Southeast Asia is a prime destination for foreigners from all over the world. From pristine beaches to towering mountains, ancient temples to super-modern cities, there is something for everybody here.
It’s possible to live quite comfortably in Southeast Asia for a fraction of what it costs to live a comparable lifestyle in the U.S. Housing, groceries, utilities, dining out, transportation, and dental care are just a few of the major bargains. Costs aren’t less because the quality is less either. Your money goes a lot farther than you would expect.
Southeast Asia is easy on the budget, but there are other compelling reasons to stay here too.
The diet is a healthy one. A typical meal has plenty of fruits and vegetables, rice or noodles, small portions of meat or fish, and only a little fat. Most foods are locally grown or raised, and processing is minimal. Many people buy their perishable goods daily at the traditional market, though there are supermarkets for one-stop shopping in almost every city. Seasonal fruits and vegetables flood the shelves and stalls throughout the year. Desserts generally consist of fruits or seeds rather than sweets. Newcomers often find themselves returning to their ideal weight without having to put much effort into dieting.
If the urge to eat comfort food strikes, there are always plenty of options available. Throughout Southeast Asia, you’ll have easy access to western food and familiar restaurant franchises.
Language needn’t be a barrier to successful communication in this part of the world. Students in Southeast Asia learn to speak English in school, and many older people have excellent language skills as well. Although learning the local language will enhance your experience in living here, it isn’t much of a necessity in all but the most remote villages. Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam all receive high marks in English proficiency, but even in Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, and Thailand, there are plenty of English speakers.
Southeast Asia is well served by public transportation. Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand have excellent high-speed, divided highways that make long-distance travel relatively safe and easy. Several budget airlines transport passengers to major cities as well as many remote towns, often at incredibly inexpensive prices. Trains in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, provide pleasant alternatives to flying.
Southeast Asia is developing rapidly, with a greater increase in GDP than any other region on Earth. There are more opportunities now for business and investment than at any other time in recent history.
Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, have tremendous malls and trendy shopping areas. Other cities, such as Chiang Mai (Thailand), George Town (Malaysia), and Hanoi (Vietnam) are a bit more traditional, though even here development is clearly evident. Streets that just 10 or 20 years ago were dominated by rickshaws and bicycles are now bustling with motorbikes and cars.
Perhaps the best reason for considering a life in Southeast Asia is the incredible hospitality of the people. They are consistently polite and respectful, both necessary traits in any Asian culture. Children and senior citizens will feel especially welcome here. Building relationships, whether it’s with a neighbor or at the market, is an integral part of successful Asian living. Foreigners learn to slow down and socialize, since every proper transaction begins with an interaction.
Most Southeast Asian countries offer options for long-term living. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, offer retirement visas as well as an assortment of other visas that allow for extended stays. Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, allow long-term stays through business visas, which do not actually require involvement in a business activity, though that is often an option. Making periodic trips to another country and returning straight away—a visa run—is also permissible in some countries.
You’ll find that Southeast Asia is a welcoming place. Your lifestyle can be as busy or as peaceful as you choose. This budget-friendly region is a delightful place to call home.