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 16th October 2019

฿30 to one US Dollar
฿38 to one Pound Sterling
฿33 to one Euro
฿21 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.59 THB to one Philippine Peso

Atwo

Working in Udon Thani

Monthly Earnings 34,000

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

All of my income comes from one full-time position. I have considered getting another line of income but I do enjoy my free time. That is part of the whole reason I moved to Thailand; to explore and enjoy my free time.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save roughly 21,000 baht a month pretty easily. It's just about budgeting and choosing what you want to do.

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

I live in an apartment. It's more of a French style chalet to be more precise. I have a big bathroom, one bedroom, a sizable living area, kitchen, two patios, and a space for my hammock.

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

Transportation

I have a motorbike and fuel runs about 400 baht a month if I am really putting the miles on it.

Utility bills

Water is 100 baht for unlimited use. Electricity is about 900 baht or less. This is offset by the use of a water fan, which I would recommend to everyone.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is about 2,000 baht. I spend 800 baht a month on meats. I can get away with about 200 baht on vegetables at this wonderful Monday market we have. I go once a week and buy everything I will need for the week.

Eating out is variable as I don't like to go to restaurants that much, but I budget 1,000 a month for that if I do decide to go out and eat.

Nightlife and drinking

I budget 5,000 for this because I do like to go out and have a drink and a mingle. Since I ride my motorbike all the time it is important to have a high budget for enjoying yourself. I also count nightlife as a part of the adventure/exploratory section.

Books, computers

My Mac Air is running strong and I read books online for free. So this is a zero spend area.

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

It's a comfortable and free lifestyle in Udon Thani.

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

A real bargain in Udon Thani is the cost of street food. If I had to pick a real bargain in terms of my situation it would have to be unlimited water use.

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

In my opinion, someone could earn 25,000 and get away with it. Rent and utilities always take a chunk, but you could work around that by finding places for 2,000 to 3,000 a month.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Atwo. It sounds like a nice and peaceful, free and easy lifestyle in Udon Thani. 

For those not familiar with where Udon Thani is, it's one of the big four cities in the North-east. It's way up there in Isaan and not too far from Nongkhai and the border with Laos.

It must be a nice place to live and work if you're looking for a hassle-free existence and you also have a largish city on your doorstep. There's obviously some nightlife as well for those who want it.  


Joey

Working in Seoul, South Korea

Monthly Earnings 120,000 baht per month

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

120,000 is the total salary. I teach social studies at an international school in Korea. If you choose, and I often do, you can teach extra classes for around 1,700 baht an hour. This can boost the salary a bit as well. These are at the school and can be in any elective subject or extra English classes.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I consider myself a 'super saver' so I save about 80 percent of my salary. Therefore about 90,000 baht a month. I usually shop at Costco as well and this keeps my overheads down.

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

The school gives me a stipend of about 20,000 baht for housing (which is not that much in Seoul actually) but it seems to cover the majority of housing options.

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

Transportation

2,700 baht a month. This is the best deal in all of Seoul. The subway/bus system is about 45 baht a ride. You cannot even compare how much better, quicker and farther ranging the Seoul subway is compared to Bangkok's. It gets crowded at times but people are generally considerate and polite.

Utility bills

In Winter, this would be about 7-8,000 baht. Seoul gets damn cold and heating is not cheap. I try to use my heat only a moderate amount. Most of my co-workers pay a lot more for this. Summer would be down to 5-6,000 baht. Seoul is ultra freezing in winter and even hotter than Thailand in June, July and August. Basically, the weather sucks. You just have to manage.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

8-10,000 baht a month. Costco is a life-saver here and keeps the bills down. A healthy and tasty meal in a normal Korean restaurant will cost about 200-300 baht for a huge plate of Korean food. Supermarkets are pretty expensive, but local veggie and fruit markets are about half the price.

Nightlife and drinking

3,000 baht. I don't go out much these days like I used to in Thailand but usually have a date or two per week. Seoul is very competitive for bars, clubs and eating spots so there are plenty of deals to be found.

Books, computers

None. School provides us with computers and 300 dollars a year to buy books for our professional development.

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

I have a pretty easy job with smart, enthusiastic students in a slightly less fun country than Thailand - but am really enjoying it for the more orderly life.

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

The subway is damn near free it is so cheap. It goes everywhere within a 2-hour radius. You can reach mountains, valleys, satellite cities and beaches for about 60 baht. Seoul is surrounded by gorgeous mountain ranges so hiking is a very popular pastime here. Besides maybe Hong Kong, I am not sure there are more accessible mountains next to any metropolis in the world. Great for dates too!

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

I would say with about 80,000 baht a month, you could have a comfortable life (if housing is also taken care of by your school)

I work at an international school that is like a B-level school - not a top level place but also not a fraudster place either. It would probably be considered a bilingual school in a lot of countries. The English teaching business has been in real decline in Korea for the last eight or so years. Lots of people have moved to China or Vietnam for similar wages and much lower expenses.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Joey.  So there you go - an 80,000 baht salary and a decent housing allowance will get you a good standard of living in Seoul.  I'm guessing that Costco is a budget supermarket chain of some description, rather like Aldi or Lidl? 


Brian

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 75,000

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

I earn 42,000 baht a month after tax from my full-time job at a Bangkok university and I top my earnings up to about 75,000 with private students and a little bit of online teaching. I'm lucky inasmuch as my university don't mind me not being around when I'm not teaching so that leaves me with plenty of free time to do extra work and boost my monthly income.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I try to set myself a target of 20-25,000 a month but don't always achieve it. I enjoy travelling in Thailand and try to get out of Bangkok at least six times a year for a long weekend. After rent and food, travelling is easily my biggest expense.

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

I've just moved up in the world and gone from a 6,000 baht a month studio to a 10,000 baht a month one-bedroom apartment with a small kitchen area. I've only been in my new place for one month but it's so worth the extra money to have a bit more space and be able to have a guest come around and not feel like you're on top of each other.

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

Transportation

My new apartment is only four sky-train stops from where I work. Thrown in a few taxi fares at the weekend when I go out and about and I wouldn't have thought transportation comes to more than 1,500 baht.

Utility bills

I'm something of an air-con fanatic and it goes on from the moment I walk in the door to the moment I leave. I haven't had a bill at the new place yet but I'm expecting something in the region of 2-3,000 for the air-con alone. We'll have to wait and see what the electricity and water comes to.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I try to keep this bill as low as possible without feeling like I'm skimping or starving to death. I get an adequate lunch at the university for peanuts and I set myself up for the day with a good breakfast of toast, cereal and a bit of fresh fruit. That just leaves me with an evening meal to find. Sometimes I'll skip it and make do with a fruit smoothie, otherwise I eat in a local Thai restaurant where they know my face now and meals are about 50 baht.

In all honesty, I've never been much of a foodie and I'm never tempted by Western or fast food restaurants, although I enjoy a very occasional McDonalds. I bet I don't spend more than 8,000 a month on food.

Nightlife and drinking

I like a drink! I have about four bars on Sukhumwit Rd that I regularly frequent but a couple of pints and perhaps a few games of pool is enough. Probably 10,000 a month if I go out three or four nights a week. The places I go to all have very reasonable beer prices but they are not what you would call 'lady bars'. Those places can suck you dry.

Books, computers

I download the odd book for my Kindle and my laptop is four years old and still going strong. This is not a great expense.

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

I'm doing OK on 75,000. I think it's a decent income for a single guy in Bangkok, without really putting much away for the future.

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

Getting around Bangkok is not expensive and local Thai restaurants serve up a good plate for food for a couple of dollars.

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

I've always felt no matter how much you earn, you'll find ways to spend it. I've been in Bangkok a while and I've earned salaries of 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 and now 75,000 and to be honest, only my living accommodation feels better. Of course 75K is better than 40K because you can go out more, you can travel, you can taxis more often - but I still find saving money just as difficult. There is no doubt that Bangkok is getting more and more expensive, so to go back to the original question - I would have said a minimum of 50,000 for a single guy.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Brian. I think 75,000 a month is a very decent income for a single guy in Bangkok, especially as it sounds like only 15,000 a month (probably less) is going to go on rent and bills.  That leaves you with 60,000 a month (about 2,000 baht a day) in your pocket. That's not to be sniffed at. I'm surprised that you don't save more than you do actually but perhaps when you go away for those long weekends, you do so in style!  

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.    


James

Working in Beijing, China

Monthly Earnings 200,000

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

I moved to Beijing about a year ago having returned to the UK to complete a masters degree in TESOL. Prior to that I had worked in Chiang Mai for a year on about 40,000 per month. I now run a very successful language school with my Chinese girlfriend and my salary is direct from our business.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

We live north of Beijing so living costs are low. At the moment I save about 150,000 per month.

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

We rent a one-bedroom apartment here and pay 20,000 per month. It's quite big and has all the mod cons.

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

Transportation

Not much at all. I cycle to work and use Mobike which is pocket change each month. The subway and buses here are incredibly cheap compared to what I paid in UK. I can travel to the city centre (about hour on subway) for about 50p.

Utility bills

Included in rental fee.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We tend to eat at home mostly as we both enjoy food shopping and cooking. Maybe once or twice a week, we'll eat out at restaurants. Per month I probably spend 15,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

Occasional drinker but rarely a nightclubber now I'm in my mid thirties. I enjoy a good Scotch whisky and bring couple bottles back every time I return home to visit parents. Per month I probably spend about 5,000.

Books, computers

I recently bought new laptop which was essential but should last the next 3 years or so. I'm an avid reader and probably get through five books a month. On average I probably spend between 5-10,000.

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

After many difficult years, I am now living a very successful and comfortable life.

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

Transport, as mentioned. It's incredibly cheap here and the subway is very efficient once I managed to work it out.

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

Beijing is actually quite cheap if you have a partner or friend here to help you. To survive it's probably about the same as Bangkok at around 30-40,000. But there are so many great opportunities here in a rapidly advancing economy that with even half decent qualifications you can easily earn double that.

Phil's analysis and comment

Sounds like you are doing well James.  My sister-in-law opened a language school a good few years ago and I helped her as much as I could, but eventually it failed because of the poor location. In fact, the whole shopping complex failed to take off in the end. However, I bet a language school in China is a lucrative business if you can hit it right and it sounds like you and your partner have certainly done that. 


Ash

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 115,000

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

I work in the high school section of an international school. I receive 115,000 baht after tax, including housing allowance. I have not engaged in any extra work at the moment, but may consider taking up some in the future.

To be honest, I left the previous work country due to the insane workload, expectation and stress. I didn't make the move to Bangkok just to slave away again!

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I've only just started working in Bangkok for a few months, so I did spend quite a lot to start up. I have been tracking my expenses on a mobile app, so if I disregard the initial one-off purchases like household electronics, rental deposits etc., I am looking at around 50,000 baht savings per month. I would expect to save more once I'm properly settled in. Perhaps I'll do another cost of living survey then.

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

I live on my own, and pay 12,000 baht per month for a 1-bedroom condo. It's about a 5-minute motorcycle ride to the nearest BTS station, but I don't need to take the BTS anyway as I'm fairly close to my workplace.

I did previously consider staying near BTS stations or where all the actions are, but paying minimum 20,000 for tiny 28 sqm boxes and the ironically longer commute just don't seem to be worth it. I tried staying a couple weeks in different studio apartments when I first got here, and while I appreciated having amenities right at my doorstep, the claustrophobia just got too real, too quickly.

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

Transportation

My weekly commute on motorcycle taxis and weekends out come up to about 1,800 baht a month. I've come to realise that grab bikes are usually cheaper than motorcycle taxis, but local taxis (running on meter) are cheaper than grab taxis. Go figure.

Utility bills

Electricity, (tap) water, internet and phone cost me around 2,000 baht. I use the AC quite a lot, Bangkok's heat is just too relentless. I also have a drinking water delivery subscription that is around 250 baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

The school provides lunch, which I am very thankful for. I cook a lot and spent almost 8,000 baht on groceries this month (though that does include household items). On the rare occasions that I do eat out, it would average to around 300 baht per meal. I suppose I spend around 6000-9,000 baht a month on restaurant and food.

Some people say that shopping in local markets is cheaper than supermarket, but I have experienced being charged farang prices in local markets. Supermarkets just seem more reliable with their clear price tags, plus having AC while shopping is always preferred.

Nightlife and drinking

I do not drink, nor do I party. Entertainment would be the occasional movie in theatre, shopping in malls and markets, and thai massage. I find it hard to buy local-brand clothes and shoes that fit nicely, yet I am pretty reluctant to pay the inflated prices of imported brands. Most of my shopping in Bangkok is for 'home improvements'. Overall 3,000 baht a month for all that seems reasonable to me.

Books, computers

I do not spend money on books as I visit my school's library for that. This is an oddly niche section to have, I would say just placing 'other expenses' might be more insightful. I travel a bit, so a monthly average of 4,000 baht is spent on that.

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

Enjoying this new-found financial independence, living the way I want with a good amount of money to spare.

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

Food and transport, for sure. To put things into perspective, my food and transport expenses in Bangkok is only around 30% of what I would normally spend in my previous country, and I think I eat even better here.

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

I've always lived in big cities, so although I don't consider myself to have a lavish over-the-top lifestyle, I think a minimum of 40,000 baht a month is needed or I wouldn't even come here.

On a side note, is it possible to add a search function to the cost of living section so we can filter surveys by locations?

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Ash for an interesting survey.

I've made a note of the points you make regarding the questions. Perhaps 'how much money do you need to survive?' might be better worded as 'how much money do you need to lead a decent lifestyle?' Then again, I'm sure lots of folk have just as many opinions on the definition of 'decent' as they do about the definition of 'survive'.  

Re-wording 'books and computers' to 'other expenses' is a good idea as well.  

And I believe a search function is not too far away!


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 297 total

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