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A report by CNBC highlights the reasons that so many people chose to retire in Thailand. They spoke to British Retirees Les and Sally Page who never considered retiring in Asia until they came to Koh Samui five years ago for a holiday. As soon as they arrived they made a snap decision to retire here. 59 year old Sally said “it has a magical feeling that can’t be explained.”
The British couple told CNBC that the appeal of retiring in Thailand goes way beyond its idyllic beaches, it is the climate, the variety of activities available, the slower and easier pace of life and the cheaper cost of living that really appealed to them.
And the Pages are not alone, immigration figures show that British, American and German retirees made over 35,000 applications for retirement visas in Thailand in 2011 and is forecast to grow to 45,000 by the end of 2013, according to Sasha Nugent, an analyst at the UK based foreign exchange Caxton Fx.
Nugent is seeing more and more U.K.-based retirees moving to Asia. “The most popular countries appear to be in South East Asia, in particular Thailand and Singapore,” she said.
Mea Attwood, a 58-year old British retiree who moved to Thailand five years ago, said cheaper living costs in comparison to the U.K. have allowed her to live a more luxurious and healthier lifestyle than she would at home.
“We are able to look after ourselves better in Asia. We can afford regular massages, for example, something that would be a real treat in the U.K.,” said Mea. “Plus there is no council tax in Thailand, and water and electricity is cheaper,” she added.
Interestingly, Caxton FX’s Nugent said Singapore still manages to lure a large number of expat retirees, despite the fact that living costs, particularly the cost of renting or buying property are relatively high in comparison with the rest of Asia or the United Kingdom.
“Although generally Singapor is just as pricey as the U.K. in terms of living expenses, there is good and low cost travel, not forgetting the cultural benefits,” she said, adding that the city state is also viewed positively because of its financial stability and good banking system.
But the comforts of the orient do come with their share of disadvantages. Quality health care in Southeast Asia, for example, can be expensive especially in the case of treating long-term illnesses.
“Health insurance is not really affordable once you get to 70 and medical bills are very expensive,” Les and Sally said.
“It’s reasonably cheap to visit the doctor or the hospital, but in the case of a serious illness, then we would have to consider whether we could afford ongoing treatment,” added Mea.
For Les and Sally, road safety is among their biggest worries living in Thailand. “The driving is dreadful and it’s a risk you take every day you go out,” said the British couple. “Many people drink and drive, there are rarely any police unless you do have an accident,” they added.
Still, for the Pages, the benefits far outweigh these concerns.
In Ko Samui, they live comfortably in a three-bedroom villa with a swimming pool and eat out several times a week, paying £1,500 ($2,358) a month for their total living costs, although Sally noted that they could easily live off around £100 pounds a week if they wanted to.
This compares with monthly living costs in the UK f around £2,000; and this amount doesn’t include eating out as often or the cost of running a swimming pool.
For John, he still gets startled by the difference in living costs when he makes trips back home to the U.K.
“The prices shock me when I go back to England. The cost of doing anything is higher,” he said.