From it's beautiful tropical beaches in the south to the lush mountain settings in the north Thailand has a diverse range of natural beauty and rich culture that expats have found to be very inviting. Not only are thousands of expat retiree's making the choice to make the move to Thailand, there is also a growing number of working age individuals/families that have found excellent employment opportunities here in the LOS (Land of Smiles). That brings up what I have found to be the number one question asked of me which is "How much does it "Cost to Live in Thailand"?
This question doesn't have a single/simple answer when you consider the multitude of variables such as personal lifestyle choices and geographical choices. This is of course one of the great attractions to Thailand with such diversity as to where you can choose to live and and the Thailand Lifestyle that you choose to live.
Personally I have found that living the Expat Life in Thailand to be very affordable and am enjoying living in a rural setting. That being said every individual has their preference in regard to lifestyle such as city vs countryside, beach life vs mountain living, small apartment in the suburbs vs penthouse condo in Bangkok. Phuket or Sisaket? The choice is yours!
As for myself and my family we have chosen to live in a small community in the midst of the "Issan" region in Northeast Thailand. I live together with my wife (Thai) and her 14 year old daughter. The expenses that I have outlined below reflect the monthly cost of living in Thailand for the three of us. A couple of things to keep in mind is that I don't drink or smoke, nor do we partake in the "night life" aspect of Thailand. I am not saying this to be judgemental but rather as a point of economics. Your living expenses will vary from mine depending on where you choose to live and the lifestyle choice that you make, and whether you will be here as a single or with your family.
Below is what it cost myself and my family (wife/daughter) for our average monthly expenses.
$135.00 Monthly Rent (we are getting a great deal on this house and you would definitely pay more if in a city)
$ 25.00 Water Bill (we have a large garden and do a lot of watering)
$ 65.00 Electricity (we have one small ac unit which we run at night when sleeping and at times in the evenings when really hot)
$ 24.00 Wifi in the house via 3bb with a 50 mbs service
$ 50.00 Cell phone service with internet packages (three phones) we each get the 300 bht 1 mbs unlimited plan via AIS
$150.00 Daughter's private Catholic school tuition and fees averaged over 12 months
$ 65.00 Daughter's School lunches/snacks (we give her 100 bht per school day avg 20 x 100 = 2,000 bht)
$100.00 Eating out at restaurants (we eat out a lot and have a restaurant across from our house that delivers to us)
$300.00 Avg. monthly grocery expense
$400.00 Payment on our Toyota pickup
$ 40.00 Insurance and registration fees for pickup and two motorbikes (averaged over the year)
$200.00 Misc. expenses (covers incidentals and purchases such as appliances, electronics...)
$1,554.00 is our average monthly expenditure (this does not include any visa/visa run expenses or international travel) I currently hold a Non-O retirement visa and will transition to a spouse visa in October 2018.
This expense summary is pretty typical for us and might not reflect what you might want to spend your money on. Our lifestyle might not be that of the typical expat lifestyle and if you are planning to live here as a single person you could certainly get by on less money. The rents in the cities are definitely higher as is the cost of food. We could save a lot of money if we shopped more in the local marketplace and didn't buy a lot of "western" foods in the larger supermarkets. A single person could easily live on a 150 baht/day food budget (for some even less) eating street food. We don't live an extravagant lifestyle, neither my wife or I drink or smoke, and we don't visit bars/nightclubs. Our life focus is on raising our daughter, family and family activities. The majority of our entertaining is done here at our home or at times at my in-laws home. We do enjoy traveling around Thailand and take occasional road trips to explore other regions of this beautiful and diverse country. My wife's sister has a condo in Bangkok (Lat Krabang) and we often head there when our daughter has school breaks. We do have a few friends in the area that are "similar to us" being a "farang" with a Thai wife and we truly enjoy their company. You will find a certain pleasure living in a foreign country and at least having an occasional conversation with someone that fully speaks your own language.
Why did we buy a pickup?
We found that having a vehicle to be appropriate with our rural lifestyle. Although we do live on the edge of town and could use motorbikes for local shopping the motor bikes aren't a great option for taking our daughter to and from school. As stated above we enjoy taking road trips to explore Thailand which is more convenient with your own vehicle (not to mention safer). We also enjoy going to Buriram (about an hour drive from home) for shopping, movies and to watch Buriram United soccer games.
If we had chosen not to have a pickup we could trim a little more than $400 per month off of our expenses (would need to add in cost of alternate transportation). Again, for us this is what works and we enjoy the freedom and convenience of having our own safe and reliable transportation.
Why do we rent vs buy or build a home?
This is a question often asked of me and the answer is pretty simple. Our daughter has two terms left at her current school. She is doing excellent in this school and is very active in various programs here. We are proud to say that she has won multiple academic competitions including local, district, regional, provincial and placed in the top 10 in a national competition. So needless to say we don't want to have her change schools. She will complete her final term at this school at the end of march of 2019 and at that time we will be moving either to the Korat area or possibly to Bangkok for her High School years. We haven't made our final decision as to school selection for her. We am leaning toward Korat considering that we prefer not to be city dwellers and want to live in a rural setting. In Korat it would be easy to find a nice rural community close by where we could buy a small piece of land and build a home. If we end up in Bangkok we will likely buy a condo to serve out her school years and turn it over to her once she graduates High School and starts her University studies. I could go on and on about this but you get the point... We simply have decisions that need to be made and in the long run we definitely want to build our own home in the countryside.
The purpose of this article was to provide you with a point of reference in regard to the cost of living in Thailand. Your expenses will likely vary from ours considering each individual has their own lifestyle preferences. We are likely living in one of the least expensive regions of Thailand so please keep that in mind if you are planning to live in one of the more popular tourist areas. If I were living here in this same community as a single male I could easily live on $1,000.00 per month (and likely less). I will also add that I know several expats that are living in Bangkok on around $1,500.00 per month.
Our monthly expenses are very manageable and this budget works well for us. I am still six and a half years out from being eligible to collect Social Security benefits and currently live on investment income. My wife has her own business ventures and continues to maintain her business affairs separate from mine (less complications that way) and I want to be certain that Thai Immigration doesn't give me any problems in regard to having the appropriate visa.
Making the move to Thailand has been one of the best decisions of my life. I absolutely love it here and am very fortunate in having a truly loving and wonderful wife. The community that we currently live in is very enjoyable and it has that "small town feel" where you know the shop owners and often run into friends when you are at the market of stopping in at the local 7-Eleven. As I stated before we don't live an extravagant life nor is that what we desire. We enjoy a close family lifestyle in rural Thailand and I have no regrets in regard to making the move to Thailand. So when you ask "How much does it Cost to Live in Thailand" the answer as it pertains to you depends on your Thailand lifestyle choices!
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