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 17th September 2019

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿38 to one Pound Sterling
฿34 to one Euro
฿21 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.58 THB to one Philippine Peso

Paul

Working in Koh Samui

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

A 40,000 monthly salary is done by direct deposit into my bank account. I can earn an additional 400 baht per hour if I tutor local professionals from around the island twice per week in the evenings at the hotel training's townhouse spot.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 8,000 baht a month on average.

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

I have a very clean, newish bungalow. It's surrounded by a nice garden and shares a large swimming pool with four other properties. The rent includes wifi and it's also furnished. it's one bedroom with a kitchen and living room, Western-style bathroom but with a shower in the middle with a drain in the floor. It's a nice location and I enjoy living there. I can walk to Mae Nam Beach in five minutes. I pay 7,000 baht a month.

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

Transportation

I own two bikes - a Vespa and a bigger bike. The big bike cost me 6,000 Baht and the Vespa was 12,000. Both run great and I have local friends to fix them for almost free if I need repairs done.

Utility bills

Electric can vary and can get costly if I blast that air-con all day long. So electric on average is 1,800 and water is only 500 for some reason.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I never cook at home though I warm up food in my kitchen all the time. I generally eat out every day. Working at hotels you typically get free meals off their menu and 4-star resort food in Samui is a nice perk. I also enjoy street food on Samui and the cost is reasonable wherever you go on the island.

Nightlife and drinking

I like to party. When you live anywhere you find 'your' spots and make them 'yours'. I can spend a lot of money on entertainment when friends are in town and we hop around the island, but if it's just me and local friends, then beers are 40-60 baht and you can get wild to the wee hours with some funny characters.

Books, computers

No books. I like on-line reads. and have not yet upgraded my phone from an Iphone 5S. It does the job for me. And the $300 dollar computer I bought from new is still going strong.

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

I have no overheads. My life in Arizona was good and some things I miss; other things I don't. At the moment, I'm just enjoying life on Samui for as long as I can. I grew up riding bikes but touch wood, I am yet to experience what it's like to end up in a Samui hospital due to a motorbike accident. Life is really good and my hotel job is not too taxing.

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

Thai food, going out and partying, travelling to other places and rent. I have been lucky enough to have time to visit neighboring countries in Southeast Asia and used Thailand as a convenient travel hub.

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

If you're not the partying tip, you could live on 20,000 baht a month down here, but for me 40K would be the bare minimum. Even with that amount, I'm aware that saving only 8,000 is not a lot. When you do a bit of travelling around neighboring countries, the costs can soon eat into your budget. You have to stash an emergency fund but it's easy to survive on Samui. This place is gold!

Phil's analysis and comment

You sound very happy Paul.  These hotel positions on tropical islands are dream jobs for many. They must be a great way to spend a year or two, especially if you have the benefits of hotel quality food thrown in.  You don't see these kinds of jobs advertised all that often but they are certainly around. It's often a case of being in the right place at the right time and keeping an eye open.


Colin

Working in Thonburi

Monthly Earnings 32,000

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

I teach at a private Thai school and my salary is 32,000 baht a month. This is actually a job that I fixed up while I was still in England and doing my research. For that salary I work four days a week and have about 16 contact hours so it's not a punishing job by any means. I have lots of free time.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I would love to save 10,000 a month just for the sake of putting something decent away but I find that pretty much impossible. It's usually closer to 5,000.

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

The school found me a cheap apartment just a short distance away. It's a fairly small studio in an old building but quite a bargain at 4,000 baht a month plus bills. It's comfortable enough for the short term but I wouldn't want to live here forever. The noise from the traffic and construction can sometimes be a problem. Most of the foreign teachers at my school live in this building so it's a little bit of a farang enclave.

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

Transportation

Virtually nothing. I can walk to work every day. If I need to go into Bangkok at the weekends or on my day off, I can use the sky-train.

Utility bills

Water and electricity come to about a thousand baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat street-food as much as I can to keep costs down, although I do sometimes worry about the hygiene side of things. I very rarely eat Western food. I'm actually surprised at how expensive it can be. I think it's on a par with what you would pay in the UK, probably even a bit more. I guess my food expenses come to about 6,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I go into Bangkok once a week for a night out and a group of us usually do the bars until very late. Depending on how wild things get, you can easily blow a couple of thousand in a night so this could account for 8,000 baht a month. Actually, blowing 25% of your salary on entertainment does sound a bit crazy now I think about it.

Books, computers

Nothing. I can use the computers at school for free. I always make sure I have the latest smartphone though.

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

It's OK but only for the short-term. I wanted to give teaching in Thailand a try but I can't honestly see me signing up for a second year. I'll need to make a decision about whether to move to another country in SE Asia or return home. Neither option fills me with much enthusiasm but then again neither does staying here longer than 12 months.

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

Street-food. I'm not sure I'd describe it as a 'real bargain' but it's cheap enough.

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

Well, I'm surviving on 32,000 but for how many years can you 'just survive'? I think if you are going to build a future here, you need at least 60,000 for a single guy and I ain't anywhere near that. I'm probably not qualified to earn that sort of money either.

Phil's analysis and comment

You don't sound too happy with your lot, Colin.  I'm wondering if you could use some of that free time you have to generate another income stream or two. I bet with a bit of effort you could add another 10-15K a month on to that 32,000 and it would make a big difference to your lifestyle. 


Paul

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 38,000

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

I teach at a medium-size Thai school near the centre of Bangkok and my take-home pay after tax is around 38,000 baht. I do not teach any extra classes or do private students so I try to live on that 38K as best I can.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Virtually nothing. I find that 38K just about covers my basic living costs. I should explain that I am a new (ish) TEFLer in my late fifties and I've already had a successful business career in Europe so managed to save a fair amount during that time. I could have retired in Thailand and lived off my savings but needed something to do.

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

I rent a studio apartment fairly near my school for 10,000 baht a month. It's comfortable enough for one but still feels a bit basic because I haven't got around to fully furnishing it yet. It's a newish building and has all the facilities such as gym and swimming pool. I get on well with the staff and enjoy living there.

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

Transportation

I can walk to my school in 10-15 minutes so my only transportation expenses are sky-train and taxi fares at the weekend, depending on what I'm up to.

Utility bills

This comes to about 2,000 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

The apartment building has a solid restaurant on the ground floor that does Thai meals (and the odd Western offering) for about 60-80 baht a dish. I eat here most nights from Monday to Friday. I'll have maybe one fast food splurge at the weekend. I make breakfast in my apartment each morning and also prepare a salad for lunch, which I take to school in a plastic container. I could eat at the school but don't really like the food they prepare. Probably around 7-8,000 baht a month in total.

Nightlife and drinking

This sets me back about 12,000 baht a month. I like to go out a couple of nights a week, usually on a Friday or Saturday. Now the football season has started, I enjoy getting together with a group of friends and watching a match on TV. If you can limit yourself to 3-4 beers, it's still a relatively cheap evening.

Books, computers

I have a five-year old laptop and I tend to download books for free, so this isn't much of an expense at all.

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

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

It's enjoyable enough, but on months where I fancy doing some travelling, I will more often than not have to dip into my savings. I also go back to Europe at least twice a year. I couldn't afford to do that on my 38K salary either.

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

In Bangkok, I would consider myself at the very bottom end, so I'm going to say 35-40K a month. That's enough to put a decent roof over your head, eat fairly well and have a few nights out. But it doesn't leave an awful lot of money for much else.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Paul. I've worked with a few guys like you down the years. Gentlemen in their fifties and sixties who have already made their coin and are teaching for basically 'something to do' but that doesn't mean they don't care about the job they do in the classroom. It's a nice position to be in, knowing that you aren't that reliant on your monthly paycheck. I've always found guys like Paul to be the most relaxed, easygoing teachers to work with. There's no pressure on them! 


Please send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most 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. 


Trevor

Working in Pathum Thani

Monthly Earnings At least 50,000

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

I work at a medium-sized government school in Pathum Thani, which is about an hour or less from central Bangkok. My take-home salary is just 42,000 a month but I can boost that to at least 50,000 with private students depending on how motivated I am or how many students want lessons in any given month. You cannot rely on private students for guaranteed income though. The numbers fluctuate especially during holiday periods like Songkran and Christmas / New Year.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

That varies depending on if I do any travelling or I have a 'larger' purchase to make, but I always like to save in the region of 10,000-20,000 if I can. I'm saving for a trip back to England at the moment because I haven't been home for several years.

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

I share a very large four-bedroom house with two other teachers (one guy works at the same school and the other one doesn't) I know that house-sharing is often a disaster and I've got horrible memories of doing it in my student days back in England, but the three of us get on really well and we all have similar characters. The rent is 12,000 baht a month (but looking at the price of other properties in the area, I think it's worth a lot more) - and we split the rent three ways, so 4,000 baht each.

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

Transportation

My journey to and from school involves a 10 baht motorcycle taxi to the main road (our house is a long way up a quiet soi) and then either a short taxi ride or a 12 baht bus fare. Probably no more than 3,000 a month for work-related travel but of course there will be taxi fares at the weekend on top. Taxis are so cheap here that I can just never be bothered to wait around at bus-stops.

Utility bills

Water and electricity come to about a thousand baht a month each. I suppose we're fortunate that all three of us like to have the air-con on when we are at home.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

It's a crying shame that we share a lovely, big kitchen and just don't make any use of it other than a place to make coffee or get a cold beer from the fridge. Food is one area where I could really save money on if I wanted to but I'm a hopeless cook. So I'm a real fiend for home deliveries and when you are ordering Western food, this can get quite expensive. I reckon I spend 10,000 a month on food and probably more.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't go out much but do enjoy a beer and whisky at home, especially if I'm on the computer games console and the three of us are having a session well into the early hours (only at weekends of course) Probably 5,000 a month I guess if you include a couple of nights out.

Books, computers

I spend a decent amount of money on computer gaming and I do like my gadgets. This could be well in excess of 5,000 a month if you tot it up over a year. Actually by doing this survey I'm beginning to understand why I only save 10,000 a month.

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

Very happy with it. I could work harder, have less free time and make more money but for me that's not what life is about.

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

Taxi fares without a doubt. And if there are two of you to share the ride, so much the better. In a few year's time, I'll be able to use the sky-train more when the latest extension is completed.

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

Obviously it depends on your lifestyle but Pathum Thani is not Bangkok and there are fewer temptations here. I could get by on 30,000 a month at a push but wouldn't really want to. 50-60,000 is a nice amount of income because it allows to put some away for a rainy day.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Trevor. I always break into a wry smile when I hear of friends or colleagues sharing a house or apartment in Thailand. It goes without saying that it's so important you get along. 

I remember many years ago sharing a studio apartment on Sukhumwit (yes, crazy I know) with my best friend from school. We entered into the agreement as best friends but after six months, we were ready to kill each other and one bone of contention was always the air-conditioning. I wanted it turned on whenever I was in the room, but he liked it off purely to save money. I'm amazed we lasted six months in all honesty.


Come on! send us your cost of living surveys. We would love to hear from you! This is one of the most 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. 


Nathan

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 45,000

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

I teach at a private Thai school in Chiang Mai and my take home salary after tax is 34,000. I top things up by teaching private students at the weekend and sometimes do a bit of language centre work, which is steady work but doesn't pay as good an hourly rate as when you organise your own private students.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I try to save at least 10,000 baht, which is doable in Chiang Mai if you can hit 45,000 a month.

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

My girlfriend and I rent a one-bedroom apartment about 5 kilometres from the city centre and that costs 8,000 baht a month plus bills. My girlfriend was paying half of the rent up until a couple of months ago because she's between jobs at the moment.

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

Transportation

I have my own motorcycle and my school and all my private students are within a five-mile radius, so this isn't a great expense at all. Just a few hundred a month for gas and the odd running repair.

Utility bills

Electric and water come to about 1,000 baht a month. We only have the air-con on in the evening when we are both at home. My girlfriend never turns it on if she's home alone during the day. She says it affects her sinuses or something like that.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

My girlfriend is a fantastic cook and whips up some great meals in the wok. She'll spend about 1,000 baht a week buying fresh ingredients from a nearby market. We do like to go out a couple of times a week for a meal (she'll eat Thai food and I'll go for something Western) but that never comes to more than about 500 baht for the two of us. So I would say when you add it all up, our monthly food bill is about 8,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

My nightlife days are behind me and frankly, I don't miss the scene at all. I got bored of it very quickly. I would much rather stay in and watch a movie with a nice big plate of popcorn.

Books, computers

I do like my technology and my gadgets but difficult to put a figure on this, although a couple of thousand baht a month sounds about right.

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

I'm satisfied with it. OK, it's hardly what you would call a rock 'n' roll lifestyle but we don't feel as if we go without anything. It's not like we are even missing the 20K that my partner used to earn either. Chiang Mai is a big city and there are numerous temptations and no limit to what you could spend, but we are not night owls, we don't do spas and massages, and we eat well but quite cheap. I often refer to it as a Thai lifestyle with a few Western treats included.

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

Fresh meat, fruit and vegetables from the local markets. Shop where the locals go and you can't go wrong!

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

Most teaching jobs in Chiang Mai still pay in the neighbourhood of 30,000-40,000 and I would say that's more than enough for most folks. You might not save a great deal but you won't go short of anything.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Nathan. As you say, it's not the most exciting of lifestyles but who cares as long as you and your partner are both happy? You are certainly not alone when it comes to getting bored of the nightlife. Many of these cost of living surveys are from expats echoing your thoughts entirely. I think it's an aspect of life in Thailand that many guys get out of their system after a year or two.

Keep your woman on the job hunt though or she'll get too comfortable with lazing around all day watching Thai soap operas on the idiot's lantern. Hmmmm.......she's a good cook though isn't she? LOL 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 295 total

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