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 18th January 2020

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฿40 to one Pound Sterling
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฿0.60 THB to one Philippine Peso

Joseph

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 38,000

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

I teach at a private Thai school in Bangkok and my salary after tax is around 38,000. I teach about 16 hours a week but I'm at the school considerably longer than that of course.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Almost nothing. Even a fairly modest lifestyle uses up the 38,000 baht I earn.

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

I've only been here for several months and this is my first teaching gig so I'm still on the first rung of the ladder so to speak. I stayed in a cheap guesthouse at first but soon realized I needed my own place. I currently share a one-bedroom apartment with a Thai colleague (which he owns) and I give him 5,000 baht a month to cover rent and utilities, etc. It's not an ideal situation by any means, and I'm looking for my own place at the moment but don't really want to spend more than about 8,000 a month. I haven't found anything yet in that price bracket that I have fallen in love with though.

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

Transportation

I get the air-conditioned bus to work and it's only a ten-minute journey so this expense is barely 500 baht a month.

Utility bills

Those bills are covered in the 5,000 baht 'rent'. The air-conditioning always seems to be on when I'm home so I can't complain at that amount.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This seems to be the one area where I struggle to keep costs down. Because I share a flat, I don't feel like cooking when my flat-mate is at home, even though we share a decent size kitchen. It just feels awkward. So I grab a bite on the way home and I tend to find myself in Western or fast food restaurants that I can't really afford. I bet when you throw in the cost of buying supermarket essentials, this is at least 12,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I will meet some other farang colleagues at a downtown sports bar once a week and we'll have a few beers and watch a football match on TV. It's very easy to burn through 1,000 - 1,500 in a single evening so this is probably around 6,000 a month.

Books, computers

Nothing really. I use the computers at school.

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

It's OK at best. I would love another 10-15,000 baht a month. Now that would make all the difference! After I take out my rent, food and modest entertainment costs, I'm left with barely 500 baht a day as excess pocket money. Certainly not enough to think about having nice weekends away, etc. Even after such a short time, It's beginning to feel like merely an existence. When I did my research, I knew living in Bangkok on this sort of income wouldn't be easy but I've still been shocked at how pricey Bangkok is once you move away from 'Thai-style' living.

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

Bus fares and taxis.

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

I think this is a difficult and 'grey' question because I am certainly surviving on 38K and could probably survive on less. Perhaps a better question might be 'how much would be enough for the kind of lifestyle you'd like to have?' and for me the answer would be around 50-60,000.
I'm going to see out the current school year and then see if I can find a better-paying job.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Joseph. You said something important in that survey - the fact that you're on the first rung of the ladder. As an inexperienced, new arrival, most of us had to start somewhere. We've all been on that first rung, living in less than ideal apartments and not quite having enough money in our pocket to do the things we want.  But trust me, things do get better as you move from job to job and chances are that you'll eventually reach your financial goal. Don't give up!


Come on! 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.       


Dan

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 130k - 175k

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

I work in a fairly decent international school that pays 130k per month including housing and after deductions. 130k is therefore my minimum take home monthly pay. I also have a part time job that pays well, adding up to 45k per month for only one day's work per week. There are occasional months when flight allowances and other bonuses further add to my pay.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

On average, 100k per month. This varies from month to month depending on how much extra pay I receive over and above my regular salary. As the Thai welfare system provides a feeble safety net, I feel the need to save as much as possible now, to allow for a comfortable retirement. I would like to have enough to be able to wind down by the age of 55 (14 years away).

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

12,000 - This is 50% of the rent of a 2-bedroom condo that I live in with my Thai partner (who pays the other 50%). She works as an engineer and earns a salary similar to mine). We live in a quiet Soi in Sathorn not far from Lumphini Park and the MRT / BTS

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

Transportation

Not a lot really, I bought a motorbike for about 100k five years ago and it costs almost nothing to maintain. The ride to work is only a few kms which means gas rarely comes to more than 150 baht a week. Including the occasional taxi I don't think I've ever spent more than 2,000,

Utility bills

About 1,500, As we share bills, this is 50% of the cost of electricity and water, plus a 500 baht monthly charge for my cell phone package.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

A lot less during term time. School provides free snacks and a buffet lunch for all staff. This means that I only have to pay for dinner, which I usually spend about 250 baht on and never prepare myself. So, when school is open probably no more than 10,000 per month, but during the long holidays that number goes up by 50%

Nightlife and drinking

5 years ago... A LOT. But not so much these days. On Friday I'll have a few beers with friends or take my girl to the cinema. That's about it. Maybe 5k a month.

Books, computers

Nothing really. My PC is a few years old and won't need replacing for at least a few more. As for reading material - I also have access to an awesome library at school - for free.

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

Thailand is one of the few countries in the world where you can enjoy a great standard of living in the capital city on a teacher's salary (as long as you're professionally qualified in a country that 'exports' its education system). However, right now I'm more concerned with my standard of living in the future, once I've put the chalk away for the final time. I want to retire here and think I'll need to have saved enough to provide a living allowance of 80 to 100k per month.

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

Bangkok feels a lot more expensive than when I first arrived. Everything used to be cheap but now I find myself shopping around more. Despite this, public transport is still great value and Coke in 7-11 is cheap too!

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

The minimum wage in Bangkok works out at about 10k per month and the people earning this figure seem to avoid death. But who comes here aiming just to stave off death? If I didn't need to save I could maintain my current standard of living on about 50k per month. However, I DO need to save as I have no teacher's pension or inheritance coming my way. So, if I was earning less than 100k per month I think I'd need to think about going elsewhere.

Phil's analysis and comment

I guess to those teachers out there earning 30-40k a month, it must feel like Dan exists in another universe. But it's all about different strokes for different folks. There are many qualified teachers out there pulling in the megabucks at international schools and saving 100,000 a month.

There is much to admire about Dan's survey. 

I particularly like the way he's totally focused on retiring at 55 with an income of 80-100,000 baht a month. And I would agree with that figure. At 55, Dan's going to have 10-15 golden years ahead of him when he can travel the world, play golf and do all the nice things in life. 

He's got a partner earning the same amount of money. That doesn't do any harm at all. A potential 350,000 baht a month coming into the household and only 12,000 of that going on rent. Way to go! 

Dan clearly doesn't 'waste' money on stuff. He's got a motorcycle that costs peanuts to fill up and maintain. He's cut down on any past drinking habits. He takes advantage of the free school meals. And he's not averse to shopping around for bargains in a city that's becoming more expensive by the week. What's the old saying? - look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves.  


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.      


Alex Kidd

Working in Taichung, Taiwan

Monthly Earnings 94,000

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

Around 82,000 baht from a full-time salary. I teach 9-5 from Monday to Friday at a junior high school and I make another 12,000 from one private student that I teach twice a week on Monday and Thursday evenings.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

60,000 baht without even trying to. I take frequent holidays abroad and still save easily.

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

I live in a 3-bedroom apartment with my girlfriend. It costs 12,000 (6,000 each per month)

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

Transportation

100 baht for fuel as I own my own scooter (I bought it for 12,000 a couple of years ago)

Utility bills

Water, Power and Internet around 2,000 a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

2,000 per month. I buy all my food in the local market and cook 5 days a week.

Nightlife and drinking

The nightlife is poor here. I usually go to the local restaurant/bar places. I drink two nights a week. 1,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

The library is free.

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

The standard is great. You can save money without trying.

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

Everything seems like a bargain.

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

Minimum salary here is 65,000. You could realistically save half of that.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Alex. I don't really have much to add to that. It's clear that 94,000 baht a month is a very decent income where you are and allows you save two-thirds of that salary each month, if you are willing to cook at home, shop at local markets and use your own transportation, etc.   


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? 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 305 total

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