CHIANG RAI – As Thailand’s Baht continues to rise there are fewer Western expats arriving in Thailand than ever before and a significant amount of working expats under 60 years have now left Thailand for good.
Thailand is not cheap any more, especially as it’s harder and harder to find affordable housing as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya are fast becoming as expensive as any other major tourist city.
Increased costs across the board are hitting many retirees where it hurts, as is the high baht,changes to the long-stay non-immigrant O-A visa and now mandatory health insurance for anyone aged 50 and above as authorities are preparing guidelines to enforce the new rules.
Thailand and the expat scene really has changed monumentally over the years and with all the changes to visas, the dreaded 90-day reporting, which can take a better part of the day if your in Bangkok.
Changes to visa regulations and also to the perceived attitudes of some immigration departments isn’t helping, with a significant number of older expats leaving for Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Relocating to Vietnam
Vietnam has become increasingly popular as an expat destination in recent years and it is now recognized as a safe place for foreigners to live and work.
Expats are attracted by the nice weather, low cost of living, lively culture and the steady improvements in Vietnam’s infrastructure.
Basic living expenses in Thailand are slightly higher overall than in Vietnam. According to Numbeo.com, the international price comparison website, the price level in Thailand is about 6% higher than in Vietnam.
This is a general measure and your experience may vary depending on what city you live in and what kinds of things you buy on a regular basis.
Vietnam is a fast-growing expat destination, and one of the more popular places for retirees, expats, and digital nomads living in Southeast Asia.
The country offers expats a quality of life that is, in many ways, better than that of neighboring nations. The food is diverse and delicious, the cost of living is low, and there are a number of well-paid teaching jobs available.
Outside of the two largest cities, however, there’s also a lot to love in the country’s stunning beach towns and cool mountainside cities.
However the most popular destination among expats, Hanoi is home to a large expat community, many of whom are ESL teachers or work for NGOs.
Similar to Chiang Mai in Thailand, there are western culture influences in Hanoi, making it easy to find international foods, as well as English-friendly businesses and health services.
Many expats, even those in the south, prefer the vibe in Hanoi. The weather in the winter, however, is quite dreary and the lows are a cold, damp, 50°F (10° C).
The city is less traffic and congested, which many expats prefer to the rapid, chaotic pace of life in Saigon.
Hoi An is a sweet town that is both less chaotic but still a very popular tourist destination.
For that reason, you’ll find all the needed amenities such as wifi and expat foods, and also a community of digital nomads and expat entrepreneurs.
As this small coastal town grows, the retiree community is also growing.
Nha Trang City
If you have a beach city in mind, the top spots for expats in Nha Trang City, . This spot has a long stretch of gorgeous beaches.
It’s in southern Vietnam, so the weather is warm year-round but the coastal position makes it cooler than the city. And even more, it has a laid-back vibe that locals and expats love.
Although there are some touristy spots, it is far less congested than Hanoi or Saigon, and the tourist-factor ensures that you can find expat amenities.
Da Nang also deserves a mention as it’s a beautiful spot that many expats love. The expat hubs are definitely the two main cities, but the beach-side life elsewhere is very alluring for many expats.
There are few digital nomads and entrepreneurs in theses cities; the expats tend toward retirees and families. Da Nang is wealthier than many other Vietnamese cities, and the city is generally clean and quite modern.
The weather in Da Nang is a huge selling point for many as it’s more temperate that Nha Trang.
Vietnam currently offers no retirement visa scheme, and retirees living in Vietnam are required to make use of either long-term tourist visas, which are available for a maximum of three months at a time, or five-year long-term visas, which need to be ‘checked up’ and renewed at immigration offices every three months.
While neither of these options are ideal, they are both relatively affordable for those wishing to retire to Vietnam, and the inconvenience of reporting to the Immigration Department of Vietnam is somewhat reduced by the fact that all foreign retirees that live in Vietnam are required to do so.
Three month tourist visas can be acquired from Vietnamese embassies abroad, and are issued to all those that have the minimum funds available to travel in Vietnam – a figure that’s typically around $1,000USD per month spent in the country.
While a three-month visa isn’t exactly long term, it’s an option that many retirees have been using for several years – reapplying and re-entering as their visas expire.
It’s worth noting that tourists in Vietnam, including those staying long-term using a tourist visa, are able to apply for extensions while inside Vietnam by using any one of a number of local travel agents.
These agents apply directly to the Immigration Department for an extension of stay – typically a three-month visa extension.
The alternative, and one that many retirees to Vietnam pursue, is to invest in a five-year multi-entry visa, which allows for multiple entries into Vietnam within a period not exceeding five years.
The requirements to apply for one of these visas are higher than those for a simple three-month visa, and may be off-putting to some applicants.
By Geoff Thomas