International Living has their 2013 list of the Best Countries in the World for North Americans to Retire to and Thailand came in ninth. In fact, along with Malaysia, it was one of only two Asian countries to make the top 10 list.
Top of the list was Ecuador, a country that seems to be loved by International Living at least, as it’s named it best country to retire to for five years in a row now. Most of that, however, is based on cost of living as Ecuador has one of the cheapest in the world. Retirees also get half price entertainment, cheap bus fares and a whole slew of other discounts.
As for Thailand, although it did place ninth on the list, it’s easy to see what stopped it placing even higher. International Living bases its criteria for whether a country is good to retire to or not on a few factors including cost of living, property prices, climate, ease of integration, cost of healthcare and discounts for retirees.
Thailand, while getting high marks in many areas, falls short on ease of integrations as many Thais don’t speak English very well so it can be difficult to make friends.
It also struggles on ease of integrating into the country from a legal standpoint, as Thai law makes it much more difficult to get retirement visas and to remain in the country long-term than do countries like Ecuador and Malaysia (which was third on the list and called “The Most Desirable Country in Asia to Retire to”).
Add onto that the price of Thai property increasing quite markedly in the last two to three years, the Thai baht becoming stronger and the cost of living overall becoming quite a bit higher in Thailand in the last year, and it’s not surprising Thailand only made it to ninth.
That said, however, I have to say Thailand is still a wonderful place to retire to. As long as you are aware it isn’t always a particularly easy country to make friends in, especially for the elderly, unless you hang out with other North American retirees.
And as far as the Thai government making it easy for you to retire here or for you to get discounts because you are retired — frankly, they just don’t do as good of a job at it as Malaysia. More’s the pity.
Finally, one thing you will need to do if you’re planning on retiring to Thailand is apply for a retirement visa. Read How to Apply for and Get a Retirement Visa (Non-immigrant O) for Thailand to help you do that easily.