How far does a 40K salary go in Bangkok?
Will you be living well - or simply surviving?
In the past I would often get asked if it was possible to live in Bangkok on a 30,000 baht salary?
However, that was in the past. Thankfully nowadays the average Bangkok salary is showing signs of creeping up further towards the 40,000 baht mark (and about time as well!)
OK, let's really drill down into those numbers and find out how far 40,000 baht goes.
These days, it's becoming more of an ‘average' Bangkok teacher salary.
However, many teacher placement agencies still pay in the ball-park of 30K - 40K a month, as do most of the companies who specialize in hiring teachers from abroad for short-term teaching contracts (the latter are usually jobs for the ‘gap year' crowd)
There are of course plenty of teachers here earning far more than 40,000 baht (and plenty of teachers making less) but 40K is the amount we're going to play with.
We're not concerning ourselves here with teaching in rural Thailand, where according to many old hands, "money goes much further" and "you can live very well on 30,000 baht a month" etc.
I have no experience of living and working out in the sticks so I'm in no position to judge. I've been in Bangkok for over 30 years - most of my adult life in fact - and for fifteen of those years I was an English teacher. Bangkok is really all I know.
In all those years I spent standing in front of a whiteboard, I very rarely worked for a fixed monthly salary. I mostly worked for language schools that paid by the hour and I supplemented it with corporate work (also hourly paid)
I earned on average from 28K - 36K a month depending on the time of year and how busy the language school was.
In later years, I started to take on private students at home for a couple of evenings a week but the most I ever made in a single month was 46,000 baht. That felt like an awful lot of money back in about 1999 I can tell you.
But times have changed since then.
What I'm saying is that I averaged around 30-35K during my teaching career so I know what it's like to live on that amount of money - to pay rent, to feed and clothe yourself and to make annual trips back home, etc.
No two people are the same
I've constantly been fascinated by how different people handle their finances. By and large, I've always worked with groups of teachers who earned roughly the same amount of money as me each month.
And yet at every place I taught, there were always the teachers who could afford to spend the final weekend of the month travelling to the islands and generally enjoying life - and there were always the teachers who were living on cup noodles and relying on advances from their next pay check.
It's always important to keep in mind that no two people are the same when it comes to organizing personal finances.
But for every teacher it's all about living within your means. You can't live a 50K a month lifestyle on a 30K salary. I gave this advice out to teaching colleagues many times but it would invariably fall on deaf ears. Leopards never really change their spots.
I asked some of my Twitter friends and followers how they felt about living in Bangkok on 30K a month. Admittedly some of those followers are not teachers, but they DO live in Bangkok. They still have a good feel for what it costs to live here.
Here are some of the comments (tweets)
"You're never going to be able to afford to put your kids through school or visit home"
"It must only be an existence. Not a future. Outside of Bangkok maybe doable but still not a long term plan for future stability"
"It's possible to live on 30K but have you come across the world to live worse off?"
"Let's not forget that 30K / month for a 10-month contract is actually 25K a month"
"30k is a young person's game for sure. I think we can all agree on that"
"I loved my first three months here when I made 30K. But I've steadily gone up the ladder, and couldn't go back"
"Survive? - yes. Constantly worry about money? - yes. It wouldn't be for me"
That's just a selection of the Twitter feedback we had. There were also people who said they had no trouble living on 30K a month - but they were definitely a minority.
The majority wouldn't and couldn't imagine living on that amount.
You'll be earning X times the salary of the average Thai
Taking home 40K a month, you'll be earning three times what the average Thai person earns. Or is it four times? Frankly, who cares? To me it's a meaningless comparison and always has been.
I don't care if I'm earning four times what a Thai security guard makes, just as I wouldn't care if I were teaching English in Somalia and earning ten times as much as a Somalian goat-herder.
A Thai person has their own standard of living and a foreigner has theirs. You don't expect to live in the lap of luxury but you DO expect to be able to afford your basic needs and a few ‘treats' on top. Otherwise, what's the point of being here?
Enjoy life by ‘living like a Thai'
Your 40K salary will go a lot further if you ‘live like a Thai'. This is another pointless argument that comes up time and time again.
Frankly speaking, when I was finding my way in the world, it was never my ambition to want to ‘live like a Thai'. And you know what? - I bet most Thais aren't that keen on living like a Thai either. Most of them would love a bit more in the disposable income department.
I'm never completely sure what 'living like a Thai' means. Does it mean eating street-food twice a day every day and only using the public bus service to go back and forth to your 2,000 baht a month apartment? That's not much of a fun way for a foreigner to live in Bangkok.
Plenty of teachers arrive in Thailand with the romantic notion that they will exist by ‘going native' but the novelty very quickly wears off.
It's also worth mentioning that anyone who has been here any length of time will have worked alongside the Thai office girl who pulls in barely 15,000 baht a month but always has the latest smartphone, manages to run a car and still has money left over to socialize and dress well.
The numbers just don't stack up and this is because Thais often have the support of a family network. They sometimes live at home (so food and accommodation costs are zero) and when the car tax needs paying or there's a nice new handbag they've got their eye on, they can dip into daddy's big pocket.
As foreigners, we just don't have that option.
Let's analyze potential spending and living costs in a bit more detail.
Let's start off with what is surely a teacher's largest monthly expense - accommodation. This might be a studio apartment, a shared room in a rented house or whatever.
Accommodation is an enormous grey area and nigh on impossible to put a figure on. I remember an old boss of mine saying that you should look to spend a third of your salary on a place to live and while I wouldn't suggest you spend 15,000 baht on rent if you are only pulling in 40K a month, there's no doubt that some teachers do.
You may be ‘lucky' and work for a school that provides free accommodation but that is not the norm in Thailand. In most cases, the teacher has to find their own place to live.
You can rent a studio apartment in Bangkok for as little as 2,000 baht a month (but such apartment buildings can often be very grim indeed) while at the other end of the scale, there is no limit to what you could pay.
But I'm going to take 7,000 baht a month as the average figure for something half-way decent. With electricity bills and other utilities on top, your final accommodation spend would come out at about 8,000 - 10,000.
This leaves you with around 30,000 baht a month. That works out to about a thousand baht a day to cover all of the expenses below.
It's not a great deal of money is it? So strap yourself in. It's going to be quite a ride!
Visa run costs
This is often an unexpected and unwelcome expense that new teachers have to accept. If a new teacher has to do a visa run to a Thai embassy or consulate in a neighboring country to obtain a non-immigrant visa, the cost of transportation, guest house, visa fees, living costs, etc can be considerable.
Sometimes the employer will shoulder all or part of the costs involved, but very often not.
Again, this is another grey area. Some people like to eat well and others will skimp when it comes to spending money on food.
Quite a number of teachers are lucky enough to receive free school lunches (or at least heavily subsidized) but that still leaves you with breakfast, an evening meal and food at the weekend to find.
You can save a fair amount of money by eating Thai street-food as much as possible (it's called ‘living like a Thai') but street-food once or twice a week is more than enough for me. I prefer to cook at home. You don't save money but you do eat better.
It's at the weekend where the teacher will likely gravitate towards the fast food joints (McDonalds, KFC, etc) or go in search of Western restaurants or better alternatives to the weekday school lunches and footpath offerings. And why shouldn't you treat yourself at weekends? If you can't afford to have a burger and fries whenever you fancy, what's the point in being here?
Let's call it 200 baht a day for food from Monday to Friday (even the cost of street-food has gone up in recent years) and 1,000 baht for the weekend. That doesn't sound like an awful lot to me but still amounts to 6,000 a month.
So we've fed ourselves for the month, we've put a roof over our heads. Both of those things have put a 15,000 dent in our 40K salary so we are left with 25,000.
Getting to work
Very few teachers are lucky enough to live within walking distance of their school and well done if you do! But for most teachers, there will be public transportation costs.
Bangkok buses are cheap for sure - but you'll soon tire of standing on those in rush hour. Some teachers will opt for the mass transit systems (sky-train or subway) and some might even splash out on the luxury of a taxi, especially on a rainy October morning when you're running late for work.
Even taking the mass transit system to and from work will cost you 80 baht a day. You might add on another 80 baht for the odd taxi fare. It really depends on your journey.
At the last school I worked for, I had to walk the five minutes from my house to the main road in order to catch a taxi (taking the bus was far too much hassle) The taxi to the sky-train station would cost me 60-80 baht depending on traffic. Then my sky-train ticket would work out at about 30 baht.
And of course I would do the reverse journey in the evening. 22 days a month. Total cost = 200 baht a day x 22 = 4,400 baht. That's just to get to work and back.
I don't think there's anything out of the ordinary about my journey to work there, but I do appreciate that it's now easier to live closer to the Bangkok mass transit systems. But I'm still going to factor in 3,000 baht a month for transportation and I've probably been very conservative there.
So with transportation costs taken out, we're now left with 22,000 baht of that original 40K salary.
Other supermarket costs
Ah, here we go. I've just returned from the supermarket. Let's have a peek into my shopping bags.
In terms of non-food items, I've got bin-liners, floor cleaner, shampoo, hair-conditioner, shaving gel, air freshener......need I go on? I'm not saying I buy this stuff every week but there are ALWAYS non-food items that you will need to buy.
And as someone reminded me on Twitter - "a female teacher is always going to spend a lot more than a male teacher on cosmetics, toiletries, etc"
I'm going to put a price of 2,000 baht a month on non-food items. We're now left with 20,000 baht.
If you are living and working in Bangkok without health insurance, you should stop reading immediately and sort yourself out. A serious illness or motorcycle accident could wipe out your life savings in the blink of an eye if you don't have adequate insurance.
Thailand's daily English-language newspapers often run stories of someone lying in a Thai hospital bed, unable to pay his hospital bills and relying on the generosity of friends and family back home to get him out of trouble. You don't want to be that person.
I think most employers in Thailand will arrange some sort of health insurance for their teachers - but it's very often the most basic package available. In some cases it won't cover those niggly out-patient visits, where you're not poorly enough to be hospitalized but certainly need to see a doctor.
If you want to upgrade and arrange your own health insurance cover, you're looking at at least 2,000 baht a month (I pay 65,000 baht a year now that I am well into middle age) However, for the majority of teachers, they take their chances with whatever their school offers.
Be careful on those motorcycles!
There are so many places to see in Thailand and everybody who lives and works in Bangkok needs a break from the concrete jungle now and again. If you can't afford to treat yourself to a weekend away on a tropical island every now and again, there's no point in being here.
Travel in Thailand is nowhere near as cheap as it once was. The days of the 50 baht fan bungalow right next to the beach are long gone. Very average hotels can easily cost a thousand baht a night and you're always going to spend more on food, attractions and activities at ‘touristy' places
While it's impossible to put a price on the cost of a weekend away because we all have different standards of accommodation and travel, etc, I never find a long weekend away costing me less than about 10,000 baht. That can go up to around 15,000 if I hire a car for several days.
I met up with a few old colleagues recently at a pub on Sukhumwit Road. Nothing fancy, I think the beer was 80 baht a bottle. However we bought a round of drinks each, which came to 320 baht per person. Then we adjourned to the worst Indian restaurant I've ever been to, where starters, a main course and a soft drink came to an eye-watering 750 baht a head.
That was 1,100 baht spent on one ordinary night out on Sukhumwit Road. Just to re-cap, don't forget that after paying rent on your 40,000 baht salary, you are supposed to be ‘surviving' on a thousand baht a day.
I've always maintained that on 40K a month, there is little or no room left over for ‘treats.
A coffee and a muffin in Starbucks can cost well over 200 baht.
A couple of drinks at a Bangkok roof-top bar could run you well over 500 baht.
A full breakfast at a Bangkok British pub can be 300-400 baht.
The list goes on.
It's very easy to just say ‘oh well, I'll avoid those things' - but why should you? What's the point if you can't treat yourself at least once or twice a week?
Oh, I forgot
I haven't included a category for clothing, laundry and dry cleaning. You buy clothes, you wear clothes - and clothes need to be washed. They are all expenses that need to be factored in.
The annual trip home and emergencies
In the mid-90s, I worked with a terrific British teacher named Robert. Everybody liked Robert - he was the life and soul of the teacher's room.
One day his dear Mother back in London got sick and doctors told her she had weeks to live. Robert didn't have the money to fly back home to be at his mom's bedside in her final hours. He was one of those teachers who lived a 50K lifestyle on a 30K salary. Nothing was ever stashed away for a rainy day or a family emergency just like this one.
The situation was heartbreaking for all of us. Rob listened to his Mother slowly pass away on the opposite end of a telephone line.
My own parents are well into their twilight years now - and with their health slowly deteriorating, my suitcase is always on standby to leave with me at a moment's notice.
If you never have to fly back to support a sick relative, then at least perhaps, you'll want to make the trip back home to see friends and family once a year.
Every time I go back to the UK for just a couple of weeks, plane tickets and spending money set me back about 80,000 - 90,000 baht. That's another 7,000 baht a month right there.
And on a final note
When I published this article for the first time, many Thai schools were breaking up for the end of term holiday. No more school for a couple of months - Hooray!
There were foreign teachers now looking forward to a lovely two-month holiday. On full pay as well! Life doesn't get any better than that. This is why we come to teach English in Thailand!
But hold on, there is a dark side. A very dark side - as one or two Ajarn Facebook page followers were only too quick to point out.
For every teacher looking forward to a semester break on full pay, there are Lord knows how many teachers facing a couple of months with no pay at all - very often, teachers who work for agencies on the dreaded ten or eleven-month contracts.
As one teacher said on Twitter - "I'm now desperately scrambling around to find summer camp work. Or how can I pay my rent?"
Not good. Not good at all.
And of course, if we do the math, a teacher on a 40K salary is actually only earning 33,000 baht a month if two months of the year are unpaid.
No one is saying that you can't live on a 40K salary in Bangkok. Many teachers can and many teachers do. But is it living or is it just survival? Is it just an existence?
One thing is clear - the vast majority of teachers and those expats who don't teach, but live in Bangkok, will all tell you the same thing. Living on 40K in the capital is going to be very tough indeed.
Bangkok is NOT the cheap destination it was in the early 90's when I first came here. Prices for everything have risen steadily, especially over the last five years.
There will always be those who disagree with the figures above. "I spend less than that on food" or "I don't spend that much on transportation" - but I don't think the figures are far out for the average person.
Just be aware of your figures and realise that if you are thinking of embarking on a teaching career in Bangkok, after you have deducted rent, food, transportation and a bit of travel, you might be budgeting for little more than 20 US dollars a day.
You might be interested in....
The cost of living guide - real Thailand teachers go into detail about how much they spend each month and what they spend it on.
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Despite the age of the article I'm still essentially living on 22-25k per month. I cover all household expenses and many food expenses for my wife. She brings a good bit of food home as well. Add to this dental cleaning 2x a year, 2L of booze, 2k proper dinner out for two, all utilities and transport to school. 400b beer blast 1x pm.
Holidays are extra.
You can't factor trips home if you're only making 40k. It's a local salary.
I would argue living upcountry is more expensive not less expensive. You just need to be Bangkok savvy.
By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (11th June 2022)
Great account by an experienced person. Thank you!
Would you recommend a 52/3 years old moving there for good?
I have good savings in £££, single, no parents and have been offered a teaching job for 35000 Baht in Chonburi, one hour from Bangkok.
Thank you, again!
By Nèdeem, London (11th December 2021)
Looking to retire in a few years and also interested in teaching. Retirement income will be ~ $10K USD per month. Are there any special considerations for people making substantially more than the average citizen when moving to Thailand? Any places I should avoid or places I should try to live?
By Rick S., Florida (25th May 2021)
Well it is all very interesting.
My advice to the folks is 10 to 12 years before you plan to take your social security apply in several locations for a housing choice voucher because you might make too much now but when you get just social security it will make you life stress free.
I live in the place which I believe has the best weather in the world. My high rent is covered by a housing choice voucher so I pay only 30% of my income for housing. My social security is equal to about 56,000 baht. I doubt very much that my current lifestyle would cost much less then at present if I were to move to Thailand. If I didn't get the housing choice voucher, then Thailand was my plan. Now I plan to just travel where ever 2 or 3 times a year for a month or so each time.
Just some friendly advice and an example.
By Kevin San Diego, San Diego, CA (27th December 2020)
I make about 270,000 THB now (0 tax) as I work remotely and live in Bangkok running about 40K-50K THB per month expenses. When my job was based in Bangkok, I'd take home about 130,000 and end up saving about 90,000 after basics, most of which I'd end up spending on something or the other.
While living on 30K is very doable in Bangkok, I wouldn't consider doing it. If you're a foreigner, you need to make at least 80K minimum so you can have 40-50K spending income if you don't want to blow your brains out.
By Arvind, Bangkok (27th October 2020)
I agree that in this age the 30K salary for a foreign teacher is not that desirable. However it is still a livable (endurable) salary.
I used to live on a salary of 32K a month the previous year as an agency teacher. (26.5K as it was a 10 month contract)
This was how I lived:
1. Rent: 6,000THB for a room near Pinklao
2. Transport: 200 THB a day for scooter up and down to work (20 x 200 = 4K)
3. Food: Approximately 100THB a day (3000 a month) (1 x school canteen food, 1 iced coffee from the back soi and 1 x dinner - choice of soi food, instant noodles or home cooked meal)
4. Utilities: 2K approximately (I love electronics)
These 3 main things comes to about 15K montly
I still have around 11K left over
However, extra expenditures as follow
- Mainly: Visa trips to Laos: might cost roughly 5k a time every few months depending on your visa type.
- Medical & Dental: 3Kish for a visit to a private hospital and 1.2k for a polishing at a dentist.
- Gym memberships: 300 monthly to 1200 monthly depending on how hi-so you wanna go.
- Dating and going out with visiting friends. Might be as high as 5k per night out (food and drinks galore)
- Bad habits like a 20 pack cost averages around 100THB each.
My current job pays around 45K (same 32K pay but with additional teaching gigs)
I added a car into the equation above with 10K monthly payment (courtesy of a trusted local) and budgeted 4K worth of petrol, toll and parking to and from work and going out.
I guess the more you earn the more you wanna spend.
Forget the thinking of earning XX times a local does. Why would you compare yourself to a road sweeper that makes 8K monthly or a local teacher that starts with 15K a month but have tons of government and family support? (Btw, many local office workers I know earns around 30K, works in swanky offices and drives rather modest cars.)
Is the 30K sum livable? Yes it is still. But you will be living a no-frills existence.
What are the biggest expenses?
I would say the rental and transport. Choose a place near the school and you can just walk saving that transport expense.
By Nick, Bangkok (8th July 2020)
I lived in Bangkok on less than 40,000 when I first arrived, and then later on a bit more than 40,000, and occasionally much more.
For me, living in Bangkok on 40,000 (or less) was a pretty good life, but making more than that was better and making multiple times 40,000 was even better yet (but not multiple times better). But other readers might have had different experiences or have different viewpoints.
Personal opinion, as long as the work is interesting and the personal life is ok, making a descent salary is important, but having a high salary is less so. But why not try to eventually have interesting work, a good personal life AND a bit more than an average income.
Doesn't seem an impossible goal over one's lifetime.
By Jack, LOS (22nd January 2020)
I lived in Thailand for a year so I have an understanding about the real costs of living. I still find those figures saying that you can only live the 'Thai way', with 40K/month. I have since retired in Finland and I make about 50K/month and I can say my life is pretty decent. Now, if I moved back to Thailand with the same income, I cannot see how I'd be forced to live the 'Thai way' If this is enough for life in Finland, where pretty much everything is vastly more expensive, how can I not do it with same standards in Thailand?
I did a test back when I was living in Isaan. I was easily able to live on about 8,500 baht / month (Rent, about 5,000 was paid from that) so I lived on the remaining 3,500 baht. Ok, it wasn't a "nice" life and I wasn't able to go out drinking, but managed easily with food and even some beer. Of course Isaan is different to Bangkok but still...
By DeeAa, Finland (18th September 2019)
You lost me at 40k. I was making 42.5k my second year. I left that job for another paying 45.5 although that was lower than the target I set. Next year 50k. Just goes up. Left that job because they wouldn't pay me 62k. I really don't see the issues with salary that everyone moans about. Work hard, kick ass, get paid.
By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (14th August 2019)
This article is several years old and budget suggestions are outdated. Additionally the math does not add up:
"Let's call it 100 baht a day for food from Monday to Friday and 1,000 baht for the weekend. That doesn't sound like an awful lot to me but still amounts to 2,500-3,000 baht."
No. 100 baht per day (X 24) + 1000 baht per weekend (X 4) is not "2,500-3,000 baht" per month - it is 6400,- baht. Also, eating 100 baht worth of food per day is nigh on impossible. Drink 4 bottles of water and you have 70 baht worth of food to go on. Street food is getting more expensive - 70 baht will not even provide you with two dishes of "jaan diaow" food per day, so you better prepare yourself to let at least two of three meals be rice and boiled eggs.
And no 60 baht per day will not get you both back and forth through BKK on BTS/MRT.. if you need to cross BKK with one of for longer distances, those prices are now more expensive. If I went with BTS, one way would cost me 55 baht (BTS) + 40 baht (motorcycle taxi from and to BTS). That is 3240 baht for 24 work days.
VISA run costs is not counted here. If you cannot get a proper work permit/Non-B VISA, a border run + a 30 days extension will cost you just over 4000 baht. That is 2000 baht per month.
While prices have increased in Bangkok, the teachers salaries have more or less stood still and a typical teachers salary on ajarn is around 32-35 K per month. That would basically amount to "existence" in my book. I earn 42.000. If I did not have an extra income from letting out a house in my home country, I would not be happy here.. and I live a very modest lifestyle, don't drink/party..
By Bamkok, Bangkok (6th June 2019)
I think it would be tough to live on 30k a month but who would not have some savings put aside for emergencies before coming to work in Thailand
30k would cover 80% of a reasonable life style for an expat so I would plan to top up my monthly salary with 20k a month from my savings until I found a better paying job
During the school break why not travel home and work to top up your savings
I had a really good job in Thailand paying 250k a month for three years I am now working back home until we have saved enough savings to move permantly to bkk
My Thai wife is a really good money manager so I am very lucky and we can live a very comfortable life style on 50k a month in bkk easy
I plan to try and become a digital nomad and my wife plans to start a smalll business when we return to bkk we are hoping to make a monthly income of 30 -40k a month combined with 50k a month top up from our savings so 90k a month is our goal and knowing my wife we will save 30k every month
By Mick, Australia (10th March 2019)
I think the phrase "Living like a Thai" is a bit deceptive, no Farang will ever live like a Thai, you will be overcharged as much as possible for just about everything, even if you can speak fluent Thai, you walk outside you will be treated like a tourist, that is why Farang are paid 3 times as much, Teachers salaries just about world over are pretty poor, but no matter what job you do, no matter where you work, if you are not careful about your spending and lifestyle no amount will ever be enough.
I live extremely comfortable, I budget about 100K per month for all my expenses, and I save about 80% of my salary per month... but I have lived on 40K quite comfortably back in the late 90's.
By Gomez, Bangkok (18th February 2019)
BTW, another poster mentioned that with a family and kids, 60k baht would be minimum. I say, NO WAY JOSE. If you want your kids to grow up poor, then go for it, but 100k is bare minimum for me to raise a family here. If I couldn't make over 100k here and was married and expecting, I'd take my family back to my home country.
By James, Jatujak (13th June 2018)
I have never met a single teacher in my life who makes only 30k. When I first got to Thailand 5 years ago, I started out at 40k with NO experience! This thing about teachers making 30k must be limited to places like Nakhon Si Thammarat or Krabi.
A year into my stay in BKK, I eventually moved on to teach at a language school where I also did editing work, and built a website for the school. I made 25k a few months in the summer, but many months I made 50-55k. My best month was 69k.
I've switched careers and now I am hopefully about to make 90k here in BKK, which IMO is enough to live comfortably on. Add a kid into the mix, and I'd probably like to make 120k minimum.
By James, Jatujak (13th June 2018)
Hi am going to get 50k Bath per month salary in accounts profession, is it sufficient to live in Bangkok with my family i.e (me my wife and one child ).
By shashank gangan, India (2nd April 2018)
Why come all the way around the world to "live like a Thai?" I don't know, here's a question: why come all the way around the world to live like a Brit or American? I made over 13 times as much in NYC (literally, good real estate brokers in Manhattan can make quite a bit) as I do here and my 10000 Baht condo is nicer than my $4500 a month apartment in NYC. I wouldn't move from NYC to Alabama, take a massive pay cut but be able to get a big house and a nice car even making a lot less, and then complain I couldn't eat at Nobu once a week.
And if you take a 30k job and it's not working for you, guess what: you can get side jobs! I worked 60-70 hours a week in NYC (I had no set office hours or requirements but I also had no salary, so while I wouldn't get fired for only bringing in $3000 a month to my company I'd also not have lived well), if you want extra work it's there. Tutor on weekends, teach online to Chinese students in your spare time, get a corporate gig on weeknights. I've done all 3 and more until I got a girlfriend and almost doubled my salary, it's not that hard. I mean honestly I really feel this sense of entitlement from farang here is absurd. If you "didn't come all the way to Bangkok to work a lot for a lot less than at home" then GO HOME and get a better paying job.
P.S. McDonalds could be CHEAPER than street food and I still wouldn't go. Why? Because my American ass didn't fly 30 hours to get a Big Mac, and I'm more than happy with the absolutely delicious street food 90% of the time. The other 10% are date nights, and my gf and I certainly don't grab get chicken McNuggets and a latte from starbucks.
By Johnathan, Bangkok (27th February 2018)
Started out with salary of 40k THB/month 4 years ago as office worker and I was able to live nicely on it but not able to save anything. Now making around 300k THB/month and spending around 100k THB/month on living, still able to live nicely. Not many changes just in a more central new condo, driving a new Benz ;) and more expensive food. The big difference is the ability to save money every month to actually being able to build a normal life.
Most foreigners in BKK live a life as tourists even they have been here for years, to do that I'd say 40k/month is enough and many of them are very happy with it. But if you want to build a regular life in Thailand (house, car, holidays abroad, save money) that wont do it.
By Max, Bangkok (10th January 2018)
Born and raised in Thailand, I moved from Thailand to work in the USA after a few years in Bangkok. I was making 60,000 B a month, which was ok salary but I had to live with my 2 siblings in a medium size apartment.
I would say the quality of life is much better here in the US. I am just an office middle class worker making $110,000 a year plus bonus, 401k matching, and health benefits in Texas. The weather is nicer and there's a lot less pollution. I can't imagine anyone moving to Thailand for 30,000 baht a month salary.
By Prasert, US (13th October 2017)
It always cracks me up just how heated these debates get on what a person can or cannot live on in Bangkok (or Thailand in general). And of course people frequently have these same arguments when it comes to what a “livable wage” is in their own countries as well. For example I constantly get in heated arguments with my sister over her insistence that it is not even in the realm of possibility that she could ever afford to move back here to California - where she was born and raised by the way. This despite the fact that millions of people manage to live here just fine while making even less money than she does.
In any case, naturally you CAN live in Bangkok on 30K a month. After all, there are currently millions of people doing just that. For a foreigner living in Bangkok however I think the real question is; is 30k enough to live in the manner to which you have become accustomed back in your own country? And I think the answer to this question for most people would be a resounding “NO”. Living the same as you do back home of course means that you live in an apartment or house that is just as nice and just as large as what you had back home (and in as nice an area). It also means having your own car, or at least a motorcycle, and being able to pursue all the same hobbies and other interests that you enjoyed back home. For me personally this would mean making an absolute bare minimum of about 60,000 baht a month, which is about what you would earn per month working a 40-hour a week minimum wage job here in California.
And of course, since I have spent pretty much my entire adult life living on the coast, this means I would need to live on the coast in Thailand as well and unfortunately properties in coastal areas in Thailand are extremely overpriced relative to the Thai economy. In fact, condos in Patong or Kata Beach in Phuket cost nearly as much per square meter as they do right here in idyllic San Luis Obispo, California. When my girlfriend and I were living in Phuket we actually got by fine on 60k a month but we were also not able to put anything aside for emergencies. And we certainly did not have enough money to travel around Asia much or to buy any luxury items.
The bottom line is, if I were forced to move to Bangkok with only 30k a month to live on I could definitely make it work. But I would never in a million years CHOOSE to move to Bangkok with only that much money to live on.
By Ken F, California, USA (7th October 2017)
30,000 in Bangkok? You will be broke. You won't have money if anything goes wrong. Laptop brakes? Need a new phone? Bike broke? Oh well, your problem. You won't be able to travel or take a girl out either.
It's not 2002 anymore. 30,000 is NOT enough to live in Bangkok. Visa costs, work permit, living somewhere that is just OK. 37,000 I think you could get by, but it's cutting it close. 50,000 is the minimum I would consider as a teacher in Bangkok.
I'm bored too with this notion of living like a Thai or "I make 3x what a Thai makes." Yea, I'm an educated person. I should make more than the guy who cuts fruit on the street. But you really think all Thais are poor? My Thai friends do quite well.
By David, Ratchaburi (4th September 2017)
The bottom line is this....if you are making 30,000 baht and you are living in a 6,000 baht a month apartment, that is only 20 per cent of your income. If you have a school that is covering your insurance and visa, and you are smart enough/able to live within a short commute, or better yet, walk to work, considering the bargains that are still to be had in Thailand, cash should not be a big issue. Did it for years, even managed to play golf a good bit.
By Lee Lepper, Jackson, Wyoming , USA (17th August 2017)
I've best heard it said, the only thing you'll find here is odd-balls, losers and misfits. Stay home, find a career, retire, vacation here.....
By Ken Slider, Bangkok (6th August 2017)
"The phase "Living like A Thai" really makes me laugh most westerners or so called expats think Thai people in general are on considerably low wages who have just enough to survive on LOL (laugh out loud) you be surprised..."
Yes, that one always cracks me up, too. Just one look around Thailand and the millions of new cars on the roads and new houses being built (and bought) and it's clear that most farangs are nowhere near up to average Thai standards.
If teachers were really living like skilled Thai workers they'd be out of stuff to whine about!
By Mark Newman, Thailand (28th June 2017)
Being Thai who was raised in the UK and gone thorough the education system in England, completed University at Kingston London, was working for British Airways for 5 years as an aircraft engineer but decided to return home and now working as an licences aircraft engineer for Thai Airways. I am currently on 95k baht a month which is plenty considering the cost of living is slightly lower here in Thailand. The phase "Living like A Thai" really makes me laugh most westerners or so called expats think Thai people in general are on considerably low wages who have just enough to survive on LOL (laugh out loud) you be surprised.
By Chanit, Bangkok (28th June 2017)
I am Thai office lady. My salary is 37K
I prefer to cook for myself than eating those street food and sometimes eating out at nice restaurant. Rental cost is around 6500-7500 including electricity.
My company I work for provide us free fitness from Mon-Fri and Yoga class every Tuesday and Thursday. Free beverage(Hot coffee,Ice coffee, Tea,Milk, etc.) and also provide free health insurance. Provide free shuttle van to BTS/MRT so I don't have to pay for those bills .I am lucky that my work place is near my apartment. so the cost of transportation is just 20-55 THB/day depends on what I take , bus or taxi.(It is too near to take train) I don't party much tho but I travel out side bkk sometimes or effort to travel aboard(in Asia)once a year or two years.
I can send my money back to my parents 5K every month and save 8,000 for myself .
It is not a luxury living but we(me) can live with this salary. :)
By Nook, Bkk/Sathorn (28th May 2017)
I can easily live on Baht 30,000/Month here in Bangkok....and YES I am living like a Thai!
By Paul Conway, Bangkok (27th April 2017)
I am Thai. I have 2 kids. I work for the current company for 3 year. My salary start from 16K but now I make 24K with healhcare benefit and 2 months bonus. I also get child support 17K a year per child. My husband gives me 30K a month for pay bills and all expenses. I has just got new townhouse, so I have to pay for house 11K. I have a car but paid off. I pay for gass 2-3K a month. I don't like street food, so I cook at home every day. I can pay for a fancy trip few times a year. A lot of Thai people I know make more than 30K for 1 month salary.
I want to add on some information that some of you don't know.
1) If you have work permit, you can work 2 jobs or more legally(contact your employer to add on job on your work permit book).
2) If you have work permit, you have the same rule as Thais for file income tax.
3) If you have work permit, you are submit to socail security program as same as Thais.
By Pim , Bangkok (17th April 2017)
It's hard to believe how uneducated people are on here about money, when they say "You'll make three times what a Thai does," or "You have to live like a Thai!" Total rubbish. The salary one makes as a teacher, first of all, is three times more than the minimum wage in Thailand. Yes, this is true. But when you factor in all the circumstantial costs, opportunity costs and expat costs, a Westerner making 30,000 baht a month will, in the long run, have a lower standard of living of Thai who makes currently 10,000 baht a month.
People are bloody clueless. Consider the following factors:
Expats pay for work permit costs and criminal record check costs, etc.
Expats pay for visa run costs
Expats pay more for Passport Services
Thais get access to free healthcare
Thais get access to bank loans and credit and local brokerages for investments
Western teachers are often paying off loans from expensive universities that cost up to 20 times what a Thai university costs
Westerners pay more for national parks, taxis, and pretty much any other good or service
Westerners were born in colder environments. Science proves that your sweat glands and optimal temperature are developed and adapted when you are around 2-5 years old. Therefore, air conditioner costs are higher for Westerners
Western Food that Westerners grew up with (although not a necessity to live, it is something they are adapted to eat) is two to three times more expensive than Thai food.
Thais have their family networks to draw on at all times and can share resources
Thais do not have to spend money to fly home for funerals, weddings, reunions, etc.
Thais are generally smaller in stature, so they do not have to eat as much
Thais are not constantly having to bargain with touts and vendors who treat them as tourists
Thais have more right to the laws and are less likely to have to pay bribes, get ripped off in a legal dispute or not get paid
It is much cheaper for a Thai to retire in Thailand than it is for a Westerner who needs x amount of money in the bank for a retirement visa
The amount of money a Westerner needs to retire in his/her own country is four times what a Thai would need in Thailand
Thais are legally allowed to work a second job
Thais are legally allowed to own property and a business
A Westerner is expected to pay the lion's share for his/her Thai Spouse's lifestyle and family
A Thai does not have to pay fines to immigration for not checking in every three months
Westerners have to pay more for moving and shipping costs (presents, bank cards, documents, etc) than the average Thai
Thai entertainment, such as television, books and movies are also much cheaper and more available in Thailand
Thais can invest in their own furniture and not have to pay the "service" for serviced apartments, while only long term Westerners with a Thai spouse could and would be able to do this
Expats have to pay remittance costs and exchange rates to move their money to and from their home countries
Expats have to pay for Skype/Google Hangouts to be able to call family and friends back home
If they want to integrate, Expats have to pay (one way or another) for Thai language lessons
If they want to get married, go to a dentist, write a will, etc., a Westerner will have to pay a translation fee or premium for an English speaking service (unless they can read Thai very well and I have never seen this)
Although paltry, Thais are entitled to social services and programs that Westerners are not
Thais (in slightly higher tax brackets) can write off expenses and purchases - like the genius first time car ownership tax deductible that Yingluck introduced
Thais don't have to do their taxes twice, or have the possibility of paying an accountant, tax documentation twice, and they don't have to worry about the residency/non-residency bullshit.
Thais don't have to worry about the work or fees of keeping bank accounts in two countries.
Am I missing anything? Perhaps the above was somewhat rambling or petty, but I still believe that people need to "Wake The F.... up" and stop falling for this argument. I would never consider living in Thailand again for anything less than 90,000 a month.
By Brian, Canada (25th February 2017)
Hard to weed through that.
Qualifier: you don't like like a Tourist.
The price of yogurt is the same in BKK as anywhere else in TH. +1b perhaps, but not if you shop Tesco.
Cook at home! That's really living like a Thai, but you sure don't have to cook like one. Groceries are cheap. (Basic cooking setup will pay for itself many times over)
The reason a baseline can't be established is people come here and go nuts. Do you live everyday like a Tourist back home? Then don't do it here. Enjoy bkk, but you can not "live it up" every day. And the sooner you realize that literally everyone is trying to overcharge you the better. And all those great places along sukumvit are NOT for you. There are people working in Bangkok who make US salaries. It's for them. 30k means Tesco. Street food 3 times a day will break the bank. Alcohol 3 times a day will kill you.
I work 40hr a week at numerous places, have 2 kids and bring home +- 80k to my 10k condo. I save like 30k a month.
Working for 30k in a jail is the old way. Smart people with smartphones can bring home more for less hours.
By FamilyMan , BKK (8th February 2017)
I can't get my head around people saying that living on 30,000 is just an 'existence.' What do you guys spend your money on? I lived and worked in Bangkok for a year 2014-2015 and earned 35,000 baht. Had a clean studio apartment close to Bang Sue metro, ate delicious Thai food either in local restaurants or street food (I actually found food in expensive restaurants was worse than in local hole in the wall places) trained Muay Thai, had a beer here and there (not into clubbing or bars really) and never worried about money. I wasn't rich by any stretch but compared to a shity minimum wage job back home my standard of living was far more enjoyable. Clothes? What do you need? Flip flops, shorts and t shirts. Some smarter clothes for work, done.
By Keith Price, Italy (6th February 2017)
Great article and very close to the mark.
Having lived and taught English in Bangkok for over 5 years I can say most definitely on 30,000 a month you are not going to survive.
I was paid 50,000 during my stay in BKK, Samut Prakarn to be precise.
I finally decided to leave as there was no chance of my salary increasing unless I took more teaching hours in the evenings and weekends, no thanks.
On 50k I got by ok, nothing spectacular and little holidays were few and far between, I like a drink some nights and definitely at the weekends.
My apartment was 7500 per month I have included elec and water in that,
for that you get a decent sized modern place, You will not get anything decent in the middle of BKK for that price.
All in all on a good month I could save 10,000 a month, depended on how heavily I drank or played with the opposite sex.
My move to Vietnam has been awesome, to say the least, 55,000 per month, no tax, fully furnished big house provided, motorbike provided, elec, wifi, water, cleaner all provided, the cleaner even cooks for me, less hours (25 per week max.), no confusion or being kept in the dark, laundry done daily, a dedicated assistant provided who speaks English to help with any need I may have, translation, shopping etc.
Been here 5 months already and never looked back once,.
During my 5 years in BKK I did notice a big change in peoples smiles, they were false in many ways, more often than not that smile was a way of working out how to squeeze a few more Baht out of me. Make no mistake it is the same here in Vietnam, but they are not as devious as our supposed dear Thai friends, and are twice as friendly if not more.
On that note without being any more detremental or slanderous in any way I will not be returning to the land of false smiles.
To coin a phrase, been there done that.
By The Last Crusader, Vietnam (22nd December 2016)
I don't understand why people keep saying they cannot live like a Thai in Bangkok. I live in Seoul but I've been to Bkk a few times and I had noticed that the cost of living there is very cheap compared to where I live now.
I'm not a teacher or even a native English speaker but I have friends who teach English here and they generally get paid about 2,000 US dollars a month plus free accommodations. An officetel (it's a tiny studio) rent is around 800 dollars so if you include that in the salary then a monthly income of an English teacher would amount to 2,800 dollars.
That's actually even less than the average graduate salary in Korea but expats here still enjoy a reasonable life in Seoul. On the other hand, despite the huge difference in the cost of living between Seoul and BKK, expats' living expenses in these two cities seem somewhat similar as I see people claiming that you could struggle even with 80,000 baht (which is approximately 2,200 US dollars. )
Obviously that's because expats in BKK are trying to live a much better life than average Thai people. Here in Seoul, people don't do that. We just go to the same restaurants Korean people go to and we shop at where Korean people shop at. That's why even though expats here are not generally well off, we don't struggle with money.
So probably it's about time for people to adapt and live like average Thai people since you are in Thailand.
By David, Seoul (17th December 2016)
I couldn't imagine being on 30k a month. I am actually surprised to hear that its the norm for many teachers. What's the point? Go back and get your teaching degrees and get a real teaching job. I wouldn't even bother living in Bangkok on any lesson than 60k. My salary pushes over 80k with all the extras and I still struggle some months.
By Greg, Bangkok (13th December 2016)
30k in Bangers isn't really doable nowadays. Also, I'm not sure on the figure you came up with for the bills. A foreigner is almost certainly going to put on the air-con quite a bit when home. 1-2k sounds way too low, even taking into account different preferences etc (I've never known anyone pay 1k for all their bills). I would say 4-7k for bills (air con, water, internet and possibly Truevisions if a sports nut).
The first job I had just oustide BKK was 27k (back in the early 2000s). It went up to 35k after probation about 3 months later, but the first 3 months were real struggle (and I had to take on lots of private work to make life bearable when on 35k!)
Without going into too much detail, I think 50k up is needed if you want to live in BKK (taking into account the cost of a decent apartment nowadays in Bangers).
30k might be ok for a backpacker just wanting to stay in Thailand for another few months, but for anyone looking at staying long-term they shouldn't bother. The reason the backpacker teachers never last is due to many of them not taking the job seriously anyway, but also because the novelty of living on 30k wears off when they realise they can't afford to go out and enjoy their lives.
However, supply and demand seems to suggest that there are still plenty of people willing to take a job in BKK for 30k (even less at times). Whilst this supply continues, these poorly paid jobs will continue to be advertised.
By Neil, UK (11th October 2016)
OK where to start!
I don't actually live in Bangkok. I have lived there for periods of 1 week to 3 months. I go to Thailand so regularly that I bought a condo there. Sounds great but most wouldn't like it. I used to rent it for 1,500 THB a month and then the guy asked if I wanted to buy it and so I bought it. It is a friendly place and I've been living there on and off for 7-8 years. The building is occupied by Thai people from teachers who earn 23,000 a month to labourers to the occasional working girl. There are many ma and pa shops around and to be honest I quite like the place and get on well with the Thais there. Recently a Farang has moved into the condo complex. But for most of the time I was the only Farang in the village :-). If you live on 30,000 THB a month this is the sort of place you will probably live in. In the west we would call it a slum. No question about it; it is a slum. In the west I wouldn't in my wildest dreams live in such a place. But it's cheap, especially now I own it. I often have meals with the family in the condo around the corner of the corridor. The husband earns 20,000 a month plus OT. They don't put the AC on longer than 2 hours a day in summer and usually use a fan. They eat food from the market and never go out. This is how they get by on maybe 23,000 a month. For a farang it would be very difficult to live on 30,000 a month even living in a slum like this. I have tried to budget myself to 50,000 a month and failed.
So I would think to live on 30,000 a month you would have to not drink, not smoke and pretty much watch Thai TV in your room without AC when ever you're not working.
If anyone can seriously live on 30,000 a month I would love to catch up for a water or two and some som tum next time I'm there in BKK. Having said that, I sure a back packer or a gap year student would have a great experience for 6 moths to a year on 30,000.
By Steve in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi (25th June 2016)
30,000 is not a enough. If you want to live like a Thai it is enough. I do not live like a thai. I am a retired CW4 US Army and GS12/13 DOD employee and draw social security as well. Get a degree and go to Cambodia. They pay 100,000 Baht a month. I speak Dutch German a little french and some Spanish. I worked for the US Government for 44 years and am 67 years old. Check out my Facebook page or do a google Craig Urban US Army. I make 100,000 dollars a year in retirement. Bye the way I am a dancer, singer and runner, All Army Masters Racquetball champion. Conejo is what they call me which means Rabbit in Mexican. I grew up in Thousand Oaks California.
By craig urban, Bangkok (15th June 2016)
To : An Expat...
There is so much wrong with that response it's impossible to know where to start.
In fact, you could make that inaccurate and hysterical rubbish the whole topic of a debate!
Still, you made the effort. That's what really matters!
By Mark Newman, Thailand (30th May 2016)
I thought maybe this was a joke at first but apparently no. My wife and I are ~600k/month household (yes, 7.2M/year) and that seems barely adequate. Bangkok has become very expensive -- too expensive for even "good" local salaries (100k+). We have Thai friends who work in lucrative industries (finance, etc) who are barely scraping by. My wife is Thai, senior management making more than all of her college friends (Chula alum), and we absolutely could not survive on her salary alone.
I can't even imagine where you would have to live / what kind of food you would have to eat for 30k/month. You maybe could have done that 20 years ago but now the cheapest street food is more expensive and much lower in quality. Expect to have lots of stomach flu. Transport at that level is horrible. Expect countless hours in run down public buses with sad people. (The poor people in Thailand are no longer content.)
FWIW, 30k isn't even a *legal* salary for a foreigner (non-domestic or construction worker). I think it's more like 50-60k. At that salary you're likely living illegally because you're abusing the foreign labor laws / visa restrictions. That also means you'll spend many weekends being driven to the border in a mini-van death trap. No fun at all. Also, illegal. Don't be stupid.
If you're not qualified to get a "real" teaching job because you don't have the credentials then don't teach. DO NOT TAKE A JOB IN BKK FOR 30K. Ever. It's a joke. You'll be a joke. You'll hate life. I've seen it happen a lot. Most of the bohemian types I've met over the years have left Bangkok or Thailand entirely. The people you're teaching English to are too poorly educated / socially immobile to do anything with it. You're just making money for a handful of unethical business people.
Having said that, if you can find a real job (and preferably come with a partner who can also find a real job) and can afford to live in a foreigner-friendly part of a town and even a basic car, Bangkok has become a great place to live. The (middle / high end) food scene is crazy. It's not much of an outside city because of the heat, but beaches are a reasonable drive on the weekends. Plenty of indoor food / lifestyle places to hang out and drink some wine in. Lots of beautiful people at the upper end of society. Very interesting culture. Very active music and art scenes. Luxury movie theaters. Lots of spas.
By An Expat, BKK (30th May 2016)
The question "can you live on 30K a month in Bangkok" is easily answered. Not without a lot of difficulty. If you do not drink and smoke it will be easier. If you do spend 2000 Baht on a Friday and Saturday night heading out the latest and best clubs in Bangkok, you might be ok. But how many young so called teachers want to do that. Most I know spend every Baht and live on fumes at the end of the month. If you are stable with a Girlfriend or BF you should be better off and have a quiet beer with your mates sometimes it may be ok. No exactly a thrill seeker, but you can live. Transport in Bangkok is a nightmare on the best days. Hopefully you stay close to school. Normally public transport is not an option unless BTS and MRT. Thai buses in the morning are a nightmare, and not appreciated by local Thais who think you should be ding better and allowing the buses for their people. The lines are too long, too many people. Try to leave Thais with a positive impression of foreigners.
If you want a thrill and a good ride, maybe 30K might tide you over. In my experience this is to convince the newbies that 30K is not that bad and maybe you can get by on it. Most people who have been here for a few years would scoff at it.
Apartments can be found for 6K - 8K and are quite good if you stay far from the city but then you have to get back in again. That may be a problem and transport costs. 30K for 10 months does not crack it but it may be worth a shot, a good ride and then head back home when it is all over.
By Jonny John, Bangkok (26th February 2016)
Yep, I'm going with UrbanMan on this one. Pay more and live better.
The way I look at it is this... the more rent you pay the nicer (and fewer) your neighbors are!
One of the good things about living in that dreadful city is that rent is still pretty cheap if you are on a budget. If you're hoping to get by on 40K (the figure you stated) then you are on a budget. You'll be cutting corners in some way or another.
If you can go up to 20,000 for rent then there are actually lots of nice houses hidden around Bangkok. They are not immediately visible and they are not easy to get to and from, but they are there. The advantage of renting a private house is that you pay standard domestic rates for water and electricity.
The downside is that security could be an issue and there's no gym or pool and it's a bloody long walk to the nearest 7/11!
But it's nice to be tucked away out of site and away from the noise of the city when you aren't working.
By Mark Newman, Thailand (26th February 2016)
Al, your question, could you make it on 40K?
The original article says rent+utils could be 8K. But for most westerners, assuming you want more than a small room, you want the property to be modern, have a pool or at least a nice outdoor communal deck, and you want to be fairly close to public transport, you'd probably need to spend 12-14K. It's been stated over and over that it is foolhardy to rent a really cheap place that you don't like being in, because it will cause you to spend more money going out all the time. Plus if you want to have a girlfriend, fact is Thai girls tend to be more attracted to men who live in nicer places.
If you've been in BKK previously (your words infer you have), you should have some idea of what you like to do in your free time, what you like to eat and drink, and what that will cost. Only you can take a good stab at cash flow needed.
By UrbanMan, near an aircon (25th February 2016)
Would 40K Bath be ok to live on , I have been thinking about going back to BKK , I am retired so my income is Guaranteed Thru my pension at 40K this allows me to put money away for whatever may arise. any Info would be greatly appreciated
By Al, Boston MA (24th February 2016)
I did four years on 30k in Bangkok through the late 90's. Even back then I relied on UK savings from time to time. My advice to anyone coming here to look for work is - have at least 200,000 baht as set-up money, it will take the pressure off, and give you some breathing space. Some expenses not mentioned in the article, fitness - very important for some of us, you will need to find a gym, or be near a green space that you can run in, that won't be easy, Bangkok has almost no green space compared to European cities. A girlfriend - some company, even part-time is going to cost you. Which comes to entertainment, 2 nights a week maybe. A couple of beers in a bar etc, etc.
I left Bangkok because I felt the pollution starting to damage my health, I now live up North, I still earn around 30k, but can save 5 to 10 a month no problem. There is everything up here, but with fresh air. No need to go to a gym, just go outside, and run or cycle. Shopping malls, cheaper food. A Tesco within walking distance, and no traffic jams whatsoever. A large apartment near the school, 3500 baht, plus a secluded weekend villa on the banks of the Mekong.
I visit Bangkok 2 times a year, mostly to browse high-end cycling stuff, and for the nostalgia of visiting old haunts. How much would I need nowadays to live in Bangkok? Not less than 60k a month.
By Rory, Nongbualamphu (18th January 2016)
That 8K is for incidental non-monthly expenses. This is an important bucket that could include flights home, trips to the dentist and work needed, motor bike repairs, down time in employment ... anything that can't be ascribed to a monthly outgoing.
It's a big ask to save that each month especially when you factor in the tax man taking his bite. Best to arrive in LOS with a nest egg of 3 to 5K USD, to allow for contingencies.
Thereafter, teaching may be fun.
By William, Australia (16th January 2016)
Possibly the worst thing about working for 30K is that schools now require teachers, especially the lowest-paid ones, to stay at school until 4pm or 4:30 every day, even if not teaching. An industrious individual can easily find additional employment in Bkk to boost income, but it's very difficult to do if babysitting a cubicle until 4:30pm every day.
By Guy, Bkk (16th January 2016)
Lou Mak... You are being over-charged for everything you do.
400 for a massage, 100 for some fruit, 100 baht a day to use public transportation... and soap costs? What are you, an elephant?
Thais love you - don't ever leave!
By Mark Newman, Thailand (16th January 2016)
"Gravitate towards McDs, lol. 1000b for food on the weekend? Why would a weekend change your eating plans?"
Isn't the weekend usually synonymous with doing 'nicer things' or 'treating yourself' for those who work Monday to Friday?
"B60 a day for transportation? Maybe in some hole like Samut Prakan"
I don't see your point. Taxis, vans, skytrain all cost the same wherever you are in Bangkok or its suburbs.
"people that don't live cheap should not be giving advice on how to do so."
No, but if you go back and read it carefully, you'll see that I did live cheap for many years.
By Philip, Samut Prakarn (16th January 2016)
Gravitate towards McDs, lol. 1000b for food on the weekend? Why would a weekend change your eating plans? Oh, that's right, you crave bread and sugar.
100b a day on food? I guess if you don't eat a meal and never touch fruit or grab a snack.
B60 a day for transportation? Maybe in some hole like Samut Prakan. I spend about b100 a day and walk to/from mrt both from my flat and to/from the transit stop to school.
It's a nice write up and makes some good points but people that don't live cheap should not be giving advice on how to do so.
Holidays, valid points but reality is no one, not even me could save for a simple holiday living in bkk on 30k.
What often happens when this topic is discussed is that it is not totally fleshed out and the authors always leave answers open and vague.
Another huge issue for farang is renting flats. You are a target, if you rent cheap you will find the place not only grotty but unsafe for your possessions. 4000b, maybe 3.5k is a minimum. These places are hard to find and even harder to rent, especially for farang.
I would say that single me could survive in bkk simple flat, a tiny bit of ac, do my own laundry, eat simple meals, dental cleaning 2x a year, toiletries, one visa run and visa, food for room, six liters of (gasp) Marking, transportation and apartment internet, 200b phone and a less than stunning companion plucked off the Internet every three weeks (1).
Pretty much everything else puts you in the red and that goes double for 11mo contracts.
Money to set your flat up. Deposit s you may lose, soap, towels, fridge, 32in TV for movies, glasses, plates, baskets...
Money for job search. Transport... each interview think of b300. Photocopies, a quick bite, wrong directions. M.
The idiotic TEFL degree, no one ever amortizes this into their COL.How much are these stupid pieces of paper? Let's say 36k, that's 1500b off your bottom line every month for two years.
Dental work. Yeah, the English don't care for their teeth, but most of us do. You'll need work every two years.
Silly western foods
Addl visa runs (sorry your agency f.d up bro)
Any pub activity
Clothes, ties anything of this nature
Massage - proper massage is b400 minimum
The only people who work for this crappy money are the dumb and desperate. No degree, no skills, no plan, no clue and no future.
I understand now why so many teachers to not badger their administrations for change or pay rise. They exist for their best visa and the 30k, they realize that is their due and their lot.
Leaving your home country to go abroad without savings and some plan for your old age is pure folly.
Teach for extra cash or to busy yourself. Anything else smacks of desperation. If you can't call your shots, its an impossible work environment for no money.
Anyone that clings to a 30k < a month job is a total loser, sorry but its true.
Finally, when it all goes to shit and it will, best you have money, a plan and a clue to get back to the mother ship.
By Lou Mak, BKK (16th January 2016)
This article does a very nice job of highlighting the importance of remembering to budget for the cost of in-Thailand travel, and trips home .
Constructive comment - Not sure how possible it is to do in this site, but a chart or spreadsheet summarizing the many numbers would have been helpful. At the end, I found my head swimming.
Cheers Philip for tackling a complex and important topic. The comments indicate you've got people thinking, which is a good thing.
By UrbanMan, Near An Aircon (5th March 2015)
I reluctantly stopped Teaching in Bangkok a year ago and certainly needed a UK occupational pension to fill the financial 'holes' that teaching in Government schools leads you , by 'stealth' into. My 3 years in a big government school, in Samutprakarn were great, but by the School 'chopping' the semesters at 'both ends', I and the other Teacher who were working through 2 different good Agencies were actually paid for 9 MONTHS per calender year!
So taking my TB of 41,000 per month, (not bad I hear you initially think !!) and express this as an annual salary, I was actually paid =TB 30750 per month.
THAT is not enough to live on with any degree of stability for all the reasons expressed in you reader's contributions.
A newly full qualified Teacher in the UK, after Edu.related Degree/PGCE etc,, is STARTING on £23750 p/a= TB 98,000 (Per month) equivalent appx.
IS IT ANY WONDER the English Teaching system in Thailand is on a flat/descending trajectory?? Well done to you all in Government Schools, it is 'proper Teaching.' BUT at what cost to YOU????
Have a good un!
By Neil, Now, U.K. (5th March 2015)
I love it when the comments section turns into one of those dreadful threads that you get on Thailand expat discussion forums - where the anonymity of the internet combines with the basic human desire to always be right. LOL
By philip, Samut prakarn (5th March 2015)
Personally, I would not want to live in Bangkok on less than 500,000 baht a month, but since I do live in Bangkok (at least I have a house there which I stop in from time to time) and I haven’t found a way to consistently earn over this amount each month, I often have to sacrifice and make ends meet with what I do manage to earn :).
Sure, a thousand dollar a month is “hard” to live on in Bangkok, but it is also hard to live on three or four times that amount in New York City.
30,000 Baht does mean the same thing to everyone; it all depends on the opportunity costs (other opportunities).
If someone has an offer for a professorship at an Ivy League school or a job with a huge salary on Wall Street, I doubt the person would give up an offer like this to live on 30,000 Baht a month in Bangkok teaching that went is the past tense of go.
On the other, if the unemployment checks are due to stop next month and Mom and Dad demand one moves out of the basement, 30,000 Baht in Bangkok with the “prestige” of having something close to a professional job doesn’t seem like such a bad deal at all.
It is not a question of if one can live on 30,000 Baht or less a month in Bangkok, obviously millions are able to do this, the question is do you want to, and the answer to that question obviously depends on what one is looking for and what are one’s other options.
It seems the real purpose of an article like this is for those ESL teachers who have moved up a rung or two on the career ladder to express their superiority over newbie and “unqualified” ESL teachers working in the sector of the industry which has the lowest pay scales.
The article seems to have served this purpose quite well.
By Jack, Still in front of my computer (5th March 2015)
Having lived in BKK previously, I can tell you that 30k, while certainly being 'do-able', shouldn't be done for more than a year. For many people who are backpacker-types or doing the one-off teaching year, it's probably just fine. But if you are planning to stay beyond an initial year, then 30k isn't going to get it done. So I guess I'm agreeing with the majority of what Phil is saying.
By Bob, Rayong (4th March 2015)
I am a retired teacher living in Thailand on a retirement visa. To qualify for such a visa, the Thai Government requires me to have a pension income of 60,000 baht per month. Is this perhaps a more realistic figure in order to survive in reasonable comfort in the Land of Smiles?
By Graham George, Jomtien (4th March 2015)
Thank you for your thoughtful article. I, for one, understand that you are simply offering up information that may be helpful to others. I also understand that it was not your intention to analyze and account for every possible contingency that a teacher may encounter. In the face of so much unreasonable criticism from other commenters, I just wanted to express my gratitude.
By Brent, USA (3rd March 2015)
Thank you all very much for your comments so far (keep them coming)
I always find this a fascinating issue to discuss and judging by the response it always gets on Twitter, on Facebook or on the ajarn website itself - so do a lot of other people!
We are all just doing our best to survive here on whatever we earn.
One other point that I forgot to mention in the article (and this is something other 'old hands' might agree with) is that if you go back 10,15,20 years, there was far less to actually spend your money on. Far less temptation as it were. But teachers were still earning 30K a month back then.
There were no smartphones or laptops. There were very few 'upmarket' or fancy restaurants and coffee shops. There was just one McDonalds in the whole city - on Silom Road opposite Patpong - and going there was a real treat. There were no low cost airlines so you travelled by cheap train. Things were much simpler in the olden days :)
All you had to worry about was rent, food and the odd trip out of town. Even a night on the town didn't cost you that much with beers at 50 baht a bottle!
By Philip, Samut Prakarn (3rd March 2015)
Fair enough, it makes for interesting conversation and from the amount of responses I suspect this piece has attracted a large number of readers.
My point was whether 30,000 Baht is enough “to live on” or not, it is still the typical starting salary being offered (at least from looking at the job ads on Ajarn.com) and the trend does not seem to be on an upward slope.
If one is going to be a TEFL teacher in Thailand, one will probably have to find a way to live on a salary similar to this, of course over time one can earn a bit more, but the potential for significantly higher wages remains limited. If one thinks 30,000 Baht a month is not enough to live on, then it is probably a good idea to avoid teaching English and seek other work options.
Why the anger?
40 hours a week at 12 bucks an hour equals $480, roughly equal to 60,000 Baht a month. Although I have never worked at a fast food restaurant, I suspect the wages for first line supervisors would be close to this, but maybe I am way off.
Take it easy, and no I don’t teach English, although I did at one time and enjoyed it but because of the low pay and other factors (such as my poor knowledge of grammar) I decided to not make teaching English my career and I have moved on the other types of work, while staying in Thailand and other parts of Asia (Although I am considering returning to Latvia soon).
It was my decision to change career paths, it has worked out pretty well for me, and it is hoped your previous career decisions have also worked out well for you.
The salaries on offer in the TEFL industry are what they are; complaining they are not high enough to live on doesn’t change this fact.
As mentioned in my previous comment, there are many cool things about being an ESL teacher in Thailand, or elsewhere, but high pay and teaching English don’t go together on a regular basis.
By Jack, In front of my computer (3rd March 2015)
"I am not sure what is the purpose of the article."
Well, first... let's assume (and pray a little bit) that you don't teach English.
That horrible sentence alone is enough to make most poorest and most despondent of teachers weep in to their well deserved Friday night Chang with ice and lime!
If you actually DO teach English, please stop doing it and go back to Latvia or whatever country you came from.
30,000 baht is the benchmark wage that teachers can expect to be offered (if they have little more than their skin color to offer) to prospective employees.
Many employers don't look for more than that but some do.
Oh, by the way... an assistant night manager at McDonald's doesn't make anything close to $500 bucks a week unless that person is doing excessive overtime.
Check your facts, brush up on your English and report back... with something bordering on realism!
By Mark Newman, Thailand (3rd March 2015)
"I am not sure what is the purpose of the article"
To answer the question "can I survive in Bangkok on 30,000 baht a month" when asked by someone who has no experience of living here, no idea of what costs are or can be, or what expenses you need to consider.
By philip, Samut Prakarn (3rd March 2015)
I am not sure what is the purpose of the article, 30,000 appears to be the basic starting salary for ESL teachers in Bangkok these days and whether, Phil, Tom, Dick, Harry or myself think it is enough to live on or not, is irrelevant, the only person who can make that decision is the individual considering a job at this salary based on his or her needs, wants and other opportunities.
There are a lot of great things about ESL teaching, but making a lot of money is not one of them. And while cost of living and inflation keep going up, ESL salaries in Thailand are not. Even if one doubled to 60,000 baht, we are still talking less than $2,000 US dollars a month, about what the 20 year old assistant night manager makes at McDonalds back home.
If one wants to have a few years to live abroad before starting one’s “real” career, ESL teaching for a year or two might be good choice (as the main qualification is the ability to speak one’s native language it requires no specialized training or skills).
If one wants to have a job in semi-retirement, ESL teaching might be a good choice until one is ready for full retirement.
If one wants to live a frugal and low stress life in a foreign land, a career in ESL teaching might be a good option.
But if one wants a professional Western-level income while living abroad, unless one wants to have no life living and teaching in the Sandbox, ESL teaching is unlikely to be a good choice.
ELS teaching is what it is, from occasionally looking through the job ads here, I would guess 90% of native speaking ESL teachers in Thailand make between 25,000 and 60,000 Baht.
If this level of income provides you with a lifestyle and a job you will be satisfied with, ok, then become an ESL teacher, if this level of income does not provide you with the lifestyle and income you are looking for, look at other career options.
If 30,000 meets your needs and is the best offer on the table, ok, it is what it is, if you have a better offer, leave the 30,000 on the table and take the better offer.
By Jack, In front of my computer (3rd March 2015)
The 30k salary is not for long term teachers building a life in Thailand.
If you want to experience Thailand for a year it is a good way to do it.
I don't know any teachers who have been teaching for a long time here only earning 30k that is not to say they do not exist but I cannot believe there are that many.
I would agree with most people that 30k is impossible to build a life in Thailand. What about a pension, buying a house, getting a car and having children. Would you really want to live the rest of your life in a studio apartment.
Another point I agree on is the 3 times average Thai salary defence. Firstly
I do not believe 30k is 3 times the average more like 3 times the minimum salary and it most certainly is not 3 times the average Bangkok salary. Personally I don't know many professional Thai people on less than 30k.
This defence is usually put forward by agencies to get people to come to Thailand for a year or maybe the odd teacher who is deluding himself into thinking he is doing better than he is.
I think 30k is fine for 1 year but for the long term teacher I think 60k should be what you are looking at.
Health cover 1.5k
Household 2 k
If Children 10 k
I have probably missed things here but that would give you about 10k a month of savings and that is not a huge amount for an unexpected expense.
By Tim, Nonthaburi (3rd March 2015)
"Not to get into a pissing match, but Phillip you note that the article states b8k saved from not taking a trip home. But the article also states b8k for internal trips. I think the whole analysis is flawed as I stated" - Mack
The article says that you save 8,000 baht a month from not taking an annual trip home. This is purely based on my own experience of spending two weeks in England and includes flight and spending money. And I can only base it on my experience. Spend three weeks in the USA and you'll spend a lot more. Go home to Singapore for a week and it will be a lot less. It's only to make people aware of factoring in the cost of a trip home.
The 8,000 baht for weekends away is NOT a monthly cost (and it doesn't say that in the article) It's a per-weekend away cost. Some people will go away once or twice a year. Some people more.
You've brought up a lot of good examples of extra costs and I don't disagree with them. However, If I had included every possible cost, the article would have taken me forever to write.
I think we can agree on one thing though. I say it's very tough to survive on Bangkok on 30K a month and you're saying it's tough to impossible. Am I right on that score?
By philip, Samut Prakarn (3rd March 2015)
Not to get into a pissing match, but Phillip you note that the article states b8k saved from not taking a trip home. But the article also states b8k for internal trips. I think the whole analysis is flawed as I stated.
My calculations a few years back mind you was about 22.5k, not including any travel or companionship, dining/drinking out. Many addl exclusions. This did included a few L alcohol to drown ones sorrows. This give a person a reasonable, sustainable life, without savings.
Another cost not accounted for is an annual move to another apartment, school or province. Many teachers do this.
What about costs running around to sort out your visa/wp inside Thailand? Many upcountry need do this. Even in Bangkok.
B100 a day for food, not any more, more like pushing b200. It does not include cost of clothes, proper laundry for work uniform. Of course, you can go to school and look like shi* like so many teachers... Suprisingly, many teachers still smoke, That is a few K a month as well.
Another cost you did not include was the Ethics course, now potentially mandatory even for second waivers. This is a whopping 6k + if I recall correctly. Not including: loss of wages, accomodation and transport.
With technology bearing down on this industry, even after the visa purge and ongoing tct putch - Thailand it would seem has a glut of "teachers" as wages still stagnant at sub us1000 per month in most cases, on this very web site.
There is no need to be polyanna about the situation here. I find it laughable when I read or hear people say they are not here for the money? Well, I guess its the vice then? So, you are accruing no job skills or experience to bring home, well done.
People that are floating in this new world order are going tonbe in for a real shock. Before you sign yet again fir another year of abuse, ask yourself, if the bottom fell out of Thailand and or teaching, what would I do snd where would I go? If the answer is China or I don't know, you best go home while the going is good.
And home you will go, there is no denying. Few sort out how to stay on, fewer still want to after a few years in the grinder.
But its all a charade, the ten month contract + TEFL paper brings the 30 to 20 quickly. Less hard, fixed costs. Its game over for the bulk of punters.
By Mack, Bangkok (3rd March 2015)
To be fair, I don't think anybody in their right mind would seriously consider teaching in Bangkok on 30K a month as a long term career prospect.
Many teachers earning that amount are young graduates straight out of university, who will teach for the cultural and travel experiences, and then head back home to start their real careers. Or other teachers are semi-retired and already have significant savings or a pension to fall back on.
Teachers who start on 30K and do decide that they want to make a career of teaching have a number of options. After a couple years of teaching experience, good references and the right connections, a responsible teacher should be able to land a gig in a bilingual school making 40-50K a month. Private tutoring can easily add another 10K, resulting in a decent standard of living.
Another option is to get home country teacher certification, and try to work one's way into an international school, while will pay in the range of 80-200K a month. Not bad at all for Bangkok.
By Danny, Bangkok (2nd March 2015)
A very good analysis of the real costs of living here. I was a little surprised with the food at only 2500 to 3000. That's more or less 100 baht for 3 meals and a couple of waters or juices. I've never done it, and would never want to in all honestly. Yesterday I had a 2 food stall meals with drinks (one coffee and one juice) and pushed the boat out with eggs on both, 180 baht total. Very little protein in those meals otherwise, I can assure you. So 100 a day definitely not for me, I'm afraid.
By Bigtown, Bangkok (2nd March 2015)
My employer in the west put $$$ in a pension fund. How about your Thai employer?
By Guy, northern Thailand (2nd March 2015)
"The article started off ok and then just gave up. A very weak effort. You missed a mountain of costs"
Hi Mack. I don't think I missed an awful lot there. Don't forget that there are many teachers who don't fly home once a year so there's 8,000 baht a month they've saved.
But as I read through your comments I see someone who has become very jaded and worn down by the TEFL profession here. And that's fine - but you shouldn't let your bitterness get in the way of a fair analysis.
By Philip, Samut Prakarn (2nd March 2015)
"There are just too many variables on this topic to make any kind of black line assessment" - Mark
Hi Mark. I totally agree and that's why it's always such a difficult topic to write about. However, reading your comments, I think we can certainly agree on one thing - neither of us would like to live in Bangkok NOW on 30K a month right?
By Phil, Samut Prakarn (2nd March 2015)
The article started off ok and then just gave up. A very weak effort. You missed a mountain of costs.
Teachers lead a paltry existence, they ignore and live in denial.
What about the costs of getting scammed or put into a bad spot by an agency or school? They can set you back ten K easy.
Annual B visa run is 6k for a double tourist, but most it will be 10k. What about costs for waiting around while someone screws around with the paperwork here in Thailand?
Of course, if you start adding in real, honest costs such as TEFL tissue and airline tickets, the scam is sort of up isn't it?
The reality is Thailand is a black hole, it relies on people stupid enough to have made the mistake to make TEFL a "career" and in Thailand no less. So once they arrive, they think...well, make the best of it.
Truth is, best plan is to get back on the plane. You will not be one satang to the black in the few years you are here, so you've just wasted some critical learning and earning years here in the rat hole.
If you think your economy sucks now for jobs back home, wait till you have been abroad "teaching" only to return pushing 40 with no US
, references, credit, housing/utility bills, etc...
Where do you see yourself in five years? Teaching for 30k a month? Well, you will be teaching in China and for less than that.
Unless, you can see a very clear path ahead and you are making 60k, you are lost.
By Mack, Bangkok (2nd March 2015)
Top notch article and worth a read for anyone considering moving here. I can't really find myself disagreeing with much of anything in this.
The trips home are far too often overlooked, and while I applaud anyone who is young and not worried about it I think as we creep out of our twenties it becomes that much harder to avoid an annual trip home.
By Aaron, Bangkok (2nd March 2015)
There are just too many variables on this topic to make any kind of black line assessment.
Back when I first came here, I was very happy on about 19 to 20 thousand a month and went out every night, had a fabulous girlfriend and each month we bought a big ticket item like a fridge or table and chairs, etc, for our crappy apartment.
Fast forward to now: I am bogged down by a mortgage, car payments and a lot of travelling expenses...
I need 40,000 just to break even and fortunately with some hard work and enterprise I've managed to break through that 'minimum wage' ceiling.
If you are young or unambitious or just plain lazy (Nothing wrong with that, mind!) the money won't matter and you can brush off the inconveniences of crappy food, dirty digs, public transport, shit bosses, tortuous visa runs, etc.
As you get older and move up the food chain, these things need to be addressed... and, ultimately, have to be paid for.
You can live on 20,000 baht or 80,000 baht.
HOW you live is, as they say... 'up to you!'
By Mark Newman, Thailand (2nd March 2015)
I could most definitely not live on a 30,000 baht salary in Bangkok. I live in Nakhon Ratchasima, in Isaan, and it wouldn't be enough here. Here I get 43,000 baht from the private school I work in, and another 10-20,000 from private teaching. My rent is 7,000 (3 bedroom house), my car 7,400 so that would be almost half of a 30k salary gone already.
By John, Nakhon Ratchasima (2nd March 2015)