Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

If you would like to submit a Cost of Living survey, you can answer the questions on line - https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9S6HQCD

Approximate conversion rates as of October 18th, 2017

33 Baht to one US Dollar
44 Baht to one Pound Sterling
39 Baht to one Euro
26 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.64 Baht to one Philippine Peso

Bill

Working in Petchaburi

Monthly Earnings 50,000+

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I have a target of 50,000 baht per month and I would say I reach that target most months with a combination of private language school work, corporate teaching and on-line teaching.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

I don't really save any of that. I have a nest egg that I built up from working in the UK and I have a decent pension on top. Teaching is something just to keep me busy and I figured that if I can make enough to cover my living costs here, then it's all good.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I have a very nice townhouse with a decent-sized garden that I rent for 12,000 baht a month. It's probably way more than you need to pay to rent a house in this part of Thailand but it's a very comfortable house. There is plenty of room here for when I get family or friends visit me from England.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

I have a pick-up truck and a small scooter and probably spend about 3,000 a month on gas. There are also repairs of course that you have to take into account but they are difficult to quantify on a monthly basis. I use the pick-up to travel to a handful of corporate jobs and I use the scooter for zipping around locally to places like the market and local grocery store, etc. You need to have your own transportation where I am because it's pretty remote.

b) Utility bills

I very rarely need to turn on the air-conditioning because the environment is so green and fresh. My monthly utility bills rarely come to more than a couple of thousand baht.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

From Monday to Friday, I exist totally on Thai food and packed lunches (usually sandwiches and a salad) but at the weekend, the wife and I will drive down to Cha'am or Hua Hin and sometimes do an overnight stay. I will generally eat Western food three or four times over the course of a couple of days. So Monday to Friday I can eat on 100 baht a day but at the weekend, that will go up to several thousand. Let's say 12-15,000 baht for food.

d) Nightlife and drinking

As I said, we usually spend the weekend in Hua Hin or Cha'am but I don't really do the nightlife thing. I'm tucked up in bed with a good book well before 11 pm. The money I spend in these places goes on food rather than beer.

e) Books, computers

I'm a big book-reader and I probably download four books a month from Amazon onto my Kindle. Probably around 1,000 baht a month depending on if they are new titles or not.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

It's a strange situation because I'm in my late fifties and seriously I don't need to work. I could stop all the teaching tomorrow and still live well. I started teaching purely as 'something to do' so I offered to do a few hours at a local language school. Students liked me so I got more hours. Then a couple of local companies asked me to come and teach their staff in the evenings. I've ended up probably way busier than I ever wanted to be but it's nice to have teaching cover your basic living costs.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Compared to the UK, just about everything. I went back for a holiday recently for the first time in five years and I honestly don't know how people survive. I was astounded by how expensive life in Europe has become.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Out here in the sticks, I could survive easily on 30,000. Even less if I downgraded my living accommodation. My weekends down by the beach probably double my overheads - but I couldn't do without them.

Phil's analysis and comment

Wow! Nice one Bill. You often hear foreigners of a certain age say 'make your money elsewhere and THEN come to live and enjoy Thailand. And that's exactly what you've done. 

I think this is the classic example of a farang who moves to a remote part of Thailand (but not too remote) and becomes the go-to English teacher. I imagine Bill to be a friendly, chatty sort of guy who everyone likes and once word got out that he did a bit of English teaching, everyone wanted a slice of the action. "Will you teach my two small children?", "can you come and teach my staff after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays?" - and before long word of mouth becomes the best marketing tool and things start to snowball. The only thing to keep in mind is that your time is money and you don't end up working for shit and grins.

But the very fact that Bill could stop any time he wanted and still live well is an enviable position to be in. It certainly takes the pressure off.

And although Bill lives in a quiet and rurual area, he's got the busy seaside resorts of Cha'am and Hua Hin just down the road. It's like having the best of both worlds! This is a guy who's really hit it right.  


James

Working in Naples, Italy

Monthly Earnings 47,500

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I work at a private language school and my salary is 1200 Euros (about 47,500 baht)

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

400 Euros (around 15,000 baht)

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

My apartment is provided by my school including bills (granted we don't go crazy with utilities which we never do) so I don't pay anything for accommodation. But this is very rare for Italy. Teachers typically share apartments as private ones are usually a minimum of 500 Euros per month plus bills, which are expensive too

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

Transport is quite expensive but cheaper than the UK. A monthly ticket in Naples is 42 euro per person (1600 Baht) which gives you unlimited access to the city's bus and train links including that to Pompeii and Sorrento. A boat ticket to Sorrento is around 12 euros. We tend to travel a lot in the area on days off and not spend that much.

b) Utility bills

I pay nothing for utility bills as they are provided by my school. But I am very lucky because most teachers tend to pay a lot for utilities which are very expensive in Italy.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is a real bargain here, a nice neapolitan pizza is just 4 Euros and if you eat fresh fruit, veg and pasta, it's very cheap. International food is more expensive, McDonalds or Burger King (which I never eat because, hey, it's Italy) will set you back around 15 euros (nearly 600 baht). Two good pizzas in a restaurant with wine and cover charge will be about 20 Euros (800 TB).

d) Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife isn't a priority as I'm married and it doesn't compare to the nightlife found in Thailand anyway. Beer or a glass of local wine are about 3 Euros in a pub although considerably more in nightclubs. I tend to save more by not going to bars often.

e) Books, computers

My school has a large collection of English books I like to read so I don't buy books. Electronics cost fairly similar to other parts of the world.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I enjoy my standard of living here. We have good food, good wine, sunshine and limoncello. Although I'm luckier than a lot of teachers in Italy who barely break even every month.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Fresh fruit and veg, pizza and wine

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In a shared apartment, I wouldn't want to earn less than 1200 Euros per month. You'd need to earn considerably more for your own place as they're expensive (hence why so many Italian adults live with their parents!)

Phil's analysis and comment

Although the cost of living section is predominantly aimed at teachers in Thailand, it's always nice to know what teachers earn in other parts of the world. Thanks James, I think you are our first teacher working in Italy.

When I first saw your salary figure of 47,500 baht, my initial reaction was 'surely that can't be enough' but obviously having your apartment (and bills!) paid for by the school is a huge game changer. I bet it's an amazing city to live and work in.


As always, we would love to have your contribution to the cost of living section. But PLEASE don't send us just a list of figures. The figures need to be padded out with a few details. It's those back stories that really get the readers' interest. If you would rather, you can always e-mail me the answers to the survey.


Anna

Working in Kunming, China

Monthly Earnings 75,000 baht plus bonus

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I earn 75K a month from the school. I teach 18 hours a week, plus 6 management hours (paid). The rest of the time I don't need to be on campus. I have a minimum three days off a week depending on my schedule. I have 3+ months of paid vacation and a 75k bonus at the end of the school year. My partner (musician) makes around 20,000 baht a month.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

Around 25,000 baht without effort but if I was trying it could easily be more like 40,000.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

We own our apartment, so a minimal condo fee of around 750 baht a month. Generally speaking, renting a good quality 3-bedroom 100 sqm condo downtown will set you back around 12,500 baht a month.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

Public transportation to school (direct bus) is dirt cheap, around 10 baht one way. Taxis are also affordable at 150 baht each way (our school is out of town, at least a 30-minute drive). Since I teach with many colleagues who live in the same area as me, we often carpool to split costs. Alternatively, a lot of teachers have an e-bike (electric motorcycle, no licence required), which at around 7,500 baht new, plus battery charging, can save you a ton of cash in the long run

b) Utility bills

Utility bills are cheap, maybe 1,500 baht a month, and we run all our gadgets like mad (no need for air conditioning in Kunming).

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Local food is dirt cheap, you could get by on 200 baht a day if you wanted to eat out, and if you cook at home you can do a lot with that budget. If you've been in Asia a while like me, you tend to crave a more Western style diet. Eating out in Western places here is not cheap, expect to spend at least 500 baht a head. Personally, we cook a lot at home/eat out and don't skimp at the Western supermarket. I would say we spend at least 15,000 baht a month on food, restaurants, wine and beers for home

d) Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out very much at night anymore, but a beer at your local bar/cafe will be minimum 50 baht or 100 baht for an imported long neck. For a wild night out (the type that ends at sunrise) expect to pay around 1,500 baht

e) Books, computers

Books are expensive here, but there is a good English library that lets you borrow, so 500 baht a year. Computers are also cheap if you know where to go, figure 15,000 baht for something really decent.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Very high. As we own our own apartment, we have no rent to pay, which frees up plenty of pocket money for vacations etc. My husband is a musician so makes minimal wages, probably around 20,000 bah a month, which covers all the basic expenses. My salary is used for other purchases. We live in a great condo, travel a lot, have a car, do at least 3 trips abroad a year (Thailand, Vietnam, back home) and have cash to burn at the end of the month,

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Fruit and veg, undoubtedly. Transport is also cheap. Rents (in comparison to many other large Asian cities) are also low.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

Wow, honestly, how low can you go? If you share flat, have a e-bike, and eat local, maybe 20,000 baht, and you'd still have money to go out and enjoy yourself 2-3 times a week.

Phil's analysis and comment

It sounds like an interesting place with plenty of opportunity to earn decent money - and save a good chunk of it. Anna also said that there is a great expat community in Khunming as well.

Life is certainly much easier when you own your own place and don't need to fork out for rent each month.


Yash

Working in Sukhothai

Monthly Earnings 29,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I work at a private school in Sukhothai and my salary is 27,000 baht per month. I make an extra 2,000 a month from private students.

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

Around 8,000 baht.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I live in a studio apartment (with double bed, fridge, TV, closet, wifi and a table and chair) With utilities my monthly rental is in the range of 2,900 to 3,200 baht per month.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

I have rented a motorbike which I share with another teacher so it costs me 750 baht a month and around 250 on gas and repairs if any. So a 1,000 baht on transportation. Although one can take tuk-tuks and songthaews, its more convenient to have a bike.

b) Utility bills

Utilities are included in the rent.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Food is quite cheap if you stay local but I have been here for two years and now I can't do Thai food for every meal. So I fancy a pizza or a burger or cook Indian food every now and then so I end up spending around 7,000 baht per month.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Sukhothai has some really cool bars with cocktails & shots as cheap as 80 baht!! then there's a beer bar with international beers ranging from 160 to 500 baht. I'd say I spend about 500 baht on nightlife

e) Books, computers

Not much. Maybe about 300 baht.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

I started working on 23,000 baht per month and now am making 27,000 baht. I'd say I live pretty comfortably, no real hardships unless I spend extensively on travelling and leisure. Sukhothai is a countryside town but I guess I spend a lot on food and when I travel to Chiang Mai. To be fair anything in the range of 28 to 30,000 baht is a decent amount of money to live comfortably in Sukhothai. Of course if you are not a nightlife person and can live on Thai food everyday, even better for you.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Everything except Western food. You can get good Thai food for 50 baht or less per meal.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

At least 20,000 baht per month to literally survive and 25,000 baht for a decent living. Anything under that and you will probably be counting your change during the last week of every month.

Phil's analysis and comment

I've just come back from a few days in Nan Province, right up in the north of Thailand and I was pleasantly surprised by how cheap things were. I can certainly see how one could live relatively well on the sort of money Yash is earning if you live in very quiet Thai towns and cities. How much are you putting away for a rainy day though? That would be my main concern. But 8,000 a month is certainly a start.

When we talk about living cheaply outside Bangkok, I think you have to keep in mind that there are the quiet Thai towns and then there are the likes of Pattaya, Chiang Mai and Phuket etc. They are very different in terms of how much money you will need to survive.


Nathaniel

Working in Samut Prakarn

Monthly Earnings 45,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

I work at a large private Thai secondary school and my take-home salary is about 45,000 a month. I could do extra work if I wanted but I can live very comfortably on 45K so why do more?

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

I save between 10 and 15K a month and I use that 150,000 baht a year to either go home or do some travelling in Thailand.

Q3. How much do you pay for your accommodation and what do you live in exactly (house, apartment, condo)?

I share a two-bedroom house with another teacher who actually works at a different school. We pay 10.000 baht a month and split that right down the middle so 5,000 each. Not a bad deal at all because it's a newish house in a nice quiet soi and the house is big enough for us to avoid each other if we want some privacy.

Q4. What do you spend a month on the following things?

a) Transportation

I can take a motorcycle taxi from the end of the soi to the school where I work for 20 baht. Even with the odd taxi and skytrain fare at the weekend, I bet my transportation bill barely breaks a thousand baht.

b) Utility bills

We split all the utility bills down the middle and my share usually comes out about 2,000 baht. I'll usually put the air-con on for a few hours in the evening but I don't like sleeping with the air-con on because you walk up with a very dry throat.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I tend to use about five or six different neighborhood restaurants and coffee shops, where you can get a decent meal and a drink for about 100-150 baht. I eat lunch for free at the school canteen. I tend to avoid Western food, even at the shopping malls. I can never justify paying the prices. I guess I probably spend about 8,000 a month if you factor in supermarket stuff.

d) Nightlife and drinking

There's not an awful lot to do in Samut Prakarn. What nightlife there is is very much geared towards Thais. I could catch the skytrain into Bangkok but I've become bored of the scene down there so I rarely bother. I would rather stay in and play computer games with a couple of beers.

e) Books, computers

I like my computer games and I enjoy reading a few books every month. About 2,000 a month for this.

Q5. How would you summarize your standard of living in one sentence?

Very comfortable. I live well enough on 45,000 baht and could probably live on considerably less. Not being a nightlife person certainly helps. I can remember a few years back when I could easily drop 3,000 on a weekend. Samut Prakarn is not Bangkok either. You don't have the temptations here. You're living among locals and doing what they do to a certain extent.

Q6. What do you consider to be a real 'bargain' here?

Pretty much everything except Western food. If you can stick to eating Thai, you'll save a fortune. And I don't mean street food either. You can get great Thai meals for around 100 baht and eat in a nice environment if you know where to go.

Q7. In your opinion, how much money does anyone need to earn here in order to survive?

In Bangkok, I wouldn't want to earn less than 35,000 and to be honest, I don't understand why people work for that sort of money anyway. It's a teachers market out there. There always seems to be plenty of jobs in the 40K bracket.

Phil's analysis and comment

Yes Nath, I'm a Samut Prakarn boy myself. I guess it's an interesting area to live inasmuch as you feel part of the local scene, you don't see all that many foreigners at all, and yet fifteen minutes on the skytrain and you are in the heart of Bangkok. Samut Prakarn is changing slowly though. Dare I say becoming a little more upmarket (which isn't difficult when you're one of the city's ugliest suburbs) We've got a new shopping mall and there are coffee shops and restaurants springing up everywhere. Shame though that in many cases there just aren't enough customers to support them and keep the businesses open.    

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