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 7th July 2020

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿39 to one Pound Sterling
฿35 to one Euro
฿22 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.63 THB to one Philippine Peso

Stuart

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings Up to around 100,000 baht.

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

I work for a global teaching organisation here in Bangkok and I teach English to young learners. I make a monthly salary of 84,500 before tax. This increases by a couple of thousand baht each year. I also make between 10 - 20,000 baht for examining.

I also get two yearly bonuses, each being around 25,000 baht and I get a matching pension contribution of 1,800 GBP once a year. I also get full A1 insurance through my workplace for my family.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Well, not much. I have a wife and toddler so I give my wife a 25,000 baht stipend each month. We decided it was better for her to be a stay-at-home mum rather than hiring a nanny. She's from Asia so her work options in Bangkok are rather limited anyway.

I pay 12,000 baht towards an offshore pension each month. This is insufficient in my opinion and I need to increase this.

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

I pay 16,000 baht for an old-style low-rise one-bedroom apartment in Phayathai. It's a 10-minute walk from a BTS station. It's nice enough but we will probably need more space when my child gets bigger.

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

Transportation

1,500 on my Rabbit card for the BTS and another 500 baht on taxis / Grab.

Utility bills

2,500 a month (we use the air-con a lot!)

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

About 6,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

1,000 baht a month. There is not much time to go out now with a toddler!

Books, computers

500 baht.

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

It's very comfortable. We can afford most things that we want but there's not much left over at the end of each month.

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

BTS and MRT travel is so affordable compared to the London Underground! It's also a lot cleaner and reliable than my city's tube system.

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

As a single person, I would say that you need a minimum of 50,000 baht a month to enjoy a good standard of living, but I wouldn't say that you could save much on that salary.

As a family of three, I would say I need about 120,000 baht (as a single wage-earner) to enjoy a good standard of living. Currently, I earn below this figure so I'm looking at moving on soon to the Middle East or China. My biggest worry is that when my toddler is of school-going age, the cost of decent international schooling is prohibitively priced. I'm not sure if I can maintain my current standard of living with school fees in the mix.

Phil's analysis and comment

Yes, things certainly change when you have a family to look after. It becomes a whole new ball game when you are the sole breadwinner. 

We haven't touched on it much in these cost of living surveys, but your toddler's education (when they get older) is something you have to give a lot of thought to. It's one of the main reasons that a good number of teachers return to their homeland - for the sake of their son or daughter's education. The better international schools in Thailand are very expensive! 

Good luck with everything Stuart!


JJ

Working in Nonthaburi

Monthly Earnings 50,000

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

I earn 50K a month as a basic salary and I work for a really nice laid-back language school. When we have an English camp four months of the year I can double my salary, which is awesome but it's a lot of work. My basic salary isn't anything special but I hardly work in the week, maybe a few hours a day. The bulk of my work is on the weekends. It's a very chilled life.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

When camps come around I can save 50K but when it's just my salary, I'm lucky if I save 5-10K a month.

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

I live right next to Yeak Twinon Market in an old fashioned one-bedroom condo. It's about 38 square metres and a steal at 7,000 a month. Most of the condos in the area cost 10,000 up because of the MRT system that makes getting in to Bangkok super easy.

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

Transportation

About 5,000 a month on taxis getting to work . It sucks but there's no suitable accommodation near my work as it's on a huge highway.

Utility bills

I've just moved into my condo but I'm guessing maybe 1,000 a month. I only open the air conditioning for an hour a night before I sleep as it blocks my sinuses if I have it on all night.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I get through a lot of food. My girlfriend and I must eat our way through about 15,000 baht a month. We love eating out and I can't seem to get through the week without eaten Western food about 4 times. I am trying to lose weight though and save more money so I'm going to make cutbacks in this area.

Nightlife and drinking

I love to party but I have never liked Sukhumvit. I think it's boring and expensive. My girl and I normally hang out in Lard Phrao and chill in a Western style Thai bar. We also like to eat at Thai BBQs and visit markets. Sometimes we visit Pattaya also. I'd say about 10,000 a month on average.

Books, computers

I have had my Dell laptop for a year. It cost me 16k and works like a dream. My girlfriend has a second-hand Samsung laptop which I bought her for 2,500 and it runs smoothly. As for books I have a library at my language school where I can take books when I want, so next to nothing in that area.

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

Well I'm certainly not rich! I basically support my girlfriend and myself. She's not lazy but her last job had her working for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week for 300 baht and it wasn't practical for our relationship. She finished high school but never had the chance to go to university so shes currently trying to start up her own food-stall business with the support of her sister. Overall I'd say my life is good. I don't have a lot of money but I eat well, have a good job and have money to go out when I want. I definitely need to get an extra income for the future though.

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

Rent for sure.

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

This is a very hard question. Depends on the individual.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks JJ. I don't want to sound harsh but at the moment you have a partner who is a bit of a drain on your finances. That's the stone cold reality. It raises an interesting point though. 15-20 years ago, if you had a Thai partner without a university education, running a food-stall, probably making just enough to survive, was one of the few options. Things have changed though and nowadays, there are all sorts of opportunities for Thais to run online businesses if they have a bit of internet, marketing and social media savvy. There are thousands of Thai folks making great money online and the lack of a university education doesn't matter as much as it did. 


Richard

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 75 - 100K

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

My salary from my full-time job in an international school is about 75,000 nett. Unfortunately, as I have a PGCEi (and therefore not QTS) I get paid significantly less than most of my colleagues. I'm currently trying to obtain the QTS but this is difficult to do from Thailand. The rest of my income is from private tuition, which is reasonably lucrative at 1,000 to 1,500 baht per hour.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Usually 40,000 - 60,000 per month, depending on how much I earn.

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

11,000 a month. I have a studio room in a new condo very close to a BTS station. Its only about 40 sqm but I live alone so it's OK.

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

Transportation

Despite living near public transport, I rarely use it. I much prefer my two-wheeled death trap. Petrol comes to about 800 baht a month.

Utility bills

My room is smallish and new so the AC isn't too hungry. Electric, water, phone and net come to about 2,000 a month.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

During term time, school provides a half decent buffet lunch for free. Unfortunately this means I've got to listen to my colleagues whinge whilst I eat. So during term it's probably 6,000 a month and more like 10,000 in the school holidays.

Nightlife and drinking

Not too much. I very rarely pay for 'company' and avoid the all you can eat / drink buffets in 5-star hotels that many of my colleagues rave about. I'd rather watch football or have a few beers and chat with a mate or two. Let's say 6,000 a month.

Books, computers

Almost nothing. I've had my current laptop for a few years and get great reads from the school library (that's one of the best things about international school work). I'm guessing that unless you're mining bitcoins or running a website, computer expenses are generally going to be zero?

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

To be honest it's decent enough. But when the rest of the teachers in you school earn 30K+ more than you do and are given flights and bonuses, it doesn't feel great, especially when a minority of these qualified teachers have minimal subject knowledge and classroom management skills. Hopefully I'll get the QTS badge within a year and then brush this chip off my shoulder!

If I could give one piece of advice to any aspiring teachers thinking of working overseas, get qualified at home FIRST. It's an investment that pays for itself very quickly. And don't believe people who tell you that international schools work their teachers too hard. In my experience, it's easier than working in Thai schools, better paid, with more holidays.

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

My bike! 100 baht for a full tank of gas. 600 baht for a year's insurance and tax. 500 baht goes to 'on the spot fines'. It's very cheap and fun (and dangerous?) on two wheels

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

If you don't have kids, don't drink, avoid other 'tempations' and have a rich relative about to pass away and bequeath you enough cash to retire on, then 40K should do it. If you do have kids and do need to save for retirement, well that figure would be much higher, perhaps even as high as 150K?

Phil's analysis and comment

75,000-100,000 a month is not bad at all in Bangkok though Richard, especially when you are only paying about 15% of that for your accommodation. I'm sure it must be frustrating though to see all your colleagues earning significantly more plus benefits for technically doing the same job. 


Stephen

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 125,000

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

This is my full-time salary (including a taxed housing allowance) working at a medium-sized international school in the center of Bangkok.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

60,000 to 65.000 baht and in this amount I include the provident fund part we can use via work.

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

25.000 for a one-bedroom condo about one hundred meters from the MRT. It is a bit noisy every now and then outside but that is what you get with a central location. The building has excellent facilities with two pools and two gyms (no need for a gym membership).

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

Transportation

There are months where I rent a motorbike to drive to school, because it is faster than the MRT and shuttle bus connection to work, but only in the dry season.

If I rent a motorbike it is 3,000 baht a month, plus a few hundred for gas. On top of that. the occasional taxi and use of MRT/BTS. Let's say about 5,000 baht. If I do not rent a motorbike it is probably around 3,000 baht a month on average.

Utility bills

Around 1,300 for electricity, 100 for water and 1,500 for AIS (a combination of a mobile phone sim, home internet and TV channels), so in total about 3,000 baht.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

During the weekdays I get free breakfast and lunch at work. In the evening I usually use Polpa - pretty decent and healthy food for a reasonable price. Every now and then I order in, but I never cook at home, no point really with everything you can order, get delivered or just eat outside. On the weekends I have a splurge occasionally, so probably around 20 to 25,000 on food. Eating well is important to me :)

Nightlife and drinking

This really depends if I go out or not. Sometimes I meet people at the weekend and have a few drinks, sometimes I just stay in and do a bit of gaming. I do think nightlife and drinking is overpriced in Bangkok and you often pay Western prices or more if you really want to go out. Obviously there are plenty of good deals around and some places offer decent value, but if you want to go out for a night and drink cocktails it is not any cheaper than back home. I rarely go out for a full night, but I can have drinks at a pub or the occasional rooftop bar (though I am always on the hunt for happy hours with these rooftop bars). Let's say on average 8,000 baht a month.

Books, computers

None really. I have a good computer and download eBooks for my e reader using torrents. Our school has a well stocked library if I want the feel of a real book.

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

My standard of living is pretty nice. I always said I would not live in Bangkok for anything less than 100,000 a month and that was a few years ago. The cost of living keeps rising, but I live in a nice condo, eat well, have fun in life, go on multiple holidays a year and go to my work with a smile on my face. Can't ask for more really.

I noticed you also mentioned you would like to know how much time an international school teacher needs to prepare lessons and all.

We are required to be at school by 07:30 and can leave after 15:00. If I do that every day I probably need about another hour of work to have everything ready. Obviously there are busier times when there is a lot of grading to be done, reports are due or when there are parent teacher conferences. On average though there are multiple times a week when I am home before 16:00. On top of that, the students are really pleasant to work with, classes are small (max 22) and there are hardly any behavioral problems. Lastly we have about 14 to 15 weeks of (paid) holiday a year (7,5 in the summer, 3 in December/January, 2 in April plus some more) so it really is a great lifestyle. On top of that we get international health insurance which is fully paid, visa costs and 90-day reporting taken care of and free breakfast and lunch at school.

I do not say all this to brag, but I would advise anyone who has the opportunity to get certified as a teacher to go back home for a year or two, get certification and start living a decent lifestyle overseas. There are more than a hundred international schools in Bangkok and this number will only rise with more and more students enrolling. There are plenty of opportunities.

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

Transportation (taxis, MRT, BTS)
Thai food
Cinema is still pretty cheap compared to back home.
Domestic flights if timed well.

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

You can probably survive on about 50,000 a month, but that would not be living well. I would not work in Bangkok for anything under 100,000 a month. Anything lower than that and I think it is hard to live well, save money for retirement and go on a nice holiday every now and again.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Stephen. This is a good insight on what you can earn if you are willing to become qualified enough to work at one of Bangkok's better international schools.

You can spend what you like on food, entertainment and travel if you still manage to stash away 60,000 baht ever month.  

Sounds like you have a great lifestyle.


Joe

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 44,000

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

I work part time for 3 schools plus teaching online.
School A: 10 hours per week
School B: 6 hours per week
School C: 4 hours per week
Online: I'm usually booked in at 4 hours a week as schools B and C take up my evenings.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

About 5,000 baht, which is an absolute joke for an adult. My colleagues think I'm really getting ahead. I think they're deluded.

Aside from monthly essentials, I seem to sink 2,000 - 3,000 on ridiculously overpriced things like a visa run (as none of my three employers can seem to figure out how to process a work permit) or supplies for classes I teach that schools refuse to stock, silly things like pens and paper and board markers.

I also signed up for a gym which costs me 1,500 a month, although I paid for a year upfront and put it on a credit card. I never have time to use it as I'm always stuck in traffic going from one job to another from 7 am to 9 pm, so that was a waste of money and on weekends it's packed with idiots taking selfies of their abs or their new tits.

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

I pay 11,500 for my condo.

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

Transportation

BTS: 3,400
Taxis: 7,200 (about half of that is re-imbursed by school B)
Motorcycles: 2,400
Getting around Bangkok is an absolute nightmare. I've never spent so much time in transit.

Utility bills

Water: 200
Electric: 1,200

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

Supermarket: 6,000
Eating out: 3,000
I cook nearly all my meals and rarely eat out unless it's street food. I find most restaurants here to be poor quality and expensive.

Nightlife and drinking

2,000 a month. I rarely go out as I find the music scene here to be lacking and again venues are overpriced. For the price of a night out in a crap 'club' with very pedestrian music you can attend a 3-day festival in Europe and hear some of the best artists ever.

Books, computers

Zero. I'm still reading what I bought before I came and will never buy a laptop here as they are very overpriced.

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

Quite poor. I seem to be working or traveling to and from work all the time and never really earning much money.

Also, the work is utterly pointless and degrading. No one seems to be hiring full-time teachers at livable wages. As for teaching Thais, I've taught in quite a few different countries and am amazed at how Thais just don't seem interested in studying at all.

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

Nothing to be honest. Yes, street food is cheap but honestly, look at what's on that plate, or rather in the plastic bag. I'm constantly hunting for a filling meal that isn't 80% fat.

While condos rent out cheaper than flats in London, look at what you're getting - 20 sq meters is essentially a prison cell.

Public transport is pricey, unreliable, poorly managed and dangerously overcrowded. I'm just waiting for a fire on the BTS to take out half the population on a Tuesday morning.

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

I wouldn't consider living here for less than 100,000 a month. For those of us under 50 years old. we've got to manage our own retirement funds, so saving is the real reason to be working, otherwise you're just wasting your time.

I guess if you're absolutely useless and from some quiet village in Northern England then life here must be pretty amazing due to all the flashing lights, loud noises and loads of Thai people everywhere eating strange food 24/7.

For the rest of us, there are plenty of countries with cleaner air, better food, far better salaries, more ambitious people, nicer beaches, better booze and friendlier people. I just don't see the selling point of Thailand.

Phil's analysis and comment

Joe, there will be plenty of folks reading this whose reaction will be 'well, you know where the airport is'. I'm not one of those people. The main thing is that you gave it a go. And what you have found out is that Thailand is not for you. You'll move on (very shortly I guess) and hopefully you'll find what you are looking for.  Thailand isn't for everyone.  


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 330 total

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