It’s funny how I often get asked about the cost of living here in Thailand, not as to how much I, you or the typical expat spends, but the minimum cost of living. Rob writes me ‘Hi Dozer, I’m currently a Vet student with another 2 years to go before graduation. I have a chance to take a year off and ‘travel’ – or I should say ‘pick a place and go there’ as there really isn’t a travel budget. Just to check the feasibility of the whole thing – can you tell me what it would cost to live there, say for a year, just basic lifestyle not including any extras?’.
Well, Thailand is a good place in general for low cost living. That’s probably because the general population lives on about 5000 baht or less a month, so there is a lot geared towards the low end. First off, I’m going to examine how much it would cost to live in Pattaya in particular, since I live here and have some idea of the costs involved. Bangkok would be somewhat more expensive, but not significantly. Expenses like food and transportation are fairly static, housing however would be more expensive in Bangkok.
Let’s take a look at housing, since that will be major cost factor. In your situation, if you start off by going to estate agents, that won’t get you anywhere. They won’t have much for under about 10,000 baht per month. There is an entire range of accommodation available between 1,000 – 10,000 baht per month, in what I call the ‘micro rental’ class. We’re not talking about shacks here, but 4 meter by 6 meter rooms with tiled floors, patio and kitchen area. At the lower end you will need to get used to a squat toilet, but after all, it is a more hygienic alternative than its western cousin. This picture shows an actual building with 3 apartments each renting for 1000 baht per month about 7 kilometers from the center of Pattaya – and there are several in the area. This is a bit more basic and far from town from what I will recommend for Rob.
The 1000 baht rental range is basically what I would consider the ‘floor’, that is the lowest you can readily find accommodation throughout the kingdom. In other words, even in the provinces, conventional rooms will still run about this much. When Thais are going to rent a place they need to budget at least this much, in Bangkok the basic rooms start at about 2000 per month.
In the Pattaya proximity is king, as you move closer to the town center, prices increase. Your standard 1000 baht rooms starts moving upwards to 2000 and more. For the sake of example, here is a apartment where one of my daughter’s teachers lives. By Thai apartment block standards, quite nice, clean, good view once you get off the first floor, and it is 2700 per month. Water is 60 Bath per person and electric is 6 baht per unit or about 200 per month. It is also a pertinent example, as it would be of the type suitable for a student traveler type in Rob’s situation as it is only a few kilometers from the beach and the center of town, just off the main road and it is more upscale than the typical 1000 baht room. By more upscale I’m referring to the building exterior, views, proximity, etc, as the interiors of the rooms in this class are all fairly similar. They are 4 x 6 meter rectangular grid shaped, with the bathroom at the rear and normally an outside patio for hanging clothes etc. They are normally well maintained and clean, but of course you can find all sorts.
Here are some shots of room interiors, basic, clean, but to get a Euro style toilet you would be more up around the 3,500 + baht range.
As far as how to find a room, this gets a bit trickier. Since estate agents are out you must kind of know someone to take you around to look. We have rented rooms for some workers a while back, and from what I have seen there isn’t much of a double pricing standard, although anything is possible. The rooms in the nicer block have posted rates so probably you are safe in this regard, although it would be easier to have a Thai go make the initial inquires on your behalf. Vacancies are noted in Thai language on signs, you see these about all over, although the units at any particular apartment are normally priced to be fully occupied.
Next up, transportation. There are a number of low cost motorcycle rental shops around here. These motorcycles are the 125 cc scooters which are ubiquitous here. In Jomtien there are several competitors, one you might try is Mai Pang – which has older bikes for 2,200 baht per month. A newer model might cost you 2,500 per month. For gas I estimated 700 per month, which should be more than enough for around town motoring. Even with gas as high as it is, you can still fill up a tank on one of these for about 100 baht and that can last all week depending on daily mileage.
As to food, a basic meal here is still just 30 baht, that is at any of hundreds of food stalls or eateries located all around Pattaya and in all of the malls. So for food allowance we could say 30 3 times a day + a large bottle of water for 15 bath or 105 baht per day.
Medical clinics about here, for someone in good health with minor complaints such as upset stomach or the like you might be looking at 200 – 300 baht per visit, so let’s allow 1,000 per month – just in case.
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Yes, it is basic, there will undoubtedly be add-ons, but this gives one an idea of what one could live here for, totalling just over 10,000 baht or about 292 US dollars. Just as a note, I do manage to go through quite a fair amount of baht each month, much more than would be the minimum, as do all of the farangs I know. As you get into expenses related to children, entertainment, etc. etc. etc. costs of course will go up. Since everyone’s situation is different and as such will impact cost of living for that situation. Therefore, this information should only be taken as to ‘what would the minimum costs be’ as applies to Rob’s case.