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 24th October 2021

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿46 to one Pound Sterling
฿39 to one Euro
฿25 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.66 THB to one Philippine Peso

Ellen

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 40-70,000

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

I earn 40,000 baht per month, working 20 hours per week. I am not required at the school when I am not teaching so I often partake in private classes, corporate teaching and do freelance writing projects. Income can change month to month, depending on how hard I work but 50,000 tends to suit me just fine. If I have something I need to save for, a trip or an expense, I can just work harder.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Nothing, I am not really a saver. I know it is irresponsible and at 32, should probably be preparing for the future but right now, living, for now suits me just fine. I have a few small debts from impulsive past travel on credit cards etc so anything left over, I pay back or take a trip somewhere. I get reduced flights as my girlfriend is cabin crew for an international airline so I am also lucky enough to be able to go home quite easily when I need to.

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

I live in a one-bedroom condo with a pool and gym for 11,000. My school offered me free accommodation but it was quite dated and without air-con and I like a really homely living space. 11,000 was a bit out of budget but figured I wouldn't need a gym membership on top of this and find gyms to be really expensive in Thailand.

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

Transportation

Next to nothing really. I love walking...especially in hot weather and I walk a lot. My school is a ten-minute walk away and I find Grab is really cheap for short motorbike trips. My BTS station is currently part of the new-build free routes to the surrounding 5 stops, including Ladprao, which is where I often go. I often visit friends in the On Nut and Ratchathewi areas but taxis are so cheap here compared to home

Utility bills

Electricity is usually around 1,500 with water no more than 300 baht. I pay 500 baht for my home wifi and mobile sim-card which is so cheap considering my data allowance. I don't get insurance with my school, so I pay around 1,000 baht for this.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I don't like Western food and I find food to be so cheap in Thailand, I don't even have a plate or a fork in my condo!
Breakfast is coffee. I pay 100 baht a week with my colleagues and one of our teachers cooks a superb lunch for us each day. Day-to-day, I will have a 50 baht dinner and maybe a can of Leo to go with it. I spend a bit more when socializing with friends, but they are all Thai and I am very happy with local food. I eat out a bit when my girlfriend is back in Bangkok and we like trying new places but this is just a few times a month.

Nightlife and drinking

TOO MUCH! I never go to clubs or anything, but I meet with friends for dinner and beers maybe more than I should. Again, it is always local bars and restaurants so inexpensive, but again, maybe I do this a bit too much and this is where most of my income, alongside clothes shopping goes.
When my girlfriend is back here from the country she is based in with her airline, we tend to go somewhere nice, stay out too late and we really love craft beer. Craft beer is crazy expensive in Thailand but this is no more than a couple of times a month.

Books, computers

Nothing, I have my own laptop and any books I get from used book stores.

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

I have an incredible standard of living in Thailand because it suits my preference just fine. I could never afford to get a decent place to live and socialise as much as I do here, in the UK. I eat so well here and feel much healthier in Thailand than I do at home as I eat fresh ingredients and exercise much more. I can hear the moaning about pollution already but, 'sabai sabai'.

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

Food, accommodation and travel. I love taking trips/holidays and the domestic flights in Thailand allow you to be in a destination on other people's bucket lists for next to nothing....in an hour!
I absolutely adore food and the best food in Thailand is usually the cheapest.
I also like vintage and second-hand clothing and in the UK, it tends to be more expensive than designer-wear, in Manchester anyway. I absolutely love shopping for clothes in Thailand and the second-hand stores and local-designer clothes at JJ are unbelievably cheap.

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

I see people on groups saying you need a minimum of 100,000 baht to live in Bangkok and I just genuinely don't know where these people go, or what they do.

Fine, I don't save any money but I could if I wanted to. I could cut down on things I loved a bit and work harder but I am happy as I am for now. I eat well, travel, see friends and go shopping often.

Prior to moving here permanently, I was offered salaries much higher than my 40,000 but I loved my school the second I stepped foot in it and feel day-to-day happiness is more important. My 40,000 + bits extra here and there are fine for me and working with the Thai military, I feel it gives me an air of safety in Thailand that is worth ten times my salary.

I think you need a Western income to live a Western lifestyle here but if I wanted that, I would live at home. I like and appreciate anything Thai and it is why I live here so the food, local bars, beer gardens etc are all part of why I love it.

What I really love so much about Thailand is you can make it suit all budgets. I have spent 8,000 baht in one night before and also managed to make 250 baht last a week - it is up to you and anything is possible in this dynamic and beautiful country!

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Ellen for such a detailed survey and such a good read! I got to the end of it and thought 'hold on! I know this young lady!' So I put two and two together (Manchester, age, past experiences, etc) and this could only be Ellen the stand-up comic LOL. 

I strongly urge you to read the hot seat interview that Ellen did for Ajarn over 5 years ago (my God, hasn't time flown) because it was obvious from that interview that one day Ellen would return and make Thailand her permanent home. She loved this country so much. And I'm made up that you are making a great success of it.

I'm not going to analyze the figures in your survey, Ellen, because you argue them so convincingly. Thank you for your contributions to Ajarn over the years and if we ever get the chance to meet, the craft beers are on me! 


Peter

Working in Rayong

Monthly Earnings 100 - 200K per month

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

My teaching salary is 35K and my online income is anywhere between 80-160K per month. I don't really need the salary, but I teach because I enjoy it. Having smiling, happy faces every day beats staring at a laptop. Luckily I can juggle both during a normal school day.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I typically save all my online income as my school salary is more than enough to survive on in Rayong.

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

I live in a condo for 7,000 per month, which has a nice pool and a gym.

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

Transportation

About 500 baht for fuel. I have my own motorcycle so my only expense is fuel.

Utility bills

Zero for electricity since it is included in my rent. The water bill is typically 200 baht per month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Probably about 10K per month.

Nightlife and drinking

Zero. I don't drink and there is no nightlife in Rayong.

Books, computers

Zero. I have my own laptop, which I use to work online as well as teach.

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

Very good compared to my home country (South Africa). Having two incomes and being able to save one of them also helps.

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

Safety. I know this is not a country that most Americans, Brits, or Europeans would consider safe but compared to South Africa it's very safe. Everything is relative.

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

It all depends on your lifestyle. I would say that you shouldn't depend on only your teaching salary. Find extra revenue streams where you can, and you'll thrive, not just survive.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Peter. 100,000 to 200,000 baht a month is a hell of a salary range. How many months a year do you hit the 200 mark?

I would love to know how many hours of online teaching you do a month, given that you have to fit that around your full-time job, and also your hourly rate.  I know there are many teachers who do well with the online stuff but not sure many are making 160K if it's purely a second job. I stand to be corrected though.  

My old pal, Johnny Reid, read this and made a good point - "many teachers keep the bricks and mortar gig just for the work permit and visa, it certainly isn't for the money"


Hansie

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 65,000

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

65,000 is my salary for working 4 days a week as a general manager in a language school in central Bangkok. I used to work in an A-tier international school as a sport coach but decided to work less, start a business online and work just 4 days a week. My salary dropped by half, but I just work 25 hours a week now and do not teach anymore. We have a 1-year-old daughter, so I like spending time with her and to work from home too.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

On my salary nothing, but I'm married and my wife earns a great income (220K nett per month as a director for an advertising company). Also we bought a couple of condos as investments. We also bought a house next to the BTS in the suburbs of Bangkok. As a couple, we can save maybe 60K a month after all expenses.

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

We have a 25K mortgage for our house and about the same for the two condos, which we rent out.

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

Transportation

We have a car and I use the BTS. I would say about 6,000 baht a month.

Utility bills

About 3,000 for electric bills and another 1,000 for internet.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I'd say about 10-15,000 a month on dining out and 10,000 a month for our monthly shopping at Tesco Lotus.

Nightlife and drinking

I used to be a nightlife fan, but after marriage and now with a child, I go out maybe once a month. We'll call that about 3,000.

Books, computers

I use a 4-year old laptop at home.

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

Compared to when I arrived in Thailand a decade ago, I would say I lead an upper middle class lifestyle.

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

Eating Thai food, luxury hotels and anything that is labor intensive.

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

Hard to say because it depends on the person. For someone here on a 1-2 year adventure, I guess 40-50K a month would do but that would be just a break-even figure.

If you take yourself seriously as a teacher and think about the future - healthcare, pension, savings, kids, trips home, full-time nanny etc, you are coming closer to a minimum of 120K a month and with a family even more. Anything less than that and in my opinion you shouldn't be here. I pay 70,000 a year for health insurance alone.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Hansie. I guess 65K a month for 4 days is a week is not too bad, especially if it allows you to spend more quality time with your daughter. It helps no end when you have a wife bringing in over 200K a month but I'd be interested in knowing how stressful and time-consuming that position is. Do you wish you saw more of her? Does she often bring her work home? etc.

Buying a condo or two as an investment (and then renting them out) is something my wife has considered many times but as yet, she hasn't taken the plunge. 


RJ

Working in Central Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 53,000 - 65,000

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

My standard monthly salary is 53,000. During term time I also teach 'after school' lessons (during school hours) which make me another 8-12K a month.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I'm more than happy living a 'Thai lifestyle', eating street food and enjoying a simple day to day life. My rent, bills and monthly expenses are low, and I *could* comfortably save half of my salary each month. That's not to say I have. Since 2015 I have traveled extensively, visiting almost all Asian countries. I've had the most amazing four and a half years and wouldn't change it for the world, but it has come at a cost of having almost no savings.

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

I pay 10,000 baht for a fairly modern studio apartment with amazing views overlooking Sukhumvit. The condo has a swimming pool, decent gym and a sauna.

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

Transportation

I own a motorcycle and use it to ride to work, as well as the odd trip to the shopping malls. I spend approximately 100 baht every two weeks on fuel.

Utility bills

Government rates electricity 800 - 1,500 a month.
Internet and phone contract - 800 baht
Water - 50 baht

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I much prefer Thai food to Western food and most of the time I'm happy eating 50 baht street food, so food expenses are fairly low.

Nightlife and drinking

I find drinking in bars to be more expensive than back home in the UK. Fortunately I rarely drink these days, and will only drink in bars if there is a special sports occasion.
Maximum 2,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

Maximum 1,000 baht a month.

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

I often hear expats moaning about living in Thailand, but apart from the pollution in Bangkok I can't find many complaints. I love it. My standard of living is far better than it was back in the UK.

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

If booked in advance, air fares to other countries in Asia.

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

If you're a single guy with no dependents and you're happy to live a simple life, I'd say 40,000 baht is enough to live a relatively comfortable life in Bangkok. Of course you would have to prioritize what to spend your money on, as it wouldn't allow for a nice condo, travel, regularly eating out and other luxuries - and certainly not savings for the future.

My 'live for today' attitude, prioritizing travel over saving, will probably be seen as irresponsible by most, and I'd tend to agree. But do I regret it? Not really, as I've had the time of my life over the past four years, and you never know what the future holds.

That being said, having recently reached the big 30, I realise it would be a foolish move not to plan for the future. For this reason I am (reluctantly) returning home next year to gain my professional teaching qualifications, in order to return to Bangkok on a much higher salary. For a young guy 50-60k is fine, but I wouldn't want to live on that kind of salary for the rest of my working life.

Phil's analysis and comment

RJ, I'd love to introduce you to my sister-in-law because I think you would get on famously. She's probably a good few years older than you but she has travelled all over the world. If you tell a travel story, she's got a travel story to top it. Her mantra is 'spend life gathering experiences and creating memories you'll never forget. One day you will be too old to do these things. Don't worry about the future because it will generally take care of itself'

I suppose many cautious folks will see that attitude as reckless but I often think she has a point. I think it's great that you've done loads of travelling and seen so many places. They are memories no one can take away from you. 

We're a long time dead! 


Nick

Working in Suphanburi

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

34,000 is my full-time salary with the rest coming from private students. I live with my Filipina girlfriend who is also a teacher and she makes around 21,000 baht a month. We split expenses on a lot of things.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

15-20,000. We tend to plan a large trip once a month because we like to explore the world. That can change the amount that we save each month.

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

I live in a well kept apartment complex that costs me around 4,000-4,500 a month, split between me and my girlfriend. This includes water and electric (a/c).

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

Transportation

I rent a scooter from a Suzuki shop and I pay 1,800 a month, plus about 100 baht a week for gas. We take the minibus around the region once a month or so for 200 baht total.

Utility bills

Included in accommodation as mentioned above.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We spend about 6.000 baht a month on food, about 500 baht a week for groceries, and about 1,000 a week for eating out at various places. We tend to eat at a 'fancy' place once a week or so, i.e. pizza, sushi, McDonald's.

Nightlife and drinking

We rarely go out for entertainment and we spend a minimal amount on drinking, only buying a case of Leos to split with our Filipino friends once or twice a month.

Books, computers

We don't purchase much of this to consider it.

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

We live a good life, planning our trips out and always being conscious with our spending, but not too much that we don't enjoy our luxuries.

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

Food, rent, beer. You name it.

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

If you are able to 'do as the Thais do', then you can earn around 30,000 with no sweat for an individual.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Nick. So what we have here is a couple of teachers living together with a joint income of over 60,000 baht. With less than 5,000 being spent on accommodation and 6,000 on food (the main expenses) you're both left with almost 50,000 in the kitty to spend in Suphanburi. Doesn't surprise me at all that you enjoy 'a good life'.

My best Thai friend comes from Suphanburi and he's fiercely proud of it. I've been there with my wife several times and I think it's a lovely town. Yes, it's quiet and there isn't an awful lot to do but I've always admired the polite, softly spoken locals and the whole place is kept immaculately clean. I could quite easily live in Suphanburi. It's not too far from Bangkok either. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 369 total

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