Cost of living
Bangkok is a big, bustling and busy city in the heart of Thailand. With over 8 million residents, the majority of the population are Thais but there is also a large expat community of Brits, Americans, Australians and Europeans. Expats are attracted to Thailand because of the cheaper cost of living, tropical climate, exotic food and the 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 an introduction to the most 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 your best option, but beware that foreigners are restricted from owning land in Thailand. The workaround is to purchase a condominium or apartment in a high rise, which are eligible for foreigners to own outright.
Rent is typically paid monthly, and you will find most expats renting a condo that ranges in price from 5,000 baht for a tiny box apartment with a fan, to upwards of 75,000+ baht at the most prestigious high rises in the city. Generally, a very suitable two to three bedroom apartment can be found around 50,000 baht a month, depending of course on the suburb. We can assist to help you find a suitable home to suit any budget, so get in touch and see how we can help!
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.
Bangkok has a reliable public transport system that includes rail (MRT), monorail (BTS), and buses. You can see more details of transportation options here.
As of Jan 2014 the current monthly MRT pass costs 1,400 baht and a monthly (50 trip) BTS pass is 1,100 baht. Single trips on the BTS and MRT are typically in the rage of 15 baht to 50 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.
Expats can own scooters or a car, but typically your company will 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 very simple to get.
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’s 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:
As of Jan 2014 the current price of Unleaded 95 petrol is 48.55 baht / liter, and you can check the latest here.
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 2014), 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. You can find out more about taxi’s in Bangkok here.
During traffic jams, motorcycle taxis are the best way 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 will be provided by the driver. To travel shorter trips or even just go a few blocks motorcycle taxi’s are priced anywhere from 10-40 baht.
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 2014:
|Chicken Rice and Soup||40 baht|
|Som Tum Salad||35 baht|
|Iced Nescafe||15 baht|
To eat anything other than Thai food, you will 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 and Greek restaurants, as well as Halal and Kosher establishments.
Most of the large fast food franchises have several locations in 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 2014:
|Starbucks Cafe Latte||100 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.
As follows is a short grocery list in Thailand. Dairy products and beef are the most expensive items (comparatively) to your home country.
|Water (1 litre bottle)||15 baht|
|Milk (1 litre bottle)||47 baht|
|Bread (one loaf)||37 baht|
|Beer (350 ml can of Chang)||27 baht|
|Nescafe Instant Coffee (100 gram)||250 baht|
|Eggs (one dozen)||75 baht|
|Rump Steak||1290 baht per kilo|
|Cheese (200 gram)||144 baht|
*price as at 19th February at Tops Central Rama 3
Electricity and water
The price of electricity is one of the biggest monthly costs. This can range from 800 to over 2,000 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. Water is much cheaper, and ranges from 80-300 baht per month.
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.
The internet in Thailand is OK, but not as fast as in many western countries. For a home connection you will also need to register for a landline (simple to do) and you can choose your package for anywhere between 500 to 1000 baht per month.
The free TV channels are not in English, so if you want to be able to watch TV you have two real options for cable. Their 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.