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 September 24th, 2017

33 Baht to one US Dollar
45 Baht to one Pound Sterling
40 Baht to one Euro
26 Baht to one Australian Dollar
0.65 Baht to one Philippine Peso

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.    


Cha

Working in Trang

Monthly Earnings 30,000

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

I work in a government school English program in Trang and my basic salary is 30,000 baht. I don't do any extra teaching on top of that.

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

I have saved 23,000 baht in the two months I've been here. My target is to save at least 12,000 a month.

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

I pay 5,000 a month for a studio-type apartment.

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

a) Transportation

I generally walk everywhere or hitch a ride with a colleague so almost nothing.

b) Utility bills

I'm cutting down on using the a/c so 1,460 baht last month should go down to about 1,000 this month.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Now that one of my colleagues has moved to work in Bangkok, I'm back to eating healthier, which means less eating out. My food bill plus household stuff for the first two months came in at just over 10,000 baht.

d) Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife for me is mostly about eating out with friends so about 1,000 baht a month.this

e) Books, computers

Virtually nothing.

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

t's comfortable since I live in a good place where you don't need all that much money. I need to cut down on eating out, which I'm doing starting this month.

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

Food and rent. I can live in a cheaper place but this one is near the stadium and walking distance to the school. Also, I don't cook so I eat outside or do my groceries and eat salad at night. I'm pescetarian so you can eat seafood here and it's not expensive.

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

30,000 is comfy for a single person. You can find a cheaper rent but this is a sort of serviced apartment. They have facilities and they understand English. Every problem I've had has been solved- where to get my ball pumped, electric fan blade replacement, laundry with iron, doctor, etc.

Phil's analysis and comment

A fairly no-nonsense, no-frills survey but probably what you would expect from a 30,000 baht a month salary. It allows for an OK living outside of Bangkok provided that you don't spend much on accommodation and nightlife, etc. And Cha stays well within his budget on all the basics.


Allan

Working in Saudi Arabia

Monthly Earnings 223,000 baht

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

I teach in a vocational college in Saudi Arabia and I earn 6,700 US dollars, which is roughly 223,000 baht per month. I work one job, full-time which is more than enough. I've always believed a person should just find one job that pays well and enjoy their spare time free from the burden of work.

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

I save all of it due to living, housing and transport allowances that are more than enough. I do travel a lot though as I've exhausted what little tourism Saudi has to offer (it does exist if you enjoy archeology, desert camping, snorkeling or hiking). Worst case scenario, I would save 5,700 US dollars a month.

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

Nothing, the company pays an allowance and I pocket the difference, which last school year was an extra $320 a month. I'm looking at the same again this year, which gets me a 90 square meter, one-bedroom serviced apartment.

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

a) Transportation

Nothing as the company provides cars, drivers and minivans whenever needed

b) Utility bills

Nothing, it's included in my rent, as is hi-speed internet.

c) Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My only real expense but again I receive an allowance that I rarely spend all of

d) Nightlife and drinking

Nights out in Saudi are cheap if you can live without booze or drugs, which I do. An evening of pool once a week is about $10. Weekend coffee with a friend is about the same. But again, I receive a living allowance which more than covers these things.

e) Books, computers

I bought a MacBookPro a few years ago and it's still a fantastic laptop; I buy books about once a year when home in San Francisco in the summer, which I budget at $200. My wife and I split a Netflix account with two other friends, so that's about $3 a month. I did buy a PS4 this summer and imagine I'll be spending a few hundred dollars a year on games just for the hell of it.

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

My standard of living is on par with, and in some ways exceeds, the standard I had when I lived in the US. Being married, nothing can beat the feeling of knowing that I can provide for my wife and family today and in the future. Instead of worrying about money like so many teachers in Asia seem to do, we plan our finances and look forward to retiring in our early 50s.

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

Cars and gas are extremely cheap, as one would expect. Surprisingly, so is good quality food from around the region and the world. A trip to the grocery store is an absolute delight for a fruit and veg lover. Honestly, everything is as cheap here as anywhere else, the key is find a quality employer that will provide proper living allowances.

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

No one is here to 'survive'; everyone is here to make money. While I've seen jobs here going for as low as $3000 US, I wouldn't recommend working for less than $5000. An expat teacher, particularly an ESL teacher, needs to think like a mercenary = maximize your earnings with specialized, in-demand skills.

Phil's analysis and comment

"The key is to find a quality employer that will provide proper living allowances" 

Well, it certainly sounds like you've managed to do that Allan. This survey proves the point that if you are willing to put up with the 'hardships' that come with living and working in The Middle East, you can make some very serious money. 


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. That's what really gets the readers' interest. If you would rather, you can always e-mail me the answers to the survey.

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