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 19th April 2024

฿37 to one US Dollar
฿46 to one Pound Sterling
฿39 to one Euro
฿24 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

Richard

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 142,823

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

This is my salary from a mid-tier international school.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

60-80K per month depending on large purchases (phone, holidays etc)

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

I live in a high-floor modern condo and got a good deal during the pandemic but the landlord based in HK keeps trying to nudge it up. Rent is 37,000 baht a month but the school gives me a 27k allowance.

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

Transportation

I rent a car for 8K a month and another 4K goes on gas. Before I had a car I was paying 8-10K on taxis just for commuting.

Utility bills

Internet 550
Electricity 3,000
Water 250
Maid 4,500

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This varies significantly. A rough estimate would probably be around 16K a month. Eating out again just depends on the frequency and where I go, I would say roughly 6K for that.

Nightlife and drinking

I prefer the Thai style places and generally drink Singha so not usually too expensive. I could save money by drinking Leo but it's minging and dont get me started on Chang! Roughly 6.000 a month on average maybe

Books, computers

My school provides anything I need for the job so this is just my own items. So the usual big purchases every three years or so. Phones here are not cheap but TVs seem to be.

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

Outstanding. I don't know why (or how) anyone could go back to Europe / US after being here from a financial point of view. If you are hired by one of the good Tier 1/2 international schools, then it's very lucrative. Even more so if you have a partner and they work in the same standard of school too.

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

Alcohol, taxis, some foodstuffs, domestic flights (but not flights to Koh Samui)

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

I guess you cut your cloth accordingly depending on your salary but I do see lots of TEFL/TESOL jobs that pay 25-35K and I think that would be a struggle, certainly not enjoyable but survivable. 50K plus would be the tipping point for living reasonably well and 100K plus for living very comfortable with savings potential. Bangkok is a great place for the low cost of living

Phil's analysis and comment

Reading between the lines Richard, it sounds like your partner might well bring in the same sort of salary. A couple are certainly going to live well in Thailand with a joint income in excess of 250K. That's a nice benefit with the housing allowance as well. You must be living in a heck of a nice place for 37K a month!  


Bren

Working in Chiang Mai

Monthly Earnings 62,000

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

I receive 62,000 baht after tax, social security and a provident fund payment. I teach in a tier 2 international school in Chiang Mai.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

At the moment, I am saving between 25-30,000 baht each month.

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

I pay 10,000 baht per month for a 2-bedroom house on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. It is a new house with modern furniture, private security on the development as well as a swimming pool and small gym. You get a lot more for your money when it comes to housing in Chiang Mai.

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

Transportation

I spend around 1,200 baht on fuel for my car and maybe another 300 baht on grab bike, so 1,500 in total.

Utility bills

My electricity bill is around 800 baht per month and my water bill is around 70 baht per month. I also pay 1,100 baht for home wi-fi, true football and 10gb of data for my phone. In my opinion, utility bills are a real bargain in Thailand, particularly if you don't overuse air-con.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I receive breakfast and lunch at my school so that amounts to a good saving on food every month. I spend around 6,000 baht a month on food. That is a combination of eating local food and eating western food around three times a week. The local food here is very cheap, and it tastes great. For example, a bowl of khao soi is about 60b in most places outside the old town. As for western food, it's cheaper than Bangkok but the quality isn't as good, hence why I don't eat it so often.

Nightlife and drinking

The nightlife in Chiang Mai is appalling compared to Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket. In fact, it's pretty poor compared to places like Khon Kaen or Udon Thani. This is a conservative city, and bars located next to temples often shut at midnight. There are a few nightclubs that cater mostly to the Thai market, as well as a couple of nightclubs aimed at foreigners and freelancers. However, they are terribly overcrowded and play dreadful music. A beer outside the old town will cost around 100b for large local beer, and 80b for a small local beer. If you go to Loi Kroh road or Nimman then expect to pay 100b for small local beer, or around 150b for a large beer. So, having said all that, I spend around 8,000b every month on nightlife.

Books, computers

Nothing at the moment, but it looks like my laptop is going to give up the ghost!

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

I live a very comfortable standard of living. I live in a nice house in a safe area. I eat out almost every night, and I'm not watching my pennies on a night out. I have everything I need and I can save a decent portion of my income. I am far better off here in Chiang Mai than I would be in the UK. In fact, to have the standard of living that I have now, I reckon I would need to be earning 3,000 pounds a month in the UK.

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

Accommodation - both hotels and housing.
Local food - generally very cheap and very good.
Utility bills - electric costs next to nothing compared to the west, and wifi deals are very affordable.
Massages - 300b for a 1hr massage.
Mechanics - very affordable to get your car fixed.

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

Minimum 30k outside Bangkok/Phuker and 40k inside Bangkok/Phuket.

To have a comfortable lifestyle, then I think you need 50k outside Bangkok / Phuket and 60k inside Bangkok/Phuket. Even then you won't be living a flash lifestyle.

I think 100k is a good and realistic figure to work towards.

Phil's analysis and comment

Many thanks Bren, you put a lot of effort into that and it's much appreciated! There's long been a popular debate about whether Chiang Mai is cheaper to live in than Bangkok (I'm never really sure where I sit on the argument) but you seem to have cracked it! First off, 62K is a very decent salary up there so you're off to a flying start - and it sounds like you manage to live well on half of that. The breakfast and lunch at school is a nice benefit as well isn't it? 


Adam

Working in Trat Province

Monthly Earnings 50,000

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

I work at a largish college in Trat Province (about 4-5 hours from Bangkok) and I've been here for four years. I started as a teacher on around 28K a month but have risen to almost a part-time teacher / part-time academic director position now and get 50K.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

In what I call a 'normal month', where I don't have a major expense or do any travelling, I can live on 15,000 quite comfortably. so save around 35K. I would say most months it averages out closer to 25K though. I think if you said I saved about 250,000 baht a year, you wouldn't be far off.

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

I rent a one-bedroom flat above a shop that belongs to one of my Thai colleague's relatives. I've been paying 5,000 baht a month for it since I moved in four years ago. The people that own the business downstairs are almost like family now (I've even tutored a couple of their children) and while 5,000 baht a month is a steal for the space I have, I feel they wouldn't dream of increasing the rent while I'm the tenant. It's a nice situation to be in.

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

Transportation

I have my own little motorcycle and work is about a 10-minute commute. I more or less use the bike to go everywhere so this expense is just a few hundred baht a month for gas. Having your own motorcycle out in the provinces can save you a small fortune. I wouldn't be without one!

Utility bills

The family I rent the property from take care of the bills and I haven't a clue how much they are. I bet it's not more than a thousand baht a month. I do have air-conditioning in two rooms but try to use it sparingly.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

This is probably around 8,000 baht a month. I get free lunches at school and for other meals I have about three or four local restaurants where I can eat for 50 baht a dish. Western treats like fast food are few and far between. Firstly, we don't have the choice and secondly, I don't miss that kind of food anyway.

I try to do more and more of my shopping at the local night market as opposed to supermarkets. The cost of supermarket goods has gotten silly in recent years.

Nightlife and drinking

LOL There isn't really anywhere to go past ten 'o' clock at night. Any drinking I do tends to be a couple of swift ones after work with a couple of other foreign teachers and that's twice a week at most. Going out until the wee small hours and getting plastered has never appealed to me. I don't drink at home either. Let's say a couple of thousand baht a month.

Books, computers

I do like my computer games and this is one of my biggest expenses. Maybe about 3-4,000 baht a month. I also have the usual Netflix and Disney packages and that adds a few hundred on to the entertainment bill.

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

To use that famous line, people reading this will think that I 'live like a Thai' but I just don't see it that way. I live life the way I want to and if that means no Western food or heavy drinking sessions, then so be it. I live quietly and I love my own company.

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

Having recently returned to my home country for a holiday and seen the price of everything there, I'd say almost everything is a bargain in Thailand. Yes, food prices have risen sharply in Thailand in the past 12-18 months but not to the degree where you have to budget carefully...not down here where I am.

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

It depends on your personality. A person like me could live relatively comfortably downn here on 20-25K. With a salary of 50,000, I want for nothing. It's more than enough to live well. I won't tell that to my boss though.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Adam. That's a nice part of Thailand you live in and having been myself a few times, I totally get the lifestyle you lead. There's a big difference between 'living like a Thai' because you have to and living like a Thai because that's how you rather like things. What it often means is that you just prefer a quieter lifestyle and you're happy in your own company. Nothing wrong with that. With free school meals and a great deal on a rental apartment, you're playing the game well.    


Decco

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 110,000

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

That figure is my full-time salary from a mid-tier international school, inclusive of a housing allowance. I also recieve annual flights, family health insurance, school fees for my son, end of contract bonus, and free school lunches.

I probably could do some private tutoring but I have a young son that I like to spend time with in the evenings, and it just doesn't seem worth it. I'll also add that my wife earns a part-time salary of around 30,000 working remotely in IT. She mainly covers food for our child and her own expenses.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Between 20,000 and 40,000, depending if I take a holiday, make a significant purchase or just splash out a bit more than intended.

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

We pay 24,000 for a large (by Bangkok standards) modern 2-bedroom condo beside a skytrain station and just on the edge of downtown.

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

Transportation

Around 6,000 on taxis and skytrain fares.

Utility bills

Around 3,000 to 4,000 on electricity, plus 1,800 for a True package, which mobile, TV, home internet, etc.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I'm going to include nightlife and drinking in this too as at weekends eating, nightlife and drinking are all part of the same.

During the week I budget 300 baht per day to eat but often spend much less. At weekends I budget 4,000 baht for eating, drinking, going out, general leisure, and doing stuff with my wife and kid. Sometimes it's more than this, sometimes it's less. Average is 4,000 baht per weekend though.

Nightlife and drinking

Covered above.

Books, computers

I don't make any definite monthly purchases in this area, it would be difficult to put a regular amount here. Usually I'll spend maybe up to 5,000 for various things for my son and that could be toys, books or clothes. I've never really tracked this amount. Definitely not over 10,000 baht in a regular month for any extras.

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

I really can't complain. I don't need to make a huge effort to put some money away and still maintain a level of expense to spend on leisure and to enjoy a life I'm happy with. There is absolutely no chance I could save monthly and have the quality of lifestyle I have here being a teacher at home. I'm far from filthy rich but nobody becomes a teacher thinking that's going to happen.

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

For sure transport and rent are the things I feel are particularly cheap when compared to my home country. I also really like that in Thailand the option to go 'super cheap' is always there for most things if you need to. Food is a good example. If I need to tighten the strings for a month, it's simple to just go with cheap street food and home cooked meals.

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

With a family, I have been able to cut spending to about 50,000 baht a month if needed, but that wouldn't be a fun month. I also have a spouse with some income though.
For a single person, I'm sure it's possible to survive on 25,000 baht or even less, I mean lots of Thais and locals in neighbouring countries do it here. For most Westerners though, they'll find that really difficult and they won't last. I'd say 40,000 baht minimum in order to survive and get some enjoyment out of life.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks for that Decco. Always good to hear from the teachers at the mid-level international schools where teachers don't receive the top dollar salaries but it's still a very, very good one. Just imagine being a single guy on 110,000 baht a month. I like the point you make about being able to go 'super cheap' in Thailand if you have to. If money's a bit tight and the work has dried up, there's always the option of living on street food for a few months until the good times roll around again.   

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. 


Debra

Working in Songkhla

Monthly Earnings 47,000

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

I work at a medium-sized Thai school in Songkhla, southern Thailand. My full-time salary is only 32,000 baht a month (I say 'only' because it's more than enough to live on down here) but I add another 15,000 baht a month by taking on axtra after-school lessons and the odd bit of corporate work (which pays in the region of 600 baht an hour)

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

On a good month, when I'm teaching more hours, I can save 25,000 easily but I would say it averages out at closer to 20K. It's a statement of the obvious but you don't have time to spend money if you're busy working.

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

I share a one-bedroom apartment with my Thai partner for 6,000 baht a month and we split the rent right down the middle. It's a very good-size apartment and we've made it really homely but it's in a fairly old building. I bet it would cost at least 50% more if it was in a newer build. Most of our neighbors are professional, office people types so thankfully we aren't kept awake at night by noisy parties.

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

Transportation

I have my own scooter, which I rent for 2,000 baht a month and gas costs me an extra few hundred. As many teachers have said in these cost of living surveys, when you live outside the major cities and tourist areas, you need a motorcycle to get around. I would be lost without mine!

Utility bills

About 2,000 baht a month covers everything - electricity, water, internet, etc. We don't run the air-con all that often and it's always the air-con that jacks up the 'leccy' bills.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I'm almost entirely vegetarian these days so actually I'd rather cook at home than eat at restaurants. To be honest, I've been in Songkhla for three years already so get tired of the choice of eateries. When I go out with a group of Thai friends, they always insist on treating me despite my best efforts to pay my share. I would say my monthly food bill barely breaks 7,000 baht.

Nightlife and drinking

Songkhla's not a particularly lively town at night and what's available is more of a Thai scene anyway. I'm usually so tired from my day at work that I prefer to curl up on the sofa with a good book or a Netflix series. I might go out with a group of Thai friends once a week and chip in a few hundred baht towards the total bill.

Books, computers

Probably about 1,000 a month. I'm an avid reader and get through a lot of books, but you can download a lot of stuff for free and teachers often swap paperbacks with each other at school.

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

Brilliant. As I said earlier, I can save 20-25K a month easily and that 400K a year allows me to travel home once a year (although I haven't been back to England for several years due to Covid) and allows me plenty of opportunity to travel around gorgeous southern Thailand. I also put a little bit away into a pension plan. I'm sure it'll be nowhere near enough to secure a nice retirement but it's better than nothing.

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

Fruit and vegetables at the local market. I have my regular market stalls that I go to and I can come home with two bulging shopping bags for 300 baht.

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

You could survive here, even 'live quite comfortably' down here on 25,000 baht but that extra 20,000+ really does make a difference. I love working in one of Thailand's more out-of-the-way towns. I did six months in Bangkok when I first arrived in Thailand and it just wasn't for me.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thanks Deb. It sounds like a fairly simple life (probably far to simple for some) but you seem extremely happy with your lot and that's what matters. As you say, that extra 20,000 a month means you can comfortable travel home for a holiday each year and enjoy a few extra luxuries. Well done!  

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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