The Cheapest Countries to Retire in Asia (Not Only Thailand!)

Today you are going to discover the 6 cheapest countries to retire in Asia.

And no, we are not going to tell you to move to Bangladesh or Iraq.

The countries you will read about in the next minutes are places where you can live cheaply, but they are also safe, relatively stable countries, and most importantly: the governments of all these countries offer advantageous visa programs for expats who want to move there.

Are you ready?

The first in our list of the cheapest countries to retire in Europe is the UAE.

This might take people by surprise since the UAE is not really as inexpensive as the other countries on this list.

Rent there is not the cheapest, and if you want to drink a beer, it will probably cost you more than in the US. However, there are a few things people forget when we talk about the costs of the UAE, and the most important is… 

It is an INCOME TAX-FREE COUNTRY! Yes, you heard it right: you will pay ZERO, NADA, COSA ALGUMA of income taxes when retiring in the UAE.

Only a few countries on the planet have no income taxes, and the United Arab Emirates is one of them. So even if housing there is more expensive than in the other countries on this list, just remember that you will also save a lot by not paying taxes.

Another advantage of this incredible country that I could witness firsthand is its insanely well-built transport infrastructure. You will be a single flight from nearly anywhere in the world, and their national airline is GOOD. Flying Delta after flying Emirates is like eating an old burger after enjoying a tender sirloin.

Another point about the UAE is how good their hospitals are. They have a few among the best in the world. It is a very, very safe country, and it has a lot of leisure options. I lived for some time in Qatar, and Dubai or Abu Dhabi is where people from Qatar go to have fun, since the rules there are much less strict.

Moving Out, Working Abroad and Keeping Your Sanity Cover
Recommended book: Moving Out, Working Abroad, and Keeping Your Sanity

But I promised to talk about the costs of living, so let’s do it. 

When we talk about the UAE, everyone thinks about Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but there is much more there, and let me present you Ras Al-Khaimah. It is a city with 200,000 residents, only 120 kilometers from Dubai, with a remarkably good infrastructure, beautiful beaches, and quite a low cost of living. Let’s compare it to Tampa, Florida, for example.

  • The cost of living in Tampa is 53% higher than in Ras Al-Khaimah.
  • Housing costs in Tampa are almost 62% higher.

You can buy a beachfront, already-furnished apartment with a spectacular view for 480,000 AED. This is only 131,000 dollars!

Apartment in the UAE

Now let’s talk about the visa requirements if you plan to retire there. The process is quite simple:

  • You must be over 55 years old.
  • Prove that you have an income equivalent to or above 5500 dollars per month.
  • Invest at least 1 million AED (272,000 dollars) in property in the country, either for yourself or to rent to others.
  • Have a similar amount of savings.

If these requirements sound high to you, don’t worry, the next country we will talk about has much lower requirements.

The next among the most inexpensive countries to retire in Asia is The Philippines

Nearly 200,000 Western expats live in the Philippines today, and there are a few reasons for that.

First, it is tremendously inexpensive.

Even the most expensive city in the Philippines is less than half of the cost of living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In a smaller city (but still big enough to have everything you need), like Iloilo, you can rent an entire house close to the seaside for less than 600 dollars!

House in the Philippines

However, the low cost of living is not the only advantage of the Philippines.

Healthcare costs in the Philippines are much lower than in the United States. The average cost of a doctor’s visit is around PHP 500-1,500 ($9-$27), compared to $100-$200 in the U.S.

Another very interesting thing is that hiring domestic help in the Philippines is inexpensive. Full-time household help costs around PHP 10,000 ($180) per month, making it easy for retirees and remote workers to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. And one great advantage that many people forget is that many locals in the Philippines are fluent in English!

The country ranks 18th out of 112 countries in the EF English Proficiency Index, so you don’t even need to worry much about the usual language barrier. The climate is warm, with average temperatures ranging from 25°C to 32°C (77°F to 90°F) year-round. But they are often hit by strong hurricanes, so keep that in mind when thinking about a place to live there.

To retire in the Philippines, you can apply for the Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV), which allows retirees to live there with minimal bureaucracy.

Lastly, but not least important, foreign pension income is not taxed in the Philippines. Retirees and remote workers can benefit from this tax advantage, potentially saving thousands of dollars annually. Maybe that explains why in so many aspects the Philippines is already challenging the dominance of Thailand and Bali in attracting digital nomads.

The third country on our list is Cambodia.

Probably you know Cambodia because of the massive Angkor Wat complex. I was there, it is TRULY impressive. But Cambodia is SO MUCH MORE than that. 

For example, most people don’t know that they have some of the most beautiful beaches in entire Asia! And life there does not cost even close to what you would pay in the US or the UK. A single person can live comfortably in Cambodia with less than $1,500 per month, including rent, food, and transportation.

Cambodia also offers a favorable tax environment. Foreign pensions are not taxed at all. For those who enjoy lots of entertainment and larger cities, the obvious recommendation is always Siem Reap, but locals told me that for those looking for tranquility close to pristine sandy beaches, the best is the city of Kampot.

One guy said that it is so quiet there that, outside of the season, you can hear your heartbeat. I checked what kind of houses are available in Kampot for sale, and at first glance, they look expensive because they are all luxurious and large. Mostly mansions. Still, if you consider, for example, that this house has 4 bathrooms, 318 square meters, and won an international architectural prize, it is not expensive at all. Plus, what a view!

Cambodia offers an “ER” visa specifically for retirees, and it is also not complicated to obtain. The next country on our list is probably the most expected of all. However, before we reveal it, I’d like to ask a small favor: if you enjoy this episode, please hit the like and subscribe buttons.

So the next country is…

Thailand – Beyond Chiang Mai

According to the US Department of State, more than 30,000 Americans decided to move to Thailand, and it is easy to understand why. Housing costs in Thailand are very reasonable.

For example, in Bangkok, you can rent a nice 2-bedroom condo for a modest amount, like this elegant unit in Merlin Tower for only $408. If you choose to live in other parts of the country, you can find even cheaper options. In Chiang Mai, for example, you can rent an entire villa with a swimming pool for the same value, making it one of the cheapest places to retire. It is insane!

Villa in Chiang Mai

Another thing that is extremely cheap in Thailand is eating out. You can enjoy a delicious meal for less than $5. And even if you get bored of Thailand, which is unlikely, you can fly around all of Asia for unbelievably cheap prices. Because Thailand is served by multiple low-cost airlines like AirAsia, Nok Air, and Lion Air.

Thailand also has plenty of world-class private hospitals, with prices that are a fraction of what you would pay in the US. That is why so many people from Europe and America travel there for medical tourism. For example, the BNH Hospital is among the best in Asia, and it was founded by the British community residing in Thailand.

Thailand offers a straightforward retirement visa process for foreigners over 50. The Non-Immigrant O-A visa requires proof of funds amounting to 800,000 THB (approximately $25,000) or a monthly income of at least 65,000 THB (around $2,000).

We recently made a video about Thailand, you can see it in the description.

The next country we will talk about is a neighbor of Thailand whose popularity skyrocketed after their government started offering some really good Visa schemes to attract foreigners.

Book: Budget Travelers, Digital Nomads & Expats: The Ultimate Guide: 50 Tips, Tricks, Hacks, and Ways to Free Stuff & Cheaper Flights
Recommended book: Budget Travelers, Digital Nomads & Expats: The Ultimate Guide: 50 Tips, Tricks, Hacks, and Ways to Free Stuff & Cheaper Flights

We are talking about Malaysia.

If we talk about living in Malaysia, either as an expat retiree or a remote worker, we MUST talk about the MM2H program. MM2H means Malaysia My Second Home, and it is a government program to attract foreigners to Malaysia. There are many tiers for this program, but on the most basic tier, the government will give you a 5-year residence visa if you invest the equivalent of $105,000 in Malaysia.

The age requirements for Malaysia My Second Home are also another attraction. Most retirement visa schemes from other countries demand that you are above 50 years old, but to participate in the MM2H, it is enough to be 30 years old or more. If you meet the requirements, the Malaysian government promises to approve your visa in less than 3 WORKING DAYS. This is probably the fastest residence visa I know about.

But then you might ask: Very cool, they have an easy-to-obtain visa, but why would I want to live in Malaysia?

First, the cost of living and property prices there are LOW. An expat who resides in Malaysia recommended Penang as one of the best cities for those planning to live there. There, you can buy a beachside apartment with a full view for 348,000 Malaysian Ringgit. This is the equivalent of $74,000. $74,000 for this view! I also asked which other advantages Malaysia has, and here is what he told me:

  • English is widely spoken.
  • The infrastructure is pretty good and modern.
  • The people in general are very nice.
  • Favorable exchange rate.
  • GREAT FOOD and cheap.
  • Warm weather is one of the many reasons why Thailand is one of the best places to retire in Asia.

By being based here in Malaysia, the rest of Asia is close by for you to check out, so cheap flights! He also said that he liked the laid-back, relaxed lifestyle there. In fact, many Koreans and Japanese move to Malaysia exactly because life is slower there. Meanwhile, Australians prefer another country, which is the last one on our list, but not less interesting if you are planning to move to Asia:

Closing the list of the cheapest retirement destinations in Asia is Indonesia

This country is a huge archipelago, and surely there are many nice places there. However, we will focus here on one island: Bali. The Indonesian government has a specific visa program for those willing to live in Bali as a remote worker or retirees, and that explains why Bali rivals with Chiang Mai in Thailand for the title of the world capital of Digital Nomads.

The retirement visa program is called KITAS and allows retirees to stay long-term in Bali. Candidates need to show a minimum bank balance of USD 2,000 and a monthly income of at least USD 3,000. They also need to have a local guarantor, which is often a travel agency.

The advantages of living in Bali are many:

  • The island is renowned for its stunning landscapes and beaches, and areas like Nusa Dua and Sanur offer beautiful coastal views.
  • Since many Westerners and Australians are living there, English is widely spoken.
  • There are also many top-notch medical facilities and entertainment options.
  • Hiring domestic staff is very economical there. A daily cleaning service will cost you as little as $30 per week.
  • Socializing is not difficult; both locals and foreigners that live on the Island are friendly (unless you have something against Australians).

Now, what about the cost of living in Bali?

It is enough to say that you can rent this charming villa with a swimming pool and beautifully decorated for 8,000 dollars per year. This is less than 670 dollars per month.

Villa in Bali

Not many places in the world offer you this level of life for such low prices.

However, there is one part of Europe where you can have similar standards and pay VERY LOW for that. It is Eastern Europe, and don’t worry, not everywhere there is cold and gray.

So to discover more about the best places to live and retire in Eastern Europe, check this article here.

Levi Borba is the founder of expatriateconsultancy.comcreator of the channel The Expat, and best-selling author.You can find him on X here.

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