Cost of Living in Thailand Part I

Originally posted on February 21, 2010

Note: This was originally posted many years ago and things of course have changed. Many of the costs are the same as posted but others have inflated. To be safe it would be best to add 10% – 20% on the prices mentioned here.


One of the biggest questions we had before retiring in Thailand was how much would it cost us?  And the second questions was, would my Social Security pension be enough to live on here?  Everyone is different.  I know someone who is perfectly content to live on ฿10,000 a month. Then there are others where $10,000 a month wouldn’t be enough.  For some people Social Security is more than sufficient and others will have to supplement their pensions with investments and savings.

So instead of trying to answer those questions for you I thought I would break down our living expenses and let you know what we, and friends we know, pay for stuff.  That might help give you an idea of what you will need to live here.  Be aware that prices in Bangkok can be lots more than what we are quoting here and they can also fluctuate (that usually means “go up”) wildly.  The prices given are what we generally experience in Chiang Mai, the country’s second city.

All the prices we give are in Thai baht.  You can see the daily exchange rate on the first page of


The big question is “To Buy or Not to Buy”.  Foreigners can own a condo, and they can own a house, but they cannot own the land that the house is on.  Some people need to own things and they look for loopholes in the Thai legal system where they can “own” property here.  Others are content to rent.  My advice, at least when you first get here, is to rent.  (Go to for a longer discussion of Thai real estate.)

You can rent or buy just about any level of accommodation imaginable, from a guest house room, to a dormitory, to a one room condo, or a luxurious high rise, to a nice house in the suburbs, to a mansion in the heart of town.  It will all depend on your needs and finances.  You get what you pay for of course so the prices here are estimates and given in a range.  The larger cities will be more expensive, the small towns cheaper.

Guest house –   Cost depends on if you are in a tourist center and how close to the action you are.   Some places may have monthly rates which would be cheaper than daily rates.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿200 – ฿600 per day

Dormitory –      You can find these near colleges and universities.  Will definitely have no-frills but will have all the good and bad of living in a dormitory.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿1,000 – ฿2,000 per month

Small condo –   Usually rented by the month, are quite a bit higher scale than the dorm rooms, but still very basic.  One room condos are usually about 36-45sq ft.  Cooking is usually not permitted but they may have a refrigerator.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿2,000 – ฿3,500  per month
  • Cost to buy:  ฿1,000,000 – ฿2,000,000
  • Service fee (for owners) : ฿500 per month

Apartments –    Thailand has many nice condo apartments for sale and rent.  These will have air conditioning, security systems and guards, swimming pools, exercise rooms, etc., and be close to shopping and restaurants.  The upscale Bangkok apartments can be rather pricey but will be quite comfortable.  Of course there are luxury apartments for lots more.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿7,000 – ฿15,000  per month
  • Cost to buy:      ฿2,500,000 – ฿10,000,000
  • Service fee (for owners): ฿1000 per month

Houses – There are many three bedroom, 2 bathroom house in compounds both for rent and sale. These will usually have a living room , kitchen ,and small dining area, and have a small yard and garden.  There are also many upscale housing compounds where houses can rent for many times higher.  Many compounds, especially the higher scale, will have swimming pools, exercise rooms, 24 hour guards, and CCTV.

  • Cost to rent:     ฿10,000 – ฿30,000  per month
  • Cost to buy:      ฿3,500,000 – ฿10,000,000
  • Service fee (for owners): ฿1000 per month


Whether you own or rent you will still need to pay for utilities.  These include garbage pickup, water, telephone, and electricity.  Each household will use these utilities differently so I’ll just say what we pay.  There are 2 of us and we live in a 4 bedroom house in a small compound.  These are monthly rates.

  • Garbage pickup – ฿20
  • Water – ฿1,200
  • Electricity Cool season – ฿1,500
  • Electricity Hot season (using Air con) – ฿2,000