Retiring and Living in Thailand Pros and Cons

Here is my list of the pros and cons of retiring and living in Thailand. I’ll cover many different aspects of life while living or retiring in this country. All the good and the bad, giving you an in-depth insight into what to expect when living here. From visa, language, Thai law, job, traffic, food, safety standards, currency exchange, Thai culture, nightlife, health insurance when travelling aboard, hospitals, dental and more.

If you’re coming for a 2 or 4 week holiday, this will not apply to you, but you can still read on to have a better understanding of the country.

Cons / Disadvantages of Retiring and Living in Thailand



Hard to live long-term if you’re under 50 yr old

Cons of Living in Thailand

If you want to live in Thailand you’ll need a visa, because you can’t just come live here as long as you want. If you want to live in Thailand for more than 6 months, it can be easy or a pain in the butt or you can’t do it longer than 6 months. It will depend on who you are and what type of visa you can qualify for.

Ok, I’ll give brief details on the most common types of visas for Thailand. I won’t spend too much time on this.

  1. Tourist Visa

    Most people with a passport from a major western country can automatically get a 30-day exception. Therefore, you don’t need to get a visa before you come. But if you want to live in Thailand longer than 30 days, you will need a visa.

    BTW, a little disclaimer. I’m talking about the current visa. If something changes in the future, this information will not be accurate, but at the time of this writing, this information is accurate.

    If you need to stay more than 30 days or more than 60 days, you can buy a multiple tourist visa, that will be valid for up to 6 months and it is possible to have this last as long as 9 months. This only works if you exit Thailand and return on the last day before this visa expire.

    But if you want to stay longer than 9 months, you will have to go home and get another multiple tourist visa in your home country where you have permanent residence or get a different type of visa.

  2. Retirement Visa (get 1 year)

    If you’re over 50 years old, you can apply for this type of visa. You will also need 800,000 THB or more in your Thai bank account in Thailand. If you don’t have that, you will need to make or deposit 65,000 THB per month in a Thai bank, which is equal to 800,000 THB per year or a combination of both – money in a Thai bank + money income deposited in Thai bank = 800,000 THB.

  3. Family or Marriage Visa (get 1 year)

    You will need 400,000 THB in your Thai bank account. It doesn’t matter if you have children or you are married to a Thai national, you will need money in your Thai account. So, this is a big con here if you don’t have the money stash in your Thai bank account.

  4. Business Visa (get 1 year)

    Own a business or are opening a business.

  5. Education Visa (get up to 1 year)

    If you‘re studying in a university, study Thai and many other subjects you can learn to apply for the Education Visa.

  6. Elite Visa (get up to 20 years)

    There are different types of Elite Visas you can purchase. It can be as low as 500,000 THB ($15,000 USD) and up to 1 million THB ($30,000 USD). But not too many people can afford that.

Those are the most common visas you can get.

Under 50 years old, not married to a Thai, not studying, don’t want to open a business in Thailand & can’t afford the Elite Visa

If you’re under 50 years old and you want to live there for more than 6 months, it’s going to be very hard to do.

The other thing is, for the one-year visa they call it a non-immigrant visa, you need to report to a specific immigration office, you can’t just go to any one of the immigration offices in the country. You will be assigned to the nearest immigration office.

So that’s another con, you can’t just stay here and if you want to work in Thailand you will need something else. There is no work visa, what you need is a work permit.

Work permit – Let’s say you have an education visa, but you need to work. You can’t apply for a work permit to work with an education visa. You will need to change the education visa to a business visa, and then you can apply for a work permit.

You do not have to change your marriage visa to get a work permit. You may apply for a work permit with a marriage visa.

That’s another Con. You can’t just work here.

So that’s the first con, the visa. It’s very hard to live in Thailand for more than 6 or 9 months if you are not 50 years old or older to apply for a retirement visa.

If I didn’t have to bother with a visa, I wouldn’t be here this long and I wouldn’t open a YouTube channel or a blog about Thailand.

If you want more info on how to obtain different types of visas, how much it costs, how to renew, info on the requirements and other info you need to know, just head over to my membership web page, where I have an entire chapter about visas. You don’t need to spend $1,000 to have a visa company obtain a visa for you. Save that money when you come here.



Thailand’s national language is Thai, not English

Cons of Living in Thailand

Thailand’s national language is Thai, not English. But as of right now, I can say you can live in some parts of Thailand without a lick of Thai. I don’t think I could say that 10 years ago, but if you live in places like Sukhumvit Road or Khao San Road in Bangkok you can manage without knowing Thai.

Additional places, like Nimman Road in Chiang Mai and inside the old city, in Pattaya, as well as part of Jomtien and in Phuket, are also areas where you can get by without knowing the Thai language.

Generally, you can get away without speaking any Thai at all inside one of those tourist hot spots.

There are many universities teaching young people English, but it is always a good idea to know the language of the country you’re living in, especially if you want to live outside the tourist areas. But if you want to live in smaller towns or outside the tourist hot spots, you will need to pick up some Thai or constantly have someone to help you translate.



Second-class citizen

Cons of Living in Thailand

I think foreigners residing in Thailand are second-class citizens.

Now, let’s assume you work for a major company in Thailand and you’re the president of the senior manager making 6 figures. You live in Thailand for decades, you know how to read and write Thai. But you’re not a Thai national, that’s an exception. If that’s you, I don’t think you will be a second-class citizen here because you hold a senior-level position and you will know or do business with other high-level Thais.

I’m not talking about that.

I’m talking about the average visitors and the average expats that come to live here. For one, foreigners can’t buy land or homes, sure you can lease land or a home for 30 years. Second, you have to report to immigration every 90 days as if you had committed a crime or were continuously under probation.

Then you have dual pricing for foreigners. Many national parks and some temples will require foreigners to pay a separate entrance fee before they can enter. Some people hate this, but if you can’t afford 50 or 200 THB to go to a temple or park, I don’t think you have any business living in a foreign country.

If you work in Thailand and show them the paperwork, you don’t have to pay the foreign price because you work here and are paying taxes like everyone else.



Need work permit and high competition

Cons of Living in Thailand

As I said earlier, you will need a business visa and then apply for a work permit to work in the country. Your employer should be able to help you with this.

With that said, foreigners are not allowed to do many jobs that a Thai person can do.

List of jobs foreigners cannot do in Thailand.

This means there are only certain types of work foreigners can do. Let’s say you are a teacher and you want to teach English in Thailand. Well, since so many people want to live here, there will be many highly educated teachers looking for the same opportunity. So, there will be a lot of competition in that line of work. Other fields might not be as competitive.

There you have it; you will need a work permit to work legally in Thailand. Second, you can’t do the jobs that the Thais can do and lastly, there might be a lot of competition in your field with other highly skilled people competing for the same job.


Traffic & Pollution

Traffic accidents: one of the most dangerous in the world

Cons of Living in Thailand

For the air quality, before I moved to Thailand, I watched many YouTube videos and read a bunch of articles; hearing people complaining about the air pollution and back then, I thought to myself those people were weak.

Until I came here and became sick myself. I almost fainted because of the air pollution back when I first lived in Bangkok.

Air pollution from traffic is a real health issue, especially in central Bangkok and other big cities. It’s not just Thailand; it’s any major city in South East Asia.

Lastly, I want to inform you that the traffic in Thailand is the 1st or 2nd most dangerous in the world, depending on where you look. Best to take public transportation if you’re in a big city like Bangkok; not only the air pollution can make you sick, also the volume of vehicles on the roads can injure or kill you if you’re not careful or are inexperienced driving in a place like Thailand.

The 10 most dangerous places to drive.
Source: The world’s most dangerous places to drive

Each country is colour-coded to reflect the number of road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants per year.


Western Fast Food Chains

Not always available

Cons of Living in Thailand

If you live in big cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin even big cities in Isaan, chances are, they will have McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen maybe Burger King, maybe even A & W. They also have donuts here.

KFC is very popular in Thailand; even smaller cities will have at least one KFC restaurant.

But I have yet to see Arby’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Chick Fil a, Harveys. If you can’t live without all of your favourite fast-food chains, Thailand may not be for you.

Then again, maybe this is a good thing by forcing you to eat Thai food. Most Thai foods are more healthy than some greasy deep-fried fast food. What do you think?


Health & Safety Standards

Need work

Cons of Living in Thailand

Sidewalks: If you are walking along any smaller roads, there’s a good chance there won’t be any sidewalks. That’s a safety issue, especially if you’re walking on a very busy small road because if you slip and fall on the road you can get hit. So, you really need to watch each step and be careful.

On bigger roads, they will have sidewalks but many are poorly maintained with cracks, holes and bumps.

Electrical wires: Then you have the electrical wiring, some places look like a jungle. It’s all over the place, and they still use bamboo to hold up some of the low-hanging wirings. You wouldn’t want to stand under them, especially if it’s raining.

Now, most of the wires you see at the bottom are telephone or internet wires. They don’t have the voltage to kill you, but if you see so many of them dangling it is just an eyesore and it looks unsafe.

Beach & Lifeguards: The beaches lack lifeguards. I have only seen lifeguards once in Koh Tao and that’s all I have noticed so far.

Even if there are lifeguards on the beaches – they are likely to be poorly trained and they probably earn 100 baht per day. So, I wouldn’t expect them to be saving my life.

However, inside popular water parks where you have to pay to get in, they will have trained lifeguards watching over you and your children. But on public beaches, most likely not.

If you want to see how I almost drowned in Thailand, check out this video: How I almost drowned in Thailand.


Brand Name Clothing & Electronics

Not cheap, often cost more

Cons of Living in Thailand

Western brand name clothing and electronics are expensive here. Don’t expect your favourite clothing or electronic brand to be cheap just because you’re in Thailand or Asia.

I would say, you could expect to pay at least 5-20% or more for the same brand in Thailand. Why would Samsung, Sony or Apple sell their brand new phone for $1,000 elsewhere but cheaper in Thailand? They don’t, because it doesn’t make any business sense. In fact, I believe from my experience here and I’m a computer gadget person, the price in Thailand might be higher because of the taxes, shipping, other fees and of course the store needs to make a profit.

Another thing I hate about buying electronics in Thailand is that you get no refund. Although big stores like Tesco Lotus and Big C are ok with refunds, make sure you ask about the store’s return policy if you are not sure. Because there is a good chance they will not accept a refund, giving your money back even if you made the purchase 12 hours ago and the item is not even open. Unless there is a defect, then they will try to have it fixed.

So make sure you ask for a refund or the return policy. Even for big-ticket items that cost thousands of dollars, many shops might not give you a full refund.

Better yet, don’t buy any brand-name electronics here. Best to buy it at Amazon or BestBuy at home before you come. That’s what I did before I came here, I only buy electronics in Thailand that I absolutely need, things like external hard drives and memory cards.


Health Insurance

Cons of Living in Thailand

You will need to buy your own health insurance or an expat insurance when living abroad. If you lived in a country like the UK and Canada, buying health insurance might be something new to you. If you’re from the US, buying health insurance or a travel insurance policy should be nothing new.

It is very important for you and your family to have the proper health insurance in case something happens.

If you’re just going for a short holiday, you can buy a short trip travel insurance. You can also check with your employer to see if they have travel insurance for you because some companies provide travel insurance for their employees. If they have that, you do not have to purchase an extra travel insurance policy.

This is a con because, if you’re from a country like the UK and Canada where they have universal health insurance for everyone, you will have to buy your own health insurance or an expat insurance when living in Thailand.


Top 10 Most Visited Country in the World

Can be too touristy in some parts

Cons of Living in Thailand

Thailand is now ranked 9th for the most visited countries in the world with over 32 million visitors in 2016.

Bangkok is ranked 1st for the most international visitors in the world.

How is this a bad thing? It’s not bad for Thailand and not for the locals. However, in more touristy spots, especially during the high season, it gets crowded and even some beaches are overrun by tourists.

I don’t have any problem with tourists or Chinese tourists. Although you do hear more bad behaviours about the Chinese, there are other nationals, Americans, British, you name it. They all can be as bad as the Chinese, pushing in while in line, rude, blocking footpaths.

Since Thailand is now very popular, sometimes in some places it just feels too touristy, but the good thing is there are other places in Thailand that are not touristy at all.

Ok that’s all of the cons I can think of. What do you think? Do you agree and did I leave something out?

Oh, one last con – the bar girls don’t really love you, they are after your money.

BOTH Pros & Cons / Advantages & Disadvantages of Living in Thailand


Currency Exchange

Can be cheap or expensive

At the time of this writing, the currency exchange rate for British pounds, the Canadian dollar, Australian dollar, even the US dollar are not very strong against the Thai Baht. Currently, even under the military junta, the Thai economy is in great shape and that’s great for Thailand, but not so great if you are living here on a budget.

Since we’re on this topic of money exchange, if you want to avoid the Thai ATM fee and get the real exchange rate, then see the video below and see how I avoid the 200 THB ATM fee, pay no foreign exchange fee and get the real exchange rate — I only pay 1.5%. I calculated that I would be paying about $500 USD worth of bank fees per year using the ATM in Thailand. Then I did some research and found that there is a much cheaper alternative.


Thai Culture

Need to adjust & adapt, big learning curve

There are many things in Thailand that are different than the West. To some, this will be very hard to adjust to, but it’s ok if you can’t adjust and have to leave. While for others, life in Thailand is a big adventure with many new things to experience.

How’s Thailand so different?

In terms of culture, the Thais respect their elders. They don’t call their elders by their first name, they do the wai to give respect to each other and to say goodbye.

They have nicknames for their friends; their family members might have a nickname different than what their friends call them.

Some Thais live with their parents all of their life or up until they are married, and it’s normal. This is the same with other Asian cultures.

Thais love and respect the King and the Royal family.

I can go on and on… Those are some of the cultures and values you need to adjust to and understand when you are here. Get the free eBook to get a better understanding of Thai culture.


Red Light & Sex Trade

Can be good or bad

Red light districts - pros and cons of living in Thailand

Depending on who you are, this can be something you want to avoid or something you crave. I’m not sure how big the sex trade is in Thailand as compared to the rest of South East Asia, but from what I saw in Pattaya and parts of Bangkok, it is very big.

If you’re not into that kind of stuff, I don’t think you need to worry too much. I can say the sex trade is about less than 5% of Thailand and you still have 95% as the real Thailand. So, it’s not hard to be away from it, just avoid places like Pattaya, Bangkok’s and Phuket’s entertainment districts.

If you’re into that kind of stuff, this might be the only reason for you to keep coming back. So, it can be either a pro or con, depending on who you are.

Pros / Advantages of living in Thailand

First one, it’s culturally acceptable to pick your nose out in public.

That’s good, right? But don’t do it.


The Weather

Summer all year

Pros of Living in Thailand

No snow!! Although some days it can get too hot and sticky. Overall, it’s summer all year and there is the rainy season for 2-3 months each year.


Thai Women

Still traditional & feminine

Pros of Living in Thailand

Thai women - pros and cons of living in Thailand

Beautiful Thai women.. no? Beautiful Thai women, who are interested in you?

I bet that made up for all the negative stuff?

I hope you don’t come to Thailand only for the women. If you come and you’re not interested in some other aspects of Thailand, things like Thai food, or you can’t adapt to a different culture. Worst, you bring your culture into Thailand. You will fail.


Low Cost of Living

Less expensive to maintain a good standard of living

Pros of Living in Thailand

My #1 reason for me living in Thailand is – your money goes further. Although the current currency exchange rate is not helping me at all.

Thailand is less expensive to maintain a good standard of living than a western country. This means you can save significantly more money than in your home country.

Rent is cheap – I have been living in different studio apartments that cost around $200 USD per month in the past 3 years. If I was in the US or anywhere else, there is no way I could have something like that for that price.

Also, cheap local goods, but imports are expensive.



Thai food heaven

Pros of Living in Thailand

If you love Thai food, Thailand is Thai food heaven. Not only they are delicious, most of the food here is very affordable. I don’t want to say cheap because if you want to eat at a fine dining restaurant it will not be so cheap; it can cost as much as what you pay back home if you don’t watch out.

Overall, the food and fruits are very affordable and fresh.


Affordable Massages

Spoil yourself in a full day spa & massages without going broke

Pros of Living in Thailand

#5 Living in Thailand Pros

The average cost for a one-hour foot, head/shoulder, back, or Thai massage cost as low as ฿150 THB ($4.50 USD) and up to ฿250 THB ($7.50 USD). But it can go up as high as ฿1,000 THB ($30 USD) to ฿3,000 THB ($100 USD) per hour in a high-end boutique spa or massage shop and I’m not talking about the ones with a happy ending.


50% Off 5 Star Hotels

Affordable hotels

Pros of Living in Thailand

The words luxury and 5-star hotels in Thailand, doesn’t mean the average income foreigners can’t afford them.

If you were to go to any 5-star hotel in North America or Europe, you can expect to pay at least $200 – $300 USD per night and up.

When you come to Thailand, you can pay as much like that but generally, you’ll get better value for the same price. In Thailand, you can expect to pay as low as $50 to $100 USD per night for a luxury 5-star hotel. That’s more than 50% off when compared to a place like the US.

If you’re working hard, grinding away from your 9-5, and you have two weeks of holiday. You don’t need to be wealthy to enjoy a 5-star luxury hotel in Thailand.

Check out these Thailand Accommodation Deals (UP TO 50% OFF!)


No More Washing Dishes or Cooking

Save time & money

Pros of Living in Thailand

If you’re like me, you will never have to cook again or wash any dishes. This saves me a lot of time from going to the grocery store, preparing the food, cooking and cleaning. Instead, I can spend my time doing other things rather than worrying about cooking.

All I have to do now is go to a nearby restaurant. It saves so much time!


Hospital & Dental Care

World-class at a fraction of the price

Thai doctors and hospitals - Living in Thailand Pros and Cons

Pros of Living in Thailand

I talked earlier about the safety standards and how I think it is not up to par with other western societies. But when it comes to health care and dental care, the standard of care in Thailand for that, will depend on the clinic or hospital you visit.

If you go to one of the top international and private hospitals in Thailand, you can expect world-class medical care. I would say all the top international/private hospitals and dental clinics are as good, sometimes better than any hospitals I visited in North America.

Also, most of the doctors working inside those hospitals have graduated from recognized universities from all over the world. Since most of the doctors have studied overseas and have graduated from an English-speaking country, you can expect the doctors, not just in international/private hospitals but also in general, most doctors in Thailand will be able to speak very good English.

On my membership website, I listed some of the best international and private hospitals in the country, as well as information about different travel insurance companies. I also speak about my personal experience finding the right dentist for my need and what I did to make that successful. If you are interested in that, check out the membership website for more info.

On the other hand, Thailand also has government-run hospitals. Generally, these hospitals will be something you would expect in a 3rd world country. Whatever you think a 3rd world country hospital would look like, that’s probably something you would find from a Thai government hospital.

Not all government-run hospitals will look like a 3rd world country hospital. Some are quite modern-looking and don’t look all that bad. The local Thais, as well as some foreigners, are welcome to use them. Many communities across the country have used these hospitals for their medical care and treatments.

One last thing about medical and dental care in Thailand. If you do a quick search about the medical tourism industry, you will find Thailand will be one of the countries listed in that category. Thailand is known to be one of the top destinations for the medical tourism industry in the world.


The Temples

Hundreds of beautiful temples

Thai temples - - Living in Thailand Pros and Cons

Pros of Living in Thailand

Thailand is a Buddhist country; seeing monks and going to the temples is part of the culture for Thai people.

If you want to see some of the most beautiful and most decorated Buddhist temples in Asia, look no further. There are thousands of wat or temples all over Thailand. In Bangkok alone, there are at least 400 temples/wats.

In Northern Thailand, there are hundreds of temples. Some are located at the top of the mountains, and there are even temples inside a cave. You can find temples in tunnels, new temples, old ancient temples from over 1,000 years old, to the very strange white temple, temple covered in silver, temple with beautiful giant Buddha, temple with beautiful viewpoint–I can go on.



Different types for everyone life Style

Nightlife, rooftop bars in Bangkok

Pros of Living in Thailand

From rooftop bars, nightclubs, cocktail bars, night markets, to more adult X-rated nightlife with GoGo bars in Pattaya, Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza and Patung.

Just about any type of nightlife, you can think of can be found in Thailand.


Life style

Different types for everyone life style

Pros of Living in Thailand

You want to live off the land, on a farm, live the life of a farmer. You can do that in Thailand with thousands of small villages and towns all across the country.

Want to live in style in a 4- or 5-star luxury resort paying $300 – $1,000 dollars per night? They have that too.

If you are a city person, who loves to shop at big westernized modern shopping malls, and have access to amazing nightlife, then you have big cities like Bangkok, Phuket and maybe even Chiang Mai might suit your style.

Do you want to live next to the beach? There are seaside cities that cater to foreigners, such as Phuket, Hua Hin, Cha Am, even Pattaya and Jomtien.

Want a place where you can get fast exotic women? No problem, go to Pattaya or Pathong in Phuket. Don’t want to live in those sleazy places? Even better, there are other cities and towns you can choose.

Maybe you are into biking, cycling or hiking and into nature. You want to live in a cooler climate surrounded by a mountainous region with beautiful waterfalls and spectacular lush forest. Then check out the northern part of Thailand.


Meet People From All Over the World

Top 10 most visited country by foreigners

Pros of Living in Thailand

Since Thailand is now ranked the top 10 most visited country by foreigners, with over 30+ million foreign visitors in 2016, parts of the country have become big tourist hot spots and that was one of my cons, but on the other side of the coin is – you will have opportunities to interact with people from all over the world.


Friendly Locals

“The Land of Smiles”

Pros of Living in Thailand

When you live or travel around Thailand long enough, you will learn more about Thai people. The people are friendly no matter if you buy what they are offering or not. That’s why you always hear foreigners label Thailand as “The Land of Smiles”. Of course, generally speaking, just don’t piss them off. 🙂


Beach, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling

Beautiful white sand beaches & clear blue seas

Pros of Living in Thailand

Thailand is famous for its beautiful white-sand beaches and stunning, clear blue seas. With over 3,000 km of coastline and over 1,000 tropical islands, Thailand offers visitors a wide variety of beaches to choose from, including quiet, secluded coves and stretches of sand that are filled with wild full moon partying tourists.


7 Eleven

They are everywhere

Pros of Living in Thailand

7 Eleven stores are everywhere in Thailand. In some busy spots, you might find two 7 Eleven stores across from each other.

Why it is a good thing?

For one, you can buy whatever you would expect in any convenience store. Things like candy, pop, bottled water, snacks, cigarettes, milk and other products.

Many people would not realize you can pay your utility bills, buy a sim card, top up your phone, buy insurance, flight tickets, even do money transfers and more. On top of that, it is open 24 hours, 7 days per week. The only time I saw 7 Eleven stores closed was when there was a power outage. The other time was when the King passed away and during the 1st year anniversary of the passing of the King.


Good Infrastructure

Good internet connection, international airport & roads

Pros of Living in Thailand

Good roads – I can say after riding my Honda Click across Thailand the roads and the highways in the northern region of Thailand are great.

I think many of the major roads and highways here are up to par with some other western countries. But the driving culture and the driving standard is very different. What I mean by that is, some Thais don’t always follow the rules of the road. Some drive through red lights because they don’t want to wait 10 or 15 minutes (no, not joking, some red lights can take that long).

Also drinking and driving is common here and seems to be socially acceptable behaviour with some Thais. Although if you are caught drinking and driving, there are huge fines and other penalties.

Scooter across Thailand

Internet – Thailand also has a fast internet connection. I’m accustomed to getting a good internet connection here and if I have a slow connection, that would surprise me.

There is a good reason why Bangkok, Phuket and Chiang Mai are highly regarded by digital nomads.

Also, Thailand offers a modern international airport, subway/sky train in Bangkok, affordable and world-class hospitals as well as dental clinics.

Although, there are still some improvements needed, such as sidewalks, the wiring on electrical poles, better safety standards with more trained lifeguards, etc.


It’s Adventurous

Deep culture & history

Pros of Living in Thailand

If you are looking for something adventurous, something that is completely different from your home country, then Thailand or Asia will give you all of that. It is going to be something you’ve never experienced before.


Click Here To Download Free eBook, An introduciton to Thailand

Author: Thom

Hi, I’m currently living in Thailand. I’m a artist, designer, travel blogger, and sometimes a YouTuber... Tags: Viator Tours Thailand, Viator Bangkok Airport Transfer, Chiang Mai Viator

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