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Can you live on $600 USD a month in Thailand?

Amazingly you’ll still find sites telling you that you can live in Thailand on $600 USD a month and while that’s possible there are many hidden costs that simply buying a plane ticket and without spending any of your own savings (if you even have any) and making the move to Thailand it’s simply not possible.

can you live in Thailand on 600 dollars a month

The past few years everything just seems to have got more expensive, dishes have all gone up 5 baht at least but most things have gone up at least 20% even the humble Mister Donut 20 baht donuts are now 27 baht which makes you feel even more guilty when you’ve finished the box because it’s now going to cost you an extra 40 baht.

I’m not painting a grim picture here or anything Thailand is still a really cheap place to live but it’s definitely not the cheapest. Cheap in Thailand doesn’t mean that you’re just getting the same deal but cheaper. That’s unrealistic since the quality and standards in Thailand are by all measure sub-standard. Cheap really does mean Cheap in Thailand.

Let’s say you’re living in a granny flat at your aunts house back in Omaha. You might be thinking Thailand is a better place to live, but if you can only spend $600 a month you’re going to be better off living there than coming to Thailand. I know the lifestyle here is much more exciting but realistically speaking you’re not going to enjoy it as much if you can’t afford to do anything.

So who can live on $600 USD or let’s say 18,000 baht a month? I guess anyone could if they have enough self discipline. Sharing a condo or living in a 30 sqm flat, hiring a bike (a bike to purchase would cost at least 1 month of your income) living a bit out of town eating cheap Thai style and not buying junk from 7/11 and you should be able to to afford to break out a bottle once a month at your favorite nightclub, don’t forget to save for next years visa/visa-run. If you are working full time on that income then even though it’s “Thailand different” it’s going to be pretty mundane if you were going to do that for years and years.

The point I’m trying to get to here is the small sum of $600 USD or 18,000 baht for living in Thailand indefinitely is just a dream. Unless you’ve come here to die this is not a dream you should be buying into!

Like I was saying earlier the cost of living in Thailand coming into 2014 is more expensive than it was 5 years ago when I moved to live here. 30,000 baht or $1000 USD which is what I was spending when I first moved here just doesn’t go as far as it did before but you can definitely do it. Less than a thousand bucks a month only the very disciplined can do this for many years.

Let’s just say you’re a guy who likes to live frugally and nothing wrong with that at all, if you were going to do this then you’re going to want to make some large purchases first, a bike and a condo so you can blast the air-con and burn around on your bike for as little as 4000 baht a month, barring any large expenses like fixing the bike, being scammed, and any hospital bills you’ll do fine in Thailand.


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About Chris

Chris founded Living Thai and author of the books Learn the The Thai Alphabet and How to make money in Thailand also the Blueprint for Living in Thailand. Chris started this blog with the aim of educating westerners on how to have the best time in Thailand, to make new friends and to vent his frustrations Chris is also fluent in both written and spoken Thai.

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24 Responses to Can you live on $600 USD a month in Thailand?

  1. harvie December 24, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    I think I could live on $600 a month in Thailand, I prob would not want too though. The lowest I think I have ever managed was $850~. if I didn’t drink any alcohol and decided to live away from the Bangkok city center I think I could get it down to the mid to high $600, but then I would not be living the life style I want to in Thailand, so what would be the point.

    This was all this year too, the Thai baht has dropped quite a bit, but its not like it was 4-5 years ago.

    for 18,000/600 baht a day, you could prob stay in a fan studio on the outskirts of Bangkok. for appox 170 bhat a day with all bills included. That leaves you 430 for food and entertainment such as the gym, cinema , badminton, tennis etc.

    • Chris December 24, 2013 at 8:24 am #

      I think you’ve just confirmed the truth that while it’s possible, it’s certainly not desirable thanks for the comment.

  2. Martini December 24, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    Yup you hit the nail on the head… It’s possible not something you’d want. I’d also like to say it would make a huge difference whether you move here fresh with 1 suitcase full of stuff and a tight 600 USD a month budget. Or you live here already and have your bike and stuff and places to go sorted out.

    Or if you move here on a budget you’re gonna be way better of to also calculate a seperate amount extra for the first month. You’re going to need to pay a deposit for the 1 year contract for your room (which is cheaper than simply rent month by month) and if possible a some money to buy a second hand bike, etc. etc. to set up shop here. If you do all that right the first time, it’s definately possible to then live on 600 USD a month, but again I wouldnt wanna do it because the living space that money gets you would greatly depress me.

  3. Nissen Petersen December 25, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    I strongly agree with this post.

    The point is, if you wanna live the life which you first explored the first time you got here, you will need a lot more than 18K a month. Even if you slow that down and just go out a couple of time a month, you will start to feel really boring really soon if you can’t travel a little around or go somewhere, because you constantly is on a tight budget.

    To enjoy Thailand you need to do something, and to do something in Thailand most often means spending some money. Just sitting in some condo somewhere in suburban BKK counting your small copper coins of stang isn’t exactly to live in paradise.

    I would also think that 30K a month in BKK is very optimistic. It would be fine for a couple of month, but as you also mention, everyone has some major posts on the budget ones in a while like a flight ticket to your home country ones a year, savings for new laptop, smartphone, visa-stuff, hospital bills and other unexpected expenditures.

    A budget on 30K will never be enough in the long run. That amount CAN be fine to live for, but you will need some more capital for the larger expenditures.

    I think most people who a committed to stay here for a longer time also will find a way to earn more than that.

  4. Stefan December 25, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Well written article. I agree you can live like Thai bachelor graduates do with 15-18k a month but normally that’s just for your first months in Thailand when everything is super exciting and new you are also more disciplined because you want to stay in Thailand long term and even to live like the locals do. However after some time you are going to miss certain things and like to go for western food, a bigger apartment, new furniture for your apartment and then all the things you mentioned like your own motorbike – and that doesnt even include ongoing costs like costs for visa and health insurance (which I know a lot of farangs dont even have as they think healthcare here is so cheap anyway until they have a serious disease or accident). Still I think the most money you can save on the nightlife and if you do so by going out once or twice a week (like most of us do in our home country) with 30k you can have quite a nice life here in 2014.

  5. The Professor December 26, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    You won’t die living on $600 per month, but you will probably want to.

    45,000 is a decent standard of living. I wouldn’t want to live here on less. 30k is the bare minimum I would do it on, and 60,000-90,000 would be the sweet spot.

    • ChiangMaiGuy January 4, 2014 at 5:01 am #

      this

  6. jefke December 30, 2013 at 2:53 am #

    You can live of 600USD per month, but you would need a partner that shares the bills if you want to have a comfortable kind of life. 1200 USB for a couple without children should be enough.

    Without partner, you can life alone in a single non air-conditioned room outside Bangkok, if you don’t have a car, don’t have children, don’t drink, don’t go to bars/karaoke, have a cheap hobby and don’t have much free time to spend money. You would need to cook yourself or go to cheap restaurants. Many Thai people can do it, and if you’re a farang that knows his way around you can do it too.

    Some people live in the illusion you need money for sex in Thailand. I think that is wrong. If you don’t change girls every week, you don’t need money for sex and you partner, in some cases, can even help you to share expenses.

    • Chris December 30, 2013 at 6:17 am #

      I agree that having a partner share the bills makes $600USD a month more affordable and that if you know your way around Thailand you can get by. Over time you’re nice sneakers will be replaced with Thai school shoes as they are the cheapest your socks become thinner and thinner and your clothes cheaper and cheaper. It’s possible but I wonder what percentage of people are actually able to do that for years, decades even. Unless the 600USD a month income rises over the next 10 years it’s going to get very difficult.

      • Alex January 4, 2014 at 10:40 pm #

        Like you said, it won’t last forever even if you could live on that.
        Inflation always kicks in – and last year the Yingluck government just increased minimum wage – that definitely will have an impact on prices overall.

  7. Mark January 1, 2014 at 3:14 pm #

    I could live off $600 if need be I’m sure but I wouldn’t want to. A friend does it for about that but he works Monday to Saturday and often late at night so only Sat night and Sunday he has to really spend money as his work pay for his travel and feed him.

    I live on around 30,000 a month in Bangkok on everything (rent, bills, day to day spending and visa run) and I don’t feel like it’s a hardship. I can afford to spend more but there’s not really any need to.

    8k p/m for rent and less than 2k for bills.
    Couple hundred baht per day for food, drinks, coffee.
    Maybe couple beers in evening at 100B a pop.
    A night out at the weekend maybe spend 1,500-2000B being out all night.
    Couple cheap dates throughout the week.
    Laundry done at laundry shop for about 300-400B once per week.
    600B per month into phone for True data plan.
    Couple hundred baht per week for toiletries.

    What else is there to spend money on?

    I think the costs tend to mount up for guys who are into bar girls and p4p scene. If you don’t indulge in hookers and splash out on happy ending massages or buy lady drinks it’s very easy to live off 30k.

    “for 18,000/600 baht a day, you could prob stay in a fan studio on the outskirts of Bangkok. for appox 170 bhat a day with all bills included. That leaves you 430 for food and entertainment such as the gym, cinema , badminton, tennis etc.”

    Sorry but that’s nonsense. You can get a decent airconned apartment ANYWHERE in Bangkok in walking distance of the BTS for under 10k a month.

    I pay 8k per month for a place in the centre of BKK, all mod cons, free Wifi, free cable, swimming pool, gym, restaurants, massage, laundry, hair dresser, mini mart etc on site.

    I know a place right off the Siam BTS that’s really good for 9k, I’ve seen places in Ekkamai, Thong Lor, Asoke etc for as low as 6k and they aren’t actually that bad.

    No need to stay in a fan room on the outskirts of Bangkok at all. Don’t know where that sort of thinking comes from, obviously never actually lived in Bangkok or gone apartment hunting.

    Hard to spend more than a couple hundred bah per day on food, drinks and coffee IMO. Western food here is utter crap 90% of the time so no point in eating it. Thai food is good and cheap so may as well eat it.

    Personally I can use the pool and gym or run round the park so I wouldn’t buy a gym membership but some people might want one.

  8. Ron January 4, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    I live in Rangsit, just outside of Bangkok. I make about 50,000 baht a month.

    5,000 Max for renting my 3 bedroom townhouse. Includes high-speed internet, ect.
    6,000 I give to my girlfriend every month so she doesn’t have to work part-time every evening of the week to support her mother and mentally challenged brother. She already has a full-time nursing job. She was doing this when we met, I convinced her to stop.
    6,000 On food, beverages and what not.
    600 for gym membership.
    1,000 Motorbike, gas, service.
    1,000 Have 2 dogs and a cat. Food, snacks, shots.
    15,000 Shopping, misc, nights out. Don’t drink much anymore.
    2,000 Save for yearly visa.

    36,600 Max every month. Gives me about 160,800 baht per year for unforeseen expenditures.

    I could eat for less, cut it down to 3,000. My lunches at work are free. Could only give my girlfriend 5,000. Could cut shopping and misc down to about 8,000.
    25,600 Min. I enjoy my life too much to cut down this much. OK for a few month here and there. But I would get a little stir crazy.
    30,000 would be the MINIMUM I could live here on. That would leave about 52,800 baht a year for unforeseen expenditures.

    • Chris January 4, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

      Honestly I don’t know how you get away with 5000 for rent including utils? You sure? My electric bill is about 3000 baht plus 700 baht for internet 400 for association fees then i have rent on top of that. Maybe i use the aircon and you don’t? I can’t live without aircon.

  9. Ron January 5, 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    Got lucky. Met a lady who only wanted to rent to a foreigner, she said Thai’s would destroy her place and wouldn’t keep it clean. I pay 2,000 for rent, 1,500 average for electricity, only use Air con when I sleep and I don’t get home till about 8 p.m. everyday, 300 for water, and about 1,200 for internet. No other bills.

    • Chris January 6, 2014 at 6:25 am #

      And even on the smallest rent budget i can think of you still don’t think $600 a month is enough! Thanks for letting us know mate.

  10. Mark January 6, 2014 at 6:00 am #

    I just had my electricity and water bill for last month, 500B. Wifi and cable is free where I live.

    I live on the 16th floor and have the balcony doors open 24/7 and it’s very cool. There’s no need for me to have the aircon on.

    Plus aircon makes me feel sick, running nose and eyes, coughing and spluttering etc. Not good for me..

    Only time it goes on is if I have a girl over and we’re having sex.

    • Chris January 6, 2014 at 7:20 am #

      500 baht electric and no air…..personally i would die and i’m not sure everyone can do that either. It’s cold season now i don’t use the air at all during the day but when i sleep i like to have it on. personal preference i suppose but most people i know do not have a 500 baht electric bill. Your doing good

  11. Mark January 7, 2014 at 9:03 am #

    I can’t sleep with aircon on. I wake up freezing and feeling like shit. The less I use the aircon the less I bother about the heat outside. It’s great not to go outside and be sweating like a mad man.

    Cold season is over here in BKK it’s been hot again past 2-3 days.

  12. Giorgo January 11, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    Mark isn’t the only one with a small electricity bill. I usually pay 600 THB every month except (you will find this funny) last month it was 1400. The manager of the service apartment was puzzled and apologetic that it had more than doubled. It was so cold in December that I bought an electric heater to keep the apartment warm at night. As for living here on $600, I know quite a few expats in Chiang Rai who get by on 15-20K a month. I personally spend more than 60K, but I also take at least one holiday every month and try not live ‘on the cheap’.

  13. Joe January 16, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    I have lived on much less than $600 a month. I doubt one could do it in Bangkok or Phuket, but in and around Chiang Mai or the northeastern provinces it is certainly possible. When you’ve been there a while, you find ways and means, sometimes it’s purely a case of living like a Thai.

    You live the good life, all you need is a modicum of charisma or a dash of personality, and you’ll be in like Flynn (Errol, that is, not the Flying doctor). I’m not suggesting manipulation of any sort — I play it very straight. Being honest and polite with Thai women will bring you much reward. Forget the games, unless you’re just looking for sex, sex, and more sex. Been there, done that, and there’s no future in it. Mr. Nice Guy is not such a boring existence you know… in fact, the very opposite.

    I have a steady girlfriend of 4 years. She’s beautiful, pleasant, funny, and classy. And she doesn’t work in a bar. When I’m in CM, I’m at liberty to use her motorbike and stay in her apartment — no charge. I contribute of my own free will occasionally, at most 6,000 Baht a month, and I usually pay for meals and so forth, but she never makes demands upon me and has never, repeat never, asked for money. She never uttered the immortal words, “I want to go shopping” and is happiest when chowing down on sidewalk-style moo ping or sen lek moo dang (30 baht a bowl).

    Why, you may ask does she stay with me? Let me be bold enough to answer that for you: Because she sees in me someone who is not going to cheat on her. That is first and foremost in a “respectable” Thai girl’s mind. Not a bar chick, though — a bar girl knows you’re gonna cheat because every guy she’s ever been with or known or heard about has cheated, and she sure as hell has it on her agenda. That’s the only life they know.

    But a classy Thai girl will stay with you forever if you treat her well. If she knows you’re not wealthy from the start and still sees in you value beyond money, she’ll be content to live with you and care for you so long as you push all the right buttons and her buttons alone whenever she needs them pushed. Or poked, or prodded or whatever.

    • Chris January 16, 2014 at 7:52 am #

      Not sure I agree, when you say MUCH less, how much less? Single guy living by himself first moving to Thailand. NO WAY you going to spend less than $600 a month. I know a guy who lived here for 6months spent absolutely nothing except his visa cause he lived with some old Thai lady paid his way. BUT. The point of the article was really directed to those trying to sell the “dream” about an awesome life in Thailadn for less than $600. The reality is that’s not possible for 98% of people who want to move her.

      In your case after much time here steady g/f yes if you don’t do the nightlife you can live here on that especially if you’re sharing rent with someone else.

  14. Joe January 16, 2014 at 8:38 am #

    Horses for courses, really. I’m a fit 60, but look 50 or less — so I can’t imagine we would share the same lifestyle. But I kick up me heels quite a lot… nights out on the town, dinner at Good View, Ta Nam and others, drinks and so forth at Warm-up, Bubble or wherever, or just a few beers at some Loy Kro bar where the girls leave you alone. It’s cheap if you’re smart.

    Ok, if your (I don’t mean you) thing is getting smashed every night in bars and paying for drinks, bar fines and services and living like a lord, well you’re gonna be running out of cash before you can say “Kep Tung Krap”.

    I have a great life there. I have thought of writing a book about living the good life on the cheap in Chiang Mai but there are probably thousands of them around now. I’ve been there for 15 years and I’ve learned a lot of tricks over the years. As for letting on, my feeling is if people can’t figure things out for themselves and need to be lead by the hand, well, they are probably the sort of people who didn’t make a go of things in their homeland, and they will probably never figure it out. And frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn! …

    (‘scuse the bad Rhett Butler impression).

    • Chris January 27, 2014 at 12:04 pm #

      I agree with a lot of what you say. How much you need in Thailand is a loaded question that no one can really answer but yourself and the lifestyle you can choose to live.
      I meet a lot of people who need a helping hand but then there’s a lot who want one. The difference is the people who want it seem to get something out of it. Those who need it end up thinking about it themselves and if you don’t know what your doing then you end up as another news story.

  15. Sascha March 14, 2014 at 12:17 am #

    I lived on 1/3 of that for a while.

    In Cha-am you can rent a condo for 6000 baht a month, 150 meters from the beach, the initial deposit was 2000 baht and electric AND water would amount to about 600 baht a month..

    then again, I only used the fan and no hot water.. I don’t like aircon.

    total cost per month was about 6600 baht rent with bills, internet was free and 3500 baht of food average.. Yes that Is 10100 baht average a month.. I lived there for 5 months.

    I wasn’t “living the life” in Thailand but I was living my kind of lifestyle, went to the beach every single day for walks.. I would eat at soi restaurants and buy the occasional things at 7/11..

    I don’t drink, I don’t party and didn’t pay for girls (sex OR anything) apart from the same cheap restaurants I was going to.

    thing is, I wasn’t there for the girls or the partying. I was there for the nice weather and peaceful life. girls who showed interest was a welcome extra

    when I left Bangkok in late february, it was 27 C outside.. when I arrived where I live it was -17 C

    to continue the story, I went to travel Isaan on my Honda Wave for about 2-3 weeks in December and drove 4000 kms in that time frame. when i headed back to Cha-am I took a new 2700 baht a month small 1 room apartment.. It was about 3 km from the beach but VERY close to the market, cozy enough for me and calm (not much traffic) so my monthly expenses went down to under 7500 baht a month and including my monthly VISA run to Myanmar from Phetchaburi through Kanchanaburi, my monthly expenses were roughly 9200 baht (1700 baht a month)

    9th floor of condo in Cha-am with bills for 6600 baht and food and water for 3000 baht so about 300$ (CAD)

    or

    cozy little 1 room apartment close to market with bills 3200 baht, food and water 3000 baht. total 6200 baht or 206$ (CAD)

    give me 600$ USD a month and I would still live the same way except I would save an average of 200$-350$ USD in my account each month and be living there theoretically forever

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