Do you love Thailand but are having a hard time deciding which town to call home? Have you thought of island life in Koh Samui? This article will explain everything you will want to know about retiring there.
Yes, if you love a beach lifestyle and slower island living then Koh Samui is for you. With 10 main beaches and plenty of hidden coves and natural beauty it is the perfect place to retire. The cost of living in Thailand is extremely low and most people can live there on just their pension or retirement savings.
- Is Koh Samui a good place to live?
- How much does it cost to live in Koh Samui?
- Do they speak English in Koh Samui?
- What are the requirements for a retirement visa in Thailand?
- Is buying property in Koh Samui a good investment?
- Is Koh Samui a safe place to retire?
- What food can I expect in Koh Samui?
- How do you get around Koh Samui?
Now that you know what most people ask when they are thinking of retiring to Koh Samui, let’s dig in and answer each of those questions.
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Is Koh Samui a good place to live?
The island is 228 kms squared and has a population of roughly 70,000 people so plenty of room and enough people to make plenty of local friends. After flying into Samui international Airport you will be greeted with a small tropical island terminal that will already make you feel at home. What happens on the mainland rarely affects the slow pace of the island.
The beauty of living there is you can be to many destinations across asia in 2 hours or less which include Singapore, Malaysia and Cambodia. There are regular flights to Bangkok as well and that will only cost $130 USD on average for carry-on only with Bangkok Airways. There is also a ferry to and from the mainland as well.
All the traditional Thai foods are available as well as a wide array of international foods due to the both seasonal expats that have holiday homes on the island and also tourists in the busy seasons. With the expat numbers growing to over 40k from all over the world.
There are heaps of things to do on the island like the wide array of water sports, hiking tracks, learning Thai and making friends and spending time with other expats. There are a heap of Facebook groups you can join to start meeting people and getting to know more about the island before and while living there.
How much does it cost to live in Koh Samui?
For a 1 bed 1 bath unit the monthly rents start at around $230 USD and go up from there. A 2 bed 2 bath starts at around $440 per month both being in the traditional Thai style property. If you want western style or more bedrooms or on the beach the prices will reflect that.
If you want actual current rental prices look at the website in the property section of this article and change the search to rental properties instead.
Two of the options are available in the table below:
|Rent (Studio)||$230 USD|
|Rent (2 bed)||$440 USD|
|Utilities (Electricity / Water)||$50 USD (4 Baht per KW and 7% tax)|
|Groceries (Including Bottled Water)||$100 USD|
|Dining Out (2 people X 8 times)||$60 USD|
|Internet||$20 USD (20Mbps Down / 10Mbps Up)|
|Transport (MRT the Metro or Subway)||$40 USD|
|Total (Studio)||$510 USD|
|Total (2 Bed)||$720 USD|
Do they speak English in Koh Samui?
Yes, being a huge tourist destination there are heaps of locals that speak fluent or broken English and many other languages as well. You can start learning Thai as well on the Duo Lingo app before you arrive and also do local courses as well.
Getting a 1 year student visa to learn Thai is a great way to try before you buy by living on the island first. The courses are quite cheap and the local school will help you with your visa application that can be renewed yearly as long as you meet the requirements as well.
You can also learn French, German and Italian on the island as well which is another thing you can do if you choose to retire there.
What are the requirements for a retirement visa in Thailand?
Thailand has an easy Visa of type “O” or “OA” for retirees that are over 50yo and have $2k USD in monthly income or $24k in a Thailand bank account. The visa renews yearly and you just need to prove that you still meet the requirements above.
The “O” visa is one you apply for inside the country and the “OA” is the one you apply for from your home country. The Thailand official embassy website for each country has specific conditions that may apply for your country and you can find the country by country rules by clicking on the link below.
Is buying property in Koh Samui a good investment?
Yes, the island was hit hard by the lack of tourism during COVID but has thankfully revived itself and it gave the local island government time to renew some of the infrastructure. There are currently over 500 properties for sale on the island starting at $35K USD for a studio apartment and $70k for a 2 to 3 bed house.
Thailand has a current real estate growth rate of 5% which added to any rental income you make when not using your property could potentially be a great bit of extra income for your retirement. That is if you choose to let it out when you are not around during peak tourist seasons.
Here is a website that has a lot of property in Koh Samui with an interactive map and also the ability to change to most currencies. You will find both properties to rent and buy.
PRO TIP: Always make sure you get legal advice before buying property and remember in Thailand you can only own the apartment or condo and not the land it sits on.
Is Koh Samui a safe place to retire?
Being an Island heavily based on foriegn investment and tourism it is one of the safest places to live in Thailand as all the locals know where their income comes from. There is little to no violent crime by the locals. Occasional pick pockets and minor crime is quickly sorted out by the police. You will feel safe walking around during the day or at night.
What food can I expect in Koh Samui?
Traditional Thai food and International food from all over the world as the island has over 1000 restaurants for you to choose from. On the island you will have cheap access to Chicken, Pork and Seafood with Beef being a more expensive item as well as high end seafood.
A good steak outside of the front line tourist hotspots will cost around $10 to $15 USD whereas you can pay double for that in the tourist areas. Try a Pad Thai which will cost you around $2 USD instead or a pork steak instead for $3 to $4 USD. You will only find the Thai version of an English cooked breakfast in the tourist areas but instead try the many versions of Thai Omelette or spiced clotted rice dishes.
How do you get around Koh Samui?
You can get around Koh Samui by Grab App Car or Motorbike (Thai version of Uber), rent a motorbike for $8 USD per day (cheaper per month), rent a 4×4 for 800 baht or $23 USD a day, use the regular route blue trucks for 50 baht or just over $1 USD per trip or rent a bike.
If you want to drive legally in Thailand you will need an international drivers licence or get a local licence which is just a small driving test if you already have an international licence. They will rent to you without a licence but be mindful your travel insurance won’t cover accidents if you do and you will get in trouble with local police if you have an accident.