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

Julio

Working in Hokkaido, Japan

Monthly Earnings 72,800

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

I get 72,800 from a private language school. Due to my small town, there isn't much apparent opportunity for private lessons outside of my main gig. Also, my contract strictly forbids me from taking outside work.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 14.5K each month. I could save a bit more but I have a girlfriend. I also spend a bit of money on hobbies and traveling to Sapporo each month for a night or two.

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

My accommodation is 15K each month. It's a one bedroom place that's arranged by the school. It isn't bad considering it's fully furnished and equipped with a decent kitchen. but it's a little old.

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

Transportation

4K on a two way train ticket to Sapporo each month. It's a big chunk of my salary, but the happiness it brings me seems worth it. I live close to work so I use a bicycle or walk in my city.

Utility bills

5-6K a month! My city is in the northeast of Hokkaido and it gets real cold here during the winter. Between electric and a gas heater, this is one of my biggest expenses.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Close to my same cost in rent, 11K. Japan is expensive and I love Sushi. I also love eating quality food in Sapporo.

Nightlife and drinking

4K a month goes towards a bottle of wine every night or so. This town is about as boring as it gets, and the booze also keeps me warm.

Books, computers

I bought an Xbox one when I got here. I use it to watch movies and Youtube. All my other reading is done through my computer screen for free.

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

Comfortable, but generally quite boring. Food is great, and while I enjoy my work and stress free lifestyle, there's plenty of greater things out there that I feel I should be doing. Considering it's only my second year teaching, it's not bad, but this kind of lifestyle should only be seen as a starting point in my opinion.

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

Healthcare. I had a procedure done here that cost me about 2K baht that would have been a fortune back in The States.

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

One can survive day to day quite easily on what I'm making, however, surviving is precisely what you'd be doing. If you want a good life and some true comforts, you'd need 145K baht, or close to 500K Yen.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Julio. It's not often we get a cost of living survey from Japan. It's a shame that your language school puts the block on earning extra money from outside work because I bet you get requests quite often. I don't really know how things work in Japan. Great place for a holiday though!


Robert

Working in A village just outside Khorat

Monthly Earnings 30,000

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

I work through a decent agency at a Thai government school. My salary is 30,000 baht a month. I don’t do any extra work such as private students or online teaching. I could but I just don’t bother. I stretch the 30K salary as far as it will go.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save about 10,000 baht of that salary but don’t really need to. I have a decent amount of savings that I could dip into in an emergency, but touch wood, so far those savings remain intact.

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

I live in a tidy two-storey town-house in a tiny village about five kilometres outside Khorat and surrounded by forests and rice fields. It’s fairly basic but it has a small kitchen, two bedrooms (I use one as a store-room) and a bathroom. There is also an upstairs terrace / balcony where you can hang out washing. I pay 6,000 baht a month plus utility bills. For the amount of space I have, it feels like an absolute bargain.

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

Transportation

I have my own scooter. That’s pretty much a necessity when you live where I do. I love riding my scooter through the countryside, especially in the early morning on the way to school, but it isn’t quite as much fun in the rainy season with the rain lashing down. But the teacher must get through! I spend about 500 baht a month on gas.

Utility bills

Electric and water come to barely 500 baht a month and I pay another 1,000 for internet and phone.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Sometimes I cook at home using ingredients from the local market (well, actually it’s more of a roadside shack than a market) and I have breakfast and lunch at the school. A trip to McDonalds or KFC in Khorat is a once or twice a month treat. I bet I don’t even spend 3,000 baht a month on food. Yes – a hundred baht a day sounds about right. I can throw a decent meal together at home for half that. There are also a couple of roadside restaurants in the village that charge about 30 baht a dish if I fancy going out to eat instead of cooking at home.

Nightlife and drinking

Nightlife LOL. When it goes dark around these parts, you can’t see one foot in front of the other. Nightlife would be sharing a large bottle of beer with the village drunk outside the corner shop. So I tend not to bother. I’ll have the occasional beer at home but I’m not really a drinker.

Books, computers

I spend nothing on these. I download e-books for free.

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

I lived and worked in Bangkok for five years and I grew to hate every second of it. The heat, the humidity, the traffic jams, the growing ‘un-Thainess’ of the place and a thousand other reasons. The more hours I worked and the more money I made (usually between 60 and 80,000 a month) the more miserable I became. Living in Bangkok became a kind of forced slavery. I knew I had to get out.

The game-changer was when an old pal from England retired to live in North-east Thailand, in a village very similar to the one I myself live in now. He had a house built and settled very quickly into Thai rural life. I went up to stay with him for a few days and instantly became envious of all that he had (and indeed didn’t have). His days consisted of long walks and leisurely bicycle rides. His evenings were spent chatting and improving his Thai with a friendly bunch of elderly locals over large bottles of Leo. I had known this guy a long time but I’d never seen him look so fit and healthy and at peace with himself. ‘I want some of this’ I thought. And I returned to Bangkok and drew up my escape plans. I was gone within a month.

I look back now and the five years in Bangkok feel like five wasted and unnecessary years. I love it out here in the sticks.I feel born again. I have a job that’s hardly what you would call demanding and I have all the free time I need. The money just doesn’t matter.

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

Out in the countryside, everything is cheap. I couldn’t choose one thing over another.

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

In Bangkok, regadless of how much you earn, you can burn through it somehow. In rural Thailand, 20,000 is more than enough. 30,000 feels like a fortune.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Robert for I think one of the most thought-provoking cost of living surveys we've had.

Every time I venture into rural Thailand for a few days (especially the north) I return to Bangkok's concrete jungle and wonder what the hell I'm doing there. In fact if it wasn't for my wife's job and her family, I suspect we would move tomorrow. 

Many years ago, when I was an academic director of a language school, we won a contract with a government school in Mahasarakham Province to supply them with three full-time teachers. A quick show of hands in the staff-room and it wasn't difficult to find three willing souls who fancied swapping the city life for a straw hut out in the forest. 

Two months down the line I contacted the teachers to find out how they were settling in. One teacher was loving it. "I jog, I cycle, I play tennis, I go to bed early with a good book. I've never felt fitter in my whole life. And the school and students are fantastic!" 

The other two teachers begged me to bring them back to Bangkok. "There's nothing to do here. The boredom is slowly killing us" 

What they really meant was that there was no nightlife. Both these teachers had a reputation for enjoying a night on the sauce and perhaps the company of a lady or three. I knew they wouldn't last the pace.

To me that sums things up. You're either a city person or someone who can handle the quiet life in the country.


This cost of living section is one of the most popular parts of the Ajarn website and we would love you to take part. Send us your cost of living surveys and tell us a little about your life in Thailand.


Chris

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 104,000

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

I teach at an international school and make 104K a month after tax. I work Monday to Friday, and get the usual school holidays off. I also get paid a 13th month salary bonus as well as a return flight to the UK each year. I pay 20% of any health insurance claims that I make. (There is no housing allowance at my school.)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I save around 50% of my money each month. I should aim to save more really.

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

We pay 21,000 Baht a month for a nice 1 bedroom/1 bathroom condo on a high floor. It's directly next to a BTS station. My girlfriend earns significantly less than me, so she contributes 7,000 Baht and I actually pay 14,000 Baht.

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

Transportation

I spend around 300-400 Baht on the BTS each month, and around 140 Baht on gas for my scooter. (A full tank is 70 Baht, and I tend to fill-up once a fortnight.)

Utility bills

Not sure to be honest. Definitely less than 2000 Baht a month for everything including electric/water/phones/internet/subscriptions etc. I split every bill with my girlfriend 50/50, so I usually pay less than 1000 Bath a month on utility bills.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I eat Thai food everyday for lunch, and have never paid more than 90 Baht for a lunch. I tend to eat a lot of Western food for dinner, but I rarely spend more than 400 or 500 Baht on a meal. I know some of my friends spend 1000's on brunches and fancy steaks, but I very rarely do that.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm a very light drinker, so I save a lot here. I can count the number of heavy nights out I've had over the past couple of years on one hand.

Books, computers

Gadgets and computer games are my downfall. I probably buy a new video game or a new electronic item once a month. Some of these gadgets can cost more than 10,000 Baht (but never more than 15,000). The most expensive thing I ever bought was my scooter (30,000), but that was a necessity.

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

Many people would say that I live a boring life, but I very much enjoy what I do. It's a very comfortable standard of living for me.

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

The cost of nice accommodation. Back home you'd have to pay double the price in order to get somewhere half as nice to live.

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

My girlfriend takes home 32,000 a month, and she is not Thai. We split our bills/food costs 50/50, but she pays a third of the rent. Any less than 32,000, and I would definitely have to pay more of her rent share.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Chris. I guess with you earning three times what your partner does, it's only fair that you pay the lion's share of the monthly bills but I've always found the whole idea of discussing 'who pays how much for what?' to be something of an awkward situation. It can be difficult for a couple to talk about money because it's often hard to decide how much is fair.

My wife and I have a system that seems to have just evolved. I pay the monthly utility bills. I pay for all the supermarket shopping unless it's something like cosmetics, which are specifically for her. When it comes to eating out, I'll pick up the tab probably 80% of the time. Whenever we travel, my wife will pay for her own flight and we'll split the accommodation costs 50/50. Once we get to a destination, I'll pay for all the food, transportation and entrance fees, etc.

Yet not once have we ever sat down together and said stuff like "well, actually I think I pay too much for this" or "you should contribute more to this", etc. 

It strikes me as a strange system at times - but it seems to work OK.


Mark

Working in Rayong

Monthly Earnings 124,000 Baht

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

I work as a head of department in a mid-range international school that pays 124,000 per month before tax. They also pay a one month bonus at the end of each academic year. I occasionally do freelance writing but that's more for love than money.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I average 60K a month. There isn't very much to spend money on in Rayong.

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

I have a one-bedroom bungalow next to the sea (the ocean is 5 metres from the back door at high tide). It's basic but beautiful, and at 10K a month I'm not moving anytime soon.

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

Transportation

I drive to work and back daily in a car I bought years back. Petrol for which is about 2K a month.

Utility bills

Very little. Water and electricity are often less than a thousand baht combined.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

A lot, probably 20-30K. I see food as important and prepare good meals at home most nights. Quality cuts of meat can be expensive in Thailand.

Nightlife and drinking

Very little. After turning 40 I made an effort to stop wasting money and my health in the bars (there are a lot in this part of Rayong). I have a girlfriend now and more often than not we spend evenings in the garden just watching the sea change colour.

Books, computers

I own a computer but spend nothing on it. I usually buy books in bulk when I travel home so it's hard to decide on a monthly figure.

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

Right now life is great. Teaching might not be stress-free but international students in Thailand are a delight to work with. Then I go home and can literally leap from the garden into the ocean.

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

Despite the strengthening Baht, petrol, electricity and water are still a fraction of what you'd pay in Europe.

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

Assuming you don't need to save for a pension, 60K a month is enough for a comfortable life. For everyone else, 100K would mean you can grow old worry free. Professionally qualified teachers should find such salaries easy to come by. Life must be very different for those (presumably unqualified?) teachers working for 30 - 40K a month.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Mark. You've clearly made a very nice life for yourself (and your partner) down in Rayong. Sitting in the garden and watching the ocean change colour certainly sounds idyllic to this fifty-something. And there's nothing wrong with eating well if you've got the money to do so. 


Peter

Working in Hanoi

Monthly Earnings 210,000

Q1. How much do you earn from teaching per month?

190,000

Q2. How much of that can you realistically save per month?

150,000

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

I pay 20,000 baht for a two-bedroom condo. School pays us a 40,000 baht housing allowance.

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

Transportation

Petrol for my motorbike costs about 150 baht.

Utility bills

This is paid for by the school.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

15,000 baht

Nightlife and drinking

2,000 baht. I'm not really into either of these.

Books, computers

1,000 baht a month on books.

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

Very comfortable and I can save quite a lot for the future.

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

Housing.

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

Maybe 35,000 baht. I've completed this survey as I saw you had only two Vietnam responses so thought another one might deepen the picture a little more. If you work in a top-tier international school you can do very well in Vietnam, particularly in Hanoi. Let's put it this way: what I've saved in nine years here is enough to give me a 50,000 baht a month salary in Thailand for the next 20 years. Have a think about that.

Phil's analysis and comment

It sounds like working at a top tier international school in Vietnam is not a bad gig at all.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 272 total

Page 5 of 55


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