Richard McCully

Cheap and expensive in Bangkok

What's a bargain and what costs an arm and a leg?

My friends and family back home sometimes ask me stupid questions about living in Thailand. A few people have actually asked if I can see elephants from my condo whilst countless others ask if I've ever been fooled by a ladyboy. However, one question which is interesting is, do you find everything in Thailand cheap?

The short answer is no, not everything is, but it made me think about what is a bargain and what is expensive in Thailand when you live here.

It's a Bargain!

-Fresh fruit - At around 15 or 20 Baht a serving it's great for breakfast or a snack. Sellers with mobile carts are found on the busier streets or at markets. Fruit in the supermarket is reasonable but the carts offer the bonus of cutting and peeling your fruit for you.

-Public transport - Buses, songthaews and vans are great value. From 6 to 40 Baht you can travel long distances. The MRT (subway) and BTS (sky train) are more expensive but when I compare the price to London I think they are still very cheap for the convenience they provide people travelling across Bangkok.

-Eating in midrange restaurants - I find the price of eating at midrange restaurants incredibly cheap and super value for money. I'm not talking about street side dining or a eating atop a trendy hotel but the type you find with a garden area, live band and lots of places to take those all-important Facebook photos. Go with 3 friends and you can split 7 or 8 dishes and a few beers and you will pay around 400 - 600 Baht each. I used to think going to a good restaurant was a monthly treat back in the UK but now I can go a couple of times a week.

-Utility bills - If you live in a Condo or house you will pay your utility bills direct to the utility company. I live in a 64sq metre condo and spend 900 Baht a month on electricity, 150 Baht on water and 750 Baht for 20MB internet and basic TV. Add on 300 Baht a month for my phone and 600 for my Sports365 TV package and that's 2,700 Baht a month (about $75). Cut down the internet speed and take away the sports TV package and you're looking at around $50 a month. If you live in an apartment though it's likely you will pay to the management and they will add on extras and you'll pay much more.

Wow That's Expensive!

-Electronics - Phones and laptops break. You will probably buy a new TV at some point. Most phones operate on a pay as you go basis which means you have to buy the phone outright. The latest IPhone is 26,000 Baht - about the same as most European countries. A midlevel phone is around 12,000 Baht. A midlevel laptop is 15-18,000 Baht. Whilst these don't sound like huge amounts in your home country they are expensive if your monthly salary is only 35,000 Baht a month.

-Clothes - I think buying good quality clothes in Thailand can be quite expensive. Maybe the price is similar to or a little cheaper than Western prices but then salaries here are much lower. To buy a good shirt you need to spend about 1,000 Baht. Sure you can get a cheap one for 300 baht somewhere but the quality is lacking. Import taxes mean items like Nike trainers are much more expensive in Thailand than your home country.

-Cars - If you are planning to be here for the long term you might consider buying a car. The price is very expensive when compared to salaries. Again this is related to import tax and with prices starting at around 600,000 Baht the price is similar to many western countries. If you want a BMW or Mercedes you will need around 4 Million Baht to buy the latest models. You will see supercars driving around Bangkok, but at 30 Million baht for a Lamborghini (c. 15 million Baht in the USA) it's an overly expensive purchase.

-Hi-So Coffee - There are a few chains of coffee shop which charge over 150 Baht for a cup of coffee. Mainly found in the shopping malls and tourist areas they offer awful value compared to the many local and small coffee stalls which serve great coffee. 150 Baht isn't going to destroy your bank account but I feel it's just expensive when it's close to the prices found in your home country.

So these are my choices for what's cheap and expensive when living here in Thailand. Maybe you agree or disagree with these, let me know....

If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country 

Richard is co-author of a great new book on planning a life in Thailand. 

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Uhm Import duties on Thai cars, The people in this section really need to do some homework as Toyota, Honda, Cheverolet, Isuzu and mitsubishi have car manufacturing plants in Thailand. They is no inport duty. it is a simple fact that a car sells for what people will pay for it and Thais will pay for them.

I walked into a Mitsubishi dealer with a bank book showing i could pay cash. I asked for a cash price and was told it made no difference. In further discussions my partner was pushed into a loan at a very low interst rate. Closer inspection the low interest rate was for 3 years on an 8 year loan.

To cut a long story short the dealers are making their money on those that default on the loans. The reset rate was 25% interest. The minimun repayment for the first 3 years would only pay 20 % of the total loan.

If you are wondering why the Thai economy is slowing it is due to this. Household debt and this is only the legal stuff. i have not talked about the loan sharks.

But at the end of the day. Buyer beware

By been around, Chantaburi (30th September 2015)

Utility prices can be quite high depending on how and where you live.

The cheapest, minimal and acceptable internet access is 600 baht. That's a lot compared to the UK and other western countries.

Also - if you are a home owner, a large house with the air con units running can soon add up.
On the upside - my water bill is about 40 baht a month! Hardly worth collecting.

Also - the monthly dues for my compound are just 500 bat a month...
This includes security 24/7, street lighting, pool maintenance and rubbish collections, and best of all NO STRAY ANIMALS!

House cleaners and gardeners are also a bargain.

Oh - drinkable wine is very pricey here.
They tax wine the same way they tax hard liquor!

By Mark Newman, Thailand (28th September 2015)

Everything you mentioned in the bargain section are local goods or services, the Hi-So coffee, the cars, and quality clothes are imports and import tax runs as high as 300% if I'm not mistaken. Definitely a worthy note that anything imported is extremely expensive compared to a domestic product. On the downside, aside from fruit, rice, and local thai food, nothing else I have found in my four years here is decent quality unless it's imported. On the upside, you can live here and survive on a very very low budget. True about inexpensive food, utilities, and public transport.

By keyser, Bangkok (21st September 2015)

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