When I moved to Chiang Mai a decade ago, the city was a very different I live in thailand for expats digital nom were scarce but retirees aplentyand information was nonexistent about what it would actually cost to live there. This post was essentially the first online Thailand cost of living breakdown, sharing the nitty gritty details of what your money buys in Thailand, what costs more than back home, and how your own goals might align to moving somewhere in the country digital nom and retirees tend to choose a handful of key hotspots around the country.
This post demystifies the cost of living in Thailand, as well as covers a range of opinions on what it costs to live in the different areas. It comes down to the low cost of living paired with incredible culture and amazing food. A handful of travel bloggers decided to hang out in Chiang Mai for a season; we loved all three of those factors, and so we came back the next season, and then many just moved there permanently.
Since then, and really since I wrote this post, which went viral and was featured on the BBC, among other outlets Chiang Mai lured other digital nom with a low cost of living, the promise of good wifi, and a community of others who work remotely.
Within a couple of years, Chiang Mai and Ho Chi Minh City became the hotspots in Southeast Asia for entrepreneurs interested in low living costs so they could build and launch businesses. Again, excluding expenses that run annually like insurance, or quarterly like visa runs—these add hundreds of dollars to your average costs, but they will also vary depending on your own insurance costs, costs of running a business, and varying visa costs for some people.
What does it cost to live in thailand?
As with many places, there is a trade off living in some areas. Retirees with a monthly social security check more easily secure long-term visas since they align more with the type of foreigners Thailand prefers living there full time. Note that cities and towns across Thailand not only have different costs of living, but the profile of the communities differs, too.
Thailand offers a huge, varied, and vibrant expat community. Use this cost of living information as a baseline to plan your travels and move once the world reopens to tourism likely Keen to access this information offline?
When I moved to Chiang Mai inI had this suspicion that I could maintain a fun and full life without obsessing about my expenses. To make this travel life work, I needed to lower my cost of living to keep in line with my online income. I was building my SEO consulting work while also paying off student loans and medical debt, so I had prioritized becoming debt-free within two years. Frankly, the best way for me to not go further into debt was to stay outside of the U.
Medical care can be a major motivating factor. Thailand offers the some of the better hospitals in Southeast Asia, checkups are affordable, and dental care is on par with the U. Thai culture is lived out in the open at the markets and in the many celebrations that take place throughout the year Loy KrathongUmbrella Festival, and Songkran to name just three.
That culture extends into the truly exceptional culinary traditions you will eat your face off! The expat community is another compelling reason to consider Thailand. In some places you find the community is retirees hoping to stretch their nest-egg and enjoy the twilight years, while elsewhere are concentrated packs of digital nom looking to bootstrap a business from Southeast Asia. For me, I chose to live in Thailand for two years because it fulfilled many of my long-term goals. I lived a more minimalist life I am a huge fan of the tiny house movementbut it was not sparse.
I love beauty and spending money on things I valued. I lived in a Thai neighborhood, I volunteered locally and I ate locally, I made friends widely in the expat and Thai communities, and I spent my days working when I needed to, but not slavishly tied to my computer in a bid to constantly make more money.
Living in Thailand allowed me to enjoy a slower life alongside some of my now closest fiends. Visas : Chiang Mai is a great launching point to other areas in Asia for in-depth explorations of MyanmarLaosCambodiaMalaysia, Singapore and other quick flights and bus rides around Southeast Asia. Living in Thailand comes down to two things: your baseline costs fixed monthly expensesand your personal lifestyle, which you add onto the top of those costs.
Even with the double entry visa, border runs are necessary every ish days. Retirees will have their own specific minimum social security income they need to prove before they will receive the retiree visa. Since I was not yet old enough to qualify for the income-based retiree visa, I did the the tourist visas and the border runs mentioned in the quick facts section I live in thailand. If you are on a tight budget then you need to consider if and how often you will return to your home country.
When you look at other budgets, understand that everyone includes different things that they prioritize in their lives. I wanted to provide the minimum so others could actually see the baseline they could then stack on top of that cost of living their own priorities, business expenses, etc. If you will need to obtain Thai health insurancethis expat breaks down that process. I shared the house with a roomie and fellow blogger, Jodi of Legal Nom. We tly paid 10, baht monthly for the house and wifi. The house had tiled floors, one and a half baths, a tiny kitchen no stove, those are very rare in Thai housesa sturdy dining room table perfect for working, and a comfy living room.
It was Thai-style, so note that a Western-style apartment runs a good deal more. Elsewhere in Chiang Mai, studio apartments run the gamut between 3, and 8, baht a month. These work well for solo travelers looking for something nice but budget. Nearly all apartments offer wifi. The internet in Chiang Mai is better than many places, but can wildly fluctuate throughout the day my house had super speedy internet in the am, but not so much in the evening when everyone watched TV and thus slowed the cable internet down to a crawl. Chris and Angela are a something couple living in Chiang Mai long-term.
Their budget shows that one of the benefits I live in thailand living in Chiang Mai is that your money stretches far and you can maintain a very nice life with just a bit more luxurious budget.
Why move to thailand?
Jubril from the Passport Heavy YouTube channel gives a tour of the house minuteas well as what it costs to live that lifestyle in Chiang Mai. Bangkok has a similar quality of accommodation, but the cost of living is higher in the big city. He spends on the upper range, he has a wife, but it appears that most of his expenses are solo? Although I am not sure, really, and his breakdown is unclear. But, you can definitely enjoy Bangkok still, grab coffees from a favorite vendor, use mototaxis or your feet to get around town, etc.
This section is a close look at what I get for the price of living in Chiang Mai. And the islands, of course, have beaches nearby and some other perks.
The north, on the other hand, has mountains, hill tribe cultures, and different foods than you find elsewhere in the country. Basic and budget accommodation in Thailand means Thai-style furniture and kitchens. This is usually fine for backpackers and those really prioritizing budget over comfort, but Thai furniture is much harder and less cushioned compared to traditional Western styles.
So a budget studio apartment will likely feature an incredibly firm mattress and some heavy wooden furniture. To find long-term Chiang Mai spots, consider using Chiang Mai House if you are looking for help on a long-term house rental. I also collected a list of long and short term accommodation —all places friends have stayed, I have stayed, or I have seen recommended.
This is also a good post that can help you imagine what places look like at different price points, as well as some solid recommendations on buildings and areas. Notably, one ALA reader shared that Huay Kaew Residence is the best wheelchair-friendly accommodation in Chiang Mai and perhaps the only, in his experience. They will help you pick a neighborhood and find something in your price range.
You can also start your research using this guide to apartment hunting in Bangkok. I regularly chow down on pad thai and pad see ew from the street stalls around town for about 40 baht a meal a buck! The occasional Western meal jacks the weekly food costs up quite a bit; a thin crust pizza from a farang restaurant sets you back at least baht.
I mostly eat Thai food, but expect that you will spend more than you anticipate on food from home—you just will. Plus, I confess that coffee is a daily habit and ice cream is a weekly addiction.
Always different, always worthy of my undying affection. Your balance of Western and local foods will greatly impact your bottom line, so consider how often you will cook your own food, eat local, and eat at expat spots. The rental was cheap enough and zipping around town made me feel that much more like a local.
Plus, the local Thais burst into giggles when I rode up to the night markets with my roomie on the back. Bangkok transport costs can, for this reason, vary a lot depending on how often you go out and need to use the various forms of transport. Most expats in the Thai islands use personal motorbikes. Chiang Mai has a vibrant expat scene.
This is one of the key reasons I returned again in with my niece. I loved the mix of expats and locals and how accessible the entire town feels. The city has a bit of something for any mood: karaoke, dance clubs, quiet rooftop bars, and bowling. For the rest of Thailand, the community really differs.
Moving to thailand
Bangkok has a much larger expat community spread across a much larger area. You can find expats of all ages and styles. There are communities of retirees, a startup and entrepreneurial scene, and a good of digital nom who want a big city feel. The Thai islands also have a contingent of expats, though I found this scene to have a much smaller community of long-term young expats.
There are older expat families and retirees, and then there is a large of short-term partiers in the region for just a couple months.