Considering retirement in Malaysia or Thailand? This informative comparison highlights the key factors that expats should consider when choosing between the two popular destinations. Explore cost of living, healthcare, quality of life, and more to make an informed decision for your retirement abroad.
Note that these are only my observations and opinions. Your mileage might vary! I will compare Penang, Malaysia since that is where many expat foreigners are focusing mainly.
Penang Island enjoys a warm equatorial climate just like any other parts of Malaysia. However, being an island, its temperature is often higher than the mainland, with temperatures reaching as high as 35°C during the day. In general, temperatures range between 29°C – 35 during the day and 26°C – 29°C during the night, with the months June to August being the hottest. And as I write this the humidity is 81%.
Compare the average daily temperature in Hua Hin, Cha-Am and Pranburi which is remarkably consistent throughout the year. It varies from a low of 25.6° Celsius in January to a high of 29.9° in April and May. There is a much greater variation in the amount of rain. The average is 4.1mm in January and slightly over 200mm in October and November. And as I write this the humidity is 63 %.
Even when I visit Phuket I am just overwhelmed by the feeling of a hot blanket sticky air. I just can’t live anywhere that when I am outdoors at night eating dinner I feel the sweat running down my body under my clothes.
Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, but they pride themselves on being multi-cultural but over the years I’ve seen racial tensions rise and the country getting more and more conservative. They are in the process of legalizing Sharia law that could introduce stoning and amputations. There are active policies to populate states with a Muslim minority as Penang and Sabah with more Malays so a Malay majority can be established in those states as well. And I won’t even address the 4AM call to prayer. But East Malaysia is often overlooked in discussions of retiring to Malaysia. Sawarak and Sabah state joined the Federation late and negotiated some special treatment and this is reflected in some special rules for their MM2H program. And Sawarak is a majority Christian state.
Then two of the next biggest reasons. Issues of long term visas and influence of religion on lifestyle.
First Malaysia’s visa option. The Malaysia My Second Home program (commonly abbreviated “MM2H”) is an international residency scheme enacted by the Government of Malaysia to allow foreigners to live in the country on a long-stay visa of up to 10 years. No need for reporting or queuing. In fact, most of the application process is done by post, it seems. Foreigners can own a primary residence — house AND land in their own name. They can either import a car duty free or purchase one tax & duty free during their first six months. You can volunteer without the need for a work permit and work at a paying job up so many hours per month, depending on your age.
But, you have to maintain a bank balance in the country at all times — none of this bit about just having it “season” for a few months ahead of annual “renewal”. AND you have to show monthly income from abroad. Plus, you have to have medical insurance cover. So, the financial requirements are higher than Thailand’s and it doesn’t look like there is room to “play games” like applicants can in Thailand. Plus, if you apply for the MM2H visa in the two states in Borneo, the financial requirements are a little higher AND you need several local references. Interestingly, those two states even restrict that ability of people from western Malaysia to come work there.
All-in-all it’s a very well thought-out program, intended for people who plan ahead and aren’t living on the edge financially. You don’t have to be rich to utilize this visa program, but certainly not someone who is just scraping by.
Individuals who are 50 years or older must have:
Minimum liquid assets of RM1,500,000
Minimum offshore monthly income of RM40,000
A fixed deposit account with a Malaysian bank which contains at least RM1,000,000
For retirees, there is a requirement to show proof of receiving pension from government RM10,000 per month
Other requirements include:
One-off personal bond payment which costs approximately RM2,000
Social pass will also require an annual payment of RM90
Living Choices: Where to Stay in Malaysia
The MM2H visa program allows individuals to freely choose where they want to live in Malaysia, with the exception of Sabah and Sarawak. However, if you are interested in residing in Sarawak, you will need to obtain the specific MM2H Sarawak visa. It is important to note that switching between these two versions can be challenging, so it is advisable to decide on your preferred location before applying for the visa.
SMM2H: Looking At the Second Home Option in Sarawak, Malaysia
The SMM2H Program, which stands for Second Home Malaysia, offers individuals the opportunity to live anywhere in Malaysia, except for Sarawak and Sabah. However, if you are specifically interested in residing in Sarawak, you can still apply for the SMM2H Program. The key requirement is to have sponsorship from a local Sarawak citizen or permanent resident. This sponsorship is necessary to meet the eligibility criteria for living in Sarawak under the SMM2H Program.
To qualify for the SMM2H Program, there are certain eligibility criteria that must be met. Applicants generally need to be 50 years old or above, unless they are at least 30 years old and have a need for long-term medical care in the country or have a child who is studying there. Single applicants are required to have a fixed deposit account of RM150, 000, while married couples need to have a fixed deposit account of RM300, 000. These requirements ensure that applicants can meet the financial obligations associated with living in Malaysia under the program.
Thailand Retirement Options
Getting a Thai retirement visa is easy and it comes with great benefits. When you are granted with this type of visa, you will be allowed to stay in the land of smiles for at least a year. One great benefit is the fact that this retirement visa Thailand may be extended if you intend to stay for longer period.
Check out our posting titled, Ultimate Guide to Thailand Retirement Visa: Everything You Need to Know
The requirement for a request of extension is for you to show proof that you are financially stable. This can be in the form of a Thai bank account with savings of at least THB 800,000 (approx. $24,000 USD @33 Baht to USD) or THB 65,000 (approx. $2,000 USD @33 Baht to USD) monthly pension or a combination of the two. To prove this, you may be required to submit supporting documents such as notarized letter from your embassy (depending on which country you are from), SS or pension statements from your home country showing the benefits you receive,
OR photocopy of your Thai bank passbook along with a bank letter. This amount need not be maintained all throughout your stay but is required to be in that amount upon your application for extension for an initial seasoning period of 2 months and subsequent one year extensions 3 months prior to your application. You may also bring your wife or a loved one with you by just filing an application for visa of your spouse.
With a Thai retirement visa, you can have an enjoyable escape in this place while maintaining low cost of living and low, if any taxes. You will have mostly year round sunny days and live with pleasant Buddhist people. And when I compare a Buddhist culture and society to a Muslim one, well it’s hands down.
And one final thought. Thai food. In my own personal opinion Thai cuisine is one of the best and most flavorful on Earth. When I decided to live outside the United States I had 3 criteria when deciding where I would live and those 3 are still fulfilled here in Thailand 18 years later. Good value for the Dollar, tasty food and friendly people! Aww…Just Chillin’!