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 29th March 2020

฿33 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿36 to one Euro
฿20 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

Warren

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 6,000 baht

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

Somewhere between 6-10,000 baht a month. I 'help out' at a couple of private language schools and teach maybe two hours a day here and there. I'm a retired gentleman and see teaching purely as something to keep me busy.

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

I don't save any of it. It's purely a bit of extra pocket money to pay for stuff like supermarket shopping.

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

I bought a condo five years ago and it's about ten minutes drive from Chiang Mai city center. I paid 3 million baht for it and it's been a good investment I think.

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

Transportation

I have my own car and motorcycle. Like many retirees up here, I use the bike for zipping about town and the car for longer journeys. I guess I spend around 1,500 baht a month on gas. Probably less than that most months.

Utility bills

I'm a real air-con fiend. I've got to have that air-con blasting all day and all night long. My electricity bill can be 5-6,000 baht some months. Water is cheapo though (350 baht)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I enjoy cooking at home and I love shopping at the markets, where I think the stuff is fresher than in the supermarkets (provided you go in the morning of course) I tend to eat out at somewhere 'posh' probably twice a week. I would say I spend about 10,000 baht a month on food, which is a lot for a single guy I think. But I love my food!

Nightlife and drinking

Almost nothing. I might go out once a month with friends to a few local pubs. That's about it.

Books, computers

I pay 650 baht per month for wi-fi and the connection is good. I tend to only download e-books from Amazon and in a good month, I might spend a couple of thousand baht. I enjoy reading but I don't browse around the second-hand bookshops anymore.

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

It's very good. I knew it would be and that's why I made the decision to move here. I made my money in the UK building industry and I've moved to a place where the cost of living is much cheaper than in the UK. It costs me about 50-60,000 baht a month to have a comfortable life here, but of course my accommodation is paid for.

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

Oh so many things but I would say the biggest surprise is when I carry back a big bag of fruit and vegetables from the market and it's cost me barely five pounds (250 baht)

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

I'm not sure I'm really qualified to answer the question from a teacher's point of view but I think you could live comfortably in Chiang Mai on about 30K a month. I wouldn't like to live on less than that but it's probably because I'm not as young as I used to be.

Phil's analysis and comment

In all the years we've been doing them, this is probably the first cost of living survey from a retiree - someone who is clearly teaching to keep themselves busy rather than out of necessity. Actually, guys like Warren are probably a private language schools dream. Smaller language schools might have a couple of hours of work several days a week, but not enough work available to guarantee a full-time schedule. So they pick up the phone to Warren and say "Hello Mr Warren, can you come in for a couple of hours tomorrow afternoon from two to four?" And Warren says "no problem, I'll be there". It doesn't matter whether they are paying 200, 300 or 500 baht an hour. It's just a retired gentleman keeping himself busy. What a lovely situation to be in? I bet teaching is so enjoyable under those circumstances LOL 


Kris

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 110,000 baht

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

I earn 110,000 and my wife 75,000 after tax. Plus medical insurance and a flight home and a two month salary bonus every two years.

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

We normally manage to save my better half's salary.

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

Accommodation comes with the job, but I would get an allowance of 55,000 baht a month if we moved out

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

Transportation

N/A

Utility bills

Aircon 6,000, Water 600, Internet 699, Phone 899

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

School food is good and cheap (and costs us about 500 baht a week) Having two kids, supermarket shopping can be expensive. I guess about 5,000 a week. We get a takeaway a least 3 times a week (750 baht) and eat out at least once (1,000 baht)

Nightlife and drinking

Cinema once a week 400 baht. I follow my local Thai football team but at 100 baht entrance and 35 baht a beer it doesn’t break the bank! Maybe another 2,500 a month for drinks with the boys and a brunch here and there

Books, computers

600 baht a month for Expat TV so I can watch UK tv without any hassles. 1000 a month on newspapers and magazines which are on Ipad subscription. Maybe 500 baht on kindle books.

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

With two kids under 5 and them getting free school places, then child care at this stage would be HUGE, so our standard of living is far higher here. We have a full time nanny/maid, which is the best 15,000 baht I spend a month. We don’t have to worry about cleaning or ironing or getting a baby sitter. Every holiday we go away by the beach and have seen lots of Thailand. We eat out a lot, and love a beer by the pool on a Friday afternoon thinking this is real life and not a holiday

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

Food, if you keep away from the big corporate places. Full time nanny instead of child care in the UK where our bill would be close to £1,500 a month. And despite the crazy driving, taxis.

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

You could live much cheaper than we do, but life is for living to the full. For those with a family working in an International school, you can easily live on one salary of 100,000 baht. I wouldn't want to live on much less than that but you could.

Phil's analysis and comment

I think this is something of a 'cost of living' first, because it's possibly the first time we've had a true 'international school teacher' complete the survey. There's not a lot I can say really about Kris's figures. True international school teachers, often recruited directly from abroad, are on salary and benefits packages that locally hired teachers can only dream about. It's all there isn't it? Even with two kids to feed, a couple are always going to live well in Thailand on 185,000 baht a month, especially when you haven't got rent or school fees or the cost of flights home to worry about (they're all part of the benefits package)

It must be nice to come home in the evening to your 55,000 baht a month pad, say hello to the full-time nanny, enjoy a gin and tonic around the swimming pool and settle in for a couple of hours of UK TV. But that's the life you can enjoy here if you're qualified to work in the top international schools.


James

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 100,000

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

I earn 92,000 pre-tax and 8,000 from private teaching. After tax it’s 88,000 a month.

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

50,000 baht a month

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

21,000. I live in a one-bedroom, 50 sqm condo near the BTS

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

Transportation

80 baht per day on taxis and approximately 120 baht per week on skytrain trips to the gym plus a few more skytrain trips at the weekend.

Utility bills

Water 50 baht, electricity 1000 and internet 650.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Both restaurants and supermarket shopping 5500 baht a month. The meals are good in school with a choice of Thai or western meals. For dinner I enjoy Thai restaurants and at the weekend western food.

Nightlife and drinking

I usually go out on a Friday night and spend around 2000 baht a week on drinking. I tend to go to the cinema once a week so I guess socialising / drinking etc is about 10,000 a month.

Books, computers

I’d say I buy about one book a month perhaps. I signed up to the gym and paid a year up front which was 20,000bht and I’ve been spending a bit recently on things for my condo but I’m not really a big spender

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

I’ve worked in a Thai government school before on far lower wages and I considered myself to be lucky. I love living in Thailand and this new job has allowed me to enjoy it even more. After the initial set up costs I am living a life where I can afford most things that I want. I’ve been here around 2 years now and I enjoy a trip back to England yearly to see family and friends but I look at my life in England and my life now and it’s incomparable, I love my life here and am certainly far happier.

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

Where do you start? If you enjoy Thai food there are numerous restaurants where a meal will cost you less than 100 baht (This isn’t me being cheap, some of the best Thai food is from the small Thai restaurants). Taxis are incredibly cheap. Consider taking a trip to the airport, 500bht would be considered an expensive fare here but try seeing how far you can go for £10 in England.

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

Where I lived before I was on around 32,000 but that was in the South where living costs were much cheaper. In Bangkok if we’re talking about just surviving then I’d say about 35,000. You’d have to pick your accommodation carefully and watch your spending habit but it would be very doable. To be comfortable and save a little I’d say 40k+

Phil's analysis and comment

Nice survey. And although James is pulling in a very nice teacher salary indeed, he also told me that he feels like someone who lives a 50,000 baht a month lifestyle. I think that's a fair comment and conclusion - there's certainly nothing excessive about James' spending habits. On more than one occasion I've read some wealthy celebrity say that the nicest thing about having money is not going out and buying things - but having the option to buy things if you so wish. Money gives you choices. I see a bit of that logic in James' figures above. He knows what it's like to survive as a teacher on the 30K salaries - he's been there and done that - but even though he's now earning three times as much, he hasn't let things go to his head. He's got a sensible attitude towards his money. He has a nice condo in a good location, he goes out a couple of times a week and he eats well enough - but it's all within his means. His main priority is stashing away that 50K a month. It's 600,000 baht a year. There's plenty you can do with that sort of dough. 


Anthony

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 70,000 baht

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

I earn 70,000 pre-tax, plus health insurance which is a big help.

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

15,000 a month. Most of which gets spent on flights back to the UK to visit family.

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 apartment next to a BTS line, 30 minutes from my work, costing 15k a month.

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

Transportation

1500 on skytrain passes.

Utility bills

Water 50 baht, electricity 1500, and internet 1000.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

18,000 a month. That is really a lot for one person - but I don't like Thai food, I prefer to cook at home each night and try to eat healthy.

Nightlife and drinking

I go out once a week but i'm not a big drinker, so 2,000 a month.

Books, computers

None but i do have other additional monthly costs: Gym membership 2000 baht, contact lenses 2500 baht, a monthly massage/haircut 1000 baht.

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

I consider myself to be very, very lucky. Bangkok is very noisy and crowded and for quality of living, it is not the best of cities by a long shot. But even so, with the money I earn for so little work (21 hours teaching a week), my standard of living is very good here.

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

Taxis are incredibly cheap. Even when they try to rip you off with "no meter" scams, they're still way cheaper than in England! Honestly coming from London, everything is cheap for me here.

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

40,000. Most people probably spend less on food than me, but more on nightlife. Costs in Bangkok do add up quickly and at 40/k a month people would have to watch their spending. 40k is still way more than most locals earn and if they can do it, so could anyone else who really desires to be here.

Phil's analysis and comment

You're always going to live well in Bangkok on 70,000 baht a month but that shouldn't take away from the fact that Anthony sounds like a very sensible, level-headed guy who lives well within his means. He also hails from London - one of the most expensive cities in the world - so many things in Thailand must seem like a real bargain, especially with 70K a month to fall back on.

18,000 baht a month is an awful lot to spend on food for a single guy (as Anthony admits) but reading between the lines, I'm guessing he's a fitness fanatic, perhaps even a bodybuilder. So whatever makes him happy. He's also stashing away 180,000 baht a year for his annual trip home to see the family and I'm sure it's more than enough. I go home once a year for a couple of weeks and flights and spending money cost about 100,000 baht. It helps no end if you're staying with family and friends though and you're not forking out for accommodation.

Everything taken into consideration, a very nice lifestyle - the one-bedroom condo near the skytrain, the healthy diet of good quality food, the trips home, the not excessive workload, the gym, the massages, etc. OK, Anthony earns well above the average teacher salary but if you can hit those numbers, this is the lifestyle you can lead. Simple as.


Daniel

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings About 37,000 baht

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

I earn exactly 34,250 baht (after tax) from my full-time job at a prestigious Thai government high school in Bangkok, Thailand. I earn around 3,000 baht average per month from part-time tutoring (usually only 1-2 hours per week).

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

I put back 7,500 to 10,000 baht per month. That number mostly depends on how many “extras” I buy during said month. “Extras” are basically anything besides the essentials (food, shelter, and clothing). I should note that all of my housing expenses are shared by both me and my girlfriend. I pay 100% of the rent, and she pays 100% of the utilities. We’re both foreigners working as teachers.

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

Our rent is exactly 9,500 baht a month (excluding utilities). Our home is a rather spacious, clean studio apartment in a Thai-style apartment building geared towards local Thais. The building is essentially a five-story house where each of the rooms are rented out to different individuals. It feels more like an apartment building than a house, though. It’s just a stone’s throw from Convent Road and Silom Road. It takes approximately five to ten minutes to walk to the nearest skytrain and MRT stations.

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

Transportation

I walk to and from work. I take the BTS, BRT, MRT and/or the riverboat a few times per week. The average price per trip is thirty baht each way. I also take public buses occasionally, averaging about ten baht per trip each way. I’m going to say this adds up to about 750 baht per month. I rarely take taxis, but sometimes they’re the only transportation available . I might take a taxi three to five times a month. Total transportation cost per month = 1,000 baht.

Utility bills

As mentioned before, my girlfriend covers all of the utilities and I cover all of the rent. So I don’t personally pay for any of the below utilities. My electricity is five baht per unit and comes to about 2,000 baht per month. The AC runs constantly any time we’re home. Water is almost always 200 baht per month. We have a 10 Mbps DSL internet connection via True, (690 baht per month) We also have the True Gold HD cable TV package (1,000 baht per month)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is possibly my biggest expense each month. I eat a mostly healthy diet and each visit to the supermarket will give me a week’s worth of groceries. I generally eat a light breakfast on the go, eat lunch at my school (50 baht), cook dinner at home 3 nights a week, and eat outside maybe 5 times a week or so. It’s really hard to calculate, but all in all, I suppose I pay from 7,500 to 10,000 baht per month on food. Yes, I eat like a king, but it’s mostly healthy food that helps me stay in shape.

Nightlife and drinking

I’m not a heavy drinker. However, I do like to have a few nights out each month with my buds. Said nights usually include a nice dinner, a few beers and a taxi home. I rarely drink more than 5 beers per night out. My buds and I generally go to somewhere like Khao San Road . One night out usually costs me about 500 baht. I’d say those nights out average to about 1,500 baht a month total.

Books, computers

I pretty much never buy books, maybe only two or three per year maximum. I might buy a new computer every two to three years. Let’s just suppose a new laptop costs 15,000 baht. 15,000 baht divided by 36 months equals 417 baht per month. Let’s just say 450 per month after the few book purchases each year.

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

One sentence: I live in a comfortable home, eat extremely well, put back some money each month, have a low-stress job with months of vacation time each year, I travel domestically within Thailand and also internationally at least a few times each year, my apartment is decent, though not awesome, and my life is generally quite worry-free.

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

The fact that you can buy food in small portions for a low price. The Export Shop, which can be found in many Thai shopping malls, is also a great bargain. Rent can also be cheap if you know where to look. I pay roughly the same here in Bangkok for rent as I did in a second-tier, far less international northeastern Chinese city.

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

In order to afford only the bare essentials I would say 20,000 baht. This person would have to have practically no social life and a lot of skill in resisting temptation. However, this number could be lower if they split their expenses with another person. However, even if rent and utilities were split with another person, their lifestyle still wouldn’t be very glamorous. In order to live “acceptably,” I would say 30,000 baht is the bare minimum for Bangkok.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Daniel for a very detailed cost of living survey. In fact so detailed, I had to cut some of it out because unfortunately we have limited character space for the answers. OK, what we have here is clearly a guy living well within his means and living very happily on less than 40K a month in Bangkok (which I am always saying is the bare minimum I would want to earn)

I notice Daniel only 'tops up' his salary with 1-2 hours of private teaching each week, so there's little doubt he could push himself harder in that area and earn more money - but I'm guessing he simply doesn't want to - he's happy with his lot. He goes out a few nights a month, lives in a decent place close to all the transportation links and eats very well indeed. Life is happy and simple so why rock the boat and have the stress of taking on extra work?

He's also stashing away about 100-120,000 baht a year. It's not a fortune - and I hope he's got health insurance covered - but it's probably enough for a trip home once a year.


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 318 total

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