When I arrived in Thailand more than a decade ago, I didn’t meet many western couples who had moved to Thailand together. Nowadays, however, things have changed with many western couples now considering moving to Bangkok either because they can’t find jobs in their home country, or they’re older and have realized retiring in Thailand can be done cheaply.
Before they move, however, many are concerned about the average monthly living expenses for a couple in Bangkok. How much will they need to earn or have from overseas sources to be able to live comfortably in Thailand? Will rent be cheaper than their home country and what kind of apartment can they expect to be able to afford? How about utilities?
For any couple planning on moving to Bangkok, here is a quick breakdown of some of the average costs you can expect to pay. Do be aware, though, you should also factor in an extra 10-20 percent above your basic expenses, so you always have ’emergency funds’ should something untoward happen.
Rent – Of course, some couples buy an apartment when they move to Bangkok but most rent. That’s because there are a huge number of beautiful apartments in Bangkok, many as nice or nicer than what they’d rent back home and, in most cases, much cheaper.
For the average couple moving to Bangkok to work or to retire, you can expect to pay between 20,000 to 25,000 baht a month ($625 to $781). That would be for a 2-bedroom apartment or 3-bedroom townhouse either in downtown Bangkok in a nice neighborhood or close to it and close to a sky train station. If you rent an apartment, that would also usually include facilities like a swimming pool, gym, convenience store, basic cable TV and, in some cases, weekly maid service.
If you move into the suburbs where I live, and which has just as much to see and do as downtown, you can expect that amount to decrease to 15,000 to 20,000 baht ($468 to $625) for a similar standard place, If you want a 1-bedroom apartment that figure will be closer to 12,000 baht a month ($375).
Utilities – Of course, couples moving to Bangkok will pay almost the same for utilities as a single person does, as you’re sharing the same air conditioning, lights, TV and refrigerator. That being said, for a 2-bedroom apartment or 3-bedroom townhouse, you can expect to get away with 3,000 baht a month ($98), which would include electricity, water, telephone and Wi-Fi internet and include a lot of air conditioning use. If you don’t crank your air conditioning 12-15 hours a day, your utilities will be less.
Groceries – Grocery shopping is cheap in Thailand if you stick to mainly Thai food. You can buy every western food you could possibly want in Bangkok’s many supermarkets but, of course, being imported it’s more expensive than what you’d pay back in your home country.
Stick with the basics like milk, bread, yoghurt, eggs, fish, chicken, vegetables and fruit, Thai brand cookies, cakes and snacks and the occasional Thai brand frozen meal, and a couple in Bangkok can live easily on 6,000 baht ($187).
If you buy your fruit, vegetables, fish and chicken at a local fresh market and not at the supermarket, you’ll save even more money.
Eating Out – Of course, most people in Bangkok eat out at least one meal a day and often two or three as street stall food and restaurant food is so ridiculously cheap. If you eat at a food stall or in a food court, you’re not likely to spend more than 50-60 baht ($1.56 to $1.87) on a meal, and that includes a drink.
A meal in a restaurant is as much as you want it to be as every type of cuisine is available in Bangkok and from dirt cheap prices to as high as New York or London. An average meal for two in a lower-end to mid-range restaurant shouldn’t cost you more than 250-400 baht ($7.80 to $12.50) , and that’s a shared appetizer, two main meals and soft drinks. If you want beer or cocktails, add 150 to 400 baht more for every two drinks you order..
Budget 6,000 baht a month ($187) and, with a mix of food stalls and restaurants, you should both be able to eat out at least once a day for during the entire month. That also will reduce your grocery bill.
Entertainment – Bangkok has everything you could ever want to do, and more you may not have even thought of. Movie theaters, bowling alleys, go-kart tracks, golf courses and golf ranges, Muay Thai matches, football games, nightclubs and bars, world-class shows and more. How much a couple would spend on entertainment in Bangkok depends on what you like to do and how often you do it but you can guarantee most of the entertainment in Bangkok that a couple would want to do is cheaper than it would be in the west.
If you plan on going out two or three evenings a week at the most, and don’t spend a fortune on drinking, a couple living in Bangkok shouldn’t spend more than 10,000 baht a month ($312), and that would allow you to have a very nice time every evening you go out.
Total monthly costs for a couple living in Bangkok?
For an average couple living in Bangkok, one that doesn’t go out partying every night that is, your monthly living expenses should total up to between 45,000 baht to 50,000 baht ($1.405 to $1,562), with a reduction of 5,000 baht or $156 a month if you decide to rent an apartment away from Bangkok city center.
Let me also add, the approximate living expenses I give here are for what I would classify as living very comfortably. It is, of course, possible to do it even cheaper depending on which corners you decide to cut.
Don’t forget sundries – Don’t forget you will also have to add extra money for any shopping you may want to do, medical care and medications, and work permits, retirement visas or visa runs.
As how much you spend shopping is entirely up to you and medical care and medications depends on the overall health of the couple planning to move, it’s up to you to calculate those costs. However, shopping is cheaper than almost anywhere in the world, unless you buy high-end western brands, and medical care is as good if not better than the US and Europe yet for around only 10 percent of the cost.
As for work permits, retirement visas or visa runs, they vary depending on your situation. If you budget $800 to $1,000 a year for the costs for the two of you, however, in many cases that will be sufficient.
In fact, when you factor in how cheaply a couple can live in Thailand, it’s amazing even more western couples aren’t planning on moving here.
For more information on how cheaply a couple can live in Thailand, there is an excellent article on 8 Miles Fom Home, written by a young couple who live in Chiang Mai. The cost of living in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, is around 20-30 percent cheaper than Bangkok for most things, but it will give you a great idea of exactly what’s possible.