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Thailand Free Country Guide

Why Thailand? Everything you need to know about traveling,
living, moving and moving to Thailand




$534 billion




Thai Baht (FX)



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Cost of Living
Visa & Residency

Table of Contents

About Thailand

The fact that Thailand is a top expat and retirement destination is no secret. It’s hard to resist the breathtaking beaches, glistening emerald waters, great food, friendly locals, laid back lifestyle, plenty of golf courses, excellent medical care and inexpensive living costs. Nicknamed the ‘Land of Smiles’, Thailand embodies the happy-go-lucky spirit we probably all wish for in our retirement years or digital nomad break. 

beach view Koh Samui, Thailand
Beautiful beach and turquoise waters in Koh Samui island

If you are considering retirement in Thailand, then you’ve got an abundance of places to choose from. Living in Thailand can mean sauntering along the soft sand beaches of Koh Samui or getting lost in the craziness that is Bangkok. Wherever you find yourself moving to in Thailand you’ll discover that an exciting and peaceful life awaits. Though a lot of expats find themselves in the nation’s capital, Bangkok, many choose to retire in Thailand to places like Chiang Mai for an inexpensive and more relaxing lifestyle. Plenty of people choose to emigrate to the well-known beach resort areas like Koh Samui, Phuket, and Koh Lanta.

Relaxing waterfall Chiang Mai, Thailand
Amazing nature in Chiang Mai

Thailand’s vibrancy owes something to the myriad of festivals that are held throughout the year. A constant feel of celebration grips the nation, making an expats retirement fun, interactive, and entirely cultural. During the Loi Krathong Festival you’ll see banana leaf containers carrying incense, candles and flowers float along the waterways of towns and cities. The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is an explosion of color, where Chiang Mai blooms (quite literally) and stunning lantern festival. Street parades display elaborate flower structures, from carefully constructed flower temples, to large vibrant pink lotus elephants. 

Chiang Mai sky lantern festival, Thailand
Sky lantern festival in Chiang Mai is a sight to experience and see

If festivals, culture, and incredible landscape wasn’t enough to draw you to Thailand, then the cost of living will be. Thailand has for a long time been a go to destination for those seeking affordable luxury. Where else can you get a $1 pad Thai or a whole bag of mixed fruit for 50 cents? And it’s not just food that’s affordable, travel, transportation, and accommodation all make living the good life in Thailand super easy.

Delicious pad thai, Thailand
Delicious pad thai that will cost you $1

The country is historically known as Siam, is located in Southeast Asia and shares a border with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, and  maritime borders with Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

There’s no escaping Thailand’s transfixing beauty. Living in Thailand gives you endless opportunities to explore the vast array of national parks and nature reserves the country has to offer. The country is also a prime destination for ecotourism with some of the best ecolodges in the world. From the popular Khao Sok and Khao Yai National Park to the hidden gem that is Kaeng Krachan National Park, there’s so much nature to lose yourself in. 

tourist boat Khao Sok National Park Khlong Sok, Thailand
Tourist boat in misty Khao Sok National Park

With around three or four million expats currently living and working in Thailand and 80,000 retirement visas having been issued in 2018 there are plenty of foreigners to make friends with. Whether you are searching for an expat community or friendly locals there are countless opportunities to embrace Thai culture and an ever growing international community. 


Thailand has a tropical climate with a very present monsoon season. Across Thailand temperatures range from 50 °F to 100 °F with humidity at around 85%. In general Thailand is warm and sunny with the monsoon season being between July and October. At the start of the rainy season, the rains are inconsistent but heavy but towards the end of the season they last longer than just a couple of hours. 

The culture of Thailand will make your lifestyle feel full and enriched. Everything, including the nation’s cultures, customs, and traditions are inviting. Thai people are extremely friendly, don’t be surprised if you get randomly invited for dinner on your way home from the beach or are asked to attend a neighbor’s distant cousin’s wedding.


Your Thailand lifestyle differs depending on where you live. Move to Bangkok and you can expect a bit of a culture shock. Bangkok is a hubbub of lively activity; you’ll probably never forget your first couple of weeks in the city. Hectic traffic, busy markets, irresistible smells and the appealing sound of the Thai language will hit you like nothing else. You’ll soon become used to it all and even find yourself embracing hand flapping over indicating on your bike and eating out at restaurants with plastic stools for chairs (always a sign of a top restaurant).  

Bangkok Baiyoke Tower night lights, Thailand
Bangkok night lights

Safety and Security

Thailand is considered to be one of the safest countries to live in Southeast Asia. The number one crime that occurs in Thailand that impacts tourists or expatriates is pickpocketing. This often happens in busy markets, at popular tourist attractions, or train stations. Just being aware of this issue is usually enough to avoid being a target. Wear your bags across your body or on your front and keep your eyes peeled. 

Country is ranked 103 according to the World Peace Index

cliff adventure thailand Chiang Rai hiking
Cliff adventure in Chiang Rai

Though these crimes can happen, Thailand is a safe country particularly cities like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Chiang Mai has a low crime rate as well as a number of other attractive features. Another safety precaution that must be taken revolves around driving. Numerous sources cite Thailand as the world’s most dangerous country for motorcyclists. There are a lot of bikes on the roads of Thailand and with roadways being built for cars this increases the dangers. Being cautious whilst riding a bike in Thailand is a necessity, always wear a helmet and never drive too fast. 

Motorcyclists Old TukTuk at old town, thailand
Old TukTuk in front of ancient temple

Cost of Living in Thailand

Retiring in Thailand offers you the ability to live well for around $2,000 a month. Many expatriates living in Chiang Mai claim to live comfortably for around $1,500 a month. You can rent a studio apartment for as little as $400 in Chiang Mai and with other necessities being super affordable it leaves you with some money to live a little.   

On average the cost of living in Thailand is 45% lower than in the U.S. One of the biggest savings you’ll make is on rent, with rental properties in Thailand being around 72% lower than in the United States. Places like Bangkok and Koh Samui are more expensive to live in, but they are still more affordable than back home.


When retiring in Thailand you should be aware of the taxation rules. American citizens living in Thailand are required to file taxes in both countries. In Thailand taxes are due by March 31st. One of the major hurdles with filing your taxes in Thailand is that they have to be in Thai. Many expatriates find a Thai accountant to help make the process easier. 

In terms of everyday sales taxes, goods and services are subject to a 7% tax with most VAT being added to the bill in restaurants and stores. If you are buying property in Thailand, you will also be subjected to business tax (3.3%), transfer fees (2% of property value), stamp duty (0.5%) and withholding tax (1% of property’s appraised or registered sales value). 

Visas & Residency

Those looking to retire to Thailand will need to look into getting the ‘Non Immigrant O-A (long-stay) Visa”. You must meet the following criteria in order to obtain this visa:


  • Be 50+ years old 
  • Completed police record checks 
  • Obtain a medical exam 
  • Present a certificate of health 
  • Deposit 800,000 Thai baht (around US$22,000) into a Thai bank account at least 2 months prior to submitting your application (preferably 6 months)
  • Prove that you receive a pension of a minimum of 65,000 Thai baht per month

With this visa you do have to reapply each year. However, by doing border crossings you can just reapply after the third year. This reduces the hassle of having to go to Thai Immigration annually. Admittedly there are a number of hoops to jump through in order to obtain and keep your retirement visa.

For example, of the 800,000 Baht that needs depositing 400,000 must be left in the account at all times, not doing so may impact your visa renewal. If you follow the rules of the visa then you will be fine, but just being aware of the laws and strictly abiding by them is imperative.

Those from a select number of countries including the U.S., U.K., and Canada are also able to apply for the 10-Year Non-Immigrant Visa. It’s an initial five year visa that is renewable for a further five years. The biggest difference in obtaining this visa is the income requirements. 

You must either: 

  • Deposit a minimum of 3,000,000 Baht (around US$84,000) in a Thai bank;
  • Make 1,800,000 Baht bank deposit and prove an annual income of at least 1,200,000 (around US$33,000)


Thailand offers an array of excellent and cheap healthcare services (one-fifth the cost of healthcare in the US). Thai healthcare system is ranked in the top 50 in the world according to the World Health Organization. Unlike some countries, Thailand doesn’t offer public health insurance to expatriates but there are a number of private insurance plans you can get. If you do find yourself needing to visit the hospital, then you’ll find that common procedures and even specialist consultations are much cheaper than in the States. Owing to the low cost of healthcare a lot of expats and retirees in Thailand just pay out of pocket when they need to access services. 

If you want to look into private healthcare, there are a ton of modern facilities that have English speaking doctors and nurses. As well as providing top notch care and excellent facilities, these private hospitals often have much shorter waiting times than in the States.  

Real Estate

There are three types of property that foreigners can purchase under Thai law. 

These include:

1) a condominium unit

2) a building that’s distinct from its land

3) a registered leasehold up to 30 years either for titled land or a building.

In a condo building foreigners can’t account for more than 40% of an apartment block. Interestingly you can buy an entire apartment block as a foreigner, but you are not allowed to purchase the land that it sits on. 

Many choosing to retire in Thailand decide to use long-term rentals instead of purchasing property. Condos are a popular property choice, and they are cheap compared to the U.S. They also offer extra amenities like fitness centers, 24-7 security and swimming pools.

Best Places to Live in Thailand

So, you are considering retirement in Thailand, but where should you live? Do you want to experience the city, countryside or the beaches? Sure, Bangkok is an obvious choice, but usually retirees to Thailand tend to want to opt for a slower pace of life. Bangkok is usually for the younger working expatriates (but by all means give it a go)!

street food in busy bangkok, thailand
Street food in Bangkok

Chiang Mai

If you are searching for amazing places to live in Thailand, consider Chiang Mai. Located in the foothills of northern Thailand it’s a great place to experience a calmer Thai lifestyle that’s filled with culture. There are a myriad of Buddhist temples, agreeable 77 °F temperatures, a low cost of living and western style amenities. 

street in front buddist Temple Wat Mahawan chiang Mai, thailand
Street in front buddist Temple Wat Mahawan in Chiang Mai

Koh Samui

Perhaps you are seeking the ultimate Thai lifestyle, that of white sandy beaches and effortlessly stunning landscapes. If that’s the case, then head to Koh Samui a tropical haven. Koh Samui is just an hour’s flight from Bangkok. The lifestyle here is second to none, its laid back, affordable and beautiful. Despite its secluded beach feel, there are still top healthcare facilities in Koh Samui, giving many retirees more confidence about making the move. 

turquoise water beach sand tropical heaven Koh Samui, thailand
Turquoise water in a beach in Koh Samui

Proximity to the US

There’s no escaping the fact that Bangkok is 8,658 miles away from New York. Retiring in Thailand from the U.S. is a commitment and a complete lifestyle change. There is also a 12 hour time difference to consider. Flights from New York to Bangkok take anywhere from 20 to 27 hours, with a layover in Dubai. There’s no escaping the epic journey and you probably won’t be doing it very often but isn’t it worth it for the tropical climate, extra savings and relaxed lifestyle?  

Activities and Recreation

Is there anything you can’t do in Thailand? Thailand might be nicknamed the Land of Smiles, but it feels more like the Land of Opportunities. Recreational activities in Thailand are plentiful. If you love the water, then you’ll forever be entertained by Thailand’s ocean activities. From snorkeling to scuba diving, boat rides to kayaking, Thailand is a water lovers paradise. 

You can also explore the country’s Buddhist past and mythology visiting the not so touristy Naka Cave and learning more about the legend of King Naga giant stone snake.

Retiring in Thailand will also provide you with a multitude of cultural activities to enjoy. There are a whopping 40,000 temples in Thailand all waiting to be explored. From the famous White Temple and Doi Inthanon mountain in Chiang Rai to Wat Arun in Bangkok there’s plenty to see. 

Temple sunset Doi Inthanon, Thailand
Sunset in the stunning Doi Inthanon mountain

Bottom Line – Move to Thailand and Living in Thailand

It is hard to find fault with Thailand as a retirement destination. Moving to Thailand will give you that carefree lifestyle you’ve probably always dreamed of. Stunning national parks, endless cultural attractions, a low cost of living and excellent healthcare make Thailand one of the best retirement destinations in Asia. 


morning hike Koh Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Morning hike in Koh Phi Phi Islands

Here is a list of the Pros and Cons of traveling, living, moving and retiring in Thailand