Pensions travel further in Cambodia

CHIANG RAI, 21 February 2019: Retirees ramble the world in search of a paradise on a discount and they may have found it in Cambodia’s popular destinations.

Siem Reap, Kampot a riverside town on the southern coast, Sihanoukville’s beaches and the capital Phnom Penh are all in play as retirees hunt for pension-friendly places.

There are obvious long-term benefits in hosting seniors in your country. They stay year-round, spending is high and consistent on property rentals, transport, shopping, entertaining and when sick they check into international hospitals on insurance packages.

Earlier this month, International Living that focuses on globetrotting retirees, with an emphasis on North Americans, named Cambodia the cheapest place to retire in 2019.

Surprise, for decades retirees heading for Asia have flocked to Thailand believing it was the cheapest spot to hang up your hat, but not anymore.

Across Asia there is variety of destinations vying for the retiree market and Cambodia apparently wins if the criteria is based on shaving a cost of living budget to the bone. Close in pursuit were Vietnam in second place and Thailand now standing third in the rating.

Thailand once wore the crown for offering retirees a shoestring budget, but as the litany of complaints that surface daily on websites suggest, it has long lost its shine as a price paradise.

In contrast, International Living claims retirees are “astonished by (Cambodia’s) ‘Kingdom of Wonder’ a place where retirees can upgrade their lifestyle to one of luxury on a modest budget.”

Considered one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia alongside neighbouring Laos, Cambodia’s low costs “let expats live richly on a poor man’s budget,” International Living stated.

They can buy a bottle of Champagne for just USD25, or play golf with a caddie in tow for USD65 a day at a country club, in a neighbourhood where villagers would consider USD65 a windfall for their monthly survival budget.

But do retirees calculate the value of living overseas against just a round of golf and a bottle of booze?

There are other considerations. Cambodia scored a high 80s in the ‘visa and residence’ and ‘healthcare’ categories and a 73 for its ‘climate’.

Good news for Cambodia, it has graduated into a desired destination for retirees, although grassroots comments from those who have already settled there might suggest the whiff of cannabis in the air might be a major consideration in the mood and wellness ratings.  

In contrast, Thailand might have topped the charts for bargain living for decades, but that doesn’t guarantee success in the future.

It has recently signalled a campaign “bad guys out and good guys in” to describe its efforts to tighten immigration and visas rules.

But retirees should not be confused with the “bad guys” and unfortunately some of the moves and changes in rules could have the potential to deter thousands of “good guy” retirees.

Thailand is tightening rules on the minimal guarantee deposited in the bank and strictly linking financial resources to visa stays that can extend beyond the usual one year to up to five years.

However, irksome red tape, such as the 90-day reporting rule, sends mixed messages. It’s a tiresome regulation, a throwback to the pre Internet era that should be scrapped. Ending it would send a clear signal that Thailand respects retiree travellers as the good guys.