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COST OF LIVING IN THAILAND

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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 expat 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  comfortably in Thailand. In order to successfully live here on a long term basis, many expats will need to adapt to a lifestyle that may be somewhat unfamiliar to that in their home countries. We cannot stress enough that flexibility and a good attitude are key to successful and happy living in Thailand.

The truth is, by most Western standards, if you want to live in relative luxury, Thailand is the ideal country to do this relatively  affordably. Some notable exceptions to this affordability are the cost of automobiles (both the cost of standard petrol and the car itself, by general American standards); designer and brand name items (high end, luxury imported goods are heavily taxed in Thailand); and some alcohol (wine!) However, I’m told that my perception of affordable vehicles and gasoline is skewed by what we are accustomed to in the USA.

How much are transportation expenses in Thailand?

Transportation & The Cost Of Living In Thailand

Most modes of transportation throughout Thailand are generally not expensive (domestic planes, buses, taxis, tuk tuks, etc).  Bangkok’s BTS  and MRT skytrain  are very modern and affordable.  The routes throughout the city cost between $.50 to $2.50, depending on the distance. Taxis are also relatively inexpensive, though we definitely recommend hopping on the subway or skytrain rather than a taxi. Chances are good that it will take three to five times as long to arrive anywhere in Bangkok in a taxi with all the 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 or 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 (not the safest, but the most efficient!)

Update: Grab taxi services are now available throughout most of Thailand via the Grab phone app. Grab is generally considered  the safest and most inexpensive way to hire a taxi these days.

Car prices in Thailand are insanely expensive by most American standards. So far, we have purchased two cars already. We have a 4×4 Mitsubishi Triton Truck which cost about $28,333 USD brand new from the dealer. We also recently purchased a Chevrolet Captiva SUV which cost us about $54,000 USD new from the dealer. Neither of these cars are very luxurious. The truck would be similar to a lower quality Toyota Tacoma, which typically costs about $18,000 USD in the USA. The Captiva typically costs about $34,000 USD in the United States. Petrol to run this car is about $5-6/gallon, and we get about 23 miles to the gallon. Our work requires us to drive more than your average person, so we are spending about $100/week on gas.

Update #2 (Sept 15th, 2023): Car prices in Thailand are beginning to come down relative to what you would pay for a car in the USA. We recently purchased a Tesla Model Y, and the price of the car with the exchange rate made the vehicle slightly cheaper than what it would cost in the USA (before any EV rebates).

These days, more and more people throughout Thailand are opting to purchase either fully electric vehicles or hybrids to mitigate the cost of petrol. There are charging stations everywhere, and can be found at most PTT stations, shopping malls, and even quite a few hotels (Tesla is also rolling out superchargers throughout Thailand). There are also many car companies in Thailand offering full EV or hybrid options. Some EV or hybrid manufacturers to consider in Thailand are GWM, MG, BYD, Tesla, BMW, Volvo, Mercedes, Toyota, & Honda, just to name a few.

In order to mitigate the cost of fueling a car here in Thailand, many people opt to 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 can I typically 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 in Thailand. I will list only the more popular destinations in decreasing order with the most expensive cities listed first. Phuket, Bangkok, Samui and Pattaya seem to be the most expensive destinations. Hua Hin, Pranburi and 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 private swimming pool, one can expect to pay about 45,000 – 55,000 THB/month (about $1,300 – 1,500 USD/month). For long term rentals, the price does not include electricity and water usage, internet service, maid service, etc. It is possible to find rental properties for much less (or much more, for those looking for luxury), but by Western standards, homes in the 45,000 – 55,000 THB/month range tend to suit most expat needs for comfort, security, functionality and location.

In my opinion, rental rates in popular destinations throughout Thailand seem quite expensive.  However, by European standards, these rates may seem reasonable.  If a person is interested in purchasing a house in Thailand, this is where the real savings can lie.

Many of our clients don’t tend to rent homes here beyond 6 months unless they are waiting for the construction of their new home to complete or if their intention is only to stay for a limited time period.

Update Sept 15, 2023: Since the advent of the COVID pandemic and the War in Ukraine, the Hua Hin real estate market has changed considerably. Demand for long-term rental properties has skyrocketed and rental inventory is greatly diminished at the time of this update. Many of our clients are now renting for 1 year periods or longer, and some are asking for locked-in 3 year lease contracts. Private villa sales are still strong throughout Hua Hin and surrounding neighborhoods. Most sales seem to  average in the 6-12M THB range, with some higher purchases in the 20+M THB range.

Many expat and Thai clients purchase homes in Hua Hin as an investment, either for renting out for the high rental income or for living in the house full or part-time. If a buyer is considering retiring in Thailand and/or purchasing a home for vacation or investment purposes, I would suggest budgeting about 7-10 million THB ($195,000 USD – $280,000 USD) for a fairly luxurious home, fully furnished, equipped with modern appliances, a large private 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 3-5 million THB  ($84,000 USD – $140,000 USD). We have also sold some very nice houses that were as low as 2.5 million THB ($69,000 USD), but these are harder to come by.

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 deciding to sell 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 for maintaining a home in Thailand?

Home Maintenance & The Cost Of Living In Thailand

An average 3 bedroom home with a swimming pool will typically cost between 2,500- 5,000 THB/month ($69- $166 USD/month) in electricity consumption. This is with moderate AC usage. Water usage is typically about 300-600 THB/month ($10-18 USD/month).

As a typical American initially exposed to the wealthy expats with live-in maids and gardeners, I originally felt disdain for what I considered “the bourgeois crowd”, harkening back to the days of colonialism and extravagance. I know people here who never cook for themselves, never wash or iron their own clothes, never wash their cars, and spend their days on golf courses or in spa treatments.

I told myself when I moved here that I would never have a maid or a gardener. I felt that having a private maid, gardener, and pool cleaner would not sit well with my own DIY sensibilities. After my wife declared that she was through picking up my dirty socks and underwear, and that we should consider hiring a maid, I reluctantly relented. We now have a maid, a gardener and pool service. I have been forever ruined! We pay 500 THB/cleaning ($14 USD/day) for our maid, and she cleans our house 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 500 THB/day. We pay about 5,000 THB/month ($140 USD) for pool and garden services. The minimum wage in Thailand was recently increased from 200 THB/day to 300 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, and 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 and love local restaurants, but we live to eat in our family. I estimate we spend close to 40,000 THB/month ($1,117 USD/month) on food.

Breaking it down, this is how our personal food budget gets spent on average:

4,000 THB/week on food staples bought at Makro (kind of like a Costco)
2,000 THB/week at the local food importer (wine, cheese, imported foods, chocolate, cured meats, etc.)
2,000 THB/week at restaurants for lunch. We eat lunch out frequently because of our work schedule.
2,000 THB/week at restaurants for dinner. We do this maybe once a week. We usually prefer eating at home with our friends and neighbors, but occasionally enjoy a night out at a nice restaurant.

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 local Thai restaurants. They estimate that they spend about 10,000 THB/month ($300/month) on food. They also shop at the King’s organic food project (Chang Hua Mon) for organic produce, and tend to purchase a majority of their food directly from the local farms.

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, like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is only an average assessment. Some people are able to spend much less on food; some families can spend much more.

What are 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 US health care and hospitals. Some of the best hospitals in the world are located in Bangkok, 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 ($166 – $300/year), and the coverage is quite extensive.  We have a client whose house had an electrical fire while they were abroad in their home country. They had to replace the entire kitchen and most of the furniture, and 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, First Class policy holders are able to take their vehicles to a body shop once a year for a new paint job and to remove any 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 about 120,000 THB/Year ($4,000/year). There are Thai schools that follow international curriculums, and there are international schools that are autonomous of the Thai education system (but approved by the Thai Ministry of Education). Depending on the type of school, the school year calendar can either follow the Thai or the Western calendar. The international schools are generally very good, 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 in the US for our daughter to go to pre-school 3 days a week.  If she were in pre-school 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 many different approaches to learning.

Check out this article for a overview of Hua Hin’s International School options: https://www.executive-homes-huahin.com/best-schools-in-hua-hin/

Update Sept 15, 2023: Our daughter has been attending the Hua Hin International School (HHIS) for nearly 3 years, and she (and we) are very pleased with the school and her experience there. HHIS is much more expensive than her previous international school, the BECC, but the level of education, the quality of teachers, and the facilities are fantastic. HHIS offers a full IB program, and many graduates have successfully transitioned to universities abroad in Europe, UK, North America, and throughout SE Asia.

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.

We also like going to Bangkok about once a month and staying in fancy hotels, eating at fabulous restaurants and getting 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 (the latest one is Asia’s largest jungle water park), and we tend to visit the water slides about once every month or two.  A trip to the water park costs us about 1,500 THB ($47 USD) for the three of us. Then there is hiking, walking along the beach, cave exploring, kite surfing, running, bicycling, visiting ancient ruins, etc–all of which are free or very, very cheap.

Conclusion

On average, we are spending about $43,777 USD per year on living expenses for a family of three people. This is for a very comfortable, relatively luxurious lifestyle. 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. Sellers are retroactively taxed when they sell their homes, but this amount is ridiculously low compared to the amount most homeowners would 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/year 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 much prefer living in Thailand.

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 for their entire life. We highly recommend giving it a try!!

Average Cost Of Living In Thailand

Estimated Expenses Broken Down

COST OF LIVING IN THAILAND

COST OF LIVING IN THAILAND

File 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:

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About The Author
Paul Van Slyke

I was born in Bangkok Thailand, but grew up in the USA, Middle East and for a brief time, Southern and Central France. I moved to Hua Hin with my wife and daughter in 2010 and opened our Agency in 2012. Since then, we have successfully sold hundreds of properties all over Hua Hin and it's surrounding neighborhoods.

1 Comment

  1. Patria S. W says:

    Best Real Estate Agent in Hua Hin Thailand

    Brilliant , helpful article.

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