We spent 3 months of 2019 looking for the best place to retire in Thailand. I have been going to Thailand for 13 years and there are many great places to retire.
I visit Thailand at least once every other year for my medical and dental care. The overall medical and dental experience in Thailand is better than the USA, even before you consider the 60% to 90% savings on everything, not just prescription drugs.
Here are the best places to retire in Thailand. My favorites are not likely to be the same as yours. You may like different things than me, yes? That is why I have created three lists of the best places to retire in Thailand. We are touring SE Asia now. We will soon release reports detailing the best place to retire cheap in SE Asia and the best place to retire cheap in the world.
Best Place to Retire in Thailand–Three Lists
So I have created 3 separate best places to retire in Thailand lists. I created these three types of people last year in my ranking of the best places to retire in Mexico. I will keep using them because people reported liking them.
Cultural Explorer: These are people interested in the history and culture of the world and their surrounding environment. They often want to live near and walk to the cultural center of older cities near temples or churches, museums, restaurants, coffee shops, and fresh food markets. They may also enjoy the following archetypes but are only secondarily interested in them.
Active Adventurer: These are people that may enjoy cultural exploration, but are more dominantly focused on adventure. They are often interested in exploring their own personal physical limits often in extreme conditions set in a natural environment. It would include outdoorsmen, mountain bikers, white water rafters, snow enthusiasts, scuba divers, windsurfers, and skydivers. In general, they prefer being closer to the mountains, rivers, snow, and or the ocean. They may also enjoy the other archetypes, but exploring adventure is their dominant archetypes.
Rural-Self Reliance: These are people that want some distance between themselves and their nearest neighbors. They often want to grow their own food and live off the grid. Some have a basic mistrust in the true intentions of the government and the police. Privacy is often paramount to feeling safe. They might be interested in the other archetypes, but it is not their dominant concern.
You can click each link below to read full reports and watch videos about each place on the three best places to retire in Thailand lists. At each link there is a retire cheap report with more information for each destination.
The retire cheap reports typically have information that will help you eliminate many places from your list. Try to reduce the number of places you must visit before making a final decision. So the retire cheap reports should help reduce the complexity and cost of your search.
This best place to retire in Thailand report also to helps you eliminate places that might not be a good fit for you.
You can also read our 2019 Best Countries to Retire in the World to help eliminate which countries you visit before making a final determination. All of these reports are at our library catalog at Vagabond Buddha.
Many retire cheap reports include information about weather, walkability of neighborhoods, best areas to stay, suggested accommodations and tours, old town walking tours, local markets, Internet speed and reliability, food diversity and costs, things to do, local tours, day tours, lifestyle, public transportation, social considerations, expat populations and resources, real estate purchase and rental prices, frugal cost of living estimates, and an overall retirement desirability score. Some reports include medical availability and quality and retirement visa requirements.
Many also include videos of us walking around town, visiting must-see locations, eating in local restaurants, nightlife tours, best beaches and parks, discussing prices, and other relevant information. We video the good, the bad, and the ugly so you can get a real feeling for an area. We often provide Google maps of our tours so you can use your smartphone to walk the areas we want to show you.
We also share ways we were able to save money in each location. Our philosophy is to try to live more like a local rather than an expat so you can get a feel for what it is really like to live on the cheap in each location.
Finally, we provide a short summary of the facts and history of the place to give you the historical context. Life can be more interesting when you know how a place fits into the world historically.
Since my archetype is cultural explorer, I will rank the best places to retire in Thailand first according to cultural exploration.
Best Place to Retire in Thailand for Cultural Explorers
Bangkok (Full Report): Bangkok is by far the most interesting place in Thailand for cultural explorers. As the capital city of Thailand, it has more museums, palaces, temples, markets, parks, events, nearby archaeological exploration, exhibits, malls, art galleries, specialty foreign foods and restaurants, nightlife, and live entertainment. It also has an amazing public transportation system so you can get around quickly even during rush hour. Unlike most capital cities it is not that much more expensive than the outlying areas.
Chiang Mai (Full Report): Chiang Mai is a little less worldly than Bangkok and much more quaint. It is surrounded by green mountains and has a much more laid back feeling. The food choices in Chiang Mai are remarkable for its size. There are many cultural opportunities including 300 temples, but not at the same level of high energy as Bangkok. If you pick Chiang Mai, you are probably going to want to get out of town during the burn season in March. Because of the high-quality life with the balance of both international and local influences, it remains one of my favorite places in the world to live and visit. For that reason, I would be willing to give up the additional cultural opportunities in Bangkok and select Chiang Mai as my best retirement heaven in Thailand. I would fly down to the islands or somewhere cooler during the burn season.
Chiang Rai (Full Report): This is a much smaller version of Chiang Mai surrounded by more greenery, mountains, hill tribes, and fewer tourists. Without all the tourist supporting the restaurant industry like in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai doesn’t have all the diversity of foods. Luckily it does have night markets as you see in Chiang Mai, but not many digital nomads or nightlife. The temples are beautiful and diverse. There are great day trips from Chiang Rai like the golden triangle, hill tribes, and tea plantations.
Krabi (Full Report): Krabi is both the name of the town and state in this part of Thailand. There are two main places you could live. One is the town of Krabi which is very Thai in nature. The other is Ao Nang, a beach town about 20 minutes away from Krabi town. My favorite beach in Thailand, Railay Beach, is just a 12-minute boat ride away from Ao Nang. If you are a cultural explorer but would prefer to be in a smaller town near the beach, Krabi town is one possibility. It has a walkable waterfront an amazing night market and a few beautiful temples. It is also just a 12 minute long-tail boat ride away from Railay Beach.
Phuket (Full Report): Phuket is mainly a very large island you visit to enjoy the beach. But it also has a colorful old town that many people visit 30-40 minutes from the beach for a touch of culture and food. There is some diversity in foods available in the largest (beach) city Patong, but you probably will have to drive there to eat since many people rather live in more quaint beach communities 20 to 60 minutes away. The public transportation is dismal and the taxis way overcharge you. Luckily, you can rent a scooter for cheap.
Koh Lanta, Hua Hin, Pai: I wouldn’t rate these three destinations for cultural explorers but they do have a place on the following best-of Thailand retirement lists.
Best Place to Retire in Thailand for Active Adventurers
Since my primary type is cultural explorer I decided to rely more on information gathered by others in ranking the best place in Thailand for Active Adventures. So I Googled each adventure in Thailand and made a table of suggested destinations.
For example, in the above table, Phuket came up in Google searches for each column marked with a 1. That means that when I searched on “best place to mountain bike in Thailand,” bloggers suggested Nontalay and Chiang Mai. So I put a 1 in each destination.
After I found all of the suggested destinations for each adventure type, I combined any locations that were close to each other. For example, since my search for white water rafting and surfing in Thailand suggested Phang Nga and Kalim Beach, respectively, and since they are in (or near) Phuket, I added them to Phuket’s total to get 5.
However, you can use the table differently. If, for example, you are only interested in surfing, you would pick only one of the places marked as surfing: Kalim Beach, Koh Lanta, Koh Kradan, Koh Tao, and Koh Samui.
However, these are not my suggestions. These came up in other bloggers’ posts. You will have to go and see it for yourself.
Here is the Active Adventure ranking:
Krabi (Full Report): In and near Krabi, bloggers suggested wind/kite surfing, mountain biking, surfing, hiking, rock climbing, and scuba diving. It also has some great temples, night markets, and my favorite beach in Thailand, Railay Beach. So Krabi is a great choice.
Phuket (Full Report): In or near Phuket Thailand, bloggers suggested wind/kite surfing, white water rafting, surfing, hiking, and scuba diving. Although not on the list, they also have wave runners, and parasailing on the beach in Patong. Plus, Phuket has two of my favorite beach neighborhoods in Thailand, Kata Beach, and Surin Beach.
Koh Tao: I haven’t been to Koh Tao so I don’t have much to say on that. I have been to nearby Koh Samui which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand. We didn’t visit Koh Samui on this trip since it is just a white sand party beach. Not much there to see culturally.
Koh Lanta (Full Report): Although listed as near Krabi, Koh Lanta might be worth considering a separate destination since it is a few hours away from Krabi by ferry. Koh Lanta is a large island that is sparsely populated. Bloggers suggested Koh Lanta for surfing and scuba. We stayed a full month in Koh Lanta this year to get a bunch of work done at a digital nomad coworking space called Kohub.org. What a great easy work-life that was.
Pai (Full Report): Bloggers suggested Pai for white water rafting and hiking. But I also saw many mountain bikers when I visited there, this year. I also saw dirt bike riding on the hillside. Pai also has hot springs and beautiful rolling hills with terraced rice paddies. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. It rivals Bali Indonesia in terms of the green mountain views.
Hua Hin (Full Report): Hua Hin was suggested by bloggers for wind/kite surfing and hiking. I also saw a few golf courses there, although I am not a golfer.
Best Place to Retire in Thailand for Rural Self Reliance
Pai (Full Report): I have ranked Pai as the number one location in Thailand for rural self-reliance. Why? Pai is located in beautiful green rolling hills at about 500 meters above sea level. Pai Town is small and easy to get in and out of. So if you lived in a mountain home in the rolling hills, you could easily get into and out of town to find supplies without much trouble. Also, a considerable amount of rain and all of the greenery would provide some seclusion and privacy for you. If you locate next to a stream or the property had a well, you should be able to grow your own organic fruits and vegetables year-round without many challenges. Also, because many of the expats and some of the locals in Pai are more modern thinking hippie types, you are likely to be able to find people with common interests in organic sustainable farming.
Chiang Rai (Full Report): Chiang Rai has many of the same qualities as Pai. But the city is larger so you would find it more difficult getting in and out for supplies. Plus, the rolling hills might be a little further outside of town if you desire privacy. Also, it is a more local community so they may not be as versed or interested in organic sustainable farming. Since there are fewer foreigners per capita, it might take longer to form social bonds with other hippies.
Koh Lanta (Full Report): Koh Lanta also has a more rural feel to it with small homes in the hills above the beach, some with a little land under them. The air feels drier and the land is not as green so you would need to verify a water source and be prepared to grow things that can take the sea level heat. It is a very laid back atmosphere and even a hippie feel to it but it has a beach vibe mixed in which is different from the hippie cooler mountain atmosphere of Pai. Plus, it is an island, so you may struggle to find a large enough piece of land that would provide the privacy that some rural self-reliance types desire. If that is the case, you may find some of the rural areas around Krabi as a better fit if you want to be near the beach.
Krabi (Full Report): When you drive around Krabi, there are huge areas of undeveloped land with large trees and privacy. If you desire a little more land around you, this might be the place to look at sea level. Just make sure you have a source of water for water ever crops you want to grow. There is a dry season in Krabi.
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This is Dan of Vagabond Buddha. Thank you for stopping by. The world is your home. What time will you be home for dinner?