Cost of Living in Chiang Rai, Thailand – One Month, One Couple, One Dog

How much we spent in one month of living in Chiang Rai, Thailand

After a particularly late night responding to an email from an excited, soon to be expat from the UK thinking about moving to Thailand, we decided to share our actual cost of living in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

imageOriginally we lived in Chiang Mai, now we live here 😀

This post shows a big difference in our spending patterns compared to when we first arrived in Chiang Mai in 2012. Our original post, ’The Real Cost of Living in Thailand’ showed what we spent our money on back then, as freshly made expats trying to find our comfort zone in Chiang Mai. We will explain in more detail what has changed later in the post, but you’ll be happy to hear the total cost of living in Chiang Rai for us, is almost the same as it was over 2 years ago. 🙂

Cost of Living in Chiang Rai September 2014

We documented one calendar month of spending.  One married couple with a 9 year old dog, a 42 year old car and a motorbike, living in a 3 bedroom farm house in rural North Thailand. 

cost of living in chiang rai thailandOur House in Chiang Rai

The results surprised us, we don’t often document how much we spend, so by doing this it opened our eyes once again to how much you can do in Thailand on such a small budget.

We have been laughed at and called liars after a previous post we wrote about living in Thailand for 500GBP per month, people presumed we had made up our figures and didn’t believe it to be imaginably possible for two adults to live on what was regarded as such a small amount per month.    

We will let the latest results of our monthly spending speak for themselves.

Total Monthly Spend

= 29,486.53 THB (563 GBP / 908 USD)

Here are the costs broken down

What we spent our money on:

Household Bills:

House Rent: 7,500 Baht (143 GBP / 231 USD)
This is for a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, furnished house on 5 rai of land consisting of banana and fruit trees.  We live 25 minute drive from the main center of town and the shopping mall. (1 Rai = 40m x 40m or 1600 m2) 

cost of living in chiang rai thailandHouse & Garden, complete with banana trees

Water: 50 Baht (0.95 GBP / 1.20 USD)
This is a private water system that is implemented in our farm village in Chiang Rai. Government water bills are usually higher than this.

Electricity: 969 Baht (18.50 GBP / 29 USD)
We do not have A/C in the house, and find that we do not need it where we live due to having large open tiled rooms and being completely detached from other houses, raised on foundation stilts. We run 3 standing floor fans and one ceiling fan. Have a large fridge, two hot showers and cook using electric hot pots and a mini table oven.

Internet:: 631 Baht (12 GBP / 19.50 USD)
This is for WIFI Broadband internet of 13mbps download and 512kps upload including 1gb free mobile data each month that Sacha uses on her smart phone.

Mobile Phone: 100 Baht (1.90 GBP / 3 USD)
This is how much we top up our Samsung Galaxy Ace android phone each month, which is required for the 1gb data.

Household Bills Total: 9,250 Baht (177 GBP / 285.45 USD)

General living costs:

Food shopping including general household items & toiletries = 8,457.53 Baht (162 GBP / 261 USD)
This consisted of 8x supermarkets shops at a variety of supermarkets, Tops, Rimping and Big C , 3x 7-11 visits and 3x local market shops.

Car Expenses = 4,431 Baht (84 GBP / 136 USD)
This included 1x mechanic visit, 1 small bottle of oil and 5x petrol top ups (our car is 42 years old and uses the most expensive and pure petrol, Benzene 95)

cost of living in chiang rai thailandJ at the Mechanics, getting ready for a road trip 

Petrol prices currently range between 25 – 46 baht per litre depending on the type of petrol that the vehicle takes. As a general guideline, the more Ethanol that is present in the fuel, the cheaper it is, but only converted and newer vehicles can run ethanol mixed fuels without doing damage to the cars fuel systems. Be careful.

Diesel is usually between 30-35 Baht per litre and LPG is around 12-14 baht per litre. We are about to convert our car to LPG to bring fuel prices down significantly. More info about this soon.

MotorBike Expenses = 150 Baht (2.80 GBP / 4.60 USD)
This was for one petrol top up. We don’t use the bike very often.

cost of living in chiang rai thailandJ with the bike 

Drinking Water = 85 Baht (1.60 GBP / 2.60 USD)
We top up large water bottles with reverse osmosis drinking water from machines in various locations. The one nearest us is 1/2baht per liter.

Dog Food = 1,020 Baht (19.50 GBP / 31.40 USD)
We have a 9 year old cocker spaniel. We feed her one can of tinned mackerel or sardines in tomato sauce, combined with pedigree adult dry biscuits each day. As well as daily treats like denta sticks. We have changed Edens diet as she has gotten older to help her maintain a healthy weight and bone density. That is why our dog food prices have risen significantly.

cost of living in chiang rai thailandPeople never believe that Eden is 9 year old! 

Meals Out = 5,248 Baht (100.60 GBP / 161.95 USD)
This includes coffees, breakfast, lunches or dinners in cafes, coffee shops and established restaurants. The monthly cost for this included 8x coffee shop visits, 3x breakfasts, 4x lunches and 2x dinners.  

Laundry = 845 Baht (16.20 GBP / 26 USD)
This included 2 lots of laundry, washed and dried, at our local laundry lady in Chiang Rai.

General Living Costs Total = 20,236.53 (388 GBP / 624 USD)

The general living costs plus the household bills:
20, 236.53 + 9,250 = 29,486.53 Baht


(565 GBP / 909 USD)

This was actually a rather high spend month for us. We drove from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai for a trip and ate out much more than we would normally while we were away from our house. I was surprised, I actually thought the cost would be much more, seeing as we also didn’t budget when we went to the supermarket like we used to. This was us living quite comfortably.

cost of living in chiang rai thailandEating out at a restaurant in Chiang Rai

We do tend to cook at home each day instead of eating out through personal preference.
We live 25 minutes from Chiang Rai’s main town, so having to go into town too often is a bit of a chore after a while and we like to stay home and eat our own food, keeping meals out for special occasions and one offs rather than a regular daily occurrence.

We have a coffee shop in our village which we tend to go to for a cappuccino once or twice a week.  We work from home and so most of our time is spent working in our house or walking our dog through our surrounding farms! 

cost of living in chiang rai thailandOur beautiful surroundings 

The cost of living spending pattern differences from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

We now spend at lot more each week on food shopping.  Our food shopping has gone from under 4,000 baht per month to over 8,000 baht. 

There are reasons for this, one of the main ones being, we are now more aware of what we are eating and what is in some of the cheaper thai foods. (MSG in cheap spices and soy sauces etc)

We have swapped eating the cheap crackers as a snack and replaced them with whole almonds and peanut butter.
We buy a weekly treat of Lindt 70% dark chocolate over the supermarket basic own brand Oreo biscuits and replaced the basic white bread sandwiches for lunch with tuna salads and German rye bread.

cost of living in chiang rai thailandHealthy eating 🙂

We stopped looking at the price tag of everything like we did when we first arrived, only picking up the cheapest items and started looking at the quality of the food we were eating.  
We are still aware of items that are too expensive for regular consumption, such as cheese, and specialist fruits such as blueberries, cherries and grapefruits and reserve those types of purchases for one offs.

We are now more healthier and happier with this way of shopping.  I actually don’t like to eat out too often as I like to know exactly what I am eating and after a couple of days of eating 2-3 times a day in restaurants I quickly start to crave my own food again!

cost of living in chiang rai thailandAs nice as it is to eat out, i do like my home cooking! 

Edens food costs have also risen from 300 baht to over 1,000 baht per month.  When we first arrived in Thailand we fed Eden dry biscuits only which were often the basic brand. 
We now feed her pedigree biscuits and canned fish everyday and her health has improved, it is especially noticeable in her coat which is now incredibly shiny and her ‘dog breath’ is almost completely vanished!

cost of living in chiang rai thailandEden with a denta stick! 

Other costs of living in Thailand

Alcohol & Cheese:
One thing to note is that we don’t drink alcohol very often.  So bottles of wine or beer didn’t find their way into our shopping carts.  This would have pushed our costs up rather considerably if we were regular wine drinkers as a bottle of wine can cost from anywhere between 300 -1000 Baht+ (6 GBP-20 GBP+ / 9 USD-30 USD+ depending on the make)

Cheese, though it is easy to find in most supermarkets, it is also an luxury item in Thailand.  A tiny pot of fresh Parmesan Shavings or 100g of mature cheddar will free your wallet of up to 200 baht with ease. Specialist Blue cheeses like Roquefort can sell for up to 195 – 315 (£3.75 – £6.05) THB for 100g.  Goats cheeses, a firm favourite of ours back in the UK can cost 115 THB (£2.20) for a tiny 60g or up to 635 THB (£12) for 250g. White Cheeses can be more reasonable but prices still range between 125 – 590 THB (£2.40 – £11.54) for 100 – 350g of the good stuff.

Here is a good company we found that sells specialist cheeses and platters in Thailand:

Some of these prices might not be too shocking for those living and earning in the west. But when compared to our other living expenses, cheese and wine budgets do play on the mind. You need to decide how important a role these items play in your life. 🙂 

A thing that still surprises us, even after living in Thailand for 2.5 years is the cost of cars in comparison to everything else.

We recently saw a brand new Mini Van from a showroom that cost 1.8 million baht, (34,500 GBP / 55,500 USD) while you can buy a family house with garden for 1 million(19,000 GBP / 30,500 USD).

If you are thinking of moving to Thailand and putting down some roots here, rather than just travelling through, I would recommend putting aside around 130,000 THB (2,500 GBP / 4,000 USD) for a used car budget. This could get you a decent second hand motor if you look hard enough.  

cost of living in chiang rai thailandOur old car, we like it because it is unique! 

We bought our car for 70,000 THB but then spent further 35,000 THB putting in Air conditioning, tinting the windows and changing the gear box and suspension. 
It was difficult to find cars for less than 100,000 THB when we first arrived.  So if we were to do it all over again, we would definitely look for a car with a bigger budget to find something decent without needing to do so much work on it once you have purchased it.

Here is a great resource for second hand used cars and trucks in Chiang Mai:

If you are keen to find your own Classic Ford you should look at this page first:

And if you would prefer to leave the car selection to trusted professionals this company is worth looking into:


Our monthly spend of 29, 486.53 THB was from a month of us living our life in Chiang Rai, North Thailand with a visit to Chiang Mai, also in the North. 

The costs would be considerably more should we wish to live in the South of Thailand or Bangkok. 
We recently came back from a short trip to Phuket where generally prices are much higher.  

cost of living in chiang rai thailandAs nice as the South is, prices are much more expensive than the North

Our accommodation was reasonable, just 800 baht per night for an air conditioned bungalow on the beach with hot shower, yet this was the only part of the trip where prices were on par with what we are used to in the North.

Meals out and coffees in a cafe are normally double (if not more) the price of what we would pay in Chiang Rai.
One cappuccino costs 50 baht in our local coffee shop which serves good quality Doi Chang coffee from the surrounding hills.
One cappuccino in the Phuket coffee shop was 85 Baht.  But we saw prices for up to 150 Baht for a coffee in other cafes in the town.

A simple Thai dish of stir fried pork & basil with rice can cost you 60 baht or less in Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai where as we didn’t see it for cheaper than 120 Baht in Phuket. 

cost of living in chiang rai thailandPrices range dramatically for this simple Thai dish

This is just something to bare in mind when choosing your location in which to spend an extended time in Thailand.

We hope you future Expats will find this post useful for your research on a big move to South East Asia. Thailand is a great country to live in if you have the right attitude. We have loved living here and would happily call the North our home. 🙂

The above calculations from THB to GBP & USD were done with the following conversions, correct at time of writing (21/10/2014):

1 GBP = 52 THB

1 USD = 32 THB

*Other Useful information

Chiang Rai Facebook Community – A very useful place to find other expats and experts on Chiang Rai City and the province
Pet Friendly Hotels in other parts of Thailand? – Looking for Pet Friendly Hotels in other parts of Thailand?
Bringing a dog to Thailand – The ins and outs of Exporting a dog from the UK to Thailand.
Info we have categorized under Pets – Other Posts Related to Edens Dog Life in Thailand. Including cute dog videos and some Pet Friendly Hotel reviews too.


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We both love coffee! Why not ^treat us^ to a cafe lunch if you found this info useful.

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Jmayel, Sacha & Eden El-Haj

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