Cost of Living in Thailand Part III
September 27, 2010
The first 2 posts about the cost of living in Thailand have proven quite popular (Part 1, Part 2). So I thought that I would periodically post an update and describe the cost of the “stuff” that I have been buying in my daily life here. The more one knows about how much you’ll have to spend living here, the better decisions you will be able to make about making your move.
The Baht exchange rate
First a note on currency. I just looked and the baht today is at 30.23 to the dollar (bangkokbank.com). I have been semi and fully retired here since 2001. At that time we built a small bungalow and had to transfer quite a few dollars here. The exchange rate then was about 39.5 baht to the dollar. About four years ago we bought the house we live in and transferred dollars at 35.50 baht.
If you are living on a pension or Social Security then your available cash has been shrinking since then. I read in the paper today that the baht will probably continue to rise. That is going to be hard on anyone who is bringing in money from abroad.
Here is how a $1,000 pension payment has changed in the last few years:
Today = 30,230 baht
2005 = 35,500 baht
2001 = 39,500 baht
That is almost a 25% loss in the last 10 years or so. if you are thinking of bringing in $100,000, to buy a house, car, setting up a home, etc., take the above numbers and multiply by 100. You see how this can get pretty scary. This means you will have to plan accordingly, although with the constant changes that may prove difficult, in order to assure that you will have enough to live on here.
There’s lots to choose from depending on where you live and what connection speed you want. Internet cafes cost about 15 baht per hour (except at fancy hotels where they can charge up to 10 times that amount). Regular dial-up from your home computer costs only a few baht per hour. You buy an Internet card, have your modem dial the number given, enter the user/password provided and you are on. The connection will be slow, and when your money is up you have to buy another card. ADSL connection is available in most populated areas. It is provided through the phone company and a few other ISPs. My current connection is about 6 mgs download speed and about .4 upload, and costs about 600 baht per month. Faster speeds are available for a higher price. I find that the connection is quite spotty and unreliable. But it is on 24/7 (when the connection hasn’t been cut) and is fast enough for most uses (downloads, Skype, streaming audio, uploads – to web logs like this one) although some videos, on YouTube.com for example, might give a few problems. BTW, there are an increasing number of places where you can get a free wireless connection.
6 mgps connection (TOT) – 590 baht per month
Router wireless, 4 port – 1,400 baht
Regular Thai TV channels are available throughout the country for free, although there are a number of satellite TV companies which will offer much better reception for a few thousand baht set up fee with no monthly payments. But they give only Thai TV and some other stations from neighboring Asian countries. For international TV, including CNN, ESPN, HBO, CNBC, BBC, etc., you will need satellite. The major carrier in Thailand is True Vision. For their “Gold” option you will have to pay around 1,600 baht per month. A few HD channels are available for an extra fee, and there is a “Platimum” option which has some extra channels (MGM, The Golf Channel, etc.) for about 500 baht extra.
For those interested in the “Grey Market” there are companies who will set you up with a satellite dish and a box where you can get all of the channels mentioned above. Set up can range all the way to 25,000 baht for a one time fee and no monthly payments to a few thousand baht but with a small monthly payment. Please don’t say that I recommended this system since it is “slightly” illegal. But look around. When you see those big black satellite dish instead of those small red ones, then you’ll see how much the “grey market” is flourishing.
We just bought a new plasma TV. The prices of theses things have gone way way down lately. A 42″ TV now costs what a 32″ one did only 2 or 3 years ago. The brands Samsung and LG, Korean companies, are assembled here in Thailand now with parts from Korea. Look for sales (called “promotions” here) and you can save a lot of money.
Prices below are for flat screen, plasma TVs (the LCD models are quite a bit more expensive since they are great for HD – only a few channels offered, cost extra). The Japanese brands usually cost a little more than the Korean ones (which are assembled in Thailand).
Less than 32″ the prices are quite cheap and will usually be less than 5,000 baht
32″ 13,000 baht – 16,000 baht
42″ 18,500 baht – 25,000 baht
50″ 30,000 baht – 50,000 baht
40″ LDC Phillips – 50,000 baht (bought by a friend just yesterday)
You can find Blue Ray and HD players but they are very expensive and getting the disk will prove both expensive and difficult to find. Most DVDs found in Thailand (for sale and for rent) fall under that “Grey Market” area, so are quite inexpensive. DVD palyers can run anywhere from 800 baht to 2,500 baht. I have had both and they both play fine. The more expensive ones just have more features. The cheaper ones, having less features, don’t block .avi files (torrents downloaded from the Internet) that you can play using a USB port and a flash drive or an external hard disk.
Players – 800 baht and up
Watching movies at home
DVD rental – 10 – 50 baht
DVD purchase 100 – 200 baht
(Can anyone pronounce “copyright infringement”? How about “piracy”)
Blank DCDs – 275 baht for 50
Blank CDs – 195 baht for 50
Movies at the theater – 100 baht and up (Avatar in 3D was more than twice the normal price. Here in CM Wednesday is half-price day)
If your bedroom at least doesn’t have an air conditioner then you may find Thailand a very uncomfortable place to live. I am one who does not like “conditioned” air but have had to give in to technology on this one. “Global Warming” and being 64 years old has taken a toll on me.
The cost of an air conditioner is the first thing to think about and then the cost of the electricity to run it is another.
Air conditioner for a bedroom (4m x 5m), installation and maintenance included – 12,000 baht to 14,000 baht. More to cool larger rooms of course.
Electricity bill – In the hot season we had 2 bedroom air conditioners going most of the night and sometimes during the day and this about doubled our electric bill, or about 2,000 more per month. In my opinion, well worth it. Because we use some much energy we have planted over 150 trees to balance out our carbon footprint.
Now, we live in Chiang Mai, quite cool in the winter, very hot in the summer. Other areas of the country might be hot all year round (Can anyone say Bangkok?). Consider this when figuring out what your electric bill might be.
This just in:
An old friend just sent me a photo of Chiang Mai he took back in 1969, when I first sojourned here as a Peace Corps volunteer. So I jumped on the web and looked for a photo taken from a similar angle today. These were both taken from near the temple on top of Doi Suthep mountain.
No wonder I didn’t need an air conditioner back then.
This just in
Chiang Mai has been selected as one of the “12 Places to Go if the World Goes to Hell“
The baht is at 29.98 as of Oct 6, 2010.