Living Like a King in Thailand

by Frugal Brian


That’s actually more than just a title… it’s the truth. More and more people are making the move from America to Thailand; but why? The weather? Possibly. But not for this article. No, this is all about a comparison of the cost of living in America versus the cost of living in Thailand; and why, as most Americans are finding out, you can live like a king in Thailand.

 When comparing cost of living from one area to the next, several areas must be examined. They are transportation, tobacco and alcohol, hotels and restaurants, clothing, culture and recreational activities, education (if any), personal care, appliances and furnishings, household needs, food, shopping and other miscellaneous expenses. For the sake of comparison, I am going to address the living costs involved in USD and in case you didn’t know, the Thais use the currency of Thai Baht (THB). 1 USD currently is approximately equivalent to 30 THB.

Travel and Transportation

Tuk-tuks, a fun way to travel in Thailand

Are you ready to travel to Thailand? As a side note, first book your tickets on Travelocity.  Travelocity has great rates to international locations.  Use any travelocity coupons available to get even cheaper rates. Now, let’s take a look at transportation  inside Thailand. As with most things in Thailand, transportation is inexpensive.  An average trip by taxi will run between a range of $1.50 to $3.50. Where can you go in America, in a taxi, for $1.50? You can’t get into a taxi in America for $1.50. Depending on your destination and whether or not you want to ride in the comfort of air conditioning, a bus ride can cost $1.00; for the shorter ride with no AC, 30¢. There is an underground and a sky train which both cost $1.20 down to 45¢. There is also a pass called a bulk trip card that allows you to ride more cheaply. If you’re trying to maneuver your way through Bangkok’s crowded streets, a motorbike taxi (basically you just hop on to any bikes you see without a passenger when the pillion rider is wearing a brightly colored orange vest) can take you where you need to go for around $1.20 or less; or you can have some real fun and take a tuk-tuk for about a little more (unless the guy with the tuk-tuk takes his time-time; they are known to do so).

Tobacco And Alcohol

Tobacco and alcohol, should this apply to you, is another area of expense that needs to be considered.  Grabbing a beer at a bar in Thailand can run you just over $2.50. A can of beer purchased at a store to take home with you is around $0.83, a nice bottle of wine $16.33 and a pack of 20 cigarettes should set you back $1.65. The lesson here is if you’re going to smoke, do it in Thailand. In fact, I do and I feel like a king when I buy cigarettes in cartons, mind you, not packs!

Smoking, Drinking

Of course you’ll need somewhere to do that drinking and smoking, besides the bar. So let’s talk about living quarters. A small studio apartment with attached bath and occasionally a kitchen in Thailand will cost you approximately $120 a month. You can’t even rent a closet in America for $120 a month. If you want to live in that same little studio apartment on the outskirts of Bangkok your rent could drop down to $90.00 a month. A really nice one bedroom apartment, because really who wants to live in a small studio (that’s not living like a king), will be about $210 to $275 dollars a month. That very likely will include a pool, a convenience store, laundry facilities and possibly a gym. $300 a month can get you the same thing but with cable TV and maid service. A Los Angeles apartment of the same caliber, sans cable TV and maid service, is right around $1350 a month. Let’s say one bedroom isn’t enough, and let’s say you don’t have any furniture so you’ll need that too. A furnished, two bedroom apartment for $426 a month; or a house of the same for $430 a month is not uncommon. Want to know what $430 a month gets you in Miami? Nothing. It gets you nothing. Maybe a room at the YMCA. And don’t forget, those are furnished living quarters.


OK, we skipped a couple of areas there. With a two bedroom, furnished house going for $430 a month, I’m not sure why you would bother with a hotel; so let’s just skip to restaurants. But if you do decide on a three day weekend on the beach at a three star hotel, you can do it for between $16 and $33 a night…  Don’t even get me started on what $33 a night will buy you in America. Going out to eat in Thailand is not only a treat for your taste buds, but more for your money. If you enjoy Thai food, and I do, you can have a nice little meal for about $1.00. That same $1.00 buys you a cup of coffee in America…  Maybe. Should you decide that it’s a fancy night out, $10 max will land you a fabulous dinner, tip included. For most eating establishments in America, $10 is not even the tip. Some people say that it’s cheaper to eat out than it is to buy groceries and eat at home, but that’s debatable.


So what are you going to wear? Well, Thailand is the land of export. Exports make up more than 2/3 of Thailand’s GDP (gross domestic product). And guess what they export tons of? Clothes. So there will be no shortage of things to wear. The quality and/or brand of clothing will directly reflect upon the price. Big deal designer names = big deal designer prices. Lower quality clothes can be found at ridiculously low prices at flea markets or night shops, but they are definitely lower quality. They can be fun though.

Fun, Entertainment

Speaking of fun, what shall we do for fun and how much will it cost us? Let’s go bowling. That’s going to run us no more than $30 for four people. That’s with dinner and a couple of beers. Not a bowler?  How about a movie? You can get a reserved seat for $3.50. Want to know what $3.50 buys you at a movie theater in America? A small drink.  Speaking of drinks, a night out at the local club can run you around $15 (unless you’re with me and then it’ll be more like $25). 

After going out to the bars, if you were more likely to reach that $25 mark, you may need some aspirin. That will cost you $3.60 per bottle of 100 tablets. Other health or personal care items like deodorant $2.30; toothpaste a little over $2.00; laundry detergent (2.5kg) also a little over $2.00; bath soap $1.20; and if you actually do eat at home and use dishes, you will spend around $2.00 for 500ml of dishwashing detergent. Doctor visits, for a general practitioner, cost about $13.30. You can truly afford to be sick in Thailand! The antibiotics that he will prescribe for you; $2.75 for 12.


So if you’re living in that furnished two bedroom house, you’re not going to need to buy furniture. You would however, I’ll bet, like to know the cost of utilities in Thailand. No problem. Utilities are inexpensive but your air conditioning might be running for a long time. For a one bedroom place (less than 100 m²) with AC, a $30 a month bill would be average. Make it a three bedroom place with the same and you could kick it up to $82.60 a month, I’m actually paying this amount with a big smile for my Feb utilities bill. Again, if you run that air conditioner a lot, the cost could go up marginally. A monthly phone line rental runs around $7.50 and a cell phone will set you back around $3.30 a month (if you don’t call a lot of people; pay per minute) to $20 (if you are a heavy cell phone user; pay per minute). I am a BlackBerry user and my entire monthly package only set me back by $12.60; that’s inclusive of email and social networking portals on my mobile!


The employment rate in Thailand is a whopping 98.5%. Not the unemployment rate, the employment rate. More men are employed than women because Thailand still believes that a woman’s place is in the home. There is hope, however, on the horizon. The employment rate for women is rising by about 5% each year. Skilled workers or university graduates are a hot commodity in Thailand. Exports, as I mentioned earlier, and tourism are still the top financial suppliers for Thailand’s economy.  Healthcare, business (white collar) and work in the tourism industry are the most likely jobs for those arriving from other countries. Pay is at a moderately low rate for locals and much higher for expats, but then again; look what you get for your money. It’s basically not a myth… you truly can live like a king in Thailand!

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