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 13th July 2020

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿39 to one Pound Sterling
฿35 to one Euro
฿22 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.63 THB to one Philippine Peso

Ian

Working in Hat Yai, Songkhla

Monthly Earnings 31,500 + overtime (usually close to 40,000 total)

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

I work full-time at a college. My overtime hours generally involve one-on-one or small group teaching, but sometimes fill-ins for other teachers at larger schools.

I should note that my contract for the coming year (2020 - 2021) included a pay raise. I worked for various companies in America between 1999 - 2015 and never once received a raise. It's a more responsible culture out here.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

At least 60% of my income, sometimes more. I am from America, a country where my generation has almost zero savings and loads of debt. As such, I made sure to reverse this situation in Asia. Also, a very overlooked opportunity in Thailand is the S.E.T. (Stock Exchange of Thailand). Unlike the Western stock markets, Thai shares are very cheap and have loads of potential upside. Not to mention, the covid hysteria caused a small, temporary dip in share prices - anyone smart enough to invest in February or March has seen at least a 50% return as of this writing (June).

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

7,000 baht per month for a condo in a building with two pools, library, lounge, recreation areas, rooftop garden, etc. I pay around 70% of the rent and my girlfriend pays 30% while she works on building up her sandwich / pastry business.

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

Transportation

Next to nothing. I walk and bicycle a lot. I live within walking distance of my school. I rent a 2nd hand motorbike from my friend and spend at the absolute most 500-1,000 on gas / petrol. I enjoy taking long drives in the countryside, along the coast, etc.

Utility bills

During the covid hysteria, the government has slashed electricity to the wonderful rate of 88 baht per month. This will end soon, and I expect to be paying about 1,000 -1,200. When I lived alone, I was paying 400, but I also use a lot less air-con than my girlfriend would prefer. Set the timer so that it switches off at 2am (ha ha). We share the costs of utilities. We have our own washing machine and as a consequence the water bill can be as much as 500 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

As I mentioned above, my girlfriend has a nice little food business, so I eat like a king and very rarely go out to restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm a semi-professional musician, so 'nightlife' for me usually involves working and being compensated for all drinks and food. I very rarely go to a bar unless music is involved. I enjoy high-quality vintage wines and single malt scotch, but I have 'connections' so I don't pay too much.

I suppose it's worth mentioning that I finally quit smoking (cigarettes) about 8 or 9 months ago. In America, cigarettes are insanely expensive, and I was never a heavy smoker but it still took its toll on my income, not to mention my health. I tried to quit many, many times and kept failing. It was a lot easier to stop smoking here in Thailand as the lifestyle is a lot less stressful compared to the West. I had some help from the Thai government program where you can get free / discounted nicotine replacement products, etc. I stepped down my dosage using the gum and have been nicotine-free for most of this year already! I'm in favor of smoking more medicinal varieties of plant material however, especially since they are being legalized. ;-)

Books, computers

I use wifi at the public areas of my condo. I'm a book addict, and there happens to be a free book exchange at the local university. If I'm traveling, I'll pick up books at hostels, etc. I always re-donate the books when I'm finished with them, so the cost is about zero. The last time I actually purchased a new book was Bruce Springsteen's autobiography in Rotterdam, NL back in 2017, for I think 15 euro.

The local public library is right across the street from where I live, but for some reason they've been closed since last year. It's a pity because it's a very nice facility. I don't think they have many English-language materials though.

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

180-degrees different from, and infinitely better than, what it was in America.

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

Rent and healthcare - the two things that tend to keep Americans broke. Also transportation is reasonably priced here. It is difficult to compare with the U.S.A., since that country does not have reliable, responsible, affordable transportation systems anywhere within its borders. I grew up thinking the NYC subways were supposed to be the envy of the world, 5555!!

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

Depends on one's definition of 'survival'. If the word is taken literally, as in 'not dying', then perhaps 1,000 baht. Monks live on less than that.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Ian for a very interesting survey. We don't hear from too many foreign teachers who dabble in the Thai stock market but I guess they're out there. My wife does quite well with Thai shares but she's often moaning that she doesn't have enough free time to devote to analyzing the market, etc. She has a couple of friends who buy and sell shares far more seriously and they make great money! 

All in all, it sounds like you enjoy life here in Thailand far more than you did back home and you make some good comparisons. 

Good luck with the pastry business! 


Karen

Working in Bang Bon

Monthly Earnings 38,000 baht plus an income of £350 from the UK

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

My salary from teaching is 30,000 baht. I make another 5,000 baht from teaching online and 3,000 from a private student I teach face-to-face. In addition, my income from the UK is from a rental property.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Zero.

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

The rent on my condo is 9,000 a month.

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

Transportation

5,000 baht on taxis and MRT fares.

Utility bills

About 1,200 - 1,500 on electricity and a 1,000 baht for wi-fi and phone.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This comes to about 10,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

At the minute zero due to the virus situation but usual nights out in central Bangkok are 2,000 baht a night on average.

Books, computers

About 500 baht. I wish there were more good second hand bookshops in Bangkok.

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

It's OK but definitely not luxurious. My condo is 30 sq metres but has access to a pool and gym (although it's a Thai style gym where almost nothing works)
The odd extravagance of a weekend away or a stay over in central Bangkok is mainly paid out of the savings I had on arrival.

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

Anything you can buy at the roadside such as fruit/ vegetables in season.

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

To survive and be happy, I would say at least 40,000 baht. The nearer you are to central Bangkok, the more you'll need.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Karen. So with that income of about 14,000 baht from a rental property in the UK, Karen's earnings get pushed to just over the 50K mark, which is OK for the Bangkok suburbs I guess. In fact to quote Karen - 'it's OK but not luxurious'.   


JD

Working in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Monthly Earnings 49 million VND (around 67,000 baht)

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

I make 40 million VND from the regular job at a school. Then I make an extra 9 million VND from a language centre, where I teach English conversation to adults three evenings a week.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I'll switch to Thai Baht from now on. I can comfortably save around 27,000. I could save more but I still like to have a decent quality of life.

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

I pay 6,500 baht for a small studio in a nice quiet but very suburban area about an hours moto ride from District 1. One thing that's disappointing in Vietnam is the standard of accommodation. Apartments here are mostly 'communisty-style', boxy rooms with bad paint jobs, weird decoration and bars on the windows.

Modern condos with pools, gyms etc that are common in Thailand are pretty rare here and cost more than they would in Thailand. That said, I still enjoy where I live.

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

Transportation

I rent my bike for 1,000 baht a month and spend maybe another 1,000 baht on petrol, depending on how often I travel into the city.

Utility bills

Wi-fi is included in my rent. Electricity and water is maybe 800-1,000 baht a month

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I'm not a fan of Vietnamese food so tend to eat more international stuff which costs more. On the whole, the food scene here isn't as good as Thailand. While I like Pho and there are a few decent street food places, I can't eat it every day.

Maybe 4,000 baht a month on food.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't spend too much on nightlife. Mostly I just go to the local Western pub with other teachers once a week for some beers and food, or I'll chill at a 15 cent a beer street-bar with one of my friends who lives near me. Sometimes I do go to District 1 but I'm not a big party animal.

A common complaint about Vietnam from a lot of experienced Thailand heads is that it's boring. While I wouldn't say it's boring, I can understand where they're coming from. Nightlife, even in Saigon, is much more provincial than Thailand and Bui Vien just can't match Bangkok's entertainment zones. Dating is also more difficult than it is in Thailand as it's a more conservative culture.

Hanoi is even worse as they are required to close all bars before midnight and the police regularly patrol to enforce it.

I definitely recommend Vietnam for more serious teachers rather than partying backpackers on a jolly.

Books, computers

I get mine from school so nothing spent in this category.

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

I have a very good quality of life. In the TEFLsphere x-y axis scale of salary/quality of life, I'd probably rate Vietnam, especially near Saigon, as one of the worlds best places. It definitely punches above its weight.

It's cheaper than Thailand and I can earn far more than I can there. The people seem better too as they are more worldly-wise than the Thais and not so nationalistic.

The visa red tape is a lot easier to deal with than in Thailand. Most companies will sponsor you for a two-year temporary residence card which you can enter/exit the country as many times as you like. There is no need to apply for a re-entry visa and there are no 90-day checks in. Agencies can also sponsor this for you.

Vietnam is a real up and comer in the emerging world so unlike military-dictatorship, going-backwards Thailand, there really is potential for growth in Vietnam in the future.

It's definitely worth a look at for any ajarns who are jaded with the low salaries, visa hassle and anti-farang sentiment in Thailand but who still want live the laid-back, tropical Southeast Asian lifestyle and want to earn some real dollar but don't fancy the lifestyle 'wastelands' of the Middle East or the freezing winters of Korea.

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

Almost everything.

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

Even on a part-time language centre salary of around 18 million VND (around 25,000 baht), you can live a pretty reasonable lifestyle and I think much better than you would in Thailand.

This also gives you a lot of free time to explore the country around you. In Hanoi or Saigon proper, you'll probably need more than this to enjoy the same lifestyle but there are also a lot of job opportunities. Many teachers just work one job and enjoy their free time or supplement their income with an extra part time gig online or at a language centre.

Full timers will typically earn around double this (50K+ baht) and this affords you a very good quality of life and saving potential. It really is up to you and what you prefer.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks JD, it's always good to hear from a teacher in Vietnam who also has Thailand experience. When a foreign teacher has had enough of Thailand but wants to stay in SE Asia, then Vietnam is often high on the list of escape routes. 

You certainly paint a positive picture of life in Vietnam and some of those numbers are impressive. Obviously the lack of quality accommodation is a downside but that seems far outweighed by the positives.    


David

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

My full-time monthly salary is 40,000 before taxes and medical insurance deductions. The salary is calculated based on a 30-day monthly calendar. Medical insurance (through employer) is 385 baht per month for AETNA. Taxes are 665 baht.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

10,000 baht ($310.88) as of March 2020

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

My one-bedroom condo costs 15,000 baht a month (including electricity, water, internet, and washing machine). The condo also normally has a rooftop pool, sauna, and gym in operation prior to the covid-19 pandemic.

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

Transportation

BTS sky train (40 trips) is just over a thousand baht a month.
*Note: sometimes I need to refill the BTS rabbit card amount before the month ends, so that would cost another 1,080 baht for an additional 40 trips
Grab trips (ride share): 300 baht (occasionally)
Motorbike taxis: 20 baht per 2.2 km

Utility bills

Included in rent but if separated:
- water: 100 baht
- electricity: 1,000 baht (when at work Monday to Friday), 2,500 baht if running the air-con all the time and at home most of the time
- Home internet / wifi: 480 baht

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Supermarket shopping comes to 8,000 baht a month and I spend about 2,000 baht a month on restaurant bills.

Nightlife and drinking

1,000 baht (4 craft beers). I don't participate in the nightlife on a regular basis

Books, computers

I use my laptop for work and at home. E-books are the way to go. If you would like to purchase books, then you should check Dasa books on Sukhumvit Road or one of the book stores at the Emquartier shopping mall near Phrom Phong BTS station or one of the book stores at Central World shopping mall near the Chit Lom BTS station.

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

I am able to live modestly and save the equivalent of a few hundred dollars per month. Bangkok is an expensive city, so a monthly salary of 80,000 baht would provide me with more of a Western lifestyle and the chance to eat at restaurants more often, enjoy craft beer, take weekend excursions, and save more money each month.

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

If you can find a meal for 40 baht or less that fills you up, then that's a great deal!

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

When moving to Bangkok, you should have at least $5,000 saved, have a job lined up within 1-2 months, and then you should aim for a salary of 60,000 baht monthly minimum, although a monthly salary of 80,000 baht or more is preferable.

Phil's analysis and comment

Nice to hear from someone earning a more 'common' teacher salary for a change - 40,000 in Bangkok. 

The thing that leapt out at me from this survey is spending 15,000 baht on accommodation, getting on for half of your salary. Thankfully that includes the bills. 

However, as I've said many times in these surveys, 'going over budget' on a place to live can actually save you money in the long run. When you have a nice place that's simply a joy to come back to each day, you're far less likely to wander the streets looking for entertainment and ways to pass the time. 


Thomas

Working in Sakon Nakhon

Monthly Earnings 115,000-125,000 (+15,000 to 30,000 from other businesses) = around 130,000 to 150,000

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

All of my work and teaching comes from online. I have about 25 private students and I work for two online companies. I still work about 35-45 hours a week online and sometimes work on weekends doing private students.
My wife and I own two businesses and income from those ranges from 15-30K.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

It really depends because I have a baby daughter and sometimes it ranges from 50,000 to 100,000. This is because my wife and I opened two coffee shops and a coin laundry shop recently which can bring in revenues of 15,000 to 30,000 in good months. It is often hard to predict in these businesses.

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

My wife and I built and paid for our own house so nothing for this.

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

Transportation

7,000 baht per month. We have a lease on a car.

Utility bills

It ranges from 750-1,200 depending on how hot it is and how much air conditioning we use

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This can range from 5,000 to 10,000 per month. Every once in a while I might splurge on foreign food or restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

To be honest none. Never really liked drinking and taking care of a baby daughter and working has made our lives a bit too busy for this.

Books, computers

I have two laptops that I bought a year ago. Both were about 5,000 baht each. I only read e-books and I spend maybe 500 baht per month on this.

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

I wouldn't say it's a life of luxury but it is very comfortable. Owning our house and working full time from home and managing two businesses with my wife has been a great experience here in Thailand. I never expected this when I moved here 18 months ago.

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

Being Japanese and having worked in Tokyo, I feel almost everything is cheaper. If I used the air-conditioner and electricity as much as I did in Tokyo for example it would cost me over 3.000 baht per month.

I will admit the fact that I don't have many expenses help, but it works because in Tokyo if I was renting the same size home, it would certainly cost me at least 80,000-120,000 baht. On top of that, we would need to pay for parking every month.

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

It truly depends on your lifestyle. Here in Sakon Nakhon, if you are single, I am sure you can get by with less than 35,000. On top of that, I don't go out to drink or party. But if you are into partying and want to eat out often, I would say 50,000 might be good to make even for a place that is the countryside such as Sakon Nakhon because nothing is close unless you live in the city or town.

In my case, I would like to send my daughter to an international school and provide the best education I can, so saving and managing her money for the future becomes critical. One note, I do pay 9,000 baht for family insurance that includes my wife, my daughter and myself.

If saving isn't a priority, even for a couple, I'm sure you could survive on less. But for me, I have a goal to save as much as possible and invest in a portfolio to grow my family's wealth through the diversification of that portfolio. My hope is to have 10-15 million saved when my daughter becomes 8, so we have 7 years left.

I hope I can make it. Thank you for reading.

Phil's analysis and comment

It sounds like you and your wife both work very hard. I don't know the ins and outs of online work but organising 25 individual students can't be easy, Fair play to you if online teaching is bringing in well other 100K a month though. I'm not sure if I had to teach 35-45 hours a week, I could be bothered with running coffee shops and laundries. Where do you find the time? I remember teaching 38 contact hours a week and hardly having the time to eat and sleep.   


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 330 total

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