The Best Place to Retire in Southeast Asia – Top 5
Retirement is a daunting prospect for many. People rarely tend to think about it, let alone plan and actively invest in making the most of it. This leads to feelings of anxiousness and helplessness when the time for retirement draws near. Nevertheless, it doesn’t have to be this way. Rather, retirement can be a harbinger of feelings of peace and comfort. Once retired, you can travel, explore the world, and choose a place that appeals to you as your happy abode.
Of course, choosing where to retire will be an important decision of your life. We’ve examined numerous locations and have shortlisted the following five as the best retirement places in Southeast Asia.
1. Taipei, Taiwan
Taipei is the capital city of Taiwan, located towards the north of the country. Drawing influences from China, Japan, and other Southeast Asian countries, Taipei offers a unique cultural blend which becomes all the more dynamic with its slightly American lifestyle. This, coupled with its scenic beauty, is the reason why Taipei has long been considered a leading destination for Western expatriates to settle in after retirement.
Taipei is actually a small island off mainland China. But its scenic beauty is not restricted to that of a typical island. Instead, it’s a place which offers its residents beauty in every natural shape and form. From scenic mountains and breathtaking cliffs, to fast-flowing rivers and fascinating gorges – Taipei has it all.
The tranquility of the place is what makes this small island so perfect for retirement. After all, once all your worldly jobs and responsibilities are over and done with, you will be in search of a place quiet and peaceful. And what better way to get peace than by drawing yourself closer to nature?
Even then, Taipei is not all about nature and wilderness. Rather, it also offers a healthy balance of city life with its modern buildings and contemporary shopping centers. The best example of its modern cityscape is the Taipei 101 building which can be viewed from almost anywhere in the city. The international design of Taipei 101 along with its very distinct Asian touch is symbolic of the city’s cultural blend.
But that’s not it. Taipei is also home to quite a few significant remnants of the past. The historical architecture of the city offers an immersive experience to Western expatriates, who might not find the same access to Chinese cultural elsewhere.
The Sanxia district of Taipei is the prime example of how well-preserved the island’s history is. While in Sanxia, you’ll be transported to the early twentieth century where the buildings were made of red bricks and the lanes were small and dingy. You can find plenty more places to indulge in the aesthetics of the past and satiate your curiosity for history around the city, such as the National Palace Museum and the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and Cultural Centre.
Additionally, places like Elephant Mountain and Ximending in Taipei are illustrative of how beautifully the island combines the old and the new, the natural and the artificial to give its residents a unique retirement experience.
Taipei, therefore, is ideal for those who prefer to experience a busy city life while also simultaneously being close to nature. It’s for people who even after retirement, do not want to let go of the essential hustle and bustle of life.
Even though Taipei is an island, it’s not at all a secluded village. On the contrary, Taipei is a major metropolitan city, complete with its tall buildings and busy streets. So, naturally, the residents of Taipei lead a lively and busy life. This lifestyle is ideal for those retirees who do not want to live in an isolated corner of the world. However, it might not be the best for those who want to be away from the city and be somewhere entirely quiet and slow.
Despite the many Western influences visible in their way of living, the local residents of Taipei do not exactly live like Americans. Things like drinking and partying are not as prevalent as in America and doing so openly in public is frowned upon. However, that does not mean having fun is not allowed. There are plenty of bars, nightclubs, and karaoke spots around town where you can go to let off some steam. Karaoke, in particular, is considered a popular source of entertainment by the locals. You can book entire Karaoke places for special occasions and enjoy with your family and friends.
Although it does not include drinking and gambling in the streets, Taipei does have a culture of vibrant nightlife. It mainly consists of famous night markets which are frequented by locals to buy cheap local products and indulge in delicious street food. Night markets hold great cultural and traditional significance, with some popular markets dating as far back as the late nineteenth century. Since their outdoors and boast a great diversity in their offerings, there’s something available for everyone.
Lastly, but most importantly, the food scene in Taipei is amazing. For those who want to fully immerse themselves in Asian food, Taipei is the place to go. Although there are many restaurants and cafes offering traditional food throughout the city, Taipei is most famous for its extensive street food culture. It’s worth mentioning, however, that not everyone can fully internalize the Taiwanese food culture. For those expats who want to stay true to their Western tastes, Taipei does offer many other options. While in the city, you can always cook up your desired meals as ingredients are widely available in international supermarket chains. There are also quite a few international fast food restaurants and coffee places that you can visit to feel closer to home, such as McDonalds and Starbucks.
Cost of Living
Although Taipei is one of the more expensive cities of Taiwan, it’s still relatively cheaper than other hotspots for Western expats such as Singapore. This means that you can almost certainly afford more luxuries while living in Taipei than in any other expat city or even back home.
If you are someone who prefers international products over local products, you might find your cost of living higher than the local residents of the city. It’s particularly true when it comes to food. Many local restaurants, especially street food stalls, are cheap and affordable. However, restaurants that serve Western food are relatively more expensive and cooking your desired Western meal at home can also end up costing you the same as eating out. Even then, Taipei is still largely affordable for expats.
Similarly, locally produced goods in general are cheaper in Taiwan than in Europe or USA. You will find furniture, textiles, and electronics cheaper than in your home country, especially if you live in America. However, imported goods available in Taipei, especially those of established luxury brands, are expensive because of the heavy import duties applied on them.
In terms of residence, it’s pretty affordable to rent out apartments. A good, spacious apartment in a moderately good area of the city can cost anywhere from $700 to $800 depending on its proximity to the City Centre. Public transportation is also pretty cheap in Taipei, with traveling by taxi costing less than a dollar for every kilometer. Travelling by bus or train costs even less and the low price of gas means that you can easily sustain a vehicle of your own.
In conclusion, Taipei has it all. It offers a lively city life but also moments of peacefulness through its natural beauty. It’s modern but also riddled with historic architecture and places of cultural importance. Even though the polluted air is not ideal, the lifestyle in Taipei is generally decent. Western expats don’t have to worry about affordability in Taipei too, and can easily thrive in its unique cultural blend. In fact, many westerners settle in Taipei and it’s considered as one of the best places for expats in Southeast Asia.
2. Hanoi, Vietnam
Hanoi is the capital city situated in northern Vietnam on the western bank of the Red River. Previously known as Thang Long, it stands amongst the world’s most ancient capitals. Home to a little over 8 million people, Hanoi is both the second largest and the second most economically productive city of Vietnam. Famously dubbed the “City for Peace” by UNESCO and also part of the UNESCO” Network of Creative Cities, Vietnam has a lot to offer to anyone choosing to call it home.
Hanoi is one of Asia’s most popular cities, ranking 15th on the list of most visited cities of Asia Pacific. This is because the city is rich in both natural and architectural beauty.
Hanoi is home to plenty of lakes, which serve as both places of cultural importance and entertainment spots. The Hoan Kiem Lake, in particular, is illustrative of Hanoi’s natural beauty. It’s a place frequented by locals and foreigners alike, making it an important social spot which facilitates social integration and makes the city expat-friendly. Perfume Pagoda is another example of Hanoi’s scenic beauty. It consists of a number of sacred Buddhist temples dating back to the 15th century built into a mountain. It’s accessed via a long boat ride and a hike up the hills, and the view along the way is absolutely stunning. There are many other places like these in Hanoi, which make it so attractive for tourists and settlers alike.
Apart from the natural bounties of the city, something which makes Hanoi so alluring for expats is its charm of old colonial architecture. In fact, there is a designated area called the “French Quarters” where several historical landmarks stand as a testament to the colonial past of the city. This area is characterized by French architecture and spacious avenues and is also considered the political center of Vietnam.
Offering stark contrast to French Quarters is the Old Quarter area of the city. This is a hub of economic activity, brought to life by merchants, shopkeepers, buyers, street stall owners and people grabbing a quick snack from their favorite road-side café. All in all, it gives a special Vietnamese experience to anyone who visits it.
With its historical landmarks, glittering lakes, and bustling market places, Hanoi offers a thoroughly engaging atmosphere for retirees. You’ll never be tired of its ambience, and there will always be something for you to do or experience if you choose to live here.
The lifestyle of people of Hanoi is pleasantly healthy. It consists of getting up early in the morning, making their way to Hoam Kiem Lake, and indulging in the spiritual Tai Chi exercise. Their culture is of mindfulness and respectfulness, you are at all times expected to be at your best behavior, especially in the presence of the elderly. Tradition and culture is of extreme importance to the locals. They take dressing up very seriously, and expect the foreigners living in the city to do the same.
Apart from their general behavior in the public, Hanoians are fairly fun-loving. They frequent cinemas, theatres, karaoke bars, and dance clubs. Shopping is also considered a famous pastime, and there are a number of mega malls in the city. Being rich in art and culture, Hanoi is home to quite a few art galleries and there is always some sort of exhibition being held in the city.
In terms of food, Hanoi is the best place to get the most delicious Vietnamese food. There are not many Western options available for those expats who want to stay true to their roots, but Hanoi is a heavenly city for Asian food lovers. Due to the colonization by French, you can still taste the French influences in the food served up in Hanoi. The street food culture in Hanoi is particularly strong, so the food is never really expensive or inaccessible. Even though not all food stalls are exactly hygienic, street food is considered to be a lot more delicious that any in the traditional restaurant. In fact, eating out while sitting on a small plastic stool is considered a cultural experience of its own. However, that does not mean there is no concept of proper restaurants in Hanoi. If you are someone who feels more comfortable in a proper restaurant, there are plenty of both aesthetically and gastronomically pleasing options available for you.
Cost of Living
Hanoi is considered one of the cheapest international destination in Southeast Asia, if not in the world. And rightly so. Many expats find the cost of living in Hanoi cheaper than their expenses back home.
Even though many people from all over Vietnam migrate to Hanoi in search of a living, there are still plenty of places available for expats to rent out. There is no particular lack of facilities throughout the city, but some areas are more popular with the expats and offer better utilities than others. Usually, a normal, well-furnished apartment can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 per month but there are higher-end options also available such as those found in the Tay Ho district.
Food in Hanoi is extremely cheap. You can easily get a full meal in a modern area of the city for just $3 to $4. Since the street food culture is quite prevalent, you can be on a budget and yet still thrive on the delicious Vietnamese food served by the street.
Low cost of food and ingredients also means that getting groceries from a local supermarket is also very affordable. If you are nostalgic for the American taste, you can always cook up your own budget-friendly meal at home. Clothes and goods in Hanoi are also pretty affordable, a significant part of your budget will not be eaten up by the essentials.
Furthermore, getting around the city is easy. Public transportation is not expensive at all, you only need a $9 ticket to last all your travels for a month. Many people in Hanoi choose to rent a bike for their private use, and that is pretty affordable too.
All things considered, you can expect to spend anywhere between $800 and $1500 per month depending on your standard of living. This includes not only the essentials but also added luxuries like occasional access to cinema or other entertainment spots.
Hanoi is one of the most visited places in the world for a reason. The reason is that it has a lot to offer to its visitors. If you want to retire somewhere where your senses will come alive, Hanoi is the place to go. It’s enchanting because of its historical landmarks, and beautiful because of its natural bounties. The locals are respectful and polite and also getting increasingly accepting of foreigners. This, coupled with its astonishing affordability, is enough to make it one of the best retirement places in Southeast Asia.
3. George Town, Malaysia
George Town is the capital of Penang Island in Malaysia, a beautiful location which has consistently ranked as the top expat destination within Malaysia. It’s a multicultural city and people of many different nationalities call it their home, making it all the more attractive for foreigners looking to make Southeast Asia their retirement home.
Georgetown is easily the most illustrious city of Malaysia, thanks to its interesting blend of the past and the present. It’s a city the history of which is almost tangible in its narrow streets, and quaint houses. In fact, George Town is one of UNESCO’S World Heritage Sites.
Even though it’s located on an island, George Town derives most of its charm from its historical architecture. The Asian and European influences are visible in the construction and built of the city’s buildings. In fact, there are over twelve thousand old buildings in the form of mosques, temples, churches, and government offices which stand as a testament to the island’s vibrant past.
The suburbs of George Town are quite popular amongst the expats. This is because it’s where you can get the full experience of being on an island. Since the rest of the city is pretty modern and contemporary, the suburbs allow the expats to visit the beach and live in a seafront location.
George Town is also home to quite a few beautiful promenades, an attractive feature for retirees who like to spend their time outdoors. The famous Penang Hill is also situated to the west of George Town and is visible from many areas of the city. A weekly trip to Penang Hill can be a great addition to your retired life, because who does not want to be closer to nature and take in the breathtaking night view of George Town?
The cityscape of George Town is incomplete without its numerous painted walls. The heritage buildings of the city have been brought to life by the local artists who painted beautiful murals over them. Whether you stumble upon them while taking a walk around town or go on a street art tour to purposefully see them, you can simply can’t resist the awe the art pieces will inspire.
George Town has a very laid-back and casual vibe to it. It’s definitely busy and does fit the bill of one of those hectic Asian cities you see on TV, but even then, it has a very friendly and inviting atmosphere. It’s equal parts busy and calm, and you choose which part of George Town you want to call home.
The nightlife in George Town is perhaps the most vibrant of all the other locations mentioned in this list. The nightclubs in the city will not make you feel nostalgic for those in Las Vegas, and if you are someone who loves to party, you will fit right into the crowd which frequents the city’s many bars.
The city also offers many opportunities for those retirees who prefer a calmer social life. There are multiple English-style pubs in the city which will make you feel nostalgic for the eighties, a great place to hang out with your partner and friends.
Owing to the influences from many different ethnicities, the cuisine of George Town is deliciously flavorful. The combination of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cuisines makes sure that neither locals nor expats are ever bored of what they eat. George Town also offers many international options for expats. You can choose to eat French food at one of its fine-dining restaurants, or stick with your Big Mac from McDonald’s – you will never simply run out of options.
Cost of Living
George Town is one of the best places to retire in Southeast Asia because it combines an excellent standard of living with financial independence. If you choose to retire to George Town, you will most definitely live a life of luxury.
On average, a person can spend anywhere between $1500 and $2000 a month without compromising on a quality lifestyle. Renting a furnished apartment in a posh area of the city costs just $500. The utilities are pretty inexpensive too and same goes for groceries.
Although Western and imported goods are more expensive than those locally-produced, it’s still relatively easy to incorporate good-quality brands in your life.
Another bonus for expats choosing to retire in George Town is cheap healthcare. You do not need to have a medical insurance to pay for your bills, as paying out of pocket is just as easy. That doesn’t mean that the healthcare system is compromised, instead, there are many top-quality hospitals and medical centers which provide the same level of care as anywhere else in the developed world.
In conclusion, George Town is almost a dream-like place to be in. It has a very artistic and friendly environment, one that lures many expats every year. From a good standard of living to a plethora of entertainment opportunities, George Town offers it all. It’s ideal for retirees who seek a cozy little place with beautiful architecture and a generally spirited atmosphere.
4. Bali, Indonesia
The island of Bali is located about 8 degrees away from the equator, in the western part of Indonesia. It’s often referred to as one of the best islands of the world, thanks to its incredibly beautiful landscape. Because of its scenic beauty and ease of living, Bali is also quickly becoming of the favorite places for foreigners to settle in.
Also known as the “Land of the Gods”, Bali is one of the most beautiful islands of the world. Influenced by Indian, Chinese and Hindu culture, Bali’s natural beauty has many spiritual undertones to it.
The island is characterized by its many volcanoes and lush green rice fields, all of which hold great cultural significance. The central mountains of the island are as high as 3,000 meters, and an attraction for many tourists. The enchanting scenery of the island makes a person feel both at peace with nature and overwhelmed by the vast reality of the universe. This is probably why living in Bali is almost a spiritual experience.
Bali is home to many white-sand beaches. Since the weather is always warm and sunny, there is never a bad day to visit the beach. They are great for just lazing around and spending quality time with your partner.
The strategic location of the island also means that it’s very close to other islands. There’s always a possibility of adventure. On days when you feel like an explorer, you can unleash the curious child in you and take a boat trip to any of the nearby islands.
In short, the scenic beauty of the island is enough to sustain any person’s lifelong desire of being close to nature.
Bali’s lifestyle is best suited to couples who want to lead a private life on a beautiful island after their retirement. It’s peaceful and allows you to live life at a comfortable, slow pace.
When it comes to comfort, Bali affords decent level of peace of mind to its residents. But when considering retirement in Bali, it must be kept in mind that it’s still in its development phase. This means that utilities might not be as widely available as in the developed world. You should expect fluctuation in electricity and lack of quality healthcare. Similarly, a lot of things that are widely available in the West might not be easily found in Bali. This mainly refers to international brands, ingredients required to make Western dishes, international fast food chains, and so on and so forth. However, all of these things do not make a strong enough case against choosing it for retirement.
Life in Bali is not all bad. What makes the Bali way of life great is its community-oriented values. The locals hold their culture and traditions very close to their heart. This means that being part of the community will be a very fulfilling experience for those who choose to retire here. Social integration in Bali will also not be a problem as people are generally friendly and inviting. Furthermore, there are plenty of expat colonies so you will never feel out of place in the island.
Life in Bali is also fairly entertaining. Street Festivals are part of the island’s culture and are eagerly looked forward to by both the locals and the expats. Often, street festivals are symbolic of the island’s strong sense of community and are celebrated for religious reasons. Regardless of the reasons behind them, they are very popular amongst the expats.
On the flipside, Bali also has a vibrant nightlife. After the sunset, you can visit one of the many pubs of the island and let your hair down. There are also plenty of clubs that expats frequent with their friends and have a fulfilling social life.
Cost of Living
The reason many expats consider Bali to be one of the best islands for retirement in Southeast Asia is because of its low cost of living. Although the cost of living depends greatly on what side of the city you choose to live in and what sort of lifestyle you want, Bali is still extremely popular amongst the expats because of its affordability.
On average, you can spend an entire month of ease and comfort at the low cost of just $1000. This includes $400 of rent, $80 of transportation, $500 of food, and the rest for any other essential activities you might want to participate in.
With that being said, your lifestyle of choice will play a huge role in determining how expensive or cheap your cost of living in Bali will be. To put things in perspective, a meal can range anywhere from $2 to $10 depending on where you choose to eat.
One downside of living in Bali, though, is the high cost of alcohol. Alcohol-based drinks are heavily taxed in Bali and this might be off-putting for those who hold their imported drinks close to their hearts. Another disadvantage is the added cost of traveling to different places in case a complicated medical emergency needs tending to.
In conclusion, retirement in Bali means that the more you spend, the better. Although still cheaper than many places in the West, Bali is one of the pricier retirement destinations on the list. But if the presence of many expats says anything, it’s that it now out of budget for most expats wanting to retire in a beautiful, upbeat place in Southeast Asia.
Bali is one of the most breathtaking places on earth. It has everything that one might want from an island – ideal temperature, excellent nightlife, low cost of living, and scenic beauty all around. Almost 30,000 expatriates live on the island, making it one of the top destinations for those looking to retire in Southeast Asia. Given all the things that Bali has to offer, the numbers are not surprising.
5. Hua Hin, Thailand
Hua Hin is a beach resort town, famous for being the King of Thailand’s summer home. It’s just under 200 km away from the economic center of Bangkok and is a fantastic go-to place for many people, locals and expats alike.
Hua Hin is one of the more unconventional places which retirees choose to settle in. This is because of its upbeat and modern ambience.
Hua Hin is primarily a summer resort. It’s the place where the rich and the privileged of Thailand come to spend quality time with their families. After all, it does have everything that demands for a complete vacation.
The famous Hua Hin beach and the beautiful Phraya Nakhon cave are examples of Hua Hin’s beautiful natural offerings. Furthermore, Hua Hin is also home to a series of mountains which look like chopsticks. In short, Hua Hin does not lack natural beauty which is often a pre-requisite for many retires.
With its contemporary restaurants and attractive clubs, Hua Hin is also perfect for expats who crave an ambience of luxury and comfort. There are many high-end restaurants, bars, and clubs for the retirees to visit. These modern facilities with the backdrop of scenic beauty make Hua Hin an almost a cookie-cutter place for any Western retiree.
Hua Hin scores high in the livability department. It enables it residents to have a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and most of its facilities are almost entirely targeted towards either tourists or expats who choose it as their retirement home.
Being a resort town, living in Hua Hin might feel like being on a long-drawn vacation. Except you are not expecting to do much apart from lazing around and spending quality time with your loved ones. There are plenty of opportunities around town to indulge in leisurely activities. You can play golf, go swimming, or frequent one of its many clubs to socialize and make new friends.
Hua Hin offers its residents decent entertainment opportunities too. Night markets, in particular, are quite captivating for the expats. It’s during these night markets that the city comes to life and people join each other to eat street food and sway to the music.
In terms of food, Hua Hin also has much to offer to its expats. People who retire in the city are often drawn to its many international chains as it allows them to stay true to their roots. Imported goods and ingredients are also available in abundance, so you will never feel out of place while spending an exotic time in retirement.
Cost of Living
Like other places on the list, Hua Hin is considerably cheap when compared to other cities in Europe or America. Many expats lead a comfortable life in just $1500 a month. This includes not only the essentials, but also many leisurely activities.
Renting out a medium-sized, fully-furnished apartment in a moderately good area of the city costs about $500 a month. Groceries are pretty affordable to, so are the basic utilities. Expats can also comfortably own and maintain a normal vehicle while being on a budget, meaning that a significant amount of the budget is not spent on just trying to get around town.
Like in other places, imported goods are expensive in Hua Hin too. The cost of living can go considerably up if you wish to live on an imported lifestyle. Even then, Thailand is considered one of the cheapest places for expats.
In conclusion, Hua Hin is almost a perfect choice for those who want to retire somewhere peaceful without having to compromise on their comfort and leisurely activities. From beautiful beach to accessible golf fields, Hua Hin has all the makings of one of the best retirement places in Southeast Asia. It’s also good for those who do not want to throw themselves in a completely foreign way of living. While in Hua Hin, you will not be required to abandon your American ways. Thanks to its many offerings for international residents, you can spend your time in retirement any way you want to. At the end of the day, retirement is a milestone in life like any other. By planning carefully towards it, you can make the most out of your time in retirement.