Where are the best places to retire in Southeast Asia?

Expats like to retire in Southeast Asia
More expats opt to retire in Southeast Asia because it's affordable and has nice weather

Regardless of if your retirement is happening this year or remains decades away, it’s never good to start thinking about it. There is perhaps no larger decision than where. Many people choose to retire in Southeast Asia thanks to the low cost of living, outstanding weather and a chance to see a different part of the world.

Those wanting to retire in Southeast Asia have no shortage of options. From stunning beaches where you can watch the sunset every evening to majestic mountain retreats, you are sure to find a place in the region that offers what you’re looking for.

Want to know where to retire in Southeast Asia? Here are the three top countries based on several factors including cost of living, ease of buying property, retirement visa policies and expat support.

3 best places to retire in Southeast Asia

3) Philippines

Language: English

Cost of living: Est. USD 1,100 per month

Popular retirement spots: Cebu, Laguna, Clark

Retirement visa: Indefinite (If requirements met)

More expats are retiring in the Philippines with the beaches a big draw

There are a lot of reasons expats opt to retire in the Philippines including the widespread use of English. Additionally, The Special Resident Retiree’s Visa issued by the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration is among the best in Southeast Asia. Privileges include multiple-entry access with the right to stay indefinitely in the Philippines. Cost of living is also low, but not at the levels of Cambodia or Thailand.

Foreign property ownership is straightforward as well and many expats find property prices in the Philippines to be extremely attractive. Cebu has become a popular choice for Japanese and South Korean retirees while Laguna and Clark tend to be the preferred destination for Australian and Americans. You’ll also find a number of Nordic and German retirees spread throughout the archipelago.

2) Malaysia

Language: Malay (English and Chinese widely spoken)

Cost of living: Est. USD 1,400 per month

Popular retirement spots: Penang, Kuala Lumpur

Retirement visa: 10 year, multiple entry via MM2H

Malaysian luxury real estate
Prices of luxury condos in Kuala Lumpur remain quite low when compared to elsewhere

Malaysia has been a popular place to retire in Southeast Asia thanks to the introduction of the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme. People who purchase a property and can prove they are able to support themselves without seeking employment are able to obtain a 10-year, multiple-entry visa. Family members are also eligible for the visa.

Cost of living in Malaysia is higher than almost all countries in the region apart from Singapore, however, it is still well below the US and Europe. Healthcare is also much cheaper in Malaysia than in the home countries of most retirees. Georgetown is a popular retirement spot for US expats due to its multicultural vibe, food scene, beaches and green areas. Kuala Lumpur has seen an influx of Hong Kong and Singaporean retirees in recent years while Melaka is now firmly on the retirement radar these days.

1) Thailand

Language: Thai (Some English spoken)

Cost of living: Est. USD 900 per month

Popular retirement spots: Phuket, Hua Hin, Pattaya, Chiang Mai

Retirement visa: 1 year, renewable

Kamala Beach condo for sale
Phuket is popular with retirees wanting to enjoy the beach lifestyle

Thailand is the most popular choice for people wanting to retire in Southeast Asia, but the process to do so isn’t always easy. Let’s start with why people are so eager to spend their retirement in Thailand. For starters, there is the low cost of living and popular food scene. Additionally, there is a high standard for healthcare while being extremely affordable. The diverse locations and ease of domestic travel are also big draws. Finally, it is straightforward for foreigners to buy property in Thailand

There is a but, however. In order to obtain the retirement visa you’ll need to either deposit THB 800,000 into a Thai bank account or prove you have a monthly income/pension of THB 65,000 or more. The visa is only good for one year, but you can renew it annually as long as you still meet the financial requirements. However, a Google search of ‘Thailand retirement visa’ will turn up no shortage of horror stories about the process. Alternatively, the 10-year investment visa might be a better option for those who plan on buying property.

Retirees in Thailand can be found up and down the country. Those wanting to relax by the beach prefer Phuket or Pattaya while Chiang Mai is a trendy choice for those wanting to enjoy the lush forests of the north. Hua Hin offers a bit of both with a beach and green mountains within reach.