Thailand covers an area of 513,120 square kilometres. It shares borders with Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Its population is around 68 million, of which 93% is Buddhist, 5% Muslim and around 1.2% Christian. The official language is Thai, spoken by 91% of the population with English a secondary language.
Thailand is governed under a Constitutional Monarchy, and King Phumiphon Adunyayet has been the Head of State since June 1946.
Tropical; rainy, warm, cloudy southwest monsoon (mid-May to September); dry, cool northeast monsoon (November to mid-March); southern isthmus always hot and humid.
Thai Baht (THB)
A high quality system, especially in urban areas. The international code is +66 and the internet code is .th
Thailand offers an exceptionally high standard of healthcare particularly in major cities and key tourist areas. Services are equal, if not better, than those available in Australia, and often for a fraction of the cost. More information is available in our healthcare section.
Bangkok is the gateway to Thailand for the vast majority of international visitors. It has a population of over 8 million people and was ranked number one in the 2015 MasterCard Survey of Asia Pacific tourist destinations (for the number of arrivals, total nights stayed and total expenditure). Travel & Leisure Magazine rated it the ‘World’s Best City’ for four consecutive years from 2010 to 2013.
Major cultural attractions include the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. And the city offers a huge variety of shopping and entertainment options, from the Chatuchak Week-end Markets through to MBK and the huge malls surrounding Siam Square.
Bangkok is served by two international airports, Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK). All flights from Australia arrive into Bangkok through BKK.
Qantas, Thai and Emirates operate daily direct flights from Sydney to Bangkok. Thai and Jetstar have direct flights from Melbourne, and Thai also run direct flights from Brisbane and Perth. All other Australian cities access Bangkok indirectly.
The city has a broad range of transportation, including a Skytrain (BTS), rail network, buses, road and river taxis, all the way down to the somewhat infamous tuk tuks.
Key Retirement Locations
Chiang Mai (CNX)
Thailand’s second largest city, located 700 km north of Bangkok, is regarded as one of the country’s most culturally rewarding regions. It was ranked in Trip Advisors 2014 list of ‘Best 25 Destinations in the World’.
The city itself has a population of around 150,000 people, but the broader metropolitan area is home to just shy of 1 million.
Chiang Mai is served by an international airport (Thailand’s fourth busiest), with 28 flights a day to Bangkok. It also has a state railway system, which operates 10 trains a day to the Capital. Chiang Mai is very much seen as the gateway to the North, acting as a hub for Chiang Rai, Phrae, Udon Thani and Mae Hong Son.
The city has a large and active expat community offering a wonderful environment in which to spend your retirement.
100km South East of Bangkok, sits the hugely popular beach resort of Pattaya. Whilst Pattaya City itself may be a little lively for many retirees, the neighbouring districts of Jomtien and Naklua provide a sanctuary away from the bright lights. The census population for Pattaya is registered as approximately 100,000 but the general view is the city is home to around 1 million people.
Whilst most visitors come to the city via Highway 7 from Bangkok, the city does have a nearby international airport at U-Tapao (UTP). Whilst the airport currently has limited services, resources are being spent to grow the airport significantly in the near future.
Aside from a bustling nightlife, Pattaya is surrounded by world class golf courses and is building new attractions, such as Thailand’s largest water theme park. The city has a number of expat clubs and for the active retiree, it’s a wonderful environment for making new friends.
Australians were regular visitors to this island paradise in Southern Thailand, long before it became more accessible through direct flights from Jetstar and Virgin. The island is 576 square km in size and is 863 km south of Bangkok (about a 1-hour flight). The region is the wealthiest in Thailand, and it has a population of approximately 600,000 people.
Seventy percent of the island is mountainous, but it is the beaches that attract most tourists and retirees. Whilst Patong is the commercial and nightlife centre, many retirees prefer the quieter neighbouring areas of Karon, Kata, Kamala or Surin. Or perhaps the southern tip of the island at Nai Harn and Rawai.
Phuket is served by an international airport (Thailand’s third busiest), which is growing rapidly. Direct flights are available from Sydney and Melbourne with Jetstar, and from Perth with Virgin.
Phuket has it all. Culture, a wide range of shopping alternatives and a fantastic beach lifestyle, all on the doorstep of Phan Nga Bay, Phi Phi Island and Krabi.
Koh Samui (USM)
Thailand’s second largest island (after Phuket) is another tourist favourite, with glorious beaches, and a diverse range of shopping and entertainment opportunities.
Another very popular retirement destination is the beach resort city of Hua Hin, which is about 199 km south of Bangkok by road.