If you are considering a life after work living in South East Asia, one of the key decisions is whether you choose a city or coastal lifestyle. Both bring a different, but equally exciting dimension to retirement living.

For those who have been dreaming of the simple life on the beach as the perfect retirement, you are in for a treat whether you choose Bali, Phuket or Penang. We look to delve deeper into what you can expect choosing a coastal town in South East Asia as part of your retirement plan.



A retirement village is ideal to provide a community of like-minded people, with varying international backgrounds and interests, to socialise with, in your tropical paradise. Many retirees choose rotational living. They typically spend 4 – 6 months a year in South East Asia and then move elsewhere during the low season.  As you would expect, coastal living is much more local than city life and you will become familiar with those who spend the same time of the year in the area. The local golf and sports clubs are often a hub of social activity in coastal towns. They provide a calendar of events to help you engage and get involved. There are often branches of international clubs, but also volunteer groups, gym classes or activities like arts and crafts classes to meet new people.



The calibre and variety of restaurants and eateries may not be quite the same as in a city. However, coastal areas in South East Asia are designed to cater to tourists, so there will be an array of cuisines and choices at your disposal. The challenge will be in high season, when the area gets very busy and tourist areas typically are more expensive. However, once you have explored the areas, you will have your list of favourite, more local places to eat that give excellent quality and value for money. They may well be a little off the beaten track.

If you choose a popular tourist destination like Bali or Phuket you will be able to access international products and food at specialist supermarkets. You will also have access to the amazing local produce through local markets which are common in the region. Markets often provide sit down eating and form a social destination for people in the area every week.

One of the delights of coastal living is that dining often comes with a view, so whether you choose a sophisticated resort restaurant or a casual feet-in-the-sand eatery you are bound to enjoy some of the most spectacular sunsets to top off another wonderful day in Asia.



Being close to the coast or on an island lends itself to an outdoor lifestyle, often centred around the water. Walks along long stretches of beautiful beaches and open water swimming in bays of clear, flat water form part of the day to day routine.

Taking out a stand-up paddle board or exploring the beauty underwater in scuba, are available whether you are a beginner or a seasoned enthusiast. Heading out on a boat for a day exploring nearby islands or having lunch at a neighbouring resort, will remind you why retirement is definitely to be savoured in the tropics of South East Asia.

With the change of season, comes more rain and strong wind with the monsoon passing through the region. The bigger waves and tides turn many beaches into some of the premium surf spots in the world. Lessons are offered in most resort areas and the locals will be able to share the exclusive breaks for anyone seeking a bigger challenge.

The coastal areas often have a strong sporting community with training groups for running, cycling and triathlons and there are world class training facilities dotted across the region. There are boot camps, yoga retreats and specialist martial arts training to appeal to the more active.

For something gentler and pampering, many of the Otium villages have their own Naturopathic Health and Wellness centres that focus on creating an active healthy lifestyle through personalised nutrition and activity programmes. In addition, the world’s’ leading wellness resorts are on your doorstep, which draw much of their appeal from their idyllic location on the coast and unique treatment menus taking inspiration from the local culture, techniques and produce. Massages and basic beauty treatments are a draw of the tourist scene and usually at a price that allows you to indulge and spoil yourself regularly all year round.



Exploring the region is easy and cost effective, with good transport links from coastal areas to major hubs. From the volcanic beaches and temples of Indonesia, to the jungles of Borneo or the less explored mysteries of Myanmar, there is an endless list of places to explore only a couple of hours away. For photography buffs and artists alike, each area will provide constant inspiration.


Day to day

For all the blissful environments and the perpetual holiday lifestyle, some aspects should be considered for foreigners taking up retirement in less populous coastal areas. More western services like hair colouring or treatment may require some investigation and the expectation to pay a higher price as more specialist stylists are few. Getting a passport renewal or other administrative requirements may mean travel to a major city. Most areas that service tourists will have good, often exceptional medical services but its always a consideration when choosing where to retire. House cleaning services are very reasonable and add an element of additional ease. Most drivers’ licenses are recognised for short stay but swapping for a local license is often recommended for those who settle.

In terms of shopping many of the coastal areas will be serviced by a mall or two if they are a tourist destination. This will give access to a variety of international luxury and mainstream stores including the likes of Louis Vuitton or H&M and more familiar spots like Starbucks. Online shopping is growing exponentially in the region so there is not much that you can’t source if you wish to.


As a retirement abroad, very few places can rival South East Asia coastal areas for their exceptional beauty and relaxed lifestyle, especially if you are expecting to move with the seasons. It really does live up to the dream of escaping to a paradise, albeit with the constant tropical smell of sunscreen and mosquito repellent.