Where to begin? How about 2002. I traveled to Thailand twice in 2002, once on business and once to visit an old friend. The people were so friendly and I had a wonderful time.
When retirement approached, I thought of Thailand because of the much lower cost of living and climate. Having been born and raised in Canada, I have a real understanding of cold winters. The older I got, the less I could tolerate them.
Fortunately, I also had a friend who had done the retirement thing in Thailand, so off I went. My friend helped me NOT make the mistakes that most farang (foreigners) make. And I have been able to improve on his advice.
Can you afford it? You bet you can.
Rent an apartment in downtown Bangkok for only $300 U.S. per month. How do I know this? Because that is what I am paying for rent. And it includes basic furniture, hydro, water, cable TV and high speed WiFi. If you don’t need to live downtown you can rent for as little as $75 per month, but that does not include furnishings or utilities. That’s NOT a typo, it is $ 75.
Why eat at a tourist restaurant when you can have exactly the same meal around the corner at a local restaurant for 1/3 the price? Enjoy a complete meal for lunch or dinner for as little as 85¢. You can even cut that in half if you know what to look for.
Groceries are readily available at many full service supermarkets. But why pay retail when many of the same products are available in Thai markets for a lot less? I purchased fresh picked mangoes at a Thai market for about 40 cents a kilo. Fruit and vegetables are very inexpensive and the growing season is almost all year.
Local street vendors sell clothing at really low prices but theirs is a retail price. Why pay retail? Buy where they buy their goods. The only catch is that you cannot try anything on and you must buy a few items at once. When was the last time you went and bought 1 pair of underwear?
Need a new cell phone number? You can purchase a new SIM card for as little as $ 1.75 and that included $ 1.00 worth of credit. Cellular charges are about 3.5 cents a minute and for about $ 10.00 per month you can have a regular mobile number. And there are thousands and thousands of dealers competing to sell you a mobile phone. Just bring the one you have and change the SIM card.
First run movies run about $ 4.50. When was the last time you paid $ 4.50 for a first run movie? Or watch them on a large screen TV. I recently purchased a name brand 42” LCD TV for less than $ 900.00. Electronics are inexpensive because they do not have to be shipped half way around the world.
Don’t have a car? No Problem. There is the Skytrain (BTS) and subway (MRT) and the cost is as low as 45¢ a trip. Busses are really cheap (as low as 25 cents) and there are many routes. If they don’t get you where you want to go, then take a taxi. They cost $ 1.00 to start and most rides will run under $ 3.00.
Travel by train to see the ancient temples. Cost is only 45¢. Again, that is NOT a typo. Train transportation is very good and mostly on time. Intercity buses are cheap and air conditioned and also on time.
Want to go to the beach? The beaches in Thailand are wonderful. Take the bus to the beach for $ 3.25 and stay for a few days. A hotel can be had for about $ 15.00 per night.
Want to fly off for a few days to Hong Kong or Singapore? Do it for under $100 return airfare, all extras incuded.
Need a new suit? Don’t buy it where the tourists buy theirs, buy it from the factory that makes them for the retailers. They are easy to find.
Your hair is getting long and you need a haircut. How much would you pay at home? $ 25.00? $ 18.00? $ 12.00? You can pay that much here also, but if you look around you can also get a good haircut for as little as $ 2.50. Nothing fancy, just a simple haircut.
Medical costs are as low as 1/5 of those in the USA. I had major surgery at a 5 Star hotel (hospital) for 20% of what it would have cost in the USA.
Dental expenses are 1/3 of those in the USA. Need a root canal done? You would not believe the low cost.
Let’s see now: rent under $ 300.00 or less, meals under $ 1.00, clothes wholesale, travel at discount rates. Add it up. If you are reasonable about spending you can easily retire here on less than $ 1,000.00 per month. That does not mean that you cannot spend more than that. There are many luxury apartments available for $ 2 – 3,000.00 per month or more and restaurants that will cost $ 60.00 for a meal. You can buy designer clothes at the upscale malls. How much or how little it costs depends on you and your income. You can spend as much or as little as you wish. That is your decision to make. I made mine and am totally happy with my life.
Can you afford it? You most certainly can! Think seriously about throwing out your winter boots and heavy overcoat. You will never need them again. I spent last New Year’s Eve in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt.
One really important tip: Learn a little of the language. There are many ways to accomplish that. Many Thai people speak some English, but if you can speak some Thai, it will go a long way to make your time here a lot easier. Simple phrases like hello and thank you. Thai people are generally warm and friendly. If you can speak a little of their language they will go out of their way to help you.
Patience is a virtue. Things move slower in Thailand than in North America or Europe. Many things happen tomorrow. It is the way of life here. Expect the unexpected. Enjoy the unexpected. And be patient. You are beginning a new life here. Slow down and enjoy it!
This truly is the Land of Smiles.