Cost of living in Bangkok : How much do you really need ?
I know a lot of you think that Thailand is cheap.
And it’s not completely wrong to assume that.
But while it is still cheaper than most major cities in the world, the cost of living for expats in Thailand can quickly go up.
If you have to pay for your visa, if you’re more into Western food than Thai food, if you go out a lot…
And even though the value for money and the lifestyle you have is amazing in Bangkok and Thailand in general, there’s no doubt that it is getting more expensive overtime.
The good thing remain the large range of options you have.
For everything you want to do, or buy, you can pretty much choose how much you’re gonna spend.
You can have a great coffee for 30฿ or over 200฿, eat street food or indulge at Michelin Restaurants, have small studio apartment in an old residence a 3 bedroom apartment in a brand new condo…
The question is more, how much would you like to spend and where do you want to spend your money?
So to give you an idea of what the cost of living is in Bangkok for an expat, here are my monthly expenses.
Living expenses in Thailand : the 5 main areas
To keep it relevant and short, I’ve break down my monthly expenses in 5 areas that are in my opinion the top 5 expenses for any expat who live in Bangkok :
- Party / Drinks
There’s a lot we could add here, like holidays, tech, school (if you have kids), subscriptions, insurance etc… but to keep it short and simple and give you an overall idea of the cost of living in Bangkok, this will do.
When it comes to accommodation you have endless options in Bangkok.
From a single room off the main streets for 5,000฿ a month to a single room in a brand new condo with a Gym, a Pool and probably a nice rooftop starting from 15,000++ a month.
And there's no limit to how expensive it can get.
Depending on what you can afford, the space you need and the area of Bangkok where you want to live, the price can vary a lot.
For me, as I'm not a fan of the big condos you have everywhere in Bangkok I've recently moved to a small one (with only 8 floors and 300 apartments. Yes, that's small.) and I love to get a gym and a pool, especially when it's not too crowded.
On top of that the location is great.
We're in a quiet soi between Ekamai and Phrakanong and just 5 minutes drive from my co-working space.
For about 56 square meters we pay 20,000฿ a month + 2,000฿ for utilities that we split in two.
That’s only 11,000฿ per month for accommodation. Not bad.
Accommodation : 11,000฿
You could commute with Taxis, Moto Taxis or the BTS and MRT (the Skytrain and Subway) but unless you’re living close to where you work, you’re looking at a lot of time stuck in traffic and at least 100 to 200฿ a day.
With over 30° almost all year long, walking long distance is pretty much out of the question so you need another option.
I bought one for 28,000฿ and every month I spend about 300฿ in gas (only).
And I drive every day.
If you add a few repairs here and there, that's an extra 1,000฿ per month in average.
And that's for me the most convenient way to get to work every day.
Of course it’s not for everyone.
I can understand a lot of people wouldn’t feel like driving here in Bangkok. But honestly, once you get used to it and the way people drive here, it’s really not that bad.
Oh yeah and I don’t drive when I go out. For obvious reasons.
Sometime I also take a cab when I have stuff to carry or when I'm with my friends..
So all together that's probably up to 2,000฿ each month for transportation.
With using my motorbike 95% of the time, a few taxi rides, some Motorbike taxi and BTS when there’s traffic or when I can’t take the bike.
That’s the expense that can easily double or triple from one day to another.
I used to get most of my food from 7 Eleven and Street Food stalls but now that we have a kitchen we cook at home most of the time.
When sticking to Thai Food I was spending about 400฿ a day max. Roughly. Probably a bit less.
Now that we're cooking at home we're probably a bit lower at 300฿ a day, including water.
Then a good restaurant about once a week, with Wine and Cocktails. That's about 1,000฿ extra per week so 4,000฿ extra each month.
Food : around 13,000฿
Party and Drinks
There’s always something going on in Bangkok!
It's great for business and when you got friends in town. Not that much when you're on a budget.
Now, how much you spend is really different from one person to another. It depends how much you drink, the kind of venue you go to...
I can go to Khao San Road and get wasted with 1,000฿ and end up with enough change to pay for the ride home and a ham and cheese sandwich from 7/Eleven.
Or go in bars and clubs in Thonglor, Sukhumvit Soi 11, RCA or even Sathorn and end up spending at least 3,000฿++ for the night.
That's if I don't go to an after party.
It will cost me the same for a Pool Party in Bangkok. And with one every Saturday, the temptation is pretty high.
Usually my drinking expenses depend on how much work I have and how much money I got left that month.
But in average I maybe go out once a week so that’s another 12,000฿ per month.
Party in Bangkok: 12,000฿
If you’re an expat, that’s an expense you can’t avoid and that you can’t neglect either.
Between the visa itself and the visa run you’re often looking at over 30,000฿ a year if you don't have a company that pay for it.
I had tourist visas (x2), a Student Visa of 9 months with Thai Classes (25,000฿ + Visa cost + Extensions + Visa Run, total about 45,000฿).
Then I had a business visa under my company. I was basically an employee of my own business and that cost me a lot.
In total it was close to about 10,000฿ per month for a 12 months visa.
Now I'm back on a Student Visa so between the cost of classes, the visa run and extensions, you're looking at around 5,000฿ a month.
It's better but it still add up at the end of the year.
Visa : 5,000฿
Here's a list of the different visas you have to stay long term in Thailand.
Breakdown of my cost of living in Bangkok:
- Accommodation: 11,000฿
- Transportation: 2,000฿
- Food: 13,000฿
- Party and Drinks: 12,000฿
- Visa: 5,000฿
TOTAL = 43,000฿
For a major city like Bangkok, the cost of living is still quite low. Even for expats.
Of course you could be spending a lot less if you don't go out, if you stick to Thai food and chose to live outside of the main areas of the city.
But that give you an idea of how much you need to live a confortable life in Bangkok.
And with a bit more money you could really improve your quality of live :
- Get Thai Massages once a week
- Try all the fancy restaurants in Bangkok
- Hire a maid once or twice a week
- Pay someone to do your laundry
- Move to a Penthouse overlooking Bangkok
There's really no limit to how much you can spend in Bangkok.
What would be the cost of living in Bangkok for you ?
Of course, the above only applies to me.
But I would say, that’s the minimum you’re looking at, for a quality life in Bangkok.
Can you live with less? Sure.
But what's the point of living in Bangkok if you can't enjoy everything the city and Thailand have to offer. It's not as fun if you can't try new restaurants/activities and take a few weekends off to enjoy the beach.
Based on what I've seen and all the expats I've met over the years, I think 100,000฿ is the sweet spot to live your best life in Bangkok.
That's enough to pay for a nice condo, activities and to try new restaurants and bars frequently. And probably get wasted a lot.
Above 100,000฿ per month that’s money you can save for travels and investments.
Unless you're into luxury stuff, I don’t see how you could spend more than that in Bangkok for normal expenses.
Oh, unless you get that sick penthouse overlooking the city, with a jacuzzi and naked…
Then I guess you can. 😁
And if you want to know how the cost of living compare to other big cities in SEA and the rest of the world, here's a really interesting piece by BK Magazine :
Now if you want to know about the life of an expat in Bangkok, from the visa to the apps you need on your phone, click here.
If you've made it til the end, I really appreciate you taking the time to read the entire post.
So if you've got any question regarding the cost of living in Thailand or in Bangkok, or if you're trying to figure out what would be yours, feel free to ask me anything in the comments.