Bangkok, Thailand, Is A Top City Retirement Option In Southeast Asia

The Best Place To Retire In Asia You May Never Have Considered

More expatriates live in Bangkok, Thailand, than in any other city in Southeast Asia.

Bangkok has a population of roughly eight million people. A quarter of those are citizens from other countries, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, and Japan. About a third of the total Western population of the city is American. Many of these Western foreigners are teaching English or earning a living otherwise. However, there’s also a sizeable population of Western retirees in Bangkok.

Who would retire to Bangkok?

To answer that question, you need to spend some time here. Your first impressions of Bangkok will likely be that this is a huge, sprawling city with some tourist attractions and a lot of bars. If you stick around a while, though, your perception of Bangkok will change.

One thing that any retiree can appreciate is the low cost of living in this city. Relatively cheap rent, bargain street food, and inexpensive transportation add up to an overall very affordable cost of living. If you don’t mind a simple lifestyle, you can get by on a budget of less than US$1,000 per month. If your nest egg stretches to US$3,000 per month, you could live like royalty in this city.

The quality of the medical care is another big benefit for retirees to Bangkok. Internationally accredited hospitals and clinics provide state-of-the-art care at prices that are a fraction of the cost of comparable Western healthcare; on average Bangkok costs are about 20% of U.S. costs. Thailand sees more medical tourists than any other country in the world. Forty hospitals and clinics in the country have received Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation, and 25 of those are located in Bangkok.

In addition, retired to Bangkok, you’d be on the doorstep of dozens of golf courses and some of the nicest beaches in Thailand (which are also among some of the nicest beaches in the world). This is a truly international city, meaning you can get most anything you might want from most anywhere in the world. Whatever you’re pining for, you’ll have no trouble satisfying your food whims.

Living in Bangkok, you’d find your new neighbors exceptionally pleasant. Thailand is famous as The Land of Smiles, and you’ll be impressed with how well Bangkok lives up to that reputation.

Furthermore, it’s now easy for a retiree to obtain a long-stay retirement visa in Thailand. Border runs are history.

Bangkok has a lot going for it, as Asian Correspondent Wendy Justice reports in detail in this month’s issue of Overseas Retirement Letter. In this comprehensive report on living or retiring in this city, Wendy features an interview with expat retiree Stephen Klein.

Stephen retired in 2003, then spent nearly a decade traveling in South America, Europe, and Asia. In 2012, he decided to settle in Bangkok, where he continues to live today with his sweetheart in a very modern condo just off Sukhumvit Road.

Here’s an excerpt from Stephen’s recent conversation with Wendy…

Wendy: Steve, you spent quite a bit of time in Bangkok before you made the decision two years ago to live here full-time. What was it about Bangkok that attracted you?

Stephen: The people. I immediately felt comfortable in a country that is very different than the United States. Bangkok looked, sounded, smelled, and felt so different, yet the warmth of the people made me feel very comfortable.

Wendy: What are the best things about living in Bangkok?

Stephen: It’s easy to make friends. Also, this place has all the things that a major international city offers at a very low price. Whatever whim you may want to indulge, you can find it here. The food is great, from Thai, Italian, Mexican, American, and Indian to Middle Eastern, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Also, I like that it’s a short and easy flight to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. All of Asia is on my doorstep.

Wendy: What don’t you like about living in Bangkok?

Stephen: I’m not fond of the traffic, the noise, the pollution, or the crowds.

Wendy: I know that medical and dental care are great value in Thailand. Can you comment about any care that you’ve received here? If you were seriously ill, would you consider returning to the U.S. for medical care, or do you think that the local hospitals are adequate?

Stephen: The medical care is fantastic here. You can walk into a hospital without an appointment and see a doctor within a half-hour. The facilities are spotless and modern, with all the latest equipment. The doctors all speak English, many of them have been educated in the U.S. or Europe, and the prices are 20% to 50% of U.S. costs.

For most normal problems and for emergencies I would be fine with the caliber of care here. If I needed elective surgery, I might consider going back to the United States if I couldn’t find a surgeon in Thailand who performs that surgery a significant number of times per year.

Wendy: The Sukhumvit area appears to be growing in leaps and bounds, with new construction in every direction. What is the future of this part of the city, would you say?

Stephen: The Sukhumvit area, particularly between Soi 1 and Soi 101, is the heart of the upper-middle-class area frequented by Westerners. The BTS (elevated train) runs along Sukhumvit Road, and the construction of hotels, condos, and office buildings along this corridor is booming. I think the future is very bright in this part of the city.

Wendy: You rent your condo. Have you considered buying a place here? Why or why not?

Stephen: No, I haven’t considered buying a condo here. It is cheaper to rent than to buy in this part of town. I would say it’s not wise to buy as an investment, due to the low return on rentals and the questionable chance for appreciation. Also, I prefer to have the flexibility to move around in Bangkok or to move out of town without worrying about selling.

Wendy: If you could offer one piece of advice for someone considering moving to Bangkok, what would it be?

Stephen: Come and spend at least a couple of months here. Try to see what it is like for a Westerner to live here not as a tourist…

Wendy Justice