Every new arrival wants to know if they can survive or live well in Thailand on X thousand baht a month?

It's a difficult question because each person has different needs. However, the following surveys and figures are from teachers actually working here! How much do they earn and what do they spend their money on?. And after each case study, I've added comments of my own.

Submit your own Cost of Living survey

Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 22nd June 2018

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿43 to one Pound Sterling
฿38 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.61 THB to one Philippine Peso

Jimbo

Working in Songkhla

Monthly Earnings 65,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

My nett salary from an international school is 65,000 baht a month. I don't take on any other extra work.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I live on about 15,000 so manage to save 50,000 most months.

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

I have a small apartment that costs 3,500 baht a month. It has air-con but I never ever use it.

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

Transportation

As soon as I arrived I bought a small motorcycle for 20,000 baht and I spend a further 500 baht a month on gas.

Utility bills

Water and electricity come to around 300 baht a month and the wi-fi is free so utilities never really break the bank.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

For breakfast, I'll have a few bananas. Lunch at the school is free. For my evening meal I always eat out and that generally costs about 100 baht. I'll add another 1,000 baht on for weekend treats and the odd coffee. Let's call it 5,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

Zero. I'm a recovering alky.

Books, computers

Zero. But I did buy a new 10,000 baht laptop recently.

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

Excellent. I want for nothing.

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

Puncture repairs

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

To just survive, you need 10,000. That goes up to 20,000 if you want a few treats. If you are looking for a hedonistic lifestyle, then increase it to 30,000.
But there is no need to complicate life. Why not keep it simple?

Phil's analysis and comment

You heard it here first - you can live a wild lifestyle down in Songkhla on 30K a month. I don't know - maybe you can!

Jimbo is clearly a saver. 50,000 baht out of 65,000. Now that's impressive! 


BB

Working in Hanoi, Vietnam

Monthly Earnings 85,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

Some background: I work at a good international school in Hanoi, but on somewhat of a local package.

I get about 2600 usd net a month as salary, a 13th month and a ticket home, but I also do some substitute work that has netted me an extra 5,000 usd this year. I also teach a Vietnamese family twice a month in the weekends, that made me about 1,500 usd this school year.

If you add the 13th month and the extra money I earn, I guess my average monthly salary is about 3.300 usd a month, so about 105.000 baht a month. I do have to work extra for that of course, but it's not a big effort.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Cost of living in Hanoi is ridiculously low. Having been all over Asia I think I can honestly say there is no big Asian city that is cheaper to live in then Hanoi. This year I've saved about 15,000 us dollar, while having had multiple weekends away and three extended trips, both in and out of Vietnam. So I should say I am able to save about 1,300 dollars a month after holidays and while having a decent social life.

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

I pay 680 dollars for my modern condo that has a pool and small gym (rarity in Hanoi at the moment, though more and more of these kind of buildings are being build). I also pay 60 dollars for management fees and parking for my motorbike. In total about 24,000 baht.

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

Transportation

I rent a motorbike for about 50 dollars a month and work is a 5-minute ride away. Petrol is dirt cheap, I fill my tank twice a month for 3 dollars. So 1,800 baht a month.

Utility bills

Again, dirt cheap here. Water is a few dollars a month and electricy is cheap too. In the winter months my utility bills come down to 25 dollars a month, in the blazing summer perhaps 45 dollars. Lets say on average per month about 1,100 baht. Another 500 baht per month for internet and TV.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I only cook about once a month, because every now and then I need some soup that reminds me of home but other then that I only eat out. I love Vietnamese food and it's very cheap. Any Vietnamese meal will cost me 1-2 dollars. Western food is widely available too here, and very well priced. I've actually haven't had Vietnamese food in a month now, but I don't spend more then 10 dollars per western meal, and that is a very good meal while sitting in a very nice restaurant. All in all, I think I spend about 350 dollars a month on food. About 11,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

It really depends on the person you ask if Hanoi is a drinking city. if you go to the Bia Hoi's where you can get a beer for 0.4 cents, it is, since there are thousands of them. It's actually quite refreshing, especially in the hot summer months, but I am not a big beer drinker. Hanoi is not a clubbing city, and places actually close early, so there is not that much to do. I like it that way, it's an easy life. All in all, I usually have a few drinks in the weekend but again, it's very reasonable. Perhaps about 4,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

Nothing. Work has a huge library if I want real books, and I use an e-reader myself, so can download stuff if I want.

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

It's great, with cheap food and plenty of stuff to do. Vietnam is an amazing country and very beautiful, especially the north of Vietnam. I have done a few motorbike trips in Thailand (Mae Hong Son loop, Chiang Rai loop), which were very nice, but the north of Vietnam is truly spectacular (the Ha Giang loop), and the north is even cheaper then Hanoi.

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

You can find some realy good food here for very low prices. There is a great sushi place in the Tay Ho district, with a chef trained in Japan. I go there at least once a week and can completely stuff myself for 10 dollars and I can say with confidence I've only had better sushi in Japan itself. The food is good and cheap in Hanoi.

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

You can probably live a comfortable lifestyle with just 1,500 dollars a month. My condo is actually quite expensive compared to some others (though prices can be way higher too). I see many young English teachers sharing houses and just pay 150 dollars for a room. You can probably even have a decent life here on just 1,000 dollars, though not as much fun.


As a side note: The reason I am writing this, apart from reading your website for years, is that I am moving to an international school in Bangkok in August, so it would be interesting to see how things compare. I will send in another survey after a few months or so.

Phil's analysis and comment

Sounds like a good life to be had as a teacher in Hanoi. I'm off to Vietnam myself this week for the first time but the mountain city of Dalat rather than the likes of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. I think it's the first place I've been to where I have absolutely no idea what to expect. 


Jessie

Working in Saudi Arabia

Monthly Earnings 186,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

First a little background: Hello from the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia.

In July 2017, I submitted one of these surveys to Ajarn.com and at that time I was still living and working in Bangkok for around 55K baht per month.

I believe Phil thought: bloody hell this girl lives on 20K a month in Bangkok. Now it is almost a year later, I find myself finishing up my first academic year teaching in Saudi.

A lot has changed from my time in Thailand and while the numbers are positive...it wasn't by any means an easy ride out here. I have one full time job working for an all female vocational college. It is actually my second position in Saudi and I am very happy here especially after my first experience in an extremely unsupportive and toxic work environment.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Mostly things are covered by the company I work for. I only spend on average 11,000 baht per month and so I can save 175,000 baht each month. Moreover, I'm also still technically living off my savings in Thailand which at this rate could last me another 5 years out here. But I will likely just leave the money there and reinvest it this summer when I return for a visit. Now that's a huge increase from my 35K baht from last year, as in 5 times more savings!

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

The college provides housing for its employees. I have a one bedroom apartment with lots of natural light (a rare find in Saudi) and it is a cozy spot with which I am quite content at the moment. Best of all...no roommates.

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

Transportation

The college provides transportation to and from the school as well as several trips to various food shops. We are also given a small transportation stipend for any other Uber trips we may want to take. I am in a small town and so there really aren't that many places to go, nor is anything really far away. Once I went to Riyadh by train and back for 1500 baht but these adventures are infrequent.

Utility bills

The college covers these as well. I only pay for roaming internet on my phone which is about 1,000 baht each month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Maybe 6.000 baht a month for supermarket shopping. There are restaurants here of course but I usually prefer to eat at home and here (unlike Thailand) it is the cheaper option.

Nightlife and drinking

Nope. Nada. Not here. The closest thing we have to nightlife is a good brisk walk around the block just for exercise.

Books, computers

Like most people these days, I tend to read on line and have just joined Scribd for 270baht per month. This should keep me swimming in literature out here in the desert for a long time to come.

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

Pretty good. I'd say Thailand was much more fun because of the freedom of movement and simply because there was so much more to do there. But Saudi has some undiscovered charms of its own and I am still into exploring it. All my needs are met and I have plenty of time to engage in activities that are meaningful to me such as writing, meditation and reading. So no complaints there as I remain cautiously optimistic about my future here.

People who choose to come to Saudi are generally an interesting bunch of folks. Sometimes though you meet some really strange ducks and that can have an impact on your standard of living. But if you are willing to look deeper, I think there are some gems to be found, all while striking it rich in an enjoyable career not normally touted as a cash cow. And yes, I have signed my contract for a second year with my current company.

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

I think the job itself is the best 'bargain' going. I get a real teachers salary with no tax and many of my costs are covered by the company I work for. I don't know anyone in Thailand or even Canada or elsewhere who has an opportunity to save as much as I can here. Plus I get two months off in the summer and more if I want to take unpaid leave. This leaves lots of time to travel. And there are long periods of lag time where the students are off; so teachers can prepare future lessons or work on their own projects. I really try to take advantage of this down time.

Food is still pretty cheap here. Not as cheap as Thailand but not as expensive as in Canada (my home country). Some things are taxed now but not outrageously so it isn't a big deal. Uber rides are also decently priced. What I do love is that more of my food favourites are accessible here. In Thailand it was always so hard to find Pringles Salt and Vinegar chips! But here I can get them easily. And best of all; they have hummus in a can here and it tastes just fine. As a major hummus lover this earns 5 stars.

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

To survive the desert; it really isn't about the money. The money is good but to survive you have to remain flexible and adaptable to changes and difficulties from unpredictable avenues. People are here to save and that is clearly the main motivation. Culturally it is also a rather unique opportunity.

Plenty of jobs out here can offer you 100,000 baht which is amazing money for Thailand but that alone isn't enough money to make up for all the sacrifices you will have to make to be here. It's also important that you have administrative support, amazing colleagues and attentive students.

Also a side note here: Some people have posted jobs in excess of 200,000 baht a month and while I am sure there are a few jobs like that here in Saudi for highly experience and specialized teachers; they are not the norm. The average is much closer to 120k baht a month. However, right time, right place and you can land a job for more than that.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Jessie for getting in touch again and doing another survey. Glad to hear that things are going well - certainly on the earnings front.

You have to make the sacrifices if you want to live and work out in the dunes, but of course, as we all know, it's all about the money!

You can read Jessie's first survey from July 2017 here.


Julio

Working in Hokkaido, Japan

Monthly Earnings 72,800

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I get 72,800 from a private language school. Due to my small town, there isn't much apparent opportunity for private lessons outside of my main gig. Also, my contract strictly forbids me from taking outside work.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 14.5K each month. I could save a bit more but I have a girlfriend. I also spend a bit of money on hobbies and traveling to Sapporo each month for a night or two.

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

My accommodation is 15K each month. It's a one bedroom place that's arranged by the school. It isn't bad considering it's fully furnished and equipped with a decent kitchen. but it's a little old.

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

Transportation

4K on a two way train ticket to Sapporo each month. It's a big chunk of my salary, but the happiness it brings me seems worth it. I live close to work so I use a bicycle or walk in my city.

Utility bills

5-6K a month! My city is in the northeast of Hokkaido and it gets real cold here during the winter. Between electric and a gas heater, this is one of my biggest expenses.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Close to my same cost in rent, 11K. Japan is expensive and I love Sushi. I also love eating quality food in Sapporo.

Nightlife and drinking

4K a month goes towards a bottle of wine every night or so. This town is about as boring as it gets, and the booze also keeps me warm.

Books, computers

I bought an Xbox one when I got here. I use it to watch movies and Youtube. All my other reading is done through my computer screen for free.

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

Comfortable, but generally quite boring. Food is great, and while I enjoy my work and stress free lifestyle, there's plenty of greater things out there that I feel I should be doing. Considering it's only my second year teaching, it's not bad, but this kind of lifestyle should only be seen as a starting point in my opinion.

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

Healthcare. I had a procedure done here that cost me about 2K baht that would have been a fortune back in The States.

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

One can survive day to day quite easily on what I'm making, however, surviving is precisely what you'd be doing. If you want a good life and some true comforts, you'd need 145K baht, or close to 500K Yen.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Julio. It's not often we get a cost of living survey from Japan. It's a shame that your language school puts the block on earning extra money from outside work because I bet you get requests quite often. I don't really know how things work in Japan. Great place for a holiday though!


Robert

Working in A village just outside Khorat

Monthly Earnings 30,000

Q1. How is that income broken down? (full-time salary, private students, on-line teaching, extra work, etc)

I work through a decent agency at a Thai government school. My salary is 30,000 baht a month. I don’t do any extra work such as private students or online teaching. I could but I just don’t bother. I stretch the 30K salary as far as it will go.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 10,000 baht of that salary but don’t really need to. I have a decent amount of savings that I could dip into in an emergency, but touch wood, so far those savings remain intact.

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

I live in a tidy two-storey town-house in a tiny village about five kilometres outside Khorat and surrounded by forests and rice fields. It’s fairly basic but it has a small kitchen, two bedrooms (I use one as a store-room) and a bathroom. There is also an upstairs terrace / balcony where you can hang out washing. I pay 6,000 baht a month plus utility bills. For the amount of space I have, it feels like an absolute bargain.

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

Transportation

I have my own scooter. That’s pretty much a necessity when you live where I do. I love riding my scooter through the countryside, especially in the early morning on the way to school, but it isn’t quite as much fun in the rainy season with the rain lashing down. But the teacher must get through! I spend about 500 baht a month on gas.

Utility bills

Electric and water come to barely 500 baht a month and I pay another 1,000 for internet and phone.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Sometimes I cook at home using ingredients from the local market (well, actually it’s more of a roadside shack than a market) and I have breakfast and lunch at the school. A trip to McDonalds or KFC in Khorat is a once or twice a month treat. I bet I don’t even spend 3,000 baht a month on food. Yes – a hundred baht a day sounds about right. I can throw a decent meal together at home for half that. There are also a couple of roadside restaurants in the village that charge about 30 baht a dish if I fancy going out to eat instead of cooking at home.

Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife LOL. When it goes dark around these parts, you can’t see one foot in front of the other. Nightlife would be sharing a large bottle of beer with the village drunk outside the corner shop. So I tend not to bother. I’ll have the occasional beer at home but I’m not really a drinker.

Books, computers

I spend nothing on these. I download e-books for free.

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

I lived and worked in Bangkok for five years and I grew to hate every second of it. The heat, the humidity, the traffic jams, the growing ‘un-Thainess’ of the place and a thousand other reasons. The more hours I worked and the more money I made (usually between 60 and 80,000 a month) the more miserable I became. Living in Bangkok became a kind of forced slavery. I knew I had to get out.

The game-changer was when an old pal from England retired to live in North-east Thailand, in a village very similar to the one I myself live in now. He had a house built and settled very quickly into Thai rural life. I went up to stay with him for a few days and instantly became envious of all that he had (and indeed didn’t have). His days consisted of long walks and leisurely bicycle rides. His evenings were spent chatting and improving his Thai with a friendly bunch of elderly locals over large bottles of Leo. I had known this guy a long time but I’d never seen him look so fit and healthy and at peace with himself. ‘I want some of this’ I thought. And I returned to Bangkok and drew up my escape plans. I was gone within a month.

I look back now and the five years in Bangkok feel like five wasted and unnecessary years. I love it out here in the sticks.I feel born again. I have a job that’s hardly what you would call demanding and I have all the free time I need. The money just doesn’t matter.

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

Out in the countryside, everything is cheap. I couldn’t choose one thing over another.

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

In Bangkok, regadless of how much you earn, you can burn through it somehow. In rural Thailand, 20,000 is more than enough. 30,000 feels like a fortune.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Robert for I think one of the most thought-provoking cost of living surveys we've had.

Every time I venture into rural Thailand for a few days (especially the north) I return to Bangkok's concrete jungle and wonder what the hell I'm doing there. In fact if it wasn't for my wife's job and her family, I suspect we would move tomorrow. 

Many years ago, when I was an academic director of a language school, we won a contract with a government school in Mahasarakham Province to supply them with three full-time teachers. A quick show of hands in the staff-room and it wasn't difficult to find three willing souls who fancied swapping the city life for a straw hut out in the forest. 

Two months down the line I contacted the teachers to find out how they were settling in. One teacher was loving it. "I jog, I cycle, I play tennis, I go to bed early with a good book. I've never felt fitter in my whole life. And the school and students are fantastic!" 

The other two teachers begged me to bring them back to Bangkok. "There's nothing to do here. The boredom is slowly killing us" 

What they really meant was that there was no nightlife. Both these teachers had a reputation for enjoying a night on the sauce and perhaps the company of a lady or three. I knew they wouldn't last the pace.

To me that sums things up. You're either a city person or someone who can handle the quiet life in the country.


This cost of living section is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and we would love you to take part. Send us your cost of living surveys and tell us a little about your life in Thailand.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 255 total

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