The Real Cost of Living in North Thailand

Can you live in Thailand on £500 Pounds per month? 

One couple’s monthly spending – We document our total outgoings for one month for a look at the real cost of living in North Thailand

Before we came to Thailand I searched the internet for information on the real cost of living in Thailand, trying to work out a budget and how much money we would need for the move.  I found almost nothing of any use to us.

So for a whole month, we decided to record our spending throughout June, for any others that may be looking for the information that I was.
A real look at the cost of living in *North Thailand.
*South Thailand is about 3 times more expensive  

Thailand was always top of our list to come to live due to the ‘cheapness’ compared to UK.
Back home a meal out for the two of us at a Thai restaurant would cost us around £45 without alcohol.  Here, a meal out costs around £3.50 for 2 main dishes, a side dish and a couple of bottles of water.
A trip to the cinema in the UK is almost £20, add on another £10 if we wanted to get the whole movie experience and get drink and some popcorn. Here, it costs less than £9.00 for the both of us with popcorn and drinks.

Days out in the UK became few and far between as the price of petrol soared and we could no longer afford to go on our weekly trips to the coast to capture landscape photos.  A full tank of petrol for our tiny 1.1 fiat went up from around £26 to almost £50 since 2010, With petrol prices up to a huge £1.50 per litre.
Petrol in Thailand right now is 0.70p for a litre of fuel.

The main cost difference for us living in Thailand, is the property rental.  
Our one bedroom 1st floor flat / apartment in England, tiny bathroom and no garden or outside space was £500 per month plus bills…council tax, electricity, water, TV, internet, telephone…totaling to around £900 all in.  

Here in Chiang Mai it’s a different story entirely.  We have signed the lease on a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom detached house, with large garden for our dog, complete with pond.  Fully furnished with air conditioning, all for £205 per month INCLUDING bills and internet! A massive £700 saving each month.   

cost of living in thailand

Obviously Thailand isn’t some magical country where everything is dirt cheap and everyone lives like kings, bloated on cash.
As soon as you want something from the West, jam, butter, cheese, wine, even cereal. You have to pay for it – for example, I can’t face paying over 200 baht (£4.00) for a small box of weetabix or cornflakes but there are always alternatives.

That’s what living in a different country is all about – it’s a change from the norm.  Paying 3 times as much for something than you normally would at home, just because it is familiar to you, for me, just doesn’t make sense.  So you seek out an alternative, our cereal breakfasts have been replaced with yogurt, fresh fruit or eggs and toast. 

We visit the local food market at least once a week.  Buying certain fruits and vegetables from the market is so much cheaper than at a supermarket. But often the cost of regular vegetables is the same at both places, so we shop at both when we stock up the house. That is something you would only find out once you are here.

Cost of Living Chiang Mai – June 2012

So here is the breakdown of our outgoings from last month:

Rent on our 3 bed house – 7,500 baht (detached, garden, fully furnished, 11km from city centre)
Household Bills:
Electricity – 1037 baht
Water – 150 baht
Internet – 900 baht (3BB 9Mbps / 1Mbps Download / Upload)
Two cinema tickets and a large drink – 230 baht (went on a Wednesday night) 
Petrol for our MK1 Ford Escort car – 2900 baht (88 litres/2.5 tanks of fuel) 
Weekend away – 2 nights in a hotel in Pai – 1488 baht
7 meals out at cafes/restaurants – 1650 baht
Drinking water – 55 baht (refilling bottles at 1 baht per litre machines)
Food – 3467 baht (combination of  supermarkets and local markets)
Dog food/treats – 393 baht
Toiletries – 330 baht (shower gel, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet roll)
Postage for letters to the UK – 150 baht (sent 3 letters)
Laundry – 570 baht
Unexpected car repairs – 2050 – (new front brakes lines, fluid & calipers)

Total = 22,770 Thai Baht / 474 GBP* / 734 USD*

* using an exchange rate of 48 baht/GBP and 31 baht/USD – correct at time of writing.
cost of living in thailand
Electricity bill in Thailand 

A couple of points:
I have mentioned petrol and repairs for the car – car prices in Thailand was one of the biggest shocks for us when we got here, we had no idea that second hand cars would cost as much as they do.

So the car was something that we hadn’t really budgeted for and ate away most of our savings, however having a vehicle and our own transport was essential for us, especially as we are travelling with our dog.
We bought the car for 70,000 baht and then we paid an extra 15,000 to have A/C fitted. (Most cars will already have AC, but ours was a 40 year old car) After a few weeks it needed to have some work done on the rubber bushes, tyres and wheel bearings which cost 2750 baht in total.
Cars are expensive, yet the repairs and spare parts are cheap in Thailand, much cheaper than in the UK. As long as you can find a mechanic you can trust not to rip you off.
Also the compulsory car insurance and tax is VERY cheap in comparison to the UK. Expect to pay just over 600 baht (£12) for annual car tax and the same for basic compulsory government car insurance. (Cars over 15 years old can not be insured comprehensively, only compulsory and 3rd party cover is allowed for older vehicles at the time of writing)

cost of living in thailand

We were looking for a car under 80,000 baht and it put us in a small bracket – there are not many cars for sale in this price range that are in a decent driving condition or aren’t made completely of rust and the ones that are in good condition get sold very quickly.  
We found there was more choice of second hand cars once you look at around 100,000-120,000 baht.  If you want a car that needs no work and in good condition then it will more likely be somewhere in the 200,000-300,000 baht price range.
To buy a brand new car, expect to pay 500k–2 million baht+  
So this is something that needs to be factored in if you are considering buying your own transport here.
Mopeds or Manual geared bikes can be found from anywhere between 12,000 – 30,000+ second hand.  
Buying a brand new bike will set you back 30,000-100,000+ baht.     

Another point to make, it is very rare that Jmayel & I drink alcohol, so the price that is written down for meals out includes no alcoholic beverages.  Instead it covers juices, shakes, water, tea and coffee.

cost of living in thailand

Alcohol can be cheap though with a large bottle of Thai beer (600ml) costing around 50 baht, a small bottle of beer around 25-30 baht. Cocktails can be found for 100-120 baht.

Our cost of living that is shown above is real, for 2 people and a dog. 
We haven’t left anything out and it covers everything that we have needed to live here for the last month, as well as a few extras, like the trip to the cinema and a weekend away. 

A comfortable life can be achieved in North Thailand on £500/$785 a month.  With even just an extra £100/$150 or so a month, you can live a very nice, full life in Thailand.  The extra 4,800 baht can go a long way! 
It just depends on your expectations.  Obviously if you wanted to go out and eat at the best restaurants every night, want to hire a cleaner/gardener/nanny/cook or buy Western products and home comforts then your monthly outgoing will be a lot more!   

We always try to remember, we are living in Thailand, not UK/USA.  So we try not to compare everything to back home and are enjoying living the Thai Life.

** All prices/costs correct at time of writing **

*Other Useful information

Pet Friendly Hotels in 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.


Did you find this post helpful? Thank us with Coffee and Cake


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

Jmayel, Sacha & Eden El-Haj

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