Known around the world as an exotic region full of natural beauty, Southeast Asia is a popular destination for retirees and expatriates. Famous for its big cities, its great beaches and coastal regions, and its low cost of living, this exotic and enticing region has been attracting foreign tourists, retirees, and expatriates for several decades.
Home to some of the world’s most interesting cultures, Southeast Asia is a hotspot for natural beauty and historical wonder alike. From beautiful temples to massive, growing mega-cities, this part of the world truly offers a range of experiences. Due to its low cost of living, it’s now offering an increasingly good deal for many retirees.
If you’re getting tired of the increasing cost of living in Western cities, the endless bills to pay and taxes to tolerate, and the worsening crime in many major cities, an inexpensive retirement in Southeast Asia might be a good option. Read on to learn more about the five best places in Southeast Asia to retire to as an expatriate.
1. Phuket, Thailand
One of Asia’s top tourist destinations, Phuket is also growing into one of the area’s most popular retirement spots. Thanks to Thailand’s retirement visa scheme, this gorgeous tropical island is emerging as a 21st century retirement hotspot.
Phuket has several major advantages for retirees. First, it’s a beautiful island with a year-round warm temperature. Second, it’s home to some of the best beaches in the world, many of which are almost completely free of visitors. Finally, while the native language is not English, there are many non-native English speakers on the island.
Thanks to Thailand’s liberal retirement visa scheme, which grants retirement visas to visitors aged above fifty years with a clean criminal record, retiring to Phuket is a relatively simple process. While the cost of living on the island has risen in recent years, it remains a fairy cheap and affordable place to live, even on a tight pension.
2. Penang, Malaysia
If the party zones and crowded beaches of Phuket aren’t your style, try Penang. An amazing tropical island located a few hours south of Thailand’s top beach resort, it can be hard to comprehend just how different Penang is from a cultural perspective when you consider its close proximity to Thailand.
While Phuket is home to crowded beaches and wild nightlife, Penang is a more laid back, residential island. Home to some of Malaysia’s top industry, the island is more developed and expensive than its northern counterpart. Despite this, it’s home to a wide selection of delicious restaurants that rank amongst the best in the world.
For retirees in need of a destination that’s more about relaxation than parties and wild lifestyles, Penang is a nice contrast to Phuket. Like Thailand, Malaysia offers a retirement visa scheme for foreign expatriates over the age of fifty, making it one of the region’s easiest retirement destinations, from an administrative perspective.
3. Cebu City, Philippines
Like Thailand and Malaysia, the Philippines also offers a retirement visa scheme aimed at foreign expatriates seeking an affordable retirement destination. Unlike the busy streets and huge skyscrapers of Manila, Cebu City is home to a relaxed, friendly, and decidedly slow-paced way of life that’s ideal for most retirees.
Manila offers rushed lifestyles, massive pollution, and crime that’s scary enough to send many visitors home, particularly in non-central areas. In contrast, Cebu City is a charming destination that’s close to some of the Philippines’ best beaches. Known for its relaxed lifestyle, Cebu City is a great place to retire to as an expatriate.
The key advantages of Cebu City are its affordable cost of living, which is below that of Phuket and Penang, its year-round warm weather, which is a nice contrast to the congestion and rough air of Manila, and its friendly population. More than anywhere else on the list, Cebu City is home to people that are truly friendly and welcoming.
4. Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand’s ‘second city’ may not be as busy or as sophisticated as Bangkok, but it’s much more livable for retirees. Located in the country’s mountainous north, Chiang Mai is one of Thailand’s major population centers, ranking second in population – one place behind the crowded and noisy mega-metropolis of Bangkok.
Unlike Bangkok, however, Chiang Mai doesn’t have any gridlock traffic to speak off, outside of a light evening ‘rush hour’ that rarely lasts longer than thirty minutes. A beautiful mountainous city, Chiang Mai’s more relaxed way of life and lower cost of living make it a good alternative to the rushed and increasingly expensive capital.
Thanks to Thailand’s simple retirement visa scheme, staying in Chiang Mai without a Thai citizenship card is relatively simple. Provided you are aged above fifty, with a bank balance that allows for a modest standard of living, it’s easy to gain a long-term retirement visa granting you residence in any of Thailand’s beautiful destinations.
5. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Malaysia’s capital of politics, business, and culture, Kuala Lumpur is a vibrant city that’s ideal for retirees seeking a combination of natural and city life. Smaller and less chaotic than the Thai capital of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur is small and intimate yet large enough to keep even the most hardened city-dweller very entertained.
With some of the cheapest rental rates of any major Southeast Asian city, Kuala Lumpur is a great hotspot for inexpensive living. Large condominiums in highly convenient locations are available from just $800 USD per month, while high-end accommodation is easy to find for those willing to extend their budgets slightly.
Thanks to Malaysia’s simple retirement visa scheme, foreign residents who would like to retire in Kuala Lumpur can easily do so. If you are aged over fifty and keep a reasonable bank balance or monthly pension, it’s relatively simple to apply for and receive a long-term retirement visa that allows you to rent property in the capital.