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 17th December 2018

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿41 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.62 THB to one Philippine Peso

Tommy

Working in Central Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 140,000 baht a month.

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

I teach ESL full-time in a mid-range British International school in central Bangkok. My 140K salary is after tax and includes a 30K allowance for housing. Last year I supplemented this with small group IELTS / TOEIC / SATS lessons which paid at least 1,500 per hour and added an extra 30K. After a while I realised my daughter was growing up without me and stopped these classes. My 140K is enough.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Every paycheck I bank 50K. At the end of the month I add what is left in my current account. Last year this added up to 800K including a 13th month bonus paid in August. I used to save more when I was teaching extra lessons, but I rationalised that 800K per year is enough, and time with my daughter is more important. I was also spending money on a nanny whilst I was teaching these extra classes (I'm currently a single parent, hopefully not forever though!)

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

30K for a two-bedroom condo which is relatively central and close to work. I know I could pay less, but I'm saving on commuting (both in terms of money & time). The facilities are also lovely and the area feels safe and is full of restaurants. I looked at cheaper alternatives but felt like I would be moving from a family home into something more akin to a student flat.

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

Transportation

Very little. I don't own a vehicle and can walk to work. Sometimes I'll use taxis or the BTS (which is within walking distance) on weekends but doubt that the grand total is more than 2,000 baht. I don't consider this to be a major expense.

Utility bills

Whilst my condo isn't cheap, they don't pad the electricity & water bills. My daughter uses the aircon whilst she sleeps, which keeps the meter ticking over, and usually leaves me with a monthly bill of about 2,000. The water bill is extremely cheap (usually in the tens of Baht!).

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I feel that I'm lucky here. My school provides morning snacks and a good lunch which both my daughter and I can eat for free (it's part of the 'package'). This means I only need to cover breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is usually cereal, which when bought in bulk, is reasonably priced. Dinner however is usually more expensive, but as it's the only meal of the day I pay for, I don't mind :-). This evening meal averages about 500 baht which probably means I'm spending about 20,000 a month on food, a number which increases during school holidays.

Nightlife and drinking

Very little. Although I'd like to share a few beers with friends in the pub once a week, the reality of single parenthood means I'm usually out no more than once a month. Whilst I have a regular maid / nanny who I trust, I don't want to put on her too much, nor do I want to be away from my daughter too often.

Books, computers

These are more irregular purchases. Some months I might buy two new smart phones, several books and a new laptop, whereas in most months, I spend nothing. Say 3,000 a month average??

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

My standard of living is the thing that keeps me here. I work as a teacher and raise a child on my own. In the UK my life would be very different, I wouldn't be living in a central London two-bedroom apartment, I wouldn't be in Japanese restaurants most nights and I wouldn't be saving 20,000 GBP a year.

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

This an easy one - the education of my child. My school is a great place to be educated, and by far the best 'perk' I receive is the waiving of all fees for two children (almost a shame that I only have one!). For a paying parent, the fees are approx 600,000 a year (most of my savings).

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

As a teacher from the UK, this question initially feels quite strange. Back home it wouldn't really matter what school I worked in, from the local comp to the best private school in the country, my salary would vary little. In Thailand however, things are much different. It would be possible to teach in a secondary school and earn anything between 20,000 and 200,000 baht a month.

For me, what makes this disparity possible are the legions of unqualified teachers allowed to work here, who don't have much choice other than to accept salaries that your average Thai office worker would walk away from. I believe teaching to be a profession in a similar way to being a doctor or pilot. I would be horrified to see a doctor who had learned their trade 'on the job' or on a plane piloted by someone who had taken an 'online course'. Likewise, as a parent I would never send my child to a school staffed by 'teachers' with no professional qualifications.

To get back to the question (sorry for waffling), I would likely not accept a job paying less than 100K per month. Earning less than this, I would be unable to save to send my daughter to university, nor would I be saving for my future. I fully intend to retire by the time I'm 60 (which is 20 years away), yet without property in the UK or wealthy relatives the only thing I can do is save as much as possible.

To those teachers earning much less than this, If you're serious about your career in teaching, then I suggest you invest in a professional qualification from a nation that 'exports' education worldwide (UK, USA, NZ etc) and then apply to the growing number of international schools in Thailand. The supply of qualified teachers is far outstripped by demand and decent jobs are very easy to come by.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Tommy for a very nice survey. I take my hat off to you for raising a daughter as a single parent in Bangkok (and doing a fine job of it by the sound) 

As you say, with no wealthy relatives or property back in the UK, the plan has to be simply to save as much as possible between now and when you retire in twenty years time. You're certainly on the kind of salary that will allow you to amass a nice pile of cash by then. 

Good luck to you!  


Robert

Working in Songkhla

Monthly Earnings 35,000

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

I work at a medium-sized Thai government secondary school in a small town in Southern Thailand and I've worked here for four years. I work through an agency and my salary after tax is about 34-35K. I don't take on any extra work or do private students (although I get a lot of requests)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Generally between 10,000 and 15,000 a month. I keep quite meticulous tabs on my spending and saving and last year I managed to save about 150,000. It was enough for a nice trip back home to England and a few nice long weekends away in Thailand.

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

I pay 3,000 baht a month for a small studio apartment in the centre of town and about ten minutes walk from the school. Accommodation is very cheap here and I'm sure you wouldn't get the same standard of living for 3K in a big city. The apartment is about 28 square metres and has a fairly large balcony as well. It's more than enough space for a single person. Sometimes I quite fancy the thought of a one-bedroom apartment but I like the staff at my condo and I've become part of the furniture you might say. That's why I've stuck around for the four years I've worked here.

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

Transportation

Nothing. As I said, I live just ten minutes walk from the school and I also have a bicycle I use from time to time if I need to get to the other side of town, perhaps to do a bit of shopping.

Utility bills

Electricity and water come to about 500 a month. I turn the air-con on for about two or three hours in the evening just to cool things down but I can sleep comfortably with just the electric fan.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat out all the time but do it very cheaply. I'll mix restaurant meals with street-food meals and I rarely spend more than 150 baht a day on grub so probably about 5,000 baht a month. I suppose you could say I 'live like a Thai' but for me that novelty has never worn off.

Nightlife and drinking

Oh, there's nothing to do here at night. I can't remember the last time I was out after 9.00 in the evening. I like to just chill out at home and read a book or watch a movie. Even on Friday and Saturday evenings, I might have a drink or two with some teaching colleagues but I'm back home reasonably early. I've never been much of a party animal.

Books, computers

I download cheap Kindle books from Amazon and watch movies on Netflix. I guess that adds up to a thousand a month.

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

It's extremely basic and no-frills but I love it. Simplicity is the key of life. I should have come here many years ago. I shudder when I think back to the stressful life I used to lead in Kent.

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

Food. You can eat out very cheaply once you get yourself organised and know where all the good value restaurants are.

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

Well, I don't think everyone could lead the simple life that I do but then again if you liked your nightlife and stuff, you wouldn't move to my little one-horse town in the first place. I could survive here easily on 25,000 a month. The extra 10,000 I make on top of that is all gravy.

Phil's analysis and comment

It sounds a very simple way of life but if that's what floats your boat, then good luck to you. I'm guessing Rob is maybe in his 50's or even 60's and I have noticed myself that as you get older, you just want to live quietly with as few hassles as possible. Nothing at all wrong with that.


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'


Jimbo

Working in Songkhla

Monthly Earnings 65,000

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

My nett salary from an international school is 65,000 baht a month. I don't take on any other extra work.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I live on about 15,000 so manage to save 50,000 most months.

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

I have a small apartment that costs 3,500 baht a month. It has air-con but I never ever use it.

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

Transportation

As soon as I arrived I bought a small motorcycle for 20,000 baht and I spend a further 500 baht a month on gas.

Utility bills

Water and electricity come to around 300 baht a month and the wi-fi is free so utilities never really break the bank.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

For breakfast, I'll have a few bananas. Lunch at the school is free. For my evening meal I always eat out and that generally costs about 100 baht. I'll add another 1,000 baht on for weekend treats and the odd coffee. Let's call it 5,000 baht a month.

Nightlife and drinking

Zero. I'm a recovering alky.

Books, computers

Zero. But I did buy a new 10,000 baht laptop recently.

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

Excellent. I want for nothing.

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

Puncture repairs

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

To just survive, you need 10,000. That goes up to 20,000 if you want a few treats. If you are looking for a hedonistic lifestyle, then increase it to 30,000.
But there is no need to complicate life. Why not keep it simple?

Phil's analysis and comment

You heard it here first - you can live a wild lifestyle down in Songkhla on 30K a month. I don't know - maybe you can!

Jimbo is clearly a saver. 50,000 baht out of 65,000. Now that's impressive! 


BB

Working in Hanoi, Vietnam

Monthly Earnings 85,000

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

Some background: I work at a good international school in Hanoi, but on somewhat of a local package.

I get about 2600 usd net a month as salary, a 13th month and a ticket home, but I also do some substitute work that has netted me an extra 5,000 usd this year. I also teach a Vietnamese family twice a month in the weekends, that made me about 1,500 usd this school year.

If you add the 13th month and the extra money I earn, I guess my average monthly salary is about 3.300 usd a month, so about 105.000 baht a month. I do have to work extra for that of course, but it's not a big effort.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Cost of living in Hanoi is ridiculously low. Having been all over Asia I think I can honestly say there is no big Asian city that is cheaper to live in then Hanoi. This year I've saved about 15,000 us dollar, while having had multiple weekends away and three extended trips, both in and out of Vietnam. So I should say I am able to save about 1,300 dollars a month after holidays and while having a decent social life.

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

I pay 680 dollars for my modern condo that has a pool and small gym (rarity in Hanoi at the moment, though more and more of these kind of buildings are being build). I also pay 60 dollars for management fees and parking for my motorbike. In total about 24,000 baht.

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

Transportation

I rent a motorbike for about 50 dollars a month and work is a 5-minute ride away. Petrol is dirt cheap, I fill my tank twice a month for 3 dollars. So 1,800 baht a month.

Utility bills

Again, dirt cheap here. Water is a few dollars a month and electricy is cheap too. In the winter months my utility bills come down to 25 dollars a month, in the blazing summer perhaps 45 dollars. Lets say on average per month about 1,100 baht. Another 500 baht per month for internet and TV.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I only cook about once a month, because every now and then I need some soup that reminds me of home but other then that I only eat out. I love Vietnamese food and it's very cheap. Any Vietnamese meal will cost me 1-2 dollars.

Western food is widely available too here, and very well priced. I've actually haven't had Vietnamese food in a month now, but I don't spend more then 10 dollars per western meal, and that is a very good meal while sitting in a very nice restaurant. All in all, I think I spend about 350 dollars a month on food. About 11,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

It really depends on the person you ask if Hanoi is a drinking city. if you go to the Bia Hoi's where you can get a beer for 0.4 cents, it is, since there are thousands of them. It's actually quite refreshing, especially in the hot summer months, but I am not a big beer drinker.

Hanoi is not a clubbing city, and places actually close early, so there is not that much to do. I like it that way, it's an easy life. All in all, I usually have a few drinks in the weekend but again, it's very reasonable. Perhaps about 4,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

Nothing. Work has a huge library if I want real books, and I use an e-reader myself, so can download stuff if I want.

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

It's great, with cheap food and plenty of stuff to do. Vietnam is an amazing country and very beautiful, especially the north of Vietnam. I have done a few motorbike trips in Thailand (Mae Hong Son loop, Chiang Rai loop), which were very nice, but the north of Vietnam is truly spectacular (the Ha Giang loop), and the north is even cheaper then Hanoi.

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

You can find some realy good food here for very low prices. There is a great sushi place in the Tay Ho district, with a chef trained in Japan. I go there at least once a week and can completely stuff myself for 10 dollars and I can say with confidence I've only had better sushi in Japan itself. The food is good and cheap in Hanoi.

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

You can probably live a comfortable lifestyle with just 1,500 dollars a month. My condo is actually quite expensive compared to some others (though prices can be way higher too). I see many young English teachers sharing houses and just pay 150 dollars for a room. You can probably even have a decent life here on just 1,000 dollars, though not as much fun.


As a side note: The reason I am writing this, apart from reading your website for years, is that I am moving to an international school in Bangkok in August, so it would be interesting to see how things compare. I will send in another survey after a few months or so.

Phil's analysis and comment

Sounds like a good life to be had as a teacher in Hanoi. I'm off to Vietnam myself this week for the first time but the mountain city of Dalat rather than the likes of Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh. I think it's the first place I've been to where I have absolutely no idea what to expect. 


Jessie

Working in Saudi Arabia

Monthly Earnings 186,000

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

First a little background: Hello from the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia.

In July 2017, I submitted one of these surveys to Ajarn.com and at that time I was still living and working in Bangkok for around 55K baht per month.

I believe Phil thought: bloody hell this girl lives on 20K a month in Bangkok. Now it is almost a year later, I find myself finishing up my first academic year teaching in Saudi.

A lot has changed from my time in Thailand and while the numbers are positive...it wasn't by any means an easy ride out here. I have one full time job working for an all female vocational college. It is actually my second position in Saudi and I am very happy here especially after my first experience in an extremely unsupportive and toxic work environment.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Mostly things are covered by the company I work for. I only spend on average 11,000 baht per month and so I can save 175,000 baht each month. Moreover, I'm also still technically living off my savings in Thailand which at this rate could last me another 5 years out here. But I will likely just leave the money there and reinvest it this summer when I return for a visit. Now that's a huge increase from my 35K baht from last year, as in 5 times more savings!

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

The college provides housing for its employees. I have a one bedroom apartment with lots of natural light (a rare find in Saudi) and it is a cozy spot with which I am quite content at the moment. Best of all...no roommates.

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

Transportation

The college provides transportation to and from the school as well as several trips to various food shops. We are also given a small transportation stipend for any other Uber trips we may want to take. I am in a small town and so there really aren't that many places to go, nor is anything really far away. Once I went to Riyadh by train and back for 1500 baht but these adventures are infrequent.

Utility bills

The college covers these as well. I only pay for roaming internet on my phone which is about 1,000 baht each month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Maybe 6.000 baht a month for supermarket shopping. There are restaurants here of course but I usually prefer to eat at home and here (unlike Thailand) it is the cheaper option.

Nightlife and drinking

Nope. Nada. Not here. The closest thing we have to nightlife is a good brisk walk around the block just for exercise.

Books, computers

Like most people these days, I tend to read on line and have just joined Scribd for 270baht per month. This should keep me swimming in literature out here in the desert for a long time to come.

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

Pretty good. I'd say Thailand was much more fun because of the freedom of movement and simply because there was so much more to do there. But Saudi has some undiscovered charms of its own and I am still into exploring it. All my needs are met and I have plenty of time to engage in activities that are meaningful to me such as writing, meditation and reading. So no complaints there as I remain cautiously optimistic about my future here.

People who choose to come to Saudi are generally an interesting bunch of folks. Sometimes though you meet some really strange ducks and that can have an impact on your standard of living. But if you are willing to look deeper, I think there are some gems to be found, all while striking it rich in an enjoyable career not normally touted as a cash cow. And yes, I have signed my contract for a second year with my current company.

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

I think the job itself is the best 'bargain' going. I get a real teachers salary with no tax and many of my costs are covered by the company I work for. I don't know anyone in Thailand or even Canada or elsewhere who has an opportunity to save as much as I can here. Plus I get two months off in the summer and more if I want to take unpaid leave. This leaves lots of time to travel. And there are long periods of lag time where the students are off; so teachers can prepare future lessons or work on their own projects. I really try to take advantage of this down time.

Food is still pretty cheap here. Not as cheap as Thailand but not as expensive as in Canada (my home country). Some things are taxed now but not outrageously so it isn't a big deal. Uber rides are also decently priced. What I do love is that more of my food favourites are accessible here. In Thailand it was always so hard to find Pringles Salt and Vinegar chips! But here I can get them easily. And best of all; they have hummus in a can here and it tastes just fine. As a major hummus lover this earns 5 stars.

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

To survive the desert; it really isn't about the money. The money is good but to survive you have to remain flexible and adaptable to changes and difficulties from unpredictable avenues. People are here to save and that is clearly the main motivation. Culturally it is also a rather unique opportunity.

Plenty of jobs out here can offer you 100,000 baht which is amazing money for Thailand but that alone isn't enough money to make up for all the sacrifices you will have to make to be here. It's also important that you have administrative support, amazing colleagues and attentive students.

Also a side note here: Some people have posted jobs in excess of 200,000 baht a month and while I am sure there are a few jobs like that here in Saudi for highly experience and specialized teachers; they are not the norm. The average is much closer to 120k baht a month. However, right time, right place and you can land a job for more than that.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Jessie for getting in touch again and doing another survey. Glad to hear that things are going well - certainly on the earnings front.

You have to make the sacrifices if you want to live and work out in the dunes, but of course, as we all know, it's all about the money!

You can read Jessie's first survey from July 2017 here.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 272 total

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