Nestled at the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand offers expats a vibrant and affordable modern lifestyle in a country chock full of mountains and national parks, exotic coastlines and bustling cities.
Previously known as Siam, the country changed its name in 1939, to become Thailand, meaning ‘Land of the Free’. Today Thailand is home to around 41,000 British expats, and more than 2.5 million foreign nationals, who get to take advantage of their freedom in one of the world’s most diverse and luxurious countries. But how much is their new lifestyle really costing them? Let’s take a closer look at the cost of living in Thailand as an expat.
The cost of living in Thailand
As of 2022, the cost of living in Thailand is around 34.2% lower than in the United Kingdom and 43.87% lower than in the United States. This takes into account everything from the average cost of rent in Thailand, to the cost of food and travel, giving expats the chance to live a life of luxury on a low budget.
That said, some areas of Thailand are more affordable than others, with life in the big cities costing far more than life in rural or less populated areas. This is particularly true when it comes to the cost of buying property in Thailand.
To give you an idea, here’s a small snapshot of the cost of living in Thailand’s most popular expat destinations, not including rent:
Average living costs – single person/month (USD)*
Average living costs – family of 4/month (USD)*
The good news is that as an expat in Thailand, you can expect to earn a fairly decent wage, with the average annual salary in Thailand falling at around US$34,782 in 2021, or US$2904 a month. When coupled with the low cost of living in Thailand, it’s easy to see why this country is becoming such an attractive expat destination.
To get better idea of day-to-day costs, here’s a look at the cost of basic groceries in Thailand:
Average cost in Thailand (USD)*
Effects of the cost of living crisis in Thailand
The cost of living in Thailand has increased dramatically since February 2022 as a result of the worldwide cost of living crisis and the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Thailand’s Ministry of Commerce reported that the country’s usually stable inflation rate (which had remained between 1 and 3% over the last decade), increased to 7.9% by August 2022. Rising inflation has had a huge effect at ground level, leaving Thais with less buying power, which after two years of COVID-related economic downturn has forced many citizens into debt.
The war in Ukraine has sent shockwaves through the world, impacting on global exports of food, metals and, most significantly, oil. Meanwhile in Thailand, tourism has also taken a hit, with Russian tourists ordinarily one of Thailand’s biggest European cohorts. Russian travellers made up 22.7% of all European visitors to Thailand in 2019, falling to just 8.5% in 2022.
As a result of this decline in Russian tourism, Thailand’s Finance Ministry estimated a loss of at least US$1.03 billion in 2022, lowering Thailand’s GDP by 0.2% if the projected 450,000 Russian tourists were unable to visit the country.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, for unlike much of the world, Thailand is not reliant on importing Russian energy. Indeed, 55% of total crude oil imports to Thailand come from the Middle East, putting Thailand in a fairly healthy position. Thailand also has its own oil reserves.
In response to the crisis, the Thai government has introduced a number of measures to help reduce financial strain. This has included capping the price of diesel at US$0.98 per litre and reducing the price of petrol.
It should also be said that despite recent hardships, Thailand has made remarkable social and economic progress over the last four decades, moving from a low-income to an upper middle-income country in less than a generation. Thailand’s economy grew at an average annual rate of 7.5% between the years 1960-1996, and at 5% during 1999-2005, following the Asian Financial Crisis.
As such, the country has enjoyed strong and sustained economic growth, reduced poverty, better levels of education and a dramatic drop in unemployment levels.
So, while the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the worldwide cost of living crisis have certainly slowed economic progress, it can still be said that Thailand remains a progressive country with growing opportunities for expats and a low cost of living compared to other parts of Asia.
Renting and buying property in Thailand
Like anywhere, the average rent and cost of buying property in Thailand varies greatly depending on where in the country you choose to settle. However, the costs are likely to be well below what you’re used to paying at home.
Cost of renting in Thailand
Rent in Thailand is, on average, 56.1% lower than in the United Kingdom, meaning it is far easier for Westerners to live a luxurious lifestyle on a budget.
That said, the true cost of renting in Thailand varies a lot – and not only depending on the city you choose to live in, but also how close you are to the city centre.
Taking the capital of Bangkok as an example, here’s an idea of how much rent might cost per month in different areas of the city:
Cost per month (US$)*
*Data correct as of December 2022, Numbeo
As the data show, the average rent in Bangkok city centre is more than double the price of accommodation outside the metropolis.
It is important to research your preferred area thoroughly before moving to Thailand, as some neighbourhoods are more desirable than others, particularly if you want to live among fellow expats. Coastal areas can also be more expensive, especially if you have your heart set on a sea view.
If you are moving to Bangkok, some of the most popular areas for expats include:
- Thong Lo
- Victory Monument
What are the rules around buying property in Thailand as an expat?
Unfortunately, buying property in Thailand as an expat can be tricky. This is because foreigners are not allowed to own land in Thailand – meaning while you may be able to enter into a leasehold purchase, you will never be able to own the land the property is built on.
Foreigners are also not allowed to own more than 40% of the total units in an apartment block.
There is a loophole though. It is possible to buy property in Thailand for foreigners If you own a Thai Limited Company – that is a company that has mixed foreign-Thai ownership, where at least 51% of the company is Thai owned. Under this company name, you’ll be able to own Thai property and land without restriction.
What is the cost of buying property in Thailand?
Currently, the average house price in Thailand is around US$313.89 per square foot in city centres, and US$170.59 per square foot outside of the city centre.
To put that in real terms, in December 2022 the average cost to buy property in Bangkok was around US$360,000 for an average sized home of 358.3 square metres with 3.9 bedrooms.
However, while property in Thailand seems very affordable, it’s worth knowing prices have been increasing exponentially in recent years. The average house price in Thailand is projected to increase by as much as 3 to 5% through 2022.
What are the costs of household bills in Thailand?
Household bills are fairly reasonable across Thailand. There is also very little difference between the cost of household bills in Bangkok and Phuket.
These are the average costs of bills in Thailand (not including rent):
Average cost in Thailand (US$)*
*Data correct as of December 2022, Numbeo
Cost of education in Thailand
Expats in Thailand have the option to send their children to public school, Thai private schools, English Programme schools or international schools. However, while public school is free for Thai children, expat families will have to pay tuition fees.
Let’s take a closer look at the cost of education in Thailand.
Cost of public schools in Thailand
For Thai nationals, public education in Thailand is free up to the age of 13. To be considered a Thai national, children will need to have at least one Thai parent and their birth certificate registered in Thailand. Children who are not Thai nationals can still attend public schools, but will have to pay fees.
Expats considering public school education in Thailand should also remember that the curriculum will be taught in Thai.
The cost of English Programme schools in Thailand
The English Programme (EP) is a government scheme whereby almost all subjects are taught in English by a teacher hired from abroad. EP is offered in a number of public and private schools in Thailand for an additional fee.
The English Programme is a great option for expats who want to give their children the chance to interact with Thai classmates, without missing out on an English-taught education.
The cost of the English Programme varies depending on the school, however it will likely be a lot cheaper than the cost of education in Thailand’s international schools.
The cost of international schools in Thailand
The cost of education in Thailand’s international schools varies greatly. In 2022, annual tuition fees ranged from approximately US$4,300 to US$26,000 for a year at Bangkok’s most expensive schools – although it must be said that this is fairly cheap compared to international schools in other countries across Asia. Indeed, international school fees in Thailand are 21.7% lower than in Singapore.
Primary international school fees in Thailand cost around US$1,900 to US$23,300, with the average cost being around $9,250 for the year. Meanwhile, secondary or high school tuition fees range from US$2,500 to US$26,000, with the average around US$11,000 per annum.
Cost of higher education in Thailand
Thailand isn’t particularly well renowned for its university education. However, the cost of studying at Thai universities is much cheaper than studying in Europe or America.
Students have limited options for higher education in Thailand’s public university system, or they can choose private universities that offer a more tailored education at a higher price.
Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok is Thailand’s highest ranking university, and a public university. The costs of studying at Chulalongkorn University in 2022 are:
- Bachelor’s programmes: US$1,788 to US$1,905 per semester
- Master’s programmes: US$2,332 to US$2,519 per semester
The cheapest universities in Thailand are Thammasat University, with Master’s programmes starting at US$960 per year, and Mahasarakham University with Bachelor’s degrees starting at US$1,318 per year.
Cost of transport in Thailand
Thailand offers various reliable forms of public transport from taxis, buses and railways, to the native Tuk-tuks – a three wheeled vehicle found in every corner of Thai cities.
Here are the average costs of travel in Thailand, including the cost of buying and running a car:
Average cost in Thailand (US$)*
*Data correct as of December 2022, Numbeo
Cost of healthcare in Thailand
When it comes to the cost of healthcare in Thailand, it’s actually law that all expats be covered by either:
- Public Thailand health insurance, only available to working expats enrolled on the Universal Coverage Scheme, or
- Private health insurance
If you are eligible for public health insurance, you will have access to Thailand’s state healthcare system which ranks 64th in the world as of 2020, according to the Legatum Prosperity Index.
Most expats choose to pay for their own private international health insurance to cover them while living in Thailand. Good international health insurance cover in Thailand should give expats better quality healthcare, faster access to treatments and cover the cost of emergency repatriation should you require more specialist treatment in another country.
How to budget as an expat in Thailand
As an expat living in Thailand, you should find budgeting for a comfortable lifestyle to be no trouble at all.
However, as the cost of living in Thailand increases, you may find it comforting to be able to track exactly how much you have going in and out each month.
Here’s how track your cost of living in Thailand, and budget for a comfortable lifestyle:
1/ Make a note of your take-home pay
The first step to working out your monthly budget is to note down how much money you have coming in. You’ll also need to take tax into account. As an expat, the amount of tax you pay will depend on how much you earn:
Thailand-sourced income band in Thai Baht (THB)
National income tax rate
2/ Work out the cost of rent/mortgage payments
Your rent and mortgage payments will be one of your largest monthly outgoings as an expat in Thailand, making up about 23% of your budget. It’s therefore important to know how much this will impact your finances.
Remember, if you’ve yet to relocate, you’ll also need to budget for one-off moving costs in your first month.
3/ Factor in your monthly bills
The cost of basic utility bills in Thailand come to around US$62.97 per month for electricity, heating, cooling, water and waste disposal. Internet will then cost around US$17.98 per month on top.
Don’t forget to also factor in any regular travel costs, mobile bills and insurance – including your international health insurance policy, which is a legal requirement for expats living in Thailand.
4/ Set your monthly budget
Once you’ve worked through steps 1 to 3, you’ll be ready to subtract your monthly cost of living in Thailand (rent and bills) from your salary, giving you a rough estimate of how much you’ll have left for everyday expenses like food, and to put away in saving.
Insurance to help you manage the cost of living in Thailand
William Russell has been helping expatriates like you settle into a new life overseas for over 30 years.
Our comprehensive insurance packages are specially designed to give you and your family the best possible lifestyle while living abroad. Our international health insurance ensures you can access high-quality medical care, while income protection insurance can help protect you in the case of unexpected changes in income.
Speak to us today to find out more about how we could help you make the most of your new life as an expat in Thailand!