Let’s face it, one of the main reasons people move to Thailand is because it’s pretty cheap compared with back home. It's an awesome country, too, of course.
But aside from anecdotal stories, what is the actual cost of living in Thailand?
Well, while housing is very affordable, food items can be pretty expensive, particularly if you’re partial to imported foods such as wine, olives and, err, Marmite.
Additionally, branded clothes and beauty products can be pretty expensive too: think Nike (real) trainers and anti-wrinkle skin creams.
But overall, Thailand still ranks as one of the cheapest places to live in SE Asia, even cheaper, overall, than Laos – would you believe?
That said, it's worth bearing in mind that the cost of living varies greatly between regions and cities.
The Cost of Living in Thailand
Initially I planned to cross reference some cost of living websites and provide averages, but I found them to be pretty off the mark, particularly when it came to housing.
So I decided to walk around the shops myself and compile my own list based on my personal everyday experience of the cost of living in Bangkok.
Please note: if you’re thinking of living in other cities like Chiang Mai in the North, or Khon Kaen in the Northeast, the cost of housing is likely to be a lot lower.
However, supermarket food items and entertainment (beer, meals out) are likely to be about the same.
I’ll be adding items to this list and updating it periodically, but if you want to know the price of a particular item or service in the meantime, please let me know and I’ll do my best to research it for you.
You can use the currency convertor to convert from my figures in Baht to your native currency.
Currency Converter by OANDA
Popular Food Items
- 12 organic eggs – ฿89
- Semi-skimmed milk (Meji 990 ml) ฿44
- Cheddar Cheese (Mclelland – UK import) – ฿275
- Chicken breast 200g (S Pure Healthy) – ฿59
- Loaf of brown bread – ฿57
- Penne Pasta (500g) – ฿55
- Olive Oil (500ml) – ฿199
- Litre of Pepsi Cola – ฿20
- Oreos (standard pack) – ฿30
- Heineken (490ml can) – ฿59
- Bunch of 8 bananas (local stall) – ฿30
- 4 fresh mangoes (local stall) – ฿60
- Water (0.33l) – ฿10
**Prices sourced from Big C & Topps supermarkets. Please note that as with any country, supermarkets are competitive and pricing varies for different items, albeit by a few Baht.
The cost of food in Bangkok is 47% lower than New York
Buying fruit and vegetables from markets can be cheaper than supermarkets.
Do a big shop once a week, if you have a fridge. People tend to nip round to 7-11 for everything, and not only does this result in eating unhealthy snacks all the time, it costs a lot more to live this way.
Approximate Housing Costs
The following condo rental prices are averages based on a pool of property listings for Bangkok, and on condos within walking distance to an MRT/BTS station.
- Modern 2 Bed 2 Bath Condo, 65 Sq. m (central Bangkok) – ฿40-45,000
- Modern 2 Bed 1 Bath 65 Sq. m (4 stops to central – ฿17-20,000
- Modern 1 bed, 50 Sq. m (central Bangkok) – ฿30-35,000
- Modern 1 bed, 40 Sq. m (4 stops to central – ฿12-20,000
- Modern studio, 30 Sq. m (4 stops to central – ฿8,000-9,000
- Modern studio, 30 Sq. m (central Bangkok – ฿13-16,000
- Utilities, 1-month, 2 people, 65 Sq. m condo – ฿2500
- Internet – 16 MB (True) – ฿799
- Cleaner (per month, 3 x per week) – ฿3,000
If you're thinking of buying a condo in Thailand? You'll want to read this first.
The cost of rent in Bangkok is 65% lower than London
You will always pay more if you secure a condo rental contract through a website or an agent. The best deals are always found by putting foot to ground.
I recommend that you first find temporary accommodation in an area that you are interested in, and then explore the area and walk into apartment blocks and speak with reception about their rates.
Of course, if you are renting privately from a private owner, then you are likely to find those condos listings on websites.
Cost of Clothes
- 1 pair Levi 501 jeans– ฿3,790
- 1 summer Maxi dress in Topshop – ฿3,550
- 1 pair of Nike Air Max ฿2,000- 5,700
- 1 tailor-made business suit – ฿3,000-8,000
- 1 FBT running vest from Tesco – ฿189
- 1 pair of kaki shorts from the local market – ฿250
The cost of clothes in Bangkok is 53% cheaper than Sydney
Being from the UK I'm used to finding bargains on branded clothes pretty much everywhere, especially in the January sales.
But as you can see from the above, buying branded clothing in Thailand not a good idea if you are on a budget. Instead, you can find great T-shirts, shorts and vests in supermarket chains like Tesco and Big C.
You can also get great bargains in markets and support local sellers.
Price of Transportation
- 1 litre of premium gasoline – ฿30-40
- Public taxi trip (8 Km) ฿180 (Base rate ฿35)
- Monthly train ticket: BTS – ฿1,100 (Rabbit card) – MRT – ฿1,499
The cost of transportation in Bangkok is 37% cheaper than Berlin
Cost of Personal Care
- Deodorant, Nivea roll-on, (50ml): ฿92
- 1 box of 16 tampons (Laurie Slim): ฿75
- Gillette Mach 3 Sensitive (4 blades) ฿459
- Hair shampoo 2-in-1 (400 ml ~ 12 oz.): ฿89
- Tube of toothpaste (large Colgate standard): ฿55
- Nappies: 64 Pc (Mamy Poko – medium) – ฿669
- Toilet rolls (Scott 6 roll pack) – ฿79
The cost of personal care in Bangkok is 73% cheaper than Bern
Personal care items can be pretty expensive. I can't use any other razors other than the Gillette Mac 3, or Fuzion series. But this costs me £10 for four blades in Thailand!
Similarly, if you are used to expensive face creams, expect them to be even more expensive here.
Of course there are alternatives, but if there is a particular brand that you do not deviate from, then you will do well to stock up on it before you arrive – and then ask anyone who's visiting you to bring you a top up.
Price of Entertainment
- Lunch for 2 (Black Canyon café): 2 coffees, 2 main meals – ฿400 Baht
- 2 adult tickets to the movies – ฿360
- 1 cocktail drink in downtown club – ฿250
- Grande Cappuccino in Starbucks – ฿120
- 1 beer in neighbourhood bar (500ml or 1pt.) ฿100 Baht
- 1 month prepaid mobile tariff with 3GB (DTAC) – ฿399 + vat
- 1 month gym membership at True Fitness (Asoke) ฿2,099 (dependent on sales rep and promotions)
- 1 package of Marlboro cigarettes – ฿90
The cost of entertainment in Bangkok is 39% cheaper than Paris
The trick to saving money on entertainment is to know where you are going and what prices to expect.
Tourists tend to get stung because they are eating out in tourist areas in restaurants known to be expensive.
Also consider that some restaurants are considered more prestigious because they are in an upmarket area or entertain a certain type clientele.
If you are going to live in Thailand, then you will want to avoid the tourist traps and overpriced “hi-so” joints and eat locally.
You'll soon get a handle on scoping out local places that sell the same food and drink as they do in tourist-targeted restaurants and bars at half the price.
You'll also find that Starbucks really isn't much cheaper than it is back home. It is easy to run up $150 worth of lattes in a month.
Beer is cheap, but if you're drinking double the amount and going out every other night it's going to burn a hole in your pocket.
Good budgeting is largely about self-discipline, right?
Up until this point, you're probably thinking how amazingly cheap it is in Thailand. But one thing that isn't cheap, is a private school education.
You probably won't want to put your child in a public school, because standards are poor and the first language is Thai, of course.
To achieve a similar education standard to that which you will find in the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, US, and Canada, you will need to pay privately.
In Bangkok, specifically, private school fees start can set you back anywhere from 350,000 Baht per year to 1m Baht per year, depending on the school and age of the child.
If you are a teacher and you have secured a job at a private school, the likelihood is that your child will get a place at that school as one of the benefits.
Similarly, if you are relocating to Thailand for a job with a multinational company, particularly a financial firm, they may allocate a subsidy for your child's education.
But for those who are teaching in a public school, or working for a company that does not provide a subsidy, schooling can be very expensive.
And when it comes to private schools, it isn't just the tuition fees that you have to consider. You must also factor in additional costs such as transport, after-school clubs, school trips, and all the other stuff that comes along with schooling.
So before you plan your move, you need to factor in the cost of education.
You can see a list of private schools in Bangkok and their associated fees by clicking here.
Money Transfer Tips: Avoiding Bank Fees
Transferring money from your bank account back home to a Thai bank account is an additional expense.
You will have to pay your bank transfer fee and the receiving bank fee (usually 500 Baht).
Worst of all, you will be at the mercy of the bank's exchange rate, which of course is not the real (mid-market) rate but a rate the bank sets themselves.
So on a transfer of $1,000, you might end up with a total of $50 in fees.
Fortunately, by using TransferWise, you can cut out the bank fees and get the real exchange rate.
It's easy to do:
- Simply register a TransferWise account.
- Pay the amount you want to transfer by bank transfer or card to TransferWise’s bank account in your country.
- TransferWise will then send the money onto your bank account in Thailand.
You can send money to anyone, anywhere in the world using this service.
Save When Spending Money in Thailand
Additionally, you can set up a TransferWise Borderless account, which means you wouldn't need to use a local Thai bank account – though it is useful to have one.
The Borderless account is perfect for travelers and expats because it lets you hold multiple currencies and spend the money in any country at the local conversion rate.
You can also convert money inside the account too (tip: do this on a favorable currency exchange rate day).You'll pay low conversion fees, and zero transaction fees.
You'll be issued with a debit card, too.
This type of account is also useful for those who get paid in multiple currencies; freelance workers, for example.
So let's say you get paid some money in GBP, USD, or AUD:
You can have this money paid into your Borderless account (give the payee your account number), and then you could convert the money inside the account to Thai Baht, or allow the account to convert it into Thai Baht as you spend on your debit card.
With the debit card, you can spend anywhere in the world at the real exchange rate.
- Free to pay with currencies in your account.
- Free ATM withdrawals up to $200 a month.
- Only pay a small conversion fee when you convert your money – typically between 0.35% and 1%.
- Pay in any currency, anywhere and it will automatically convert the currency in your account with the lowest conversion fee.
- Free same currency withdrawals for personal account users.
How Much Does it Cost to Live in Thailand Per Month?
From my own expenses living in Bangkok, I’d say that presuming you enjoy an average standard of living in Europe or the US, Canada or Australia, you will need the following amount(s) to maintain that standard in Thailand:
- Single male/female in Bangkok – ฿50,000
- Couple in Bangkok – ฿75,000
- Couple with baby under 2 years old in Bangkok – ฿80,000
- Couple with child over 2 years old in Bangkok – ฿85,000 (not including school fees)
This includes rent, food, Internet access, gym membership, and going out socializing once/twice a week.
If you plan on living up country somewhere, you may be able to shave as much as 30% off these amounts.
If you plan on living in Koh Samui or Phuket, then you can expect to spend about 10-15% less, depending on your drinking habits.
In my experience, you pay less rent on the islands, but eating can be a tad more expensive and you tend to spend more on socializing.
I haven’t lived in Chiang Mai for some time, but when I did I found rent to be about 25% cheaper than Bangkok.
Final Thoughts & Tips
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Man, I thought Thailand was a lot cheaper”, don’t let these numbers put you off.
If you don’t mind living in a 27 Sq.m studio apartment, traveling that little bit further into town and aren’t fussed about eating street food and generally living frugally, you can get by on 30-35, 000 Baht per month.
There are many teachers living in Thailand on such a salary.
If you’re smart, you can make cut backs by doing things like buying an Internet phone package and tethering to your computer to save money on home WIFI.
You can buy fruit in bulk from the market instead of buying daily from stalls, or choose to take public transport instead of taxis.
There’s always ways to save money and, at the end of the day, many Thai people live reasonably well on a salary of 20-30,000 Baht.
My Personal Living Situation
I map out my expenses by working out what’s required for my family to be happy, healthy, and enjoy a convenient life.
For example: we live within walking distance of the MRT (train) station, and have the luxury of a cheap restaurant on site at our condo block.
Being able to walk to the station will save you money on taxis. And having cheap food options, with just a phone-call downstairs, is super-handy.
Our apartment is a few stops outside of central Bangkok – mainly because I wouldn’t want to live in Sukhumvit – but the money we save on not being so central allows us to take regular holidays in decent hotels.
I don’t drink or smoke anymore, so I save money on buying beer and smokes. I am able to invest this money in having good food at home, which is where a lot of my money goes.
I used to spend 1,500 Baht a month on gym membership, until I found one for less than 2 quid a year.
I have a wife and a daughter, so I pay medical insurance and life insurance – but you might say this is paid in part by money I save from giving up that gym memberships.
It's about finding a balance that works for you.
Work out what’s important to you: what are your “must haves” and “can do withouts”.
If you’re retired with a tidy pension and savings account, then keeping a tight ship might not be on your agenda.
On the other hand, if you have kids or other dependents that will need a nest egg when you walk through the pearly gates, it makes sense to be smart with your money.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that expenses do pop up here and there, and you’ll need to make provision for these. Consider things like:
- visa run/renewal expenses
- travel insurance
- trips back home
- replacing a broken phone or computer
So make sure you have some back up savings for emergencies.
Think I'm way off the mark?
How much does living in Thailand cost you?
How do these prices stack up to what you pay in your home country?
Leave your comments below.
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