Surprising Money Sucks in Thailand


  1. “Usually, I base my happiness level on how much cheese, wine (and chocolate) I’m able to consume.”

    You’re a gal after my own heart! I have the same problem here in Shanghai – a bottle of Yellowtail that I could get for $6 at the grocery store back home costs about $18 in Shanghai. Same story for good cheese and chocolate. But sometimes I still have to have them!

  2. Laura says:

    When I was living in Bangkok I must have spent 90% of my money on snacks and food. It’s just so hard to resist though, there’s cheap food pretty much everywhere and 10 or 20 baht don’t seem like a lot of money, but it sums up very quickly. Also I was living right above a 7/11, I was in that store at least once a day. And the Thai ice coffe (oliang) – I got so addicted! Oh I must stop thinking about food now. I’m eating like a morbidly obese man lately, ha.

    I love your blog btw, so happy I found it!

    • Alana says:

      That’s the tricky thing about the food – it is cheap, but then you find yourself quickly getting into the habit of buying anything you want whenever you want and it adds up! I’m sure I’ve collectively spent as much on cha nom yen, or the sweetened Thai ice tea with milk as I have plates of street food… Thank you for the kind words 🙂

  3. angela says:

    I was JUST thinking about how much I missed wine and cheese back home. It certainly is a luxury here!

    This is a great post. After being in Chiang Mai for a month, I’ve realized that I spend more than I had originally planned on a daily basis. Yes it’s cheap, but some things are still as expensive as back in the states, like bed sheets for cryin’ out loud! I regularly have to remind myself that although food is super cheap, other basic necessities are not, and to stay away from Tesco and Big C as much as possible!

    • Alana says:

      You’re so right about the bedsheets! Strange… While I’ve now seen a couple places that are cheaper, when I was settling in I had no idea where to go except Tesco.

      On another note, I’ve heard Makro has the cheapest cheese…

      • Angela says:

        Thanks for suggesting Makro. There will come one of those days where I will have to treat myself to to comething cheesy, like french onion soup :)… and I willl also take JBS’s suggestion to go to Sahara’s for wine.

  4. Sarah Shaw says:

    Even though the cost of living is much higher in Korea, I agree with so many things on your list. I never go to spas in the US (would never pay that much for a massage and couldn’t give a shit about my nails) but the jjimjilbang in Korea are so worth going to. It costs about $6-$10 upon entrance, but you can use all the baths, saunas, etc. Body scrubs are about $15 and I’ve indulged in them on a number of occasions because they are, well, amazing. (Here’s a post about jjb if you’re interested:

    Beer is pretty expensive in Korea too (although soju is $1 a bottle) and I also used to do yoga, which is a luxury here, as well. I’m not a crazy spender either, but like you pointed out, there are lots of ways to cut costs on a teacher’s budget and still do pretty much everything we want. We are really privileged in many ways.

    • Alana says:

      The main trick is being aware of how far you can stretch your money – i.e, $1.50 for a full meal vs $1.50 for a coffee – and being aware of those choices.

      • Sarah Shaw says:

        Yeah, in Korea coffee is ridiculously expensive– can be $3-$5 for an americano–and for $5 you can buy a decent meal at a restaurant. So, I usually make my coffee/tea at home.

  5. Sarah Shaw says:

    P.S. I really want to eat the Pad Thai.

  6. JBS says:

    About bottled water – there are water dispensers where you can fill up 1 litre of water for 1 baht.. ( Handy if they’re nearby or at least a short motorbike journey away..
    I also found good good wine in CM at an Italian place called pizza e vino near chiang mai gate. If you talk nicely to the owner, she can fill up a bottle for you for 300 bhat

    • Alana says:

      I’m going to have another post coming up with little tricks to cut corners/save money and the water dispensers is one of them! Thanks for all the wine recommendations 🙂

  7. JBS says:

    sahara on Nimmanhaemin Road does pretty good cheapish wine

  8. JBS says:

    ah one more recommendation! For falang food that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, there’s a good sit down american style restaurant called “boat” on huay keaw road popular with Thai students, super cheap, they do thai food as well.

  9. Agness says:

    i couldn’t agree more. most of people think Thailand is super cheap and they live high life – dining out every day, drinking plenty of fruits shakes and cocktails, partying like crazy, buying t-shirt in the street and going for excursions. they do things they probably couldn’t afford in their own country. after a few weeks they come to a conclusion that thailand is expensive (!!??). i think it can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. we lived there for $10 per day snacking around, walking, no tuk tuk rides and no massages. gyms are very expensive so we went jogging every morning instead and cooked in our hostel :-). people often get scammed and robbed when they are drunk after a full or half moon party :)))

  10. Greg Goodman says:

    Then there’s the 60+ baht coffees at Ristr8to and other places that us digital nomads spend our days. Just working on the computer away from home gets to be a bit expensive.

  11. Yes, what Greg said. When I visited Chiang Mai I paid quite a bit in coffee money as well 🙂

  12. Ash Clark says:

    Im with the boys, I blame CM for my coffee addiction…

  13. Jeff Dobbins says:

    This is really helpful information. Just returned from a trip during which, despite best budget efforts, money seems to drain from my wallet. Thailand is high on my list, so this is duly bookwarked.

    • Alana says:

      Sometimes it seems like no matter what you do you can’t cut corners… I feel this way when I go down to the islands in Thailand. Everything is marked up and adds up so quickly with few alternative options.

  14. todd says:

    Being a guy from the U.S., I like to have western food once in a while, but it’s not as good and it actually costs a little more. I bought bottled water in the U.s., but I think it is more here. I came here because my income is limited at $1,666 USD. I felt that I could live most comfortably here (plus I met a wonderful Thai woman on line). I find that the food saves you money, but the beverages are the same or more. I am staying in the poorest part of Thailand, yes I save money, But not what they make you believe!

  15. Chris says:

    Hi, well I have just got back from a 4 month spell in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, there are many different opinions on how you would describe “living well”. My living costs and experiences are below, I hope it’s helpful…..

    I live a simple life, eat street food, have a nice room in a small block in the city, with a balcony and air, tv, wet shower room, fridge, communal gardens, parking and it comes semi furnished. I get my washing done and have a motorbike that I hire, I go out 2 times a week for a drink and dance in the evenings, I eat out 3 times a day, I cook once or twice a week, while it’s a simple life it’s also very good and relaxing, I do what I want when I want, have a little extra for clothes or medical things and budget a little for the usual visa runs, so here’s what I spend.

    Rent per month 3700
    Bills elec and water 980
    Street food three times a day 11500 eating well inc drinks
    Going out 4000
    Motor bike rental and gas one month 3000
    Visa runs 3000
    Odds and ends 5000

    This equals approx 31000 bht a month. This equals approx 1000 bht a day £19 per day. Less than £600 a month. This is based on two people, me and my Laos girlfriend. We do have a great quality of life, so that’s my costs. Worth noting that if you want to go and travel, well for us to travel to Laos, 12 hrs on a bus then into Laos cost us 3000 bht return including visa fees, that’s under 60 pounds, 30 pounds each for a 3000km trip and boarder crossing.

  16. Really great post! I’ve read a few places that the north is a lot cheaper than the south which is good news for me.

    I don’t drink alcohol so I am hoping to splurge on some yoga classes in Chiang Mai…although my budget is still pretty tight!

    • Alana Morgan says:

      Yes – just about everything is cheaper in the north and better food is more accessible too! I feel like on the islands foreigners get stuck eating only at places geared toward them…

  17. Kevin Conroy says:

    Never take a tuk tuk in either Bangkok or Chiang Mai. With air-con taxis at 35 baht a meter drop and motorcycle taxis so cheap they’re almost free, there is no sense putting up with all the haggling and they are no faster than a taxi.

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