Living in Thailand for many of us Expats is what dreams are made of. With a beautiful climate, food and wonderful Thai people, it is paradise. But everything has its tipping point yet we don’t really know what an expats tipping point was when it came to upping sticks and leaving.
There has been a whole number of factors in recent times that has made living in Thailand more challenging, more so for retired expats; with the strengthening of the baht and weakening of domestic currencies causing a serious financial issue. This shifting of valuations has meant Thailand is no longer a cheap place to retire.
I have tried to look for clues of evidence as to what is really happening, and, although some of the data below are questionable, the sum total does help give an indication as to what’s maybe happening.
Back in August 2018, Thaivisa.com conducted an Expat Survey which attracted over 1,400 respondents. If you were a Brit living in Thailand it was 42 baht to the pound back then, so the lowest it had ever been. 40% of all respondents said they had considered leaving Thailand in the last 12 months due to economic hardship. If that was the case then it could be argued, the figure is even higher now. It is also a fair assumption to believe that of that 40% considering leaving, some have already left Thailand for pastures new.
The survey also revealed a staggering 1 in 4 (26%) survived on less than 45k baht a month. Using the UK versus Thai baht exchange rates it means with further polarization of rates that 45k baht back then is nearer 40k baht today – in less than 12 months. Something has to give.
How many retirees live in Thailand?
It has always been a finger in the air to try and guess the numbers of retirees in Thailand, if you spoke with many seasoned working expats a few years ago they would more often than not say somewhere between 250,000 and 500,000 retiree expats lived in Thailand. But it was always pure guesswork.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Migration report put the figure at nearer 75,000 retirees living in Thailand. This was a figure that shocked many, as it was far lower than anyone could have guessed.
Are Some Expats starting to leave for Vietnam?
I recently had lunch with the CEO of one of the six big insurance companies for expats in Thailand. He said each week they get 5 requests from retired expats to move their Health Insurance to Vietnam. That is over 20 requests a month and if this is consistent with the other 5 insurance companies, the figure rises to a 120 expat requests a month.
Furthermore, if we are again to believe Thaivisa.com survey statistics, 33% of retired expats are uninsured. So if we factored them into this to it could mean up to 160 expats in Thailand each month are making the move to Vietnam. That would be almost 2,000 expats a year.
Of course, this is just forecasting based on one conversation, but we only have expat forum and social media discussion as any form of evidence at the moment, so trying to validate with any form of figures is useful at very least.
I ran a poll on my Dan about Thailand Facebook page asking expats if they would ever consider leaving Thailand for Vietnam. 64% of the 400 respondents said yes, however small the sample that is a big figure.
And people are starting to post on social networks about seeing the expats that had moved from Thailand to Vietnam:
At the end of the day, life does not stand still and the unpredictability of it means sometimes you just don’t see things happening – until they do. Who knows what the future holds, all we know is we must make the choices in life that are the best for us as an individual. It would appear for many retired expats living in Thailand that choice is now Vietnam.