Hello to all you curious folks out there wondering just what the average cost of living abroad in Thailand is like! My name is Matt and I’ve been a teacher in here in Thailand for 10 months now. Between semesters here at my school, in Esan province, I budgeted for an amazing 4 week vacation around the south of Thailand.
It’s so easy to live and work in Thailand as well as save up for spending money between terms or to save up to go back home with. I paid for my entire trip with my Thai salary while working in Esan. The first thing about where I live in Esan is that everything is very inexpensive: water, food, gasoline, clothes, scooter/apartment rental, etc. My budget was 30,000 baht per month and my expenses for scooters, apartments, and gasoline all remained pretty constant. Depending on where you rent from a scooter will cost 1,700 – 2,000 baht a month.
I also live in a more upscale apartment/country house outside of the town I live in, but in general you can expect to pay 3,200 – 3,800 for housing expenses (don’t forget your housing subsidized by your employer!). I usually top up my tank of gas once every 5 days and between two different scooters it would cost me less than 200 baht a week. All of these necessities are the easiest to budget for. It’s the food and alcohol on that you splurge for that can begin to rack up.
When I want to save as much money as I can on food expenses I always eat at my school. I can get a full meal for only 20 baht. This is the biggest deal you will find in all of Thailand! Food is sold everywhere and you will have no trouble finding anything that will please you! You can find squid, chicken, pork, beef all on a stick on almost every street for 5 – 10 baht each. There are several markets in each town I have seen and prices are always reasonable. Generally, it’s cheaper to stock up on cheap meals in town rather than stock up on groceries and provide your own meals at home! In general, any Thai meal you come across will be a quarter of the cost of any western food. I love to go to Sizzlers in Udon Thani and I will easily spend 500 baht on a meal. Just about half of what I spend at Sizzlers will be the cost of a good ‘ol fashioned burger and fries meal at Mickey D’s! It’s also good to note that many grocery stores have plenty of western selections for meals, ingredients, and other foreign items you can try, but there are many things in the grocery store that will cost over 100 baht for one condiment or something similar!
Transportation around Thailand and SE Asia is very cheap compared to most western countries. 1300 baht usually buys you a plane ticket from Bangkok to Koh Samui or Chiang Mai. And a first class bus ticket will run you about 700 baht. Guesthouses and hotels vary from as little as 300 baht/night for a bed and fan to 1000 baht/night for a pretty nice room with A/C usually. For around 3000 baht/night, you can usually find 4 star hotels.
Alcohol is another necessity for the weekends, and there’s plenty of brands that are local and not overly expensive. A liter of vodka, gin, or whiskey usually run less than 400 baht for a typical local brand. However, most places outside of really tourist areas don’t have any notion of what a mixed drink is! If you go to a club that is in a more rural part of Thailand (like where I live in Esan) you can buy a bottle of liquor at the 7/11 across the street and it’s perfectly acceptable to take it into the club! It’s common practice to buy a bottle from outside and pay for soda and other mixers inside the club! It’s also much cheaper than to buy the liquor at the club! Of course any bigger city with more foreigners in it will have plenty of selection of mixed drinks at the clubs. The cost of beer is universal in Thailand whether you buy from 7/11 or from any convenient shop on the street. All Thai brands are 50-60 baht per bottle; foreign brands can be anywhere from 80-200(average) depending on where it’s imported from and where in Thailand you’re buying it from. It’s important to note that Thai beers all pretty much come in bottles over 50 oz.
OK, so here is my breakdown of expenses of one month for a super-lean budget to save as much as I can for a trip around Thailand between terms:
Apartment: 500 baht (3,000 subsidy)
Scooter: 2000 baht
Gas: 180 x 4 weeks= 720 baht
Food: 150 a day x 30 days= 4,500 baht
Booze: 3 bottles/month= 1,200 baht
Beer(Thai): 3 bottles/week x 4 weeks= 720 baht
Beer(Foreign): 3 bottles/week x 4 weeks= 960 – 2,400 baht
Total: 9,400 (for everything except the beers)
I hope this gives you a general idea of how convenient and simple living in Thailand can be! I know that in the last 10 months I have definitely not been living in the confines of this budget and still have plenty saved up for another trip I will be taking in the spring of 2015! With these numbers in mind it is quite easy to determine your living expenses and I hope you choose to take on the adventure of a lifetime with helpful advice from someone who has lived it!