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 July 21st, 2017

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Craig

Working in Taipei, Taiwan

Monthly Earnings 55,000

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

I'm semi-retired and only teach about 50 to 60 hours per month. I work for a management training company and travel to client sites training managers and execs 1:1. I make on average 55,440.92 baht a month. Most trainers work 80 hours. English teachers at an EFL school tend to start in Taiwan at 66,987. Business English is only a small part of what I do

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

None because I'm semi-retired. In Taipei an English teacher can usually save at least 15,000 baht per month I'm told. That of course means living in a shared apartment, a small apartment or one in a bad location. Ones outside of Taipei, tell me that they save half or more of their salary so over 35,000 baht after taxes

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

The cost of real estate is very high here. To get a quiet, non-cramped, partially furnished apartment with a view other than 5 feet to the next building, I pay over 31,000 baht a month. That doesn't include utilities except garbage. Salaries have gone down here since the early 90's but real estate has gone up 3 to 6 times. Rents went up 25% 2015 to 2016

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

a) Transportation

2,626 baht (that is only personal use)

b) Utility bills

Utilities are cheap. I run the AC a lot and all utilities come to 3,851 for electricity, water and high speed internet.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

15,000 baht. I love a lot of the street food in Thailand and can be satisfied with a 40 baht meal. I don't like most street food in Taiwan so eat mainly non-Taiwanese food when I eat out: Japanese, Indian, US, Mexican. I cook at home half the time. If you love noodles in broth you can eat very cheaply here. Most Taiwanese eat out 3 times a day

d) Nightlife and drinking

Very little. I mainly go on group hikes and meet for coffee. Taiwanese are not big drinkers, especially women.

e) Books, computers

I have a Kindle unlimited and read on average 9 or 10 books a month. I probably spend quite a bit on books. Bought a new MacBook last year for 51,000 baht but I hadn't bought one for 5 years

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

Comfortable. I spend a lot more here than I have in other countries because of the exorbitant rents and not being a fan of most of the local food. Most apartments that go for 21,000 baht would go for 7,000 or at the most 10,000 in Thailand.

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

Transportation, food (if you like the local cuisine) and medical facilities (one of the best countries on the planet and cheap)

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

The average net salary in Taiwan is supposedly 1,191,872 baht per year. I doubt that is true. I think someone can live well with bringing in 45,000 baht a month if they are reasonably frugal. They can survive on a lot less actually (maybe 31,000 baht??) If they are willing to live VERY frugally, they can survive on less than that. Get outside of Taipei and the cost of living plummets

Phil's analysis and comment

Nice to hear from another teacher in Taipei. The biggest nightmare and expense certainly sounds like accommodation. Perhaps we don't know how lucky we are in Thailand with what we can get in the 8.000 to 10,000 baht a month price range.

I was in Taipei for a week at the beginning of the year and it didn't really strike me as a nightlife place (not that I went out looking for it) so Craig's comments didn't surprise me there.


Michael

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 120-130,000

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

Approximately 120-130,000 baht per month. I make around 60,000 from my job teaching to adults in a language school and 60-70,000 baht as an IELTS examiner.

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

30-40,000

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

I pay 17,000 baht for a one-bedroom apartment in Sathorn.

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

a) Transportation

I probably spend around 1500 - 2000 baht on BTS, MRT and taxis.

b) Utility bills

My utility bills are around 1,500, my phone bill is around 500 and wi-fi around 900.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My girlfriend and I enjoy eating out, probably two or three times a week at mid-range places, and once or twice a month at higher end. Probably about 20,000 baht in total a month combined with food shopping.

d) Nightlife and drinking

I love the nightlife in Bangkok and lead a healthy social life. I'm out two or three times a week and probably spend 20,000 a month or more.

e) Books, computers

I read avidly, but my father sends me a mountain of books every birthday and Christmas so I rarely spend much on books. I bought a new laptop last year for about 20,000 and hope it'll last a few years.

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

I have a great standard of living here, I have 2 or 3 decent holidays a year as well as a trip back home. I'm able to stay in 5-star hotels over Christmas / New Year and my birthday every year, something I wouldn't be able to do in the UK on a £3,000 a month salary.

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

Hotels without a doubt, especially the high-end options during the low-season.

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

There are clearly different definitions of surviving. I wouldn't personally recommend anyone to earn less than 40,000 baht a month but I appreciate people here for the short-term aren't too concerned about that. I've been here for almost 10 years now, this is my life and I need to earn a decent income and put some away for the future.

Phil's analysis and comment

Michael also said "my main reason for completing this survey is to try and remove the stigma of all or most private language school teachers being paupers; if you do a good job and work hard, and try hard to meet the right people, you'll succeed and earn a good living"

Fair comment Michael. I would have also said that 60,000 is possible for a private language school teacher who is valued by the school, gets plenty of student requests (as I'm sure you do) and gets plenty of hours.

But let's not brush over the extra 60K you make as an IELTS examiner. Way back in the 90's, I used to hear of teachers making crazy money as IELTS examiners but I never really investigated further. However, I did know one teacher who regularly flew to Hong Kong to do a weekend of IELTS testing. Even with the cost of flights and hotel, the hourly IELTS rate made it all worthwhile.

All in all, it sounds like you're doing very nicely indeed.


James

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 155,000

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

My all-in average monthly income (after tax) is 155,000. The vast majority of this comes from my main job at a fairly decent international school where I work as an EAL teacher (117,000). The remainder comes from teaching small group exam prep courses on Saturdays (1,500 baht per hour which is paid at the end of every course <45,000 baht every 5th Saturday>).

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

100,000 - and it's the Saturday work that makes all the difference (without that I'd be saving half as much). I was seriously considering giving up Saturdays until I thought about retirement. If I don't work Saturdays, I'll need to do another 25 years before I have enough money to retire. With Saturdays that amount of time is reduced to less than 15 years. Right now I'm 37.

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

17,000 for a fully furnished one-bedroom condo (80sqm). It's a fairly old building but in great condition. The location is great for work but it's a couple of kilometres to the nearest BTS/MRT stations. Strictly speaking I only pay 8,500 baht as my partner pays half the rent.

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

a) Transportation

Very little. I live close enough to work to walk and run a little scooter that drinks about 50 Baht of 91 a week.

b) Utility bills

About 3,000 baht. This includes electricity, water and internet.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I'd guess about 10,000 baht per month. Meals are free at school (Thai / Western buffet) which means that I usually only have to pay for dinner.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Maybe 2,000 a month. I used to be out on Sukhumvit at least twice a week wasting my money and liver. Thankfully, gradually aging and working Saturdays have put a stop to that. I now go out perhaps once a month

e) Books, computers

Generally nothing. I have a computer but don't spend anything on it unless it breaks. As for books, there is a great book exchange at work that is free.

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

Busy but fun. Working 6 days a week is a lot, but I genuinely enjoy the Saturday classes. Teaching young adults who have actually chosen to be there is a refreshing experience. I also feel quite lucky that my (wonderful) Thai partner earns a decent salary by local standards (80k+), pays half the rent and generally takes care of herself. The only thing that we really do spend money on is travelling, this year alone we've been back to Europe twice, Japan once and are planning a break to Taiwan in October.

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

Tax! Back in the UK, income tax, national insurance, council tax, VAT and duties really added up!

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

I spend about 40,000 baht per month including rent. If I travelled less I could cut this back to 30,000 but life would be dull. And I'd be in trouble when I hit 65.

Phil's analysis and comment

Wow! Here's a guy that's feathering his nest and looking to retire in his early 50's. Way to go James! 

I was going to ask what you intended doing once you have put away your board-markers for good. I guess it might be a lot more travelling eh? but you do a good bit already. James also mentioned that one of the reasons he loves to travel is because of the favorable exchange rate between the Thai Baht and other currencies. I'm with you there James. All hail the mighty Baht.

James earns a fine teacher salary. We can all see and appreciate that. But what I would like to highlight is the fact that James has a Thai partner who also brings home the bacon and pays her way. A half share of the accommodation rental being just one example.

I'm also lucky enough to have a Thai partner who earns an excellent salary by local standards and it goes without saying how much easier and more comfortable life becomes. "Let me pay for dinner. It must be my turn" or "I'll just go to the gas station to fill up with petrol before we drive down to Hua Hin"

I've also been on the flipside of the coin, albeit many years ago. I've had the Thai partner who sells a little bit of food here and there and moves from one hare-brained, money-losing scheme to another. Most of the time, she would rather just lie on the sofa, watching Thai comedy shows and cackling like a nutter. Let me tell you - the first type of partner is better.     


Sai

Working in Nonthaburi

Monthly Earnings 30,000 baht

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

I make 30,000 a month from my full time job (which includes a 5,000 baht housing allowance). I have to be at school for 40 hours a week (25 hours of that is teaching and there is also some office / admin work) I haven't looked at teaching private students or teaching on-line yet but that time may not be too far away.

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

3,000 to 5,000 a month.

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

I pay 6,000 a month for a 23 square metre condo with a fridge, a microwave, a sink, a small closet, a little table, a sofa and a queen-size bed. For a single guy the accommodation is fine but the open air sewage from the canal outside makes it a very ugly place.

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

a) Transportation

As I live outside of Bangkok, I spend around 600 baht on train fares to go back and forth, at least on the weekends, plus around other 1,000 baht for taxis and such.

b) Utility bills

As I am careful with air-conditioning, electricity comes at around 300 per month

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat a rigorous diet of Thai food and fruit, I am not used to a so-called western diet anyway as I grew up in Italy.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Virtually nothing because the area I live in is devoid of any real night-time entertainment.

e) Books, computers

Sai did not answer this question.

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

It could be improved a lot. I am planning to move anyway and hopefully find something better.

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

Petrol, taxis and spa treatments.

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

Certainly not less than 30,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

The life of the non-native English speaker on 30K a month. Top marks anyway for looking to improve your lot. It sounds like you do a lot of hours Sai for that 25,000 baht full-time salary. 25 contact hours a week is not to be sniffed at and then you've got your admin work on top. Have you ever worked out what you are getting paid an hour? 

"but the open air sewage from the canal outside makes it a very ugly place" 

Yes, I lived in an apartment for three years next to Klong Saen Saeb in the Ramkhamhaeng area of Bangkok. It wasn't so much the state of the canal that bothered me but you did get canal boat taxis going by about every ten minutes with their engines buzzing. It was something I guess I got used to. You could actually catch a canal taxi at the pier right next to the apartment building but I never used it so there was no advantage there. I like to keep my feet firmly on dry land whenever possible. 


Anton

Working in Shanghai

Monthly Earnings 90,000

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

I work at a regular language centre for kids. My basic pay is 60,000 baht a month but we also get a 20,000 baht housing allowance and 10,000 baht travel allowance. There are also bonuses but I haven't included those.

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

45,000

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

I pay 12,000 baht for a nice, clean but VERY small shoe-box. It's not close to the city center but near to my work so I don't really mind. Most of my colleagues pay almost double what I pay to be closer to the city center.

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

a) Transportation

I have a bicycle that I use to get around. If it is raining I will use the subway. Probably not more than 300 baht a month

b) Utility bills

With the air-con running, utility bills are around 2,000 baht a month

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I don't cook food at home. I live on mainly fruit and protein shakes during the day and I buy dinner in the evenings. Probably around 10,000 baht a month including my protein shakes

d) Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out much at all so this expense is next to zero.

e) Books, computers

I pay around 500 baht a month for my internet and download whatever I need.

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

I am very comfortable. I tend to spend a lot of my money doing online shopping. That said, my accommodation is VERY cheap compared to others in the city and I don't go out drinking, so I save a lot there.

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

Shoes! I buy so many pairs of shoes online (the fake ones) But be careful because they have different level of "fakeness" if I can say it like that. The really cheap ones are horrible, but I bought a pair of the latest Nike Airmax for just 1,000 baht and they look exactly the same as from a proper Nike shop. So many good fake products for really cheap prices.

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

Well, my Chinese colleagues earn a lot less than I do but I would say 40,000 baht a month for a foreign teacher as an absolute minimum, but even that would not be very comfortable. I am actually very close to the bottom of comfortable, but I want to save a lot. Still comfortable, but living any tighter and I would hate it. I keep myself happy with buying little luxuries online.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Anton. We don't get too many cost of living surveys from China but it's nice to know what teachers earn there. No place seems to divide opinion quite like China. Teachers seem to love it or hate it!

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