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 1st August 2021

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿46 to one Pound Sterling
฿39 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.66 THB to one Philippine Peso

Ni Luh Kim

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 42,000 (before tax)

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

I work full-time (Wednesday - Sunday) for an English learning center. I do not have any private or online gigs. After tax and social security the net pay is around 39,000.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

It is only my first year in Bangkok. My husband and I work for the same English school (different branches of course). We manage to save around 5,000 baht a month. Bearing in mind, we have just moved to Bangkok and are settling in and have acquired a new rental apartment closer to our centers in Lad Phrao. Once we are settled, I’m sure that we will be able to save 10,000 baht easily.

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

We share our expenses. Our apartment which is actually a monthly hotel room is 16,000 baht per month with electricity at 1,000 baht and 45 baht for water.

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

Transportation

We purchased a rent to buy scooter when we arrived at the beginning of the year. We have one more payment and then it will be ours. The rent to buy has been 2,800 baht per month and petrol is around 400 baht for the month since moving closer to work.

Utility bills

Our electricity cost is roughly 1,000 baht. We’ve noticed that having a timer on the AC has been a huge saver. My husband is also a gamer and with a newer style TV - it has been energy efficient. At our previous condo, the electricity bill would go up to 3,000 baht per month. I also enjoying cooking at least three times a week.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Our supermarket shopping is roughly 600-800 baht per week. We shop weekly so we also have fresh fruit and vegetables. We usually purchase lunch and dinner on the weekends around 50-80 baht per meal from Saturday - Tuesday.

Nightlife and drinking

We haven’t really experienced night life due to COVID regulations. Alcohol is quite pricey but when we do have a little something-something we head to the 7/11 downstairs and could spend around 300 baht on beers and ciders or 800 baht on a bottle of vodka and enjoy ourselves at the hotel

Books, computers

I’m a real bookworm. I enjoy a book store in Siam which is a real journey. When we head to the bookstore, I usually purchase 3-4 books at a time around 250-550 baht a book.

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

Our standard of living is pleasant but simple. We have learnt to save for some of the things which are more costly or align with our interests. For example, I enjoy spas so I save around 6,000 baht for 2 months and enjoyed a quiet afternoon at a spa at the St Regis hotel. My husband on the other hand is able to purchase PS4 games regularly.

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

A real bargain is definitely heading down to a fresh food market and packing your basket with a whole broccoli, three potatoes, an onion, a tomato and some garlic for only 50 baht. It’s always a really huge shock. I come from South Africa and these things are five times the price back home compared to over here.

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

If you’re a simple person (not having many lavish dinners or alcohol parties) you could survive on 35,000-40,000 baht. I think it’s important to enjoy the little pleasures and every occasion does not have to a be spending spree.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Ni. I guess you could save a bit of money by moving out of hotel accommodation couldn't you? That part of your survey reminded me of a teacher I worked with in the mid-90s at a private language center. He also lived in a hotel but it was one of those short-time joints where people pay by the hour and are at the busiest once the bars and pubs close. He stayed there for a whole year if I recall and never once got a decent night's sleep due to all the comings and goings in the wee small hours. Strange times indeed.   


Kenneth

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50,000

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

I work full-time at a large Thai private school and take home around 50,000 baht after tax and various deductions. I don't do any private or online work or have any other sources of income. I find my full-time job tiring enough and value my weekends off.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

In a good month, I can save around 10,000 baht but looking at my bank balance this year, I've managed to save around 85K since January, so it's averaged out at less than 8,000 baht a month. Much depends on if I decide to have a weekend away and do some travelling.

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

I live in a large studio apartment in a newish development and pay 8,000 baht a month (excluding bills) Having worked in Bangkok for several years, lived in three different apartments and looked at many others, I think 8,000 is about the minimum you need to spend for somewhere half decent. The apartment comes with a large balcony and a really good bathroom (both of those things are important to me) I'm up on the 18th floor so it's nice to come home from a tough day at work and sit out on the balcony and watch the sun go down.

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

Transportation

I use motorcycle taxis just to zip up and down the soi and then the BTS to get to work. It takes me about half an hour door-to-door and it's always nice not to have to rely on buses or taxis and never be sure how long your morning commute is going to be. I spend about a thousand baht a month on transportation.

Utility bills

I avoid turning on the air-conditioning whenever possible, in fact I can't remember the last time I used it. Even on humid days, I'll keep it switched off and just lounge around in my boxer shorts. There's only me here! So again, this comes to barely a thousand baht a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is the one area of an average teacher's expenditure that fascinates me because I think controlling it is a real challenge. It's very easy to give in to your Western cravings and splash serious cash on pizzas and fast food. I try to stick to Thai food and street food as much as possible and allow myself a Western splurge just once at the weekend. I actually find the less you eat Western food, the more you can go without it. I have teaching colleagues who order sausages and pies and all sorts from delivery companies and I swear half their salaries must disappear on 'tastes of home'. It feels such an unnecessary waste of money to me. But even my Thai food diet, the odd 7-11 snack and supermarket shopping must set me back 12,000 baht a month. Yes, 300-400 baht a day sounds about right.

Nightlife and drinking

I'd go as far as to say I can't afford it. There isn't much of a drinking culture at the school among the foreign staff anyway. I probably go out a couple of times a month and always try and keep the bill down to a sensible level.

Books, computers

Zero. My trusty laptop is still going strong so I download as much as I need for free.

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

It's OK but I often feel as if I'm just 'treading water'. If I put my mind to it, I could probably add another 10-20K to my monthly income but I value my evenings and weekends off too much. I am starting to think of maybe heading off to pastures new once the Co-vid situation is over to a place where I can earn perhaps a bit more. Vietnam sounds quite appealing.

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

Anything I pick up on my Sunday jaunts down to my local Thai fresh market. You can buy fruit and ready meals for less than half of what you'd pay at the supermarket. The quality may not be as good but even so, it's a huge saving.

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

Well, I 'survive' on 50,000 but I certainly wouldn't like to drop below that. If you are serious about teaching as a career and want to put some coin away for the future, then I think you should be aiming at a minimum of 70-80K.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Ken. I like this survey because it comes from what I would class as 'a teacher on an average Bangkok salary' (probably above above average in fact) and yet you still avoid turning on the a/c, can't really afford to go out drinking that much and view Western food as only a 'weekend treat'. But I do get where you are coming from. 

I agree with what you say about food. This is an expense that can spiral out of control if you are constantly giving into your Western cravings. In fact, I was looking at the delivery websites just last night and who doesn't fancy a bit of proper sausage or some nice bacon or an Indian curry? But once you start totting up the contents of your shopping cart, it can be silly money.  


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.        


James

Working in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Monthly Earnings Around 81,000 baht

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

I make 50 million VND (around 67,000 baht) from my main job at a high school teaching 17 hours a week with no admin or prep time. I also make an extra 10 million VND (13K) from a language centre I teach at 3 hours a week in the evening. So I earn double what I made in Thailand with less workload.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I can easily save 30,000 a month. I could save more but I also want to have a decent lifestyle.

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

My apartment is around 8,500 baht a month.

Honestly, one of my biggest gripes here compared to Thailand is accommodation. Even most of the new apartments here aren't as nice, most of them lack the facilities (pool, gym, onsite convenience store, etc) that are commonplace in Thailand and they just aren't the same.
Modern places similar to the ones in Thailand cost more than they do there and are only really found in the bigger cities.

Outside of Saigon/Hanoi, you'll probably have little choice but live in a Vietnamese style box with bars on the windows, noisy neighbours and no pool or gym. Even if you have the money to pay for more, there's no availability. Vietnamese people just aren't interested in modern, Westernised condos like Thai people are and they're mostly happy living in their boxes.

I really miss the standard of modern condos in Thailand.

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

Transportation

I bought a motorbike for a few thousand baht so besides petrol which is dirt cheap, nothing.

Utility bills

About 800 baht depending on how much I use the air conditioner/TV. Water and wifi is included in rent. Netflix is 66 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I spend a lot on food as I'm not a fan of the Vietnamese fare. I spend up to 500 baht a day on Western/Japanese/Indian food. So that's up to 15,000 a month. Yeah, I could live a lot cheaper if I only ate pho, bun bo hue or banh mi every day but I just can't bring myself to do that more than a couple of times a week.

I'm lucky because I live in HCMC where a wide variety of international foods are available. But compared to Thailand, I don't think the food scene is as good. Outside of the bigger cities, it can be tough for picky eaters like me.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm not really a party animal so I only maybe go to my local expat pub once a week or drink at a Vietnamese street bar with some friends where the beers are 14 baht a glass so this expense is maybe 2,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

Nothing.

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

I have a very good standard of living and Vietnam is well worth a look for farangs who are jaded with the low salaries, ever worsening visa hassle and Thailand's xenophobia but still want the tropical climate, laid-back lifestyle and don't fancy the entertainment 'wastelands' of The Middle East or the freezing winters of Korea.

Honestly, I do miss Thailand though. It is more fun there, the nightlife scene is a lot better, it's more developed, the infrastructure is better, the food scene is better, etc but with how things are going, it just didn't make sense to stay there anymore.

People are a lot nicer in Vietnam. There's less anti-farang sentiment and creepy nationalism here and I actually get treated like a teacher rather than a dancing white circus clown.

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

Practically everything.

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

You could survive comfortably on 30,000 a month or even less if you live outside of the city and eat Vietnamese food. It really is one of the cheapest countries in the world to live in.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks for that James. You certainly paint a rosy picture of Vietnam as an alternative to teaching in Thailand. I have only been once for a short trip - and although a holiday compared to living and working in a country are two entirely different things - I thought the Vietnamese people were wonderful!

Some interesting insights there on food and accommodation. I'm kind of with you in terms of the cuisine. If I had to choose a restaurant for an evening meal, Vietnamese would probably be bottom of the list. I've just never grasped its appeal at all. 

I guess when it comes to housing, we are spoiled in Thailand by such a tremendous choice of Western-style apartments, etc and don't really realize it. It's a very interesting comparison though. I'm someone who needs a nice living environment and I certainly wouldn't fancy one of those Vietnamese boxes.

But all in all, it sounds like you're enjoying life and don't regret the decision to move. Well done!  


Joe

Working in Shanghai, China

Monthly Earnings 188,000

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

I earn 94,000 a month from my full-time ESL job and another 94,000 a month from private students. I only take one day off a week and teach around 13 hours extra for private classes. The full-time job is around 15 hours a week, but requires a lot of traveling around the city to class locations. My wife’s not working at the moment, but we could add another 47k a month later on when she does.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

We save about half our income most months when we don’t have any large expenses.

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

I pay 35,000 for a two-bedroom flat in a nice area of Shanghai, which has very high property prices.

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

Transportation

Nothing. I get transport cards from my school and that covers all my subway fees.

Utility bills

About 4,700 a month including mobile and WiFi.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

1,400 on food. Mainly order food from supermarkets online. A mix of home cooking and restaurant deliveries.

Nightlife and drinking

Only beer and wine at home.

Books, computers

A new phone, or iPad every few years.

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

My wife and I have a really good standard of living. We don’t travel enough though, but we're quite satisfied.

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

Anything online! It is China after all.

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

In Shanghai, as a single person you need at least 70,000 baht a month for a basic lifestyle.

Phil's analysis and comment

There's good money to be made in China by the sound of it, Joe but you work hard for it. Apart from the travelling around the city doing your full-time job, you've got 50+ hours of private lessons to organise and prepare for.  I'm guessing the 1,400 baht on food was a typo. Should that perhaps be 14,000?   


Stefan

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 90,000 + other sidelines

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

After taxes I earn 90,000 baht per month as a full-time science teacher at an international school. I also am an active Forex Trader and I do private tutoring which pays around 1,000 baht per hour. My wife earns around 40,000 per month. So in good months, we have a combined income of over 150,000.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Normally I would save at least 30,000, but it depends on the month. As I am still young, I am not really saving for retirement yet.

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

I share a nice house and garden with some friends and we share the rent. I pay around 13,000.

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

Transportation

I drive my car or motorbike most of the time so I guess around 3,000 baht on gasoline per month with the odd taxi drive.

Utility bills

Around 4,000 per month. which includes optic fiber Internet with 1Gbit.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This very much depends on my mood. I can spend between 10,000 and 30,000 depending on what foods I am craving and what the wife wants to eat.

Nightlife and drinking

As I never drink cheap local beers, I might spend up to 15,000 per month on craft beers. But then again, some months I might spend close to nothing if I stay at home a lot.

Books, computers

I use my MacBook Pro, an iPad Air and an android phone which are already paid for. I might spend up to 2,000 baht per month on videogames.

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

I feel like I am living to a very high standard, but I am also earning more in Thailand than I would earn in the West.

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

Eating out in Thailand is dirt cheap compared to my home country, Germany. Also the cost of high speed internet is unbelievably cheap here.

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

I would say 50,000 would be enough to live decently as a single person in Bangkok. However in order to be able to save and not to worry about the future as much, I would not want to earn less than 80,000 as a single person.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Stefan. You and your wife have a nice standard of living there. I'm guessing that you don't have costly children either. It's just you and your partner to look after. 

Even without the private tutoring and the Forex trading, you have a nice income but sometimes it's all about having fingers in several different pies. 

I've thought about dabbling in that Forex trading myself a few times. I've got several friends who are enthusiasts and they all seem to do well with it. 


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.       


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