit Chang Mia in
    March get the feel for it stay a week
    If I buy a condo 2 bedrooms would I be pushing it to find something under 2 million baht and could I buy small business for my girlfriend to bring in a income any chance you or someone you can recommend meet me for a coffee to assist me as you seem to have a good knowdge of Chang Mia
    The decision to retire has been forced upon me and I am not getting much sleep your site is great

    • retirebyforty June 14, 2015, 3:19 pm

      It really depends on the area. Actually, I don’t know that much about Chiang Mai. I just know a little because my parents live there. You can probably find a condo for around 2 million baht. My dad just got a 1 bedroom for about 1.5m. Depends on the area. Sorry, I’m not that helpful. I would rent for a while before buying.

    • Robert January 8, 2016, 10:28 pm

      I am about to take 6 months of work
      And get A 3 month visa stay in thialand I want to give chang Mia
      Ago around June and rent for 3 weeks
      Can you recommend a good location that is quite close to shops and all amenities this will be with a view to retire with my thia girlfriend in 2017
      Any help would be appreciated

      • retirebyforty January 9, 2016, 9:54 am

        I’m sorry, but I’m not familiar enough with the city anymore. I think anywhere in central city would work because Chiang Mai is not that big. Maybe you should get a hotel for a week or two to familiarize yourself.

  • Robert June 12, 2015, 4:57 pm

    Great site and very informative
    I’m 57 have worked for over 39 years in govt and have been thialand many times
    I have had a marriage break up and lost my home able to keep my super
    I have had a gut full of my work recently due to a new boss need to get out I want to use my super and move to Chang Mia I will not be able to acces my pension for 10 years could I live with 6 million baht till then I have a thia girlfriend and need to buy condo so confused hope you can help

    • retirebyforty June 12, 2015, 11:49 pm

      Sorry, I don’t know much about the law. Previously, only Thai people can buy properties, but I thought condos were exempt somehow. Why don’t you just rent? The rent will be affordable and you can take a few years to see if it’s the right move for you. Good luck!

  • On the Other Side of 40 June 5, 2015, 8:03 am

    My wife an I are on the other side of 40….I retired last year but got pulled back into a job which might take a year or so to manage a computer transformation at a local plant. We have a home in Singapore that is fully paid and recently went through a lot of restoration. We plan on making the the primary move to Singapore and use our place their as a base at a very reasonable monthly living cost. We then want to find various places in Thailand and Vietnam where we can enjoy staying anywhere from 3 to 6 months at a time. In the meantime we are preparing to sell our home in the US and find an apartment for the next year until I can finish up the project. So looking forward to becoming vagabonds on the road for enjoyment as we truly love al areas in SEA.

  • Alan Tin-Win April 5, 2015, 10:33 am

    I’ll be retiring to Thailand next year (Jan 2016) as an expat couple, no kids. I lived in Bkk 1997 – 2003 & visit every other year, last visit in Jan 2014. I plan to live comfortably on USD 2,000 per month, and set aside some money every month for medical expenses rather than pay an insurance premium. To rent a condo (2BR, 60 sqm) in Bkk will cost around USD 600 per month away from the city center, less if on the outskirts or in the districts.
    check out for a fairly accurate COL estimate. Good luck!!

  • Tom ThaiSeason January 4, 2015, 5:39 pm

    Hi, My name is Tom and I am 49 and live on Ko Lanta Island in Thailand. My girlfriend’s family has five sea front houses. We rent one for $500 a month.
    I only speak english and it is very easy to get by here with english.

    We go to eat with our three boys and spend $6 for all five of us to eat.

    It is so amazing to live sea front on a quite island with a dozen islands in our view.

    The houses come with a mooring for sailboats or other yachts.

    The upstairs bedroom is designed like a open tree house. We have almost no mosquitoes year round. Sunrises and moon-rises are so good. We sleep with are children on the balcony at least half the year. Our children and us really enjoy the universe for our bedroom. About a week ago we had a meteor shower. We saw over 235 falling stars.

    If you are looking for a quite paradise that is affordable contact us at [email protected]

  • Gary November 2, 2014, 10:04 am

    I have been to Thailand many times, and I plan on retiring there very soon in the next few years (I will be in my 50’s by then). In my opinion, I believe the Thai’s are the friendliest people I have had the pleasure to meet. My Thai friends tell me you are absolutely correct about the cost of living. It all depends on your lifestyle. I have been saving my whole life for this, and I can’t wait for this new adventure of mine to start.

  • Mona July 7, 2014, 11:12 am

    I have two kids. one in university and one will go in a year. We are Indian but grew up at California . Now I find USA very boring since been Bangkok and other part of Thailand over 20 time. Main thing attract me is very good maid and I and my husband getting old do not want to keep working in the house. Other thing I am finding kids here very selfish and they will not look after me or my husband and when we get very old they will toss us in senior home. My hubby is 58 and i m 54 and we want plan to get out from here. Please let me know why i m thinking is correct?

  • living off dividends May 24, 2014, 11:41 am

    Great post!
    Several years ago I wrote a post about living abroad on less than $3000 a month. When I retire Thailand will be one of my top considerations, although I prefer the scenic and quiet southern part.

  • ksak.uae March 17, 2014, 10:47 am

    I like your article. I am Thai working in Middle East. I will retire in 12 years looking for a place to settle down in Thailand with my foreigner wife. I plan to travel and live in Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket but not BKK for sure (6 long years there feeling like sardine in can) then I would see where to settle down.
    I was graduated in Chiang Mai University decades ago. Living cost was much cheaper than BKK, Pattaya and Phuket. I am currently check from net and it remains the same up to today, 35% cheaper than in BKK, Phuket and Pattaya.
    Let say I can afford house maid when living in Chiang Mai but cannot in other city.
    Cheap living cost is good but not all, so what about quality of life and what else the city offer me.
    I would say Chiang Mai offer me nice environment with nice people that still lingering in my memory.

  • priti January 4, 2014, 6:46 am

    we been Thailand over 30 times with kids so far. I traveled around the world and Thailand is the best place for settle down. We been USA over 30 year and it is boring so we keep going Thailand . From BKK u can travel around and it is really fun .

    • retirebyforty January 4, 2014, 8:17 am

      BKK is so busy. I think I prefer Chiangmai. I’ll have to try living in BKK first though. Cheers.

  • Andrew Wong November 12, 2013, 12:11 am

    Great article. I have been thinking about retiring in Thailand as the cost of living is lower than that of my home country Malaysia. I have a friend who lives in Thailand in a beach house with 2 other people, he said the cost of expenses are barely $500 for all 3 of them, and this includes food and lodging. I guess, it depends on where you live in Thailand. Chiang Mai and Bangkok are tourist traps and I think that’s why the prices are so much higher.

    It’s the same in Malaysia. The cost of living in the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur is fairly high. However, if you can choose to eat the local foods and not go to 5 star restaurants, it’s not too bad, Healthcare in Malaysia is a lot cheaper than the US and is just as good. Especially the private hospitals.

    My parents own a home in Malaysia that I will inherit at some point, I may still decide to return to Malaysia when the time comes. However, I’m also looking in to retiring in South America. I guess it all depends on which country I can make my dollar stretch the most.

    Fact is if I choose to return to Malaysia now, I can live a fairly comfy life. I won’t be wealthy, but I won’t be worrying about where the next dollar will come even if I don’t work another day in my life.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2013, 8:55 am

      Wow, $500 for all 3 people? That’s cheap. I might have to drop by and say hi when we’re over there.
      We like living in the city though. I don’t know if we can live in the booney, it’s too boring there.
      I like South America too. I would like to live there for 4-5 years and explore that part of the world.
      Thanks for your comment.

  • ResilientMan November 8, 2013, 9:40 am

    Living and retireing in Thailand, is doable but there are some important facts that one does really need to consider before diving in. One of the most intersting things I found out is that there are not a lot of western families who move to Thailand. It is rather divorced men who do so. Find out more here 🙂 http://resilientman.com/retire-thailand/

    • retirebyforty November 8, 2013, 2:08 pm

      I’ll check it out. Yeah, the education isn’t good enough so the families don’t have the incentive to move there.
      I think it might work out well for a retired couple with ties in Asia though.

  • Sharon November 1, 2013, 10:12 pm

    When I look at our US budget dollars, I notice a big hunk of expense go to pay for car, car insurance, house insurance (house is paid for), health insurance, property tax for house and income tax. So basically, taxes and insurance. We could get by on less than $1,000 per month in Texas if not for taxes and insurance. How do these things compare in Thailand or other locations?

    • retirebyforty November 3, 2013, 4:55 pm

      I’ll have to ask my dad. It depends on what you want to buy. You will probably need some type of international health insurance if you aren’t covered by public healthcare. Taxes? I’m not sure, but I don’t think it’s that high. Sorry, I don’t have a good answer.

    • Paul June 29, 2015, 3:56 pm

      “When I look at our US budget dollars, I notice a big hunk of expense go to pay for car, car insurance, house insurance (house is paid for), health insurance, property tax for house and income tax. So basically, taxes and insurance. We could get by on less than $1,000 per month in Texas if not for taxes and insurance. How do these things compare in Thailand or other locations?”

      A very valid comment. Renting a place (no property taxes other than what’s included in rent) and not owning any cars (no payment, gas, insurance or maintenance costs) would save a lot.

  • rom October 9, 2013, 11:45 pm

    Nice article. I’ve also thought a lot about moving overseas for the lower cost of living as a way to afford early retirement and cover the gap prior to being able to tap into SS and medicare. I’m very curious what the education options would be for your child especially if this happens in high school or if you want to be close by for college?

    • retirebyforty October 10, 2013, 11:06 pm

      Education is pretty limited. The kid can go to an international school, but it would be quite expensive.
      I’d probably look into homeschooling if we move to Thailand while he is in school. I don’t plan to move until he’s in college though.

  • Deep Vaid September 16, 2013, 3:43 pm

    I would have to agree with Micheal’s comments.

    I can probably buy Thai produced fish products cheaper in the UK where I am from, than in Thailand, things like Mango’s are only marginally cheaper in Thailand, more exotic fruits like Mangosteens are off course cheaper.

    Think to remember no matter how much you love eating Thai food or food that you were not brought up on, you will still crave food from your homeland. Anything like that is very expensive in Thailand as they know only the non-locals will buy it and the price is artificially high.

    The so called Free trade agreement where products like Cheese and wine from Australia for example still end up with a 300% local tax stamped onto their price, when there should be none… hence… free trade. But it only work’s in favour of Thai goods being exported!!!

    Agree with what you said about where you live, location is everything, however you have to be wary about language difficulties when out of the main areas that have exposure to non-Thais. In regards to Paul Smith’s comments about having food and sex for little or nothing, I think is a mis comprehension of Asia that belongs in the 70’s and 80’s. Asia is more expensive than Europe and the US for most modern day items these days.

    • retirebyforty September 16, 2013, 10:46 pm

      I wonder why Thai products are cheaper in the UK. My dad said Thai products are cheaper in Thailand, but they export the best quality products. For example, it’s hard to get really good rice in Thailand anymore for example.

  • Paul Smith September 15, 2013, 11:34 am

    Interesting. I live in a large city, but have always fantasized about retiring to more relaxed, cheaper places. This article oddly makes Thailand seem like any other place. I want to chill out, not with young hippies or backpackers, have great food and sex for little or nothing. No stress, please. If I travel so far only to find modern life there as hectic, expensive and anxiety ridden as where I reside, that would be a bummer.

    • retirebyforty September 15, 2013, 1:18 pm

      There are more relaxing spots in Thailand too. It’s quite nice down south near the beaches.
      I like the modern life. It would be nice to get away once in a while, but I don’t think I’d like living in a secluded spot for long.

  • michael September 14, 2013, 12:22 pm

    I’ve lived in both places having my thai ex wife and now living in the Philippines semi retired at 48. I still shuttle between the US and the Philippines since I have businesses and properties in both places and also a house in Thailand. It actually costs me less in the US to retire even in Berkeley, California since I’m familiar where to get all the cheap groceries and entertainment since I know most music venue owners who let me in for free. In Manila, it would cost me around $3000 a month even though I own my own two bedroom flat in Makati City(very expensive area, like Asok or Thonglor in Bangkok), because all the surrounding restaurants are expensive and so are the nice grocery stores. Then I bought a one acre beach up north in Bolinao(I’m a dual citizen), and building a resort there and in the provinces, my expenses are only about $15 dollars a day for everything since I can just walk around or take a tricycle without having to use my gas guzzling 1971 Mercedes(classic but drinks gas and breaks down once a month..lol). I thought it would actually cost less to retire in Thailand or the Philippines, but it’s actually cheaper in the US for me right now since I know all the budget areas although of course I can’t afford seafood like I can in the provincial beach town of Bolinao. You really need to live there 3-5 years to get used to spending down instead of spending up to find out where to get all the great deals. Imported stuffs are expensive so I usually send cargo boxes of stuffs to the Philippines: like ten cargo boxes through a Philippine freighter like LBC which gives you a 24 by 20 by 20 box, unlimited weight for 55 bucks door to door. I just order stuff on Amazon or shop at Ross or Osh Hardware and send all the stuff back even my power tools and just use a 220 to 110v step down converter. You definitely can live cheaper; I just haven’t figured it out yet and still learning.

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2013, 9:22 pm

      Wow, that’s really interesting. I’m sure we would have a tough time at first too. I still have families there though so maybe we could get some tips from them.
      We’ll probably try to avoid the import stuff as much as we could when we go to Thailand. We’ll see.
      Good luck with the resort.

    • Mona February 25, 2016, 4:18 pm

      We are at Thousand Oaks fro past 25 years and now kids are at college . From past over 20 years we visited Bangkok and other places every year twice . Originally I am indian and now me and my husband getting bored at usa . We are thinking about buying Apartment at Sukhamvit .

      • retirebyforty February 25, 2016, 10:11 pm

        I would rent for a while before buying. You might not like it once you’re there for a few months. Enjoy!

  • Deep Vaid September 13, 2013, 4:36 pm

    I LIVE IN Thailand and I must say I am quite impressed with your cost of living figures, have lived in Thailand since 2003 now. Must admit my expenses are a lot more.

    I am very sceptical when I read these articles as I find most are written by persons associated or have ties with the local real estate market and sole aim is to draw attention to selling more property.

    Buying property in Thailand should not be taken lightly, although many have, both this government and the one which just passed has proposed changing the Law governing the legal loop hole used, that allows non-Thai’s to own property in Thailand.

    One last question, are you honestly saying that your parents totally rely on the public health system? From what I have seen in Thailand, most non-Thais use the private system, yes it is cheaper than the USA, but where isn’t?

    • retirebyforty September 14, 2013, 11:34 am

      Can you share your cost of living? Where do you live?
      The location makes a huge difference. I’m sure Bangkok would be much more expensive.
      The lifestyle also makes a big difference. Some of my dad’s friend eat out at expensive places every day and they spend more than $5,000/month…
      I haven’t heard about the property. I do some research.
      Yes, my parents are using the public healthcare right now. It’s working well for them. If they need more extensive care like specialized surgery, then maybe they might use private care later.

  • Mateo Raft September 11, 2013, 11:09 am

    Have you researched and created a list of retirement destinations based on visa and permanent residency requirements? A cursory search shows that even the most open countries, such as Ecuador, Panama, and Mexico, seem to limit long term stays to 180 days–at least in terms of convenient applications or process. Even Thailand appears to have made it much more difficult to gain permanent residency in recent years.

    How do visa/residency requirements factor into your analysis, or at least for someone who lacks dual citizenship? Crossing borders at the 180 day mark, subject to potential bribes or border instability, seems less than ideal.

    • retirebyforty September 11, 2013, 1:17 pm

      I haven’t done that yet because it’s a long way off.
      I think Thailand is actually much easier than 10 years ago. Now you can get a retirement visa that’s valid for a year.
      You just need some income (around $2,100) or a net worth of at least $26,000. Oh yeah, and be 50 or over.
      Hopefully South America will be more accommodating in the future. I know Belize has a pretty good retirement visa.

  • Justin September 11, 2013, 8:00 am

    Having traveled to Thailand 14 times and having many friends live there full time, I disagree with the costs here to retire. If you eat local, and live like a local and not an expat, it will be much cheaper

    • retirebyforty September 11, 2013, 8:09 am

      I mentioned that eating local food will make a huge difference. Well, my dad eat mostly seafood. That’s local, but it’s still expensive.

  • Jack @ Enwealthen September 10, 2013, 1:30 pm

    Thanks for the detailed cost analysis!

    I’ve considered retiring outside the US, but it comes down to the same things others have said – being away from family and friends primarily.

    One other consideration is relative civil stability. With the 2008 financial crisis still unwinding in a slow-motion disaster, it’s unclear what the final outcome will be. However, I’d just as soon be within the borders of the US with its amazing depth and breadth of resources, than Thailand. Hopefully, that’s an unfounded concern on my part!

    • retirebyforty September 10, 2013, 4:39 pm

      I think civil stability is not too bad in Thailand. There were some riots and coups, but they generally leave foreigners alone. If you don’t go looking for trouble, you wouldn’t even notice it. (Unless you live in the neighborhood…)
      Financially? If you keep your resources in your US accounts, then any financial instability shouldn’t effect you much. It’s probably an advantage because usually the US dollar strengthen during time of financial crisis.

  • No Waste September 10, 2013, 9:28 am

    I would be so fat if I retired in Thailand!

    Bring all your Thai food to me!

    • retirebyforty September 10, 2013, 4:36 pm

      Don’t worry about it. You just sweat it all off. It’s like being in a sauna all day. 😉

    • ed September 29, 2016, 11:24 am

      Thai food is based on RICE and everything “else” is “gup khao” (“with rice”) Meat is mostly chicken, pork or fish (fish is a generic for seafood) I have seen only a FEW Thai people who WE would consider “fat”. Then there is that little matter of SPICY – in the US Thai food starts at ZERO ‘stars’ and goes to 5. In Thailand they START AT 7 and go to maybe 15. Not that I care since I eat at Thai spice level – sure aids in the output, too

  • Little House September 10, 2013, 7:00 am

    Mr. LH and I have discussed retiring abroad to someplace less expensive. Healthcare, however, is the big mystery. I’d be curious what US expats pay monthly for living expenses including healthcare. Chiang Mai sounds like a city to investigate.

    • retirebyforty September 10, 2013, 4:35 pm

      I looked into it a bit more and it’s best for foreigners to get an international health insurance policy. Canada is also a good option for health care.

      • ed September 29, 2016, 11:18 am

        There was basic Thai health insurance available for maybe 5000 7000B/ month in May 2016 but their brochures are cryptic to understand (and that is being KIND)

  • Paul @ The Frugal Toad September 9, 2013, 8:27 pm

    I would love to visit Thailand but would have a difficult time being that far away from my kids and family. I plan on retiring in the U.S. and traveling to Europe and the mediterranean.

  • Fab September 9, 2013, 7:58 pm

    Also having as a possibility to retire in Europe in 10+ years. I have not research much yet how that would work for taxes though.
    When a US person becomes a resident of another country, what are the tax implications?

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 11:29 pm

      I’m pretty sure you still have to pay the US federal income tax.

  • CL September 9, 2013, 4:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing these budget numbers! They’re incredibly helpful. Cuenca, Ecuador is the #1 retirement abroad destination. It’s extremely helpful that they use USD and there was a sample budget up somewhere where Americans could live off of the average SS check ($1200) and have a maid and eat out all the time. I lived there for half a year and it’s wonderful to live in the tropics.

    That said, unsophisticated crime is rampant in Ecuador. Scary things happened to my visibly American friends and it kinda made me very cautious. Nothing major happened to me though.

    I really want to visit Thailand and it sounds like it’s extremely affordable. How are you getting access to the free public healthcare? Are you a Thai citizen/dual citizen?

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 11:28 pm

      I hope South America will still be affordable in 15 years. You never know… I would love to live in South America for a few years.
      When you live in a developing country, you need to be a little more cautious.
      I’m dual.

  • moneystepper September 9, 2013, 4:31 pm

    Great to see the numbers – living on $1,000 a month Thailand sounds like a pretty nice retirement to me!

    • ed September 29, 2016, 11:13 am

      IF you can stand being a little more spartan, you could try somewhere in ISSAN (that’s NORTHEAST THAILAND) for an even lower cost. Of course, there isn’t that much to DO there, but…
      But be aware you will need to learn Thai language (and it’s not that easy because it is TONAL – like Chinese – 5 tones – high, middle, low, rising and falling – writing there are 44 consonants – 2 obsolete – and 32 vowels, 4 tone marks and a different system of numbers with only “0 – zero” being the same) because there is far less exposure to farang there.

  • Financial Samurai September 9, 2013, 4:15 pm

    Sounds like a no brainer for you to move there!

    It’s landlocked though right? How far away to the beach driving? I need to be close to water, so perhaps there are lakeside houses?


    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 11:26 pm

      Northern Thailand is pretty far from the beaches. Driving to Southern Thailand would take a couple of days. I’d probably take the train or fly. Southern Thailand would be a great option for us too. We’ll see how it goes.

      • ed September 29, 2016, 11:05 am

        Even with the insurgency in the far south?

        • retirebyforty September 29, 2016, 6:03 pm

          Maybe not that far south… 🙂

  • payitoff September 9, 2013, 1:25 pm

    i need an advice. i am setting aside $1000/month for paying down debts primarily student loans. is it wise to split it in half and put the other half in investing? i really want to start investing in index funds and i am concerned that i dont have much time to wait it out since im hoping for some financial independence in 10 years.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 3:01 pm

      What’s your interest rate on the student loans? I think you really should split it and invest some. If you start investing now, you’ll learn more about investing. It can take a long time to be good at investing and the earlier you start the better. Good luck!

  • [email protected] September 9, 2013, 11:08 am

    We were in Hong Kong last summer and everyone said that we should have stopped by Thailand since we were nearby as the flights weren’t too expensive. If only we were able to take more time off! I sometimes wonder about moving to a more affordable place to retire but I think it would be hard to leave family and friends. Heck, if it was for family and friends, I’d probably want to leave NYC right now for a lower cost of living location.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:59 pm

      Well, we won’t be gone forever. They can always come visit us if they miss us. 🙂

  • Taynia | The Fiscal Flamingo September 9, 2013, 10:32 am

    Moving overseas is in our family plan. Not in the short-term, but within 5 to 7 years. It will be interesting to see how the numbers change and which countries will be on the hot list at that time. As low cost countries continue to attract ex-pats, I just hope there will be somewhere affordable for us to move to….

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:58 pm

      I think South America and SE Asia will still be great places to retire to. Things change though. Good luck.

  • Pretired Nick September 9, 2013, 9:55 am

    This is a great plan, Joe! The rent from your condo (assuming it was paid off by then) would supply more than enough money to live on so you could leave all your other cash invested.
    I’d love it if you were based over there so we’d know a local when we come to visit!
    We’re also considering some international options for our pretirement years. We may actually do more than one country if everything works out OK.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:57 pm

      Sure, you can come by anytime when we move over. It’ll be a while though. 🙂

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor September 9, 2013, 9:00 am

    “The cost of care is much more affordable there than in the US.” I think the cost of care just about everywhere is much more affordable than in the US. I don’t know how or if the Affordable Care Act will change this, but retiring before Medicare eligibility in the US and relying on privately purchased health insurance is pretty much financially impossible for all except the wealthy.

    Personally I’m a big fan of moving internationally to facilitate retirement. But I’m biased, because we did it. 🙂 We moved long before retirement, but now we’re settled, have a network for friends, and ready to ease into retirement when the time comes. And we’ve got an awesome (imo) public healthcare system.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:57 pm

      Canada is a great option too, but it’s a bit cold up there for my taste. We’ll see. 🙂

      • Kurt @ Money Counselor September 10, 2013, 6:42 am

        Joe, you’d like the west coast and Vancouver Island. A bit cooler than Portland, but quite similar climate overall. Very little snow except at elevation of course. And, like you, we’re also waiting for that big mega-thrust earthquake!

        • retirebyforty September 10, 2013, 4:34 pm

          I do like Vancouver, but it’s super expensive. I’ll have to visit again. We haven’t been there for over 10 years.

  • Prasun Choudhury September 9, 2013, 8:51 am

    Great and informative post as usual; especially it helps me a lot as I plan to spend sometime in Thailand myself after I retire! The housing cost looks reasonable, irrespective of whether one rents a condo or buys one. The grocery and restaurant cost seems a bit high, even comparing with US standards. For example, $700 for groceries and $500 for eating out (i.e. $1200 on food cost for a couple; not counting drinks/beverages) is quite high. Though I feel, if one tries local Thai cuisine, it will be cheaper (as you mentioned) and Japanese restaurants are expensive everywhere. I am a non-alcoholic person; so can’t really comment on beverages but that (along with entertainment) seem to be a bit high too! You didn’t include the cost of utilities, internet, phone, etc for Japanese retirees; are the utilities usually included within house rent?

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:56 pm

      Yeah, the food bill is a bit out of whack. My dad love seafood and that’s expensive anywhere. I think Indian food is also quite expensive in Thailand. I’ll check with my dad. I think the utilities probably cost another $100 extra. Not included in rent.

      • ed September 29, 2016, 11:00 am

        as compared to ahaan (food) Thai, Indian is a bit more expensive but most farang don’t mind too much. There are some lower cost Japanese (Yipun) food in what amounts to a fast food version of a traditional restaurant – usually found in some of the malls. The cost for that Japanese food is STILL about 30 to 40% of what I pay here in the US. I need to emphasize that you want to EAT WHERE YOU SEE THAI PEOPLE EATING. That is generally a sign of good food and it won’t make you sick.

        Beer is about 75 cents (US) for a 340 ml can of Cheers (as of May 2016). Imported liquor is about 50% more than what I would pay in the US – IF I COULD STILL DRINK (interferes with my meds)

        I am generally there during the wet season, so room prices are lower. I can find a small room in a hotel A/C, fan, refrig, hot water about 800, 900 meters from the beach for maybe 5,000B plus power and water (power is 5B/ unit and water is about 100B/ week)

  • Martin September 9, 2013, 8:41 am

    Why did you have to write about this? I have many friends that have gone to Thailand and loved it.

    I think it makes perfect sense to retire somewhere that’s more affordable. You worked hard you whole life, why not enjoy your golden years? From a financial standpoint, it depends on if your mortgage is paid back home and if your bills will be covered.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:54 pm

      It’s a lot of fun to visit, but living there is quite different. It should be fun for a few years though especially if you have money to spend. 🙂

  • Robert September 9, 2013, 8:31 am

    You mentioned a condo would be around $50,000. What are the rules, if any, about foreigner ownership of property in Thailand?

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:54 pm

      From what I understand, foreigners can buy condos, but not lands. So no houses unless you are married to a Thai citizen (I think.)

      • Steve September 30, 2013, 4:52 pm

        Foreigners cannot own land period. So, even if married to a Thai you cannot own land. And, if you choose to bring money into the country and give it to your wife to buy a house you are required to sign a legal document stating that you have no rights to the house in the event of a divorce.

        Some have gotten around the issue by creating a Thai company and buying the house in the company’s name, but the Thai government has been increasingly looking for this type of fraud. Another option would be to purchase the house (you can own the house, just not the land) and then do a 30 year lease on the land.

        In my mind the best option though is to just stick with a condo and be spared the legal hassles.

        • TN September 20, 2015, 11:19 am

          If you are an American citizen you are allowed to own 1 rai of land. That’s a law that dates back to the Vietnam war. What you stated is what all of the lawyers will tell you because they make good money setting up these companies to get around the law and which are illegal.

        • ed September 29, 2016, 10:44 am

          Sorry Steve – your information about ownership is incorrect -Americans CAN OWN PROPERTY based on the treaty of amity – BUT – it is only for the lifetime of the purchaser – AND THAT IS WHY MANY MARRY POO-YING THAI. Trouble is that since the property is in her name (his if you are female), they can jut divorce you without warning and leave you fat, dumb and not so happy.
          As to condo ownership – the total ownership by farang cannot exceed 50% – but if you own it, they won’t force you to move if thru some quirk (a bit of tea money can work wonders) the farang ownership % exceeds 50%
          I spend about 3 months/year in 6 week segments 6 months apart in Thailand – generally in Pattaya and traveling to Chanthaburi every other weekend and have a pretty good command of pa-sa Thai even if only 4000 words

  • davidmichael September 9, 2013, 8:10 am

    Thanks for sharing about Chiang Mai. I enjoyed my three trips back there in the 80 and 90’s. Great idea to use it as a base for exploring Asia.

    Our budget for exploring the western USA by RV (fulltimers) is about $2200 a month for everything. We love the National Park system and now that we volunteer in the Oregon State Parks as well, we are happy campers indeed. My wife and I did most of our international travels with my small company in the 80’s and 90’s so we no longer feel the need to travel around the globe now that we are retired. That’s the beauty of retiring from your day job by 40 and creating the one you really want for the next 20 years.

    An important point that you mention is the cost of medical care in Thailand. In the past we have had excellent medical care in Australia, New Zealand, Jordan, Turkey, and Mexico for a fraction of the USA costs before Medicare kicked in. Today we get our dental work done in Mexico, across from Yuma.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:53 pm

      $2,200 is pretty good. I would like to do the RV thing when I’m a bit older too. Perhaps when medicare kicks in so I don’t have to worry about medical cost as much.

  • EL @ MoneyWatch101 September 9, 2013, 6:30 am

    I would like to take a year or two in retirement and stay in Ecuador or Chile, then another year or two in Spain or Italy. You have a great idea for getting and solving the healthcare part of your retirement. Now that IBM is changing to exchange medical options for retirees. It is scary to be at the mercy of these companies who promised something but then make changes on a whim to save dollars.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:52 pm

      Sorry to hear that! It will be great to visit South American for a couple of years.

  • Thomas | Your Daily Finance September 9, 2013, 6:11 am

    These are some of the things the wifey and I are considering now. Not as an retirement option but for living in general as a lot of places are just so much cheaper than the US. Place we could use the money we are saving to travel a lot more. I like Holly would have to visit places first to see how well we like it. Thailand does seem very affordable and buying places and renting them out to others would be a nice income stream.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:51 pm

      Yeah, some US locations are quite expensive. Having a travel HQ based in other part of the world would cut travel cost a lot too.

  • [email protected] September 9, 2013, 6:07 am

    Retiring in Thailand sounds amazing, but I would just like to visit there to start. It’s on my list, although I’m not sure when it will happen.

    I would love to retire somewhere cheap but would hesitate to move away from my kids (and future grandkids?) It all depends on what happens, I guess.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:50 pm

      I’m pretty sure we’ll be back and forth a lot even if we live in other countries. Skype would help a lot there too.

  • Mom @ Three is Plenty September 9, 2013, 5:51 am

    We’re actually considering retiring in a more expensive country (Germany, Austria, Switzerland are on the list), but we don’t know much about how we’d go about doing that – especially since we don’t have any family or other ties to those countries other than that we like them. We know we’re not going to be in the DC area after Daughter Person graduates, but haven’t settled on any specific place yet (other than further north).

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:48 pm

      I would love to retire in Italy for a few years too. Probably have to cut back a little while we’re in the expensive countries.

      • Raymond Turner March 30, 2018, 12:25 am

        try calabria right down south…had an apartment there for 6yrs….quite cheap can buy decent apartment for 70,000 euros….but it became boring

  • Julien @cashsnail September 9, 2013, 2:44 am

    It’s nice to see numbers (even if I was expected even lower costs…). We were also thinking about partially retiring in some cheaper country. But I think the main challenge would be cultural.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:48 pm

      Yeah, it’s not that cheap to live a comfortable lifestyle. My dad is picky about some stuff so that’s why his cost is pretty high comparing to locals.

  • C. the Romanian September 9, 2013, 1:53 am

    Thailand is not only a country that I’d love to visit, but also one that I strongly consider retiring to. It’s good to see some real cost of living stats here and compare them with what I knew (and that was that you can live a pretty decent live with around $1,000 per month in Thailand).

    What matters the most is that living like locals is cheaper, but might be difficult at first. $3,000 per month seems to be top spending there for complete luxury. But your family’s living on $1,300 per month sounds pretty luxuriant too so I guess it could really be possible to make a good living there for around $1,500. Which is really encouraging! Thanks for this article!

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:47 pm

      No problem. My dad’s cost doesn’t include rent because he own his condo. If he had to rent, it’ll probably be closer to $2,000.

    • bugs October 6, 2015, 7:21 am

      Unless you become Thai you wont be able to live like a Thai.
      Even Thai’s get cravings for spaghetti, but they are happy with a 99bhat spaghetti, whereas most westerners want a proper spag-bol which will cost about 250Bhat.
      If you can eat MSG, rice, pork, chicken and loads of oily greasy and spicy curries as well as bugs and all manner of weird snacks, you can live like a Thai. Oh and if you drink you will have to be happy drinking the awful mass produced beer (Heineken is one of the worst).
      Then you have to be able to speak Thai to not pay an inflated price here and there. You will also have to pay for visas and bent officials if you want anything done.
      Check out the reality from someone who knows before you decide your romantic view of a foreign culture is the truth!
      That sad with all that there is plenty of great stuff to surprise you that is not quantifiable in monetary terms…

      • Ben March 19, 2016, 10:18 pm

        Exactly. I lived in Bangkok for 6 months. It’s not as great as most people think. Smog is a huge problem. Stray dogs are everywhere. Hepatitis is a concern. I got food poisoning from eating at one of the stalls.

        I think people need to stop looking at pictures of beautiful Thai beaches. It’s clouding their judgement.

        • Brian Parsons November 9, 2017, 7:51 am

          Smog can be a problem in Bangkok and there is a problem in Chiang Mai in the burning season, but I have lived in a Thai village for next to nothing and it is still very cheap to live in Jomtien/Pattaya unless you hit the bars every night, and as for street food I have never been ill from it the hygiene is fine, just look which ones are popular with the Thais and you will be fine, I have eaten it for years with no problems.

          • Kim Pham March 23, 2018, 9:03 pm

            I had visited Bangkok twice and stayed 3 weeks each visit. I did not have any problems eating at local food stalls. Thai deserts were my favorites. There were days I ate no normal meal but all deserts and coconut ice cream, and I was all right. No stomachache or diarrhea. I’ve not tried bugs and don’t think I ever will.
            If my son decides to work at the university that granted him full scholarship for his master degree, I will more likely split my retirement between the States and Thailand. I look forward to travel to the neighboring countries in SE Asia :-).

  • Steve September 9, 2013, 1:22 am

    Chiang Mai is cheaper than Bangkok, but it sounds as if it isn’t THAT much cheaper any longer. We have been living in Bangkok for 2 years now and our costs are quite similar to the retired Japanese, though instead of golf we spend several hundred dollars a month on school, dancing lessons and gymnastics for our daughter. Overall we spend about $2500 a month right now, but I expect that could go lower if the USD continues to strengthen against the THB. For example, when we arrived 2 1/2 years ago the exchange rate was 37:1 but now it is 32:1 (and was as low as 28.5:1 a few months back). If the exchange rate goes back to 37:1 our USD expenses will also drop to about $2200 a month.

    • retirebyforty September 9, 2013, 2:46 pm

      My dad mentioned that raising a kid is a pretty big expense in Thailand. All the lessons cost some money.
      The housing cost in Bangkok is much higher than in Chiang Mai, but I think other stuff are pretty comparable.

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