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How Much is Enough?

Recently, a friend asked me, “Is $750 per month enough to live in Thailand?” I thought about it and decided it depends on what you mean by living. Everyone’s needs are different. The straight and simple answer is, “Yes. $750 is enough to live in Thailand.”

There are acceptable one-room apartments, with air conditioning, to be found between $150 and $200 per month in Chiang Mai. If you have to live near the beach, double it. Electricity in a small place will be around $30 per month, with water only costing about $4. If you want cable, a cell phone, and Internet, you can find packages between $30 and $85 per month, depending on Internet speed, English channels, etc. If you eat strictly Thai food, you can find meals for around $2 to $3. So, we’ll say $8 per day, or $240 per month. So far we’re up to $454 at the very lowest end of the spectrum for basic living expenses.

This doesn’t allow for transportation, so you’re on foot. It also doesn’t cover any type of health insurance. If you get hurt or sick, you’re on your own. Thai clinics, hospitals, and prescription drugs are much cheaper than in the U.S., but if something major happens, a long-term hospital stay can still be financially overwhelming. It’s possible to find health insurance for $1,200 to $2,500 per year, depending on your condition and age. At $100 per month for the cheapest, that brings the total up to $554. That leaves you $196 for the month for cleaning and personal hygiene products, entertainment and unplanned expenses.

To me, this doesn’t sound like much of a life. I like Thai food, but sometimes I want a burger. I enjoy going out and having a drink sometimes, and occasionally, I like to watch a movie in the theater. I might actually want to go to the beach, or even one of the neighboring towns for a few days. I may even want to take a friend out for dinner. If you’re living here on $750 per month, it will be very difficult to do anything other than exist and eat.

I think a more realistic amount would be somewhere around $1,200 per month. That’s much cheaper than you would pay for the same quality lifestyle in the U.S., and gives you a little more freedom to do something other than go to the park, walk around the mall, or sit at home and watch TV.

If you are the kind of person who wants to go out drinking and eats western food every day, even $1,200 isn’t going to be enough. Prices for drinks are comparable to drinks in the U.S., and if you go to a place where there are women working in the bar, their drinks are even higher. To eat at an American fast food place, like McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, or Pizza Hut, it is actually more expensive than in the U.S. It’s a real treat for a Thai person to eat at a place like that, and most can’t afford it on a regular basis.

You may think you can just get a job when you get here, but there is a strong possibility you can’t. There are restrictions to jobs foreigners can have. Basically, if it’s a job a Thai person can do, then it is only open to Thais. Teaching English is open to foreigners who meet specific requirements, and I know people who earn up to $1,000 per month doing it. There are some people who earn money with YouTube vlogs, or through Patreon accounts (which is basically asking people to send you money). Another job foreigners can have is to be a scuba diving instructor. If you can find a job in Thailand, you’ll need a work permit from the Thai government.

It’s not easy to live here permanently, unless you are over 50 and earn a little over $2,000 per month, or have $25,000 in the bank that you don’t touch. If you meet these requirements, you may apply for a retirement visa. If this doesn’t apply to you, visas can be tricky and may require you to leave the country every 90 days in order to renew yours.

So, to my friend, and anyone else interested in living in Thailand, know what your personal needs are, and know how you plan on earning money. For me, because I was eligible for the retirement visa, it was the perfect choice. You alone can decide if you have enough to live a comfortable life in Thailand. If anyone has any questions, just let me know!