Yes it can be done! That’s how cheap Retirement in Chiang Mai Thailand can be. One of the growing concerns for people approaching retirement age, is that the pension is just not enough for many people to live well in their own countries. For many people they are just no longer happy with what is happening at home, with changing political and economic trends. For some, now is the time to take advantage of all their spare time and explore more interesting and exotic places. What ever your reason to look at Retirement – Chiang Mai is one place that should be at the top of your location list.
Whether you are thinking of retiring as a couple, or you are now on your own and the idea of a beautiful and younger companion who shares the values and beliefs you grew up with is appealing – Chiang Mai in Thailand has it all. A great location for couples and single people alike, with so many things to do to keep you busy and still allow you to live in a style surpassing what you could at home.
Have a quick Look at what Chiang Mai Offers Retirees
Video courtesy of the Chiang Mai Expats Club
To qualify is actually pretty easy, and listed below. For full details you can read the article on How to get a Retirement Visa for Thailand.
50 years of age
Passport with 18 months left before expiring
Proof of Funds 800,000 Baht or US$ 25,000 or
Proof of income 60,000 Baht a month or US$2,000
Combination of Savings and Income
Fee 1900 Baht (US$60)
What makes Chiang Mai so appealing to Retire?
I think it is a fair assumption to make that this article is not the first time you have heard of Chiang Mai, nor will it be the first time you have read about this beautiful northern city either. Chiang Mai already has a reputation for being a retirement heaven, with many business’s, clubs and societies created by and for the retired expat.
Not only is everything here, ready and waiting for you to partake in, it is easily able to be done on even the tightest budget. You can live an active and interesting life here for as little as $1000 a month. Of course if you have more savings and greater income – you will be able to retire in a manner you may have only once dreamed about.
However, this beautiful city is not ideal for everybody, and it is highly recommended that you come for a holiday first, stay a month or two and test out Chiang Mai as well as other cities in Thailand. If you decide to do this, then we at Chiang Mai Buddy specialize in finding you Accommodation cheaper than anywhere else you will find online and provide you with a Tour of the best locations for you to visit on a regular basis.
So… let’s examine some of the reasons you should absolutely consider Chiang Mai as a location to retire.
Chiang Mai means “New City”, yet is over 700 years old, and has an important role in Thailand’s history. It is located in the northern part of Thailand, in the mountain area, and is the largest and most important city in this region. Chiang Mai is said to have a population of 160,000 but this consists only of the old city (walled center of town) when combining the several other areas around the city itself boosts a population of over 1 million. At rough estimates there are some 40,000 expats living within Chiang Mai itself.
Chiang Mai is large enough to contain several golf courses, hundreds of spas, thousands of restaurants, and places to get a massage are always within a stones throw away. There are also over 300 Temples – all working and operational with Monks, several large shopping malls and almost everything you could desire. Yet Chiang Mai is small enough to be able to easily drive, ride a motorcycle or get the famous Tuk Tuk’s to get out and about.
Chiang Mai city is a combination of modern and 700 years of history. It is a rich and vibrant tourist center, with many well known areas, activities and shopping opportunities. It also has the hidden out of the way gems that your fellow expats will delight in showing you.
One of the biggest attractions of Chiang Mai, Thailand is the cost of living. The Nomad List website, which compares the cost of living and quality of life of cities around the world, rank Chiang Mai as one of the cheapest places to be. While this website is for the younger traveler it’s economic breakdown of hundreds of locations makes for interesting reading. This cheap cost of living is supported by International Living, a subscription based retirement community both online and in magazine form. Many articles and retirement companies do cost of living vs quality of life locations, Chiang Mai is always in the top 5.
You can live here on an extreme budget, choosing accommodation like Siriruk Apartment for less than $100 a month. Or for $500 stay in a fully serviced Hotel like the Victoria. If you decide to stay here longer, you save even more, able to rent a budget 30-45 square meter condo apartment from around 4000-7000 Baht (If you are staying here longer, you are able to lease a condo (usually 6 months minimum but can sometimes you can find one for 3 months) and save even more. To buy your own condo you would start at around US$25,000 for a basic unit (35-45 sq.m) and more realistically for 80-100 sq.m and two bedrooms looking at around US$50k +. Houses can be purchased for 50k and beyond. Of course depending on how old you are (let’s be realistic here), you can rent your accommodation for 30 years before you would spend what it would cost to purchase.
The one downside is that a non Thai can not own more than 49% of the land a property sites on, for this reason many couples buy condos (you can own these 100%), or wait until they marry a local before purchasing a house. To get an idea of the type and quality of condo rental or home purchase you can expect for the price have a look at this local real estate agency
A Motorbike rental can start as low as $60 a month, but beware, this will be a low quality bike. Most likely older, 100 cc manual motorcycle. You are much better off spending $90-100 and get a newer 125cc bike large enough and with enough power for the western frame. Food in a Thai Thai (the word to explain a typical local place) restaurant starts at 25 baht and seldom goes past 40 (US 75 cents to $1.20). Most people tend to go to the local places in more urban areas where you are looking at US$1-2 for a meal. Western food usually cost more, but still much cheaper than is typical in your home country. Although you will generally find eating out is cheaper than cooking food yourself at home.
You can live in Chiang Mai for about $500 a month. You will live well for $1000
Chiang Mai has an incredible amount of open social network groups that are always providing something to do. The social communities in Chiang Mai, provide information on “how to…”, “where to…” and “when to…”; and arrange for group outings as well as hold there own social events.
Westerners in Chiang Mai, have over years built social and entertainment networks that allow you to do something new almost everyday. . Lana Cricket have used the Gymkhana sports grounds for over 50 years, providing a wide variety of tennis, golf, cricket and other sporting and social events.
Perhaps the best of all of the communities is the Chiang Mai Expat Club, which holds a variety of Scheduled Events and Activities. The Expat Club is a one off 1000 baht membership (US$32) and is an open resource of many business that specialize in the Expat and Retired person. Not to mention the fantastic breakfasts and meals they put on at there social events. The Chiang Mai Expat group really is your one stop shop to a new social network and introduction to people who have been where you where and now openly sharing their wisdom and knowledge.
Some of the Many Social Networks available in Chiang Mai For more check out our Resources
I Love Chiang Mai – We all love Chiang Mai – there is a great files section with loads of information. This is a secret group, you will need a friend who is a member add you
Chiang Mai Events – it’s usually here if it is happening in Chiang Mai.
Whats Happening Chang Mai – The primary focus of ‘What’s happening in Chiang Mai’ is to provide to voice to those connected to Burma and social justice issues generally. We welcome posts that are of value to the audience advertising events, and important news affecting our community.
What, Where, When Chiang Mai – A page for people, event organizers, promoters, bar owners, club owners to let everyone know what’s happening in Chiang Mai. Feel free to add people to the group, the more people on here the more we’ll know what’s happening in and around Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai – For people wanting to come to or already living or just interested in Chiang Mai
TEDx Chiang Mai – Chiang Mai’s affiliated TEDx talks
Farang Community Chiang Mai – An ask and you shall receive group for foreign nations in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Buddy Advantage
Of course if you are coming to Chiang Mai, you have your own buddy that for a very small fee will help you with anything you need assistance with. Until you get your bearings and can navigate around yourself, we are here to help you find a place to live, show you around and assist you in whatever way we can.
Thailand is well known as a medical vacation location, because the medical treatment is first rate at a fraction of the cost of where you are living now. Medical and Dental treatment is affordable as is cosmetic surgery, in fact everything is affordable, including the health insurance for living here full time.
A dental clean is about 600 baht, x-rays only 800 baht, ($17-22), a visit to a Doctor for medical checkups are around 200 baht ($7) and medical certificates for the various documentations you will need are 50-100 baht ($3). Insurance? around 20,000 baht per year will get you a premium health insurance policy with Bupa Blue Cross
The cost of hospitalization for a private ward would start around 2,000 baht per day. Many expensive medicines are reproduced in generic form locally (or from India) and provided considerably cheaper. You can of course still get the branded medicines if you wish.
If your health is already requiring a little more attention, or the need arises to go into a care facility, Chiang Mai has you covered here as well. You can hire your own nurse or care giver on a short time or live in position for about 15,000 baht per month. Retirement communities here, are luxury palaces, providing accommodation, meals, doctors, nurses, social outings and in patient facilities for about US$2000 per month – everything covered.
Have a look at the promotional video for one such Care community right here in Chiang Mai.
Because of it’s northern location, Chiang Mai is influenced by the ‘Lanna’ and Hill Tribe tradition and people, who remain a popular influence on the local traditions and values of the city. The Lanna heritage takes shape all over the city in the forms of language, clothing, art, architecture, music, food, and more. The people here often still wear the local clothing, which may be dyed cobalt blue or an array of other colors. Another characteristic of Lanna that people notice immediately is the volume of artistry the culture is infused with. Chiang Mai has long been an arts center with areas like the Baan Tawai wood carvers’ enclave, and the Bor Sang umbrella-making village.
If you are the type of person who thrives of arts and crafts, no where else in Thailand (possibly Asia) boosts so many factories and entire villages dedicated to arts. You can visit workshops where you can learn about the production of silk or silver, and purchase memorable, hand-crafted souvenirs.
The presence of numerous hill tribes that feature a wealth of unique cultures enhances Chiang Mai’s distinctive diversity. Hill tribe trekking, often combined with river rafting and elephant riding has always been one of Chiang Mai’s greatest tourist attractions.
Thailand is promoted as the land of smiles, and never more than in Chiang Mai. The people are friendly and helpful and honest! The locals here are not (unlike other parts of Asia) always looking for a way to get something from the westerner and tourist. Locals will help you in times of need, and some of the sweetest natures in the world are possessed by the women here. One of the greatest things about being in Chiang Mai is that you do not have to always be on guard that your wallet is about to be taken advantage of.
Chiang Mai is a traditional city, populated with many migrants from the rural areas of Thailand as noted above. These people have traditional and high values, and Chiang Mai is NOT what you might expect about Thailand from watching movies. Here (unlike other parts of Thailand and Asia) you will not see the 70 year old man holding hands with a young child of 20 that he refers to s his “girl friend”. Yes this is Thailand, and there are parts of the city you can visit if you are feeling ‘lonely’ – but for the most part the people that stay here in Chiang Mai have higher morals and codes of behaviors from the sex tourist.
Chiang Mai is also a relaxed city. Things happen here at a slower pace, and no one is really in a hurry. The city is big enough and caters for most people and most tastes, but lacks the zoom zoom speed of other Asian cities. Some people find this slower pace, and lack of sexual promiscuity is not for them. Those that choose to live here do not mind at all and are rather happy about other cities providing these services. While it is common for a man to have a much younger Thai partner, people who openly flaunt the importance (to them) of the sexual aspect of their relationship – seldom find like minded companions to hang out with in Chiang Mai.
If you are a older single man with moderate resources then you are likely to find a partner here who is attractive and younger than you. You should know before you come How to Date Thai Women because the attitudes and culture make for some compromise in the type of expectations that a relationship with a Thai lady will bring.
Thai women are traditional, they reflect the values of the generations that many people grew up in and feel more comfortable in. A Thai girl friend or wife will take care of the house, cook and clean and dote on you like no other women from western cultures will do. Men and Women have roles here, the man is to protect and provide, and the women is to take care of her family. You can personally disagree with this cultural aspect of Thailand, and it is possible to meet a more modern thinking lady for a relationship. Remember you are the one moving here, some of your attitudes and ways of looking at things will need to be flexible.
Be aware than a Thai women will always put her parents and the Royal Family above you. You marry the family when you marry the lady, and you will be expected to help the family out if required (this means financially). But if you are a good person, someone who shows respect and kindness, in times of your own ill health, you will be repaid back with a generosity and care that is beyond what most people can imagine.
Chiang Mai city is growing. From almost any view in any Condo or monthly rental accommodation you will see new accommodation buildings going up. Long term condo leasing (6-12 months) is easily found, shorter term (3 months) more difficult but not impossible. For the short term visit it is better to find accommodation at a monthly apartment complex.
There are a range of websites that cater to your need to rent a house or condo. Discounted prices for longer term leases is common. In the heart of the city, prices are a little higher, if you wanted to live a little further out (10 km or so) you can find a beautiful new (often fully furnished) 3 bedroom house for the same price as an inner city condo – starting around 8000-9000 baht (US$ 250) per month. If you do not mind an older place, you can easily find a 2 bedroom house for around 6000 baht (US$180)
Many developments have been created with enclosed gated communities that are heavily populated by Expats and Retired couples, singles and mixed relationships. There is absolutely no shortage of quality homes in amazing surroundings
Chiang Mai Buddy Advantage
Many of the best deals available come from local people whose command of English is not great (such as the places listed at the DD Properties website). We can help you arrange to visit and look around properties, negotiate the price and contract details and then act as an intermediate for TV, Internet and should you need to talk to your landlord in the future.
From November to February the weather in Chiang Mai is perfect. Clear blue skies with 30°C temperatures and low humidity during the day and lower temperatures at night. Around March the temperature starts to get hotter, but Chiang Mai being located in the mountains is always a few degrees C lower than anywhere else in Thailand and most places in Asia.
The rainy season starts around May and sometimes goes until October. The rain usually happens once or twice a day for 30-60 minutes. And it is a downpour!. You will have about 30 minutes warning as the dark clouds roll in and 10 minutes before it starts the wind picks up. If you are under cover the refreshing breeze and cooler temps are a welcome visitor. During the rainy seasons (really it should be referred to as the daily hour of rain) the surrounding area of Chiang Mai is beautiful.
Day trips, and rides to see the tourists spots or just to go on an adventure, will offer some of the best photos you will ever have the privileged of taking. Worse case (because you do not want to ride in the rain) is that for 30-60 minutes you will have to stop off and sit back and relax at a cafe along your trip.
Thai food is amazing, and here in Chiang Mai it is at least 1/5th of the price you would pay back home, and much less if going to a fancy eatery.. Food stalls and markets are found all over the city where you can sample local dishes for $1 a meal. Well known Thai favorites like pad Thai and green curry are readily available, and Chiang Mai is famous for its local specialty Khao Soi.
If you decide to attend a cooking school (around $30 for a half to full day) you will discover the secret to Khao Soi (OK, OK it is a Thai red curry with Indian curry powder mixed in) Vegetarians are extremely well catered for (Thais often go meatless in their meals for special Buddha events). When you tire of Thai food, there are hundreds of restaurants that cater for every other taste. Indian, Mexican, Greek – you name it, Chiang Mai has an expat who has decided to open it. For more details Where to find Western Food in Chiang Mai
If you decide you want to cook for yourself (and most people give up on this idea after a week or two of living here because it IS cheaper to eat out) then the local markets in Chiang Mai are for you. Lower prices than the supermarkets and full of local and imported foods from other regions of Thailand – the local markets are a busy and popular place with the locals.
The Markets can be slightly overwhelming for the new arrival, (we offer a quick lesson on how to go and purchase produce included with the Expat Tour) – but you will soon get the hang of it. One of the Kings projects was to help the farmers convert from growing drugs to growing food. Farmers where taught how to grow particular crops and shown how to do it well. The end result is an abundance of both tropical and native fruits and vegetables that you are used too at home.
Chiang Mai is located in the North of Thailand, in the Mountains. This is not the place to live if you can not live without the beach. (although check out the cheap transport section – it costs nothing to get away for the week). There are many places and pools for swimming, but this is mountain country, full of lush forests, mountains, old villages, rice fields, elephants, gardens, lakes, caves, temples, national parks and more.
Just a short drive outside of Chiang Mai is another world. Forrest with Elephants, Monkeys, rice paddy’s, coffee plantations, mist steeped mountains, lakes … the list goes on and on. The Thai Queen had an avid interest in gardens and there are many “Queens Gardens” spread around the province. Even for the die hard adventure fan, there is something truly relaxing about sipping coconut milk next to lush and exotic species of plants, that flower and bloom under the cover of cooling tropical shade.
The scenery both natural and created over centuries along side of Temples by monks and villages is breathtaking and mesmerizing. Don’t take my word for it, have a look at the amazing photographs when you just do a Google image search for Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai has Temples! Estimates vary but around 300 seems to be the usual quoted number. There are large temples, gold temples, silver temples, old ruins that are still in operation, temples for a particular village. If taking photos of golden laced statues surrounded by orange and red clothed monks of all ages is your thing – you could spend months going to different places everyday. If you are up in the early hours you will frequently see monks collecting elms along the side of the roads, monks traveling in public transport … monks monk monks! They are everywhere and widely valued and respected by the people of Chiang Mai.
Thai culture is also valued very highly here in Chiang Mai, much more so that other major cities in Thailand. Thailand and indeed Chiang Mai is relatively free from western religion, (although there are churches here); instead the vast majority of people (99%) are Buddhist and this culture is loudly and proudly displayed during the day to day activities of the people. The Temples are the central focus for this culture and often the beginning and end place for Thai people to seek answers to any problems they have.
For we westerners, each is a magnificent reminder that we are indeed in another world. And your friends and family will be envious of the amazing photographs you send home or put on Facebook.
The culture in Chiang Mai is vibrant and often celebrated. Festivals and Public Holidays are times when the Locals, Expats and tourists alike relax, take time off and enjoy the many colorful and exotic experiences. In particular Songkran (April 13-16) and Loy Kratong (Nov 25) are two events that draw overseas tourists and Thai’s from other regions of the country. These are two events that should be on everyone bucket list!
Thai people generally believe that life brings with it, a fair share of misery – and they take each and every opportunity to take a break from this and celebrate happiness. This is represented by the many may festivals and celebrations. Each of them a spectacular event to watch or partake in. The only downside is that on special days alcohol will not be sold, so you need to stock up the day before.
Do you like Coffee? The people in Chiang Mai love it.
In Chiang Mai many of the hundreds and hundreds of cafes will have their own coffee farms, to supply them with their house coffee. The coffee here is what is known as the top 1% (by those who spend time slurping and spitting it out). The Chiang Mai region grows Coffee – It is 100% organic, grown under natural shade at high attitudes and hand picked, wet processed and dried in the sun, and packaged with single source beans.
You are free to spend hours drinking coffee at any of the coffee shops, all of which provide AC on the hot days and free and fast WiFi. There are coffee shops located within the city and on the outskirts surrounded by beautiful surroundings. Every place will have prepackaged coffee for you to take home and enjoy in your own condo or house.
Many people suggest that Thailand Coffee is bitter. This is just not the case, coffee is slightly bitter, but this aspect has been removed by the mass farmed plantations that supply many of the coffee companies around the world. There is nothing nicer than starting your day with a fresh brew of some of the best coffee in the world that you brought for $12 a kilo.
One of the most unpleasant things about living or traveling in Asia, is the constant harassment you get from the traders (who are just trying to make money to live). Sales people, Tuk Tuk drivers, beggars on the street, will follow you and bother you hoping that you will purchase their wares. This does not happen in Chiang Mai. The local people here are respectful and polite, here your “No” means No and you are left alone.
Often the prices are listed on items at the market, and unlike other places it is the same price for locals as it is the westerners. You can still bargain in many places, but unlike many other places around the world – with the price on the eggs, or chicken – you know exactly what it is and never feel like you are being ripped off.
Thailand in general (not just Chiang Mai) does not use the horn like Philippines or Vietnam. In other countries the horn is a constant sound and can get very annoying and cause noise stress. It is difficult to relax with a wine, beer or coffee if every car and motorcycle passing by is tooting the horn. Rest assured – none of these typical Asian experiences will be an issue in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is rated as one of the safest cities in the world. Crime against foreigners is extremely rare, and apart from riding a motorcycle, you will never feel intimidated or afraid for your safety. You can freely and comfortably walk around either during the day or the small hours of the night and feel totally safe even if you are a single women alone.
The scams that fill the headlines in western media about Thailand and Asia just do not happen here in Chiang Mai – or at least are very very rare. The one exception to this is the Mob run Karaoke Bars along Chang Klan road. Here you can go in for an hour, have a few drinks with a few ladies and come out with a 30,000 baht bill. Many (often drunk and loud) westerners do not understand how a few drinks and a couple of ladies flirting with them can cost $1000. The answer is simple – it is a scam – just don’t go there!
There is a special division of Police in Thailand called the Tourist Police, whose sole job is to help any westerners in distress. Most of the time they are quick to respond and work on your behalf. The rest of the time, (while this is slowly changing) Thai justice is not so much what has happened as who you know and how much ‘instant’ fines you are prepared to pay.
Generally however, compared to the rest of the world, Chiang Mai is very safe. It is part of the values and culture here in Chiang Mai – crime is a sin and a sign of a weak person. It is rarely done compared to other cultures and cities.
There is more to life than just relaxing, and in Chiang Mai there’s plenty to do in your downtime. You may have seen the Elephant Painting on YouTube – here in Chiang Mai you can go and see it for real. You could visit one of the many Wats (temples); learn to cook Thai food, or how to give a massage. Perhaps learn a new language or get qualified to Teach English and donate some of your time to charities and children.
Chiang Mai is a popular tourist destination and caters for every type of activity. You can learn how to train elephants, go to Spas and retreats, and take advantage of all the activities in place for the tourist. In addition as someone who lives here you will have access to the many social groups and activities arranged by locals for locals.
When you are bored spending your days, relaxing by pools, drinking coconuts, and pottering around in your garden – there is enough to do in Chiang Mai to keep you busy and active for years.
You can hire a motorbike for 3000 baht a month (sometimes less and sometimes more) – but if you want to use public transport it is easily affordable. Chiang Mai is supposed to have a public bus system but you will never see it. The reality is the Red Truck and Tuk Tuk mafia own this town. Taxi’s are not allowed to drive around looking for customers, and there are no Motorcycle Taxi’s.
But! You can jump on the Red Trucks and travel for just 20 baht, a Tuk Tuk will cost you between 60-100 for a 5 kilometer trip (depending on the time of day and how well you haggle). Hiring Cars for day trips is around 800-1200 baht. If you need to do a Visa run, or want to visit another city (or country) the Bus, Train, Tour Vans and Flights are incredibly cheap.
Chiang Mai has an international Airport and has flights to many different countries starting at $100. Fly one hour to Bangkok and the choice is almost endless. From your base in Chiang Mai you can go to another country for a weekend or a week, for just a few hundred dollars. In addition if you fancy a trip to the beach, the endless special offers for flights within Thailand mean you can do this as well starting at $15 per flight (although usually $60-100)
Getting a retirement Visa to Thailand is very easy and affordable. The paperwork is small and there are endless local services that can take the hassle away and do the required work for you.
Chiang Mai is small enough to easily learn your way around and become familiar with the city, and big enough to have something for everyone. There are may reasons that Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places to retire. Houses and accommodation are plentiful and cheap, maids and help either live in or out are readily available. Western owned and themed bars and restaurants, food, medical treatment, dentists, Expats clubs, Golf, Tennis, swimming, dance groups, acting classes, Yoda, fitness.
There is just no point trying to list everything that is here, rather it is easier to list what you can not find in Chiang Mai.
1) A Beach,
2) hmm That’s it!
We at Chiang Mai Buddy are here to help with your transitions. We can help arrange for a local moving company to pack your belongings and store them, find you a short term accommodation that will allow you to explore the city. Our staff can assist you with the small and big issues you will discover living in a new city and culture. When you are ready we can help negotiate lease agreements, or point you in the right direction for English speaking business that are designed especially for the Expat looking to retire in Chiang Mai.
Did I mention how cheap it is to live in Chiang Mai? Have a look at our pricing table and be prepared to be surprised. Yes these prices are correct. You can hire us for as little as $6 an hour to make calls for you, arrange cable, TV or Internet. For just a little more we will come with you and assist you in person to get things done.
There are of course so many other reasons to come and live in Chiang Mai. It is a big step, and a difficult one. We strongly suggest you come and visit for a month or two and really see how well you will adjust.
There are a couple of reasons you should think twice about retiring here in Thailand.
The most important is a common issue here. People come to retire early in life when they are younger (50 plus) and healthy. As people age, and start to get more regular ill health – it can become a problem here. Bear in mind that many people come from countries where after retirement age (60-65 years) they are entitled to free healthcare, assisted living, free bus rides etc.
If you are thinking of retiring in Thailand because you think it will save you money (This is true if you are healthy) but are starting to get older. It might be better to stay in a country that offers health and aged services.