Cost of Living in Thailand Part I

February 21, 2010

One of the biggest questions we had before retiring in Thailand was how much would it cost us?  And the second questions was, would my Social Security pension be enough to live on here?  Everyone is different.  I know someone who is perfectly content to live on ฿10,000 a month. Then there are others where $10,000 a month wouldn’t be enough.  For some people Social Security is more than sufficient and others will have to supplement their pensions with investments and savings.

So instead of trying to answer those questions for you I thought I would break down our living expenses and let you know what we, and friends we know, pay for stuff.  That might help give you an idea of what you will need to live here.  Be aware that prices in Bangkok can be lots more than what we are quoting here and they can also fluctuate (that usually means “go up”) wildly.  The prices given are what we generally experience in Chiang Mai, the country’s second city.

All the prices we give are in Thai baht.  You can see the daily exchange rate on the first page of


The big question is “To Buy or Not to Buy”.  Foreigners can own a condo, and they can own a house, but they cannot own the land that the house is on.  Some people need to own things and they look for loopholes in the Thai legal system where they can “own” property here.  Others are content to rent.  My advice, at least when you first get here, is to rent.  (Go to for a longer discussion of Thai real estate.)

You can rent or buy just about any level of accommodation imaginable, from a guest house room, to a dormitory, to a one room condo, or a luxurious high rise, to a nice house in the suburbs, to a mansion in the heart of town.  It will all depend on your needs and finances.  You get what you pay for of course so the prices here are estimates and given in a range.  The larger cities will be more expensive, the small towns cheaper.

Guest house –   Cost depends on if you are in a tourist center and how close to the action you are.   Some places may have monthly rates which would be cheaper than daily rates.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿200 – ฿600 per day

Dormitory –      You can find these near colleges and universities.  Will definitely have no-frills but will have all the good and bad of living in a dormitory.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿1,000 – ฿2,000 per month

Small condo –   Usually rented by the month, are quite a bit higher scale than the dorm rooms, but still very basic.  One room condos are usually about 36-45sq ft.  Cooking is usually not permitted but they may have a refrigerator.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿2,000 – ฿3,500  per month
  • Cost to buy:  ฿1,000,000 – ฿2,000,000
  • Service fee (for owners) : ฿500 per month

Apartments –    Thailand has many nice condo apartments for sale and rent.  These will have air conditioning, security systems and guards, swimming pools, exercise rooms, etc., and be close to shopping and restaurants.  The upscale Bangkok apartments can be rather pricey but will be quite comfortable.  Of course there are luxury apartments for lots more.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿7,000 – ฿15,000  per month
  • Cost to buy:      ฿2,500,000 – ฿10,000,000
  • Service fee (for owners): ฿1000 per month

Houses –          There are many three bedroom, 2 bathroom house in compounds both for rent and sale. These will usually have a living room , kitchen ,and small dining area, and have a small yard and garden.  There are also many upscale housing compounds where houses can rent for many times higher.  Many compounds, especially the higher scale, will have swimming pools, exercise rooms, 24 hour guards, and CCTV.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿10,000 – ฿30,000  per month
  • Cost to buy:      ฿3,500,000 – ฿10,000,000
  • Service fee (for owners): ฿1000 per month


Whether you own or rent you will still need to pay for utilities.  These include garbage pickup, water, telephone, and electricity.  Each household will use these utilities differently so I’ll just say what we pay.  There are 2 of us and we live in a 4 bedroom house in a small compound.  These are monthly rates.

  • Garbage pickup – ฿20
  • Water – ฿1,200
  • Electricity Cool season – ฿1,500
  • Electricity Hot season (using Air con) – ฿2,000

Next post we’ll cover food, transportation, entertainment, etc


23 Responses to “Cost of Living in Thailand Part I”

  1. tourist2010 said

    I’d sure like to see what a small condo looks like.
    At 45 square feet, it’s just a little bigger than a single bed. Do they have bathrooms??

  2. Here is a link to a condo site. I have nothing to do with this company, just trying to answer your question.
    The 66 sq m condo sells for 2.95 mil baht. Not sure what thjis would rent for since I live in Chiang Mai. This is in Bangkok.

  3. Catherine said

    I agree, Chiang Mai is less expensive than Bangkok.

    On your monthly expenses, there one item that is more expensive than mine. Your water bill. But you have a garden (I’m envious) and I only have a balcony. The balcony wraps around the length of the condo, but watering potted plants is light on water consumption.

    • I have about 2.5 rai and I have planted over 100 trees and at last count about 125 different species of plants, flowers, and trees. So, we are now pumping the water for our garden from the adjacent stream. The trees are much happier and my water bill is a lot less than what it used to be. The water bill should be modified to a much lower number.

      Just think of your balcony as a “hanging garden” and remember, it is the dry season so given them lots to drink.

      • Catherine said

        When I lived on the other side of the highway, there were times I needed to water often. Plants that were thirstier than others died when I was away.

        But now that I have a deep balcony, the plants are shielded from the hottest sun. At the most, I have to water twice a week (but only some plants and only certain times of the year).

        I do miss my lovely garden in Borneo where I got to water daily. It was a treat to spend an hour with a hose, with all of us getting soaking wet.

        And that is one problem I find with Bangkok. I have no garden time. I miss having garden time as it’s good for the soul.

  4. i am planning to retire to thailand in 6mos. and i am eaning towads hua hin,i am in my mid 60~s and plan on opening a small business down the road,.whats your opinion of hua hin and do you have a better place than hua hin to live you can suggest..
    i really appreciate your article, very helpful
    thank you very much!! i was in bangkok in 1966 on r&r from nam and i loved it even then andy

  5. GGMe said

    how about the Northern or Thailand? small town like Nan? r u interested in, Folks? pls. contact me.
    I like ur www. thx..i found u.

  6. […] 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 […]

  7. Sylvan said

    Anyone know if the area of Sakon Nakhon city is a good place to live? What about the area around Nong Bua which is a bit south west of Na Nai? Is it very cheap? I can’t find anything for rent or sale. Anyone have any photos?

  8. I am not very familiar with the northeast. Here is what was returned from a Google search on “Sakorn Nakhorn Images (

    Here are some things to check out anywhere you are thinking of living.

    What are the local hospitals like? Do they have western trained and English speaking doctors and medical staff?

    Can you obtain all the medications you might need?

    Are there supermarkets where you might be able to get western foods and other of your favorite items? You’d be surprised at how important these can be to you.

    Are there Expat associations where you can meet and socialize with people who speak your language? The northeast has a great number of Expats, especially those married to Thai Women. Not sure if they have gotten all the way up to Sakorn Nakhorn yet though.

  9. R K Sharma said

    I have recently retired and am in India. I want to retire to Thailand. I want to know what can I do there for a living.

  10. peter said

    tk you for post, next i hope your write about thailand agind

  11. […] of income that we now have. I have written on my blog about that in Cost of Living in Thailand Part 1, Part 2, and Part […]

  12. Add to your costs if you have a swimming pool easily double your electricity estimates…I estimate the pool costs about 3000 Baht per month in electricity.

  13. Are the rents still the same? I have looked at some real estates sites that seem much higher. Condo rents for a decent sized( 90 ti 110sq m) 2 br unit look to be around 15000Bt to 25000Bt at a minimum. Some are around 35000 to 40000Bht. I would very much like to retire there, but cannot seem to make the numbers work. I have Social Security Income of about 1400 per month, am 68. When I add in the cost of medical care, housing etc. It seems to indicate that I cannot do it. please advise.

    • Rent costs in Thailand, like anywhere, depend on location and demand. If you are looking at condo ads on the Internet then you are looking at places that are trying to lure foreigners. BTW, a 90 to 110 sq meter condo is considered quite large here and would be considered more elegant. Many condos are in the 45 to 60 sq meter range and will be more affordable. You must be here in person to start your search. I would try a short retirement here, say 3 months, and see how it goes and if you can afford it here. You can tell nothing from your easy chair in Farangland.

  14. steven said

    Would like your thoughts on retiring in Phuket since that is it seems the most popular of choices in Thailand.

    • It is my opinion, and that of many others who know Phuket better than I, that Phuket is one of the worst, scam and crime filled, unfriendly, and expensive places in Thailand. Ten years ago Phuket was wonderful, then tourists and Expats discovered it and now it is unbelievably crowded and with the crowds came the worst that Thailand has to offer. But don’t take my word for it. Just take a visit and walk down Patong beach and check it out. Of course you will have to run the gauntlet of propositioning naked bar girls to complete your walk. Log on to and get on one of their forums and ask the same question. I’d be interested to hear if their opinions are different from mine. Lots of luck.

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