Peace Corps
Thai 27
Hugh Leong's notes on Living in Thailand

I have found that living in Thailand today is quite different than it was 36 years ago. There have been both positive and negative changes but on the whole I find that life in Thailand to be laid back, comfortable, and full of the pleasures that we once knew.

There are many retirees living in Thailand now and they are very well accepted. Most seem to come from Asia, namely Japan and Taiwan and to a lesser extent Korea. But there are also many Germans and Scandinavians. I find that there are very few
American retirees so far. Visa laws have been changed to allow for ease of coming, going and staying. It is very easy to transfer money into the country and there doesn’t seem to be much trouble taking money out either.

It is my opinion that one should start slowly if you want to make a move. Start with a vacation. Go to the places you are familiar with and see how they have changed. Ten days is a good start. If it seems attractive then try a few weeks the next time.
Rent a condo (see below) and buy your food and necessities at the markets as if you were living there for a longer stay. If it isn’t too hot and you can find enough stimulation then maybe a longer stay is in order. I now stay about 4 months a year and am really reluctant to leave when it is time. I still don’t think I am ready for a full time home in Thailand yet.
I would NOT buy a condo or a house. Since you won’t be there full time for a while you won’t have to worry about someone watching your home while you are away. Rental prices are still fairly low and one really doesn’t need to own anything.

In fact, I even rent a car for the time I am there (see below for costs). But I will probably break down and buy one this year since I have a place to keep it and someone to watch it when I am gone.

Here are some notes on life and living in Thailand today.
This is a non extendable 30 day visa which you can get at the airport upon arrival.

Non immigrant
This is a 90 day visa which has to be gotten at the nearest Thai consulate.
You can stay 60 days and then get an extension (for a cost) for another 30 days. The law has recently been changed so that people over 55 can get an extra extension (for a cost). That would make a stay of 120 days without having to leave the country.

Multiple entry
I am not sure of the rules on this one. Check it out at the embassy web site ( ).

Children of Thais
With proof that the child has a Thai parent a visa can be gotten at the airport so that the child can stay in country for one year, with extension if they want.

For Thais who have become US citizens, they can enter on a non-immigrant visa and then at the airport or immigration office they can get a one year visa which also allows for extensions.

Over 55
For retirees over 55 they enter the country on a non-immigrant visa and then request a one year visa with proof of $20,000 deposited in a Thai bank account or proof of $800 income a month (eg. Social Security). The $20,000 can be tapped throughout the year but when you apply next year it has to be refreshed to $20,000 again.

Sky train
An elevated electric train going to most of the important junctions in Bangkok.
An underground train in Bangkok – really!
No bargaining now (except for really sleazy drivers). All taxis use their meters. Pay what the meter says. No tipping is expected.
Very convenient. Lots of different airlines competing for your money so the prices are very low. $100 round trip Bangkok/Chiang Mai is the most expensive. I have seen $50 round trip tickets for sale. You don’t usually need a reservation on the popular routes since there are so many flights per day but they are very easy to make by phone or internet.
Flights from US to Bangkok – I know from Seattle they range from $600 - $800 except for the December timeframe when the price goes way up. We buy a ticket to Bangkok and then one from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The bags are transferred and we go through immigration in Bangkok and then customs in Chiang Mai. In the last 4 years I have spent about 8 hours (all at the airport) in Bangkok.
Not as nice as they use to be. Usually I see only backpackers taking the train nowadays.
The roads have greatly improved and even upcountry we find broad multilane highways. They still can be very dangerous especially at night and holidays when there is a lot of drinking. Seven hundred people died on the road over the New Years holiday. Not as many of us oldies using motorcycles anymore but one sees larger cycles (even Hogs) today.

These can be pretty much space age vehicles. There are now buses with sleepers in them. The seats bend back so that you can recline completely. Of course there is TV and videos on most of the buses.


Lots and lots of rental companies for cars, vans, motorcycles, 4 wheel drives, etc. I rent a car from a friend who owns his rental company and he lets me have it for about $300 a month flat rate. That includes complete insurance coverage. I think the cost is a bit more at a normal place.


Hotels from 6 stars for thousands a night down through the ubiquitous guest houses at about 100 baht are all still available.

There is a condo glut so they are easy to come by and the price is very reasonable. Nice condos can go from $75 to $200 a month depending on how nice and location of course. These will be completely furnished, may have cable TV and usually provide parking. These can be rented by the week or month.

A nice house can be rented but they can be a bit more pricey.

There is a strange law about foreigners owning property. But condos are considered something more like a corporation. Since a foreigner can own 49% of a corporation then if you have a condo with 10 rooms then you can own 4 of them. Basically that means that you can buy a condo in your name.

Foreigners cannot own land. But the law that said that Thais married to foreigners cannot own land has been changed. As long as the Thai hasn’t officially given up his or her citizenship they overlook the fact. If the Thai has not become a US citizen then there is no problem at all today.


Quality of life
Just about everything you may need is available. Maybe not all the US brands but something equivalent from Europe or Asia will be. There are supermarkets all over the country that carry all Thai foods as well as Western foods. We usually don’t shop in the outdoor markets anymore. The big guys are much cleaner and the prices are often better. These giant stores (WalMart types) are owned by British (Lotus) and French (Carrefour) and there are some others popping up everyday.

Cable TV is available almost everywhere as is internet connections (DSL just came available). You can set up your computer to videophone home (for free) now. If you don’t have a computer then there will probably be an internet café on the corner.


Cell phones are everywhere. With a phone card I call home often. It is very cheap. I will probably use a video internet connection this year.

DVDs are available for rent even before they are out in the US. There is a thing call a VCD which is not very good quality but costs about 20 baht to rent for 3 days. There are special VCD players that are not very expensive. TVs, VCDs and DVDs are as cheap if not cheaper than they are in the US. As with cars and motorcycles, these are now made in Thailand so there aren’t those high tariffs anymore. Movie theaters, especially in the big cities, have large screens and great sound systems. They cost about 100 baht now ($2.50).

We now own a GE washing machine (made in Thailand). Makes life pretty easy.

Big cities have good hospitals where most of the doctors speak English and they are used to treating foreigners. Their service is great and the treatment is of high quality. The prices are a fraction of what they are in the US. The dental care, in my opinion, is far superior to that found in the US