Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 150,000

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

This is my full-time salary from a good (mostly) international school. I have no need or desire, to do any extra classes beyond that but have full respect for those that do after a long day or tiring week. I’ve been there before. I get flights home and some bonuses on top of that salary as well.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 100K but of course that can fluctuate hugely. Travel (not happening much just now) and odd splurges can eat into that amount. Costs back home and supporting some of the family can also be unexpected expenses.

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

I pay 36K for a large 2-bedroom condo. My wife earns a similar amount to me and we split everything down the middle. It’s two minutes from the BTS and in a great (I think) area of Bangkok

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


I’m lucky enough to be able to walk to work. Taxis and BTS add up to 1-2K a month.

Utility bills

I’m currently teaching from home and have a huge air-con fan so I’m nervously awaiting the upcoming lekky bill. Normally the bill is about 2,000 a month though. Another 1,000 for internet and phone. Water is so low that it doesn’t really enter the budget.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We eat out a lot and we (the wife) likes to buy groceries from the fancier supermarkets. Maybe 7,000 a month but not too sure. I tend to skip the school lunch - it’s not great.

Nightlife and drinking

Bangkok does this well and I like to think I do too. Must be about 10,000 a month, maybe more. Watching the footy and having post work beers are important to me and are key to relaxing. I enjoy craft beer which unfortunately is an absolute fortune out here. I also end up occasionally at a few of the higher-so cocktail bars, sitting awkwardly in the corner.

Books, computers

I occasionally buy the odd book for the kindle but not much more than that really. Not a gamer at all and work provides me with a laptop.

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

Very high, much better than it could possibly be back home in London doing the same job.

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

The normal - transport, water and Thai food. I think there can be (in the days of travel) some really quality hotels at great prices. Cinemas are worth a shout too. Some condo buildings also, especially if the gym is good enough to save you a gym membership. I can speak a bit of Thai which always helps avoid some of the random price increases too.

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

I’ll say what many others have before, it depends on your definition of survival. I don’t live miles and miles away from home just to survive, but Bangkok attracts them all. I’d say 50K in Bangkok if you plan on going home occasionally and not eating street food for every meal. Horses for courses though. I know people who live on less and those who couldn’t come close to doing it here on 50,000. Up north, loads less but I’ve kind of last track of Isaan prices.

My teaching career began in darkest Isaan over a decade ago. I was working in the small town’s government school being the farang they wheeled out for special occasions. As much as we had a CELTA, it was honestly more like child-minding than teaching. 25,000 a month with some weekend tutoring and being hit on by bored middle-class Isaan mums. I went home, saved up, got a PGCE and a bunch of experience and it was the best career choice I have ever made.

It’s worth pointing out in the COVID times the importance of a good school with a good contract. I will be watching with interest as to how Thai schools recruit farang staff with the proposed plan of the first few holidays in the academic year being cancelled. Regardless what “educational experts” may be saying on Thai Twitter, there is no chance of term dates being altered in international schools (good ones at least). Recruitment cycles are tied in with the global pattern of international schools and contracts are multi-year with clear start and end dates. It’s quite a relief in these uncertain times and a benefit that equals a financial one.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Davey. What caught my eye in that survey is that you financially support other members of your family. We know that nationalities like Filipinos often send money home, even when earning relatively low salaries, but I wonder just how many Westerners also do this? I've spoken to a couple of middle-aged expats recently (neither of them teachers) and they have both found themselves in a position of having to support their children from afar. It's quite a responsibility isn't it?  

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