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 22nd September 2020

฿31 to one US Dollar
฿40 to one Pound Sterling
฿37 to one Euro
฿23 to one Australian Dollar
฿0.64 THB to one Philippine Peso

James

Working in Bangkok

Monthly Earnings 90-100K

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

I work for a fairly famous private Thai school which pays me 60k a month. I do a full Saturday at a language school which brings in another 16k. I also do a couple of classes online in the evenings from Monday to Thursday. I work quite hard but my jobs are all quite chilled.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

Can be as much as 40k a month but as I have a family with 2 kids, there are a lot of things to pay for at various points in the year. My youngest child is just a baby and my wife has quit her job to stay home and take care of her. So over the next few years I won't be saving nearly as much.

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

We live in a 4-bedroom townhouse in the suburbs. The rent is 10,000 a month. I spent quite a lot when we moved in on getting it up to a standard I was happy with and now consider it to be a real bargain.

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

Transportation

I have a motorcycle. 500 baht or so a month.

Utility bills

About 3,000 all in for electricity, water and fast internet.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

I have been in Thailand for over 15 years and although it took a long time, I am now quite happy eating Thai food most of the time. My wife is a very good cook, which really helps. I take 200 baht to school each day but rarely spend more than half of that. We visit our local market almost every night to buy fruit and snacks etc. I do still enjoy a pizza or burger from time to time but not often. Overall I would say about 8-10,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I enjoy a drink but I am not really into the Bangkok scene too much. I think the Sukhumvit bars and restaurants are overpriced and not that much fun. I do like to indulge in a hotel buffet but only for a very special occasion. I meet a friend for a few beers around the Khao San area once or twice a month. I also like going to see my Thai football team sometimes. Other than that it is a couple of beers or a few Thai whiskies at home. Maybe 3-5K a month.

Books, computers

Very little. I have a Netflix account and buy maybe half a dozen books a year from Amazon.

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

Comfortable. I kind of lead a Thai lifestyle and I think if you are ok with that then you can have a good life here and save money too.

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

Lots of things are still very cheap here. Rent, Thai food, flowers (!)

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

A single, disciplined veteran of Thailand could probably 'survive' on as little as 15k a month. It wouldn't be much fun though.

Phil's analysis and comment

James earns a very decent salary but still leads what he calls 'a Thai lifestyle'.  It's not for everyone but it certainly works for James. It means some months he can save getting on for half of his salary. 

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.    


Daniel

Working in Hong Kong

Monthly Earnings Roughly around 105,000 Baht

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

I work two jobs Monday to Friday. A kindergarten job 8:30 to 1.00 and in a learning centre 3.00 -7.00. The kindergarten pays better as it is part of the school system and between the jobs it is a 60:40 split between kindergarten and centre. I'm normally well shattered at the end of the day but I do have fun in the process.

Q2. How much money can you save each month?

I am a father of a young boy and the cost of living is extremely high here but my wife brings in a similar income too. It sounds alright in Baht but in Hong Kong, it is just a basic income. Which is why I am on this site and read through so many of these!

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

We live in a 2-bedroom apartment quite far out and it costs us 55,000 baht a month and that is pretty much the average here. It has a basic gym and pool but when I see the cost of living here, my eyes fall out of my head. People who live in the centre of Hong Kong itself keep telling me there are too many "temptations" so my wife so has turned down my requests to move down there. Hong Kong is just too fast-paced for me now and the people in general are quite cold.

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

Transportation

I personally spend around 3,000 Baht most months but during the hot months I take taxis a wee bit more so closer to 5,000.

Utility bills

This can be close to 20,000 baht during the summer months and just a tad over 10,000 baht in Winter. I'm breaking into sweats typing this.

Food - both restaurants and supermarket shopping

We have half of our meals at home and half out and that figure is roughly 15,000 to 20,000 a month.

Nightlife and drinking

I do not really enjoy the scene here. It's not like the "Land of Smiles" here and also as a new dad, I am trying to phase this out entirely. Let's put that at zero.

Books, computers

I read a lot of e-books and do a lot podcasts but I do not really spend anything on it except for the wifi and the device itself.

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

It is decent for sure and I am happy with what I have but it is more the mentality of the place I do not like. I have plenty of Thai friends here and I just prefer the friendliness of the Thai people. I enjoy their 'life is for living' attitude.

Hong Kong is a beautiful and safe city regardless of what people tell you about the political situation here.

I have taught here for over 10 years now and I feel like it is time to move on. Given my experience and qualifications and after some emails and browsing through your site, I feel I will be in the 50-65,000 baht range. A big jump down in salary but then the cost of living is also drastically lower. It seems more possible to actually save money in Thailand and have more fun outside of work too.

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

Well in Hong Kong the transport network is world-class and there are so many restaurants. If you eat as the locals do, you will find some real gems here. Apart from that everything is on the pricey side. It is very similar to Japan but minus the manners and friendliness.

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

If you are single, anything over 70,000 baht can get you similar to a 30,000 baht lifestyle in Thailand, which is neither here nor there. If you have a family then 100,000 baht is close to minimum in Hong Kong.

Value for money is poor in Hong Kong. Seems like in Thailand. what you pay is what you get. It is not always the case in Hong Kong.

Phil's analysis and comment

Thank you Daniel. I think this is possibly our first cost of living survey from a teacher in Hong Kong and nothing of what you've said has surprised me. We know the rental fees are in the stratosphere but 55,000 baht a month for an apartment! Bloody hell! 

I've been to Hong Kong about ten times. I think it's an amazing place for a 4-5 day break or a long weekend. It's worth going for the food alone. But no, I could never live and work there. 


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. 


Showing 5 Cost of Living surveys out of 337 total

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