I read many articles about how cheap Bangkok is and how you can live like a king for next to nothing, but is that really true? The fact is that many locals earn as little as 9,000 baht (around $300) a month and still manage to live in Bangkok, but could a typical Westerner survive on such a small amount. Even if the could, would they want to.
In this post, I will go over our typical monthly expenses for a couple living in central Bangkok so you can see for yourself what the real costs are.
Foreigners Vs. Locals
Many people think that just because locals can live on 9,000 baht a month that foreigners should also be able to live on a similar amount if they live just like locals do. While this seems like a plausible argument, it isn’t really the case.
For a start, what about healthcare? Locals can use state hospitals and get charged a token amount of around 50 baht per visit. While foreigners can also use state hospitals, they would have to pay the full amount for seeing a doctor and getting treatment. In Bangkok, a visit to the doctor and some medicine would likely cost a minimum of around 1,000 baht, which is around 20 times what locals would pay.
Another thing that locals have which foreigners don’t is a family support structure. Many locals that earn a low wage are likely to be living with relatives for free. Foreigners don’t have this option.
Thirdly, when it comes to eating, locals tend to use very local places to eat where the menus are in Thai and where the staff only speak Thai. While foreigners can use these places it is very rare for them to do so, as they are mainly outside of the central districts.
And finally, there are visa costs and possible visits back to your home country to visit friends and family. As you can now probably see, it not so easy to live on the same amount as a local can live on.
So, what does it cost us as a couple to live in central Bangkok?
We live in Silom in a nice condo building that’s just 2-3 minutes’ walk from the BTS station. The building is around 8 years old, but one of the best-kept buildings I’ve come across in Bangkok. Usually, the older buildings tend to get a bit run down after a few years.
Our condo is 54 sqm and has one bedroom. We have access to a good fitness room, a swimming pool, a sauna, and three meeting rooms. There is also an outside deck with seating and views over the city. For this, we pay 23,000 baht ($720) a month. As we don’t have a car in Bangkok we were given a 2,000 baht discount from the usual price.
A similar size condo in a new building would cost around 35,000 per month.
We pay an average of 2,000 baht per month for electricity (we use aircon often), 100 baht for water and 1,400 baht for internet and phone packages. So that’s a total of 3,500 baht.
We always eat out for lunch, usually at one of the local restaurants around our condo. A typical lunch for us would be Kaprow Gai (Stir Fry Chicken with Holy Basil) or something similar. The cost is usually around 70 baht each including drinks. So that’s 140 baht per day or 4,200 baht per month.
We usually cook food at home in the evening, although we eat out 2-3 times a week. We do our food shopping mainly at the local market, but also buy a few items at our local Tops Market. We spend around 6,000 baht per month on shopping.
So that’s a total of 10,200 baht per month on food.
This is something that many people think we overspend on, but we are happy to pay for the enjoyment we get from visiting different cafes every day. Our spending can vary from 80 to 200 baht, depending on where we go and what we drink. Today we spent 135 baht, and that is probably the average. So that’s 4,050 baht on coffee
As well as the above, we also average around 100 baht a day buying various snacks and drinks. So that’s an additional 3,000 baht per month.
As neither of us works we don’t have a regular expense for transport. We do get the BTS, MRT, and taxis to various parts of the city though. We spend around 2,000 a month on this.
This is an area where some foreigners spend a large proportion of their money, but as we rarely drink this is an area where our spending is very low. I estimate this to be around 1,000 baht per month.
Total Cost Per Month
So our total cost for living for one month in Bangkok is as follow:
Other Shopping 6,000
Total 46,750 ($1,460)
When I read another cost of living articles they often miss out all the other irregular expenses, and there are many. Six months ago my wife needed an operation on her ankle and this cost us a total of around 180,000 baht. Just that one thing has added an average of 15,000 per month if spread over a year. We both have annual health check-ups that come to around 60,000 baht. Then there are visits to the dentist, visa renewals, weekends away, holidays abroad, new electronics and lots more.
I estimate that our living expenses have averaged around 70,000 to 80,000 per month over the last few years. It is important that you take all the extras into account if you’re planning to move to Bangkok and are working out a likely budget. Laptops, tablets, mobile phones, and other electronics don’t last forever, and if you’re planning to live in Bangkok for an extended period of time you’ll likely need to buy new equipment.
Healthcare costs will likely be higher if you’re older, but whatever your age you need to either buy healthcare cover or make sure you have enough to cover any costs from your savings.
The one thing I can guarantee you is that there will be lots of irregular expenses.
I hope this has given you a good insight into the real cost of living in Bangkok.