The stunning tropical lands of Southeast Asia are extremely popular with British expats and retirees. They offer a low cost of living with what would be considered luxuries back in the UK: domestic help, eating out every night, swimming pools, regular weekend trips. The colonial heritage of much of Southeast Asia makes it a bit less ‘impenetrable’ than northern neighbours Japan, China and Korea. There’s a better knowledge of European languages and some similar legal systems. Plus, there is also of course the simple fact that this is a gorgeous part of the world, whether it’s the clear, turquoise waters that lap the thousands of green islands, or the vibrantly colourful towns and cities dotted throughout the region. Here are the most popular areas to retire to Southeast Asia.
Anyone who’s been to Thailand will attest to its friendly and enchanting culture, stunning scenery and amazing food. Those choosing Thailand as their destination to retire to Southeast Asia tend to be drawn to the beaches of Phuket or Pattaya. For more urban living, elegant Hua Hin – a seaside resort made famous as the Thai royal family’s destination of choice – is a good choice. Chiang Mai also has a large community of retirees looking for an active lifestyle. It’s perched among mountains with opportunities for hiking, rafting and more.
What are the legal requirements to retire to Thailand? The government actively works to attract investment, including from pensioners. You can apply for an O or O-X visa, which can grant you the right to live in Thailand without working while drawing a pension. Foreigner can buy property like apartments, but they cannot buy the land on which the property sits.
How much does it cost to live in Thailand? Living is quite cheap here. In Chiang Mai, for instance, you can rent three-bedroom family homes for between ฿14,500 and ฿30,000. That depends on location – most expats don’t live centrally, which means cheaper prices. Buying is also affordable: even in more expensive areas like Phuket, you can get modern one-bedroom apartments for ฿3 million.
Vietnam is a fascinating mix of East and West, with many notable French influences. You can even find good bread in the local cuisine – something many expats to Asia do miss! The country’s beach towns offer a great lifestyle at a low price for those retiring to Southeast Asia. Check out Da Nang, known as the most liveable city and home to miles of sandy beaches. Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a very picturesque historic centre. If you’re not one for hot weather, head up in the mountains to Dalat. This was once the retreat of French officials and has a European-style layout with gardens, churches and meandering streets.
What are the legal requirements to retire to Vietnam? Vietnam your spot to retire to Southeast Asia? The country doesn’t have a retirement visa scheme, but you can use long-stay 5 year visas. If you’re just coming for holiday homes a few times a year, a tourist visa is sufficient.
How much does it cost to live in Vietnam? Foreigners can buy houses, but not land. That said, it’s a buyer’s market, with over 40,000 unsold homes in Hanoi. One-bedroom apartments outside of city-centre locations rent for 3-10 million dong. To buy, the same would be around 13-5 million dong.
Cambodia is an increasingly popular place to enjoy a laid-back retirement while discovering a fascinating culture. Siem Reap gives you a truly authentic experience, close to the breathtaking temples of Angkor Wat. If you love rural life, try the historic river town of Kratie – known for its dolphins. Sihanoukville has beautiful beaches, but it can be a bit ‘Vegas’-like with its casinos and nightlife. If you’re looking for work, such as teaching English, the bustling capital of Phnom Penh is a good bet.
What are the legal requirements to retire to Cambodia? Again, there isn’t a specific visa scheme for retirees. However, if you’re thinking of buying a holiday home to spent the winter here, for instance, you can easy get by with shorter-stay visas. Equally, doing a small amount of part-time work can get you a work visa.
How much does it cost to live in Cambodia? A one-bedroom apartment can cost between ៛500,000 to ៛2.6 million, depending on whether it’s in a suburb or the centre. To buy, you’re looking at between ៛1.6 million to ៛12 million.
Malaysia brands itself ‘the heart of Asia’, and it certainly lives up to the name. This extremely diverse nation’s main ethnic groups are the Malays, the Chinese, Indians and indigenous tribes, the Iban. West/Peninsular Malaysia is highly modern, with large, bustling cities and slick infrastructure. East Malaysia, on Borneo, is still very rural and traditional, with a majority indigenous population.
Most choosing Malaysia to retire to Southeast Asia stay on the Malacca Straits coast. Georgetown, in Penang, is particularly popular among expats, who make up 9% of its population. This majority-Chinese city is one of the most secular and richest parts of Malaysia. Its colourful colonial shophouses are famous nationwide, as is its reputation as a ‘foodie’ destination. The Genting Highlands, a former colonial hillstation, are perfect for those who prefer cooler weather. Ipoh, another mainly Chinese city, is the gateway to the Cameron Highlands. To experience Malay culture, the state of Kedah is a good choice. For beach bunnies, the tropical sands of Langkawi are hard to resist.
What are the legal requirements to retire to Malaysia? Of any Asian country, Malaysia is probably the most welcoming to retirees. The programme ‘Malaysia My Second Home’ has been ranked the third best migration scheme in the world. It gives a renewable 10-year visa to retirees.
How much does it cost to live in Malaysia? Foreigners can buy any property over RM1 million, which will net you a fantastic semi-detached villa. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment is cheap – RM500-2.8k a month.
Indonesia, one of the world’s largest and most densely populated countries, nonetheless is home to some places you wouldn’t be wrong to describe as paradise. The island of Bali is an enchanting place to spend your retirement and has a high expat population. You’ll find a number of purpose-built retirement resorts/villages. The bustling capital Jakarta tends to appeal less to retirees, but has lots of good career opportunities.
What are the legal requirements to retire to Indonesia? The Visa Tinggal Terbatas untuk Wisatawan Lansia Mancanegara is a special visa scheme aimed at people looking to retire to Southeast Asia. It gives people above 55 a renewable one-year visa to stay in Indonesia.
How much does it cost to live in Indonesia?
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If Singapore were a person, its shelf would be crowded with trophies. This young citystate is the richest, greenest, cleanest, safest, most developed country in Asia. It’s English-speaking and the legal, parliamentary and education systems are modelled on the UK. This is a great place for people looking for a second career, with high wages. Property prices are high however – sometimes named the highest in the world. For retirees looking to live in ‘landed’ (non-apartment) properties, the most desirable areas are Clementi and Bukit Timah, close to the nature reserve. For condos, try Novena or Newton. As you head east, prices drop, especially in the so-called ‘heartlands’ of Yishun and Ang Mo Kio. These areas have a lower reputation among locals, but that’s by Singaporean standards – they’re still extremely safe and clean and tidy.
What are the legal requirements to retire in Singapore? Like most developed countries, Singapore has no retirement visas, but having a part-time job could grant you a work pass. Foreigners can buy property, but there are some rules on resale public housing.
How much does it cost to live in Singapore? Landed homes start at around SG$3 million, with no real upper limit.
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