Last week I shared with you the top 20 picks for overseas retirement on a budget, according to Live and Invest Overseas.
Six of the countries are located in southeast Asia, which is the cheapest region of the world right now. These countries are:
What About Residency?
Malaysia is the only country on this list to offer a retirement visa, called Malaysia, My Second Home.
Known as “MM2H,” the visa is good for 10 years and allows you to enter and leave the country as often as you want. It also lets you work part-time while you’re there. At this time, the visa does not lead to permanent residency, so if that’s your goal you should look elsewhere.
You don’t have to buy property to qualify for the MM2H. If you choose to, though, you’re required to spend a minimum amount which varies depending on location. For more details, visit the official website.
While it’s theoretically possible to get a residence visa in Thailand, it’s not practical for most people. (For one thing, they only give 100 of them each year.)
US citizens can stay in Thailand for 30 days without a visa if they arrive by air, but only 15 if they enter by land. That visa can be renewed by leaving the country and returning, but you can’t stay longer than 90 days out of any six-month period. If you’re over 50, you can apply for a one-year visa.
Expats in Thailand can purchase property, but not land. Buying a condo is straightforward, but if you want a house, you lease the land it’s on instead of owning it outright.
Other Asian countries are not so easy, however. In fact, gaining permanent residency is quite difficult. Additionally, restrictions on property ownership make it inadvisable to purchase property in India, China, Laos and Vietnam.
So why live in Asia if you can’t gain residency or buy property?
Because you won’t find a lower cost, more interesting or exotic retirement anywhere else in the world! The region is quite safe, and you’ll find excellent — and affordable — health care in the major cities.
If you’re the kind of person who needs to put down roots, this won’t work for you. (But then again, if you were that kind of person you probably wouldn’t be reading about retirement in Asia anyway.)
The solution is to move around. Travel within the region is very inexpensive, so spend the time your visa allows in Thailand, then head to Laos for some relaxation. Enjoy the hustle and bustle of Vietnam’s vibrant economy, then head up into China.
In the past two weeks, I’ve met several people who are doing just that.
One couple has been retired for 30 years. They own a home in Argentina, but they spend very little time there. Instead, most of their year is spent in Asia. They believe Chiang Mai, Thailand, where they’ve been living part-time since 1988, is one of the best places in the world to retire.
Another couple started out a few years ago to travel around the world, but got to Asia and decided to stay. They’re back in the US now for a few months, but plan to head to Asia again after that.
A single young woman has been traveling extensively all over the world. I spoke with her last week, and she’s now planning a six-month trip to Asia with her 11-year old niece! They’ll start in Chiang Mai, which is one of her favorite places in the world and a place she feels very safe bringing her young relative.
These seasoned travelers shared some advice about where to go and what to see.
In China, Kunming and Chendu are welcoming and inexpensive.
If you want beaches, go to Vietnam or Thailand, particularly Hua Hin.
Want completely laid back? Then Laos is for you.
If you love big city life, pick Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia or Bangkok, Thailand.
If health care is your concern, the medical facilities in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Chiang Mai are excellent. One of the Asia travelers I met was an RN in the US for 20 years, and he finds their medical care better than what’s in the US. If you’re in a more rural area, though, you probably want an evacuation plan in case you become ill.