The world has been on an economic rollercoaster ride for the past five years – one that has resulted in numerous necessary changes for retirees and professionals all the same.
With job opportunities tightening up, businesses closing their doors, and retirement accounts and government pensions being reduced in their amount and flexibility, many retirees and soon-to-be-retirees are reconsidering their options for a relaxing, peaceful, and financially viable retirement.
Many of these retirees have had to reconsider their options through no fault of their own – instead, a financially overextended employer or poorly planned pension has forced them to change their plans.
But in every setback is an opportunity – a chance to do things differently and still reap the benefits of your decision. For retirees, the lowered pensions and depleted accounts have resulted in a new focus on affordable places to retire internationally.
Developing countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and elsewhere – once the exclusive domain of adventure tourists – have grown into popular hotspots for retirees and long-term expatriates alike. Offering a low cost of living and many of the luxuries available in the Western world, these cheap retirement destinations are every bit as luxurious and desirable as their higher-priced counterparts. This means you can splurge on a nice Phuket hotel in Thailand for your anniversary and not worry about counting your pennies.
While the world offers many affordable retirement destinations located in Europe, South America, and elsewhere, this article will focus on the Asian destinations that are renowned for their affordability. From modern countries like Thailand to low-cost, traditional, and undeveloped countries such as Cambodia, read on to learn more about retiring to Asia on a tight budget.
There are three countries in Asia that are renowned for offering an affordable cost of living and the modern conveniences of the West. All located in Southeast Asia, they are Thailand, Malaysia, and The Philippines. First off, let’s look at Thailand, a well-known holiday destination that’s growing more popular with retirees.
Thailand has a productive newly industrialized economy that’s made up of technical manufacturing plants, and growing finance sector, and a large automotive industry. One of the ‘Asian Tigers,’ Thailand has grown significantly in economic output and in quality of life over the past thirty years.
It’s now one of Southeast Asia’s economic hotspots, and its capital Bangkok is a global center for finance and commerce. Despite this, it is a remarkably affordable place to live. The capital, Bangkok, offers big city living at a fraction of the price of Singapore or Hong Kong. The regional cities of Chiang Mai and Phuket, alternatively, offer mountainous or beachfront living at a remarkably low cost.
Thailand is a popular choice for expatriate retirees because of its strong financial sector and reliable banks, its simple air connections to the rest of the world, and its retirement visa scheme. Anyone aged over fifty years with adequate savings can easily acquire a retirement visa for Thailand, allowing them to reside in the country as long as they want to, given regular visa ‘check-in’s are attended every three months.
To the south of Thailand is Malaysia, an equally popular country for foreigners and retirees. While it lacks the extreme tourist appeal of Thailand, this oil-rich Muslim nation in Southeast Asia makes up for it with an even stronger financial sector and a strong commercial backbone.
Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, is clean and attractive. Large roadways and an efficient public transport system make it easy to navigate, while a range of tasty and inexpensive restaurants – often in ‘hawker stands’ – make it one of the world’s best cities for dining out on local cuisine and international dishes.
Connected with almost every airport in Asia via local budget airline Air Asia, Kuala Lumpur is one of Asia’s top travel hubs and is a fantastic ‘base’ location for retirees that are interested in traveling frequently, especially those on a tight budget. With a low cost of living – property in Kuala Lumpur is cheaper than in Bangkok – this city is highly affordable for those seeking a relative degree of luxury on a low budget.
Finally, the Philippines – an island nation to the east of Thailand and Malaysia – has grown increasingly popular amongst Western retirees seeking a great place to live in Asia. While its economy is less robust than Thailand or Malaysia and its general standard of living somewhat lower, it remains a destination that truly offers ‘it all’ – from low-cost living to luxury retirement destinations, the Philippines is a great place to seek variety.
The cost of living in the Philippines, even in major cities, is very low. The capital and central business city of Manila is affordable and cosmopolitan, particularly in high-end areas such as Makati City. Despite this, there is noticeably more poverty in the Philippines than in more developed countries such as Thailand and Malaysia.
Other cities, such as Cebu City, offer a more relaxed lifestyle than the bustling metro area of Manila. Inexpensive and located close to beautiful beaches and natural areas, Cebu City is an obvious choice for expatriates and retirees seeking a more quiet life. Property prices here are significantly below those found in Thai and Malay cities.
While the Philippines is well connected to other destinations in Asia, it lacks the ‘hub’ status of Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. As such, reaching foreign destinations, particularly further afield destinations such as Europe and North America, can be a lengthy process involving multiple flights and stopovers.
While no destination in Asia offers everything to retirees, all of these three countries offer a great deal for retirees seeking to enjoy an enriching, fun lifestyle on a fairly tight budget. From beautiful beaches to bustling cities, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines are a fantastic choice for the budget-conscious retiree.
As such, they should be at the top of your list of Asian retirement destinations when you need an affordable place to stay. From as little as $1,000USD per month, you can enjoy a relatively comfortable retirement in any of these countries.