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The cost of living in Thailand depends largely on the area in which you live and the quality of life you expect.
For the sake of this post, I am going to assume you want to live like a well-to-do foreigner rather than an average earning Thai; i.e. with a one or two bedroom place with a kitchen, eating 3 meals a day, and having a couple of nights out a week with friends for drinks and dinner.
Similar to living in any other capital city in the world, central Bangkok is generally the most expensive part of Thailand, excluding of course the tourist hotspots on islands like Phuket, Koh Samui etc. But even living on an island will work out cheaply if you know where to stay and the best value places to eat. And that is the major difference between holidaying and living in Thailand, when you live here you become part of a community, and as such you know the true local economy prices of accommodation, food, travel, goods, etc.
The Cheapest Places To Live In Thailand
In my experience, the cheapest place to live, one with a thriving foreign community and vibrant atmosphere is Chiang Mai. When I lived there I could easily get by on 35,000 Baht per month. Living in Bangkok I need around 50,000 Baht to live comfortably without counting the pennies as I spend.
I lived in Koh Samui for a while, too, and the living expenses there were probably approximately 5,000 Baht a month more than Chiang Mai. Living in the sticks of the North or Northeast of Thailand, perhaps somewhere like Chaing Rai or Udon Thani, can be done on as little as 25,000 Baht, again depending on lifestyle, though. However, when you live up country or on an island, you must factor in the expense of renting a motorbike and the petrol to go with it.
My estimations might seem high or even low, depending on how you shop, how you eat and how socially active you are. For instance, I don’t really eat from street stools much, and therefore I end up spending approximately 400 Baht a day in Tesco buying my food for the day. I don’t drink much, however, neither am I part of the nightlife scene, at least not for more than three times a year when visitors come, so I save heavily on that front.
From what I have seen it is mainly alcohol that drains people’s money here, that and women! My girlfriend works full time, so I am not picking up all her expenses, although in line with the culture, I do pay for eating out and occasional gifts while shopping. Men are expected to pay for women in Thailand, so bear that in mind before rushing into a relationship, as it could tip your budget over into the red.
Summarising The Cost Of Living In Thailand
So, let me summarise my Bangkok living costs in an attempt to help anyone thinking of moving here:
- Rent (1-bedroom apartment) (including electric, water and Wi-Fi) – 13,500 Baht
- Food/essentials shopping – 17,000 Baht
- Socialising – coffees/dinners – 6,000 baht
- Travel – 1,000 Baht
- Gym – 1,500 Baht
- Wing Chun Class – 1,500 Baht
- Mobile Credit – 400 Baht (Blackberry Package)
- Unforeseen Expenses (Visa run/medicine/electrical accessories) – 3,000 Baht
Total – 43,900 – Baht
Now, if you take a studio room you could halve the rent costs, and if you are happy eating Thai food you could cut the food costs in half. However, if you like the nightlife those savings will be quickly eaten up again.