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 3rd 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

Ryan

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)

35,000 Baht is my full-time salary. It's a decent Thai private school, across from Central Rama 2. I wish I made more money obviously, but I am not a certified teacher. I am a college graduate with the ability to teach and a smile goes a long way. I teach conversational English to grades 2-6. 20 classes per week. Mon-Fri, 8ish-3:00.

I've also done several odd jobs that brought in random bits of cash: weekend English camps, commercial & movie extra work and tutoring professionals on "The Millionaire Mind" - some seminar in Singapore that preaches how to make more money. I played CDs and we all had open discussion about what the CD was saying. All of these jobs were great fun!

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Zero - I even dip into my saving most months.

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

6,000 baht for a dirty old apartment near Victory Monument. But I'm all about location not comfort, although it does have air-con. The BTS and minivan set up is really good. I hate Los Angeles traffic and Bangkok is the same. For me sitting in traffic is the worst, and living on Rama 2 defeated the purpose of why I have chosen to live in Bangkok for the time being. I'm here to go out and get loose.

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

Transportation

BTS card - 1,500 baht
Minivans - 1,000 baht
Taxis - 2,000 baht

Utility bills

1,500 baht for electric and water.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

10,000 baht. I eat out for every meal. I love Thai food. Victory Monument has food options available all day and it's easy for me to find something good and inexpensive daily. I'm not picky and will eat whatever.

Nightlife and drinking

20,000 baht. I like to go out. It's finally starting to get old/redundant and I am beginning to miss my old CA life to a slight degree. The CA dispensaries helped treat my anxiousness, now going out daily does and drinking in Bangkok ranges in price. A typical week involves partying at RCA, Khao San, Sukhumvit, and a BUI student event in Ekamai/Thonglor.

Books, computers

Iphone only - data is cheaper than home also.

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

Hectic by choice. I love it. It's been a strong 2 years, but it's time to hang it up in another few months maybe after Thai New Year and return to a nice CA summer. I'm 24 years old, and graduated college at 21. I was not ready to commit to some company for a solid tender to begin my money making. I felt it would be best to go get loose for a while. I planned for 6 months to a year but things continued going smoothly, and here I am today. This is now a second home for me, and I can see me coming back for multiple holidays. I have gone out so much in the last two years, that I feel comfortable getting around on my own, speaking the language a fair bit, and making multiple quality Thai friends. Thailand is great.

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

Rent, transport, traveling around Thailand, and traveling to nearby countries. Then I would add beach-front accommodation, tourist activities, fake bootleg shopping items, Thai food, and partying in certain spots.

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

20,000 baht to survive paycheck to paycheck. I personally wouldn't stay here only to survive and would prefer CA in that case. I would also never live in a survival mentality. I am only blowing savings here because I can. That all changes if my situation was not a 24 year old head-in-the-clouds male. If you are looking to do this as a long term deal, I would recommend 65,000+ for Bangkok, and to set up that retirement account early because Thailand more than any other country I have seen really values their young teachers. The other teachers at my school were better teachers than me, yet I would get all the praise for being the youngest who just smiled a lot. Your appearance is commented on often and additionally helps secure employment.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Ryan. I think you would be the first to admit that you're something of a 'party animal' and doing stuff like saving money and planning for the future is not on your agenda. But it sounds like you've had the time of your life and at 24 years old, you know it's now time to head back home and knuckle down to a career perhaps. Thailand will always be here for holidays and you've already got memories that will last a lifetime! 


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.     


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! 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 330 total

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