I retired to a beach town in Thailand and live in paradise on $ 2,500 per month

Pete Bowen came to Thailand in 2009 with a suitcase and a guitar, looking for a place to retire. He didn’t know anyone in the country. Almost 12 years later, he says his life in a seaside town on the west of the island of Phuket in Thailand is “living in paradise”.

Bowen, now 70, admits his decision to sell his house and all of his possessions in just three months, after being laid off from his Bay Area job in 2009, was somewhat impulsive. “My adult children were gone and I wasn’t in a relationship,” he says. He also thought his job prospects weren’t very good, so there was no reason to stay in the United States. “I have decided to roll the dice.”

He had been to Thailand before and knew he wanted to live near the beach, not in a big city like Bangkok. But even as he made his way to Phuket, he kept his options open. Would Cambodia work? And Vietnam? The Philippines? Malaysia? He visited other places, he says, but kept coming back to Thailand.

The people were friendlier – he kept mentioning the smiles he would get – and he appreciated the country’s “live and let live” attitude. And of course, there’s the weather – temperatures in the 80s in February, everyday T-shirts and shorts.

It took six months to decide that Kamala Beach, a town on two fires, was the right place.

“Once here, living at the beach, I got to know people pretty quickly,” said Bowen, who wrote a book about retirement in Thailand at the start of his life in Phuket and now posting videos. “That’s what made me come back. And it was fun. Just fun. “

Pete Bowen, right, and his wife Puy

Courtesy of Pete Bowen

Kamala Beach has a small but tight-knit expat community, he says. Native English speakers tend to be Australian or English, not American. Thais generally know a little English. He met his Thai wife, Oorathai, better known as Puy, while she was having a cup of coffee. They have been married for eight years.

“We go out a few nights a week and always meet friends,” he says. “I know all the owners of bars and restaurants. We will have dinners with a dozen friends every few weeks. It would be difficult to leave this tight community at this point. ”

Bowen was last in the United States three years ago and says he uses Skype and Zoom to follow his family. After his marriage, he was unable to get a US visa for his wife to meet his family, and they were only able to meet her on Zoom. Now, he says, he and his wife typically spend three months during the rainy season in Thailand traveling to Europe (the COVID period being an exception).

And when they want to travel to Asia, Phuket’s status as a tourism mecca means there is no shortage of flights under $ 100.

Phuket isn’t for everyone, he admits.

“One of the hardest things is how far Thailand is from the United States,” he says. “It takes 24 hours of flight to get home. People who want to see the grandchildren will be out of luck. It’s just not for everyone.

That, combined with the slim vacation days for many Americans, also means that visitors are infrequent. Of Bowen’s family, only his daughter visited him.

Bowen also notes that while Phuket is great for single men, it may be less appealing to others.

“I don’t see a lot of retired couples or single women retiring here,” he says. “For couples honestly, there are a lot of beautiful young single women who would like to meet a foreign man. Couples should have a strong relationship to last here.

His advice? Test your dream retirement for a few months before committing to it.

How much does it cost to live in Phuket

Bowen says his monthly budget of $ 2,500 is covered by his Social Security check of $ 1,800 plus investment income.

He rents a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house for $ 580 a month; a one-bedroom house or apartment can easily be found for $ 400 a month, he says. Other parts of Thailand where it is good to live are even cheaper, and life can be even cheaper in other parts of Southeast Asia, he notes.

Until recently, foreigners with longer nonimmigrant visas were not required to have health insurance. This changed. Bowen spends $ 1,800 a year on what he describes as a simple policy that will cover about $ 15,000 in expenses, or what he says is enough to cover a major health problem at a public hospital. A visit to the doctor costs $ 10, but pharmacists can handle many problems.

He retired from Medicare and no longer pays premiums.

Bowen spends $ 20 per month for high speed internet and $ 15 per month for an unlimited cell phone plan. He relies on Internet football and basketball packages for his dose of sports in the United States.

On the food side, the beef is expensive but the seafood is reasonable. “Going out to eat is ridiculously cheap,” he adds.

What else is expensive?

Wine, he says – “it’s $ 15 for anything decent.”

New cars are another. He owns a car – a 10-year-old Mazda 2 with only 15,000 miles – but says he uses a scooter in town. He warns that driving in Thailand is dangerous and that accident death rates are high.

The bottom line for Bowen is that there is no going back to the United States

Kamala beach, he says, “is beautiful, it truly is one of the most beautiful places in the world.”

If you want to move to Thailand …

The government requires that you have an income of 65,000 baht deposited in a Thai bank each month; that’s less than $ 2,200 at early 2021 exchange rates). Alternatively, you can keep 800,000 baht (over $ 26,000) in a local bank account.

Bowen says he arrived visa-free and now needs to notify the Thai immigration office every 90 days, online or in person, that he’s still there. Those who find it frustrating may hire an agent to take care of it, as some of their friends do.

Find out more about retirement abroad

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