A lot of people have been asking, what is the real living cost in Thailand?  Can it really be done for less than $600US a month?  The answer is yes, definitely but is it worth spending a little bit more for more luxuries?  I'd say so.  Here is a breakdown of exactly what I spent last month, and what my new "upgraded" lifestyle costs this month for comparison.  You can spend anywhere from $600 a month to $1,000+ a month living in Thailand and here is what you get for it.  

Cost of Living May/June 2013 in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Rent: Basic room near my CrossFit gym and the cool Nimmanheim area of town that I enjoy hanging out and eating out at.  5-10 minutes away from the main city center.  The room is large, clean, has a small bar area with separate sink, a balcony, private western style bathroom, and a king sized bed.  It also has air conditioning which I never use.  

Monthly rental cost: 3,750 baht ($125US)
WiFi - 300 baht ($10US)
Utilities (Electric and Water) - 450 baht ($15US)
Cell Phone/Laundry/Cleaning/Random Things: 650 baht ($22US)

Subtotal for Rent and Bills: 5,150 baht ($171 US)

Food and Drinks:  I eat out most meals, but I often enjoy cooking my own eggs for breakfast for random stir fry for lunch.  Six nights a week for dinner I meet with friends to go to Thai BBQ Buffets, have Sushi, Korean food or American Style BBQ.  

Breakfast: 30-60 baht ($1-$2US) for a fresh coconut and some eggs or Thai food at the local stalls and market.  

Lunch: 120 baht ($4US) for a large chicken and avocado salad at Salad Concept or Grilled Chicken/Pork at a Thai Restaurant.  You can also have stir fried Thai food as pictured on the left for 40-50 baht ($1.70US)  

Dinner: Thai BBQ buffets are 129-149 baht ($5US) all you can eat.  A rack of ribs at 3 Little Pigs, which is an American owned BBQ restaurant with amazing ribs costs 280 baht ($9.33US) and for the same price you can have all you can eat Sushi and Sashimi.  These are the most expensive restauants in town with the exception of high end 5 star resorts.  Most people spend less than 120 baht a night on dinner at Thai restaurants and even the nicest ones generally cost less than 200 baht ($6.66US) per person.


Beer and Alcohol is lot cheaper in Thailand than in the U.S. with a large beer averaging 60-80 baht ($2.50US) at bars. You can go out and spend $100US a night on alcohol which I'm sure some people do.  But I personally don't drink often, only on special occasions.

Subtotal for Monthly Food Costs:  

Breakfast 50 baht (average) x 30 days = 1,500 baht
Lunch 120 baht (average) x 30 days = 3,600 baht
Dinner 180 baht (average) x 30 days = 5,400 baht

Total Monthly Food Costs:  10,500 baht ($350US)  

Transportation and Getting Around: 

In the book 12 Weeks in Thailand I go into detail how I always buy a scooter/motorbike and sell it for around the same price as I bought it for when I leave, making transportation essentially free minus the cost of petrol/gasoline.   On average I fill up my tank once a week for 100 baht.  

Total Monthly Petrol Costs: 400 baht ($13.33US) 

Total Monthly Costs of Living including, Rent, Bills, Internet, Transportation, Food and all fixed cost expenses: 16,050 baht ($535US)  

Upgrades and Add Ons:  

CrossFit Membership (Monthly Unlimited) - 2,600 baht per month ($87US)

Pun Space Co-Working Office Space Membership - 3,499 per month ($116US) - 

Upgraded 1-Bedroom Apartment with Kitchen, Living Room, Flat Screen TVs, and Sofas - 8,000 to 16,000 baht more than a basic room ($266US to $533US more)

Accommodation Examples: 

Total Costs for my Upgraded Life including living in a designer furnished apartment, going to CrossFit six days a week, and having 24/7 access to a great office space: 14,099 baht ($469US more) making the Grand total $1,004US for living a luxury life in Chiang Mai with all of the amenities.  Or $1,270US a month to stay in a 4 star hotel suite per month.  
(Expect your electricity bill to be a lot higher when staying in these units if you use your airconditioning, up to $100US a month extra)  

Things not included in this price:  Flight, Airfare, Visa Costs, Alcohol, Clothes, Toiletries, Vacations, etc.  
If you haven't already read the book, 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good LIfe on the cheap for specific details of how to live a great life in Thailand for less than $1,000 a month, what to pack, how to quit your job and make money while traveling, and how to save a ton of money.  

"Thank you Johnny!  I really did not think it would be possible to move to thailand.  I was nervous but your book describes every step so well!  Thanks again for inspiring me to make the move!"  - Will Sunderland

Click the photo for places to Buy 12 Weeks in Thailand
During my first 3 Week trip to Thailand, I was the typical American tourist, speaking way too much on everything, over tipping and in general getting ripped off. It wasn't until I met Rene, my Scuba Diving instructor and asked him what his Cost of Living in Thailand was that I realized How Cheap it Really is to Live in Thailand.

As a tourist, staying in Hotels and Resorts, I spent almost $1,000US a week. After figuring out the secrets of Living on a Local's Budget in Thailand, I am currently spending around $600US a MONTH and that includes my expensive CrossFit Gym membership.  It was slightly more when I was at a Muay Thai Camp full time but even then, with all of that included, I was spending way less than rent alone back in the states.  If you want to live comfortably in Thailand, $1,000 will get you started.

For less than $2,000 US a month, you can truly live like a king.

If I had a $2,000 US Budget in Thailand I would rent a nice 1 bedroom Condo with a full kitchen, weekly maid service, flat screen TV, and a roof top pool.  Average cost would be 15,000 baht - 20,000 baht a month which is around $667US.  After paying for Wi-Fi, Electricity and Water, the monthly rent would be around $800US, giving me $1,200US to spend.  If I ate at the nicest Thai and Western restaurants every day for lunch and dinner it would cost me around 13,500 baht ($450US) a month which is still super cheap compared to average restaurants back in the U.S. 

Honestly I wouldn't even know how to spend $2,000 US a month in a place such as Chiang Mai in Thailand, I would literally have to go out 3-4 nights and week and buy rounds of drinks for everyone while living in the nicest place in the city.  You could get a massage every single day at a night Spa or Resort for 9,000 baht a month ($300US)  If you have the money, go ahead and rent the nice apartment, but use that extra money for savings and weekend trips down to the islands or even to places like Bali for your visa runs.

In the book "12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap" you'll find three months of excel spreadsheets breaking down the exact monthly costs of living in Thailand.
Examples include one month on the beautiful islands of Koh Tao, and Phuket and one month in the city of Chiang Mai.  Monthly expenses including rent, food, utilities, internet, beer, and entertainment ranged from $600 - $1,000US per month and often included activities such as Scuba Diving, Massages, Muay Thai and CrossFit.  



    Johnny F.D. quit his job in Los Angeles to move to Thailand to live the good life on the cheap, train at the best Muay Thai Camps and see how low of a cost of living in Thailand could be.