Thailand’s currency has appreciated dramatically in comparison to those of richer countries over the past few years, and its economy has also grown strongly, with the result that the cost of living in Thailand is now relatively higher than it has ever been before. Thailand still offers great value for money for many foreign visitors but the cost of living can be as high as it would be some Western countries such as Spain or Greece, and a lot more expensive than many other Asian countries such as Vietnam and India.
Typical Budget for Thailand
A good starting point for establishing the cost of living in Thailand is the average salary of people living in Thailand.
There are several different ways of working this out and estimates of the national average salary in Thailand vary from around 14,400 THB to 17,500 THB per month. This figured is skewed somewhat by the massive inequalities of wealth in Thailand, as some people in Thailand earn very little and some people are extremely rich. Minimum wage in Thailand is around 300 THB per day depending on the region.
It should therefore be possible to live in Thailand on under 20,000 THB (£500 or $630) per month although to do that you need to live like a typical Thai person, eating the same kind of food and living in the same type of accommodation. Few people coming from richer countries outside of Asia would feel comfortable with this long term, particularly as they get older. Generally, foreign visitors to Thailand will end up spending a lot more per month than most Thai people earn.
For non-ASEAN foreign workers in Thailand the minimum salary requirement to qualify for a work permit is 50,000 THB per month. The 50,000 THB per month figure is actually a very good guide as to the actual amount of money you need to live in Thailand if your expectations about living standards have been developed during your time growing up in Europe or North America. The Thai Government has got this figure about right.
For tourists on shorter stays the 50,000 THB per month figure is actually too little. In areas popular with tourists things cost a lot more, particularly accommodation. Also, if you stay long term (as opposed to coming to Thailand for 2 or 3 week holidays) you can live more cheaply by:
- Renting on monthly basis, rather than daily.
- Working out the best places to buy thing and buying in bulk.
- Cooking at home.
- Using local transport rather taxis and tour group type transport.
Cost of Accommodation
The price of renting a small house or flat varies tremendously upon where you are renting and the quality of the accommodation. The cheapest places to live tend to be in North Eastern Region of Thailand. In the popular areas in the Southern Region of Thailand like Phuket or Koh Phangan, prices can be 3 times as much in the North East for exactly the same thing.
This said, for sake of giving some guidance on how much you can expect to pay for things in Thailand, accommodation prices in Thailand renting per month long term are roughly as follows:
- Basic 1 bed rural bungalow: 3,000 to 5,000 THB
- Small city centre studio flat (25 sqm): 5,000 to 8,000 THB
- Basic 3 bedroom rural house: 7,000 to 12,000 THB
- 1 bedroom city centre flat: 10,000 to 15,000 THB
- Smarter 1 bed bungalow in a managed resort complex: 12,000 to 17,000 THB
- 3 bedroom luxury city centre flat: 30,000 to 50,000 THB
- Luxury 3 bedroom house in a managed resort complex: 40,000 to 60,000 THB
- Luxury 3 bedroom city house with garden in Central Bangkok: 70,000 to 100,000 THB
Cost of Water and Electric
The cost of utilities depending largely on three factors: how big your property, how many air-conditioning units you have and whether you have a swimming pool. If you have no air-conditioning units and live alone in a small bungalow your bills will come to less than 500 THB per month. However, assuming you share a small house with 1 adult and 1 to 2 children, have one air-conditioning unit, TV, fans and no swimming pool pump to run, that you cook with bottled gas every day, then expect (approximately) to pay the following per month:
- Mains water supply: 300 THB
- 1 x gas bottle per month: 400 THB
- Electric: 2,200 THB
Cost of Food at a restaurant
Again, this depends a lot on what type of restaurant you go to and where the restaurant in located. Eating out at restaurants in Thailand is still great value for money and generally cheaper than you might pay for the same thing at restaurant in Northern Europe. For some Western dishes, however, you would definitely pay less in restaurant in Spain than you would for a lower quality version of the same thing in Thailand.
Again, for the purposes of helping people budget for a future trip to Thailand expect to pay the following prices for restaurant food in Thailand:
- Plate of Thai style curry and rice at a roadside stall: 40 to 60 THB.
- Plate of Thai style curry and rice in a bungalow resort restaurant: 100 to 140 THB.
- Burger and chips in a Western style bar: 150 to 250 THB
- Vindaloo curry and rice in an Indian restaurant: 300 to 350 THB
- 3 course set menu per person in an expensive Thai style restaurant: 500 to 700 THB
- 3 course set menu per person in an expensive Western style restaurant: 1,000 to 2,500 THB
The actual prices you will pay will, of course, vary tremendously on the location of the restaurant and which restaurant you go to. I found a place in Nakhon Ratchasima that served me a small beef steak and chips for 90 THB in early 2020, approximately the same thing in Koh Phangan cost me 450 THB a couple of weeks later.
Cost of Food at Home
Raw ingredients for cooking are generally very cheap in Thailand, although the price does vary a lot depending upon where you shop, which part of the country the shop or market is located, whether the product is produced in Thailand or elsewhere, and the quality. To give you an example, the cost of a corn cob bought at a supermarket in Koh Samui is about 4 times the price of the same product purchased at a market in Sakhon Nakhon province.
Nonetheless, as a guide to expect to pay roughly the following amounts for product purchased in a super market in Thailand:
- Large loaf of white sliced bread: 40 THB
- Tin of Thai tomatoes: 30 THB
- Tin of imported tomatoes: 60 THB
- 1 kilo of frozen imported minced beef: 300 THB
- 5 kilo bag of rice: 180 THB
- 1 kilo of potatoes: 40 THB
- l litre of milk: 50 THB
- 200 grams of imported instant coffee: 140 THB
Cost of Alcohol
Beer, wine and imported spirits are relatively expensive in Thailand. Locally made drinks are much cheaper. This said the difference between the cost of buying an alcoholic beverage in bar and take out in a shop is nowhere no great as it is some countries such as the UK.
Again prices vary, but expect to pay roughly the following:
- Local beer (330 ml) bought from a shop: 40 THB
- Local beer (330 ml) bought from a bar: 80 THB
- Large local beer (660 ml) bought from a shop as part of a pack of 12: 48 THB
- Large local beer (660 ml) bought from a shop individually: 65 THB
- Large glass of imported wine bought in bar: 150 THB
- Bottle of imported wine bought in a shop: 450 THB
- 700 ml bottle of Thai rum bought in a shop: 250 THB
- 700 ml bottle of imported vodka bought in a shop: 600 THB
Cost of Transport
The cost of transport varies a lot in Thailand. Buses, and ferries are more costly in areas which are popular with tourists. The cost also varies depending on the standard of the transport. Travel by low cost airlines in Thailand and by train generally represent the best value for money.
To give you a sense of what transport costs in Thailand here are some 2020 transport costs:
- 2nd Class A/C sleeper seat on train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 750 to 1,000 THB
- Standard bus from Udon Thani to Bangkok: 400 to 600 THB
- Low cost flight from Bangkok to Surat Thani: 1,000 to 2,000 THB
- High speed ferry from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan: 300 THB
Cost of other Expenses
There are lot of other costs you need to pay in Thailand and things you need to buy. The list is very long, and if you have specific question you can e-mail us we and we will do our best to give you an answer.
To assist you in budgeting here are some example costs for random expenses that people living long term in Thailand regularly have to pay:
- Police fine for not wearing a motorbike helmet: 200 THB
- Replacing the inner tube of my scooter: 150 THB
- Monthly gym fee: 1,500 THB
- 50 gram packet of Western quality rolling tobacco (Smokers Gold) made in Thailand: 260 THB
- 48 piece packet of children’s nappies: 500 THB
- Imported India mango chutney (1,000 gram): 200 THB