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 September 2019

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿38 to one Pound Sterling
฿34 to one Euro
฿21 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.58 THB to one Philippine Peso

Brian

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 55,000

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

35,000 baht from my regular salary and about 20,000 from private teaching.

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

I try to save all the money I earn from private teaching and survive on my 35K monthly salary.

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

I live in a small rented apartment in a quiet suburb of Bangkok. It costs me 6,500 baht a month.

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

Transportation

I'm lucky inasmuch as I live about a 5-minute walk from my school so there's no need to deal with buses or taxis. I generally use taxis at the weekend though to go shopping or to go out and meet friends. But I'm guessing my monthly 'taxi bill' rarely tops 1,000 baht a month

Utility bills

Obviously I've noticed a big increase this month because the weather has got so hot and I'm blasting out the air-con all the time. In the cool season when I don't need the a/c on, my bills can be as low as 800 baht but last month was well over 2,000.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I like to have a mix of Thai food in local restaurants or maybe take-aways from the local street vendors and a splurge in a 'farang restaurant' once or twice a week. My weekly supermarket bill comes to about a thousand baht. I guess altogether food costs me about 10,000 a month. That might seem excessive for one person living alone but I've always thought that food is one thing you should never skimp on.

Nightlife and drinking

I'm not a big drinker at all. I go out a couple of nights a week and I'll enjoy three or four beers each time. I don't go to the kind of places where - cough! - there are too many temptations. Put me down for about 3,000 baht a month for this category.

Books, computers

I like reading so I'm often to be found in the second-hand bookshops around town. I'll probably spend 1,500 a month on books. And I pay just under a thousand baht a month for high-speed internet at my apartment.

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

I'm very happy with it but I make 55,000 baht a month only because I top up my regular salary with private students. I certainly couldn't and wouldn't survive on my base pay. I worked that out a very long time ago. If I look at my overall lifestyle, I probably don't enjoy enough weekends away or short holidays in Thailand - but that said, I'm not a beach or island person so trips don't appeal to me all that much.

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

Prices are definitely increasing here right across the board. I would say taxis are still an amazing bargain though. How those taxi drivers make money I'll never know!

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

In Bangkok? I wouldn't like to survive on less than 40K a month. In fact I'm beginning to think 50K is becoming closer to the mark. I don't know how much you could survive on in the rural areas. I've never had any desire to work there anyway. I'm a city boy!

Phil's analysis and comment

Sensible guy. Very sensible guy. Brian doesn't earn a great fortune but then again, he doesn't do anything to excess. It's a case of everything in moderation, leaving him 20,000 baht a month to stash away for a rainy day. I would like to have known a bit more about Brian's privates (ooh er missis) and how the numbers stack up. If he's earning 20,000 baht a month and I assume charging at least 500 baht an hour, then that's 40 hours of private teaching a month or 10 hours a week. That's quite a lot. I used to do about 6-8 hours a week with private students and found that more than enough. Sometimes you do your regular job from say 9am - 4pm and then a couple of hours in the evening, it can make a very long day indeed. Still, if you want to cream in the wonga, you've got to put in the effort!  


Simon

Working in Nakhon Si Thammarat

Monthly Earnings 30,000 Baht

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

30,000 Baht

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

Generally it will be around 10,000 a month but if I were really trying to save then I could definitely save half my wage and still live reasonably comfortably.

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

I live with a friend in a good sized 3-bedroom house about 15 minutes drive from my school. Rent is 6,000 a month, so I pay 3,000 a month.

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

Transportation

I have a Suzuki moped which I bought for 16,000 bht and generally spend around 140 bht a week on fuel

Utility bills

Utility bills Bills are split in half so monthly I spend 315 baht for internet, 150 baht for electricity and 40 baht for water.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

As Nakhon Si Thammarat is not at all touristy, prices aren’t inflated so food tends to be very cheap. In fact I generally eat out 6 nights out of 7 as it is cheaper to eat out. I’d say 4,000 bht a month is an over estimate

Nightlife and drinking

There is a really good social scene in Nakhon amongst the farang teachers and there is generally something going on. Most weeks/weekends there are bbqs and parties and we generally do trips to waterfalls/beaches at least two weekends out of four. I’d say on average I spend around 10,000 baht a month on this.

Books, computers

Once again the social side means that there is a book club/pool of books to read so I’ve yet to buy any books while living here. If we go to Samui or a touristy place I might buy a book but it’s rare. So I’d say 200 baht maximum. I have my laptop as well and we're always swapping movies on our hard drives so once again very little is spent on this.

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

Excellent. Nakhon Si Thammarat is a quiet place but still has a good social scene. I play football and frisbee. I go to the gym (free) regularly and there are many places to relax and enjoy a glass of wine. During the weekends I’m always doing something fun and different. So to sum things up I have a great life with a great standard of living here.

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

Food, fuel and most definitely rent considering the size of house that you can get for your money.

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

You could survive on 15k, but I’m not sure how much you’d enjoy yourself. My salary enables me to save some money but in all honesty I don’t consciously try to save, as long as I don’t go crazy it’s pretty easy to save a third of your wage. On 30k it allows you to enjoy life, enjoy Thailand and still have a little left over..

Phil's analysis and comment

We seem to be hearing more and more good things from teachers about Nakhon Si Thammarat. It's certainly becoming a place to check out down south and you can't grumble with paying 3,000 baht a month to share a 3-bedroom house. The vibrant social scene sounds interesting too. Getting together with friends for a bike ride or a barbecue and a few beers certainly doesn't need to cost you a lot of money. Not sure about surviving on 15,000 baht a month though. Anywhere in Thailand. It amounts to 500 baht a day. I couldn't do it.


Brent

Working in Nakhon Nayok

Monthly Earnings 60,000 – 65,000

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

30 000 Baht for 18 hours of teaching ( 8 a.m – 4 p.m Mon-Friday). My girlfriend works at the same school and we live together so our joint salary is 60 000 Baht. With private lessons we each bring in an extra 1000 – 2000 Baht.

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

One full salary – 30 000 Baht.

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

I live in a one bedroom studio apartment with a fridge,cable TV,free WiFi and shower @ 5000 Baht/month

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

Transportation

I rent an old vacuum cleaner resembling Honda for 900 Baht now. I used to rent a Yamaha Mio for 1500/month until it was stolen. Petrol costs 400 Baht/month.

Utility bills

900 – 1000 Baht for electricity, 350 Baht for water and about 500 for the use of the washing machine.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

6000 – 9000 Baht a month. It ranges around 6 – 7000 when we stick to Thai food and cook at home once or twice a week. Goes up to about 9000 when we go to Bangkok for Western meals and splurge on snacks at 7-Eleven.

Nightlife and drinking

I don’t really go out and prefer saving my money for travelling. The occasional beer at home amounts to about 200 baht.

Books, computers

I set aside 1500 – 2000 every month in case I see something I like.

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

I’m home by 4:10 p.m everyday and have not stressed about anything work related...EVER. – That should sum it up.

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

Food, clothes and general necessities.

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

Well, in order to survive, 25000 – 30 000 if you live outside of Bangkok and 35k upwards if you live in the major cities. Where I live, there’s nothing to do really, no Western food temptations or anything like that. My girlfriend and I save one salary clean every month, which means that two people are surviving off 30 000 Baht a month and living very comfortably.

Phil's analysis and comment

I've been through Nakhon Nayok several times. It's the quietest of backwaters. When I first read that Brent earned 60-65K a month to teach in Nakhon Nayok, I almost fell off my chair, but as you read into the survey, you will see that that amount of money is the result of two salaries. Brent's life sounds incredibly stress-free but he lives in a place where there is absolutely nothing to do. From his answers here, it even sounds like 'buying snacks from 7-11' is something of a treat. But I'm certainly not going to knock it. Each to his own and all that. Brent and his partner are saving 360,000 baht a year for travel and other things - and that's a tidy sum of money in Thailand. I think some teachers would love living in such a quiet location but it would drive other teachers crazy. I couldn't live there personally.


Ashley

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 50,000 baht

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

I work full time at a language school making about 50,000 baht/month.

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

About 20,000 baht

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

I pay 9,000 baht/month to rent a condo near the river. It's very small (28 sq m) but I am only one person so it's fine. It has one bedroom, partial kitchen, western bathroom with stand up hot shower, living room, little balcony only big enough to hang my laundry, and the dining room table is small and in the kitchen. There are 2 efficient air-con units , its fairly modern, fridge, microwave, flat screen tv (but only a few Thai channels). There is also a pool and fitness room.

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

Transportation

About 2,000 baht. I live a short walk from my school and only pay for transportation when I go into the city. My condo has a shuttle that takes me to the BTS for very cheap and I usually take taxis at night.

Utility bills

About 2,400 baht. Electric runs around 700 baht, cell phone about 900, laundry services about 100, Internet 590. Water 100. I don't have cable because I watch everything online.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

both restaurants and supermarket shopping, I spend about 5,000 baht on groceries and 2,500 on eating out. I do eat Western food frequently but mostly by making it at home. I eat mostly Thai food when I'm with my friends.

Nightlife and drinking

About 1,600 baht monthly. I go out maybe once a week.

Books, computers

I am given gift cards from family back home to buy things on iTunes, so nothing really. I do spend money on clothes, various odds and ends for my apartment, massages, manicure, pedicure etc. that's about 2,500 baht.

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

My money goes a very long way and I think it will be very easy to have a good time and travel while here.

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

Thai food, clothing (not name brands), massages.

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

Just surviving, paycheck to paycheck, only about 20,000 baht. If you want to have some fun too, about 30,000.

Phil's analysis and comment

It's not a bad life is it Ash? Taxis, massages, manicures, pedicures, all your clothes washed and ironed. These things cost a fortune back home you know? And your small one-bedroom apartment sounds just like the place I lived in for three years and was generally very happy with. 28 square meters is more than enough for a single person. And I was paying about 8,000 baht a month 12 years ago. From what I'm reading here it sounds like you want for nothing and to be honest, I would expect that on 50,000 baht a month. That's a decent enough salary for a young, single female. 


Katherine

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings Base salary 23,000 private teaching around 6,000.

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

I work full time at a school earning 23,000, and part time at a language school averaging about 6,000 a month (this can vary month to month though)

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

I actually manage to save about 10,000 a month, but I am actively trying to save money and could easily spend my whole salary.

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

I share a condo apartment with my boyfriend (also a TEFL teacher) so the 9,000 rent is split between us. For this we have a lovely western studio apartment with kitchen, large balcony, bath, air-con, sofa, large double bed, washing machine, wifi, flat screen TV/DVD and access to swimming pool. Water and electric are separate but the price includes internet, common area fee and TV package including western movie channels. The apartment is quite expensive for its size, but came fully equipped.

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

Transportation

I rent a motorbike for 2,000 a month and I spend about 500 a month on petrol.

Utility bills

Water costs on average 100 a month and electricity about 500 (though we don’t currently use the air-con) and this is split between us.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I get lunches provided at school and eat breakfast in the apartment. Dinner is always eaten out or a take-away. I treat myself to western style food maybe once or twice a week, and eat relatively cheap local food the rest of the time. On average it costs about 2,500 – 3,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I don’t go out too much, usually just a few beers at the weekend, and I tend to drink where prices are cheap. Usually around 1,000-2,000 a month. Cigarettes cost about 500 a month.

Books, computers

I tend to buy a couple of books, clothes, souvenirs a month but as I’m trying to save, no big purchases. About 3,000 a month.

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

For someone who doesn’t have a great desire to go out every night and drink, my money goes a long way. In the past four months of working I have managed to save enough money for a flight to visit the parents back home, and enjoy a reasonable standard of living in a small but perfectly formed apartment. I can afford to eat and buy what I want within reason, but the sacrifice is the long hours I have to work (a full time job plus some evening and weekend work).

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

Thai food, you can get meals as cheap as 30 baht and cigarettes for around the same price. My bike is also a pretty good bargain and it’s amazingly cheap to run.

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

In order to ‘survive’ I think you could live of 25,000 as a single person, maybe 20,000 as part of a couple where bills and rent are split. To live comfortably and be able to save a bit of money each month you really need to be earning closer to the 30,000 bracket. While I have been able to live a comfortable lifestyle and save money on my salary, I don’t have any savings put aside for emergencies (that bike accident, emergency trip home, school fails to pay etc).

Phil's analysis and comment

I really enjoyed reading through Katherine's cost of living survey. Living in Chiang Mai on a teacher's salary is always a topic that fascinates me. It's a place where so many teachers would love to live and work but it's also a place where the relatively low teacher salaries come in for a fair bit of criticism. 

Let's have a look at Katherine's situation. She sounds blissfully happy doesn't she? And I would be the first to say 'good on ya girl'. She lives in a nice apartment with all mod cons so it's a nice place to go back to and relax at the end of the day. She tootles around town on a cheap-to-run motorcycle and there's not many things that she does without. Books, clothes, a nice steak and chips - they are all there when she wants them. She's even managed to save enough for a flight home to see the folks. It goes without saying - Katherine does a terrific job of managing her money. And she enjoys life too!

The truth is that she could maintain this sort of lifestyle for many years to come (I'm guessing that Katherine is still in her 20's) but I'm sure deep down she knows it can't last forever. Does she even want it to? Eventually 'middle-aged responsibility' comes knocking at the door - or at the very least tapping at the window - and you realise you have to make some sort of effort to secure your future.

I was up in Chiang Mai a couple of weeks ago. The more time I spend there, the more I love it. Locals might moan constantly about the traffic and the pollution (wtf? have you spent any time in Bangkok?) but I think it's become a really interesting, truly 'international' city that still keeps much of its Thai rural quaintness. The main reason I went up this time was to touch base with one of my old Bangkok friends who moved to Chiang Mai six months ago and bought a three million baht condo overlooking the mountains. It's 180 square metres of sheer luxury spread over two floors. His only regret is that he didn't make the move sooner.

Bob was a professor at a university in New York until moving to Thailand about 10 years ago. Bob is also the kind of character who makes good friends and good contacts wherever he goes. Despite being in Chiang Mai for barely half a year, he has already partnered up with someone to run a fine wine business and it's already doing well. But it's purely something to keep him busy. Bob isn't looking for another career.

The point I'm getting to as far as Katherine is concerned is that Chiang Mai is literally awash with foreigners - many with healthy bank balances and enviable disposable income. If I were in Katherine's position, I would constantly be looking for gaps in markets and services I could provide - all with minimal start-up capital. Chiang Mai strikes me as a great land of opportunity. I wonder what 'sidelines' you could come up with if you put your mind to it? I remember when I first got serious about moving up there and I e-mailed about six local estate agents to ask if I could make an appointment with them to show me around some properties. Five of them didn't even bother to reply. It's not how competitive a business looks, it's all about how many people are doing it properly.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 295 total

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