Readers' Submissions

Retiring Under Palm Trees

  • Written by Anonymous
  • July 17th, 2009
  • 4 min read


Moving to Thailand? There’s a lot to consider first.

Foreigners are flocking to Thailand. They want to live the dream of spending the evening of their life in an exotic land. Especially tempting is the climate and the cheaper prices. Thailand is a tempting sunny land for may retired people on a pension. But before you move there, there is a lot to consider: on first sight, life in another country may seem to have more advantages than is really the case. Before making a decision, you need to be certain that you like it and that you can live here.

An elderly married couple wrote to Der Farang (The Foreigner), “We love this country. The people are so friendly, the climate is so attractive.” Germans are moving to Thailand in great numbers. They want to spend their last years under the palms and ask for some tips and advice. We wrote back, “Before making a firm decision, before taking any further steps, you need to consider health insurance for your future,” and sent details.

The subject of health insurance is the crux for seniors moving abroad. All Germans who report that they are leaving their homeland lose the protection of government or other health insurance. They must take out new insurance in Thailand or in Germany – and that costs money.

As age increases, the insurance premiums get higher, with international insurers even more than local ones; for many pensioners living in Pattaya the premiums are too much. Their monthly pension payment is not enough for them to have comprehensive health insurance.

For foreigners who come to Thailand with chronic conditions, insurance is a problem because the treatment of pre-existing conditions is excluded from the health insurance conditions. HIV is also excluded for both men and women, even if they have health insurance and have paid their premiums punctually. Another factor is that many Thai companies will not provide insurance to over-70s and will increase the premiums a lot if you have a damaging fall or may cancel the contract.

A person who came to Thailand many years ago and has had health insurance ever since, needs to give consideration to increasing the value of the sum covered. As a result of the boom in medical tourism, private hospitals have invested heavily and upped their fees by as much as 50%. They seem to have the impression that every foreigner living in Thailand is a millionaire.

Local first-class hospitals are nowadays equipped like modern hospitals in Europe or the USA and seek to make good profits. So a case of cancer can cost several million baht. A routine heart bypass operation in a five-star hospital may cost in the region of a million baht.

Therefore the German embassy in Bangkok appeals to its citizens not to cancel their insurance protection at home before moving overseas. You should keep open the door to medical treatment at home in case of emergency.

Retirement under the palms attracts many pensioners. They want to live their dream of spending the evening of their life in an exotic land like Thailand. The climate and the cost of living are tempting. Thailand is a decidedly sunny country with good temperatures all year round. (Translator’s note: can be very hot and humid at times). Every day you can sit outside on the terrace and eat gazing at the view of the stars in the clear sky, in the morning enjoy breakfast in a paradise garden with the birds around. Before making a decision, you need to consider how you like it here, whether you can live here, how you feel about the food, the sun, the climate and how you will get on dealing with the mentality of the Thai people.

At first sight life in another country can seem to have more advantages than are actually the case. Therefore there is a lot to think about before moving, not just health insurance.

Foreigners, who live in Thailand more than half of the year, are liable for tax here. (Need to check on double tax agreements between your country and Thailand). It is vital to be clear about the situation and to have worked out your financial plan.

For most foreigners, if they do not work in Thailand and provided they do have adequate means, there is the apparent opportunity to significantly increase their standard of living. Therefore it is vital to have your assets invested well, at home, in Thailand, or in both countries. Your strategy needs to take into account that you are stopping working as well as the change in where you live.

In Thailand you must also consider exchange rate fluctuations and high inflation rates. You also need to consider the unknowns about the unstable internal political situation which some analysts see as ongoing.

And foreigners must also clarify what authorities will settle your estate on decease. The advice of a reliable lawyer can help.

Why do people move? Novelist Yann Martel summed it up in his book “Ship Wreck with Tiger”:

“What makes them pull up their roots and leave behind everything familiar, set out to a great unknown well over the horizon? Why go to a strange jungle where everything is new, different and dangerous?”

The answer is always the same. They set out in the hope of a better life.

Translated from “Der Farang’, Pattaya, November 2008. This is targeted on Germans and German-speaking people. Some minor editing.

Stickman's thoughts:

A lot of good points are made in this article.

With the reasonable (although rapidly increasing) cost of medical care, for many you might be better off without medical insurance, although that is a personal decision and varies from person to person.