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Thailand
Old 03-12-2013, 10:41 AM   #1
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Thailand

Looking to spend up to six months a year there after retiring next year. Travel for business has allowed me to visit over 30 times for short periods, usually for two weeks at a time. Torn between Bangkok or some beach location. Most likely will rent, but have considered buying a condo. Would welcome feedback on challenges faced during extended stays. Guess I would be a semi-expat. Interested in making western friends and being active with swimming, photography, pool, lifting weights, and a pint or two at a pub.
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:25 PM   #2
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Okay, guess there is no interest here
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Old 03-18-2013, 01:45 PM   #3
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It is probably because the member who knows Thailand hasn't noticed your question, not a matter of being interested.

This Nov DH are planning to spend a week in Bangkok. I was there years ago and loved it. My issue about retiring to a far off locale is that I would be so far from family. My recommendation would be that you lease a condo for 6-9 months and see how it works for you. There are Bangkok condos on VRBO, I was looking at them as an alternative to a hotel during our stay.
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Old 03-18-2013, 09:45 PM   #4
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I retired a couple of years ago and moved to the Philippines as a "trailing spouse) (my wife works here). I spent the first 4-6 completely retired and have since worked part-time, which has helped connect me locally. I've also spent a lot of time traveling in Thailand, but haven't lived there. In any case, I thought I'd share a few thoughts to get you started (at least until our Thai residents get in the loop).

I love visiting Thailand, but have always thought it would be tougher to live there full time (my wife, who lived in Thailand for 3-4 years when she was younger echoes this).

Thailand (as I'm sure you know) has great restaurants, hotels, beaches, temples, sightseeing, etc; a big expatriate community; and friendly people. But even though I have visited for work as well as play, and have good local connections, I've found Thais hard to get to know. Language is a big problem....not that many Thais speak English; but there are also cultural differences. Bangkok, of course, is big and chaotic and not that much of the local cultural scene is accessible to non-Thai speakers (and the "cultural scene" is pretty thin, anyway, compared to Hong Kong or Singapore).

So, if you do move to Thailand, I'd think your primary reference group would be with the expatriate community. That seems to have a couple of sub-groups. First, there are full-time workers, primarily on company/government packages, often with families, who you'll probably have little to do with. Second there are "adventurers," relatively young (20's - 40's) Aussies, Kiwi's, Brits, etc; working often at relatively marginal jobs (English teacher); who are spending a few years seeing this part of the world, but sometimes end up staying longer. Third are the "sexpats," primarily there to hook up with Thais, find (or purchase) a girlfriend or boyfriend, get married, etc. And, last, there are retirees who are able to afford a more upscale life in Thailand because of a lower (but rapidly rising) cost of living.

I presuming that you want to spend part of your retirement in Thailand from choice, rather than financial necessity. And, I do think it would be a great place to spend 3 - 6 months a year, so long as you're able to leave whenever it gets to be too much...
And, if it turns out you really like it, you can always stay longer.

I've split my time the first year and spend 2-3 months at the beach (but probably not Pattaya), 2-3 months in Bangkok, and maybe a month or two in Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai is wonderful, but I'd find it a little boring to live there -- you might feel differently). In terms of practicalities, it looks pretty easy to find long-term housing and to settle down in any tourist area. And, even if you come in as a tourist visa, you'll probably only have to make one visa run (and, with cheap airfares, a trip to Hong Kong in the cool season might be a welcome break!)

It's a little more expensive that way, but by the time you were done, I think you'd be in a better position to decide how much time you want to spend it Thailand.

Hope that helps!
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Old 03-19-2013, 12:42 AM   #5
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Yes, no intention to stay year round. Expect it will be mostly during the cooler, dry season. You make good point about developing a circle friends and having a variety of activities to keep you busy. Most likely to split time between Bangkok and a coastal location. Will rent.
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Old 03-19-2013, 07:39 AM   #6
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I think you'd have to be a real city-person to like Bangkok.

If I were to relocate to Thailand, which is not out of the question, I would split my time between Krabi (particulary Ao Nang) in the south and Chiang Mai in the north. Those were the two places that impressed me most on my visits.

I could never live in Bangkok, and I didn't care for Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan.
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:07 AM   #7
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Bangkok is a little chaotic for most people, even though the traditional Thai friendliness and hospitality towards foreigners manages to survive even there. But why live there when there are such great beach locations?

From the ones I know well, there are two that I would recommend: Phuket, if you want a beach location with a city nearby and Krabi, if you are looking for a more isolated location.

Thailand has instituted a retiree visa (for "retired persons of independent means"), which supposedly gives you VIP treatment if you qualify. The nearest Thai Consulate can give you details.

There is a very complete guide to Thailand in the site below. Seems very complete, but I cannot vouch for its accuracy. There is a fee for downloading it. Good luck! Hunting for an ideal retirement location requires hard work, but should be fun. The advice above to rent, before making a more permanent comitment is spot on. Some places can be great to visit, but you need to know them well before deciding whether you can live there
The Thailand Report: An Expat’s Guide to Living in Thailand
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:33 AM   #8
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I have lived in Thailand for the past 7 years and enjoy life there, I am from the UK and work in Asia so it has been my base. I spend 5 weeks there +/- and 5 weeks at work also in Asia.
I have spent a lot of time in Pattaya as it was the first place I visited and I go diving there, I keep a rental apartment there for that purpose. I now own a new place in Chiang Mai, It is a fantastic City without the craziness and heat of Bangkok. It has to be one of the best places in the Country.
My next and maybe last project will be working in Thailand near Pattaya after which I may retire but it will be to Chiang Mai.
Retirement visa is easy but you need to be 50, weather, food, people all good - not a difficult place to enjoy life.
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Old 03-19-2013, 08:48 AM   #9
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Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the visa situation. I wanted to live there full-time back around 2008 but could not because I was under 50. And I ended up changing my mind, anyway.

I don't like some aspects of their retirement visa, mainly that you must reapply each year anew and fulfill all the requirements again and still report to immigration every 90 days when in the country (an almost bizarre requirement for such a visa). Without a retirement visa, your travel to other countries in the region will be restricted due to only 1 to 2 and possibly 3 (if you are lucky) entries allowed on your tourist visa.

Even with a multi-entry tourist visa you will be making multiple visits to immigration and a minimum of one well-timed border run to stay 6 months. Back when I was living most of the time in Thailand, I had to apply for the tourist visa at only certain Thai consulates in the USA because many would only give a single entry tourist visa, no matter what you asked for (good for 3 months only and that is if you visit immigration at the 60 day mark). If you cross a border and come back without a visa, you get 14 days only at a land crossing and 29 days only if you enter by air. These can be extended one time only for just 7 days by visiting immigration and paying fees.

I live in the Philippines and am going through the process to get a Retirement visa, and I am so happy it is valid for life (as long as you keep paying the $360/year fee, the amount is grandfathered in at whatever level you enter). No checking in ever with immigration, use the Diplomat passport line at entry if you like, stay as long as you like or come and go without a return airline ticket, etc. I would really hate to have to fulfill the requirements annually. I guess I didn't realize how restrictive the Thai visa situation was until I started living in other countries and studying other visa programs.
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Old 03-19-2013, 09:14 PM   #10
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Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the visa situation. I wanted to live there full-time back around 2008 but could not because I was under 50. And I ended up changing my mind, anyway.

I don't like some aspects of their retirement visa, mainly that you must reapply each year anew and fulfill all the requirements again and still report to immigration every 90 days when in the country (an almost bizarre requirement for such a visa). Without a retirement visa, your travel to other countries in the region will be restricted due to only 1 to 2 and possibly 3 (if you are lucky) entries allowed on your tourist visa.

Even with a multi-entry tourist visa you will be making multiple visits to immigration and a minimum of one well-timed border run to stay 6 months. Back when I was living most of the time in Thailand, I had to apply for the tourist visa at only certain Thai consulates in the USA because many would only give a single entry tourist visa, no matter what you asked for (good for 3 months only and that is if you visit immigration at the 60 day mark). If you cross a border and come back without a visa, you get 14 days only at a land crossing and 29 days only if you enter by air. These can be extended one time only for just 7 days by visiting immigration and paying fees.

I live in the Philippines and am going through the process to get a Retirement visa, and I am so happy it is valid for life (as long as you keep paying the $360/year fee, the amount is grandfathered in at whatever level you enter). No checking in ever with immigration, use the Diplomat passport line at entry if you like, stay as long as you like or come and go without a return airline ticket, etc. I would really hate to have to fulfill the requirements annually. I guess I didn't realize how restrictive the Thai visa situation was until I started living in other countries and studying other visa programs.
The requirement for the Thai retirement visa are somewhat less onerous these days. You do have to be over 50, however. The 90 day reporting requirement can be met by mailing in a form 15 days before your due date. I have never gone in personally to do the 90 day report myself. Exiting and reentering the country counts as a 90 day report and starts the day count ticking for the next one. The Thai gov't requires for a renewal of the retirement visa that you show a Thai bank balance of at least 800,000 baht ($27,327) for 60 days before renewal. After the renewal is approved you can do what you want with the money until the next renewal time comes up. Some other countries, like Malaysia and Ecuador, require that you maintain a minimum balance all year round. Most countries, like India and the US, don't have any retirement visa option at all.

With a retirement visa and a multiple re-entry permit, you can come and go as you like. I am on a marriage visa which has slightly different requirements from the retirement visa, but the process is the same. I go once to immigration once a year for a morning to apply and then come back a month later to pick up the visa. So, the Thai retiremement visa seems pretty easy to manage to me.

The Phillipine visa looks to be the gold standard for easy visa requirements. However, there are other disadvantages to the Phillipines, such as crime.
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Old 03-19-2013, 11:51 PM   #11
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Looking hard at a retirement visa.
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Old 03-20-2013, 02:50 AM   #12
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I asked a good friend about the Thailand retirement visa, as he reapplies each year in Canada.

He said that if you renew it in Thailand, then you need to get a re-entry permit from Thai immigration if you leave the country. But if you get it in your home country this is not a requirement (but ask for the multi-entry version when you apply). You can only renew the visa if it is within 90 days of expiration.

You must get the medical check, police check, notarized bank or proof-of-pension information each year when you reapply in your home country (not sure about the police check if you are living in Thailand, probably not required).

My friend said the total cost is only about $240 for him each year and I think this includes notary fees.

He also mentioned that the medical check is cursory and applies only to a handful of "visible" things like elephantitis (!), third-degree syphilis (but first or second degree are OK!), leprosy (!), and that this says something about Thai culture. Obviously, having to set a doctor's appointment each year for this is a bit of a pain and might be expensive for an American. He said his doctor just basically signs him off without a test. My friend can't renew in Thailand because he comes for 7 months each year and is back in Canada for the other 5 months.
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Old 03-20-2013, 10:58 AM   #13
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Appreciate all the feedback. Regarding Bangkok, I dislike the traffic, lack of trees and parks, and detest the horrible condition of sidewalks, but love having the wide variety of restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, movie theaters, and a choice of gyms and places to play pool or listen to music.
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Old 03-22-2013, 08:08 PM   #14
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It's always interesting to read about people's retirement experiences in SE Asia. I recently obtained my retirement visa in Malaysia. It's a 10 year easily renewable visa. The positives are that you can come and go as you wish. You do not have to live there to keep the visa. It allows me to come and go to Thailand at the border crossing as much as I desire. The cost of living is very low, similar to Thailand, and English is widely spoken. The only negative is that you need to maintain a bank account of close to US$50,000 (Fixed Deposit). However, I keep that amount in an international bank in Malaysia, and my interest is nearly 4%, so no complaints. That's a good investment. You can withdraw 1/3 of that after a year for housing or a car, and keep the balance in there as long as you have the visa.

I don't like the pressure one has to maintain the visa in Thailand. Malaysia allows me to call this country "home" even if I opt to stay there for short periods of time. I still like the idea of Thailand, but don't like to deal with the travel restrictions and showing up at immigration every three months.

My 2 cents worth.

Regards,
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Old 03-22-2013, 08:16 PM   #15
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Thanks Rob

I feel the same way as you. Not sure why Thailand doesn't move toward the program Malaysia has in place.
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Old 03-22-2013, 09:46 PM   #16
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It's always interesting to read about people's retirement experiences in SE Asia. I recently obtained my retirement visa in Malaysia. It's a 10 year easily renewable visa. The positives are that you can come and go as you wish. You do not have to live there to keep the visa. It allows me to come and go to Thailand at the border crossing as much as I desire. The cost of living is very low, similar to Thailand, and English is widely spoken. The only negative is that you need to maintain a bank account of close to US$50,000 (Fixed Deposit). However, I keep that amount in an international bank in Malaysia, and my interest is nearly 4%, so no complaints. That's a good investment. You can withdraw 1/3 of that after a year for housing or a car, and keep the balance in there as long as you have the visa.

I don't like the pressure one has to maintain the visa in Thailand. Malaysia allows me to call this country "home" even if I opt to stay there for short periods of time. I still like the idea of Thailand, but don't like to deal with the travel restrictions and showing up at immigration every three months.

My 2 cents worth.

Regards,
Rob
No need to go in person for the 90-day report to Thai immigration. Many of us just mail it in. I spend about half a day at immigration per year. Doesn't seem all that onerous to me.

I think the Thai system is better than the Malaysian because I don't want to park US $50k, or even US $37k, in a local bank. Thai banks do not have the fraud protections that US banks do. (I suspect Malaysian banks don't either, but I am guessing.) So, if your money in the bank gets stolen one way or another you would be out of luck here. In addition, I want the use of my own money.

In Thailand it is possible to get permanent residence, which is my own preferred long-term solution, but I am not sure if a retiree is eligible since most of those who apply are working expats.
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Old 03-22-2013, 11:19 PM   #17
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I asked my friend for more details on the Thai retirement visa. If you are not applying for it in the country, then each year you must provide all the documents again for renewal, as if you are applying from scratch (but this doesn't apply if you are renewing inside Thailand). This includes a new medical check, a new home country police check, etc. My friend has a pension so he must get that notarized and approved each year. If he was living in Thailand, he said he would have to get the pension statement authenticated by the Canadian embassy (I think) each year before submitting to Thai immigration. Whereas if you have a Thai bank account, you can get a notarized statement from your Thai bank each year.
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Old 03-22-2013, 11:22 PM   #18
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Rob, the Malaysia visa requirements seem to say that in order to qualify for the Malaysian retirement visa, you must ALSO have a little over $3000 per month verifiable income (10000 MYR). This is before putting money into a Malaysian bank. Is that strictly enforced? What do they mean by "income"? Thanks.
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Old 03-23-2013, 02:04 AM   #19
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The Malaysian 10 year renewable retirement visa requires you to prove that at the time you apply, you can show that you have income of about US$3000/month coming in. This could only be for a couple months. I simply showed my bank records for the last three months showing that for the past three months, I had about US$3000 coming in to my account. The MM2H program (Malaysia My Second Home) office will bend over backwards to assist you on this.

As for the Malaysian banks, I chose an international bank (HSBC) simply because I feel more comfortable doing that. The Malaysian government has its own insuring process. I've conferred with enough MM2H retirees to feel comfortable with my money there. It's a substantial amount, but so is the interest.

There is a forum of MM2H retirees ( http://www.my2home.info/index.php ) We exchange experiences, and overwhelmingly the bank deposit issue is treated as a plus. After one year, you can move the money to a different bank that might have higher interest rates, after pocketing the interest from the first year.

I guess it's all personal preference. I might not be in Malaysia much during a year, but knowing that it is "home" and I do not need to worry about paperwork for the next 10 years is gratifying, and the visas take a day to renew after 10 years. Also, the fact that English is spoken everywhere creates the possibility of lasting friendships with the locals. I can still spend a lot of time in Thailand.

Regards,
Rob
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Old 03-24-2013, 01:24 AM   #20
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Thanks, Rob. Yes, that sounds reasonable for "income".

Here in the Philippines they have the same attitude of bending over backwards for the SRRV applicants. I have $20,000 in the bank here as a visa deposit. It is in US dollars and pays me interest. The bank amounts are insured up to 500,000 pesos only (about $12,500). I could have split $10,000 in two banks but I didn't bother because it would have been a hassle. The PDIC (Philippines equivalent of FDIC) is well funded, so at least the $12,500 is truly safe.

I have a friend who dropped out of the program for financial reasons and was able to quickly get his deposit back (about 30 days, which is the required waiting period).

One negative is that any of these visas that require a bank balance (Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, etc) pulls you into the FBAR regime. I will have to do that next year for the first time as I just created the foreign bank account this year. The banks here ask for your social security number now so that they can comply with FATCA.
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