Best Cheap Places to Retire in SE Asia in 2025

My name is Dan. This report ranks what I believe are the best cheap places to retire in SE Asia in 2025. I have spent the last 17 years slow traveling the world, 70 countries so far.

I have spent a few hundred thousand dollars of my own money to put my feet on the ground in every single one of these paradise locations I will share with you. That makes me different than people sharing research gathered on the Internet.

I left the USA in 2007 and I have never looked back. I move forward with buying one-way tickets. I visit family in the USA for a week or 2 per year.

But travel is not all fun and games for me. As I travel, I gather data about each place such as (1) cost of living, (2) pros and cons, (3) quality of food and life, (4) medical, (5) retirement visas, (6) dating and love overseas, and (7) a retirement desirability score for each place.

I will show you the video I took of each place in SE Asia as I talk about it.

Best Places to Retire in SE Asia in 2025

I will rank my favorite 10 places to move and retire today, and tell you why they made the top 10. Then I will give you 5 Bonus Places: Different Priorities Than Mine.

My Top 10 Favorites

I am going to give you my top 10 favorites in reverse order, so my number 1 will be last, to build suspense.

#10 Dumaguete, Philippines (Full Report): Dumaguete is a quaint little city that you may not expect to find near the top of the retire early for pennies ranking. But the city has everything you need in terms of a public market, restaurants, and grocery stores with many international foods. Plus, there is a central city area where you could live and walk everywhere. But I would prefer to live up the hill about 8 kilometers in a smaller city called Valencia. There are hot springs, waterfalls, and public markets, but you will need a scooter to get around (or a small car). The real fun starts when you hop on a ferry to one of the beautiful islands nearby like Apo or Siquijor. If you are a diver or love snorkeling, consider living in the suburb of Dumaguete called Dauin. Dauin has an enviable Marine Sanctuary that you can swim to every day from the public beach. The Dumaguete city center has just enough people and businesses to make everyday life a little easier and more diverse without feeling overwhelmed. Plus it is a university town which has influenced the dynamic nature of the city and has one of the best hospitals and medical schools in the islands, especially for a smaller town. Dumaguete has dropped a few notches on our last visit because it is starting to feel a little too Westernized in 2023.

#9 Bangkok, Thailand (Full Report): Bangkok is one of the best cities in the world even before you adjust for its low cost of living. The food choices are unmatched with the integration of East and West cuisines. It has one of the most modern and clean transportation systems in the world, so you will not have to waste your money on a car. The Grab taxis are so cheap you can get your groceries home for just a little more than public transportation. Riding the water taxis from Khao San to the King Taksin Bridge while stopping at all of the temples, the flower market, and the King’s Palace is probably the most interesting cultural experience you will find anywhere in the world. Thus, even before we talk about the crazy nightlife and shopping in Bangkok, it is one of the most interesting places in the world. Plus you are just a $70 flight to the best island beaches in SE Asia. Thailand has dropped a few notches in 2024 because Thailand has started taxing money brought into the country by foreign retirees.

#8 Boracay, Philippines(Full Report): Boracay Island is one of the most gorgeous white sand beach islands in the world. Boracay stands above the other white sand beach locations in the Philippines because it has a huge selection of excellent international restaurants within walking distance of anywhere on the island. Other white sand beaches in the Philippines, like El Nido, Siquijor, or Puerto Galera, are more typically in remote locations, which means your international restaurant choices will be much more limited. Boracay also has a large selection of nightlife entertainment choices all within walking distance. So, we would walk everywhere mostly and jump on tricycle taxis if we were in a hurry or to bring groceries home. We might even purchase bicycles but we would not need a car or scooter. There are only three downsides to Boracay or it would easily make it into our top 5 destinations in the world. First, we might get island fever eventually since it is a fairly small island focused primarily on tourism. Second, we would need to travel to a larger city like Cebu or Iloilo for any healthcare complications, and third, the cost of living in Boracay is at least 30% higher than many other parts of the Philippines, which we cover in detail in the full report.

#7 Penang, Malaysia (Full Report): Hours will feel like minutes as you stroll around Georgetown colonial-era and spot colorful street art around every corner. The number one attraction here is finding the best Mama’s restaurant in town for a $2-$3 USD meal. Once you taste the amazing local foods, you will have a hard time convincing yourself to pay $8 to $10 USD in tourist restaurants. As a former British colony, people are still required to speak English in many schools here. There are art galleries listed, things to do, music and nightlife, and arts and entertainment. The Canteen in China House Restaurant is still listed as the premier live music forum. Make sure to take our beach and Buddha tour, the street art tour, our old town walking tour, our nightlife tour, and try out our favorite restaurants. Most of our retire cheap in paradise reports include these types of tours.

#6 Baguio, Philippines (Full Report): One of the first things you will notice about Baguio is that it is never too hot or too cold there. It is a mile high in the sky so it has moderate highland temperatures. The next thing you will notice is the green and beautiful central area of Baguio. The sidewalks are well maintained, and there are plants growing everywhere which are maintained by Baguio City year-round. There is a very large central park full of manicured grass and picnic tables with a lake full of paddle boats you can enjoy with your family and friends. It also is one of the most creative cities in the Philippines, with college students dressing up in Japanese Anima costumes walking around, and drawing chalk characters on Session Road when it is closed to automobiles on Sundays. Because this is a college town, there seems to be a never-ending set of things to do and events to attend that often include cheap street food and fun arts and music. Plus, Baguio is one of the most walkable cities so if you decided to live close in, you would not need a car.

#5 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Full Report): Kuala Lumpur is a large modern city with all the conveniences that implies. It has several of the most beautiful and modern malls, hotels, resorts, and public transportation in SE Asia. All the famous movies from all over the world play in multiple languages and all of the most famous expensive brands in the world have stores in the malls. The park in front of the Petronas Towers has one of the best running tracks in the world. There are above-ground air-conditioned paths between some of the best parts of town plus a public transportation system that is clean and beautiful. Foods of the world are here plus there are cheap local family-owned restaurants and grocery stores with imported products you won’t see in other parts of SE Asia. The real estate is overpriced here but that is okay because the rents are cheap. If Singapore and Bangkok had a baby, they would name it Kuala Lumpur. It is not as gritty as Bangkok nor as boring, expensive, or antiseptic as Singapore. It is not for everyone, but if you like a large, organized, clean, and safe city, you will love it here in Kuala Lumpur.

#4 Da Nang, Vietnam (Full Report): Vietnam is now clearly near the top of my places to retire cheap in SE Asia. Da Nang in particular, and specifically, the An Thuong (My An Beach) neighborhood ranks very high in Vietnam. Qiang Hui and I both fell in love with a little community called My An Beach about 15 minutes south of central Da Nang on the beach. I would love to live here. Everything you need like restaurants, expensive and cheap, foreign and domestic foods, wet markets, and a gorgeous beach, would be extremely walkable. If you eat all three meals per day in restaurants (like we have), you can easily stay under $5 per day, per person if you eat the local food. The apartment we found we found in our favorite neighborhood was $260 USD per month plus utilities. Utilities (water and electricity) were $33 USD per month and the Internet, included in the rent, was 30 MBPS up and down. Our favorite local Vietnamese restaurants averaged less than $2 per meal. We didn’t even rent a scooter. There was even a great gym just a few blocks from our house for $20 per month, no contract. All of this is in the full report.

#3 Koh Samui, Thailand (Full Report): You may have had the impression that the Island of Koh Samui was only a playground for the rich and famous looking for expensive white sand island beach vacations. But on our most recent visit to Koh Samui, we found perfectly respectable places to stay in safe neighborhoods where locals live for relatively cheap rates. We also found local markets and local family-owned restaurants with absolutely delicious foods that would not break the bank. So we now understand that we could live an amazing everyday life in Koh Samui. We would live, eat, and shop more like the locals. So, now we could just pack a lunch and jump on our scooter to visit the most beautiful white sand beaches in the world whenever the mood strikes without paying tourist prices. So after 17 years of coming to Thailand, I now know that I could stay on budget in one of the most beautiful and exclusive places in the world. Thailand has dropped a notch because Thailand has started taxing money brought into the country by foreign retirees.

#2 Nha Trang, Vietnam (Full Report): Nha Trang is the most cosmopolitan city in Vietnam if you consider international food choices, clean parks and beaches, neighborhoods that still feel like Vietnam (despite international tourism), and less visible pollution in the air (it is a city on the ocean). It doesn’t have the breadth of historical culture you will see in Hanoi or Hue, but it makes up for that with modern cultural amenities that cultural explorers expect. You will read that some people do not like Nha Trang because it has a large tourist industry near the beach. But I wouldn’t live in tourist areas if I moved there. I would live in a beautiful neighborhood that I showcase in my retire cheap report. What surprised me the most about Nha Trang, was how cheap it was to live there once you get to know where the locals shop and eat. We recently completed 90 days in Vietnam on the new eVisa. Vietnam currently has no retirement visa, but the expats we met in Vietnam were excited because it seems like the Vietnam government, so far, is allowing them to do back-to-back 90-day eVisa runs, which means they may only need to do four eVisa runs per year. There are other visas available but that seemed to be the most common one used here.

After I tell you my number one place I would retire in SE Asia today, I will give you 5 Bonus Places: Different Priorities Than Mine. Okay, here is my number 1.

#1 Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (Full Report): Ubud is a beautiful traditional village in the mountains of Bali where many people love to stay and eat in many of the healthy international food restaurants. This is one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world. It was, of course, beautiful; the landscape, the beaches, the people. The joys of this relatively small island are spread out everywhere. So you will need to have a vehicle or rent a scooter like most people. Make sure to ride your scooter to Utuwala on the southern tip of Bali to see the fisherman boats and the local fish market. Also, take the ferry over to Lembongan for the weekend and visit the famous cliff beaches and umbrella graveyards. Finally, bring your camera with you when you visit the terraced rice fields when they are in full green before harvest. You may decide to stay in a jungle bungalow outside Ubud Central and come into town for supplies once or twice a week. Or stay on one of the walking streets in central Ubid like we did so everything you will need is walking distance. Eat in one of the local restaurants in our retire cheap report where meals are often much less than the restaurants where tourists eat. This will also make you more aware of the local culture. Attend a local Balinese Hinduism ceremony in one of the oldest religions in the world which will help upi understand why the Balinese are some of the kindest and most gentle people in the world.

5 Bonus Places: Different Priorities Than Mine

These 5 bonus places are in no particular order but they may be interesting to you personally for the reasons I give in each.

Puerto Galera, Philippines (Full Report): Puerto Galera has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches in the Philippines. Most of the beaches that are this nice in the Philippines are a long way from hospitals, malls, and modern infrastructure. But Puerto Galera is only a 1-hour ferry ride from the big island of Luzon. That means you will be able to enjoy a small-town life with white sand beaches and amazing beautiful watersports but still have quick and inexpensive access to Metro Manila where there are great hospitals, malls, and every kind of product that you will find in the largest city in the Philippines. If you are thinking of living on or near the beach in the Philippines you should also consider Siquijor Island, Camiguin Island, and El Nido before making a final decision.

Da Lat Vietnam (Full Report): Because of the high elevation, this beautiful mountain hill station developed during the French colonial period, has grown into a respite from the heat of summer for the Vietnamese. It is only about 3 hours from Nha Trang, so I could see myself summering here if I decided to retire in Nha Trang. There are ex-pats living there that call it home year-round because it has a cooler climate during the winter but never really gets cold in the winter. Plus, it is surrounded by amazing green rolling hills where you can enjoy rolling hills with tea plantations and grapes used to make Vietnamese wine.

Siem Reap Cambodia (Full Report): If you are thinking of leaving instead of paying Thailand’s new taxes, consider nearby Siem Reap Cambodia. It is a culturally rich area of Cambodia adjacent to the largest temple complex in the world, Angkor Wat. The Siem Reap old town city center is a delight for cultural explorers with an abundance of international restaurant choices, grocery stores with imported foods and booze, and one of the highest per capita incomes in Cambodia. There are many English (and many other languages) speakers trained to serve the needs of the 2.6 million tourists who come to see Angkor Wat each year. Yet, local salaries have remained low compared to many other parts of SE Asia, meaning, you will find cheaper rentals and restaurants outside the city center at about the same price as you would see in other parts of Cambodia.

Koh Phangan Thailand (Full Report): If you consider yourself a hippie, consider Koh Phangan. It is home to some of the most beautiful and less-developed white sand beaches in Thailand. It is also famous for its monthly full moon party where thousands of people gather to drink and dance under a full moon. But it is also a hippy heaven for those interested in Yoga, meditation, spiritualism, arts, music, drum circles, and vegan culinary treats. The hippies and backpackers seem to inhabit mostly the northwestern part of the island and its beaches. Older more traditional western retired expats are mostly around the city center in a few sports bars and smaller live music bars. The full report has all of these sorts of details.

Jomtien Thailand (Full Report): Pattaya is the craziest place in the world for people interested in the largest party in the world next to the beach. There are strip clubs as far as the eye can see. But if you want to live near crazy without being in the middle of it, then consider nearby Jomtien. Jomtien is just a few kilometers south of the crazy, so it is nearby if the mood strikes. Jomptien is a relatively quiet town with beautiful cheap condos, walking distance from the beach, delicious cheap food both local and western, a more quiet, stable, and less tempting life, great healthcare, and easier on the pocketbook. You can be near the crazy, but not in it. So, you can get a good night’s sleep until you are ready to stay up all night and play. But this area would not be the best if you are looking for a more traditional relationship. For that, consider looking in smaller towns in Thailand, the Philippines, or Vietnam.