What is the cost of living in Thailand?
“What is the cost of living in Thailand?” is a subjective question and can vary greatly for each family and each person. A more accurate question may be, “What is the average cost of living for a typical Western expatriate in Thailand?”
Check out this other article about Ex-Pats Living In Thailand
We will try to illustrate in this blog post some of the average prices for essential items that most Westerners require to live a comfortable lifestyle in Thailand. In order to successfully live here on a long term basis, most people eventually adapt to a lifestyle that may initially seem unfamiliar, but flexibility and a good attitude are key components to successful living in Thailand.
The truth is that by most Western standards, Thailand is the ideal country for living in relative luxury at a much more affordable price. Some notable exceptions to this affordability are the cost of automobiles (both the cost of petrol and the vehicle itself, by American standards); luxury, brand name goods (most imported items are heavily taxed in Thailand); and alcohol (wine, spirits, etc–the exception is the local beer). However, I’m told that my perception of affordable vehicles and gasoline is skewed by virtue of what we are accustomed to in the USA.
What are average transportation expenses in Thailand? –
Transportation & The Cost Of Living In Thailand
Grab Taxi is now operating in most cities throughout Thailand, which makes getting around town cheap and convenient. Just download the Grab app to your phone and set up a personal account. Grab almost makes purchasing a car in some of the bigger cities unnecessary.
That said, most modes of transportation generally are not expensive in Thailand (planes, buses, taxis, tuk-tuks, etc). Bangkok’s BTS and MRT SkyTrain and subway systems are very modern and very affordable. Most routes throughout the city cost between $.50 to $2.50, depending on the distance. Taxis are also relatively inexpensive, though we would definitely recommend Grab if you absolutely need to travel by car. If you’re in Bangkok, hopping on the subway or SkyTrain rather than using a local taxi hire is the preferable method of transportation, as chances are good a taxi will take three to five times as long to arrive anywhere in Bangkok with all the road traffic. Tuk-tuks can be affordable, as long as the price is negotiated beforehand, though these are usually more of a novelty for tourists rather than an economic, efficient or comfortable mode of transportation. If you’re really adventurous, hop on the back of a motorcycle taxi like a true Thai–this is the cheapest and fastest way to arrive, albeit not the safest method!
Car prices in Thailand are insanely expensive by most American standards. So far, we have purchased three cars already since moving to Hua Hin 9 years old. We have a 4×4 Mitsubishi Triton Truck which cost about $28,333 USD new from the dealer. We also purchased a Chevrolet Captiva SUV which cost about $54,000 USD new from the dealer, which I would not recommend. Neither the car or truck is considered a luxury vehicle. The truck would be similar to a lower quality Toyota Tacoma, which costs about $18,000 USD in the USA. The Chevy Captiva typically costs about $34,000 USD in the United States. Petrol to run the car is about $5-6/gallon, and we get about 23 miles to the gallon. Our work requires us to drive more than the average person, so we spend about $100/week on gas. Our 3rd car is a Volvo….which is a great car. These are much more expensive, as they’re imported, although it is possible to buy second hand Volvos, either directly from the dealer or from an individual, which is what we did.
In order to mitigate the cost of fueling a car here in Thailand, many people convert their cars to LPG (Liquid Propane Gas). This conversion reduces the cost of fuel by about half, or even less. LPG also burns cleaner and is better for the environment. Double plus good!
How much should I expect to pay for renting a comfortable, Western-style home in Thailand?
Housing & The Cost of Living In Thailand
Rental rates vary widely by city throughout Thailand. I will list only the more popular destinations in decreasing order with the most expensive cities listed first.
Phuket, Bangkok, Samui, & Pattaya seem to be the most expensive destinations. Hua Hin, Pranburi, & Cha Am tend to be in the middle; and Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Korat, etc. rank as less expensive places to either purchase or rent a home.
We’ll use Hua Hin and its surrounding areas as an average gauge for renting a home with a private swimming pool, a fully landscaped garden, and 24-hour security. For a nice 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom home with a private swimming pool, one should expect to pay about 45,000 THB/month (about $1,425 USD/month). On a long term rental, this does not include electricity or water usage. It is possible to find rental properties for much less (or much more, for those looking for extreme luxury), but by Western standards, the homes in the 45,000 THB/month price range tend to suit most ex-pat needs for comfort, security, functionality, and location.
In my opinion, rental rates in popular tourist destinations (ie Phuket, Pattaya, and some areas of Bangkok – for example, Thonglor) throughout Thailand seem quite expensive. However, by European standards and for Americans who come from cities like San Francisco and Seattle, these rates may seem extremely reasonable…if not cheap by comparison. If a person is interested in purchasing a house in Thailand, this is where the real savings can lie.
Many clients feel that purchasing a home in Thailand is a good investment, whether it’s their primary residence, a holiday home, or a rental property. For someone considering retiring to Thailand or purchasing a home for vacation or investment purposes, a good budget is about 6-9 million THB ($190,000 USD – $285,000 USD) for a fairly luxurious home, fully furnished with modern appliances, a large swimming pool, and a nice garden. If one is more budget-conscious, he/she can find a lovely home with a private pool for as low as 4.5-5.5 million THB ($142,000 USD – $174,000 USD). We have also sold some very nice houses as low as 2.5 million THB ($79,000 USD).
The benefit of owning a home in Thailand (or anywhere on the planet, for that matter) is the opportunity to make a return on the investment when selling the property at a later date. Whether purchasing or renting a home, it is always important to consider the cost of maintaining the property.
What are the typical costs of maintaining a home in Thailand?
Home Maintenance & The Cost Of Living In Thailand
An average 3 bedroom home with a swimming pool will generally cost around 3,000-5,000 THB/month ($95-$166 USD/month) in electricity consumption. This is with moderate AC usage. Water usage is typically about 800 THB/month (~$25 USD/month) but can be higher depending on how large and how often you water your garden.
As a typical American initially exposed to ex-pats with live-in or full-time housekeepers, I felt disdain for what I considered “the bourgeois crowd”, harkening back to the days of colonialism and extravagance. I have met people in Thailand who have never cooked for themselves, never washed or ironed their own clothes, never washed their cars; and spend all their days on golf courses or in spa treatments. Of course, this is an extreme example, but you can live like a king or queen in Thailand on a moderate budget, if this sort of lifestyle is appealing.
I told myself when I moved here that I would never hire a maid or a gardener. I felt that having a maid, gardener, and pool service would not sit well with my own DIY sensibilities. After my wife declared that she was through with picking up my dirty socks and underwear, I relented and hired a local woman to clean twice a week. I have been forever ruined! We pay about 400 THB/cleaning ($12.67 USD/cleaning), and our housekeeper tidies our home from top to bottom twice a week. She’s amazing!
Some families prefer to have live-in maids, and I assume they work about 6 days a week and get paid about the same, approximately 400 THB/day ($12.67/day). We pay about 2,500 THB/month ($79.26 USD/month) for pool and garden services. The gardener & pool services come to the house once a week and work for about 5 hours, or until the work is done. The minimum wage in Thailand was recently increased from 200 THB/day to 400 THB/day, and most people consider this a huge increase in the standard of living and a sign of the improving social and economic status for Thais.
What is the typical food budget for a family of 2-3 in Thailand?
Food and the Cost Of Living In Thailand
Our family really likes to eat; in fact, we eat like kings in Thailand! We eat imported cheeses, drink wine, consume Spanish sausages and devour so much seafood, it would make a vegetarian cry. Don’t get me wrong, we eat Thai food frequently, but as I said, we live to eat in our family. I’m guessing we spend close to 40,000 THB/month ($1,333 USD/month) on food.
2019 – 2020 UPDATE: Since the original publishing of this blog article, we have reduced our food budget significantly, mostly by becoming avid Spartan racers. Paul no longer drinks alcohol at all (Adrienne has a glass or two of wine on the weekends only), and we eat primarily healthy food options (and much less meat) to maintain our optimal racing weight. For the past two years, our approximate food budget has been closer to 25,000 THB/month.
Breaking it down, this is how a typical food budget may look to a family that consumes luxury food items:
4,000 THB/week on food staples bought at Makro (bulk food shopping, similar to Costco);
2,000 THB/week at the local food importer (wine, cheese, imported foods, chocolate, cured meats, etc.);
2,000 THB/week at lunchtime restaurants during the week. We eat lunch in restaurants almost every day, mostly because of our work schedule.
2,000 THB/week at nice restaurants for dinner. We do this only about once a week, as we usually prefer eating at home with our friends and neighbors.
We readily admit that our family consumes a lot of luxury food items and generally spends way more on food than is necessary. For comparison, my parents, who also live in Thailand, are retired and rarely eat out in restaurants (they also consume no alcohol). My mother cooks most days, and when they do eat out, it’s usually in a local Thai restaurant. They estimate that they spend about 10,000 THB/month ($300/month) on food. They also shop at the King Project’s organic farm and shop (Chang Hua Mon) for organic produce and purchase a majority of their food directly from the local farms and fresh markets.
So, in conclusion, an average family of 2-3 people can expect to pay anywhere between 10,000 THB to 40,000 THB per month on food (and alcohol). Of course, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is an average assessment, and some people are able to spend much less on food; some families spend much more.
What are the insurance costs in Thailand?
Insurance & The Cost Of Living In Thailand
There are excellent health insurance policies in Thailand. There are policies for coverage of up to $1,000,000+ USD, valid anywhere on the planet (except the USA, of course) for as little as 20,000 THB/year ($667 USD/year). Additionally, Thai medical services are very inexpensive, compared with Western health care and hospitals. Some of the best hospitals in the world are located within Thailand, and many Westerners are making Thailand a destination for medical tourism, with procedures costing up to 1,000 times less than in some Western countries.
Home owner’s insurance is typically about 5,000 – 10,000 THB/year (approx. $166 – $300/year), and the coverage is quite extensive. We know a client whose house had an electrical fire while they were away in the UK. They had to replace the entire kitchen and most of the furniture (mostly smoke damage); all the damage was covered by their insurance policy.
Car insurance is about 15,000 THB/year ($500/year) and covers just about anything. In fact, policyholders are able to take their vehicles to a body shop once a year for a touchup paint job and to remove small dents, scratches, and other external imperfections, and this service is completely covered.
How much is a typical international school in Thailand?
Schooling & The Cost Of Living In Thailand
A typical international school in Thailand costs approximately 240,000 THB/Year ($7,600 USD/year). There are Thai international schools that follow international curriculums, and there are British or American schools that are autonomous of the Thai education system. Depending on the school, the calendar can follow the Thai or Western calendar. The international schools are generally very good with a wide selection, depending on your city, but we recommend researching any school thoroughly, as each one has a different philosophy and approach to education.
Overall, we are very pleased with the education our daughter is receiving. As a cost comparison, we paid about $700/month (2011 prices) in the US for our daughter to attend pre-school 3 days a week. If she were enrolled 5 days a week, we would have paid about $1,200 USD/month, or $14,400/year. We have friends in the US who send their children to private elementary schools and spend around $30,000 USD/year per child! We are so thankful that our daughter has the opportunity to study at a fantastic, affordable international school in an environment where she is exposed to many different cultures and different approaches to learning.
What are some typical entertainment costs in Thailand?
Entertainment & The Cost Of Living In Thailand
This is a difficult question to answer, as everyone’s idea of entertainment is different. I will attempt to analyze our own family’s entertainment budget. Keep in mind that food is a big part of our entertainment budget, but that was already covered above in the food category. My wife enjoys practicing yoga which costs about 1,500 THB/month, and I enjoy Muay Thai training at 5,000 THB/month.
As of 2018 – 2020, my wife and I have become OCR athletes and travel throughout SE Asia to participate in Spartan competitions and trail running events. In 2019, we attended approximately 6 races. Each sporting event requires us to spend money on hotels, airline tickets, food, and entrance race fees for two people at an average cost of $600/event – total! As a comparison, just the entrance fee for one Spartan event race in the USA is typically more than $300/person….not including hotel, flights, food, etc. We wouldn’t be able to afford to train and race in the USA like we do here in Thailand. That said, our health and fitness levels have skyrocketed since moving to Thailand! If you want to get healthy, we highly recommend moving to Thailand and focusing on your health–it’s so much more affordable than in most Western countries.
We also like to visit Bangkok about once a month and stay in fancy hotels, eat at fabulous restaurants and get our fill of over-the-top shopping at some of the most extravagant shopping centers in the world. This costs us about $200 – $300/month. We also like going to the beach for an ultra-luxurious 1 1/2 hour massage at least once a week. This costs us about $20 per week for 2 people.
Occasionally, we take quick vacations to the islands and other areas in Thailand. This costs our family about $500 for a weekend getaway. There are now three water parks in our town (Vana Nava is the newest one: Asia’s largest jungle water park), and we tend to visit the water slides about once a month or so. A trip to the water park costs us about 1,500 THB ($47 USD) for the three of us, depending on the location. We also enjoy hiking, walking along the beach, cave exploring, kite surfing, running, bicycling, visiting ancient ruins, etc, — all of which are free or very inexpensive.
Essentially, we spend about $43,777 USD per year on living expenses for a family of three people. This is for a very comfortable, relatively luxurious lifestyle. We are also fortunate to own our own home and don’t have a mortgage. There are a few added benefits to living in Thailand. One huge benefit is that homeowners aren’t required to pay huge property taxes on their homes. Foreign property owners pay a small property tax annually (about 12-15,000 THB/year or $380 – $475 USD/year), but this can even be applied retroactively at the time of sale, but this amount is ridiculously low compared to how much most homeowners pay in the US or in Europe.
If you have an income of somewhere between $60,000 USD – $100,000 USD/year, that means that after living expenses you can potentially save between $16,223 USD – $56,223 USD/year for a rainy day or for retirement. We would never be able to save this much money in the USA every year while living such a luxurious lifestyle. It is not unheard of nor uncommon (according to the American Payroll Association) for the average American to live from paycheck to paycheck, often finding themselves deeper in debt each year. According to this article, the average cost of living in a popular city such as San Francisco, is as much as $80,000 USD for a family of four to live day by day, paycheck to paycheck. Compared to the cost of living in Thailand, this is a 46% increase just in bare minimum daily living expenses. While I absolutely love San Francisco (I lived there for 3+ years – I even met my wife there), I have to say, no thanks.
The wonderful thing about living in Thailand is that you can live debt-free while still saving money for the future, and enjoy a luxurious lifestyle at the same time. Plus, your family is having an adventure of a lifetime that everyone will remember and benefit from their entire lives. We highly recommend giving it a try!!
Average Cost Of Living In Thailand
Estimated Expenses Broken Down
Filed Under: The Cost Of Living In Thailand 2013
Related to Cost Of Living In Thailand: How To Buy Property In Thailand
For other articles and references about the cost of living in Thailand, please see the following links:
- Cost of living in Thailand with a price list of everyday items: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Thailand
- Cost of living in Thailand compared to the USA: http://voices.yahoo.com/the-cost-living-thailand-compared-cost-1995017.html
- Cost of living in Thailand for other ex-pats: http://www.siamexpat.com/thailand-cost-of-living.html
- Cost of living in Thailand for Chiang Mai (a great posting): http://alittleadrift.com/2011/04/living-costs-chiang-mai-thailand/
- Cost of living in Thailand for someone who wants to retire: http://www.aboutthailandretirement.com/living-cost-thailand.htm
- Cost of living in Thailand for Bangkok: http://careerhack.net/the-cost-of-living-in-bangkok-for-thailand-newbies/
- Cost of living in Thailand for Hua Hin: http://www.regalthailand.com/f/e/huahin_information/hua_hin_cost_living_money.html
- Cost of living in Thailand for Phuket: http://www.1stopphuket.com/living/cost
- Cost of living in Thailand compared to the UK: http://8milesfromhome.com/post/26267409648/real-costs-of-living-in-thailand-500gbp-per-month
- Cost of living in Thailand (youtube video): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gK9btVrhLKs
- Cost of living in Thailand and living well: http://www.livingthai.org/how-much-does-it-cost-to-live-well-in-thailand.html
- Cost of living in Thailand on the cheap and working as a teacher: http://www.ajarn.com/help-and-guides/cost-of-living/
- Cost of living in Thailand like a VIP, but on a budget: http://migrationology.com/2011/07/cost-of-living-in-bangkok-thailand/
- Cost of living in Thailand for foreign men with Thai wives (what about Thai husbands with foreign wives?): http://www.thailovelines.com/Frontinfo/cost-of-living-in-Thailand.html