Is it worth moving out of Bangkok?
People often cite the lower cost of living, better quality of life and a more Thai-style existence as reasons to be based outside the capital.
In general you find the best wages in Thailand if you’re based in Bangkok. There are obviously jobs outside the capital which pay well but it’s rare to see.
I’m happy in Bangkok but people cite the lower cost of living, better quality of life and a more Thai-style existence as reasons to be based outside the capital.
I love visiting new towns and cities in Thailand. Bangkok can get a bit too full on and lacks the beauty of many other regions in Thailand. However, it’s difficult to argue that Bangkok isn’t the place to be if you’re looking to make decent money. The big question is whether it’s worth living outside Bangkok despite getting a lower salary.
What are the different salaries offered?
I’ve done a little research through the jobs offered here on Ajarn.com and come up with some example salaries in different regions in Thailand. Whilst this isn’t an exact science it should give a good guide of potential earnings.
Government school native speaker (degree holder)– 38,000 baht per month
Government school non-native speaker (degree holder) 20,000 baht per month
Bilingual kindergarten job (degree plus CELTA) – 50,000 baht per month
International School (home country qualified native speakers) 100,000 baht per month
Part Time teaching – 400 baht per hour
Language Centre (degree holder + TEFL) – 36,000 baht per month
International School (degree in Education from UK, USA, Canada, Australia + 1 year experience) 50,000 baht per month
Government School native speaker – 35,000 baht per month
International School ( Education Degree + PGCE) 55,000 baht per month
Government School native speaker – 30,000 baht per month
Government School – Filipino teacher – 15,000 baht per month
Qualified History / Maths teacher – 30,000 baht per month
Part time teaching – 300 baht per hour.
As you can see Bangkok does have jobs which pay on average slightly higher than other regions in Thailand. I’m not saying that there aren’t good paying jobs outside Bangkok but the capital is the place to be if you want to easily find a higher salary, especially at the top end jobs. When you look at government school jobs there isn’t much in it.
Cost of living
I keep hearing that it can be much cheaper to live in cities outside Bangkok. I believe that’s true for rural areas but I’ve found tourist destinations as expensive, if not more so, than Bangkok. Of course when you live somewhere you get to discover cheaper areas to eat and hang out so it’s not so fair to compare living somewhere with just visiting it. What I have done is spoken to a few friends who live around the country to get a feel for their cost of living.
Chiang Mai is a popular location for teachers and salaries are lower. I’ve been a few times and spoken to teachers there and they say that certain things are cheaper than Bangkok but the gap is closing. There are plenty of cheap restaurants and even mid-level places offer better value than their Bangkok counterparts. However, chain restaurants and bars are pretty similar in price to Bangkok these days. Accommodation is cheaper claim a number of teachers in Chiang Mai and a quick search online backs up their claims.
A friend who works in Phuket raves about his quality of life. However, he has to be careful not to venture into the tourist areas too frequently as there are plenty of temptations to spend his salary on. He pays just over 10,000 baht for a studio room around five-minutes drive from the beach. The lack of affordable public transport and most good restaurants being expensive are the only downsides he mentions.
An ex-colleague lived and worked on Samui for a year. He said it was possible to find reasonable accommodation for under 10,000 baht per month. The reason he left was because he couldn’t stop himself going to tourist restaurants and bars which meant he blew his salary every month.
I previously lived in Pathum Thani, a province just north of Bangkok. I wont deny that it was cheap to live there. A small studio room was 3,500 baht a month, a two bedroom house 10,000 baht a month. Food was cheap and local buses and motorbike taxis meant getting around was cheap.
Finally, a teacher I know who works in Ratchaburi tells me that he spends a lot less there than he did in Bangkok but that he thought that was due to there being less to do there!
Quality of life
It’s not easy to measure quality of life. Factors such as education, employment, wealth, religious freedom, health care, safety and the environment can be quite subjective.
There are some teachers here with families so again Bangkok has the widest range of schools but major cities also have international schools.
The environment in Bangkok is probably one of the worst in Thailand. It’s hard to argue that many places in Thailand have more pollution, traffic and fewer green spaces than the capital.
Bangkok does have more international hospitals but again if you’re in places like Pattaya or Chiang Mai there are western standard facilities there too. Wherever you are in Thailand you will find clinics and hospitals and can always visit a larger city for treatment.
The US Government has a few safety warnings about Thailand. These focus on the four provinces in the south of Thailand where there are occasional attacks. The same website warns of political demonstrations occurring in Bangkok. This site shows you road traffic accidents by province.
In general if you are looking for a more natural environment then getting out of Bangkok is a good idea. If you are focused on medical facilities or education for your children then Bangkok is probably still your best option.
Real Thai experience
Firstly it isn’t easy to explain what a “real” Thai experience includes. Perhaps in this example I mean the idea of interacting with Thai people and living a different life than back in our home countries.
Most people will think that living in a small village will achieve this goal of living. Bangkok is still different to most other cities but perhaps there are more reminders of home than if you were living in the sticks.
Bangkok acts as a magnet for people from all over Thailand. As such you’ll probably get more chances to meet people from all over the country if you do live in the capital.
Perhaps your experience in Bangkok is linked to your income. A lot of international school teachers live in fancy condos in Ekkami or Thong Lor and have the money to travel everywhere by taxi and eat in international restaurants every day. Other teachers perhaps can’t live the same life of luxury and get more doses of Thai life.
I would say that if your dream is to eat at local markets, become fluent in Thai and be a part of the community then that is probably easier to achieve outside the capital.
Is it worth being outside Bangkok
My opinion is that if you are happy working for a government school then being outside Bangkok is a good thing. Your salary is going to be pretty similar to a government school teacher in the city and you’ll probably have more disposable income in a nicer environment.
It’s up to you if you decide to be just outside Bangkok, in another tourist location or a small village. Personally if I was following this route I’d choose a mid-size place like Udon Thani which still has good facilities and an airport nearby to get the best of both worlds.
If you’re looking to make over 50,000 baht a month or would like to work in an international school then Bangkok should still be your go to place. Sure you could make this money outside the capital but it’s easier to get those jobs after a few years experience and networking in Bangkok. Use your extra income to travel around the country in your free time.
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Rob, I'm guessing you wont, but care to mention where you are? ?
I'd love to buy you a dinner on that river bank.
Also, I'm 54. Lots of years teaching experience. would I be able to find work?
By Colin, Turkey (17th April 2022)
Firstly, the list of towns with salaries is very depressing. Thailand is a lot more than Bangkok and tourist towns. On this website I've seen 70K+ in towns in Isan.
As per my location, I live just outside Bangkok, and I believe I have the best of both worlds. Food is cheap, life is relaxed, restaurants are on wide rivers with beautiful scenery, traffic is liveable, yet I can be in Central Bangkok in 30 minutes with no traffic. The BTS / MRT / SRT is due to come to my town in the next few years, but I find less and less reasons to go in. They have everything that is in Bangkok pretty much out here, you just need to know where to look.
Also, there are ok salaries in the outskirts of Bangkok as gap year travelers want to be near Khaosan and won't live on the outskirts. Therefore salaries can be a bit higher than central areas of Bangkok. Rents are pretty similar but certainly you will be nearer your school if you live outside Bangkok.
Schools might be a problem if you have kids, and if you are single / only eat western food then country living is problematic. Overall though, Im very happy not in Bangkok, or any tourist city full of foreigners.
By Rob, Just outside Bkk (4th March 2022)
The game is in Bangkok. Money, clever kids, the best schools, A CAREER, did I mention money?? You need not stay for the balance of your life but it's the place to earn wages. Outside Bangkok is just a laff for similar sorts of people. The provinces are not cheaper you simply get more. More food and more space. Costs are relatively fixed. I do fine spending less than 25k pm on myself, wife. She pockets her salary. I still bank near 50k per month. Do that up country? Doubt. All over Thaivisa all one hears is whining about 30k salaries. I started in BKK with a job off this very website for 35k. I'm now we'll double. Impossible upcountry. It's no place for anyone with ambition that's certain.
By Jim Beam, The Big Smoke (30th June 2021)
Richard, this makes for a difficult equation, that said you did okay. However, there's a world of difference between a studio and a unit room, still you're obviously mixing up the two.
By Richard Constable, Bang Na (19th June 2021)
I would be interested to know what % of Bangkok schools offer 38k for 12 months. Not many would be my guess.
By Angsta, KSA (13th October 2018)
SD - 50k is the salary offered here by some schools in certain locations, especially Chiang Mai / Phuket, and the requirement is for teachers with PGCE or equivalent. I'm not making it up, they're the salaries on job adverts from this site.
I don't have a PGCE and make more than that in Bangkok so it's kind of the point of this article. There obviously are people with better qualifications working outside Bangkok for lower salaries than less qualified teachers in Bangkok. Is it worth it though?
By Richard, Bangkok (12th October 2018)
50,000 a month is nothing but chump change. And as if anyone with a pgce is teaching for 55,000 anywhere! Ludicrous.
By SD, UK (12th October 2018)
Carl, the figures are salaries quoted here on Ajarn.com, I didn't just make them up. Also if they work in a Bangkok government school or a rural government school and work for an agency then I guess both would lose some of their salaries based on your suggestion. That is of course if there isn't some law saying that teachers in Bangkok are not allowed to be paid for only 9-11 months a year?
By Richard, Bangkok (11th October 2018)
Given that the growing trend is to hire agency teachers at govt schools and only pay them between 9 and 11 months of the year, (agencies and school directors pocket the rest) I don't think your estimates reflect what's actually going on.
By Carl, Rangsit (11th October 2018)