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 16th October 2019

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฿33 to one Euro
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฿0.59 THB to one Philippine Peso

Randy

Working in Korea

Monthly Earnings 117,000 baht equivalent (after taxes, insurance, and pension are taken out)

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

This is a full-time salary teaching at an international school.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

85,000-100,000 baht depending on the season. Once motorcycle season hits, I'm out on the road enjoying this beautiful country on my bike. Gas is much more expensive here than in Thailand, and an overnight stay in a love motel will run about 1,400 baht/night. In the winter months I stay close to home though, so no real expenses as I tend to stay in and watch TV with my girlfriend and our cats.

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

We live in a 3-bedroom 2-bathroom apartment rent-free.

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

Transportation

300-400 baht

Utility bills

Zero. The utilities are paid for by my school.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

10,000 baht for the shopping and an occasional meal out.

Nightlife and drinking

I almost never drink at bars and have an occasional drink/beer at home. 1,000 baht/month at the very most.

Books, computers

Zero. I have my own desktop computer and a school issued MacBook. I read on the internet and occasionally download a free ebook or two. I also pick up books from friends or colleagues that they want to pass off after they've already read them.

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

I enjoy a wonderful standard of living in which I never have to be concerned about money.

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

Korean food is a bargain, and it's delicious. Also, the beer selection at the convenience stores is excellent. You can get 4 mix and match 16oz cans of just about any beer you could imagine for less than 300 baht. I'm not a big drinker, but I enjoy an occasional beer and it's great to have such a wonderful selection to choose from when I'm in the mood.

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

English teachers earn around 60,000-70,000 baht per month here, minus taxes, insurance, and pension. You could live very comfortably on that as long as you didn't have any bad habits such as being a heavy drinker or a shopaholic. If you earned less than that, I think you might be uncomfortable and wouldn't be able to save anything for the future. I never really consider what one would need to simply "survive". I suppose that's relative.

Phil's analysis and comment

Wow! 117,000 baht a month plus your accommodation and bills paid for by the school. Sounds like a very nice life as a teacher in Korea. Nothing to complain about there.


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 Shanghai

Monthly Earnings 150,000 (including a housing allowance)

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

My full-time teaching salary is the equivalent of 150,000 baht net. That includes a generous housing allowance.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

We live on 50,000 baht a month. After servicing our credit cards and topping up our mortgage repayments we save about 75,000 baht per month.

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

My packages includes a monthly housing allowance. This completely covers our rent, which is approx 45,000 baht a month.

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

Transportation

School buses are provided. We use the subway on the weekends but a single journey is no more than 40 baht. I would say no more than 500 baht a month for a family of three.

Utility bills

Our electric bill usually comes in at about 1500 baht a month. That's with two air-cons running all night. Heat in winter and cool in summer. Gas and water are about 1,000 baht a month each.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Supermarket and wet market shopping approx 10,000 - 15,000 baht per month. Eating out adds another 5,000 baht a month.

The supermarket prices in Shanghai are almost the same in Thailand. The restaurants too, depending on the level of luxury.

Nightlife and drinking

Don't do nightlife. I occasionally have a few beers with friends on a Friday outside of a Family Mart near my compound. Approx 1,000 baht a month. No more than that.

Books, computers

I have a Kindle and a good book usually lasts me a month, so not even 200 baht a month. I purchase a PS4 game from time to time, which could be between 1,500 - 2,000 baht.

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

I would say that we are far better off in Shanghai than Bangkok. I could barely save 10,000 baht a month when I worked in Bangkok with a young family. Now my family's future is looking good.

I would say we live a life comparable to the middle class in the U.K. My son goes to football practice every week. My wife and I have gym memberships and I have a good life insurance policy. We can afford clothes from places like Ralph Lauren, Timberland, Marc Jacobs, Nike and Adidas. In Thailand these clothing items were out of the question due to high prices, even clothes purchases from Zara/H&M were very infrequent.

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

In Shanghai I would say that mid-range international cuisine is really inexpensive. We have been to great boutique restaurants and never spent more than 2,500 baht total.

Our favourite bargain has to be 11/11, this is a famous shopping day in China. It is done online through Taobao (Chinese eBay). The discounts on there are phenomenal.

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

I would say anything between 120-150k baht net in Shanghai, depending on your circumstances.

In Bangkok, we struggled on 65,000 baht. 100,000 baht and we'd have been OK in Bangkok, but that said, Thailand is getting more and more expensive.

Phil's analysis and comment

Good to hear from a teacher in China. Thanks James. China always seems to be a bit of a Marmite teaching destination if you've already spent time teaching in Thailand - you either love it or hate it. But it's clearly been a wise move for James and his family.


Liz

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 45,000 baht

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

I work full-time teaching kindergarten L2 at a bilingual school where I make 34,000 baht/month. In addition, I tutor six students outside of school which adds about 11,000 baht/month to my salary. Sometimes I work online (if I feel like it) which will maybe add another 2,000-3,000 baht.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

In Thailand, you seriously have to consider the start-up costs of getting a new apartment, visa, motorbike, putting deposit down for apartment etc. etc. To get myself set-up initially, I needed to borrow 15,000 baht from a friend (2 month deposit, 1 month security) for an apartment. The visa process is long, expensive and complicated too. Expect to have another 4-5,000 baht for the cost to extend the visa.

Once that's all done though and you have your visa and work permit, I'm expecting to save about 30,000 baht/month. Maybe more, maybe less, depending on travel and activities.

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

I pay 6,400 for my apartment and that includes water. Electricity is separate and is about 300-400 baht in low season (I barely use the air con since it's so nice outside); in high season/smoky season expect to pay around 700-800 baht. In Thailand you can pay your bills at 7/11 :)

I live in a fairly large, fully furnished studio just outside the old city, the center of Chiang Mai night life. They call studios condos, just FYI. It came with a fan, full kitchen, fridge, TV, tables, sofa, bed, dresser. My apartment is not the norm, unfortunately. Most people live in the Nimman area but I chose the east side where more Thais live. I think it is cheaper over here.

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

Transportation

Motorbike rental is 2800; Petrol comes out to 400.

Utility bills

Low season: 300-400
High season: 700-800
Water and trash: included in rent

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This one is tough. I shop at Makro and spend about 1,000 baht every few weeks. I am upping my budget to 2,000 for food each month though.

I try to limit my restaurant/eating out, since most of the street food is made with MSG. But I put another 1,000 baht aside for eating out. However, I usually don't use it all.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm not a huge drinker anymore. Leo and Chang is nice, but after a while you get tired of drinking premium beer. Wine is expensive. Most of the bars are free to get into like Zoe in Yellow. Drinks range from 80 baht (shots) to 200 baht (cocktails).

After-hour bars like Spicy and Las Vegas have a cover charge to enter. It's like 100-200 baht. It's technically illegal to have after-hour parties past 12 am in Chiang Mai, so that's why they charge. Drinks are similarly priced.

Books, computers

I brought my computer and phone. If anything breaks or you need something fixed, go to your local market and they can take care of it. Don't go to the mall. They'll charge you twice the price for the same. Pantip Plaza near Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is your one-stop shop for electronics.

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

Start-up costs aside, I live quite comfortably. I just got back from a vacation in the islands (Koh Phagnan and Koh Tao) for 2 weeks, and that only cost me around 25,000 baht for everything! Flight, food, accommodation, activities, drinks, ferry rides, massages etc. etc. I say that because once you're set up, you have the luxury of travel at a very reasonable cost. There is a lot to see in Thailand and you don't need to go to another country to get beaches, palm trees and sunshine. It's all right here!

Overall, I live pretty well. I've been very lucky with finding good accommodation and transportation. Some of my friends spend about 5,000/month on housing and receive significantly less (bedding isn't included, no kitchen, little natural light) You can for sure live like this, but I choose to spend more on housing to feel more comfortable. What I spend more on housing, I spend less on new clothes and going out. It all balances out.

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

Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest places to live in Thailand. Housing, food, drinking, night life, transportation.... this city has the best prices. If you're a newcomer to ex-pat life, Chiang Mai is an excellent place to start.

Besides money, Chiang Mai has a beautiful culture and the people are simply wonderful. It's a real community of people who want to help you for the most part. The 'bargain' isn't only measured in money, but also in the kind of support you'd receive from the community here. It also has one of the largest ex-pat communities in Thailand - about 30,000 ex-pats live here I've heard!!

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

35,000 baht is pretty standard. Anything lower and you'd be living in a smaller apartment, with less money for vacation, eating out etc. etc.

If you make less than that, supplement with private tutoring (check with your school if you teach) and/or online teaching.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Liz. It sounds like you really enjoy living and working in Chiang Mai. As you say, I've always felt that 35,000 baht a month is pretty standard for that part of the world, so your 45,000 a month obviously gets you a considerably better standard of living.  It's amazing the difference an extra 10,000 can make if you are prepared to put in the extra effort to earn it.

Regarding accommodation, I've said this many times and I totally agree with you. The more you spend on a rental, the nicer the place you have and the more you will enjoy spending time in it. This means you have less temptation to go out and wander the streets in search of entertainment - and that always costs money!


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.    



Dave

Working in Narathiwat

Monthly Earnings 30,000 baht

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

My basic income comes from working at a private school. Occasionally I do some extra teaching for a few hours per week, but I make peanuts on that.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 10,000 max. It used to be more, but since meeting my current girlfriend about a year ago, food expenditures have drastically risen, as we like to eat out in relatively expensive places.

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

I rent an unfurnished two-bedroom house for 4,000 baht.

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

Transportation

About 500 baht monthly on gas for my scooter, some of its occasional repair costs, plus gas for my partner's car. Total amount no more than 1,500 baht/month.

Utility bills

I don't have a/c but run two dehumidifiers almost 24/7, especially during the rainy season, which adds up to about 400 baht for electricity.
Water costs me somewhere like 70-80 baht.
My mobile internet and home wifi bills total around 1,400 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I don't cook at home and share most of the restaurant bills with my partner.
Costs vary between 5,000 and 8,000 baht a month, which includes meals during trips to Central Festival Hat Yai where we like "splurging" on meals in medium-cost restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

Nothing. Zero baht.

Books, computers

Still using my old laptop, bought in my home country of The Netherlands.
Reading I only do online.

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

Basic but comfortable.

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

Accommodation. 4,000 baht is about 110 euro, which would be impossible to rent anything within the home country.
Eating out in The Netherlands is obscenely expensive too. In Narathiwat Town you can get a full meal made to order for 20 baht. There is no comparison.

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

One can survive on 15,000 baht, but I would never try that!

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Dave. Good to hear from a teacher right down there in Thailand's 'deep south'.  It sounds as though you live well enough on 30,000 baht a month. It would be nice to know what your partner earns and contributes to the monthly budget, although I notice you do share the cost of meals out.  


Josh

Working in Yangju, South Korea

Monthly Earnings 54,000 baht (equivalent)

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

The salary listed, converted to Thai Baht, is after all deductions (insurance, pension and housing bills).

I work at a small private language institute about 32 kilometers north of Seoul and technically it is a full time salary. I see quite a few teaching jobs here in South Korea paying the same (2.1 million won per month before deductions). However my total working hours, AT MOST, are roughly 25 a week. I teach a maximum of 4 classes per day back to back. My working hours are from 2:30 p.m to 6:30 p.m, but I go in a bit early to get ready for the day.

I don't engage in any extra work, at least not yet. In fact I quite enjoy having my mornings and early afternoons off. I wake up, read my news outlets, drink coffee, go to the gym and head off to work. Too easy right?

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Well, South Korea has different prices to Thailand for sure. Like anywhere else, this all depends on one's lifestyle. If I were a dedicated hermit, I could probably save $1000 US, or, 33,000 baht a month. But I've been doing this a long time - too long in fact. So, when reality comes calling, I save between the equivalent of 17,000 to 25,000 a month.

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

This is one perk for teaching in South Korea (sadly, perks like this are slowly fading). My apartment is paid for by the school. Granted, I certainly would prefer a different location, as I am a bit out in the middle of nowhere (but, not like being out in the middle of nowhere in Na Kae).

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

Transportation

I would say the equivalent of 1,800 Baht.

Utility bills

Most likely around 2,100 Baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Ah, yes. I don't hold back on this. If I want something, I normally do not deny myself. I normally, NORMALLY, allow my budget to be about 1,000 Baht a day. With that I can either go out to eat or shop for cooking up a masterpiece at home.

Nightlife and drinking

Well, the nightlife is around. But, I'm close to a newly developing mini-town, so it is slow going . I seem to be the only foreigner in this area, so I'm not a fan of being a "Johnny-no-Friends" at the local pub. I usually stay in, drink my beer/wine and enjoy my time watching movies, sports and chipping away at a book before I go to bed. I do go out about twice a week, though. I meet up with a few folks and enjoy some of that famous Korean BBQ or I head down to Seoul.

When we refer to the other "Nightlife" well, that is usually for Koreans. Foreigners here don't necessarily have that option on a wide scale platform, as one would see in Thailand or in those designated spots famous for this topic.

Books, computers

I have a very nice LG, which I bought for about 20,000 baht. With regards to books, I have to really search. I don't enjoy on-line books as much as I do a physical book but there are a few places that offer English reading selections, although the selection tends to be directed towards the modern "snowflake".

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

Considering the fact that wages in this industry here have been stale for quite some time, with prices ever increasing, I would say that I still live rather well. I am single with no kids, so I don't have that worry added to my life. Also, as I don't work even 30 hours a week, the money I make is rather good. I see many charlatan teaching jobs here that require 10-hour working days, paying the same wages. It really has gone downhill in some aspects, here in the Land of the Morning Calm.

I have taught in Thailand before and despite my efforts to make an honest go of it, I did not enjoy myself for different reasons. Though I am not totally giving up on that option, as I never was really in a location I truly wanted to be in and that was dictated by certain circumstances. So who knows what the future holds?

I consider my standard of living here to be decent. I don't have to work hard (though I love my job) for the money I make, most things are at my disposal and I am looking out at snow as I write this. I love snow.

I could do more with my time here without question but I think the stars aligned in the right place, so that I don't have to worry about too much this time around. I like this pace.

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

Public transportation (taxis, buses, Seoul Metro Subway)...clean, cheap and no hassles like one would experience in Bangkok (we all know what they are).

Korean food can often be found at very good prices but even that is changing. I think the "bargain" is the overall package. I receive medical insurance, participate in the National Pension plan and don't worry about taxes eating away at my salary

My rent is free and I work at a good school that offers anything I need in terms of resources. I get all the holidays (including Christmas) and my personal 10 working days of vacation time. I also receive a bonus and ticket home at the end of my contract. Granted finding a school in Korea that does what it is SUPPOSED to do may be a real bargain. So I'm thankful .

I don't think Thailand can compete with this, at least on the scale of a private language institute.

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

I would suspect one could get by on about 30,000 baht. Normally the rent is taken care of by the school so that allows a higher degree of financial flexibility .

Phil's analysis and comment

Many thanks Josh. It's always good to hear from teachers who are not only teaching in other Asian countries but also have experience teaching in Thailand. It sounds like you are much happier where you are now.

I spent over a week in Seoul several years back (I know it's not exactly where you live and work) and I was very impressed. I thought the city had a terrific vibe - lots to do, plenty of nice affordable restaurants and I found the locals every bit as friendly as those in Thailand. I would certainly love to go back one day. 

Years ago, your first thoughts when contemplating a move to work in another Asian capital city was 'oh but the cost of living is so much higher'. But with Bangkok becoming noticeably more and more expensive these days, it's perhaps not quite the issue it was. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 297 total

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