Bangkok is the gateway to Thailand for the vast majority of international visitors. It has a population of over 8 million people and was ranked number one in the 2015 MasterCard Survey of Asia Pacific tourist destinations (for the number of arrivals, total nights stayed and total expenditure). Travel & Leisure Magazine rated it the ‘World’s Best City’ for four consecutive years from 2010 to 2013.
Major cultural attractions include the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. And the city offers a huge variety of shopping and entertainment options, from the Chatuchak Week-end Markets through to MBK and the huge malls surrounding Siam Square.
Getting thereBangkok is served by two international airports, Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK). All flights from Australia arrive in Bangkok through BKK.Qantas, Thai and Emirates operate daily direct flights from Sydney to Bangkok. Thai and Jetstar have direct flights from Melbourne, and Thai also runs direct flights from Brisbane and Perth. All other Australian cities access Bangkok indirectly.
TransportThe city has a broad range of transportation, including a Skytrain (BTS), rail network, buses, road and river taxis, all the way down to the somewhat infamous tuk-tuks.
Chiang Mai (CNX)Thailand’s second largest city, located 700 km north of Bangkok, is regarded as one of the country’s most culturally rewarding regions. It was ranked in Trip Advisors 2014 list of ‘Best 25 Destinations in the World’.
The city itself has a population of around 150,000 people, but the broader metropolitan area is home to just shy of 1 million.
Chiang Mai is served by an international airport (Thailand’s fourth busiest), with 28 flights a day to Bangkok. It also has a state railway system, which operates 10 trains a day to the Capital. Chiang Mai is very much seen as the gateway to the North, acting as a hub for Chiang Rai, Phrae, Udon Thani and Mae Hong Son.
The city has a large and active expat community offering a wonderful environment in which to spend your retirement.
Pattaya (UTP)100km South East of Bangkok, sits the hugely popular beach resort of Pattaya. Whilst Pattaya City itself may be a little lively for many retirees, the neighbouring districts of Jomtien and Naklua provide a sanctuary away from the bright lights. The census population for Pattaya is registered as approximately 100,000 but the general view is the city is home to around 1 million people.
Whilst most visitors come to the city via Highway 7 from Bangkok, the city does have a nearby international airport at U-Tapao (UTP). Whilst the airport currently has limited services, resources are being spent to grow the airport significantly in the near future.
Aside from a bustling nightlife, Pattaya is surrounded by world class golf courses and is building new attractions, such as Thailand’s largest water theme park. The city has a number of expat clubs and for the active retiree, it’s a wonderful environment for making new friends.
Phuket (HKT)Australians were regular visitors to this island paradise in Southern Thailand, long before it became more accessible through direct flights from Jetstar and Virgin. The island is 576 square km in size and is 863 km south of Bangkok (about a 1-hour flight). The region is the wealthiest in Thailand, and it has a population of approximately 600,000 people.
Seventy percent of the island is mountainous, but it is the beaches that attract most tourists and retirees. Whilst Patong is the commercial and nightlife centre, many retirees prefer the quieter neighbouring areas of Karon, Kata, Kamala or Surin. Or perhaps the southern tip of the island at Nai Harn and Rawai.
Phuket is served by an international airport (Thailand’s third busiest), which is growing rapidly. Direct flights are available from Sydney and Melbourne with Jetstar, and from Perth with Virgin.
Phuket has it all. Culture, a wide range of shopping alternatives and a fantastic beach lifestyle, all on the doorstep of Phan Nga Bay, Phi Phi Island and Krabi.
Koh Samui (USM)Thailand’s second largest island (after Phuket) is another tourist favourite, with glorious beaches, and a diverse range of shopping and entertainment opportunities.
Hua HinAnother very popular retirement destination is the beach resort city of Hua Hin, which is about 199 km south of Bangkok by road.
There is a vast array of information about Thailand on the internet, but it is difficult to take all the pieces of the puzzle and put them together to create a full picture. When considering retirement to another country, you want everything to go smoothly and know your finances are being managed in a way which maintains your retirement lifestyle.
You also want to know that you have a team you can work with to make your dream a sustainable reality. Thailand offers a broad range of lifestyle choices, and Retire to Asia recommends that you explore the country to see and feel what’s right for you. Sometimes retirees will begin their retirement in major expat locations, such as Phuket, Chiang Mai or Pattaya, before moving into lesser known areas.
The cost of living in Thailand is significantly cheaper than in Australia. Quite simply, your money goes so much further, providing you with the opportunity to have a quality of life which is typically only available to the wealthy in Australia. This is one of the key motivations for retiring to Asia.
The exact savings will vary on where you decide to retire, and the type of lifestyle you choose to live.
For example, it is generally cheaper to live in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok. Similarly, you average grocery bill will be less if you buy local products rather than foreign imported foods. However, all things being equal, the ‘cost of living’ savings when compared to Australia are very significant.
Whilst it’s exciting to retire to a dream location, either temporarily or permanently, there are a number of tasks that need to completed, and arrangements that need to be made.
Retire to Asia provide a broad range of services to assist you with this exciting move. These services include the following:
If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.
There are more than 1,000 hospitals in Thailand, so as a retiree in Thailand you will not be left without medical care, with the level of healthcare generally of good to excellent quality.
Thailand has been ranked within the top 50 best healthcare systems worldwide by the World Health Organisation. This is also reflected by the wellbeing of the population: among developing countries Thailand has one of the highest life expectancy rates.
As with many SE Asian countries Thailand offers both a public and private healthcare system.
Public hospitals in Thailand have a relatively good standard of care. The public system is open to all expats, but if you are not eligible for admission into the national healthcare system, you will need to pay for the treatment in public facilities. However, the cost of treatment in public hospitals is low.
Public hospitals are much less expensive than their private counterparts, but they are generally more crowded and sometimes less well equipped for more serious ailments. However, all the medical facilities in the country are staffed by well-trained doctors and nurses who provide excellent care to both ex-pats and locals alike.
Private hospitals in Thailand are first class, with many seeming like first class hotels. They often employ western trained professionals and utilise up-to-date and ultra-modern medical equipment and technology. The staff are very efficient, and waiting times for consultations, treatments and operations are very short.
The expat community generally chooses the private system as they are still able to get great value for money, with costs being a fraction of private hospital fees in western countries. This allows them to also choose the facility where they wish to be treated and they can be assured of English speaking staff.
If you do not have international private health insurance, you will invariably be asked to pay a deposit on admission to the private hospital service.
The minimum type of cover recommended is for hospitalisation and evacuation to a country of your choice – even to your home country. However, due to the low cost of treatment in Thailand, many expats feel that self-insuring is a better option, and rely on inexpensive accident-insurance policy as their primary cover.
Thailand has two longer term retirement visa options. The well-known and well-trodden ‘Non-Immigrant OA-Long Stay Visa’. Each year tens of thousands apply for this visa from all around the world.
The not so well-trodden, and much less known longer-term option (with far less hassle but higher cost) is the Thai Elite Visa programme.
Note: Australian bank account is sufficient for this type of visa. Funds should be deposited in your bank account at least two months prior to application. Superannuation accounts are not accepted.
As of October 2019, all applicants for the OA-Visa must have suitable health insurance as part of the application process.
The minimum cover required is THB 400,000 for inpatient and THB 40,000 for outpatient care.
Note: we have found that many eligible providers of health insurance have come up with a product that satisfies the minimum requirements. However, these may not necessarily be the best cost v benefits policies. For a small increase in cost outside of these ‘products’, you can usually receive far better health cover. If you want to know more please contact us at Retire to Asia.
A police name check certificate issued no longer than 3 months prior to submitting the application.
Applications can either be completed by yourself online (our recommendation), or downloaded manually by visiting:
Please read the ‘Application Completion Guide’ on the AFP National Police Check link above to assist with the application process.
Holders of the OA-Visa must notify the Immigration Office of their current residential address every 90 days. This can be done by mail or personally visiting the local immigration office.
If you are out of the country when the 90-day report is due, the counting of the 90-days will start again once you return to Thailand.
The program is much simpler than the OA-Visa above to apply for. Basically, so long as you meet the above criteria, put in your application forms and pay the membership fee then you are set to go.
It is important to note that once you supply the application form and all supporting documents, Thai Elite will manage the process on your behalf. Once accepted, Thai Elite will arrange for you to pick up your 5-year multi-entry visa when you next arrive in Thailand.
The cost of the program is higher than the 1-year OA-Visa. You will need to weigh up the added cost with the added benefits the Thai Elite Visa offers, and the long-term, hassle free nature of the program.
There are many options available under this program. In order to give you an indication of what to expect I will briefly outline three of the most popular options:
This is the simplest way for a foreigner to own freehold property in Thailand. Under Thai law, up to 49% of the unit space in a complex can be foreign-owned. So long as the building is properly registered for foreign ownership, which is common in major tourist areas and easy to check.
Ownership can be held in a foreigner’s name without the need to set up a Thai company or have a Thai partner.
Foreigners cannot legally own land in Thailand. There are, however, generally two ways that as a foreigner you can ‘control’ the land.
Land can be leased for a period of up to 30 years, renewable up to two times. This gives a total maximum possible lease period of 90 years.
The lease can be structured so that the lease can be sold, and even be able to pass on to a beneficiary on death.
A foreigner can own the buildings on the land. Legally, the Lessor cannot take ownership of the buildings on the land once the lease has expired, but unless you are able to move the buildings to another location we suggest you factor in transferring the ownership of the building once the lease expires. Typically, this is factored into the lease payments lowering the cost to lease the land.
The alternate is to set up a Thai limited company. A foreigner can own up to 49% of the shares on issue. The remainder must be held by Thai nationals.
The land will be owned by the company. Legal control of the shares (and hence the land) can be granted by the Thai nationals to the foreign share ownership.It is important to note that the Thai Gov’t has been cracking down on these types of arrangements as it goes against the ‘spirit’ of land ownership in Thailand.
Personally, I have always found this type of arrangement fraught with danger. I have heard too many stories in Thailand where the ‘silent’ shareholders were not so silent anymore. In some cases, the foreign national lost company control and property ownership.
If you want to go down this path seek the best legal advice possible.
If you’d like more information or have any questions about renting or buying property in Thailand, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.
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