Survey bucks the trend as regards best Asian lands for expat retirees

Published:  30 May at 6 PM
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A recently released survey of Asian retirement destinations is bucking the current trend by placing Chiang Mai in its top ten choices.

The US-based survey takes into account medical care, the cost of living and the weather, ignoring the more important aspect of visas as well as transportation, the cost of housing and the likelihood of political instability. Noting that Chiang Mai has been a focus for expat retirees for several decades for its distinct culture, rich history and great weather, it fails to take into account that living a similar life to that in the home country is now impossible for retirees without a considerable backup private pension or enough cash in the bank to satisfy immigration’s ever-changing deposit and/or income requirements. For a retirement visa based on pension income, Thai immigration requires monthly transfers of 65,000 baht, the equivalent of just over $2,000.

Whilst surveys are undoubtedly helpful for would-be expats attempting to make the right choice as regards the remainder of their lives, the much-vaunted ‘couples can live on $1,200 a month’ also assumes that singles can live on rather less than that, assuming that accommodation costs are the same. Referencing Chiang Mai expat forums tells a different story, as there’s a wealth divide in the city similar to that in many expats’ home countries. For example, the survey correctly mentions multinational grocery stores but forgets to include the fact that costs of home-country favourites are far higher than their local equivalents. It’s the same story with eating out, with restaurants catering for expat tastes setting their prices far above those serving locals, even using two separately priced menus for the same dishes. Another factor is the exchange rate and its present day fluctuations caused by the worsening political climate worldwide.

As regards medical care, costs are indeed lower than in the USA, as they are almost anywhere on the planet, but are not considered affordable for the average retiree on a straight pension. Recent media reports that Thai private hospitals are being investigated for expat price-gouging and undertaking unnecessary procedures as well as massive overcharging for pharmaceuticals are being taken seriously by expats who post their experiences online. As regard the weather, it would seem climate change is affecting Chiang Mai and other popular Thai retirement hubs as definitively as in many other world countries. Once pleasant, predictable and rarely over-warm, recent hot seasons have hit highs similar to those in Japan and other Asian hubs. In spite of the above touch of reality,

Chiang Mai is as good as any Asian retirement destination for the comparatively wealthy, even although it’s less secure as regards visa requirements. It’s also better than several neighbouring states, but it’s not a low-cost haven which welcomes expats with open arms, with portraying it as such likely to lead potential expatriate retirees to make a choice they may well regret.
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