In Thailand, expats can experience an ideal combination of convenience and modern luxuries. They can enjoy a sensible cost of living that is cheaper than many other expat destinations around the world. The 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey ranked Bangkok as the 105th most expensive city in the world out of 227 cities surveyed. Expats lured abroad by multinational corporations with offices in Thailand – most likely in Bangkok or one of the nearby manufacturing cities – earn high salaries, even by Western standards. Expats generally find themselves better off financially once they have moved.

Those hired from within the country, such as real estate agents, international school teachers and IT specialists, tend to earn slightly less than corporate expats but can still manage a comfortable lifestyle while saving. Even English teachers and low-skilled professionals with a minimal income report a high quality of life because of the affordable cost of living.

However, it should be noted that due to the low rate of urbanisation in the country, the cost of living can be quite different from one region to another. The most expensive areas are undoubtedly the main expat areas in Bangkok and the tourist hubs of Phuket and Kho Samui. Prices in the more rural regions can easily be two to three times cheaper.


Cost of accommodation in Thailand

Prices for accommodation range quite dramatically throughout the country, depending largely on location. Luxurious beach villas in Phuket or Kho Samui can have high monthly rental rates, and large condos or serviced apartments in Bangkok can be even pricier.

If prices like these don’t fit into an expat’s budget, mid-range accommodation is available. In Bangkok, it’s possible to get a townhouse or furnished apartment in a complex, complete with a swimming pool, an ultra-modern gym and security for a reasonable price. Accommodation of this kind can also be found outside the capital city, where more luxury and space can be enjoyed for the same price.

Finally, for those living on a limited budget, modest studio apartments throughout Bangkok and Thailand are available for rental at bargain prices.


Cost of transport in Thailand

Whether budgeting for a bus fare, a weekend holiday to the beach or a cab ride around the corner, transport in Thailand offers some of the best bargains.

The cheapest way to travel long distances is by bus or minivan. Trains are a bit pricier and slower than buses, but they offer greater cabin comfort and a sleeper option for overnight trips. The quickest way to travel is to catch a domestic flight.

Travelling costs within city areas are low to moderate. Expats can use relatively cheap taxis or save even more with other public transport options such as the Skytrain or subway, especially during rush hour. Bus ride prices differ depending on the distance travelled and whether the bus has certain facilities like air conditioning.

Finally, to avoid an uncomfortable long walk on a hot day, motorbikes and tuk-tuks are fantastic options. They charge small fees depending on the distance passengers travel.


Cost of education in Thailand

Expats who move to Thailand with children will most likely send them to an international school. Located almost entirely in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket, international schools are recognised for their high standards of education and impressive campuses, but this comes at a price, even in Thailand.


Cost of eating out and entertainment in Thailand

One of the first things expats in Thailand notice is the impressive variety of restaurants and street food. It doesn’t cost much to buy a quick snack from a street stall selling BBQ chicken, pork on sticks, papaya salad or some other Thai delicacy. A full meal of rice, meat and vegetables from a streetside vendor isn’t too hard on the wallet either.

Of course, plenty of establishments also cater to the needs of refined palates. Upmarket restaurants in the expat areas of the main cities or on the islands offer multiple-course meals, and hotels are known for their amazing international buffets. These experiences are generally costlier.

A night out on the town can be highly affordable for those happy to limit themselves to locally brewed beers. Wine can be pricey, and expats who favour imported alcohol will quickly find that drinking becomes an expensive habit. As with restaurants, the more upmarket the nightclub, the higher the drink prices.


Cost of groceries in Thailand

Expats who choose to eat at home in Thailand will stretch their bucks even further, as groceries are largely affordable. Fresh produce, poultry, seafood and bread are all relatively inexpensive. That said, expats who want to enjoy imported Western-style brands will have to shell out. Other expensive items include milk, cheese and wine. 


Cost of healthcare in Thailand

As a budding medical tourism destination, Thailand offers excellent and affordable healthcare. Expats are legally required to have medical insurance when they are working in Thailand. Those who are lawfully employed in the country are eligible for coverage under the Universal Coverage Scheme (UCS), which is funded through monthly salary deductions. 

While the UCS offers access to healthcare in Thailand, it has its limitations, and for that reason, most expats choose to purchase private health insurance. This is still relatively affordable, but the cost will vary depending on the policy one chooses, as well as their health status and age. 


Cost of living in Thailand 

Prices vary depending on product and service provider across Thailand – these are the average costs for Bangkok in September 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent in a good area)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

THB 26,200

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

THB 12,000

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

THB 60,400

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

THB 31,000

Groceries

Dozen eggs

THB 73

Milk (1 litre)

THB 60

Loaf of bread (white)

THB 60

Chicken breasts (1kg)

THB 114

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

THB 150

Utilities/household

Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and data

THB 500

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

THB 534

Basic utilities (average for a standard household)

THB 3,033

Eating out and entertainment

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant 

THB 1,000

Big Mac Meal

THB 200

Cappuccino

THB 77

Coca-Cola (330ml)

THB 21.22

Local beer (500ml)

THB 80

Transportation

Taxi rate per km

THB 40

City-centre train fare

THB 44

Petrol (per litre)

THB 39.54

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