Cost Of Living In Thailand: Expat Guide

Is living in Thailand really cheap? Let's go through the cost of living figures and general expenses to see how Thailand compares to where you live right now.

Sunny weather, stunning beaches, and an affordable cost of living are the top factors that draw us to Thailand. However, before you pack your bags, it’s good to research and ensure your finances align with your lifestyle choices in Thailand.

Let’s see how much it costs to live in Thailand and what your expenses will be like.

Accommodation costs in Thailand

Your accommodation costs in Thailand can vary significantly depending on location and type of property. For example, accommodation in Bangkok will generally be more expensive than in Chiang Mai or other smaller cities. 

In the epitome of luxury, Phuket Island, According to Mansion Global, the average price per square meter is around $2,800 to $3,500. The average price per square meter for high-end offerings is closer to US$5,000 to US$6,000. 

At the same time, such underrated gems as Hua Hin can be very affordable, with the median price per square meter for a house standing at ฿50,100 (around $1,462.84).

Renting a house or apartment

The closer the property is to the city center or tourist areas, the higher the rent. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in Bangkok can cost around ฿10,000 – 20,000 per month, while a similar apartment in Chiang Mai can cost around ฿5,000 – 10,000 per month.

Most rental properties in Thailand require a security deposit of two months’ rent and one month’s rent in advance. Some landlords may ask for a minimum lease term of six months or one year.

Buying a house or condo

As a foreigner, you cannot buy land in Thailand. Still, you can purchase apartments and condominiums as a non-citizen. It is also possible to purchase a house and lease the land on which it stands. 

Properties in Bangkok and other major cities and luxury tourist destinations are more expensive than those in smaller towns and rural areas. Most foreign property buyers are drawn to Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin, Koh Phangan and Chiang Mai.

Property prices are the highest in Bangkok but relatively low in Hua Hin.

According to Thailand Property, the average listing price in Chiang Mai is ฿ 4,013,487 ($117,187) for condos and ฿ 10,562,881 ($308,418) for houses. 

The average listing price in Hua Hin is ฿ 8,654,342 ($252,692) for houses and ฿ 7,609,254 ($222,177) for condos.

The average listing price in Bangkok is ฿ 31,096,312 ($907,961)

Food costs

The cost of food can vary depending on where you eat and what you eat. Here’s a breakdown of the food costs in Thailand:

Local food options

One of the best things about living in Thailand is the availability of cheap and delicious local food. Market prices vary, but you can typically find a filling meal for less than 100 baht (around $3). Street food is a popular option for locals and expats alike, with dishes such as pad thai, som tam, and khao pad available for as little as 30-40 baht (less than $2) per dish. Eating at local markets can also be a great option, with various food stalls selling everything from fresh fruit to grilled meats.

If you prefer to eat at restaurants, plenty of affordable options exist. Local Thai restaurants can offer dishes for around 50-100 baht (around $1.50-$3) per dish. More upscale restaurants can charge upwards of 500 baht (around $15) per dish. However, even at these higher-end restaurants, food costs are still relatively affordable compared to Western countries.

Western food options

If you’re craving Western food, you can expect to pay more. A meal at McDonald’s can cost around 150 baht (around $5), while a KFC meal can cost about 120 baht (around $4).

For more upscale Western restaurants, prices can be significantly higher. A meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost around 500-800 baht (around $15-$25) per dish, while high-end restaurants can charge upwards of 1,500 baht (around $50).

Transportation costs

Transportation costs in Thailand vary greatly depending on where you live and how you choose to get around. Here are some options to consider:

Public transportation

Public transportation is affordable and includes buses, trains, and the BTS Skytrain in Bangkok.

The cost depends on the distance traveled and the mode of transportation. For example, a single trip on the BTS Skytrain in Bangkok can cost between 15 and 59 baht (approximately $0.50 to $2), depending on the distance traveled. Bus fares are generally even cheaper, with most trips costing less than 20 baht (approximately $0.65).

If you plan to use public transportation frequently, it may be worth investing in a monthly pass. Monthly passes for the BTS Skytrain start at around 1,000 baht (approximately $32), while monthly bus passes can be purchased for as little as 600 baht (roughly $19).

Buying or renting a vehicle

You will find that both buying and renting a vehicle can be affordable options.

Buying a car may be the best option if you stay in Thailand long-term. A new car can start at around 500,000 baht (approximately $16,000). Used cars can be significantly cheaper, starting at about 100,000 baht (roughly $3,200).

For a short period of time, renting may be a better option. Most rentals start at around 1,000 baht (approximately $32) daily.

Healthcare costs

Healthcare costs in Thailand are generally much lower than in other countries, making it an attractive destination for medical tourism. The country has public and private healthcare systems, and expats can choose between them depending on their visa, budget and preferences.

Public healthcare

The Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS) provides free basic healthcare to all Thai citizens and legal residents, including expats with work permits. However, the quality of care in public hospitals can vary widely, and waiting times for non-emergency procedures can be long. You might need to pay out of pocket for certain services or medications not covered by the UCS.

In most cases, it makes tremendous sense to use the private option. 

Private healthcare

You will get much better quality care and shorter wait times going privately. There are many private hospitals and clinics that cater to expats and medical tourists. 

Some expats pay for their healthcare expenses out of pocket instead of taking out private insurance. The costs can be relatively low, such as $20 for a routine check-up or several thousand dollars for a major surgery. 

However, it’s important to consider the risks and uncertainties of paying out of pocket. Having insurance can provide peace of mind that your healthcare needs are covered.

Having an international plan is the best option if you need to be covered in more than one country. International health insurance can be quite expensive. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

If you are coming on a retirement visa, a private healthcare plan is a must. When you attend your local immigration to exchange your tourist entry visa for a one-year retirement extension, you must have health insurance from an approved Thai insurance provider such as LMG, The Viriyah, Pacific Cross, Falcon, Thaivivat, AXA Insurance Thailand, Navakij, Dhipaya, Asia Insurance, Aetna and Sompo Insurance.

The policy must cover a minimum of 40,000 Baht outpatient and 400,000 Baht inpatient costs.

Utility costs

In most locations, essential utilities such as water, electricity, and garbage services range from $70 to $90 monthly. Internet broadband services are reasonably also cheap throughout Thailand.

For a one-bedroom apartment, expect to pay around 1,500 baht ($45) monthly for electricity and water. If you use air conditioning, the cost will be higher. Air conditioning can add an extra 500 baht ($15) to your monthly bill.

Some apartments in Thailand include utilities in the rent, so clarify with your landlord or real estate agent before signing a lease.

Entertainment costs

What a night out can cost you in Thailand:

  • The average cost of a beer at a bar: ฿80-฿120
  • The average cost of a cocktail at a bar: ฿150-฿300
  • The average cost of a night out at a club: ฿1,000-฿2,000

Outdoor activities

Thailand’s beautiful scenery and warm climate make it an ideal destination for outdoor activities. Here are some estimated costs for outdoor activities in Thailand:

  • A day trip to a national park: ฿500-฿1,000
  • A scuba diving trip: ฿2,500-฿4,000
  • A round of golf: ฿1,500-฿3,000

Final thoughts on the cost of living in Thailand

Thailand is generally considered to be more affordable than many Western countries, with lower costs for housing, food, and transportation.

A single person can expect to spend between $700 and $2,000 per month, while a family of four can expect to spend between $1,500 and $3,500 monthly. These estimates vary depending on the location and include basic expenses such as rent, utilities, food, transportation, and healthcare.

While some areas of Thailand, such as Bangkok and Phuket, can be more expensive than others, there are also many affordable options for those on a budget. For example, Chiang Mai is a popular destination for expats due to its low cost of living and high quality of life.

It is important to note that while Thailand may be more affordable than many Western countries, it is still important to budget carefully. And don’t forget to research Thailand’s visa options and requirements, healthcare options, and other important factors before moving to Thailand.

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