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Is Thailand a cheap place to live?

You always hear people say how cheap it is to live in Thailand compared to western countries. And while it is cheaper for many things it’s also more expensive than others. Now i’m not saying that Thailand is as expensive as living back in California or Sydney but it can cost you more than you think.

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Three years ago I was living in California driving a nice car great apartment near the beach ride my bike around in the afternoons drive to the mountains go skiing hiking on the mountains and road trips to Vegas quick flights to Frisco and NY and what sounds exciting is far from reality.

In truth it might be a few times a year you go skiing you might travel for work and only get a night or two away, you get out on the bike but it’s only to get away from the misses you go to Vegas and it’s great but you wish you were single to enjoy it more, and hiking gees you might do it once a year because you really work 60 hours a week you’d drive for another 20 and are too exhausted to go anywhere. No wonder so many people come to Thailand to live but if you think it’s cheap and want to live the same or better you might want to read on further.

Thailand is so cheap you can hire laborers for $5-$10 a day!
Yeah but you’d have to hire 5 to equal one Mexican at $50!

The car I had in California cost me $40,000 second hand a year old. The exact same car here costs over 3million baht which makes it over twice as much. That’s not exactly cheap living is it. Most guys who come to Thailand abandon the car because it’s just not practical or affordable and it’s next to impossible for a Farang to get credit for such a thing.Not to mention gas is so much more expensive as well.

Rent is super cheap in Thailand and Bangkok has some of the cheapest Businesses rentals in Asia. But cheap is cheap and they don’t come with the same standards as we’re used to living back in the west. So you could say it’s cheap but when you are comparing it to the money you make back in the west it’s not. Back in California I spent 15% of my wage on accommodation whereas here I’d spend more than 20% of my income on accommodation.

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We all have to eat right so what about food? Food is so cheap in Thailand isn’t it? While fruit is super cheap I live on meat and meat is more expensive expensive especially for beef and chicken both of which are more expensive here than in the States or Australia and compared to what you earn here it might be as much as 3 times as much. Sure I wouldn’t spend much on food in Thailand but i’m not eating the same food am I, if I were I’d be spending more money on food in Thailand than I would if I were back in the west.

My point to all of this is Thailand is cheaper not by how much things costs but because it offers the opportunity of a different lifestyle. A lifestyle without all the fake BS that has become the west these days. I mean really think about it, it’s cheaper to live here because we don’t need as much stuff therefore our cost of living in Thailand is much less. We don’t need the massive house the fancy car the brown-nosing monotonous job where we are starved for time. We can have a much simpler more fulfilling life here.

If you choose to live in Thailand and are still bought into all the material BS then your going to need more than a pension to survive here and just forget about teaching. But if you have chosen to adopt a less is more mentality then living in Thailand offers you that at a discounted price.


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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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13 Responses to Is Thailand a cheap place to live?

  1. Isan Oz January 31, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    Living here is far less expensive than back in Aus…But I found that after a while, either here or in Aus you end up living to your economy so essentially it costs the same…BUT…living here is so much better in just about every way imaginable so it’s money better spent.

  2. Neale @ Living in Thailand February 1, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    It is true if someone is not prepared to sacrifice somethings they had in the west life here in Thailand can end up been expensive.

    I often state; I swapped out a V8 SUV for a small motorbike along with a large beautiful one bed apart with a view for a small beautiful studio with a view, and saved about about 85% of what I was earning in the states.

    Not a lot else changed, I do eat a lot less beef that is the only food item I have had to sacrifice, apart from beef I eat exactly what I used to eat in the states.

  3. ChiangMaiGuy February 1, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Part of the attraction of living here is downsizing. I can live easily on 50,000 but in London I was spending at least 200,000

  4. Joe February 2, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Food including meat is definitely cheaper here than in the UK but the selection is less varied and perhaps the quality too?

    The best thing about cost of living in Thailand is the choice you have – you can live like back home and pay a lot or live like a local and pay very little. Back home there wasn’t really the option of living on the cheap (well there was, but it was still expensive!).

    If I had to I could live on street food for a while and spend 100-200 baht a day and still have nice stuff to eat. Back home that would get me one kebab if that!

    • Chris February 2, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

      Well said Joe, there is way more choice here than back home.

  5. Brian February 7, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    I can live very well here and send 3 kids to collage for what I rent my Newport beach house for . If I was living in Ca I would have to work and I’m sick of paying taxes . This is the life I never want to leave .

  6. Johnnie Walker February 7, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    “Not to mention gas is so much more expensive as well”.

    Depends where you’re comparing against Chris. We’re not all in the US. Fuel is about half the price in Thailand to what is in England.

    When I first started coming to Thailand 8 years ago I was getting 72 – 73 bht to the GB pound, now its 48.
    10,000 bht from the ATM used to cost about £140 now its over £200 45% more expensive. On top of that, food & hotel prices have risen considerably. I never used to have bother about the cost of staying in Thailand, now I’ve had to reduce from 2 visits a year to one.

    When I did a road trip to Chiang Mai in 2006 diesel was 24bht/litre. How much now? 30+?

    I used to pay sub £400 for a flight, now around £600.

    4 – 5 years ago I started planning my move there (or the Philippines). I figured an income of £1500 a month would keep me in moderate style, but now I need £2,000. Talk about chasing your tail!

    Its ok for you if you’re Ozzy based because the AUD v Thb exchange rate is very good now.

    • ChiangMaiGuy February 7, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      why 2000? 100,000 baht a month? most people I know live on 30/50,000 – things are much cheaper here despite the exchange rate and you can’t keep referring back to the days when it was 72/73. In those days I could buy Gold for 600 US and what? it’s gone – Thailand is very cheap and I live off 50,000 very easily so you can cut your 100,000 in half and still live like a king when all the regular Thais earn 7,000 or 8,000

  7. Buttercup February 7, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    Don’t know what kind of car you were driving back in the states but a Thai friend of mine just bought a brand new D-MAX and paid it less than 1M THB.

    And about the gas, as Johnny said, around here it’s 40 THB per litre which, I guess, is higher than the rest of Thailand but still less expensive than in Europe.

    • Chris February 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

      I drove a Mercedes C230 which now they sell the C250 here with the upgrades is about 3,000,000 baht.
      Poor buggers in Europe hey, arn’t they closer to the oil than we are? Taxes i’m sure.

      • Buttercup February 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

        I actually checked the price of a D-MAX in Europe and it’s about the same than in Thailand.
        And a C250 is about 50k€, so you’re right, car prices are not better here :)

        Now I really wonder about this dude with a Lamborghini I see sometimes…

        About gas in Europe, yes France has 80% taxes on gas for example. But I bet US prices are also artificially kept low.

  8. paul March 17, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    it all depends were you live in thailand you can live off as little as 15,000b for 30 days

    • Chris March 18, 2013 at 4:26 am #

      it’s possible to live on 15,000 baht sure, you COULD survive in america on that too. Is that what you want to do though survive?

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