Cost of living
Bangkok is a big, bustling, and busy city in the heart of Thailand. With an estimated 8 million residents, the majority of the population are Thais but there is also a large expat community of British, Americans, Australians, Kiwis, Europeans, Japanese, Singaporean, Canadians & many other nationalities. Expats are attracted to Thailand because of the cheaper cost of living, tropical climate, exotic food, and the more laidback lifestyle on offer.
In Bangkok, the cost-of-living ranges astronomically. You can see the diversity as you walk the streets – with luxury high rise apartments and shopping malls on one block, while poorer slums and makeshift homes line the next. It’s up to you to determine your own living situation, and this guide will give you a brief introduction to some typical expenses.
Rent or buy?
For a newcomer to Thailand, the easiest choice is to rent. If you plan to stay long term, buying is an option but beware that foreign nationals are restricted from owning land in Thailand. The workaround is to purchase a condominium, which is eligible for foreigners to own outright.
Property types available are: Apartments, Condominium (also known as Condos), houses and townhouses.
Rent is typically paid monthly, and you will find most expats renting a condo that ranges in price from 5,000 baht for a small apartment with a fan, to upwards of 250,000+ baht at the most prestigious high rises in the city. Generally, a suitable two to three-bedroom apartment can be found around 50,000 baht a month, depending on the city district. We can assist to help you find a suitable home to suit any budget, so get in touch and see how we can help!
A common question is: What is the difference between a Condominium or Condo & an apartment? The main difference is the ownership structure. An apartment is owned by the building that it is contained within, and this legal entity (known as a Juristic) controls the leases/rentals directly with the tenant. A condo is individually owned within the larger building & each property is leased/rented by the owner/landlord with the tenant.
The second most important consideration is location. The closer you are to a BTS skytrain or MRT rail station, the higher your rent is going to be, but you save on convenience and have lower transportation costs. You shouldn’t rely on road transport if you can help it, because at peak hours certain parts of the city become extremely congested, and it’s not uncommon for 4-5 km drives to take over an hour or more.
The typical expat areas are around central Sukhumvit and Silom, and both have good access to the BTS. Asok, and Prom Phong are also popular places to live. You can of course find cheaper suburbs further out of the city, where there are many townhouse complexes – complete with public parks and a backyard.
As of Jan 2021 a One-Day Pass on the BTS costs 140 baht. Single trips on the BTS and MRT are typically in the rage of 16 baht to 59 baht depending on the distance you will travel. Buses are the cheapest public transport option, ranging in price from 7 to 20 baht, which depends on factors such as the distance travelled and whether or not the bus has air-conditioning. Bangkok’s buses are run by the Bangkok Mass Transit Authority
Expats can own scooters, motorbikes, or a car & sometimes your company may provide you with these as part of your package.
If you are needing to get your own car, you need to factor in fuel expenses, insurance, as well as the cost for purchasing or leasing your car and servicing. This is the most expensive option and is not necessarily the best idea. Bangkok’s traffic is often congested, and many drivers here have a flexible interpretation of the road rules. You need either an international driving permit or a Thai driver’s license to drive here, both are relatively simple to get with the correct documentation. It is a requirement to have separate driving licenses for motorbikes and cars.
For new cars, your best option is going into a dealership and talking to a sales rep, because there is a huge difference in options and brands that will affect your leasing or outright purchase price – because ultimately it is up to you.
For used cars you can spend anywhere from 100,000 baht to 3,000,000+ baht, depending on the make and model. For an idea into the specifics, you can see: Siam Motor World
Taxis & motorbike taxi’s
Taxis are relatively cheap, and outside of peak congestion hours your best means of getting around the city. Meter taxis have a minimum charge of 35 baht (current at Jan 2021), and that’s before you get anywhere. To travel 5km will cost you at minimum 75 baht without traffic congestion, so plan for normal taxi fares around the city to be approximately 100-150 baht.
During traffic jams, motorcycle taxis are a great alternative to navigate through the cars, but your only concern is safety. New rules have been enforced for helmets to be worn, so always ask and you should be provided by the driver. To travel shorter trips or even just go a few blocks motorcycle taxi’s are priced anywhere from 10-80 baht, most popular motorbike stands, have a tariff though this is likely to be in Thai.
If you’re happy eating Thai food, you can quite easily eat for under 200 baht per day. The cheapest option are the street vendors, or the coupon food halls which are located in every big shopping mall, or on the ground floor (or basement) of office buildings. With a huge variety of food, the quality is often as good as a restaurant. Finally, local Thai restaurants are also quite cheap, visit a place which is full of Thai’s and you’ll know the food is good. As of January 2021:
|Chicken Rice and Soup||50 baht|
|Som Tum Salad||45 baht|
|Iced Nescafe||15 baht|
Foreign food & imported groceries
To eat anything other than Thai food, you will generally pay a premium. You can find every type of ethnic food in Bangkok – Italian pasta and pizza restaurants are popular, you can also find Indian, Mexican, Japanese, Korean and Greek restaurants, as well as Halal and Kosher establishments.
Many of the international fast food franchises are available throughout Bangkok. In comparison to Thai food where you could budget for 200 baht per day, you’d be looking at upwards of 1000 baht per day for foreign food. As of January 2021:
|Starbucks Cafe Latte||160 baht|
|McDonalds Big Mac Meal||157 baht|
If you eat foreign food regularly, especially in restaurants you’d be lucky to spend under 500 baht per meal.
Imported foreign food can be purchased at Villa Market (multiple locations in Bangkok and major cities such as Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Pattaya & Phuket island)
TOPS is located across the country and has a wide choice of imported foods in the major city locations.
|Water (1 litre bottle)||15 baht|
|Milk (1 litre bottle)||47 baht|
|Bread (one loaf)||37 baht|
|Local Beer (320 ml bottle of Chang)||40 baht|
|Nescafe Instant Coffee (200 gram)||149 baht|
|Eggs (10 in box)||75 baht|
|Rump Steak||150 baht per 100g|
|Cheddar Cheese (250 gram) – imported||200 baht|
*price as at 1 May 2021 – Villa Market
Bills & Utilities
Electricity, water & drinking water
The price of electricity is one of the biggest monthly costs. This can range from 1000 to over 8,000+ baht – depending on how often you are running your air-conditioner, as well as the rate being charged per unit of electricity from your home. When searching for an apartment, ask what electricity rate they charge, if it’s at cost (of the government rate), or if there is a premium on top. Your Water utility bill is much cheaper, and ranges from 80-300 baht per month.
Water from the tap is generally clean but is not necessarily safe enough to drink (not potable). It is much safer for your health to drink bottled water unless the tap water has a high-quality filtration system installed. Bottled water can be ordered online & delivered by multiple vendors:
Depending on your package, you can find cheap plans on many carriers that are about 400-450 baht per month at their most basic level. If you need more data, or expect to be making lots of calls, expect to pay upwards of 2000 baht a month.
High speed internet in Bangkok is now being offered with fibre-optic connections to many properties, though the vast majority are still using copper based broadband. You can choose your package for anywhere between 500 to 1000 baht per month. Note that this is a competitive market and internet providers frequently update their packages and sometime increase the speeds on request.
The free TV channels are not in English, so if you want to be able to watch international TV, there are options with cable or high-speed internet IPTV. Packages range from basic options around 500 baht a month, to full packages upwards of 2,000 baht.
Entertainment expenses pose a huge variable in the cost of living in Bangkok and is largely dependent on the individual. If you don’t go out at all, expect to pay zero. Having said that, many people set themselves a budget of a couple of thousand baht to go out one night per week.
Bangkok has a huge range of entertainment options: movies, restaurants, shopping malls, historical sites, red-light districts, markets, pubs, nightclubs – the choice is really up to you.
Some costs in typical establishments (as of Jan 2014):
|Movie ticket||70-160 baht (depending on the session)|
|Beer in a restaurant||100 baht for a bottle of local beer|
|Bottle of vodka in a club||850-1000 baht (additional for mixers/soda)|
Overall Bangkok is relatively cheap compared to western cities, but is more expensive than many other areas of Thailand – because it’s the central business hub. On a very simple lifestyle you could live in Bangkok for 15,000 per month, but you would be sacrificing many luxuries. A typical expat is more likely to spend in the range of 40,000+ baht per month.