How Much Does It Cost To Live In Thailand?
The following applies only to single, heterosexual men. Gay and straight single females, gay men, and couples go to live in Thailand, but the biggest group is single, heterosexual men. It is also the group that I belong to and thus the only group I can talk about with any degree of authority.
We are all different and everyone who goes to Thailand has a different experience. For every generalisation there are examples that contradict the generalisation, but the following is based on over 12 years' personal experience of living in Thailand and correspondence over the years with several men who have experience of living in Thailand. It isn't a good thing to generalise, but the same issues come up time and time again.
Don't take anything I say too seriously and follow the advice of the Buddha. Don't blindly believe and accept things you hear or read. Always observe, analyse and draw your own conclusions.
The Impossible Question
Every year, millions of tourists visit Thailand. Many are seduced by the country and many are disillusioned with life in their home countries. It therefore isn't surprising that every year many foreigners go to live in Thailand and many others contemplate whether they have enough funds to live in Thailand.
They know roughly how much income they will have if they move to Thailand, but they're not sure about the cost of living. They search on the Internet and find answers that apply to other people, but we are all so different that a perfectly good answer for one person is completely inappropriate for another.
I see this kind of thing a lot on Internet. Someone asks someone else what is best for them, but the other person is different so how will that person know? I don't ask other people what is best for me to eat for breakfast because it is only me that knows.
Since I have been running this site people have written to me quite a lot and one of the most popular questions concerns how much it costs to live in Thailand. Whenever someone asks me a question I always try to help, but this is an impossible question to answer because of the reasons I give below.
In the same way that only I know what I want for breakfast, only you know the things that will determine how much it will cost you to live in Thailand.
Although I can give you rough guidelines, I cannot give you actual figures. Be very wary of people giving you actual figures. They don't know anything about you and therefore they can't give you an answer.
My younger brother earns a lot of money in Singapore and owns a large six-bedroom villa with swimming pool in Phuket where his wife and daughter live. He has a speedboat and just paid out Bt300,000 for a new engine for his boat. He has two new cars. At the end of 2015 Phuket was named 'City of Gastronomy' by UNESCO and he likes to eat at the best restaurants on the island, which isn't cheap.
My brother's house in Phuket
His lifestyle is a world away from my own and a world away from the vast majority of foreigners living in Thailand. If you ask him how much money he needs to live in Thailand his answer will be very different compared to the answer an English teacher will give you.
I'm not saying this to boast about my brother's wealth. The purpose is simply to illustrate that the amount of money needed to live in Thailand is very different depending on the kind of lifestyle you desire. Ask one person and you will get one answer. Ask another person and you will get another. There is no one answer.
There is a huge wealth gap in Thailand and, accordingly, everything is priced very differently to suit people with differing levels of income.
I have seen rented rooms advertised in provincial Thailand for Bt1,500 per month. I have also seen Bangkok condos advertised at Bt250,000 per month and, no doubt, there are some that are even more expensive.
On a trip to Bangkok, my brother (again) ate at Sirocco restaurant. It is one of the most expensive restaurants in Bangkok and a single bottle of wine can cost hundreds of thousands of Baht. However, just outside on the streets of Bangkok there are food vendors who will serve you a rice or noodle based meal for Bt30.
Lots of cheap food is available in Thailand
Bangkok is well known to the world as something of a paradise for single men. I had never thought that paradise was defined as a place having a huge number of prostitutes, but, nonetheless, many foreign men are drawn to Thailand for the commercial sex industry. Compared to many other countries, commercial sex in Thailand is cheap but it still isn't free, and from what I have read, prices have increased significantly in recent years.
In order to be able to give you a figure for what it will cost you to live in Thailand I therefore need to understand what kind of accommodation you deem suitable, your dietary requirements, your sexual proclivities, and a host of other things.
You can rent a room with furniture in Thailand for about 45 USD per month
I know none of this information about you, I have no desire to know this information about you, and therefore I have no idea how much it will cost you to live in Thailand.
As a guide to the lowest amount, many Thais live on around Bt10,000 per month and many foreign English teachers in provincial Thailand earn around Bt30,000 and survive. In Thailand there is no upper limit. Even if you have endless reserves of cash there will always be things in Thailand to spend your money on and there will always be obliging Thais to help you spend it.
The minimum amount for foreigners is about Bt30,000, in my opinion, but it is dependent on you being alone and not being financially responsible for anyone else. This is a big factor in the equation and this is what I will deal with next.
I pay nothing in rent because I own my house outright, even though it is in my wife's name because of Thai law. I have no debt because I have paid cash for everything I own, including two cars. I do not participate in any of Thailand's 'Nightlife'. I might go for a cheap massage once or twice a month, but that's it.
Many of my clothes are almost falling apart and I buy very little for myself. I don't eat out that often and when I do it tends to be in fairly cheap places.
Despite all this, as I write (February 2016) it has been yet another month in which I have spent Bt100,000 plus. Since I have been married I have never spent less than Bt50,000 per month and most months the figure has been significantly higher.
I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, have a fancy lifestyle. Why, then, do I get through so much money?
The reason is because the choices I have made regarding how I live in Thailand have resulted in a lot of financial responsibilities. I have a wife and two children and whenever they need food, clothes, education, medical care or anything else the money comes out of my pocket.
I have a very comfortable house, but the six air-conditioners inside - along with every tap, pipe, joint, electrical appliance, etc - are all financial responsibilities. If anything goes wrong with anything, as it does often, it is me who has to pay for whatever it is to be fixed or replaced.
It is the same with cars. We need two cars because of our circumstances and the location where we live. They are paid for, but they are financial responsibilities. Each car is made from thousands of individual parts and every single nut, bolt, motor, etc is a financial responsibility. This month I was put in a position where I had to buy a new set of tyres for my car - Bt19,000. A few months ago I bought tyres for my wife's car - Bt9,000.
I realise that buying new car tyres isn't a regular monthly expense, but experience has shown that inevitably something or other crops up every month out of the blue and I find myself dipping into my wallet again.
A small oil leak, which I though would be easy and cheap to repair, has turned into major engine surgery and a CV joint also needs replacing. This work will cost about Bt30,000. Even if the cars don't cost me anything next month, there will be something else. Having a family and owning cars and houses is great, but these things cost a lot of money.
Insurance costs me quite a lot each year. Health insurance for me, my wife and two kids, house insurance, and insurance for two cars. The cars also require regular servicing and are subject to inspections and road tax each year. The health insurance only covers IPD because OPD insurance isn't cost effective. Therefore, every time myself, my wife or kids visits a doctor it costs more money.
My daughter was born with a problem with her feet and sees a doctor in Bangkok twice a year. I have to buy flights for all my family now that my son is over two years old and these trips include hotels.
It is possible to live in Thailand and have no, or very few, financial responsibilities. You can stay single and unattached and not be responsible for anyone else. If you rent a room the landlord will be responsible for any maintenance. Not owning a car saves a lot of money and even if you have a motorbike they don't cost much to maintain.
However, foreign men who go to live in Thailand normally tend to get involved with Thai women. Once you have a Thai girlfriend or wife you will be expected to pay for everything she wants or needs. And once you become financially responsible for a Thai woman, inevitably more financial responsibilities will follow.
I have never met a Thai female who isn't interested in children. She will either want children, who you will be financially responsible for, or she will already have children, but she will still expect you to take care of them.
Children in Isaan, the poorest region of Thailand
Thai women are extremely insecure and if they enter into a relationship they will expect you to make a financial commitment. They will want you to have a car and they will most probably want you to buy a house.
The majority of foreign men get involved with Thai women from north-eastern Thailand and the Isaan girls will expect a foreign partner or husband to take care of their families. I have heard it said many times that when you marry a Thai girl you also marry her family. You may arrive in Thailand completely carefree without a worry or responsibility in the world, but this can change very quickly. I know from experience.
My wife is the youngest of eight children from southern Thailand. Fortunately, her parents and older siblings are all fairly self-sufficient and I don't get asked for money to give them, even though I suspect that some of the money I give to my wife each month goes to her parents.
However, on one occasion she told me that we were lucky because if she had any younger siblings I would be expected to pay for their education and upbringing, etc. This is the way Thais are.
An Australian man wrote asking if Bt45,000 per month would be enough to live in Thailand. He had a Thai girlfriend and she had two children from a previous relationship. As I have made clear, I couldn't answer because I know nothing about him. However, what I do know is that he will have at least three financial responsibilities and, depending on his Thai girlfriend's expectations of the relationship, he may acquire more.
The lifestyle you choose to lead and the financial responsibilities you decide to take on in Thailand are entirely up to you. This is why other people cannot advise how much it will cost you, personally to live in Thailand, however, it means that you have the power to control your spending. You have the freedom to choose your lifestyle and the freedom to take on financial responsibilities, or not.
However, you need to bear in mind there are other external factors over which you have no control and these can also have a big effect on your ability to be able to afford to live in Thailand.
When I first came to live in Thailand at the end of 2003 I had quite a lot of money invested in buoyant stock markets. Interest rates for savers were about 5%, and for every pound I had I could buy almost Bt75.
When I calculated the amount I would have by cashing in my investments, putting the money in a savings account and converting it to Baht, it meant having quite a large monthly income. At that time I was single with no financial responsibilities and I had ideas about travelling around Asia constantly living a very comfortable life.
The Global Financial Crisis of 2008 decimated my stock market investments and shortly afterwards interest rates fell to almost zero. By April 2013 the UK pound to Thai Baht exchange rate had fallen to less than 44. As I write now it is around Bt50, but it still fluctuates a lot.
I got married in 2010 and bought a car. Our daughter was born in 2011, I bought a house, and our son was born in 2014. First, my financial situation took some big hits and then I started to acquire some big financial responsibilities. Rather than looking at a hedonistic lifestyle of luxury, these days I am thankful that I can keep my head above water.
However well you plan and however strong your will power and resolve, there will always be external factors over which you have absolutely no control that affect your financial position.
Most foreigners who go to live in Thailand are single, heterosexual males and nothing will determine how much money a single, heterosexual male will spend in Thailand more than the Thai woman, or women, that they get involved with.
Don't misunderstand me. I have been married to a Thai girl since 2010 and prior to that I had dealings with many Thai girls. I have completely lost interest in farang women and would only consider being in a relationship with an Asian woman, but Thai women should come with government warnings the same as cigarettes.
To many foreign men, the Thai female is not only highly alluring, but potentially very dangerous. Most of the girls are from poor backgrounds and lowly educated, however, they are highly perceptive, highly adept at sensing any sign of emotional weakness, and very clever. Initially they exercise no power over you at all, but they have ways to gain control in relationships, especially if you live in Thailand. Thai laws also give Thais huge advantages over foreigners if you remain in Thailand.
Thailand is still a male-dominated society and there are a high proportion of females. The girls have learned how to survive in Thailand dealing with Thai men and they can manipulate foreign men very, very easily.
I once saw a fat slob of a farang sitting in a Phuket beer bar holding a bottle of local beer while a Thai bargirl stood behind him massaging his shoulders. He was in heaven, yet he was the type of man that wouldn't be able to get near a young, attractive female in his home country.
Thai girls know about their reputation abroad and know that if they are too pushy at first the relationship won't last. Therefore, they aren't too pushy initially. They will cook for you, massage you, not ask for a lot, and they appear to be the most perfect girls on Earth.
After this they will take gradual steps to obtain more power in the relationship. If they can convince the foreign man to buy a house it will probably be in her name because foreigners can't own land in Thailand. If they can get pregnant it means the man has the responsibility of children. The girls can make it very difficult for foreign men to leave because of financial or emotional commitments.
This can all happen very quickly. I arrived in Thailand at the end of 2003 and met a girl within 24 hours. She had an agenda, lied to me, and was pregnant within a few months. She lost the baby as a result of a fall on a slippery bathroom floor and the lack of trust I had in her ended the relationship. But my life could have been very different.
You need to realise that many Thais have no opportunity to get better lives while living in Thailand. Going to live abroad isn't an option for most of them, but latching and holding on to farangs who go to Thailand is an option. You may not think of yourself as being particularly wealthy, but relative to most Thais you are.
I don't have a problem with this. There is no such thing as a free lunch and it is only fair that when two people are involved in a relationship they both get something out of it.
Many foreign men over a certain age won't even get the chance to talk to young, attractive girls at home. In Thailand not only can you talk to them, you can sleep with and marry them. Living in Thailand gives many foreign men opportunities they would never get at home, such as marrying young, attractive girls and having families. Thus, it is only fair that the girls get something.
However, some Thai girls will mercilessly steal from and destroy foreign men, and they won't think anything of it. Thus, it is necessary to be very careful.
This page is about how much money you will need to live in Thailand. It isn't about Thai girls, but the two things are inextricably linked. Initially, you may have no financial responsibilities but as soon as you become involved with a Thai female you will find that you suddenly have lots.
Assuming that you aren't planning to work in Thailand and assuming that you plan to live legally in Thailand, you will need a visa. Retirement and marriage visas both have financial requirements, which are Bt800,000 and Bt400,000 respectively. You need to prove that you have the appropriate amount in a Thai bank account when you apply for a visa.
If you need to do visa runs or go to your Embassy in Bangkok for documents there will be more expense. Documents issued in English normally have to be translated into Thai and this costs money. Visas aren't that expensive, but with single entry visas you need to apply for a reentry permit every time you leave Thailand.
My passport only needs replacing every 10 years, but I can no longer do it at the British Embassy in Bangkok. It is now done elsewhere and last time I replaced my passport it was about Bt10,000.
Depending on where you live there may be maintenance charges. My housing development has security guards and other amenities, which are paid for by the residents in an annual maintenance charge.
Also, bear in mind that the practice of dual pricing is widespread in Thailand. If you can speak Thai and have a Thai driving licence you can often get the Thai price but, based purely on the fact that you aren't Thai, the rate you are charged to enter parks, museums, tourist attractions, etc, will be a lot higher than the price the locals pay.
I hope I have explained why the question above is impossible to answer and I hope that you now understand why it is futile for other people to suggest how much it will cost you to live in Thailand. Despite this, there are lots of examples on the Internet of people doing just that.
In theory Thailand is a cheap place to live, but in practice that isn't the case. No one moves to Thailand to live a life or austerity and the things that most of us want in life are expensive.
Living in Thailand can be cheap because the basics of life can be acquired cheaply, but it is no longer a cheap country. Taken from the perspective of a tourist it will look cheap because you have no financial responsibilities. However, once you actually live in Thailand it is very easy to acquire financial responsibilities.
Most foreigners who go to live in Thailand are single males and a big part of their decision to go to Thailand is to meet a Thai partner. Once you have acquired that initial financial responsibility, you will find that others quickly follow.
I have never met a Thai female who isn't interested in children. If you get involved with a Thai woman she will either have children already (who you will be responsible for) or she will want children and, of course, you will be financially responsible.
She will want you to buy a car, she will want the financial security of a house, and she may well expect you to be financially responsible for her extended family. Before you know what is going on, the monthly income you thought would be plenty tends to disappear very quickly.
I read somewhere on the Internet years ago about a farang guy living in Thailand who would not allow Thai women to stay with him for more than four days. He didn't want to give the girls time to get their feet under the table.
If you can really be this callous and cold-hearted you can remain living in Thailand without any financial responsibilities and you can keep all your lovely money to yourself. However, I don't think that many men are like that.
Thailand is completely different to Western countries and it can be a very lonely place. The companionship and, not least, the physical aspects of a relationship with a Thai woman are something that most Western men living in Thailand will need. But as soon as you start going down that path you will very quickly acquire lots of financial responsibilities.
So, back to the original question. If you have a job lined up teaching English in provincial Thailand for a salary of Bt30,000, is that enough? If you plan to relocate to Thailand with an income of Bt45,000 and have a Thai woman and two children to take care of, will it be enough?
All I can say is that it is certainly possible. As to whether the amount will cover your financial responsibilities, I don't know because I know nothing of your financial responsibilities. As to whether you will be able to lead the lifestyle you want, I don't know because I know nothing about the lifestyle you aspire to.
Only you know the answer to these questions.
Thailand for Tourists
Living In Thailand
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.
If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.
I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.
If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.
Images of Thailand