More Thailand Q and A

June 16, 2011

I get lots of inquiries from this blog site and from the Retire 2 Thailand website about life in Thailand. Occasionally I will compile a few of the more interesting questions and try to answer them here.

How much does one need to retire comfortably at age 50?

This is a frequent and often difficult question to answer – mostly because of one’s definition of the word “comfortable”. This concept is different for each of us. So the best way to answer this question is to look at what things cost in Thailand, and then decide how much you will need to spend to be “comfortable”. From people I know, this number can range from about 10,000 baht per month, to hundreds of thousands of baht per month.

A few of our former blog posts might help in figuring this out for yourself.

What is the best way to get my monthly Social Security checks forwarded to Thailand?

I have my SS check automatically deposited into my U.S. account (with a large international bank) and then twice a year I write checks on that account and deposit them into my bank here. It takes 6 weeks to clear so I have to time the deposits so that I have enough to live on and I don’t run out before the check clears. It costs about $20 per check and I have never had a problem.

A reader has added a different method below. I have not tried this but you might want to look into it.

In answer to the issue of the best way to automatically transfer funds from US to Thailand:

  • Open a Direct Deposit savings account with any branch of Bangkok Bank in Thailand that will open one for you.  Hugh’s Note: As of the last I checked, all one normally needs is 500 baht and your passport to open an account. But direct deposit accounts may have some fees associated with them. Be sure to check this out for yourself.
  • Have your payor in the US make a direct deposit into the New York City branch of Bangkok Bank, ABA routing Number: 026008691, referencing your Bangkok  Bank, Thailand, account number. New York will then get the deposit credited to your Thailand account within 1 business day. You will receive an SMS message on your mobile phone when the funds are available in your account. Go to any branch of Bangkok Bank with your savings passbook and passport to access the funds.
  • I believe there is about a $5.00 charge on the New York end.
  • The only downside is you must personally show up at a branch to get or transfer the money; no internet or ATM or sending someone else.

It seems Thailand does not want Americans as permanent residents. Constantly having to renew visas or leaving the country for a visa run is not a good thing.

A retiree (50 years old and over) must have 800,000 baht deposited into a Thai bank account for a period of 3 months prior to applying for a retirement via, or proof of 65,000 baht per month income (they are much more strict checking this now as before all you needed was a letter from your embassy – now you need a letter and to show some proof too), or a combination of both. Retirement visas must be renewed once a year (Fee: 1,900 baht) and you must show up every 90 days to report your current address (No fee). If you leave the country you must get a reentry permit (Fee: 1,900 baht) or you will lose the retirement visa once you leave the country and then you will have to reapply. If you are less than 50 and/or don’t have the amount needed for deposit, then it’s visa runs for you.

The Thai visa rules are fairly strict and probably should be with so many people trying to circumvent the rules (lots of deadbeat foreigners here). I personally have never thought that these procedures where too much to ask, especially if you compare them with what a foreigner would need in order to get an extendable one year visa in the U.S. Oh, I forgot. That’s almost impossible without lots of cash (millionaire type cash).

So taking these into consideration, I must conclude that Thailand loves American permanent residents much more than America loves foreign permanent residents. I simply live with it. For the whole of last year, adding the time it took to renew my visa and all the 90 day reporting, I probably spent a total of 4 hours at immigration. Just bring a good book. It’s well worth the wait.

I have read that Chiang Mai being a basin surrounded by mountains, the fog and other pollutants do not get easily blown away, and it hangs around forever. Also that such an environment is very bad for people with Asthma and other lung diseases – records show that incidence of these diseases are increasing every year by leaps and bounds !!  So the question is…Is there any place within the outskirts of Chiang Mai, may be 10 to 20 miles away, that can be called pollution free.

Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains but is itself in a flat plane. So it is in a bowl as is said. When the dry season comes around, and the rains don’t come, and the fields are being burned, and the forest fire season is here, there can be severe smog and unhealthy air conditions. This usually occurs between March and June. At other months I don’t think that there is a problem.

A few years ago we had to leave town for 10 days until the air got breathable again. Older people and those with lung diseases had a very difficult time. Someone I knew wound up in the hospital ICU for 21 days when his lungs decided that they didn’t want to work anymore. He is better now and now that he has stopped smoking he hasn’t had a recurrence. For the last 3 years things have been better and this year we didn’t really have a dry/hot season and the rains came early and there were no really bad smog days.

But the questions about places to go to escape the smog can be answered by telling you where I tried to escape to. We drove from here to Sukhotai, still smog, then to Pitsanuloke, still smog, then over the mountains to Khon Khaen, more smog, and finally to Korat where the air began to clear up. The smog problem that year was not isolated to Chiang Mai but went from Myanmar, to Laos, to the Northeast of Thailand and parts of Central Thailand. Chiang Mai, being the tourist destination that it is, just got all the press about it.

Hugh’s note: Although there is some smog each year, we encountered that kind of heavy pollution once in the last 10 years. Our plan this year was to fly to Kunming, China when the smog came. The smog didn’t come, so we banked the money, maybe to be used next year.

Check the Regional Air Quality Graphs from the Pollution Control Department to check the current, and past, air quality around Thailand.

We are in our 50s and plan to retire to Thailand. But our youngest child will still need to go to school. What options do we have? 

When I first came to Chiang Mai there was “The International School”.  That was its name – there was only one. Now there are many “international Schools”. Some are affordable and some can be quite expensive. Some have great reputations where their graduates all seem to get into international universities. Others are rather new and haven’t been tested yet.

The best thing is to visit the schools on an exploratory trip here, interview parents and students, and see what you think. As a start, take a look at this page from my website. International Schools in Thailand

How difficult will it be to get my prescription medication in Thailand.

Many medications that you would need a doctor’s prescription for back home can be gotten over-the-counter here. It would be best to bring your medication and/or prescription with you and go to a good pharmacy. There are two kinds of “drug stores” here in Thailand. One that sells cold remedies and cosmetics and is run by somebody’s nephew who needed a job, and the other kind where there is a legitimate pharmacist in residence and will carry most of the widely used medications.

You can also get your medication from a hospital’s pharmacy. But they are quite a bit more expensive. Also be aware that the medication here may not be of the same brand name as what you are used to. So be sure you have the generic name of the medication you need.

Also, you will often have the option of getting medication that is locally made and medication that has been imported. You should check with your doctor and/or the pharmacist, and ask them if the imported brands (much more expensive) are superior to the locally made ones. Some local brands are fine and equal to imported brands while some can be quite inferior.

Is there a site I can go to that shows the insides of standard rental houses?  I’m most curious about what the Kitchens and bathrooms look like. Do they have water heaters, washer dryers, etc?

Thai real estate companies and their websites can be quite sophisticated. Just do a Google search and see what you come up with. Here is a page from the first link I came up with (I do not endorse any company). But to help you get started here are a couple of wevsites carrying places in Chiang Mai.

As to the second part of your question, most condos do not have kitchens but rental houses will. Some will be Thai style kitchens (often outdoors) while others will have “western style” kitchens, with stove, sink, refrigerator, cabinets, etc. No dishwashers or hot water in most kitchens in Thailand though. Almost all bathrooms will have electric coil, on-demand hot waters heaters. But you might want to check to see if they have western style toilets and not Asian “squat toilets”, unless of course this is something you might want; from what I hear they are much better for you and lots cleaner, if your knees can hold out of course.

Condos, apartments and many houses will have washing machines (some coin operated) but I have never seen a clothes dryer here (except a clothesline in the sun). If you are near a tourist area or in a larger city, or near a university, then there are always people who will do your laundry for you for a small, per kilo, fee.

If you have a question about retiring to Thailand leave it in a comment. I try to answer every question (weather I have any idea what the answer is or not). I’ll get back with another Thailand Q & A post later.


2 Responses to “More Thailand Q and A”

  1. Snap said

    Hugh, I know you only comment about receiving a Social Security checks from the US, but, if you’re Australian and depending on which government is in power, the likelihood of getting any assistance in old age is squat diddly. If you’re not a self funded retiree, then you’re at their mercy.

    “Normally, if you leave Australia permanently you will not be able to continue getting your payment, except for certain pensions. You can continue to get certain payments from Centrelink paid outside Australia if Australia has an agreement with the country you move to.” –

    Thailand isn’t on the list. Of course, I haven’t looked into this thoroughly, so. I would love to hear differently. Because, in Australia….

    …the age for women retiring and receiving *government aid* has increased by 7 years, probably 8 for me. Women: born in or before 1935 could retire at 60; born in 1957 can retire at 67….I’m slightly younger than that. Relatively, the retirement age for men has risen from 65 to 67.

    It REALLY does irk me off that someone can dictate the rights of another, because of where they choose to live. If the Australian goverment had their head skrewed on properly, they’d welcome the relief on the hospital/medical system alone…they should be incouraging an exodus of golden age people, instead of holding them to ransom to endure a poor quality of living.

    Women: Many of us didn’t work for pay, or if we did, Superannuation wasn’t in force in our era, therefore, we only have enough to buy a car when all is said and done. Those fortunate enough to invest over the years, probably lost a heap, if not all, in the global financial crisis…and, have been instructed to keep working.

    Hence, the government insentive a few years back: sell the family or investment home and we’ll sink big bucks into your Superannuation, left many penniless.

    I’m wondering (albeit a wonderful idea) how my retirement age can be 50, in Thailand?

    Anyway, I’ll get off my soapbox …I do feel better now though and I know where to come for advice, if I do/can ever retire in Thailand 🙂

    • Any Aussies out there who can add any info on getting an Australian pension while living in Thailand?

      I do know that British pensions can be received here but by living in Thailand you do not get a cost of living increase. The amount you get will remain the same until you are called to that big retirement home in the sky.

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