With the cost of even a modest post-retirement lifestyle rapidly increasing in many countries, a growing number of retirees and soon-to-be retirees are looking at their atlas in search of more affordable places to retire. Asia – the world’s most populous continent and one of its most culturally and geographically varied – is often at the top of their priority list.
It’s an understandable place for it to be – with many of the world’s oldest cultures and a selection of affordable yet charming places to live, Asia really is the greatest continent on earth for retirees seeking a change of pace from the West, and a great change in cost. From developing countries like Malaysia, Thailand, and China to the great financial centers of Hong Kong and Singapore, most Asian cities fall far below their Western counterparts when it comes to cost of living and affordability.
They also surge ahead of their Western rivals when it comes to convenience and their cultural richness. From convenient services made possible due to large cities and greater population density to beautiful landscapes and coastal areas that are home to some of the world’s most incredible scenery, Asia offers a mix of highly convenient city living and a selection of relaxing semi-rural and rural destinations.
Now, how can you enjoy all that – the convenience and the beauty – on a shoestring retirement budget? With many retirees eyeing up a life overseas without having a great deal of financial assets to spend, balancing an affordable cost of living and an exciting lifestyle overseas is often becoming priority number one. These locations offer, in our eyes, the greatest mix of low prices, modern conveniences, and a great range of local activities and living opportunities.
Putting Thailand on this list was debatable. While it’s certainly cheaper than the big financial centers of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, it’s no longer the ultra-cheap destination that it once was. With a rapidly expanding economy and new links to the rest of the world via the internet, Thailand is developing very quickly and is growing more expensive every year.
Despite this, Thailand is still an affordable place to live, particularly for those from the Western world accustomed to high prices. The capital, Bangkok, is significantly more expensive than other parts of the country, and should be avoided by those that need a low cost of living. Major tourist areas, such as Phuket and Koh Samui, are also not recommended for retirees on a shoestring budget.
If you’re willing to live in a second-tier city in Thailand – such as Chiang Mai or Krabi Town, or even many of the smaller southern beach cities – then Thailand can be less of an expense than it would be in Bangkok or Phuket. However, for those on a truly tight budget, there are better places to retire to than Thailand.
To the east of Thailand is Cambodia – one of Asia’s last remaining frontier-type economies. Ravaged by war during the 1970s and governed by a questionable political system for the next twenty years, this beautiful yet troubled country is quickly coming of age, with foreign money transforming its economy at a rapid pace.
Despite its rapid economic expansion, Cambodia is a country that has a lot to offer for retirees aiming to spend as little as possible during their retirement. A variety of beach destinations such as Sihanoukville are available, all offering incredibly cheap real estate and temporary accommodation for retirees. Major cities such as Phnom Penh, despite being relatively undeveloped by international standards, are livable and very affordable.
There are issues to living in Cambodia, however. First, the country is significantly less developed than its neighbors Thailand and Vietnam. As a result, finding some products and services is difficult, and infrastructure is of questionable quality. The country is also expensive for those seeking a ‘western-style’ lifestyle, too – products that are imported are incredibly expensive and often difficult to find.
The Philippines offers a mix of high-end living in locations such as Makati City and low-cost beach life in its tropical southern islands. A beautiful country with one of the world’s first truly globalized economies, the Philippines offers a combination of convenient living for English speakers and low-cost lifestyle opportunities.
Retirees will enjoy the low cost of living that is possible in many Philippines cities, including high-end areas such as Makati. Large condominiums are available, often at low prices, due to real estate overinvestment. In less dense areas, large homes and properties are available for rent at highly agreeable prices, even for those on a fairly low income.
Due to the country’s international history and English-speaking culture, services and products that are popular overseas are easy to find. Shopping malls and chain stores are found throughout most cities and offer a convenient way to enjoy a good life at a low cost.
Despite being more economically advantaged than Thailand – at least on a per-capita basis – Malaysia is actually less expensive, on average, than its neighbor to the North. In the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, large apartments can be found for as little as $1,000USD per month, while smaller rooms and one-bedroom condos pop up from as little as $500USD per month.
Malaysia is home to some of the world’s most inexpensive street food, with ‘hawker stands’ serving up delicious local food for as little as $1USD per meal. With a fairly large English speaking community and a diverse population, Malaysia offers both a great deal of convenience for English speakers and an ‘exotic’ atmosphere.
While all of the four countries listed above offer a range of different experiences for retirees, all share one common factor: they offer a great lifestyle at a much lower cost than their Western counterparts. If the idea of retiring to a restrictive lifestyle isn’t appealing, then Malaysia, Thailand, The Philippines, and Cambodia should be on your retirement destination shortlist.