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.

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Approximate Thai Baht (฿) conversion rates as of 3rd March 2024

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฿45 to one Pound Sterling
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฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

Callum

Working in Bangkok

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 teacher placement agency at a secondary school in Bangkok. My take home pay is around 35,000 baht a month for around 18 contact hours a week. Although the school promised me extra hours to bump up my pay, these hours have not materialised in the two months I've been here and I'm starting to give up hope.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Nothing. In fact I've been dipping into my savings to the tune of around 5-15,000 baht a month. That certainly wasn't part of the grand plan.

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

The school found a studio apartment for me within walking distance (it's a decent 20-minute walk though) and it costs 6,000 baht a month plus bills. It's an OK apartment building but I guess it's typically Thai with sometimes four people sharing a room. It can get a bit noisy at weekends, especially when kids play in the car park out front, and also when people return from partying in the wee small hours. If I was going to stick around for longer than a year, I'd certainly look for somewhere better but it's just not a priority at the moment.

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

Transportation

This figure boils down to just the odd taxi at the weekend so barely 500 baht I guess.

Utility bills

Electricity and water come to around 1,500 baht and my monthly phone plan adds another 500.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is the cost I struggle to keep down and I'm finding myself eating out at western food / fast food joints far too often. What doesn't help is that I don't like Thai food all that much but I do eat it from time to time. I'm spending easily 12,000 baht a month on meals, supermarket shopping and 7-11 purchases. It's been a real shock to discover how much a basic supermarket bill can run you. Sometimes it feels like nigh on half of my salary goes on food.

Nightlife and drinking

I would love to go out partying and drinking far more often (that's what young people on gap years do right?) but I find a couple of relatively steady nights is all I can afford. The price of drinking is something else that has surprised me. A friend invited me to a rooftop bar last weekend. All I can say is thank God he was paying!

Books, computers

Oh, this is not much. I have a four-year old laptop that's still going strong. I've never been much of a one for technology.

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

It's very much a month-to-month existence. I'm on the lookout for some evening and weekend though and have a couple of positive leads. If those leads come good, then that extra 15-20K is going to make a hell of a difference to my living standard.

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

In all honesty, nothing really, but perhaps I haven't been here long enough to experience all aspects of expat life in Thailand.

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

In Bangkok, I have no idea how a foreign teacher could survive long-term (and I emphasize the words long-term) on less than 50K a month. And I think even that is a conservative figure. What about when you want to go travelling or make large purchases...or go and sit at a rooftop bar?

Phil's analysis and comment

Nothing you say there surprises me Callum. Although there are a number of teachers willing to argue the case, I simply have no idea how you can survive on 35K in Bangkok. It might be doable in rural towns and cities but certainly not in the capital. Even if a western expat teacher can survive, they aren't putting anything away for a rainy day. On a separate note, food prices are one of the things that seem to be shooting up and up so I sympathise with the difficulty in bringing that part of your expenses down.  

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. 


John

Working in Bangkok (Sukhumvit)

Monthly Earnings 400,000

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

The basic salary is 400K baht after tax, then I get a nice 2-bed serviced apartment which should rent for 60K but is in my package, plus return business flights to the UK, medical insurance, transport, annual bonus and free food at school, which is such a saving tool.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

250K a month

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

As part of my package, I get a two-bed serviced apartment in a very nice building in the center of town.

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

Transportation

School provides a driver for work transport, so I only spend on transport for weekend trips and holidays. Regular weekend private transfers to Hua Hin or Pattaya means probably 10-12K a month.

Utility bills

Included in my package at the service apartment.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

The food at school is great and I eat well every day there. Maybe 500-1K a night on dinner with a drink so 20-30K a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm not a beer snob so happily drink local lagers. Often go out on a Friday and Saturday at maybe 3K a time so 20-30K a month.

Books, computers

I buy books for the kindle app maybe once a month and update with a new tablet and laptop when needs demand. Across the year averaged out to probably be 3-4K a month.

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

Incredibly fortunate to live in this amazing city with the package I have. I have a high standard of living and am luckily saving enough to be planning an early retirement.

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

The school free meals are a great bonus. Local standard beers are also well priced. The real bargain continues to be 5* hotels coming in at 100-150 quid a night. You just can't knock that value and service when you look at what that money would get you back in London.

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

When I first arrived 20 years ago I got by on 70k a month and still saved. So survival on the bare minimum in the middle of Bangkok is possible probably still on 60-80K a month and to make the experience worthwhile.

Phil's analysis and comment

There will be plenty of teachers reading this and asking if it's for real but of course these packages do exist, or at least I think they do. I tell you what John, even 70K twenty years ago was very decent money. Not sure that you've ever had to 'survive', Perhaps we need one of those 30K a month surveys now to bring things back down to reality?


John

Working in Koh Samui

Monthly Earnings 65-70K

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

Salary is 60K per month and part-time tutoring adds another 5-10K

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

At the moment I'm managing 15-20K I could probably do 30 if I was careful.

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

15K to rent a big one-bedroom villa with fitted kitchen, dining and living area, balcony and pool. Prices have risen massively in the last year though and my neighbours are renting for almost double my price.

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

Transportation

Occasional car rental when people visit, but mostly only bike fuel - 1000 baht.

Utility bills

Cheap as chips. Usually 1300-1500 baht

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I like buying food in both markets and Tops/import supermarkets, and I buy good alcohol. 4,000-5,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

I do a pub quiz once a week and maybe a Friday or Saturday, depending.

Books, computers

Varies. Sometimes nothing. But I like picking up the odd book, and buying clothes every couple of months.

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

Comfortably middle-class.

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

Food, even on Samui. Getting a delicious meal for $3 never gets old. Bills are so low also such as electricity and mobile phone. On the other hand, used cars are a rip-off. Anything under 200K baht is a huge risk and far too expensive.

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

If you're single and like Thai food, 35k to 40K is definitely doable if you're away from Samui, Phuket or Bangkok. Things can quickly get expensive otherwise.

Phil's analysis and comment

I'd be interested to know where you work John. Is it as a teacher in a school or is it one of those in-house teacher jobs at a 5-star beach resort that most chalkies can only dream about. Either way I'm sure a 65-70K income goes a long way despite the temptations, and that's pretty much proved by the amount you can save. 


Trevor

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 129,000 baht (including a modest housing allowance)

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

I receive a full-time salary at a small international school of 115,000 baht, with a housing allowance of 14,000. Free education for my son breaks down at about 20,000 baht a month too, I also get free insurance and my son gets a yearly insurance allowance of 19,000. Free lunches for me aren't to be sniffed at either, Overall a generous package,

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

30,000 on average, 50,000 in good months.

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

I rent a very nice house for 25,000. It is secure and safe for my family, gives us lots of space and has a lovely smallish garden which gives a very productive hobby. We considered a condo but a house wins every time for us. We also invested 20,000 in a good alarm system and it is monitored at 499 baht a month, which brings peace of mind.

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

Transportation

Brand new car repayments cost me 10,250 baht a month. Can you believe that? I was paying a similar price for a 7-year old model at home. Insurance, tax and gas are also a fraction of the cost compared to home.

Utility bills

I can't help comparing bills to my friends and family in Europe and America, and they are so minimal. 3,000 a month roughly for electric, 200 baht water and 800 for wifi.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I allow myself two farang deliveries a week, so about 5,000 a month. One fancy Asian food delivery a week comes to about 2,000. Grocery shopping and markets about 10,000? Very flexible I guess.

Nightlife and drinking

1,000 a month on beer? Better add in 3,000 for "date nights",

Books, computers

I do try and build a library for my son because reading with him is so much fun. Maybe around 1,000 a month,

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

A lot better than if I lived in a western country,

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

Absolutely everything. Big shout out to transport, car repayments, insurance, tax, taxis, trains. They are all a bargain compared to home. Also all things to do with property. Seriously everything (if you are willing to respect Thai culture and live like a local).

Also, just pay the "farang prices". I used to hate them too until I holidayed at home and realized they ripped off everyone, locals and tourists,

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

I wouldn't get out of bed for less than 70,000.

I respect your question on survival because I did the 30,000 TEFL gig. It was fine in my early 20s. I am no longer interested in surviving, but glad I had those experiences.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Trevor. It sounds like you have a nice lifestyle and certainly don't want for much. Is a 'date night' a night when you go out with your partner to somewhere like a restaurant or a movie theatre?

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. 


Joe

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 115,000 (including my wife's salary)

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

I earn a relatively low salary for being a subject teacher in an international school in Bangkok, although the tuition-free education makes up for the measly 60,000 baht salary. On top of that, I earn about 9,000 to 12,000 for private IELTS classes, for which I charge a thousand baht an hour. The wife's salary helps a lot. She is Thai and works for a Thai insurance company so we get great health care from that and she earns a good salary with a pension at the end of it. We are both still young (32 and 34 respectively) so we have time.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Nit much at the moment. in fact we barely make it through each month with so many expenses. However, in two or three years when the debts are paid off, things should look brighter.

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

The cost of the mortgage on our house gets deducted from my wife's salary and comes to about 19,000 baht a month. It feels like we're going to be paying that forever. I pay for utilities and other stuff.

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

Transportation

Car payments 8,672 per month (18 months left)
Motorcycle payments 4,569 per month (10 months left)
Fuel 4,000 - 6,000.
Easypass 3,000 per month.
Occasional trips adds another couple of thousand.
Police traffic fines 1,000 a month.

Utility bills

Electricity 3,000
Water 150
Internet 1,200
Phones 2,500
True 899
Premier Sport 1,200
TV Subscriptions services 1,000

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Supermarket bills come to around 10K per month and meals out for both of us plus a little one weigh in at around 12-15K.

Nightlife and drinking

Probably 3,000 - 4,000 baht a month. We don't go out all that often.

Books, computers

Audible books cost about 1,000 and PC subscriptions like Office, Adobe add another 2,000 baht.

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

We have a really good standard of living but the occasional curve-ball can create problems. We're not really saving as much as we did in the past.

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

Buying food at the market and avoiding the western fast food joints can save you thousands!

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

A family, especially an expat family, needs at least 150,000 baht a month to survive and thrive but you can do it for less. We don't really save much because we are riddled with credit card debt from setting up our house.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Joe. What's interesting about this survey is that although you're an international school teacher, not all international schools are created equal in terms of foreign teacher salaries. I'm guessing that you were perhaps a local hire? Also your Thai partner is making a significant contribution to the joint income. It certainly doesn't sound like you go without anything though and even strapped with a significant mortgage payment each month, 115,000 is not a bad income for a couple with one child right? 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 423 total

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