Few places in the world meet all the criteria of an ideal retirement haven. Here's one place that does that most of the world has never heard of: Hua Hin, Thailand. Dollar for dollar, you likely could enjoy a much higher standard of living in Hua Hin than back home, no matter where back home happens to be.
Hua Hin offers miles of clean beaches, good year-round weather, and a large foreign community. In Hua Hin, you're close to the cultural offerings of Bangkok, but removed from the chaos of the capital. And because Hua Hin is a small city, it does not suffer from the population pressures found in Thailand's larger urban areas. There are nine golf courses in and around Hua Hin with more under construction. Mountains, caves, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife can be enjoyed at the seven national parks within a two-hour drive.
A new internationally accredited hospital opened recently, further supporting the city's top-notch medical care facilities and growing reputation as a medical tourism destination. Medical procedures performed in Thailand cost anywhere from 20 percent to 80 percent less than the same procedures performed in the U.S., while the equipment used and the care received are as good or better than that available in the West.
Housing is plentiful, with condominiums and private homes stretched out near and along the beach. Secure and modern gated subdivisions are also numerous, especially around the golf courses and in the hills on the edges of town.
Nearly 20 percent of the 84,883 permanent residents of Hua Hin have immigrated from abroad with the specific intention of making a new life here. They are involved in the larger community, attend meetings with the city council, and have a real influence on the future of the city. They've brought a lot of their former lives with them, including reading clubs, festivals, cycling clubs, soccer leagues, wine-tasting, and darts tournaments. There is something happening almost every day.
New arrivals to Hua Hin appreciate the cleanliness of the area, the widespread use of English, the lack of corruption, and the low-cost, high standard of living, all of which make this a very attractive destination for retirees on a moderate budget. A couple could live a fully-appointed, rich, and interesting life here on a budget of as little as $1,100 per month.
In many respects, Hua Hin could be described as the San Miguel de Allende or Boquete of Southeast Asia. Those destinations, in Mexico and Panama respectively, are home to big and growing expat retiree communities. Like them, Hua Hin is home to enough local Thai people to keep things interesting. You'll know that you're in a foreign country. But, as with launching a new life in San Miguel or Boquete, moving to Hua Hin does not require total immersion in a new culture. There are enough expats and activities to ease the transition.
Perhaps the best part about retirement in Hua Hin is that you are not obliged to give up comforts and conveniences from back home. You'll be able to live better and enhance your quality of life, because the infrastructure and services to do so are both available and affordable.
The abundance of restaurants is impressive and eating out is one activity that almost all expats enjoy on a regular basis. A deliciously relaxing Thai massage is another affordable indulgence, and practitioners are located downtown and along the length of Petchkasem Road. A two-hour traditional massage costs 300 to 600 baht--that's just $10 to $20. An experienced full-time housekeeper charges around 7,500 baht ($225) per month.
Hua Hin has one of the most welcoming climates in Thailand. The average year-round temperature is a balmy 83 degrees Fahrenheit, with average highs of 88 degrees and lows of 77. The town is located in one of the driest parts of Thailand, with an average annual rainfall of just 37 inches.
Rents are almost always negotiable, at least to an extent. Your biggest decision here will be whether you want to live on the beach or more inland. The beach is lined with condominiums and apartments, many with direct ocean views. A furnished two-bedroom place with an ocean view rents for $800 to $1,000 per month. However, back from the beach, rents are half as much.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas--Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.
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