Slightly larger than California, Thailand sits on Southeast Asia’s Indochina peninsula between its neighbors Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia. With 2,000 miles of shoreline, this tropical country is known for sandy-white beaches and crystalline blue-green waters – not to mention ancient ruins, beautiful Buddhist temples, and world-renowned cuisine.
Appearing on many of the “best places to retire” lists, the land formerly known as Siam is home to hundreds of thousands of expats from around the world who have relocated in search of adventure, a dramatic change of scene, and new cultural experiences. But as with any country, there are pros and cons to settling down in the Kingdom of Thailand.
Pros of Living in Thailand
There’s no doubt that Thailand is a country brimming with natural beauty, from postcard-worthy beaches, limestone cliffs, and bizarre rock formations to lush jungles, verdant mountains, and secluded waterfalls. Beauty can be found in the cities, as well, with modern and ancient Thai architecture, colorful markets, and decorative gardens.
- Thailand's natural beauty and low cost of living have drawn a large expat population.
- Serious crime is relatively rare.
- The political climate has been volatile.
Thailand is home to one of the most popular cuisines in the world, one that is based on the notion that opposites attract (at least in food): chili paste with coconut milk, palm sugar with lime juice, sweet noodles with a salty crunch. Since many Thai dishes use natural ingredients with lots of fresh herbs, spices, and vegetables, the cuisine is considered healthful (although you have to watch out for the MSG).
By U.S. standards, living is cheap in Thailand. The legal requirements for residency include an income of at least 65,000 baht per month (about $2,100 in mid-2020), savings of 800,000 baht (about $25,800) in a Thai bank account, or a combination of the two that equals 800,000 baht per year.
The monthly income requirement is a realistic estimate for what a retired couple needs to live comfortably in Thailand. Of course, you could get by on much less. The typical Thai citizen lives on less than $1,000 monthly.
Or you could spend much more. According to Steven LePoidevin, an InternationalLiving.com Thailand correspondent, you could live very well on $5,000, with a luxury condo in Bangkok and a housekeeper a few days a week.
The Cons of Living in Thailand
Images typically show Thailand as a paradise of white-sand beaches beneath endless, sunny skies. While it certainly has its share of picture-perfect days, at least half the year is dominated by hot, humid, and rainy conditions.
$2,100 a month
The cost of a comfortable lifestyle for two in Thailand.
Although many retirees are content to escape the cold, Thailand can prove to be uncomfortably sticky, with 100°-plus temperatures for weeks at a time.
Thailand is considered a fairly safe country. Physical attacks and theft are less common than in many developed countries, though common-sense precautions are as necessary here as everywhere else.
Newcomers to Thailand face a number of health risks that require advance precautions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers to the country be up to date on routine vaccinations (measles-mumps-rubella, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella, polio, and flu), plus the hepatitis A and typhoid vaccines. Depending on how long you are staying and what you will be doing, the CDC recommends that some travelers also get vaccinated against hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis, malaria, and, in limited instances, rabies.
Politically, Thailand is a constitutional monarchy but it has suffered through a long history of unrest. In August 2016, multiple bombing incidents occurred in a number of Thai locations, including Hua Hin, Phang Nga, Trang, Surat Thani, and Phuket. Thai authorities reported at least four deaths and 37 injuries.
The country has endured numerous military coups – more than any other Asian country in modern history – and spent decades under military rule. Most recently, in May 2014, the head of Thailand’s army, General Prayuth Chan-Ocha, led a coup d’état and declared himself prime minister.
In 2019, his status was confirmed by a popular election.
By mid-2020, there were no severe U.S. travel alerts or warnings issued for Thailand beyond an advisory to "take normal precautions," although the State Department site advises against travel to several specific regions due to periodic outbreaks of civil unrest.