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How to retire in Thailand – a complete guide

Retirement Visas

First thing first if you wish to retire in Thailand you are going to need a legitimate retirement visa. In Thailand, a retirement visa is basically an extension based on retirement. It is valid for one year with a mandatory 90 days reporting. You have to meet some key requirements to be able to apply for or renew an extension based on retirement. You can not legally work in Thailand when you are on a retirement visa. The last thing you need is to get stuck just because you missed a document. You can trust our easy and reliable retirement visa services and not worry about a thing.

Are you considering retiring in Thailand but not sure how to proceed when it comes to property matters in the Land of Smiles?

We have everything you need to know on how to retire in Thailand right here in this comprehensive guide.

Let’s get it straight right from the start. You don’t need us to tell you how beautiful, exciting, economical, and relaxing it is to retire in Thailand. We reckon that you already know all the big pluses of living in Thailand as an expat retiree and that’s why you are reading this guide.

Finding a place that you can call your home in this South East Asian country is just as important as getting your retirement visa and it’s inevitably one of the first few important tasks you have to sort out when you want to enjoy your golden years in Thailand.

There are a number of options to consider and if you don’t feel confident in approaching this task by yourself you could use a concierge service to help you find a property but make sure to get plenty of references and check them out thoroughly before parting with your hard earned cash.

First of all, let’s look at the different options available for you in the land of smiles.

What Options Expat Retirees Have For Property and Real Estate?

First, you have to ask yourself whether you want to rent or buy a property in Thailand to facilitate your retirement living here. Let’s look at these two options:

Property Rental

This is the easiest way to find your abode in Thailand as an expat. You can rent any type of property ranging from condos to townhouses to pool villas and anything in between. It’s easy to find rental properties in all major Thai cities and even the lesser known cities up North will have rental listings you can look at.

Property Purchase

Buying a property in Thailand can be a complex journey, and it’s always best tackled if you have legal advice or the help of an experienced real estate company. If you have done a little bit of research, you will realise that there is an abundance of property sale listings in most Thai cities which you can find online. It’s also really hard to miss those giant billboards advertising real estate placed along crowded streets.

Because there are so many Thai rules you have to look out for when it comes to property rental or property buying as an expat retiree, we will tackle each option in more details and drop some tips along the way for you to make a savvy move in the real estate market. But next, let us look at the locations you can choose to live in Thailand.

Choosing Where to Stay in Thailand When You Retire

Now, this may not seem as easy as you think because Thailand has such an eclectic mix of cities that any expat retiree will feel spoilt for choice. What might be one man’s meat is another man’s poison so there is no one ultimate right choice, so to speak. But we’ll make it easy for you and list some popular cities by categories:

For Retirees Who Embrace City Living & Support from a Huge Expat Community

  • Bangkok
  • Khon Kaen
  • Chiang Mai

For Retirees Who Love Beach Towns & being around Fellow Expats & Foreign Tourists

  • Pattaya
  • Hua Hin
  • Phuket

For Those Who Seek Tranquillity Living & Lots of Green Spaces

  • Chiang Rai
  • Udon Thani
  • Korat

How to Rent a Property as an Expat Retiree

After you have decided on the location in Thailand that you want to settle in, the next step you have to do is to search for your ideal rental property either online or through the help of a brick-and-mortar real estate company.

You can go as cheap as renting a 3000 THB apartment in the suburbs or as expensive as renting a 100,000 THB landed house in the heart of the capital. One thing is usually constant though, and that is the landlord will make you sign a time contract which might be at least 3 months and as long as 2 years. This usually does not pose a problem since you are looking to retire in Thailand, so you will not be hopping from property to property.

Tip to note

“If the rental period is more than three years, the rental agreement has to be registered at the Thai Land Department in whichever province the property is situated in. ”

Most rental properties will also require a 2-month deposit in addition to the first month’s rent. That means if you want to rent a 15,000 THB condo unit, the first payment you have to make is 15,000 x 3 = 45,000 THB. The 2-month deposit will be returned to you when your rental lease is completed or not renewed. Make sure all these terms and conditions are stated clearly in your rental contract.

Tip to note:

“For most rental properties, partial or complete furnishings will be provided in the property, which means all you have to do is move in with your luggage.”

You also have to know that in arguably all types of property rentals, you as the tenant are liable for the water and electricity bills. Water bills are relatively cheap and you will probably pay between a range of 100 to 400 THB, depending on your usage. Electricity bills are considered cheap if you compare to foreign country standards and can vary between 500 to 5000 THB.

It’s important to point out that if you are interested in a rental property, always make it a point to visit the property in person so that you can be sure of the current state of the property and the amenities available.

How to Buy Property as an Expat Retiree

Now, this is the tricky part but just to make things easy for you to understand, here’s a list of options you can consider and some accompanying notes:

Buying Condominium Units

You can buy a condo under your name if the condo development features less than 49% of expat owners. This condo will be fully owned by you. When buying condos, you have to make a small initial deposit (eg. 10,000 THB) as a “booking” fee, and at times a bigger deposit (eg. 100,000 THB) to seal the deal.

It’s very difficult to get a property loan for expats in Thailand so most likely, you have to pay it in cash. The problem is that you cannot pay directly from your bank in your native country. Instead, you have to set up a Thai bank account (favourites are Kasikorn Bank and Siam Commercial Bank) and arrange a telegraphic transfer from your home country’s bank to your Thai bank account.

It’s important to remit the currency in the foreign currency proprietary to your native country as well as state that the remittance is for purchasing the property. Your funds should arrive around 2 working days and you also need to ask for a Tor Tor Sam (Foreign Exchange Transaction Form) from your Thai bank so that you can register for your condo title successfully at the land office. This will also act as a backup proof that your money was remitted in so in case you want to end your retirement in Thailand later on, you can sell the condo and move your money tax-free out of Thailand.

Tip to note:

There are other taxes for the property purchase which you need to pay such as stamp duty fees (0.5% of property sale price) or the transfer fees (2% of property sale price), so always make it a point to check with your real estate agent or the condo owner.

Buying Land and Houses

A simple rule you need to know is that foreigners are not allowed to own freehold land and houses under their name. That means if you are looking to buy land to build a house or simply buy landed property, you have to consider other alternatives such as:

  • You can invest 40 million THB in Thailand and own up to 1 rai of land
  • You can put the property or land under a local Thai person’s name such as your spouse or friend
  • You can acquire a 30-year lease if you want to buy land and build a house on it and can get a construction permit under your name

Tip to note:

As you can see, it takes a lot of money to be able to own a landed property in Thailand and most of the alternatives feature high risks because you have to go through a Thai entity to assume ownership. Out of these alternatives, only the 30-year lease is considered to be the safest purchase approach.

Because buying a landed property requires a lot of tact, capital as well as reliance on trustworthy legal advisors or real estate companies, it is not recommended for expat retirees unless you know exactly what you are getting yourself into. In fact, do you know that most of those who are on retirement visas in Thailand either rent their property or buy a condo unit to facilitate their retirement lifestyles here?

You can easily understand why because both these options are much more accessible to expat retirees. But one thing is certain, for all expat retirees who have called Thailand their new home, the allure of retirement living in Thailand certainly lives up to its promises!

Top 10 Cities In Thailand For Expat Retirees

Want to live in Thailand with a Thai retirement visa? Well, first you should figure out which city you want to settle down in Thailand!

Thailand is possibly one of the most interesting and affordable places for you to retire in the world. Known for its foreigner-friendly infrastructure and welcoming culture, many expats from around the world have chosen the Land of Smiles as the paradise where they can enjoy their golden years. The first thing you have to consider before making an application for a retirement visa in Thailand is which part of the country you want to live in. Here’s a list of 10 Thai cities that are loved by expats:

Bangkok

Bangkok is Thailand’s capital city and it is the most populous one in the country. It’s a buzzing cosmopolitan destination that comprises of many tall buildings, bustling markets, glittering nightclubs, ancient temples, magnificent palaces as well as street-side vendors that sell tantalising foods.

Apart from being coined as a concrete jungle, it possesses natural beauty which you can see from flowering tropical plants, green spaces and swirling canals. Although the car traffic can be a nightmare at times, expat retirees who favour a bustling cityscape and want diverse lifestyle experiences should make Bangkok their preferred city to live in.

Pattaya

Pattaya is a great holiday destination and a popular retirement destination for many western expats. It is possibly the most enigmatic city in Thailand and a beach paradise to many. The city offers many facilities and amenities such as long stretches of beaches, excellent sports clubs, full-scale golf courses and plenty of opportunities for social activities. Serviced apartments, villas and condominiums are easily available in the city, and they are great for anyone who seeks the fine balance between beachside living and city living.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is located near the foothills of northern Thailand and can be reached by air travel from the capital city of Bangkok. The city is renowned for those who seek a tranquil lifestyle or a more temperate climate. Chiang Mai is also home to many Buddhist temples with a rich history that dates back to over 7 centuries ago.

Tranquilly doesn’t mean that you do not get to have fun! Here, you will find movie theatres that offer first-run films, shopping malls and delectable dining options so modern conveniences are within close reach. A substantial amount of expats live near Chiang Mai’s city centre in highly affordable condominium developments so why not join them today?

Phuket

Phuket houses one of Thailand’s famed beach destinations and it offers the best of worlds: spending fun-filled nights in the area’s nightclubs and spending peaceful days on idyllic sandy beaches. Because of the large influx of expats over the years, Phuket has no lack of international cuisine offerings in top notch restaurants. Of course, if you want to go local, you can also enjoy some of the best Thai-style seafood here.

The real estate market in Phuket is a bustling one, and whether you buy a luxury pool villa or rent a cosy condo, you can be sure that there’s no lack of options for you to choose from.

Mae Hong Son

Previously known as Mae Rong Son, this province is located on Thailand’s western border. The name of the province means “The City of Three Mists” and can be reached by bus or car from Chiang Mai besides being serviced by the Mae Hong Son Airport.

This place is also a popular starting point for many local tours that visit caves and even the hill tribe villages. Just outside the city, you will also be able to find beautiful hot springs and magnificent waterfalls.

One of the reasons why Mae Hong Son makes this list is because of one of its town named Pai. Pai is a relatively small town in Mae Hong Son and connects the province with Chiang Mai. The town has a relaxing atmosphere that will suit those expat retirees who like nature and love green spaces. Pai is notable for its Wednesday Market that attracts large and vibrant crowds of tribal people, local Thais and foreign tourists.

Krabi

The Krabi town is known as one of the most beautiful locations in Thailand for a retirement. Cosy cafes and inexpensive restaurants are a common find in Krabi and it also boasts a low crime rate. What’s more, Krabi plays host to many visiting tourists during peak seasons for travel, so if you like to enjoy the company of tourists and want to share your life story with them over a few drinks in a laid-back bar, Krabi makes the perfect destination for your retirement. All in all, if exotic marine life, sea caves, nature and a close knitted community are factors that interest you, make your move to Krabi today!

Nakhon Ratchasima

Commonly known as Korat, Nakhon Ratchasima is one of the “Big 4 of Issan”. The city is known for its incredible food variety, bazaars, the Korat Zoo, Wat Sala Loi and the Thao Suranaree Monument. Interestingly, many expat retirees who have married Thai wives often reside in this city.

It is no secret that many westerners prefer Thai women with darker skin, and most of these ladies originate from Nakhon Ratchasima. Because of the large number of expat retirees here, many modern facilities have been built in here which include shopping malls, condos, and schools.

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is located in the northernmost part of Thailand and it serves as the main commercial hub of the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar). If you do not like city living, the rural atmosphere of Chiang Rai will help you spend your days in a carefree and peaceful manner.

For those expats who want to get the most bang for their baht, Chiang Mai is a winner because it is one of the cheapest cities to live in the whole country. Despite being surrounded by forests, mountains and rice fields, expat retirees still have access to decent amenities such as a hospital, shopping mall and a variety of restaurants.

Kanchanaburi

Kanchanaburi is located in the western part of Thailand and is widely recognised for its lovely scenery and easy accessibility to waterfalls and national parks. Just outside of Kanchanaburi, you will be able to find more national parks with the likes of Srinakarind and Erawan.

The city is also best known for the bridge that’s located over the River Kwai that has a history of being the Death Railway to Burma (involving thousands of POWs and Asian labourers from the Japanese Occupation). A decent number of expats have settled here and that explains the mushrooming of bars, restaurants and bookstores that cater to the expat community.

Phang Nga

Phang Nga boasts of scenic islands and lush green forests as well as offers unrivalled natural beauty, both underwater and onshore. Phang Nga features many festivals or special holidays as many Thai Buddhist, Thai-Islamic and Thai-Chinese traditions are celebrated here.

There are plenty of attractions you can explore during your days here which include the Somdet Phra Srinagarindra Park and Sanong Manora waterfall. There is also a surge of community-based tourism here which opens up villages for one-day tours and overnight homestays here, so if you want to manage a small home-stay business during your retirement, you might have just found the perfect destination.

With so many fantastic cities to choose from, expat retirees can certainly look forward to enjoying the best days of their lives in Thailand. Do share with us which city you would love.

How to find a good location to retire in Thailand

Any place will do, right? It’s all sun, warm weather, blue sky, so any place will do.

Not really, there are certain things you have to take in consideration, being a retiree in Thailand, and these we will cover here, so you are prepared the best for your stay in warm and sunny Thailand.

Firstly, you need to look at your distance to the immigration, you will need to travel there ones in a while, and you are not the only one there, plus you will also need some sort of paperwork beforehand which needs to be submitted, so if the distance is far you will either need loads of time or travelling back and forth, which at some point could result in you get an overstay fine or in worse case, get your visa cancelled.

Check online or ask us, if there is immigration office present in the area you are thinking about settling in, but a rule of thumb, there are one in each major city like Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Phuket, but as can change outside of Bangkok, check first.

How is your health? Not like an 18-year-old for sure, but is it closer to 35 or 95?

In any case, you might want to check what kind of hospitals are in the area? Are these international hospitals or local government hospitals, the difference can be huge, not only in terms of language issues, as many of the staff in government hospitals have a lacking skill of English, but also that international hospitals tend to have access to better equipment and facilities.

Also, a good way to check if the hospital in your area is good, check the forums or people already living in the area, forums like ThaiVisa and if there are some retiree groups on Facebook or online for that area.

What would you like to do?

This is a big question, but Thailand is a large country and there are plenty of nice places to settle, but some of the thought you want to be thinking and evaluation things like Seaside or inland, jungle or mountains, countryside or big city life, this will help you narrow down in what areas you would look closer at.

But it’s not all about your surroundings, you will also need to think about the social aspect, like if you are playing golf you might want to find an area like Hua Hin or Cha-am which has more golf courses than restaurants, well almost at least, but if you have a hobby it would be beneficial to learn if there are similar groups in the area you wish to stay in.

Infrastructure – yes, you do need to consider this.

Thailand is not like Europe, and thank the maker for that, but there are some infrastructures you will need to consider, we already covered hospitals, but you also need to look at what kind of internet can you get. Are there buses, trains or shuttle service to and from the airport or to Bangkok or just from the selected area of your place into town.

Now I got the area sorted, then what?

The next step would be to look a bit at your finances, and your plans. Are you going to buy a house or rent? Do you need a studio condo or a giant mansion or something in between?

There are pros and cons on all of them, like owning a house is not easy for foreigners in Thailand as you per definition can’t own land, but you can own a condo unit unless there are too many foreigners already in the complex as that is also a rule.

Renting is easier, and you find that most long term rental places do come fully furnished, so it’s more or less arrive, unpack and relax. The best part about this is that it goes for condo units as well as houses.

How’s the neighbourhood? Is your future home located in the middle of a busy market area where you will get loud noises all day long or are there no neighbours at all, and you are located in the middle of nowhere and miles to the next door neighbour.

Of cause, this depends if you are sure you will settle in Thailand for your retirement, if it’s your first time or not sure about the area, it’s always better to rent a smaller unit in the beginning maybe for a month or so, and then use your time to travel around the area looking for just the place you like.

The best advice is “Do not rush it” there are so many available places to rent, and there can be many blinding factors that make a place look good, but after a short time the glazing starts to crack.

How Can Expat Retirees Buy Property In Thailand

Buying property in Thailand for expat retirees is often not a straightforward process.

Learn about the various options that are open to you as you go about setting roots in the Land of Smiles.

Thailand is one of the most beautiful places on earth to retire as an expat. Exotic beaches, peaceful countryside, relatively low cost of living, and a warm and welcoming populace – these are some of the outstanding features you can find here.

If you are an expat looking to retire in Thailand, this desire will often involve buying Thai property as an expat as one of the first few things you do here. To help you with this important decision, here are some guidelines to help you navigate around this topic:

Buying a Condominium

Thai property laws allow expats and foreigners to buy and own condominiums on a freehold basis. Under Thai law, this condo unit will be fully owned by you and you are free to sell it later if you ever wish to do so. There some conditions however to this process, and it is important to be aware of them before you start the purchase process.One is that Thai law requires that the condo development has less than 49% of non-Thai owners, which means that if a condo complex has reached this quota mark,

you cannot be allowed to buy a unit in this condo development. Your real estate agent or the property manager of the condo project can advise you if the condo development you are looking to buy has hit this mark or not.

You will also be required by Thai law to pay an initial deposit to book the condo unit as you are looking to make the full payment. This deposit can range from 10,000 baht to 100,000 baht, depending on the price of the condo, and the terms offered.

Since the money cannot be paid directly from your home bank account, you have to set up a Thai bank account and wire the money through your home bank account. Once the condo deal is complete, you will need to register your condo with the Lands Office which gives you proof of ownership.

Buying Land or a House

In a nutshell, Thai law prohibits foreigners from owning land or houses in Thailand. The only property expats can own legally and fully is condominiums, which has been detailed earlier. There are certain ways to go around this law, and they vary in complexity and suitability to be applied to your situation:

  • Owning Property through a Thai Citizen

Some expats will opt for this option where they buy the property but it is registered under a Thai citizen. This works well when, for example, an expat is married to a Thai citizen in which case the property is then registered under the spouse.

However, this does pose certain risks as you can imagine. Because the law recognizes the registered Thai citizen as the full owner of the property, it becomes very hard to get the Thai law to help you, should there ever be a falling out between the registered owner and the expat.

Such an arrangement, especially one where the expat and the local Thai citizen are not legally married or are not in any other legally enforceable union is fraught with risks, and the expat could easily lose his or her property. As a result, most expats don’t normally go for this option, unless they are married to a Thai citizen.

  • 30-Year Lease Option

As far as property ownership options go, this tends to be the most popular among expats as it is considered the safest option. Here, the expat acquires a 30-year lease for a piece of land and with that, he or she can then get a permit to construct his or her house on it. This thirty-year permit is renewable for up to 90 years.

To make this even easier, companies who own some of such leases will sell them to expat retirees looking to acquire property in Thailand. This way, the land ownership deed does not change and this makes the property much easier to acquire and shortens the process of acquisition. The expat who buys the lease can then transfer it to another expat later if he or she wants to dispose of the property and move to another location.

As an expat retiree looking to settle in Thailand, you should always get professional advice whenever you intend to buy Thai property. As you can see, your options vary and each one carries a different type of challenges so you need to make a careful assessment before making a decision to buy any property.

However, regardless of the option you take, you will never regret setting roots in the beautiful land that is Thailand!

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