Regardless of if your retirement is happening this year or remains decades away, it’s always good to start thinking about it. There is perhaps no larger decision than where. Many people choose to retire in Southeast Asia thanks to the low cost of living, outstanding weather and a chance to see a different part of the world.
Those wanting to retire in Southeast Asia have no shortage of options. From stunning beaches where you can watch the sunset every evening to majestic mountain retreats, you are sure to find a place in the region that offers what you’re looking for.
Want to know where to retire in Southeast Asia? Here are the three top countries based on several factors including cost of living, ease of buying property, retirement visa policies and expat support.
3 best places to retire in Southeast Asia
Cost of living: Est. USD1,100 per month
Retirement visa: Indefinite (If requirements met)
There are a lot of reasons expats opt to retire in the Philippines including the widespread use of English. Additionally, The Special Resident Retiree’s Visa issued by the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration is among the best in Southeast Asia. Privileges include multiple-entry access with the right to stay indefinitely in the Philippines. Cost of living is also low, but not at the levels of Cambodia or Thailand.
Foreign property ownership is straightforward as well and many expats find property prices in the Philippines to be extremely attractive. Cebu has become a popular choice for Japanese and South Korean retirees while Laguna and Clark tend to be the preferred destination for Australian and Americans. You’ll also find a number of Nordic and German retirees spread throughout the archipelago.
Language: Malay (English and Chinese widely spoken)
Cost of living: Est. USD1,400 per month
Retirement visa: 10 year, multiple entry via MM2H
Malaysia has been a popular place to retire in Southeast Asia thanks to the introduction of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. People who purchase a property and can prove they are able to support themselves without seeking employment are able to obtain a 10-year, multiple-entry visa. Family members are also eligible for the visa.
Cost of living in Malaysia is higher than almost all countries in the region apart from Singapore, however, it is still well below the US and Europe. Healthcare is also much cheaper in Malaysia than in the home countries of most retirees. Georgetown is a popular retirement spot for US expats due to its multicultural vibe, food scene, beaches and green areas. Kuala Lumpur has seen an influx of Hong Kong and Singaporean retirees in recent years while Melaka is now firmly on the retirement radar these days.
Language: Thai (Some English spoken)
Cost of living: Est. USD1,050 per month
Retirement visa: 1 year, renewable
Thailand is the most popular choice for people wanting to retire in Southeast Asia, but the process to do so isn’t always easy. Let’s start with why people are so eager to spend their retirement in Thailand. For starters, there is the low cost of living and popular food scene. Even with the baht gaining on the dollar, pound and Euro, pricing in Thailand is still competitive. Additionally, there is a high standard for healthcare while being extremely affordable. The diverse locations and ease of domestic travel are also big draws. Finally, it is straightforward for foreigners to buy property in Thailand.
There is a but, however. In order to obtain the retirement visa you’ll need to either deposit THB 800,000 into a Thai bank account or prove you have a monthly income/pension of THB 65,000 or more. The visa is only good for one year, but you can renew it annually as long as you still meet the financial requirements. However, a Google search of ‘Thailand retirement visa’ will turn up no shortage of horror stories about the process. Alternatively, the 10-year investment visa might be a better option for those who plan on buying property.
Retirees in Thailand can be found up and down the country. Those wanting to relax by the beach prefer Phuket or Pattaya while Chiang Mai is a trendy choice for those wanting to enjoy the lush forests of the north. Hua Hin offers a bit of both with a beach and green mountains within reach.