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 29th May 2024

฿37 to one US Dollar
฿47 to one Pound Sterling
฿40 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.63 THB to one Philippine Peso

Faisal

Working in Ratchaburi

Monthly Earnings 25,000

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

I teach at a big government school on the outskirts of Ratchaburi town. My full-time salary is 22,000 baht a month but I can increase that to 25,000 almost every month with some extra tutoring. For my full-time salary I teach from Monday to Friday and have 18 contact hours.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I try to save 5,000 - 10,000 baht a month to keep in the bank but sometimes I have a large expense. This month I needed a new fan and a kettle. That was 1,500 baht gone in the blink of my eye.

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

My school provides an apartment in a building just five minutes walk away. It's just a small studio with a balcony but comfortable for one person. The rent is 4,000 baht a month and the school pays half of that amount.

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

Transportation

Nothing because I can walk to school. I don't really have any other option because I don't live on one of the regular songthaew routes and there are no motorbike taxis around me.

Utility bills

My electricity and water bills come to around 1,000 a month but I have to pay that myself. I have aircon but the unit is very old and I think it would be expensive to run so I don't switch it on much. The weather has been boiling got this last month though so I had to run it for a couple of hours to survive.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I get breakfast and lunch provided at school so I only have to buy an evening meal. I usually pick up something from the street or in the market. There is a fantastic selection of food sellers that set up each night in front of the school to catch the kids as they go home and you can pick up meat on a stick for 5 baht, which goes well with sticky rice.

Nightlife and drinking

I don't drink it all. If I go out in the evening, it will be just a walk along the river and perhaps an ice cream or some other snack.

Books, computers

Nothing.

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

It's very basic and I know that as a non-native English speaker my salary is not that much but I only recently finished university and this is my first job. I really love teaching and love my students so the money doesn't matter so much at this time in my life if you know what I mean.

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

Food is very good value here and if you are not a night bird and can stay away from the alcohol and other temptations, then you will not need to spend much money.

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

I can survive on 15,000 a month at the moment. That works out at 500 baht a day and it's surprising how that stretches when your food costs just 30 baht and your coffee is 20 baht, etc.

Phil's analysis and comment

Than you Faisal. It's good to hear from the non-NES section of the teacher market, which is of course generally lower paid. It's good to hear that you can still live relatively comfortably. We would like to hear from more teachers in this wage bracket. What about the thousands of Filipinos working here? By doing one of these surveys, you would be helping thousands of other Filipinos who want to come and teach here - but we rarely / never hear from you. 


Colin

Working in Surin

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

I work at one of Surin Province's larger government schools and 40,000 baht a month is my full-time salary. It used to be 35K a month but I've just had a pay-rise for completing my first 12-month contract. I take part in a number of school activities outside normal school hours but I never receive any compensation for that time, nor do I really expect to. Sometimes a school sees the loyal foreign teacher as part of the Thai family I suppose.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

On a good month, I can easily save half of my salary. There is very little to spend your money on up here. My motto has always been 'live within your means' so I never spend more than the salary I earn - even if I'm feeling flush.

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

I pay 3,000 baht a month for a studio apartment in a fairly low-end apartment building, which are common in this part of Thailand. I have a bed, a wardrobe and a table and that's really it as far as furniture is concerned. The toilet is the Thai squat-style and I take showers in cold water but that's fine except maybe in the cool season for a few weeks.

All six of the foreign teachers who work at my school live here and in the evening we sit outside, usually joined by a few of the Thai residents as well. We'll order a few bottles of beer and someone will run off to get a bag of 'moo ping' and we'll just sit around practicing our Thai and enjoying what is a very simple but fulfilling lifestyle. It's the kind of lifestyle I came to Thailand for. My primary objective was always to escape the hurly burly of city life.

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

Transportation

I ride a bicycle to school so that costs me nothing. I sometimes take the train into Buriram or perhaps a bit further afield, but as anyone who has travelled by third class train in Thailand will tell you, the tickets are ludicrously cheap!

Utility bills

Water and electricity come to barely a thousand baht. Believe it or not, I do have an air-con unit in my room, but it's never on for more than 2-3 hours a day. I tend to use it to cool down the room before I go to sleep and for 30 minutes while I'm getting ready for work in the morning.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Most of my meals are bought from footpath vendors (usually about 25 baht a portion) and I eat lunch at school. I generally skip breakfast, but I'm not a big eater anyway. I also avoid 7-11s if I can because there is too much temptation to 'impulse buy'. My monthly food bill is probably around 5,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

This is Surin, so most of what's available tends to be a Thai scene and I keep away from Thai men that have had too much to drink. That's not to say foreigners aren't welcome but I never really enjoyed nights out at Thai pubs. I prefer to sit around and drink in front of the apartment building.

Books, computers

I have a laptop and the normal internet / phone plan, which I think comes to around 500 baht a month. I'm not much of a reader.

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

A very basic standard of living is all I strive for and it's very easily achievable if you move to the North East. I look for a life that's both minimalist and uncomplicated. Having lots of possessions, the latest smartphone, top of the range trainers and a circle of rich friends just doesn't interest me. Not one iota.

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

Third class train fares and street food.

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

I can survive comfortably on 30K a month (even less) but I appreciate my lifestyle certainly isn't for everyone. In fact, it's probably not for most foreign teachers. But I've lived this way for a year and a half now and I haven't got bored of it yet.

Phil's analysis and comment

Wow! Thanks Col. I think your survey is about as 'rural foreign teacher living the simple life' as we've ever had. But as long as you're happy - and you clearly are - then that's all that matters. I remember one of my very first apartments in Bangkok back in the early 90s and a situation very similar to yours. A whole gang of us (Thais and foreigners) would congregate in front of the building in the evening for some drink and banter. Great times! 


Robert

Working in A suburb just outside Khorat

Monthly Earnings 35,000

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 35,000 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 35K salary as far as it will go.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 10,000 - 15,000 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. 35,000 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.


Graham

Working in Pathum Thani, near Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 60,000 baht in a good month

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

I'm in my mid-fifties and supposedly semi-retired in Thailand but I made friends with a local school owner, offered to help her out by doing a few lessons to keep me busy, students liked me, and it unfortunately snowballed from there. Never make the mistake of telling people on your moobarn (housing estate) that you're an English teacher. I'll quote silly prices like a thousand baht an hour and they'll say 'when can you start?' My friendly face and harmless demeanour have definitely been my downfall.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I live relatively comfortably on 30K a month. If I have a big expense like a trip abroad or I need to replace the washing machine, I can dip into my savings.

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

I bought a two-bedroom, two-storey house several years ago with my Thai partner for about 3.5 million I think it was. Thankfully, the neighbors are all good people and the moobarn has maintained its standards. I just couldn't do condo living.

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

Transportation

I have a little motorcycle for zipping around the moobarn. I put a few hundred baht in the tank each month and it's probably enough to go around the world twice.

Utility bills

The air-con is blasting from the moment I walk in the door to the moment I leave so my electricity bill is usually around 3-4,000 (even more in the hot season) Water, phone, internet, Netflix and all that stuff comes to around another thousand.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

About 7,000 baht per month. I do that thing whereby you buy salads and fresh stuff from the local market and eat healthily for 3-4 days, then because I can't be bothered to go to the market twice in the same week, the last three days tends to be a diet of pot noodles and flaming hot Monster Munch.

Nightlife and drinking

I got the bars out of my system many moons ago. Wild horses couldn't drag me out for a night in Bangkok these days. Too many arseholes around. I do like a can of beer at home though and can sink three or four most nights. Shall we say 3-4,000 a month?

Books, computers

I find it hard to concentrate on a book and I'm getting more and more bored with the internet and the social media thing. Even my smartphone is five years old! How people can spend 30K on a bloody phone is beyond me!

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

It's perfectly fine. Sometimes I begrudge the number of hours I work but that's totally my fault for not being able to say no. Some of it isn't even English teaching. It's more like babysitting. I 'teach' a 6-year-old boy and his little sister twice a week and I'm holding up flashcards to teach them present continuous and running across the room to slap me on the head. "What's this man doing?" Slap! "That's right - he's swimming". Slap!
Sometimes on the motorcycle ride back to the house, my head is still stinging.

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

Anything that's labour intensive like having something cleaned or painted or chopped down.

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

Even if I didn't have savings to fall back on, I would still say 50-60K is enough for Bangkok. You're not living the life of Reilly but you're more than surviving. I guess a big factor would be how much you spend on accommodation.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Graham. Your survey brought to mind a couple of teenagers I taught at my house for around 18 months in the late 90s. Every Sunday at 1.00pm I used to dread that doorbell ringing. The only reason I kept up the lessons was because I liked their father. He was a good man but his two kids were a complete waste of time. They would pinch each other under the table and giggle for the entire duration of a 90-minute lesson. I counted every single second until it was over. Never do private lessons just because the money is good!


Carl

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)

I set up an online company some years ago that pulls in around €5K a month, sometimes triple that. From that, I pay myself a salary.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

50,000 Baht.

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

I live in a rented one-bedroom condo with my girlfriend who is now unwell and isn’t able to work and pay 20K a month. It's a wonderful place that would cost thousands of dollars almost anywhere else in the world.

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

Transportation

Usually around 6K a month on Grabs around the city according to my financial app. That’s higher than I expected - much, much higher

Utility bills

4K a month, sometimes 2.5K if I remember to switch the bedroom AC off when I’m in the living room. I like the whole condo to feel cool for some reason

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

10K a month on groceries at Big C. Salad and veggies are quite expensive here. Probably another 4K at Max Value on bits when we need stuff

Nightlife and drinking

Ah yes, now we get into it. Probably 40K a month. Sometimes more. We both like (liked) to eat out and I enjoy wines (expensive here). As I don’t have much work to do I sometimes get pissed for 2 or 3 days in a row around lower Sukhumwit.

Books, computers

What’s kindle unlimited , 300 baht a month? Get a MacBook every 2 years or so through the business . Don’t see that as a personal expense. Probably around 2,000 baht more on various digital subscriptions , oh and TrueVision / Move etc

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

Opulent. I don’t have to do much work-wise, maybe the odd call for an hour in a week. Sometimes not even that. My girlfriend and I and are now in our late 30s and both want to enjoy life now, raging against the dying of the light. Long term finances are fine, I've got a pension and she’s got inheritance. People keep advising me to invest in property, but as a good Marxist, I believe all property is theft.

Nobody in either of our families has ever lived “well” past their mid-60s. Most of her Thai family didn’t see 55

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

Thai food, electric, renting, water, cleaners, etc

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

30K a month living in a 5K studio in Sutthisan, 1K electric, 400 baht internet, socialising locally. Aye, those were the days

Phil's analysis and comment

Carl, you don't say whether your 150,000 baht a month business is anything to do with English teaching or not - and Ajarn is a site for teachers. I know a bloke in the oil industry who earns a million baht a month and spends every weekend on the golf course with a bunch of mates who all earn a million baht a month. Do teachers want to read about him? Probably not. No disrespect.  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 427 total

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