So doing my taxes, I realized how much money I actually made teaching in Thailand for 2012…it’s laughable. Ready?
$6,000 After I had a minor freak out (I made more money when I was a teenager!) I took a step back to look at how I could still be so comfortable after making such a low amount. First of all, a couple notes about salaries for teaching in Thailand and why I made so little.
You don’t get much. Obviously. Out of the Asian countries, foreign teachers’ salaries in Thailand are some of the lowest. Within Thailand, Chiang Mai schools tend to pay the least (Why? There are a ton of schools and jobs here, but there are also a ton of Westerners looking to fill those positions and overall the cost of living here is very low), so just starting out, I wasn’t in the best place to make the big bucks. On top of all that, when I was teaching full time, I was at a school that paid the least amount possible…so…yeah. I would say the average monthly salary for teaching full time in the north is between 27,000 – 30,000 baht or about $900-1,000. (30 baht roughly equals $1.oo.) I know several people in positions that are making 35,000 – 40,000 baht which is very good and more than you need to live here. I was making 23,000 baht a month working about 45 hours a week at a high school and then trying to supplement that by teaching lessons at a language school in the evenings and on the weekends. The Thai school calendar is completely different from the Western calendar and ‘summer’ break is from March-May, so I only had this salary for two months of 2012. During that break I visited home and then came back to Thailand looking to piece together work instead working in one place full time. Essentially I didn’t really teach and make any money for almost two months. After that I picked up regular lessons at the language school, as well as a primary school and daycare, while also having a couple private students on the side. Doing this I was able to make close to 30,000 a month – and without being stuck in the same place for 40+ hours a week! I kept this up through the beginning of October then gave up teaching. In the end, that $6,000 came from about nine months of working. Slightly better than thinking it was over an entire year, but still… So, how can I survive? How much does it cost to live in Thailand? First of all I can be a little
stingy frugal at times – I actually even managed to save about $2,000 from September 2011 – October 2012 while not even making $1,000 a month. But the main reason is that living in Thailand is very, very cheap. (For comparison, while I was on the low end of the foreign teacher’s salary with 23,000 baht, many of the Thai teachers at my school were supposedly making around 8,000 a month. That’s a whole other issue, but the point is, I was doing just fine.)
Below is a basic breakdown of my monthly living expenses.
TOTAL: 15,000 baht or $500. Say that was my average cost of living for the entire year and the total would come to $6,000 – what I actually made. Of course, I did spend a little more than this. The outline above doesn’t include visa fees, trips (including a plane tickets halfway around the world), rental deposits, letting loose a little when visitors were in town or motorbike payments. BUT living here for 15,000 baht per month is completely doable, and isn’t even too difficult. While I was (am) very careful and aware about my money, I wasn’t depriving myself by any means. I tended to cook or eat street food, limiting little ‘splurges’ at a restaurant or good coffee shop to once or twice a week and I didn’t go shopping buying new clothes or much for my living space.
I lived completely comfortably, both by Thai and Western standards – I got my laundry done for me! I could get a house cleaner! Crazy. So there you have it – the basic breakdown of what it could cost to live in Thailand. Of course, what it actually costs is up to you, your tastes and spending habits. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing more posts on how to save and spend money in the Land of Smiles. To make sure you don’t miss them, please subscribe to my RSS feed here. Have questions? Ask me in the comments below or on Twitter.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
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This is exactly what I was looking for! Living in ny its so hard to figure out how much things cost elsewhere because things are so expensive here….
Glad it was helpful – it always difficult to get a good idea of what things are like somewhere else without seeing it for yourself! After being here for nearly two years I think I would go into shock visiting NY…
Good post. I was looking for this kind of info after my recent trip to thailand. Thanks!
Thank you! I’m sure many people would disagree with me, but this is what I’ve found to be true for my lifestyle.
We’ve been considering a move to Thailand ever since we got back from our trip there. But living in a place can be a lot different from vacationing there so this info was really helpful. Thanks!
The day to day costs are so low, I’m sure many people staying in nice hotels throughout the country would be shocked to hear what most people live on.
what a load of crap. u can live like a dog for 500$ everywhere. toiletries for 200 bhat a month? just my shampoo costs more… 200 bhat electricity?? when u got no aircon and live in the middle of an anus… no make things short. u r just cheep. so u’ll get along anywhere
The point is you don’t ‘live like a dog’ for that amount here – you’re completely comfortable and don’t even need to be too, um, cheep.
What a silly comment! I challenge you to live like a dog for $500 in New York City. Maybe you can make it as a homeless dog who hasn’t eaten anything other than thrown-away mcdonalds in a month while sleeping next to a dumpster.
About the only thing that was accurate in your post is that yes, 200 baht probably means no AC. But you can run a fan 24-7 along with a fridge, computer, tv, and lights for 200 baht, easy. I did it, and I lived in a big 3br house.
‘cheep’ like a budgie?
Great breakdown, that really puts things into perspective. I know I kicked myself when I saw how little I made in Taiwan this year. But when I looked at the breakdown and my standard of living, and how much I’ve been able to save and travel on, it was pretty impressive!
(on a sidenote: is it just my computer but I can’t capitalize my letters and it’s driving me crazy!)
I still can’t get my head around how money, value and time can mean so much and so little in different places – and what it all can get you.
And, sorry about the commenting. I’ve had several people say something about it, but for others it works fine and most comments come through correctly…I need to figure it out…
Great article! Chiang Mai is one of the places I’d like to take a break someday for sure.
Really good break down Alana.
Chiang Mai is one of my favourite places and this post explains exactly why. Its low living costs allow people to pursue their passions and actually live their lives without having to worry about “the man” so much.
It’s amazing how you can have relatively little but feel so rich, in several different ways, here.
yikes! My husband and I just got to Chiang Mai yesterday and rented an apartment for 18k bhat….I’m now thinking we chose the wrong place! lol
In the end it all depends on where you want to be, what you like and can afford! If you like where you find, then maybe that’s the best place regardless of the price. If you’d prefer somewhere cheaper just keep an eye out. I know people living in furnished houses just outside the old city for as little as 10,000B, but I also have known of people renting apartments for 22,000. It’s all relative, though there are several condo and apartment buildings marketed toward foreigners who are used to paying higher prices so the building charges more than it probably should yet still comes across as a good deal. Once you get past those you can find a wider range of options and prices.
Welcome to Chiang Mai!
Thanks girl and super excited to meet up tomorrow!!
Jill 18,000 is a lot, it depends what you have rented though for 5,000 you will get a very nice large studio, 8,000 gets you a small one bed and so on. I rented a 2 bed townhouse when I arrived for 20,000 so don’t feel too bad. I would suggest you get with others in Chiang Mai and ask them to help show you around. Good luck!
Thanks Neale! Now that we’re settled here we’re pretty darn happy with the place…love the location and the amenities. I guess we’ve still got those western tendencies and for us (coming out of a big western city) $600/month is pretty damn cheap! lol 😉
You can live here on very little; as long as you do very little! I was unemployed for 4 months and lived on around £2000 (excuse me I’m British). It was one of the best times of my life in Thailand. I woke up every day, played chess online, rank coffee, slept late, woke up late. Like being a student again. Still, I got worried after I got down to 20,000 baht, after all, we’re not natives here and no money means no visa means no stay in Thailand.
True – and legitimate/legal work options (one work permit for one place) are mainly limited to teaching which makes it difficult to just pick up a job to make ends meets.
What about health and/or accident insurance? Medicine may be “cheap” but costs would mount up for a bike accident or a major illness that puts you in the hospital.
Good question – while some jobs give different types of insurance (it just depends on the gig) it’s mainly up to you to make sure you’re covered. I take care of my own health and accident insurance, but think it would have to take a lot to really put you in a bad situation. I know of someone who recently stayed overnight in a hospital for two nights, had stitches, bloodwork and a CT scan and total it cost about $300.
Alana thanks for posting, you are totally correct in stating that $500 a month allows for safe western style living. I documented a month last year on my site living with just $400 hopefully you can find a better job this coming year, with a salary of 30,000 per month you can save $6000 give me a shout if your in Mae sai some time..
p.s excuse all lowercase your blog is not allowing me to use capital letters at all…
Thanks for reading and the kind words, Neale!
Chiang Mai cost Andy and i around $1200 a month total in a cool Nimman road apartment, around $1000 per month total in a not cool apartment on Nimman. And we were NOT careful about food and booze money and had expensive insurance. That also includes semi-frequent trips to BKK. I think you could do it for much, much less, but as a dumb farang, I didn’t know where to get the best deals, and I always sucked at negotiating…
Again, it’s all relative too – if you’re able to afford that and are enjoying where you live and the lifestyle then the higher cost is well worth it!
Fascinating! I wondered about how easy it would be to live in Thailand, after seeing a few job posters while we were there and also finding out how much apartments went for (we stayed with a couchsurfing host who had a really nice studio that worked out to be about 200 bucks a month). and while you can eat a meal for 25-30 baht, i wasn’t sure how incomes stacked up in proportion. Thanks for shedding some light on this!
Like most places, you can make it as expensive or affordable as you want to, but it’s so much easier to stick with your budget (and still throw in some luxuries) since most things are much cheaper than in many other countries.
This is exactly what every one needs….the goal is to stick to your budget,plan wisely,buy amicably and always have a scale of preference.
Good post. Very helpful. I am actually retiring to Chiang Mai next year . By the way, there is an ex pats club in Chiang mai that gives good advice also. Take care
Can someone please give me an estimate cost for diapers, foot massage, oxygen tanks on a monthly base. I have a relative asking for $500 Usd to cover these needs. I feel like there a little exaggeration going on. Thank you
Maybe you should check into some of the forums on Thai Visa or something for information…
I rent a studio condo in Pattaya for 7000 baht around $200 3 blocks from the beach. Use a fan no need for aircon. food is very reasonable. my girlfriend can take me places for about 60 cents. cheaper to cook in the room. no you don’t have to live like a dog. you can places for about 3000 baht but no kitchen.
just depends on the person.
Great informative post, Alana!
I plan to go to Thailand.
Here in the Philippines you can also live under 500USD for a single person leisure(21,000 pesos)
At Manila, Taft (Metro City)
Rent per month/ 1 apartment room with your own comfort room (120USD – 5,160 pesos)
Electricity 30USD (aircon, refrigerator, computer, microwave i bought the appliances btw)
water bill 20USD
Internet – 30 USD
toiletries(shampoo,toothpaste, napkin,etc) – 25USD
Food – 150USD
Subtotal for a month – 375USD
The Remaining 125USD is
for eating out Cafe, eating Restaurants or Mall Shopping.
– A decent meal at expensive restaurant is 3-5USD.
– A bottled coke at the side walk store is .30 cents. (12 pesos)
– Buy the chips at Supermarket. They price higher in Side walk.
– Coffee starbucks is 3USD.
– Milk tea is 1.5 usd.
– one dress or tshirt at Divisoria(flea market) is 2USD (86pesos or less if you haggle)
– a 20USD can buy you a LOT at Divisoria about 4 tops and a skater skirt.
– one branded dress at Mall(forever21) is 20usd.
– one branded shirt at mall(Penshoppe) is 10usd.
– 1 whole box at Pizza Hut is 10USD.
– Taking the LRT route or Jeepney for transportation is 0.30 cents (12 pesos)
– Taxi starts at 1usd.
– A 125USD can go for 15 days of Cafe drinking with cake.
I’m a freelance graphic designer,single, 21 yrs old and this is my experience.
I save more than I spend even if I earn only 1000USD a month.
Hope it helps you too when you visit Philippines.
Thanks Chloe – it’s so helpful for people to have simple break downs of common expenses!
Oh yeah, if you want to rent in a condominium at Manila, Philippines it is 350USD per month.
Im on disabilty and a freind of mine is trying to convince me to move there my only concern is getting all of my medication i was told i can get anything that is avalible here in the us but would like to know from someone thats living there will i be able to get my pain medication as long as i have my medical records i receice 1400.00 a mth us fro. Ssdi seems i could live very well there Thanks again for your post
I don’t want to give a definite answer since I have no idea what your needs are, but generally speaking medications are easy to get here. There is also a lot of medical tourism, so there should be sites/forum out there answering what’s available in more detail.
OK, I get 1500us a month. I should be able to live the single life easily there, RIGHT?
Depending on how you spend it – it costs less here than Western countries, but you can make it as cheap or expensive as you like…
Is it easy to find an apt, say to sign lease with no job but have the money to pay?
Yep – all you need is your passport and money 🙂
I want to visit Thai to learn English and do practice with native speakers. I want to take Idea about English Courses cost (Fast track courses max 3 months). and cost of housing ( with native speakers families or individual apartment). and witch is best to develop my English skills (speaking, writing, and reading) come to Thai or going to India or Philippines.
The cost of living in Thailand is really low, but it’s probably not the best place to go for English lessons. You could find English lessons at language schools, but would think you’d have more of an opportunity to practice your English in the Philippines.
Wonder if it would be possible to buy 3-5 condos. Live in one and rent the rest out for income? I wanted to do this in the Philippines but was told It would take a ton of money and months of time to evict non paying tenants. I wonder if it would easier in Thailand?
If I buy all from same owner I should get a good discount. Just have to make sure what ever I buy is easily rentable.
Hey!! Great info. I will be completely retired from here in USA in about a year and plan on moving to Thailand. Struggling to decide between Pattaya and Chiang Mai. Will most likely rent for a brief period until I find a condo to purchase. I will have a steady pension of approximately $5000 US a month after taxes. My question is, should that be enough to live a good life and have lots of fun in either location? Thanks for any input or advice,
Hi Randy – that will be more than enough to live comfortably on! You should also check out http://www.thailandretirementhelpers.com – lots of info on how to get settled here and what things cost, plus they can help get you completely sorted in Chiang Mai taking care of everything from setting up your finances in Thailand to helping find a condo.
Thanks for the info. I am moving to Bangkok next month, though I know it’s 2 different cities, at least I know I can live with 20,000 Bath in Bangkok.
Interesting comparing this to the living costs in Phuket – http://lovinglifeinasia.com/my-cost-of-living-in-phuket/
51 Comments on How Much Does It Cost to Live in Thailand?