After spending 3 months on this popular Indonesian island I have a good grasp of costs to live here. All of these numbers are just for a single retired man. No dog. No wife. No kids. Just me. Here we go with Bali cost of living… The cost to rent on this island, in popular areas, can be absolutely amazing low and can go up as high as “are you kidding me”. For example I booked a few hotel rooms, normally referred to as a “home stay”, for as little as 7 USD per night and this included breakfast!! I Read more…
There are few people that can ignore how much
the cost of living will be in Thailand
, Mexico, Spain or wherever their idea of paradise is. When I left Tucson Arizona, in January 2013, for greener and cheaper pasture I was also a little apprehensive. I was hoping that my choice of Mexico was indeed a good choice.
In an earlier article, I cited that one of my reasons for leaving San Miguel de Allende, Mexico was the huge increase in the cost of living there. Ecuador was going to be my next country to enjoy, however the cost of living there was only about 25% less than my current costs in Mexico.
Thailands cost of living looked considerably cheaper on paper. Like so much research we all do, other people’s research often never matches our own experience and “your mileage may vary” creeps into the overall equation.
Now that I have
lived in Chaing Mai,
Thailand for 4 months I can give you an accurate report on my experiences and a little about general finding here in Thailand. But first here are the numbers from a site that I like that has some good information that I actually based my move on before I arrived here: Cost of living comparison between Tucson, USA and Chaing Mai, Thailand. That report basically states that I would need TWICE as much income to live the same lifestyle here in Thailand than in Arizona. Oh dear, how on earth would I accomplish that? I think my costs would be triple for me in Tucson than compared to here in Chaing Mai! Hence the flood of retirees to places like Thailand and Ecuador!
First my housing. I live in a 46 sq. meter studio condo that is in a very modern building just 1-year-old. In Thailand, this size condo is considered big. To most, especially American, farang (a farang is anyone from outside of Asia) 46 sq. meters, or about 500 sq. feet is tiny. Right? I have a combo mountain and city skyline view, great location to shopping malls, main street, walk to restaurants and walk to my Thai language school. I have a kitchen that by Western standards is paltry, with just a hot plate, induction heater to be exact, to cook with and a microwave oven to warm things.
I have a large modern bathroom with a walk-in shower, a balcony also with views and a place to dry my washing and defined areas for sleeping, sitting, eating and working. I agreed to a 1-year lease period and my rent will be 12,000 baht each month. At the time of writing this article, that is about US$360, which is what my rent was in Santa Monica in 1974. My electricity is expensive at this time of year due to the air conditioning on most of the day and night: 1,600 baht a month, my fast internet is 500 baht, water 200 baht and I have a maid clean my room twice a week (see those shiny floors in the photos?) for 1,200 baht each month. Total housing cost: 15,500 baht, or about $460.
The style of my home would have been never my choice earlier in my life; too modern and too small. As I have stated many times in my articles: the key to living happy and comfortable, in your own paradise, is throwing out your old way of living your life and accepting the changes that will be inevitable. Trying to recreate, in your future paradise, what you left behind in England, USA or wherever will be difficult and expensive to accomplish.
The next biggest expense is food and drink. So far, I have not cooked any real meals in my own kitchen. First of all I do not know how to cook Thai food and what ingredients to buy. I make porridge with fresh fruit, toast and popcorn and that’s about it. My groceries and household items cost me about 2,000 baht each month plus about 800 for beer :). Meals at restaurants and street food cost another 8,000 baht a month and beer outside my home another 2,500 baht. That is a total of 13,300 for all my food and drink. About $400.
At the moment, my only means of transportation is a songthaew, a covered 2-bench truck that I may be sharing with others and for 20 baht each journey I can get around to most major landmarks in this city up to about 4km away. This is now getting old though and because I do not speak Thai then asking the same driver to take me to a certain address (still must be on a songthaew route) is not possible for me. I also walk a lot, which I enjoy if it is not too hot. I probably spend 200 baht each month on songtaew rides. One more option here for me and the rest of Thai cities is a tuk-tuk. These smaller vehicles will take me and 1 or 2 of my friends, to an exact location and often the driver will speak a little English but the cost is much higher at 60 to 100 baht inside Old Chaing Mai.
I have decided to buy a scooter. This form of transportation is the most common here in Chaing Mai and I would guess all of Thailand from the little I have seen. A new scooter will cost me about 70,000 baht, but since I do not need a new bike then a 30,000 baht, to purchase a late model Honda Click will be just fine. Besides the initial investment of US$880 there will be the cost of petrol, maintenance, insurance and legal stuff that will cost about 2,000 baht a YEAR if just riding around town and nearby.
My Thai language lessons, I just began at the local YMCA. The cost for 30 hours of instruction is 2,700 baht, about US$80. I buy electronic items from time to time, such as a streaming media player, a computer monitor, mouse, keyboard, electric kettle and a fan. All these items new, are priced the same or less than in the USA and much less than England.
Up until this point my housing, food and a few other items amount to a grand total of US$860 plus the cost of one-time costs which must be figured into a person’s budget over time. Of course you can live here MUCH cheaper than my way of living; smaller and older condos can cost only 7,000 baht and some rooms just 3,000 baht “Thai style”, you can save money on no beer drinking, no internet and using the free internet at many coffee shops. I have also put on weight, about 2 kg, so I could save money on food too! Other expats that live here spend 30,000 baht each month on rent and buy a car. You can also live outside of the city and rent a nice 3 bedroom house starting at 8,000 baht each month. Many choices for all sorts of budgets.
Some of my meals here cost only 40 baht for a simple port curry with rice and a cup of iced water. fancier places can be 200 baht per dish. Street food is perfectly safe, or just as safe as a restaurant option will be. I have never been sick here with any major stomach upset. In Mexico I was sick many times for the first 8 months; maybe I have not been sick here because Mexico helped build up my bug immunity, not really sure.
My life here is comfortable and easy. It is also easier, for me, to make friends here. The
here, both working and retired is much easier to connect to and to meet smart people. My experience in San Miguel was not nearly as good as here. So far so good. My pension is more than enough and so I get to save each month, although the first few months in any move always costs more because of initial expenses settling in.
Do you have a question about an item that is missing from my article. Hit the CONTACT button above or leave a reply to this article below. Wherever you are as you read this: enjoy the Planning and set it in motion!
It’s always a good idea in Life to keep an open mind and be aware that your Plan A may need a Plan B and possibly a C and D sooner than you think. Finding the best place to retire is no different than any project in life. We all do our research and we forge ahead only to find out that we need to switch tracks. Job change, divorce, bad neighbours or a major mechanical issue with a new car all force us to re-evaluate our choices.
This article is about going with my intuition and accepting a huge change.
My choice of Mexico as my “best place to retire”, has recently forced me to take a step back and look at a few things. In an earlier article from about 2 years ago, I mentioned that there was no point in moving to a cheap place to retire if you do not feel safe in that same town. Well, in my mind, this is what is happening in San Miguel de Allende. Crime is up and so are the costs to live here. Double whammy!
This town, in just 2 years has seen a big change. In the summer of 2013 San Miguel was named, by the readers of the prestigious Condé Nast Traveler Magazine’; A fancy highbrow magazine for the wealthier traveller, as the “top city in the world”. Say whaaaat? TOP CITY? First off, San Miguel de Allende is hardly a “city” topping out at about 120,000 inhabitants and comparing this pueblito with the likes of Venice, Rome, NYC and so on, is in my humble opinion, a load of rubbish. Yes, SMA is a beautiful town, maybe world class even, but “the best”.. nope. Anyway, this accolade has caused one major negative: demand is UP and so are the prices. We are not sipping an espresso on the Champs Elysee here folks, but nevertheless, the cost of a coffee and all other meal prices, sitting on a cobblestone street in Centro, has risen 30% in just 2 years. Circle back to my “fixed income” article and 30% cost of living increase becomes a BIG deal to most people reading this. Rents, hotel prices have all risen dramatically and frankly, owner and operators have just gotten greedy.
Second of all: crime. I have never been the recipient of any violent crime in SMA, but several of my friends have been, one was even murdered this past year. Home invasions, muggings, rape and robbery are all on the rise and dramatically so. There is much debate on the topic at this moment with the argument that San Miguel is still much safer than the average town in the USA. For me, this doesn’t say much! Personally I feel less safe here now and so I take more precautions now, than I ever have done while living in Mexico.
Which brings me to the voice in my head. Honestly, just a few weeks ago I had planned on moving to Cuenca Ecuador. I visited Ecuador for 3 weeks June 2013 and liked the place; it was less expensive, perhaps safer and the natural beauty was far superior than the area I was living in Mexico. One sunny calm morning in Mexico I was strolling alone on a quiet beach just north of Puerto Vallarta and a voice in my head whispered to me: “Go to Thailand. Move to Thailand”. Thailand??? Where exactly is that? Moreover, who said that? :). I knew absolutely nothing about Asia let alone Thailand. Thailand is in Asia right, I pondered. I was waaaay too tall for Thailand at 6’3″ (191cm) I would be a giant pink man strolling the streets.
For about 3 days, I researched the very idea that my subconscious, angel?, had presented to me that morning. Thailand…hhhmmmm. Tigers there, BIG snakes, Buddhism, short people and a culture and language that I knew absolutely nothing about. Zero, zilch. However, a funny thing happened in those few days. That voice, that thought quickly consumed me and within a few days, the idea was now a passion that I felt in my heart. I am moving to Thailand! Whoah. I would have never had guessed this twist in my Lifes Journey.
Has this happened to you? Are you also researching your plan B because your initial retirement spot is not so rosy anymore? Please let us know in the comments section below. Thanks
Living and being retired in Mexico comes with several perks that make my life here just absolutely wonderful. It is often stated that “old people” need more naps. People make fun of this fact! Why? I think they are just jealous. There is nothing wrong with a 60-90 minute nap every afternoon, especially if you live in a hot climate like San Miguel de Allende in the summertime.
Staying indoors and relaxing/sleeping makes perfect sense in such hot weather, especially if you participate in the Mexican party life: which will mean staying out until 2 am or even later. You may need a sleep mask to cover your eyes and ear plugs because neighborhoods are noisier at 4 pm.
Maids in Mexico
Maids are an integral part of many Mexican homes owned or rented by Gringos. In another post, I describe how my rent, of $550 includes a maid twice a week. I have a sweetheart of a maid. She not only cleans my home, she will prepare food, cook the food, go shopping for groceries and even has sewn damaged jeans! I pay her extra for these chores but still – one stop shopping!
My maid, Sofia, does not speak a word of English and so one more added benefit: a Spanish teacher too! Sofia has also taught me a lot about Mexican produce and how to cook it. My attempt at any sort of soup in the USA was pitiful, but now I can make a really full bodied chicken soup with a big kick! Many skill sets I now have are partly attributed to my maid Sofia.
There is one style of music in Mexico that is very Mexican, mariachi bands originated in Mexico several hundred years ago and as far as I know only exist for real in Mexico and with some USA tourist places. I absolutely love the sound that these bands make. If anything in Mexico romanticises this beautiful and exciting country, this music is it! In all cities and even small towns mariachi bands play in a plaza or maybe some civic or private event.
As a single man I thought it would be a good idea to write an article with a brief outline of what dating, romance and love can be like in this beautiful country called Mexico. A lot of you have read, or are familiar with the book “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. Just like the books basic premise is that men and women think differently then so it is with how Western style romance is approached differently than romance in Mexico.
The first thing that comes to mind is money. A Mexican woman expects you to “take care of her”. A woman with children and whose parents are alive may also need financial help from you to care for here extended family. But that’s getting a little too far ahead. That will come at date #3. OK, that’s an exaggeration, just a little. A Mexican man will always be expected to pay for everything, the meal, transportation and so on. Sometimes your date will show up with friends, yes you pay for everyone. This gives the man an opportunity to flex his power and machismo. My Western wallet and mentality does not agree with this. I do it.. but I still have a hard time understanding why I pay for everything. A male friend of mine who lives in Mazatlan was very sad and a little angry when his Mexican girlfriend of 6 months and aged about 52 years old informed him that he would have to pay for their house rental, food, clothes.. everything!! He was perplexed because his girlfriend was 52, had a good business going and lived alone and so she was already able to pay for her own life. This is the way love works here in Mexico. Deal with it.
There are 2 things at play here with my friends situation. His ability to pay for his girlfriends life with him and his willingness to pay for her. This may end up with a resentful husband or boyfriend who is spending all of HIS money and the girl is SAVING here money.. often helping her family with their own finances.
Need info on Gringas dating a Mexican man? Well, honestly I have few data points except those of two friends of mine who are (trying) to date such a man and had a hard time getting the Western “dating” concept across to their boyfriends.
Public displays of affection here are over the top. In my local plaza young couples, as young as middle school, are often kissing, hugging and holding hands. People here are very affectionate and very open about it. Family is #1 in this culture and so you may find yourself taking a back seat to your wife’s/husbands parents or siblings. Their family needs always come first.
I arrived in Baños by bus from Cuenca via Ambato. The towns full name is Baños de Agua Santa (Baths of holy water). On the bus ride here the winding road took us past quaint tiny hamlets, streams and seem to circle around the foreboding volcano named Tungurahua. This volcano has come close to destroying the spa town on a number of occasions and even as I visit now, the snow-capped volcanic mountain is very active!
I did my normal routine when I arrive anywhere at a new travel destination, I looked for a place to sit down and have a coffee or cold drink. Coffee seemed much more agreeable at this altitude of 1,820 m (5,971 ft) and a temperature of just 20 C. This is when I can relax, stretch my leg, look at a map and ask around about accommodation and generalities of the place I am visiting. One should always take time to smell the roses. We, travellers, know that the journey is the often the best part of an adventure.
A small spa Hostelería had been identified and off I went for a walk of about 300 meters. My room had a beautiful SOFT king size bed, views of cascading waterfall just 2oo meters away and the price of just 22USD included a hot and filling breakfast. Close by was the public and very, very inexpensive option of a mineral pool. To gain access to the pools you had to wear a swim cap, which can be rented for 25 cents. This was NO relaxing in a four-star spa experience, it was one of those “been there done that experiences never wanted to be repeated again”. Hundreds of people, often shoulder to shoulder were in 3 pools, half of which were kids and in water that was murky and tepid. I lasted a full 15 minutes and looked for a shower to clean myself pronto. Only a cold water pipeline was available… refreshing, to say the least, but it did the trick! Needless to say you can find more upscale versions of this whole spa thing dotted all over town.
The town of Baños was on my radar from both what I learned from reading and from people who raved about the place. Personally, I didn’t understand the hoopla about this town. Waaaaay over commercialized and not that pretty. However, the surrounding countryside is gorgeous for hiking and trying to get a better view of the volcano. Remember, it’s all good!
Having my map of Ecuador in hand, the first area I explored off the beaten track was a 2-hour journey by bus from Quito: The Mindo Rainforest. It gave me a taste of what the Amazon Jungle itself might look and feel like. The town of Mindo is the entrance to a huge swath of land and is a nature reserve full of rivers, waterfalls, wildlife, stunning views. I stayed at a beautiful place called Hosteria Arasari .. click the link to check out the gorgeous grounds.. location and cabins. It was not expensive.. I think I paid about $30 a night. They have a bird viewing platform above the basic restaurant onsite.. great views! The town of Mindo itself was a tad hippie.. a nice cozy feel and friendly faces everywhere. On arrival I was confused as to why I could not get a coffee except for a Nescafe (no thanks), I trekked about 1.5 km to the Hosteria and they gave me the same line. Then, entering my cabin and finding no light switch working it dawned on me..no electricity! Mindo had had no power for 3 days! I never did find out why; welcome to crazy life in Third World Countries. I hiked several kilometers outside of the hotel area.. some amazing views, lots of wildlife and especially birds -the toucan! I have never been one for heights and so I passed on the zip-line experience (yet again). This day was June 23 and the temperature in this cloud forest was just a little above comfort for temperature and humidity, especially hiking.
I decided to take the road back to Quito from Cuenca. I wanted to head to the edge of the Amazon Jungle and so settled on the towns of Banos and Puyo. Each of these towns deserve an article all of their own! From Cuenca I took a bus to Ambato, then a bus to Banos. A few nights in Banos and then on to Puyo for a few nights. The buses were not as nearly as good as the first class buses that go from city to city in Mexico.. but sufficient for a few hours at a time. Also, Ecuador buses are VERY inexpensive. Expect to pay just $1 for a 1-hour journey. The Ecuadorians getting on and off the bus en-route were all very pleasant and at no time did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any way. I do have a rule in my life though: “I never worry, but I do manage the risk”. So traveling by bus at night does not seem like a sensible idea. Many travelers like to travel on overnight buses because it is cooler temperature wise and they can sleep and save on a hotel bed. My thoughts on overnight bus travel: bandits attack at night, many more traffic accidents happen at night and I would miss all the scenery along the way! Trust me, the bus on the narrow, winding road which is laid on the ridge of the Andes Mountains is something you do not want to miss. Breathtaking scenery and lots of interesting people and places to see along the way.
Map of Ecuador
A short story: A bus I took from Mexico City airport departed at 11 pm and in 3.5 hours I would be home in San Miguel de Allende. Along the way, in the pitch black night the bus stopped and outside were several large black trucks and many men with machine guns. A Federal officer asked us to get off the bus and present our passports, at the same time ALL of the luggage was removed from the bus and inspected thru an x-ray machine. We were on our way in less than an hour, but let me tell you, this was a very unnerving experience to say the least. In the dark it is hard to figure out the where, who and what of the situation. Enough said.
OK, so for more details about the spa town of Banos and the edge-of-the-jungle town of Puyo then please click on the links to those articles. All in all traveling around Ecuador was very pleasant, fresh air, cheap buses and a cleaner roadside experience than Mexican roads. Less trash here, more of a tidy place, even the junk is often piled neatly here!