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 5th April 2020

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿41 to one Pound Sterling
฿36 to one Euro
฿20 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.65 THB to one Philippine Peso

Simon

Working in Phrakhanong

Monthly Earnings 160,000

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

I work at a top-tier fairly new international school (the students fees are 780,000 baht a year)

My base salary is 125,000 plus a housing allowance of 44,300. I also get worldwide medical insurance and two return flights per year. At the end of my second year, I should also receive a 10% salary bonus.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 65-70,000.

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

I have a 77 square metre 2-bedroom condo in Phra Khanong with pool, gym and golf carts. It's on a very smart, gated community.

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

Transportation

Very little as the school picks us up and drops us off each morning and evening. I spend a few hundred baht on taxis at the weekend.

Utility bills

Internet and phone is 800 baht, water is 160 baht and electricity comes to around 1,400.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This comes to around 8,000 baht a month for both supermarket shopping and eating out in restaurants.

Nightlife and drinking

4,000 baht per week.

Books, computers

Very little.

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

I have an excellent standard of living with long working weeks but free weekends in one of the world's best cities.

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

Transport, particularly internal flights around Thailand.

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

If there is no housing allowance then to maintain a UK standard of living I would say 60,000 a month. If there is a housing allowance in your salary and benefits package, then possibly 40,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

As a cost of living survey, it's short and sweet but the numbers are still there. It gives you an idea of what international school teachers can earn here (and I know international school teachers who make considerably more than this) 


Tommy

Working in Sukhumvit, Bangkok

Monthly Earnings About 90,000

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

I work at a mid-range international school in Sukhumvit. My basic pay is 80,000 plus 4,000 for extra responsibility plus around 150,000 in bonuses spread out over a two year contract. I could do extra tuition in the evenings but I'm lucky enough not to need the extra cash and would prefer to use the time on hobbies.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

20-40K

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

I live in a fairly nice 1-bedroom condo close to MRT Petchaburi in downtown Sukhumvit. It is 19,000 a month but recently I paid 180,000 up front for a ten-month extension so 18,000 a month. It is not a brand new building but it is nice enough: friendly and efficient security and juristic office, reasonable gym and nice pool, conference and lounge rooms etc.

My apartment itself is around 50 m2 with a double room, bathroom and large kitchen/living area equipped with a sofa bed for guests, TV, desk for me to work at, kitchen table and chairs, microwave, fridge freezer and built in electric hobs. There is no oven. There is a small balcony.

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

Transportation

I walk and get public transport mostly. I am within walking distance to school and at the weekends I rarely venture out of Sukhumvit. Maybe 1,000 a month on MRT, BTS, canal boats combined and another 500 on motorbike and car taxis.
Not more than 1,500 baht overall.

Utility bills

Electricity roughly 1,000 a month. I am fairly frugal with it. I use air-con very low for an hour in the morning while I get ready for work and sometimes give it a quick blast if I am in for a long time and it is very hot. Mostly I just use a fan to keep cool. TV is around 600 a month and phone about the same. Water between 70 and 90 baht a month. I reckon it would be less than 3,000 a month overall.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is a tricky one to judge as I don't monitor it closely. Monday to Friday I spend 40 baht on breakfast each day - 20 baht on a big bag of fruit and 20 baht on a rice box from the friendly lady on the soi by the canal. I eat lunch for free at school.

In the evenings I either cook something simple for myself or eat locally. I reckon I spend 100 baht a day Monday to Thursday. 7/11 bills add up with things like ice creams, crisps, fruit juice drinks, grotty sandwiches and so on so call that 100 a day.

At the weekend I probably spend an average of 500 a day so overall maybe 2,000 a week. I spend about 1500 a month at Tesco on basics so overall probably around 10,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

This is a fair chunk of expenditure for me. Although I don't drink Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I go to a languages social where I practice French and Thai each Tuesday as well as out with colleagues each Friday. Then Saturday and Sunday it's anyone's guess. I would guess around 3,000 a week or 10-15,000 a month.

Books, computers

Very little - 1,000 a month spread over a few larger purchases throughout the year.

I take learning Thai very seriously and have weekly lessons with an excellent teacher that costs roughly 5,000 a month. I also do meditation and massage on a Wednesday and sometimes go on weekend trips out of Bangkok.

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

I live very well. I don't have to worry about what I spend, but at the same time I have a fairly frugal lifestyle anyway so it doesn't feel like I'm missing out. I can afford to do all the things I want/need to do so I'm lucky.

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

Eating out without question.

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

Some people seem to be able to get by in Bangkok living on 35 to 40K but I would say that is more or less impossible if you want any kind of nice life, especially in the middle of the city. You also need to take account of visa, passport and travel home expenses which are not mentioned here. I would not live here on less than 70K a month, but if I had to survive here I would say 50K would be the absolute minimum.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Tommy.  Now here's a guy who earns a very decent teacher salary in Bangkok (certainly for a single guy) but still lives well within his means. Although 18,000 baht a month in rent is a fair chunk of change, it's still only 20% of Tommy's salary. He's left with a massive 80% to spend on food, entertainment, travel, etc but doesn't really go overboard on any of that stuff, even choosing to be frugal with the air-conditioning. No surprises that he manages to save up to 40K some months. 

I don't disagree with Tommy's 'survival' figures either. Even 50K in Bangkok wouldn't get you much of a life these days.  

On a final note, I always wonder with well-paid international school teachers, how much of their free time the job consumes. Is there a lot of preparation and extra-curricular activities that aren't possible to turn down?  


Ricky

Working in Nakhon Ratchisima

Monthly Earnings 45,000

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

I teach at a Thai government school in Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) and my take home salary is around 33,000. I generally add 12,000 baht a month to that with some on-line teaching and a few other bits and pieces (nothing too taxing)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I can easily save 20,000 baht a month. Although Khorat is expanding rapidly and we're seeing a lot more in the way of Western temptations, I manage to resist them except maybe at the weekend.

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

The school found me a very nice apartment about ten minute's walk from where I work. Most of our foreign teaching staff live in this building. It's only a studio apartment but it's a very good size and has a large balcony and bathroom. I'm also up on the 15th floor so if I keep the door to the balcony open, the room doesn't get too hot and I rarely have to use the air-con. The rent for this is a bargain 6,000 baht a month.

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

Transportation

Nothing during the week because I am able to cycle to work along fairly traffic-free back roads. I use public transport at the weekends to go into town and that costs peanuts. I wouldn't even call my transportation an expense.

Utility bills

Barely a 1,000 baht a month, even in the hot season when I might indulge in a few hours of air-conditioning.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is probably my biggest expense apart from rent of course. I make breakfast at home and eat a good school lunch but I consider my evening meal as the main meal of the day and always eat at a restaurant in the neighborhood. I would say with supermarket shopping included, I probably spend in the region of 10,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm too tired to go out during the week but I might meet a few friends on a Saturday night. This is probably 5-6,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

I'm not into gadgets or computer games or anything like that. I have a three-year-old laptop and a newish smartphone and that's really all I need.

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

Excellent. I love my life here. I have a relatively cushy teaching job with plenty of free time. I could push myself and earn more if I wanted but I'm saving 250,000 baht a year and that allows me to travel around Asia whenever I get a break and also to fly home once a year.

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

There's really nothing here that strikes me as that expensive apart from imported foods in the supermarket.

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

You could live comfortably in Khorat on 25,000 - 30,000. You might not be saving much but you certainly wouldn't be going without. It's an ideal destination for someone who wants to live in a relatively large city but still maintain a feeling of being in rural Thailand. A great destination for a first-time TEFLer like me you might say.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Ricky. You sound like another very happy teacher. I like Khorat. I was amazed at how much the city centre had expanded on my last visit a couple of years ago. It's not too far from Bangkok either. 


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.  


Paul

Working in Koh Samui

Monthly Earnings 40,000

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

A 40,000 monthly salary is done by direct deposit into my bank account. I can earn an additional 400 baht per hour if I tutor local professionals from around the island twice per week in the evenings at the hotel training's townhouse spot.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 8,000 baht a month on average.

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

I have a very clean, newish bungalow. It's surrounded by a nice garden and shares a large swimming pool with four other properties. The rent includes wifi and it's also furnished. it's one bedroom with a kitchen and living room, Western-style bathroom but with a shower in the middle with a drain in the floor. It's a nice location and I enjoy living there. I can walk to Mae Nam Beach in five minutes. I pay 7,000 baht a month.

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

Transportation

I own two bikes - a Vespa and a bigger bike. The big bike cost me 6,000 Baht and the Vespa was 12,000. Both run great and I have local friends to fix them for almost free if I need repairs done.

Utility bills

Electric can vary and can get costly if I blast that air-con all day long. So electric on average is 1,800 and water is only 500 for some reason.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I never cook at home though I warm up food in my kitchen all the time. I generally eat out every day. Working at hotels you typically get free meals off their menu and 4-star resort food in Samui is a nice perk. I also enjoy street food on Samui and the cost is reasonable wherever you go on the island.

Nightlife and drinking

I like to party. When you live anywhere you find 'your' spots and make them 'yours'. I can spend a lot of money on entertainment when friends are in town and we hop around the island, but if it's just me and local friends, then beers are 40-60 baht and you can get wild to the wee hours with some funny characters.

Books, computers

No books. I like on-line reads. and have not yet upgraded my phone from an Iphone 5S. It does the job for me. And the $300 dollar computer I bought from new is still going strong.

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

I have no overheads. My life in Arizona was good and some things I miss; other things I don't. At the moment, I'm just enjoying life on Samui for as long as I can. I grew up riding bikes but touch wood, I am yet to experience what it's like to end up in a Samui hospital due to a motorbike accident. Life is really good and my hotel job is not too taxing.

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

Thai food, going out and partying, travelling to other places and rent. I have been lucky enough to have time to visit neighboring countries in Southeast Asia and used Thailand as a convenient travel hub.

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

If you're not the partying tip, you could live on 20,000 baht a month down here, but for me 40K would be the bare minimum. Even with that amount, I'm aware that saving only 8,000 is not a lot. When you do a bit of travelling around neighboring countries, the costs can soon eat into your budget. You have to stash an emergency fund but it's easy to survive on Samui. This place is gold!

Phil's analysis and comment

You sound very happy Paul.  These hotel positions on tropical islands are dream jobs for many. They must be a great way to spend a year or two, especially if you have the benefits of hotel quality food thrown in.  You don't see these kinds of jobs advertised all that often but they are certainly around. It's often a case of being in the right place at the right time and keeping an eye open.


Colin

Working in Thonburi

Monthly Earnings 32,000

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 and my salary is 32,000 baht a month. This is actually a job that I fixed up while I was still in England and doing my research. For that salary I work four days a week and have about 16 contact hours so it's not a punishing job by any means. I have lots of free time.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I would love to save 10,000 a month just for the sake of putting something decent away but I find that pretty much impossible. It's usually closer to 5,000.

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

The school found me a cheap apartment just a short distance away. It's a fairly small studio in an old building but quite a bargain at 4,000 baht a month plus bills. It's comfortable enough for the short term but I wouldn't want to live here forever. The noise from the traffic and construction can sometimes be a problem. Most of the foreign teachers at my school live in this building so it's a little bit of a farang enclave.

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

Transportation

Virtually nothing. I can walk to work every day. If I need to go into Bangkok at the weekends or on my day off, I can use the sky-train.

Utility bills

Water and electricity come to about a thousand baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat street-food as much as I can to keep costs down, although I do sometimes worry about the hygiene side of things. I very rarely eat Western food. I'm actually surprised at how expensive it can be. I think it's on a par with what you would pay in the UK, probably even a bit more. I guess my food expenses come to about 6,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I go into Bangkok once a week for a night out and a group of us usually do the bars until very late. Depending on how wild things get, you can easily blow a couple of thousand in a night so this could account for 8,000 baht a month. Actually, blowing 25% of your salary on entertainment does sound a bit crazy now I think about it.

Books, computers

Nothing. I can use the computers at school for free. I always make sure I have the latest smartphone though.

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

It's OK but only for the short-term. I wanted to give teaching in Thailand a try but I can't honestly see me signing up for a second year. I'll need to make a decision about whether to move to another country in SE Asia or return home. Neither option fills me with much enthusiasm but then again neither does staying here longer than 12 months.

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

Street-food. I'm not sure I'd describe it as a 'real bargain' but it's cheap enough.

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

Well, I'm surviving on 32,000 but for how many years can you 'just survive'? I think if you are going to build a future here, you need at least 60,000 for a single guy and I ain't anywhere near that. I'm probably not qualified to earn that sort of money either.

Phil's analysis and comment

You don't sound too happy with your lot, Colin.  I'm wondering if you could use some of that free time you have to generate another income stream or two. I bet with a bit of effort you could add another 10-15K a month on to that 32,000 and it would make a big difference to your lifestyle. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 318 total

Page 5 of 64


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