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Retiring In Chiang Mai, Thailand On $1,000 Per Month


I have lived in Chiang Mai for the past nine years and will probably live here the rest of my life.  My reason for residing here is quite simply: finance, cultural enrichment, physical beauty, and the need to communicate in English.

The requirements for obtaining a retirement visa are: one must be at least 50 years of age, have Bht 800,000 ($25,806 US dollars) deposited in a Thai bank or 65,000 baht monthly income or a combination of both.  If one is bringing a  spouse this is double that amount. One can use this deposit during the year, but one must replenish the deposit three months in advance of your annual visa renewal. You will need a local police report saying that you have no felony criminal record, and a doctor’s certificate stating that you are in reasonable health. Please check with your local Thai consulate before you make a commitment because the rules always change.  Of course, you can use a 30 day tourist visa (free) to check out the country for yourself before making a commitment.

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Take an elephant ride in Chiang Mai, Thailand! Image courtesy of Goway.com

Throughout this article I will be mentioning Thai baht so the conversion is: 32  baht to the American dollar. My Social Security from America and Canada comes to about $1,000 per month. If I lived in San Francisco (my last residence in America), that $1,000 would barely cover the rent and nothing left over for food, clothing, and other essentials. Here in Thailand that $1,000 allows my wife and me to live very well.

I bought my condominium when I moved here in 2005 so I pay no rent.  That was when the Thai baht was worth 41 Thai baht to the dollar. I paid 1,400,000 baht ($34,146 USD). The condominium is 45 sq. meters and was fully furnished. It has a covered 4 sq. meter balcony that has a spectacular view of the mountains and we use this as our kitchen and dining room. This is one of the first-class condominiums in Chiang Mai.  In this condo there are two swimming pools, a huge gym, a small mom and pop essentials store,  24 hour security, 24 hour help desk, a laundry, massage parlor, two restaurants, and many services such as travel agents, lawyers, clothing stores, and free underground parking. As a side note, I should mention that foreigners cannot buy land in Thailand hence most retirees buy condominiums.  My UOB bank is right across the street, and there are at least 20 good restaurants within a four square block area. The Central Shopping Center is also four blocks from my abode.

Eating is my biggest expense.  Since I had throat cancer I cannot eat most Thai food. One hot pepper in a dish would set my throat on fire. If one can eat Thai food, your food bill will be cut by more than 60%.  Let me give you an example.  Yesterday for breakfast, (we ate at home) my wife and I had fruit and cereal, coffee, tea, and toast.  The cost came to about 100 baht. For lunch we went to Pern’s restaurant and had spaghetti with salmon in a light cream sauce, mushrooms done in a garlic-brown sauce, a large shrimp salad, and bottled water.  This came to about 300 baht (about $10 for the both of us). For supper we cooked at home and had: mashed potatoes and gravy, grilled chicken wings and legs, a salad, pineapple, and two glasses of wine.  We figured this came to about 250 baht.  All in all, we spend about Bht 600 per day.  600 times 31 days a month equals 18,600 baht ($600.00) per month for food.  I’m not sure, but I heard that Time magazine did a survey and found that Chiang Mai had the largest amount of foreign restaurants per capita in the world.

Some of the other monthly expenses are: Bht 800 maintenance fee for the condo, Bht 1,000 for electricity (mostly for A/C), Bht 300 for cable TV (four English movie channels, five news channels in English), water Bht 250, high speed internet Bht 900, and about Bht 2,000 for gasoline for the car. One does not need a car in Chiang Mai. The total comes to about Bht 24,000 per month for everything including the 18,600 baht for food.  I get 32,000 baht every month. I love it.  If you rent at a guest house you may pay 5,000 baht a month for a simple but clean room. You can subtract 800 baht for maintanance as that is included in the rent and 2,000 baht for gas. Now Some extras that I would like to include here are: two hour Thai massage Bht 300, haircut Bht 80, and manicure and pedicure together Bht 200.

Getting away from money, now let’s take on cultural enrichment.  Thailand wasn’t called the land of smiles for nothing. Most of the people you meet on the street will greet you with a big smile if you at least acknowledge them.  There are dozens of art galleries throughout the city.  We have a Philharmonic, ballet, four major universities, an American library, numerous Thai cultural events throughout the city, and many coffee shops where one can engage the Thai or foreign people in conversation. Many of the coffee shops have free Wi-Fi. There has to be at least a hundred temples within Chiang Mai. From my balcony on the ninth floor, I can view the Doi Suthep Temple atop the lush green mountain.

Many of the small towns outside of the large cities will present a huge communication problem.  Phetchabun, where my wife comes from, is a medium-sized city but has very few foreigners living there.  Consequently, if you don’t speak Thai, you can’t communicate.  Most of the foreigners living here in Thailand have a Thai partner to help them in these situations.  In Chiang Mai this is not much of a problem.  First of all, if I’m going to travel by public transportation, I go to the front desk and ask the clerk to write down the place where I want to go in Thai. I then give the information to the driver of the public transport. Most shop owners, in Chiang Mai, speak enough English for you to be understood.

Many people asked me about medical insurance. First, you cannot use Medicare here so let me share my medical story.

Thailand has wonderful medical facilities. I had throat cancer while I was here and for 4 months I had chemotherapy and radiation. Even though I could have gone back to the States and used my Medicare, the co-payment and the hotel expense was much more than the cost of having the procedure done here in Thailand. My doctor was trained in the USA  and charged me about $4,000. I have been cancer free for 5 years now.

Since I wrote this article 5 years ago, I’ve had many people visit me to obtain more information and/or wanting a tour of Chiang Mai and surroundings. I no longer can afford to do the tour thing so we are charging 2,000 baht per day (8 am to 8 pm) plus gas and food. Please call me a couple of days in advance to make arrangements. The information is still free. My cell phone #is: 086-114-7992. My email is:  joseph.skinkis@gmail.com

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63 responses to “Retiring In Chiang Mai, Thailand On $1,000 Per Month”

  1. Raenu Chaichanan

    Hello Joseph ,
    I do enjoy reading your comments . It’s given me some ideas for my project.
    I may call you to get some advices in nearly future.
    Best regards,
    Raenu chaichanan (Toi)

  2. Dawitt Abraha

    Joe:

    I have been living on Maui,HI for the last seven years . Although cost of living is expensive, most everybody loves it here.

    Lately,In have been feeling the urge to explore your side of the world.I am a healthy,actively engaged in living 67 years young retired professional who enjoys gardening; snorkeling,hiking among other activities.
    I am thinking of visiting Thailand and mostly Chiang-Mai as a tourist for three to four weeks. From your vantage point,when is the first and second best weather times for a first-time visitor to explore possible retirement relocation?

    Thanks in advance for your info.

  3. Joseph Skinkis

    Hi David T. Pike:

    In my article I did mention that you had to have $25,000 in a Thai bank.

    “The requirements for obtaining a retirement visa are: one must be at least 50 years of age, have Bht 800,000 ($25,825) deposited in a Thai bank or 65,000 baht monthly income or a combination of both.”

    Joseph Skinkis

  4. David T Pike

    I receive $1,038.00 a month from the VA for my disability. You say you can retire there on a grand a month but never mentioned I have to have 25Gs in the bank to be able to retire there until you have me all excited at going there. That’s not very nice of you. I live from paycheck to paycheck and it would take me a year just to buy plane tickets and moving money to get there. How in the world do you expect me to save 25 Gs ? I’ll be dead before that happens. Do you have any suggestions??? I have been checking out Gutemala and Ecuador in the past 2 years and Thailand is my last recon and I am already sold on Chiang Mai…

    Sincerely David T Pike USAF 1972-76

    1. Tom

      David no-one is expecting you to do anything and it is certainly not anyone else’s responsibility in how you manage your monetary affairs. The story is complete in its entirety so yes he did mention the Thai governments requirement to have 25g’s in the bank.

      If you want to go and live there then you work out how you meet the criteria. Don’t blame the author for telling you how it is or the next thing you will blame him for not telling you about the cost of the taxi fare to the airport.

      If you have got to retirement age and live pay-check to pay-check, my suggestion is you stay where you are because you have left yourself no options (irrespective of why you now live pay to pay).

      Retirement planing and the funds required don’t start at retirement, they start from the first day you start working and every days delay see’s your options decrease. That’s just how the program works and speaking of medical requirements in the article, it is how your health works too.

      People cannot abuse their health for 50 years eating all the crap under the table and expect a healthy happy retirement with no medical issues. The status of your physical health and that of your bank account takes years in the planning and nourishment of so that you give yourself the choices that you want in retirement. If you have not done this then unfortunately there is no way to successfully wind back the clock.

  5. Luc Andre

    Hello Joseph Skinkis,

    I am a retired Canadian, and, as far as I know, it is your medical coverage that you will lose if you do not return to Canada every six months. The old age pension is payable anywhe on he planet if you have lived, I believe, eighteen consecutive years in Canada. This is also the case for Quebec’s residents and their RPP ( Registered Pension Plan).

    I am contemplating Chang Mai as a retirement possibility. Being a vegetarian, I first thought of India, the most vegetarian country by far. But life can prove dfficult there! I was wondering just how vegetarian your Buddhist country of adoption is. I am afraid, not very much so…

    Thank you fr all the info on Thailand and Chang Mai.

    Regards,

    Luc Andre

    1. Mal

      Hi Lu Andre

      Been coming to thailand last 25 years, married a thai girl 14 yrs ago. We are both Vegan and there is a mountain of places throughout Thailand to eat vegan/vegetarian food.

      Least of your concerns

      warm Regards – Mal

  6. Joseph Skinkis

    Victor Paul Scerri:

    There are many English people living here in Chiang Mai. Come as a tourist for 30 days before you make a decision.

    Good luck,
    Joseph Skinkis

  7. Victor Paul Scerri

    I am English married a Norwegian moved to Norway, got divorced but stayed in Norway where I met my partner from Japan. In 2001, I received a disability pension, and we moved to Spain where the disability pension is not taxed. I’m now sixty three and at sixty seven, I will receive my state pension and pay tax in Spain. How is it in Thighland? Meanwhile, my partner and I have come to a crossroad. I have traveled to Penang, Langkawi and Japan. and looking for somewhere to park my hiny and write.Japan, is too expensive and judging by your blog, I rather like to venture to where you are situated.

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