Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 45,000 baht

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

I work full-time teaching kindergarten L2 at a bilingual school where I make 34,000 baht/month. In addition, I tutor six students outside of school which adds about 11,000 baht/month to my salary. Sometimes I work online (if I feel like it) which will maybe add another 2,000-3,000 baht.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

In Thailand, you seriously have to consider the start-up costs of getting a new apartment, visa, motorbike, putting deposit down for apartment etc. etc. To get myself set-up initially, I needed to borrow 15,000 baht from a friend (2 month deposit, 1 month security) for an apartment. The visa process is long, expensive and complicated too. Expect to have another 4-5,000 baht for the cost to extend the visa.

Once that's all done though and you have your visa and work permit, I'm expecting to save about 30,000 baht/month. Maybe more, maybe less, depending on travel and activities.

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

I pay 6,400 for my apartment and that includes water. Electricity is separate and is about 300-400 baht in low season (I barely use the air con since it's so nice outside); in high season/smoky season expect to pay around 700-800 baht. In Thailand you can pay your bills at 7/11 :)

I live in a fairly large, fully furnished studio just outside the old city, the center of Chiang Mai night life. They call studios condos, just FYI. It came with a fan, full kitchen, fridge, TV, tables, sofa, bed, dresser. My apartment is not the norm, unfortunately. Most people live in the Nimman area but I chose the east side where more Thais live. I think it is cheaper over here.

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


Motorbike rental is 2800; Petrol comes out to 400.

Utility bills

Low season: 300-400
High season: 700-800
Water and trash: included in rent

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This one is tough. I shop at Makro and spend about 1,000 baht every few weeks. I am upping my budget to 2,000 for food each month though.

I try to limit my restaurant/eating out, since most of the street food is made with MSG. But I put another 1,000 baht aside for eating out. However, I usually don't use it all.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm not a huge drinker anymore. Leo and Chang is nice, but after a while you get tired of drinking premium beer. Wine is expensive. Most of the bars are free to get into like Zoe in Yellow. Drinks range from 80 baht (shots) to 200 baht (cocktails).

After-hour bars like Spicy and Las Vegas have a cover charge to enter. It's like 100-200 baht. It's technically illegal to have after-hour parties past 12 am in Chiang Mai, so that's why they charge. Drinks are similarly priced.

Books, computers

I brought my computer and phone. If anything breaks or you need something fixed, go to your local market and they can take care of it. Don't go to the mall. They'll charge you twice the price for the same. Pantip Plaza near Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is your one-stop shop for electronics.

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

Start-up costs aside, I live quite comfortably. I just got back from a vacation in the islands (Koh Phagnan and Koh Tao) for 2 weeks, and that only cost me around 25,000 baht for everything! Flight, food, accommodation, activities, drinks, ferry rides, massages etc. etc. I say that because once you're set up, you have the luxury of travel at a very reasonable cost. There is a lot to see in Thailand and you don't need to go to another country to get beaches, palm trees and sunshine. It's all right here!

Overall, I live pretty well. I've been very lucky with finding good accommodation and transportation. Some of my friends spend about 5,000/month on housing and receive significantly less (bedding isn't included, no kitchen, little natural light) You can for sure live like this, but I choose to spend more on housing to feel more comfortable. What I spend more on housing, I spend less on new clothes and going out. It all balances out.

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

Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest places to live in Thailand. Housing, food, drinking, night life, transportation.... this city has the best prices. If you're a newcomer to ex-pat life, Chiang Mai is an excellent place to start.

Besides money, Chiang Mai has a beautiful culture and the people are simply wonderful. It's a real community of people who want to help you for the most part. The 'bargain' isn't only measured in money, but also in the kind of support you'd receive from the community here. It also has one of the largest ex-pat communities in Thailand - about 30,000 ex-pats live here I've heard!!

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

35,000 baht is pretty standard. Anything lower and you'd be living in a smaller apartment, with less money for vacation, eating out etc. etc.

If you make less than that, supplement with private tutoring (check with your school if you teach) and/or online teaching.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Liz. It sounds like you really enjoy living and working in Chiang Mai. As you say, I've always felt that 35,000 baht a month is pretty standard for that part of the world, so your 45,000 a month obviously gets you a considerably better standard of living.  It's amazing the difference an extra 10,000 can make if you are prepared to put in the extra effort to earn it.

Regarding accommodation, I've said this many times and I totally agree with you. The more you spend on a rental, the nicer the place you have and the more you will enjoy spending time in it. This means you have less temptation to go out and wander the streets in search of entertainment - and that always costs money!

Come on! send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the popular parts of the Ajarn website and these surveys help and inspire a lot of other teachers. Just click the link at the top of the page where it says 'Submit your own Cost of Living survey' or click here.    

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