For a couple of years prior to moving to Thailand I kept reading in different blogs about being able to live in Thailand for $500 a month!
I was completely excited at the possibility of living somewhere in this day and age for that kind of money.
When you travel, you always like to get as much value for your money as possible, and Thailand seemed like the best place in the world for that.
Well here’s some news for you:
You can’t live on $500 a month in Thailand!
Let me rephrase that a little bit actually…..
You can’t live a decent, comfortable life and do everyday things on $500 a month in Thailand.
It’s possible to actually get by on $500 a month – eating $1 street food meals(which is some of the best food in the world if you ask me), sleep in $2 – $5 a night dorms/hotels and don’t plan on doing much else.
Now, some of you may be thinking how do the locals survive when the average wage is so low per month?
Well, that’s where the local price vs Farang(foreigner price) comes into effect.
If tourists paid the local prices for accommodation, food, drink, tours and everything else, then yes, I definitely think $500 a month would be sustainable.
But we don’t get the local price, and therefore we would struggle to survive on $500 a month.
So how much do you need to get by comfortably?
This is a relative question in my opinion and differs from person to person and lifestyle to lifestyle.
A backpacker could live on a much tighter budget than someone who’s there for a week or two on a sightseeing holiday – in theory.
It doesn’t always work out that way.
If you’re interested in finding out how much we’ve spent here on a typical month by month basis then read on…..
At the end you’ll get a rough idea of what a monthly budget would get you if you plan to live here.
Bear in mind, that we’ve spent 3 months here in Phuket, and it’s considered to be the most expensive part of the country – for obvious tourist reasons.
Bangkok is on average cheaper, and Chiang Mai(our next destination – we head there in a few days) is even cheaper again.
Ok, so straight off the bat, if you’re deciding to base yourself in Phuket, you’ll have a few considerations to decide on.
1. Accommodation options
2. Transport options
I’m going to give you the figures as to what we’re paying per month.
We wanted something that was going to be comfortable for us with the fact that we would be working online a lot.
Having a decent table and chairs was a high priority for us, as was having a bedroom that was separate.
We didn’t want the all in one studio apartment set up.
The best thing we did was drive around on our scooter for a few days and checked out various places.
Get an idea of the area you want to stay, do some research online and then go and visit the properties.
For our 1-bedroom condo that has a communal swimming pool and fitness gym attached we pay €387 a month = €290.
We walked into the office one day, and we were quoted $500 for the month – to which we declined.
Florence then had the bright idea to just ring them up a few days later as if we were a “fresh” enquiry, and suddenly the price was $387 per month.
We jumped at it straight away.
Now we could have stayed in other places for about $200 a month and more expensive places, but we wanted something that both suited our budget, and had what we were looking for – amenities wise.
On top of the monthly rent, we also have to pay water, electricity and internet charges.
We have 12mb internet from 3BB- which comes to €10/$13 a month. Our water and electricity comes to another €10/$13 a month.
This brings our total bill for rent and additional charges to €310/$414 each month!
I know a lot of people think that riding a scooter is dangerous – and yes it is, extremely(if you’re not careful)
However, without using one out here then you are going to have to rely on taxis, and expensive ones at that.
You could opt for a car, but with the crazy traffic, you’d spend so much time waiting in traffic jams that you’d go insane.
That’s why a scooter is the best choice all round.
So, we had initially planned on buying a bike and then selling it when we ended up leaving Thailand.
In the end, we opted to just rent one from an Austrian guy who rents them out at $125 a month.
Yes, it’s a lot when you think about it. We heard of others getting them for $75, and locals get them at $50 I believe(maybe I’m wrong there).
We wanted to have our own mode of transport and be able to go wherever we wanted on the island.
This is going to be a big spender as well – depending on whether you like eating local food and meals from local restaurants, or eat in the tourist ones.
For us, we’ve done both plenty of times.
Meals in Thailand are cheap – full stop.
You can go and get a nice Pad Thai for about $0.50 to $1 and a delicious Thai Green Curry(personal fav) for $1-$2.50
Instead of rambling through various prices for food and other general things, I’ll just insert them below. Bear in mind this is an average price. You can get cheaper and more expensive, depending on where you are.
Bottle of water: $0.20
Loaf of bread: $0.20
Liter of Milk: $0.75
12 massive bananas: $1
1Kg fresh Pineapple(cut): $2.20
Fresh Coconut: $0.50
Cinema ticket: $4
1kg Rice: $0.75
12 Eggs: $1
1Kg Chicken breasts: $2.50
1Kg Apples: $0.70
Pint of Domestic Beer: $1 – more in pubs obviously
Pint of Imported Beer: $3-$5
Can of Soft Drinks: $0.20
Packet of Cigarettes(Marlboro): $2
Packet of 200 cigarettes on black market: $4
Laundry(1kg weight): $1
Cereal: $5 (expensive for this item -but it’s imported)
Gym 1 month membership: $60-$80. The gyms are serious over here.
Tours/Excursions: Vary from $10 to $100+ depending on what you’re going to see and for how long etc.
1 hour Thai massage: $5
Full tank of petrol for scooter: $4.50 – this lasts about 2-3 weeks depending on how much you use it.
There are plenty of other items I could stick in there, but you get the gist of things.
Overall, it’s ridiculously cheap compared to back home. There’re certain items that are just as expensive as back home, but you can get around those.
We don’t drink much ourselves, so that price tag hasn’t affected our overall monthly bill. On average we’ve spent $250 a month on food. That’s with eating breakfast and lunch in our apartment, and going out for food in the evening.
So far that brings us up to about €537/$719 for the month.
In addition to this, we’d spend $10 each on mobile interest, another $20 for skype credit to ring home etc, €30/$39 on cinema and other miscellaneous things(massages, clothes, tours, etc)
Overall, adding up all these costs gives us an estimated total of €823/$1,100.
Obviously this isn’t an exact figure, and it does fluctuate from month to month.
Now, some of you might be thinking “Hold on a second, $500 isn’t a sustainable budget for one person but $1,100 is fine for 2 people for a month?”.
However, as you know travelling in a group or as a couple cuts down the overall expense.
We could obviously spend less than $1,100 a month or a lot more.
This is the sweet spot for us so far. If we want to do a tour, then we do it.
Hopefully this post has given some insight into the cost of living in Phuket.
It’s definitely more affordable than back in Ireland for general day to day living.
It all boils down to personal preference and taste at the end of the day. Some people would like to spend less, while other would like to spend more.
If you wanted to splash out and have a fancy pad etc, then your could really enjoy yourself with $2,000 a month.
Chiang Mai is the next stop, and we’ll be there for at least a month.
That will bring us up to around Christmas. We have no plans yet as to where we will be for Christmas, but we could float on over to Laos via the slow boat and proceed to Vietnam and Cambodia after that.
This is really interesting. I’d always been a bit skeptical of all those blogs telling me I could live for $500 in Thailand. Thanks for shining the light on the situation and breaking down the numbers. Your estimates of activities etc. sound very much in line with what my partner and I would want to do, so it’s good to have a clear picture of what it really should cost. Thanks!
Yeah Sam, it’s definitely cheap, but not $500 a month cheap. 😉
Sam I have to say Carlo is right on the money for the prices in Phuket for a short stay, many towns offer better value particularly for those staying a few months.
It’s important what wishes and needs you have. 500 $ a week can be little in many cases.
If you lived on the street like a hobo, then 500 $ would seem luxury.
For a “normal life” it’s way too little. In my opinion.
Some travelers like sleeping in hostels, dorm rooms and they’re pretty much low tech and miss out on a lot of things that cost more money.
Totally agree with you on that. My view is if you can travel but not enjoy the experience then it’s not really worth it. But other people would disagree with us, and they prefer to rough it(as that’s the experience they want from it).
Each to their own anyways. But for $1,500 a month you can have a very decent quality of life in thailand – going from my own personal experiences.
I am moving to thailand this july to teach english and will be staying for a year. After reading what some of you have said I’m a bit worried. For the first month I will be attending school at ITTT to get my tesol certificate. I will then look for a job teaching which I’m told is very easy and quick to find. I have only saved $1,500 to live on for 6-8 weeks, what advice can you give?
What has you worried? You’ll be able to survive for 6-8 weeks on $1500 but it will depend on your accommodation and food/drink/entertainment choices that you make as well.
What advice are you specifically looking for mate?
It is a shame that you started off in Phuket as this is the most expensive place in Thailand to live, even minimum wage is a lot higher than Bangkok.
You are correct that living in Phuket on arriving in Thailand with $500 a month is near impossible, as you demonstrate. What Phuket lacks in price is made up for in convenience, I had somewhere decent to live and a motorbike within a few hours straight off the plane. Outside of Phuket and any of the other tourist traps, $500 is more than doable, $600 is a number that is easy to do.
Moving from one town to another each month will also keep your expenses high, not just for the transportation, more for the type of accommodation you can find. Staying 3 months plus in a town will find you a lot closer to the $500 mark. As I see you will be in Chiang Mai next come visit me in Chiang Rai I would be happy to show you around and how you can live very well for a lot less. 089-263-8286
Could you change the banner to “You can’t live in Phuket” instead of Thailand 🙂
Thanks for the comment Neale. I moved to CM after Phuket back end of November and stayed for 2 months before travelling around the rest of S.E Asia for 3 months after that. Currently in Uruguay 🙂
Hope you’re keeping well and safe travels.
My wife and I are thinking of moving to Thailand in December. We have a 9 year old son. My question is, would 151,000B per month be enough to live comfortably in Phuket? I want to send my son to an international private school.
Hi Philip. Thanks for stopping by. 151,000B converts to roughly USD $4,600.
Now, unless ye’ve got a really extravagant lifestyle planned for Thailand then that amount should be more than enough for ye to get by in Phuket.
While I can’t comment on the education system and prices – I do know that living month to month in Phuket can be pretty cheap.
Are you looking to move permanently to Thailand? How have you sorted your visas etc?
My boyfriend and I have recently done the TEFL course and are going to Panong at the end of December. This is where we will be spending NYE and from here we would like to travel and see where to begin. We are looking for somewhere cheap to live, has schools to work at, and definitely on the coast, and not too overcrowded. That is all we are concerned about. We are from South Africa so $500 is a lot of money to us. any places you can recommend?
Congrats on taking the first steps. It’s hard to do so, but the rewards are limitless in the long term.
Regarding places to live in Phuket, there are so many that your best bet would be to spend a few days when you get there and just hop on a scooter and look around.
You’ll find tons of places that would be perfect for ye.
Can I ask whereabouts the apartment you guys rented in Phuket was and do you have any pictures? Were you walking distance to restaurants / beaches or did you have to use the bike to get everywhere?
Apologies – I’m only after seeing this comment now. Did you get sorted with an apartment? If not, I’d be happy to help you out with any info you need. 🙂
Florence Murphy, I am interested in finding an apartment near the coast in Thailand. May I take you up on your gracious offer for information? Currently I am living on the water in Subic Bay, and my rent is about $200 USD a month. I am looking at Phuket to live a year or so. I thoroughly enjoyed Koh Samui the last time I was in Thailand. What can you tell me or can you direct me to a site that will offer comparisons?
Nice to hear from you. Unfortunately, I don’t have any contacts for Phuket right now as this post was written a few years ago and the lady I dealt with has since stopped working in real estate. I do, however, have contacts for Chiang Mai but I understand that you’re looking for something on the coast.
What part of Phuket are you thinking of basing yourself in? I have a friend that’s just back from Rawai and he found a nice apartment there for a reasonable price (not $200 cheap though!). Let me know what area you’re thinking of and I’ll do some digging for you.
All the best,
Hi Carlo and Florence!
If you guys have anytime, do you think you could pop me an email?
My boyfriend and I are currently living in London but wanting to move – we’re both from South Africa and the cold is just too much! We’re planning on doing a TEFL course and heading over in March, doing a month of traveling and then doing the teaching stint.
Two things I’d like to chat about: A bit more detail about cost of living and finding places to stay etc, and then also just some suggestions (and advice) on what you suggest we do for our month of travel? We just want to get a basic idea on costs and how much we need to have saved before this is something we can actually set our hearts on.
Any help would be great!
Thanks in advance,
Awesome thanks for this detailed post. My husband and I are going to be travelling to Thailand and wasn’t sure how much to budget. We are coming from Australia so I would say we are similar in lifestyle to what you would be doing.
We were also recommended to hire a scooter off a friend from the US who was there. Have heard some horror stories about scooters in Thailand but I guess it could happen anywhere too!
You’re welcome Angeli. Hope you have a great time in Thailand. We miss it a lot over there, but someday soon we’ll return for another stint.
Yes, be careful on those scooters. It’s definitely unnerving at times driving out there.
This is a really informative post. I have been giving serious consternation for a few years of leaving the concrete jungle of NYC and spending a few months in Phuket. To be honest, the movie The Beach has really inspired me (I realize it’s just a movie), as well as talking to others who have done it and reading their experiences.
My plan is to save roughly $6,000 and then go to Phuket. I do have a few questions that I haven’t seen the answers to. First is where do you store the money you leave from your perspective country with, and how do you access it when you arrive? Does Phuket have the major global banks there? I would assume they do. Secondly, in your (or anyone else’s) estimation, would roughly $6,000 be enough to live in Phuket for 3 months semi-comfortably to very comfortably (nightlife, good food, etc.)? That would be including flight from the USA both ways. I have no idea how much the flight would be.
I really think I am going to do this in the upcoming months. I am so tired of being surrounded by concrete. The happiest I ever was in my life was on a cruise to Bermuda 15 years ago.
Anyway, thanks for all the great info!
Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
Glad you found the post useful.
To answer your questions:
1. We use paypal and a combination of bank accounts/credit cards.
Because we work online, we get paid via Paypal and therefore we transfer money into our accounts through that.
2. Not sure about major global banks…I would assume there would be a few, but not entirely sure about it.
3. $6,000 for one person to live for 3 months in Phuket including flights might be pushing it a little bit. Again, it all depends on your lifestyle and what you want to do/see.
Phuket is a little bit more expensive than the rest of Thailand, so you’d need to make sure you budget properly and try and stick to it as best as possible.
Depending on the time of year you go there at, you might be able to get cheaper accommodation too.
Hi, I loved reading this blog, very detailed information. I just wanted to pick your brain as I’m planing to move to Phuket most likely Chalong region next year for about 6 months and I will be taking £10k this equates to $13k. Do you think this will be enough for a single person to live comfortably?
Also I wanted to know how I got about applying for visa for such a long period of time?
That sounds like more than enough money to me for a single person to live comfortably. The cost of living in Phuket has risen in the past few years but I still think you’ll be able to enjoy a great lifestyle on that budget. I would recommend getting a scooter if you’d be comfortable driving one as it’s the best and cheapest way of getting around.
About the visa, we got a six month multiple entry visa. You should be able to apply for that from your home country and get it sorted before you arrive in Thailand as you cannot get it when you’re there.
You can find out more info about the visas on the Thai embassy website. Thailand is amazing and it’s such a great place to spend 6 months. Let us know if you’ve any more questions. 🙂