Thailand can easily become home for those on a budget as well as those who enjoy living a little larger. There are minute differences that contribute to the overall cost of living in Bangkok, such as a personal preference for eating western food instead of the cheaper Thai options.
It is easy to get carried away with spending in Bangkok since the city has plenty of good western restaurants, a large selection of condos, a wide array of partying venues and options for easier living such as having a maid. However, with some budgeting and careful spending, Bangkok can be lived in quite cheaply.
It is said that most Thais living in Bangkok live off of around 20,000 baht per month. It is suggested that a comfortable cost of living in Bangkok (for an individual) is around 40,000 baht and that anything exceeding that amount makes it easy to live in the city. Living expenses to consider while in Bangkok include housing, utilities, food, transportation, entertainment and other essentials such as a mobile phone.
Bangkok has a large selection of housing to choose from that vary in location and cost. A simple studio apartment can be found for 4,000 baht per month in areas that are slightly further out. Accommodations that are located near the BTS, Bangkok’s Mass Transit System, cost more due to their easy accessibility.
A good apartment in Bangkok can cost anywhere between 8-20,000 baht on average. Expensive condos can cost around 100,000 baht per month. These luxury condos often provide pools, fitness rooms, maid services, room service, restaurants and spectacular views of the city. It is best to pay a little bit more and live close to a BTS Skytrain, since this system of transportation can help reduce monthly expenses. Living near the MRT is also an option (note: the MRT is slightly newer than the Skytrain and generally a more comfortable experience than the BTS).
Electricity and water are the main monthly costs to consider when it comes to apartment living. Water is quite cheap and should only cost a few hundred baht each month. It is sometimes included in the rent, whereas electricity is largely independent of the monthly rate. This will be a significant factor in your overall cost of living in Bangkok.
Electricity costs largely depend on your air conditioner usage. Those that use aircon on a regular basis can expect to pay a few thousand baht more each month. It costs around 6-7 baht per unit of electricity in condo buildings while actual houses tend to cost around 3-5 baht per unit. This bill can creep up on you unexpectedly and hijack your cost of living in Bangkok, so watch out!
Cable TV costs start at around 700 baht a month for a basic plan that includes popular channels such as BBC, CNN, Star Sports, ESPN, Discovery Channel and various movie channels.
Internet is typically included in many condos and costs about 700 baht per month. Other options for Internet include pre-paid Internet cards that cost as little as 400 baht per month. The internet can be surprisingly fast and reliable and is a definite worthy price to pay when considering your overall cost of living in Bangkok.
Food is known to be on the cheaper side in Thailand, especially if you learn how to eat locally. Food can cost around 6,000 baht per month if you can live off of Thai food, which varies from street vendors to small restaurants. Western restaurants cost a lot more than Thai restaurants and are better suited for those who are not living on a tight budget. Thai’s love to eat snacks and snack vendors can be found virtually anywhere at very little cost.
Getting around on a budget in Bangkok is doable with many public transportation options such as the BTS Skytrain and buses. Skytrain’s cost around 15-45 baht depending on the journey. The underground railway, MRT, also costs around the same price.
Ferries and buses are even cheaper and can cost under 10 baht and up to 30 baht depending on the length of your journey. Taxis are the most expensive mode of transport in Bangkok and should only be used with the meter running. They also take longer than other modes of transport due to Bangkok’s heavy traffic. Motorcycle taxis are commonly used to reach nearby locations and cost between 10-30 baht depending on the trip.
Entertainment is perhaps the easiest way to spend your money in Bangkok. Bangkok is bursting with nightlife options and party animals can spend upwards of 10,000 baht each month just for partying the night away. Some spend that amount in a single night. If you are careful with your spending and only go out on the weekends or an odd night then it is possible to spend around 3-4,000 baht per month on moderate partying.
The minimum cost of comfortable living for younger residents is around 30,000 baht per month. While it can be cheaper to live in a tiny apartment in a rural area and surviving off of instant noodles and local liquor, it is not comparable to the more comfortable and enjoyable lifestyle that 30,000 baht a month can provide.
Mobile phone plans in Thailand are often purchased through a provider and go by a fixed monthly rate or prepaid card options, which can be purchased at 7-11. Phones must be purchased at full price since there aren’t any contracts available. Cheaper phones can be purchased at MBK (Mahboonkrong) Shopping Center and can cost as little as 1,000 baht for a simple model.
The main carriers in Bangkok include True, DTAC and AIS. A popular pre-paid credit plan is the One-2-Call package provided by AIS. You can purchase refill (“top-up”) cards at 7-11’s for as little as 300 baht per refill. Those who use Internet on their phones are better off finding a suitable post paid plan that features internet functions, with starting prices of around 700 baht per month.
Those with families should consider the costs of housing that is close enough to the city to commute to work, as well as education for the children, insurance and more.
It is ideal to live in the city center if you have a family since it is easier to commute with public transportation. Sathorn is a popular area for families and rent costs around 20,000 baht per month with electricity being an additional 4-5,000. Another good area for those with children is Phra Khanong. Both these locations are more ideal than Asoke, Silom and Sukhumvit since those areas tend to be very loud and crowded. Bangkok has plenty of international schools and several are located in the Sukhumvit area, which is easy to access via BTS.
The best tips for spending less in Bangkok are to eat locally, travel cheaply and avoid partying for at least 5 nights of the week. Additional expenses when living in Bangkok can also include Visa runs and saving up for international travel, such as visiting family back home or taking a holiday. These additional travel expenses, while not technically in Bangkok, can increase the overall cost of living in Bangkok.
If you’re a single traveler, you should consider teaching in Thailand as well!