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.