3 Exotic Havens Where You Can Retire In Style From $1,200 A Month

For most people thinking about retirement, either at home or overseas, budget is a key factor.

In my more than 30 years of traversing the globe scouting out retirement havens I’ve found hundreds of places that are friendly on the pocketbook but don’t tick all the other boxes on my checklist… factors like safety, quality health care, entertainment options, welcoming community, and solid infrastructure.

For a destination to meet my criteria, it has to be a lot more than simply affordable. It has to be somewhere you would want to spend time. Where you would be not just comfortable but happy, excited, entertained, and safe. It’s how my team and I at Live And Invest Overseas select the destinations we recommend to our readers.

For those with an eye on both the bottom line and big adventure, Asia can be a great choice. Not only does it offer some of the world’s most cost-friendly expat havens, it’s also a land of rich culture, stunning natural beauty, and friendly locals.

Here are three destinations in this exotic wonderland where North Americans can enjoy a rich retirement on a monthly budget as low as $1,200…


1. Hua Hin, Thailand

A three-hour drive from Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, takes you to the royal resort town of Hua Hin.

This Gulf of Thailand locale, once a quiet fishing village, saw a change in its fortunes in the 1920s when the Thai royal family identified it as the ideal spot to build a palace for summer escapes from sizzling Bangkok.


Well-heeled locals followed suit, lured by town’s four-mile stretch of beach, cooling sea breezes, and laidback pace of life.

In the decades since, Hua Hin has established itself as a well-developed retirement haven offering excellent health care, housing options ranging from compact condos to beachfront villas and gated communities, and a large expat community and hospitality industry that mean getting by in English is no problem.

There’s also no shortage of entertainment options here, from kite-surfing to golf, pickleball to paddle-boarding, you can be as active as you please. You’ll also find a wide range of social groups happy to welcome new members with interests ranging from running and cycling to wine tasting and reading.

Depending on lifestyle choices, a couple could live comfortably here on a budget of $1,850 a month—which includes monthly rent of a centrally-located, furnished, one-bedroom condo at $690. Opt for a three-bedroom villa with a private pool—$1,200 a month—and your overall budget will sit closer to $3,000 a month.

2. Da Lat, Vietnam

In 1893, when Vietnam was part of the French colony known as French Indochina, famed physician Dr. Alexandre Yersin was sent into the country’s highlands in search of a cool-weather retreat for the colony’s French population. He found just what he was looking for in Da Lat.

Sitting atop the Lang Bian Plateau at 4,921 feet, and surrounded by pine forests and misty peaks, the town had an Alpine-like quality. Game-hunting and freshwater were also in abundant supply and the temperate climate made it an ideal spot for growing all manner of produce.

Quickly established as a French-colonial hill station, Da Lat was soon home to a health facility, schools, a golf course, parks and manmade lakes, villas, and boulevards.

Today, many architectural and cultural remnants from that era remain, giving an otherworldly feel to this hidden haven. It’s a popular spot for honeymooners and while the expat community is small, those that have settled here enjoy a comfortable lifestyle at one of the lowest costs imaginable.

Large, conveniently located apartments rent for $400 a month, the spring-like climate means energy costs are low and often included in the rental fee, and $75 would cover a couple’s weekly grocery bill. On a monthly budget of $1,200 a couple could live very well in Da Lat.

There are, however, a couple of caveats. English levels are low here. You can get by just fine when it comes to day-to-day activities like dining out, getting gas, or asking for directions, but if you were to make your home here, you’d need to at least pick up some of the local language.

For health care, expats tend to use Da Lat’s private hospitals where care is of a good standard and cheap enough to pay for out of pocket. However, for more serious conditions a trip to Ho Chi Minh City, home to two Joint Commission International-accredited hospitals, would be recommended.

3. Penang, Malaysia

Just west of mainland Malaysia lies the tropical island of Penang.

This safe, stable, little island offers excellent medical care, a melting pot of cultures, and diverse lifestyle, entertainment, and recreational options.

As a former British colony, English is widely-spoken. And, with jungle trails and deserted beaches co-existing with modern infrastructure and luxury, water-front condos, it’s understandable why this island is home to such a large expat population.

The costs are a draw, too. Penang isn’t cheap but the value for money you’ll find here is outstanding. On a monthly budget of $2,500 a couple could live in luxury, renting a large condo in a unit with a gym, pool, balcony, and 24-hour security. The street food here is world-class meaning you can dine out for just a few dollars or take your pick from a host of fine dining options if you prefer.

Penang has a thriving arts scene, hosts festivals in music and film throughout the year, and also boasts a popular country club where you’ll find grass tennis courts, a swimming pool, library, bars, and restaurants. The island’s members-only Swimming Club offers an impressive sailing program and facilities including squash, tennis, and badminton courts as well as an outdoor pool overlooking the glittering waters of the Straits of Malacca.


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