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How much does it cost to get by in Thailand?

As a follow up to the article entitled, “How much does it cost to live well in Thailand,” I felt it was necessary to share my thoughts on what it would cost to live decently in Thailand. You might find it interesting to compare the two; you can see the other article here.

First the obvious disclosures; there are many places to live and some are much cheaper than others. In both of the articles I’m using a generic to all of Thailand budget, so there are some places where you would be able to spend less, such as Chang Mai or Khon Kaen, and there are other places where you would need to spend more, such as Phuket or Bangkok. Everyone has different tastes and different ideas on what a necessity is. Your idea of living well, living “fine” or living like crap may be different from the next guys. I do want it make it clear though, that I stand by my opinions in these articles. While I understand that there are folks out there who can’t live on less than 150,000 Baht and there are some who live well on 15,000, I do not personally think this would be the case for the majority of people. I also think of that that my projected budgets in both articles should be particularly useful to you if you’re thinking of permanently living here.

The following budget would be the minimum of what it would require to live in Thailand with some semblance of flexibility and unpredictability. Any less and I really feel the highlights would begin to be very few and far between and a level of monotony would set in. Congrats to those who are able to live well on less, but those folks are the exception to the rule, and perhaps the locations they live in are exceptional as well. I would describe the life of the following hypothetical person’s budget as being content. No frills, no magic, no luxury, but certainly comfortable enough to get by with just enough ingredients for some level of quality. In Bangkok or Phuket I’m actually not so sure that I could do it, but in most other places it would be possible.

Entertainment/Going out- 7,000
Rent – 5,000
Traveling- 2000
Electric- 500
Water- 200
Groceries- 3,250
Gas- 250
Haircuts – 250
Bank fees- 700
Cleaning – 0
Toiletries – 400
Internet – 300
Electronics – 800
Household- 500
Medical- 400
Cable TV- 300
Phone- 300
Clothing- 600
Visa- 2,000
Misc- 3,000
Bike- 1,400
Gym- 0

Total- 29,350 Baht or $957 USD or $741 EUR

So you can compare that to my “living well budget” of 72,000 or my slightly cut down version of the living well budget, at 57,300 (from the same article).

The Breakdown:

Call me crazy but 5,000 Baht is my minimum level for rent. I know people who live in places for 3,000 who aren’t complaining, but they’d do much better for the extra 2,000 baht per month. With some looking around you can find a decent place for 5,000, decent enough not to be depressing for most.

The going out and entertainment budget of 7,000 is tight. If you have a girlfriend you could take her out to eat dinner once or twice per week, you could catch one happy ending massage per month (or a couple of regular massages), you could catch one or two movies each month, you can go out and drink beers with your friends once per week, and you could even get one soapy or see one bar girl per month. It certainly doesn’t sound so bad, but keep in mind that I’m stretching it as far as I can. There’s no buying a round in there, there’s no drinking cocktails or imported beers, and forget about a GoGo. Still, this category is a testament to how affordable Thailand is, because we seem to be getting just enough for only 7,000 Baht which is a miracle. And Thailand strikes again when it comes to free entertainment, being most fun daytime activities are free thanks to great weather and plentiful activities.

I cut down on the food budget a bit, which means goodbye to: good coffee, to any imported brands of just about anything, and to most soft drinks (which isn’t such a bad thing to cut out I guess). We cut the electric bill down to a level of actively conserving it whenever possible. You’d be down to having air conditioning only right before you go to sleep. With electronics I left enough so you can buy a half way decent phone when you need one, a discount laptop every 4 years, and a flat screen TV every 4 years. Internet we’re down to getting a WiFi plan, but that should do the trick in most situations. You still have the bike, and we kept the obvious necessities, (Visa, toiletries, clothing, etc.) at similar levels to the “living well budget.” Miscellaneous at 100 Baht per day is the lowest I’m willing to go. That could be breakfast or a trip to 7-11.

The biggest chop here was the travel budget. In the “living well budget” enough was allotted to visit your home country, to explore Thailand, and to take some relaxing island trips. In this budget it’s now just 24,000 Baht per year. That pretty much rules out a visit to your home country. Maybe it’s just enough for round trip air fare if you book very early and get lucky, but that hardly seems feasible. More likely it would mean that you accept not visiting your home country annually; perhaps you could get away with going once every 3 years and taking a bit out of savings only for that very special occasion a couple of times per decade. This is up to your personal preference. For me it would be a problem; I can’t go that long without seeing my best friends and my family. There are also some things back home that I enjoy doing and I’d hate to have to sacrifice all those things indefinitely. The only people I know who are content without visiting home have already lost both of their parents. Even then, it would be tough for most. But if you’re ok without visiting home, you could use the 24,000 Baht allotted in this budget for two small, carefully planned, carefully budgeted perfectly enjoyable trips in Thailand per year. And this is also a testament to how cheap Thailand is, because two similar trips in other parts of the world would cost 5X as much.

The lifestyle described above is probably better than the average lifestyle people have in your home country. If I had the choice between living in the U.S. on $3,500 per month and living in Thailand for $1,000 per month, I’d choose Thailand in a heartbeat. But if I had the choice between working for 40 hours per week to live on 60,000 Baht in Thailand versus not working and living on 30,000 Baht, I’d choose work. And to give you an even more defined perspective, if I had the choice between working 40 hours per week to live on 100,000 Baht versus not working and living on 60,000 Baht, I’d happily choose not working. Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it.

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About ParadiseCity

M. Schwartz is an expert in all things Thailand. Having seen and done it all, there is nobody more equipped to teach about a successful ex-pat transition to Thailand. He wrote the cult classic guide book for men in Thailand called, How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck in Thailand

25 Responses to How much does it cost to get by in Thailand?

  1. Farang ngong nguay October 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    It’s nice to see such a balanced and thoughtful breakdown on the cost of living in Thailand…probably the best I have ever seen on the net.

  2. J October 10, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    That is a shoestring by an account of the imagination, which is great starting point for anybody that is looking to maximize there stay here in the LOS, or seriously considering coming over for an extended stay. Of course we all know that only the truly disciplined will adhere to this budget and I say God Speed to them.

    I stay in BKK and you can get by on that budget even though for here if you do not own a Mortorcycle/Car you are taking the Mass Transportation which will set you back if you ride everyday, and get off at multiple stops roughly 750-1000baht a month…there are people who only go from A-B and probably adhere to a budget of 400-500 baht a month…I am not one of those people. Then there is the Taxi/Motorcycle Taxi/Tuk Tuk [Beware of the Scams] costs unless you want to hoof it from the BTS/MRT/BRT/Bus stations to your residence and that should run right around a 1000 Baht a month; if you walk to a point where you know the price will be under 50baht for a taxi or 20baht-below for a Motorcycle taxi u can budget between 400-600 baht a month [of course these numbers can fluctuate due to the severity of Traffic here in BKK] , If you are one of the luck ones you can catch a Songtel for 7.50 baht and most go to MRT/BRT/BTS/Bus stations [its a great savings]

    Bangkok will probably on your Shoestring budget be a little bit higher by around 2,500-3,300 baht a month and most will go to transportation to get around. With the transportation on Taxis [Car Taxi/Tuk Tuk] this can fluctuate due to traffic stoppage with the meter running or the Tuk Tuk driver getting mad. I have encountered both scenarios.

    This of course is for the bare minimum no Frills live in a box budget.

  3. Cooper October 11, 2012 at 3:16 am #

    I work and live well in Krabi from 16,600 baht salary!
    But I get free accommodation, bike, net, gym, electric, water. I spend only cca. 5,000 baht for entertainment and I don’t have girlfriend. I mean a permanent. 🙂
    And I visit Europe once a year from my home income.
    For example.

    • Andy October 11, 2012 at 11:50 am #

      a permanent girlfriend “costs” way more than occasional “girlfriends”

      • Cooper October 13, 2012 at 8:13 am #

        That’s why (and many more reasons) I prefer the occasional ones. 😀

  4. steve October 11, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    great to see a realistic budget, if a person is rich there is no challenge in life and no need for a budget, i like to set targets for myself, it makes life more interesting. good reading.

  5. ChiangMaiGuy October 12, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    I have known a couple of farang on 15,000 but that’s a 3,000 fan room and I have seen a farang in Pattaya collecting plastic bottles so he’s on sub-3000 I guess. 15,000 is subsistence level 50,000 comfortable 75,000 is cool and 100,000 is stratospheric (in Thai terms)

  6. Barry October 16, 2012 at 5:50 am #

    This new article on the cost of living is appreciated. Good article, Paradise City. I think it’s more helpful for retirees on small pensions who may be living a very basic existence in their home country and who are looking for better value overseas.

    For example, the full but basic Government Age Pension in Australia, without rent assistance and other supplements which an overseas resident wouldn’t be entitled to, is about $1,500 per month, or approximately $18,000 per year. That would apply to someone who has no other income.

    At the current exchange rate, that works out at 46,500 Baht per month, so the question might well be, what quality of life could one get in Thailand for that sum of money, bearing in mind that there are other benefits that an Australian citizen would lose when residing semi-permanently overseas, such as free medical care, for example.

    Well, for a start, any nightlife would have to be seriously curtailed. Pensioners cannot rely upon their good looks, vivacity and charm to hook a bird who is not primarily interested in money. I suspect such pensioners would have to pay heavily. So, excluding nightlife and licentious behaviour, I guess 46,000 Baht per month would be ample.

    However, I wonder if it would be sufficient to employ a part-time maid, cleaner and gardener, if one were to rent a small house, or sufficient to include the rent of a fully serviced apartment so one is free of all those tedious chores of making one’s own bed, cleaning the room and washing the clothes?

    • Chris October 16, 2012 at 5:58 am #

      Chiang Mai you can hire a maid for about 6000 baht a month but if your staying in an apartment in the city they clean once a week so it may not be worth it. Cleaning your clothes you can get them done for you for 20baht a kilogram. these prices are similar anywhere in Thailand except for bangkok and phuket, Pattaya is just as cheap if you are outside the city say on the dark side of town. gardener? If you buy a house sure, if they are live in it’s easier, but prices are going up so you may have to pay 7500 in the next few years for sure!

    • ParadiseCity October 16, 2012 at 10:05 am #

      The translation of gardener/maid into Thai is pronounced: giiirlfriiiend. Just kidding, although the good ones do seem to do everything like that.

      But the 46k is somewhere in between the getting by and living well budgets. You can do better for yourself with that type of budget in Chiang Mai,

      If a lady cleans my house and takes care of my clothing for the better part of a full day I give her 300 baht. I prefer doing this twice a week rather than to pay at a slightly discounted rate for a full month’s worth of work (Chris’s prices are right on for that) because I find it to be overkill and there’s less privacy.

  7. Rob November 20, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    I will attempt to live under this budget after my first month in Pattaya.
    I will post updates on how it works out!
    8 month trip begins December.

    • Chris November 21, 2012 at 5:25 am #

      Have fun mate!

  8. Faraday November 22, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    Any updates/revised budgets on living in LOS?

    I intend taking a Thai language class in ’14, which will last one year, so I’m interested in finding out if the cost of living has changed much.


    • Chris November 23, 2013 at 1:29 am #

      Prices are still the same as this article though by next year you might want to add 10%

  9. Jon May 19, 2014 at 5:52 pm #

    Not sure, but I guess older expats would be thinking differently than a backpacker; and do have to take into account possible health issues. And a lot does depend on location. In my case, I’m thinking about Chumphon.

    $500-600 for a single person, and add $200 for a thai wife/kid that live with you.
    BTW, I’m assuming that you do not drink alcohol or smoke. Animal fats are minimal (at least for yourself), and you are willing to forego >50% of your Western wants (whatever those are to you). IMO, the majority of expats on a pension that >$1,000 should be more than fine. Yes, I have seen several threads on ThaiVisa and the like and it always becomes a bitch-fest about what are considered “needs”. That is one thing I like about Thailand…..you can pick and choose your lifestyle.

  10. Frank February 15, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    I am planning to retire in udon Thani this year with my wife,I have been in the building industry for the past 35years,I am now 67 and looking forward to moving there for a better life style,unfortunately can’t afford to retire here in Australia.so I am going to sell my house,my vehicles etc. and move to Thailand ,I plan on taking all my tools with me so that I can build a house myself for me and the wife,who is thai by the way.I have read a lot of the fors and againsts,but if I plan it right I know I can have a better retirement there than I can here,I have found your budgeting plan very helpful,I expect to have a similar amount of around46000baht per month to live on plus some cash left after buying a house and vehicle etc.I would still like to hear more thoughts on how people have survived over there for a considerable number of years comfortably.

    Many thanks.Frank.

  11. Darwin April 14, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

    I plan on moving to Udon Thani. Would like to rent a nice house, est Western food, all my ekectonics, big screen, couple iphones, air condutioning, csr, scooter. I will have around 160,000 baht a month. Can i live this lifestyle with this amount. Any examples of what type house, etc i could have. Also like to est out and drink mideratly.

    • Chris June 24, 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      you can live like a boss with that much money in udon

  12. Darwin April 14, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

    I plan on moving to Udon Thani. Would like to rent a nice house, est Western food, all my ekectonics, big screen, couple iphones, air condutioning, car, scooter. I will have around 160,000 baht a month. Can i live this lifestyle with this amount. Any examples of what type house, etc i could have. Also like to eat out and drink moderately. Btw im American.

    • Chris April 16, 2015 at 5:01 am #

      Ok so you have a really good income to live on, in Udon Thani you’d have trouble spending even half of that, which makes me wonder why on earth you wanna move to Udon Thani for? But to answer your question on that budget you could rent ANYTHING in Udon Thani but keep in mind that you’re really limited by the market and what’s actually available.

  13. Max August 2, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    I’ve stated this before but in Bangkok minimum 175k baht a month. You’ll live like a god. I was spending more in Norway and although the amenities in Norway are better, what you get for 40k krone is not even comparable. I have a full time maid who makes sure the penthouse is kept clean. 8k baht a month. Eating in a restaurant 4-5 times a week will cost 30k baht for a couple with drinks. Add medical insurance, and rent. I feel you can find a decent place for an older married couple for no less than 40k baht a month. You’re going to want you’re wife to cook and you’ll need a stovetop and oven for that. Taxis are cheap but it adds up because we don’t drive in Bangkok. If you’re retiring for life are are cashing in capital gains and dividends, and have at leAst 2 million usd in liquid able assets, youre probably looking at 200k baht a month plus. This was about our budget in Norway but we lived far less beyond what we deserved. Please keep in mind many articles like this are written by 25-35 year olds. This is not how I nor any of my friends nor you if you are still reading should ever live.

    • Chris August 2, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

      I kind of agree with you but disagree also, i’m 35y/o but the info here is solid. MOST people don’t have 2million dollars in assets, in fact most people who retire in Thailand do so on 80k a month I’d say that’s average. 175k a month anywhere but Bangkok still wouldn’t be god like status.

    • Jon August 3, 2015 at 4:39 am #

      Max, what is the avg median household income in Norway? What about the minimum and maximum state pension?

      I wouldnt be surprised if it was a lot less than 175k baht that you casually suggest. Music videos and TV shows like ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ show us what the top 1 Percent of the population can do with their money. Most of it is borrowed money as few have liquid cash. But it encourages the rest of the population that maybe one day they too can enjoy something similar.

      If you eat out @30k a month for 2, and a maid for 8k/mo. Where is the rest of the money going?

  14. Frank August 4, 2015 at 6:38 pm #

    i still would like to know if 40:000 baht month is sufficient to live on in udon Thani if you own a house and vehicle and scooter,and you only have day to day running costs,what are your comments????????? Cheers

    • Chris August 5, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

      Yeah easy done!

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