Cost of Living in Thailand Part II

March 1, 2010

We continue with how much living in Thailand might cost you.  All prices are Chiang Mai prices and are as of today, Mar 1, 2010, and of course are subject to change.  All prices are approximates.  Local prices will vary greatly.   Check the daily exchange rate at www.bangkokbank.com .

Getting around town

You’ll need to get around, from one town to another, or from your home to the local market, etc..  Here is some idea of how much it will cost to get from A to B.  When you first arrive in country you will probably be using public transportation.  This can be an interesting experience. Here are some typical prices in Chiang Mai.

  • Metered Taxis, house to airport, approx 10 kms, ฿150
  • Red taxis (converted pickup trucks), ฿15 anywhere in town, longer rides negotiable.
  • Public bus, when you can find one, ฿10
  • Other pickup taxis, usually upcountry between towns and villages, ฿20 or more depending on the distance.
  • Bangkok and some towns will have motorcycle taxis where you ride on the back to your destination.  These are quite inexpensive as the rides are usually very short (main road to your house).  Some towns have motorcycles with side cars or other homemade additions.  These will cost about the same as Chiang Mai’s red taxis.

Later, out of convenience, most people opt to get their own transportation.

Travel in country

One of the joys of living in Thailand is that there are so many interesting places to visit in country.  You have many choices on how to get around.

Air travel – There are quite a few airlines that service the different cities in Thailand.  Here are a few popular destinations on Thai Air. Other airlines may be quite cheaper.  Prices quoted are for round trip and are taken from the Thai Air web site.    Check with a travel agent or the airline itself to see what promotional deals they have.  It can save loads of money.  (e.g. We just bought a round trip ticket Chiang Mai – Phuket for ฿8,500 on Air Asia which is much less than the price for Thai Air quoted below).  Also, prices will vary depending on the season.

  • Bangkok – Chiang Mai           ฿5,200
  • Bangkok – Phuket                  ฿6,500
  • Bangkok – Ubon                     ฿6,400
  • Chiang Mai – Phuket              ฿14,400
  • Chiang Mai – Mae Hongson   ฿3,250

Trains

A nice way to get around.  For long hauls the sleeper cars can be comfortable although they are quite slow.  Prices are for 2nd class, air condition, sleeper cars.

  • Bangkok – Chiang Mai           ฿881
  • Bangkok – Ubon                     ฿761
  • Bangkok – Hat Yai                  ฿945

Bus

Seems like there are buses going from everywhere in Thailand to everywhere else.  There is a range from really inexpensive, non-air conditioned buses to beautiful tour buses with air conditioning, music, TV, and DVDs.  Here are some prices for the first class, air condition, “tour” buses.

  • Bangkok – Chiang Mai           ฿1,197
  • Bangkok – Ubon                     ฿1,080
  • Bangkok – Hat Yai                  ฿1,243

Automobiles

You’ll need a driver’s license to drive a car or motorcycle in Thailand.  Officially you can use your old home license for one month.  Only residence of Thailand (with long term visas) are allowed to apply for a driver’s license.

  • Rent    Small compact car, liability insurance included, ฿1,500 per day with monthly rates cheaper
  • Buy     Used 5 year old Toyota, good condition, ฿275,000

Motorcycles

Many people rent motorcycles as soon as they get in country.  This should not be the first thing you do.  The first thing is to make sure you know how to ride a motorcycle.  And riding one in Thailand can be a harrowing experience.  Be careful, drive defensively,  and always wear a helmet.

  • Rent    125 cc new Honda Dream, ฿150 per day
  • Buy     New 125cc Honda Dream, ฿36,000
  • Used 125 cc Honda Dream, 3 years old, ฿24,000

Accommodations (when traveling in country)

Thailand has so many places to visit and explore, from the big cities, to the mountains up north, to the beaches and islands in the south.  For a good idea of what is available check with travel guides like Lonely Planet.

  • City hotels – There are luxurious world class resorts in many places and their prices are also world class.  But nice comfortable hotels in population centers, even in Bangkok, will cost between ฿1,200 – ฿3,000.
  • Upcountry hotels – Not a lot of world class hotels up country unless you are in a tourist destination.  Nice clean places can be had for ฿500 – ฿1000.
  • Guest houses – Can be as low as ฿200 – ฿600.  You’ usually get what you pay for.
  • National Parks – Thailand has a great national parks system and they all seem to have cabins and bungalows available (except on national holidays and in the high seasons).  A very nice bungalow can be had for ฿1,000 per night.
  • Camping – For  ฿50 – ฿100 you can bed down in a national park tent (provided).  When Thais go tenting they tend to stay up singing and drinking all through the night.  So be aware that tranquility is something not found much in the tent grounds.

Communications

It used to be keeping connected to friends and family, and with your culture back home was quite difficult.  The 21st century communications system takes much of the isolation away from living so far from what we used to call “home”.

Cell phone

  • Cost of phone – ฿1,000 – ฿10,000
  • Cost of call (using prepaid cards) In country –  ฿1 per minute in country
  • Cost of call (using prepaid cards) Overseas – ฿5 per minute

Skype

  • Computer to phone –  less than ฿1 per minute anywhere
  • Computer to computer – free (webcam available)

Home phone – Very expensive to get a line to your home.  If one already exists then it is a flat rate of about ฿150 per month plus whatever calls you make at between ฿2 and ฿5 per minute depending on your plan.

Internet

  • Internet cafes – ฿10 – ฿30 per hour depending on speed.
  • Home internet – This is usually part of your phone bill.  High speed Internet can be around ฿1,600 per month.

Postage – Quite inexpensive in country.  Just a few baht per letter and packages are also cheap to send.  International mail is very expensive, especially EPS, or express mail.  A small package sent EPS overseas can be more than ฿600.

Food

One has to eat, and in Thailand this becomes as much of a recreation as it is a necessity.  As with everything, one can live very frugally.  You could survive on ฿100 per day if need be.  Or lunch alone could cost many thousands of baht.  We’ll give supermarket prices here leaning more to the frugal side.

Cooking at home (condos may not have kitchens)

  • One kilo of chicken ฿65 per kilo
  • One kilo of pork ฿105 per kilo
  • Fish (talapia) ฿89 per kilo
  • Shrimp ฿125 per kilo
  • Eggs ฿89 for 30
  • Milk ฿70 per liter
  • Soft drink ฿124 for 12 bottles
  • Kale ฿24 per kilo
  • Iceberg lettuce  ฿55 per kilo
  • Tomatoes ฿23 per kilo
  • Cabbage ฿22 per kilo
  • Rice ฿18 per liter

Eating at restaurants

As with just about everything in Thailand, you can end up spending very little for a nice meal, or you can spend as much as you would in a major world city.  We’ll go with the lower end of the spectrum here.

Single plate dishes

  • Servings with rice  – ฿25 – ฿60
  • Noodles – ฿24 – ฿40
  • Family style – prices vary, ฿50 –  ฿100 per dish, usually a meal has at least 3 dishes

Western

  • Pizza – ฿300
  • Burgers – ฿150
  • Spaghetti – ฿150 plate

Fast Food

  • McDonalds Big Mac meal –  ฿130
  • KFC – 3 piece meal – ฿120

Buffets

  • From ฿70 – ฿140 at less expensive places
  • As much as ฿600 at the nicer hotels

Drink

A large number of expats fill a large portion of their day imbibing.  Probably not a great idea for longevity but to each his own.  Whichever kind you choose, Thailand’s hot climate makes it so you’ll have to fill yourself with liquids.  Here is a list of of what some of these will cost.

  • Bottled water ฿10
  • Soft drinks ฿20
  • Beer  ฿50 – ฿100 depending on size.  Some bars will be much higher
  • Wine – ฿400 and up
  • Whisky, gin vodka, etc.   ฿1,000 per bottle and up
  • Fresh juice, shakes – ฿20 – ฿40

Coffee

  • At a Thai shop ฿20 – ฿60
  • At Starbucks ฿150 or more

Miscellaneous

We’ll just list a few here.  If you have specific questions please ask it in the comments section and I will see if I can get you an answer.

  • Visa renewal – This is one thing that lots of people forget when they make a budget.  All visas, and renewals, currently cost ฿1,900.  This is charged whenever you leave the country and get an exit visa, or renew your retirement visa, or you make a run for the border.  This can get pricey depending on how often you have to do this.  Although all long term visa holders must report to Immigration every 90 days, there is no charge for this.
  • Gasoline 1 liter of 95 octane ฿35
  • Men’s haircut – ฿70 at a barbershop, ฿350+ at a hair stylist

Reading material

  • Bangkok Post & The Nation newspapers – ฿25
  • Readers Digest – ฿150
  • National Geographic – ฿250
  • English paperback books ฿300 – ฿450
  • Used paperbacks – ฿40 – ฿80

Electrical goods

  • TV – 42” plasma, ฿30,000
  • DVD – ฿2,000
  • Desktop computer – ฿15,000 – ฿25,000
  • Laptop computer – ฿20,000 – ฿30,000

Entertainment

  • Night out (bar hopping) – This question was asked on the www.ThaiVisa.com web forum and the answer depends on what activities you partake of, how much you imbibe, and whether you answer the ringing bell and buy the whole bar drinks. You can spend anywhere from 1,000 – 30,000 in a night.
  • Movie at a theater – ฿100
  • Movie rental – ฿10 – ฿30
  • Massage – ฿100 per ½ hour
  • Use of a hotel swimming pool (when you are not a guest) – ฿100

Happy spending

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26 Responses to “Cost of Living in Thailand Part II”

  1. Catherine said

    Excellent research Hugh. I didn’t realise the prices of some things, like magazines. In the west I’d subscribe to four mags a year. But after moving to SE Asia, I stopped getting imported magazines due to the costs.

    Btw – Another option for transport is to find a taxi driver you get along with. One with seat belts in the back. By law the meter must be running, but you can negotiate day and half day rates.

    I’ve chosen to forgo a car and go with a taxi instead. And one of the other tenants rents my space.

  2. Catherine said

    What I meant to say was that I didn’t know the prices of imported mags anymore (compared to when I first arrived 🙂

  3. jean said

    This is excellent information. Thanks for publishing this.

    I’m from Malaysia and doing some reseach on living/retiring to Thailand so your information is quite timely for me! I’ve been to Southern Thailand (Phuket, Haadyai), Bangkok and Chiang Mai several times and I like Chiang Mai a lot more than the other places by a long shot.

  4. Jim said

    I found your information very helpful. My family visited Chaingmai for one month during the xmas holidays (2009). We are now thinking about relocating to Thailand. At the moment our big issue is understanding school options for our soon to be 3 year old daughter.

  5. Bob said

    Thank you Hugh for all your posts. The information is all so valuable to me. I have read the book about retirement in Thailand you reviewed and recommended. Very good reference. I am committed to retirement in Chiang Mai, in late 2011 if all goes well. I would like to start my time there studying Thai language and culture. Chiang Mai University offers a one year program that looks very interesting. I may also sign-up for their English teaching certification program. Teaching seems like it might be fun to do for a few years. Thanks again!!

    • Once a year AUA Chiang Mai and Bangkok have a certificate program run by the School for International Training (SIT) one of the most respected certificate programs in the world. Check it out here http://www.auathailand.org/sit/. I taught English for 2 or 3 lifetimes (it seems) and have a MA in TESOL. I loved every minute of it, especially teaching Thai students. Lots of luck.

  6. Carl Pittman said

    I enjoyed your blogs. My wife and I will be retiring to Thailand after Jan ’11. We haven’t decided where to settle although we will probably start in Bangkok suburbs because we have a daughter that works in Samut Prakan. My wife is Thai but is now an American citizen. Will she be able to reclaim her Thai citizenship after we arrive in Thailand?

  7. Carl,

    If your wife is Thai she will retain her Thai citizenship (and her U.S. one too). In Thailand she needs to have her citizenship card (บัตร ประชาชน baat pra-cha-chon. If that is lost she can apply for a new one. With that she can get a Thai passport. A Thai passport is very useful for traveling outside the country without having to get a re-entry permit. Some people exit the their home country with their passport and enter Thailand with their Thai passport so they don’t have to get a visa (foreign citizens who were born in Thailand can get a special one-year visa). My wife doesn’t do that as she uses her U.S. passport to enter the country.

    BTW, if you have children, even if they were born outside of Thailand, they can get Thai citizenship. It is quite easy and useful. With it hey can stay in Thailand for a year at a time (with the visa I mentioned earlier) and they can own and inherit land, and don’t need a work permit to work. They have to physically be here to apply though. If you daughter hasn’t done this yet, think about it

    My wife was born in Samut Prakarn. Back then it was a very sleepy village and quite beautiful. I was lucky to visit it 40 years ago. Today it is a huge industrial complex and is basically just part of Bangkok. I personally would not enjoy living there.

    Good luck on your move.

    • Carl Pittamn said

      I probably won’t like living in Samut Prakarn either, we will live in Bangkok but on the edge nearest to Samut Prakarn.
      I am curious if you are getting a feel in Thailand of where the Baht is heading against the dollar? I have read that the Thai government will eventually let the Baht settle between 31 and 35 Baht to the dollar because the country relies so heavily on exports.
      I appreciate your blog and the info very much

      • Carl,

        Trying to judge were a currency is going is one of the hardest things to do. Want to lose a lot of money? Try doing Forex trading (foreign exchange). The baht today is at 30.05. I have seen the baht at 25 and I have seen it at 49. Today’s prices are not good for me being on social Security. All of us SS types are praying for a devaluation of the baht. It could happen. Then again …

  8. […] 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 […]

  9. Carl Pittamn said

    Do you use a Thai bank or do you use a overseas bank? I am wondering where and how to bank when we are in Thailand. When I’ve been ther before I just used ATM’s and paid fees back home. Is there an option to eleminate or reduce fees while living in country? Thanks

    • Carl,

      I have both a US and a Thai bank account. My Social Security payment is directly deposited into my US bank. A few times a year I write a check on that account and deposit into my Thai bank account for daily expenses here. The cost is about $20. I use Bangkok Bank and they have accepted checks over $100,000, so the amount is no problem as long as they know you. It takes about 6 weeks for a check to clear. A wire transfer would be much quicker, within 2 or 3 days, but the cost is much more, $40 or more each time. There is a limit of $5,000 for each wire transfer if you are not physically present at the bank in the US, but some people get around that limit by working something out with their US bank.

      Also, if you are going to get a retirement or a spousal support visa you will need to have money in a Thai savings account (Bt800K and Bt400K respectively).

      When you choose a Thai bank be sure to choose one that understands international transaction. And then make good friends with the bank manager. The better known you are in the bank the better service you will get. That works the same everywhere in the world.

      Big problem nowadays is the Baht/Dollar exchange rate. It seems to get worse every day. Not great for one living off of dollar denominated Social Security. I am getting at least 10% less per month than when I first started collecting. We are waiting for a little improvement before writing the next check.

  10. Carl Pittamn said

    Thanks so much for answering my questions. I have another. I have coverted everything I can to online for mail but how did you handle any mail forwarding? Open to suggestions.

    • Carl,

      I am quoting your last question and my response in my next post (around Nov 1), about Banking and Money in Thailand.

      As to this current question, I have my mail going to a friend’s house. If something was important my friend was supposed to send it on to me (did not work out so well). You will need a U.S. home address because some organizations require one, although others will send stuff to a Thai address. For banking, IRS, investments, Social Security I use my Thai address. Thai addresses can be complicated, especially if you have to give it over the phone. So when I am asked for my mailing address I ask them to give me an email where I can send it to them. That way they will get it written correctly.

  11. Carl Pittamn said

    Are there any vaccinations you would recommend before moving to Thailand? My wife and I have received our flu shot which covers the H1N1 virus and we have updated our tetanus. I know Thailand doesn’t ask for shots but wondering if you have seen a need for others.

    Thnaks,
    Carl

  12. Carl,

    This is a question for a doctor to answer, specifically one who understands Southeast Asia. I can only tell you what I do – nothing. Tetanus is always great to have. I haven’t seen any H1N1 but there is lots of other flu so maybe a regular flu shot would be good. I think I might just do that.

    BTW, since 2001, when I began this odyssey of retirement, I haven’t had a cold. The only thing that I have had is some stomach problems, but not often, and a little tendinitis, probably because my golf swing is so bad . I will soon be posting something on eating healthfully in Thailand. Doing that and exercising will keep you healthy. LOL.

  13. Carl Pittamn said

    I am wondering about cost of prescrition medicationin Thailand. I take a couple of medications for blood pressure and I was wondering if you can get perscriptions from a drug store or will I need perscriptions from a Thai doctor?

    Thanks,
    Carl

    • Carl,

      Send me an email (via retire2thailand.com, contact) with the names of the meds you need (brand name, I can figure out the generic name) and I will ask my pharmacist what they cost. Normally imported brand name drugs cost about the same as in the U.S. but the generic ones are very much cheaper. There are generic drugs made in Thailand, China, Europe, and the U.S. Europe and U.S. drugs can be trusted. The others are hit or miss, some good, some with much less potency.

      For blood pressure meds you can just pick them up at a pharmacist. But I get a yearly physical. Very thorough and inexpensive. Here is my experience from this year https://retire2thailand.wordpress.com/2010/07/03/annual-checkup/.

  14. Dawn Yurkiewicz said

    What about taxes? What do you pay and to whom?

    • Dawn,

      I am an American so this applies to U.S. citizens. I receive Social Security so I am responsible for paying income taxes on that. If I take any money out of my IRA (Individual Retirement Account) then that is also considered income. And If (a big “if” nowadays) I make any money on investments then I have to pay taxes on that. I do not make any money here in Thailand so I don’t need to pay any taxes here.

  15. […] 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 […]

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