Cost of Living in Thailand (for foreigners)
1 Euro = about 39 baht ; 1 US $ = about 33 baht (2021, September)
Of course, it all depends on what one wants to spend. Let's just say to start with that Bangkok, on average, is cheaper to live in than many cities in the Western hemisphere. Some people are intend on spending loads of money, and they can do easily in Thailand. There is an upmarket for the very rich and the expanding middle class. But there is an event larger cheap market for the great majority of the population that is poor. As a foreigner with some resources you may want to pick the best of both.
The biggest expense anywhere you live is usually accommodation. If you intend to stay long, you can buy or lease a condo. As for renting, expect to pay between 30,000 and 50,000 baht for a 2-bedroom furnished apartment. This would include access to a swimming pool and exercise room, most likely also a sauna. Maid services, laundry often can be arranged quite cheaply. As for security there would be 2 or more guards on duty around the clock, and often CCTV cameras will be present. Expect to pay more, if you really are right in the center of the city, or when you want something quite luxurious. At present, we advice against buying any property when prices have gone clearly through the roof for new property in the last decade, (and there is hardly any assurance of a resell market. As a rule of thumb, you can be almost assured that the value of your real estate will decrease over the years, rather than increase, for various reasons).
As for other basic home expenses. Aircondioning takes a lot of electricity. Assuming 4 baht per energy unit, using it around the clock (dayttime in the living room, nighttime in the bedroom) will set you back about 3,000-4,000 baht. When renting, ask for the price of electricity. If you pay it yourself (like when owning your residence), you pay about 3 baht per energy unit. When renting, this may vary between 3 and 7 baht per energy unit, which can add a lot to overall costs. Water fees are nominal.
True Visions (a monopoly service in Thailand) costs 2,000 baht for the standard 'gold' package. This includes BBC, CNN, Fox, movie channels, local TV channels, sport channels, educational channels etc.
Making a phone call using a fixed line costs 3 baht, regardless of the duration of the call. The price of calling with a mobile phone varies a lot, since there always are various promotions. But let's say rates are always around 1 baht/minute, much cheaper than in Europe.
In Thailand, most people use prepaid phone cards. The problem is that they expire usually in a short time period (unless topped-up), so there is a possibility of paying for something you do not use (if you mainly receive calls). In our experience, when visiting our home country, and using a local SIM card, we pay at least 10 times as much a minute for our calls.
There are really a lot of restaurants in Bangkok, both cheap establishments and fancy ones. We think it is possible to have a decent two-course meal, excluding drinks, for between 150 and 250 baht. Most somewhat upmarket places will charge you between 300-800 baht. Having buffet lunch at the Landmark Hotel, may set you back 1,600 baht, drinks not included.
Foodstalls ans similar outdoor eateries sell plates of food at around 45 baht. Except for the one time experience, we do not recommend eating on the side of the road. Just be assured that the cooking oil has been used endless times, and that the special aroma you smell comes from car exhaust fumes.
Another usefull comparison. Hamburges, cheeseburger and medium French fries at McDonald's are much cheaper than one would expect. Pizzas for some reason are usually priced at the same level as in Europe or U.S.A.
Medium sized Americano coffee at Starbucks is 110 baht. We recommend the local Amazon coffeeshops, where you can have a smaller coffee for just 45 baht or so. Subway sells its one-foot sandwiches for about 200 baht.
We actually suggest you eat a lot of the time at home. Eating at home has the advantage that you basically know what you are eating, and it should be much healthier than foods from restaurants, where you do not have control over the ingredients, and especially over the cooking oil used.
Supermarket prices :
Pork, chicken and beef : All priced below 150 baht per kilo.
Milk (800 cc) : 44 baht
Cola drinks : 13-14 baht
Beers : around 40 baht (standard beer can)
Local fruits and vegetables are cheap, but imported goods can be really expensive. We do buy fruits on the street, it costs usually around 20 baht for a reasonable portion.
Salad bars charge depending on supermarket and quality of goods provided. At Tops you pay 25 baht per 100 grams, and at Emporium or Siam Paragon Gourmet Market, the same amount will set you back 35 baht (better quality though).
Industrial bread at convenience stores (7-Eleven) costs about 30 baht. Prices for better quality bread vary widely, and are comparable to what you would pay in Europe.
Bagels at Au Bon Pain about 65 baht. Good bagels for around 40 baht can be bought at Central Foodhalls.
There is no need to own a private car in Bangkok, unless you need to transport goods around town on a regular basis. Anyway, petrol is priced at about 20 baht per litre nowadays.
Using the BTS (skytrain) or MRT (subway system) costs between 16 and 45 baht for a one-way trip. Amazingly cheap are the taxis. Even with the rising petrol prices, the rates charged are rarely adjusted. Minimum fare is 40 baht. Lots of taxis though use 'natural gas', for which a rather large tank is needed, limiting the size of luggage fitting into the boot.
For about 50 baht you can take a 4 km ride. Buses are frequent, and are becoming more comfortable. Fares start at 8 baht (for the non-airconditioned buses). 20 or 30 baht can take you to the other end of town in airconditioned buses.
In country travel by airplane is very cheap nowadays.
Electrical Goods etc.
Obviously, Thailand is one of the countries where these goods are produced and/or assembled. However, that does not mean that products are cheaper locally. We estimate that electrical goods, cameras, computer equipment etc., are priced 10-30% more expensive in Thailand. Sometimes things get out of hand.
A quick search will often revealed that certain products are much cheaper abroad. Import costs, but surely import taxes, can be high. A prime example are imported cars.
It is good to be aware that most large electrical goods are not shipped outside USA. You can not really order them online from Thailand (or it would certainly also cost you a bundle in shipping costs).
Quality cameras, iPads and the like are a bit cheaper outside Thailand.
Movie tickets (excellent seats, very good quality theatres) costs about 120-180 baht. Tickets in most theatres are cheaper in the beginning of the week, and lowest on wednesdays (usually 120 baht). If you are a senior citizen, some movie chains will give you a steep discount.
Beers in most entertainment venues are around 100-180 baht, but you will pay much more if you wander into certain upmarket discos and the like.
ADSL broadband is between 1000-1500 baht per month. The last few years quite a few condos have been equipped with fiberglass cable, giving faster connections at similar prices. It depends on whether the condo has allowed the telecommunication companies to install there equipment or not, something worth checking if you intend to live in a particular location.
Labor costs are low. Until recently, the government had a policy of keeping wages low. This was an interesting concept, but against market imperatives. Unemployment in Thailand is low, and many companies have actually difficulty in finding workers. The minimum wage therefore does not apply for working in various important industries. (comments before Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment likely to rise strongly from mid 2020).
Anyway, the Pheu Thai government (in power since mid 2011 till 2014), made a big point of increasing the minimum wage to about 300 baht per day (that is now just more than 10 U.S. dollar a day), which has caused an uproar in business circles. Not so much, it seems, because the minimum wage itself will be increased, but because of a fear that employees paid more, will also ask for comparable wage increases (the minimum wage increased by no less than 40 %, possibly in steps). Since this rise in wages about 7 years ago, increases have been rather limited.
In Europe, it can be a real headache if some equipment needs to be repaired, or you need some work done in your home or apartment. Paying for labor can be very expensive, usually more so than the costs of the materials used. The opposite is certainly is still true in Thailand. As an example, if you have a few people painting the walls in your condominium, you will actually pay more for the paint used than for the people doing the painting job. It is cheap to have a maid come the clean your home or apartment.
However, we want to warn you, that with cheaply priced labor, comes poorly finished work (poor productivity work). If you have the inclination, it is worth the effort to evaluate everything carefully, since the quality of work performed can be less than optimal.
Low labor costs do not really apply always. When you want to renovate your bahtroom, kitchen etc. and get a price evaluation beforehand, you may be surprised at the charges. We recently let Siam Sanitary Ware give us a quotation, and found out quoted labor costs were very high (many hundreds of baht per hour). So you really have to shop around before engaging any 'reputed' company.
Well, this is the end of it. We do not really provide a scientific evaluation of the cost of living in Bangkok, but hopefully you get some idea of the living expenses you can expect.