With the low cost of living in Thailand, you can live comfortably for about $1,000 a month.

Thailand has undergone rapid development in recent decades, spurred partly by its tourism industry. Many favorite tourist and ex-pat destinations offer excellent infrastructure and plenty of services geared toward visitors. The best part: While living standards have risen, the cost of living in Thailand remains low.

Thailand is one of the world's best-known tropical paradises and home to many thousands of expatriates who enjoy a comfortable, low-cost life amid the country's virtually endless natural splendor.

Key Takeaways

  • The low cost of living in Thailand attracts tourists and expats from all over.
  • It's possible for expats to live in Thailand for about $1,000 a month, but some will need a larger budget to be comfortable.
  • Like any country, you'll spend more in certain areas and less in others, so it pays to do your research if you're on a tight budget.

Best Places to Visit in Thailand

Thailand is home to various natural environments that stretch from the interior highlands to the sea. Bangkok, the capital and most populous city, sits in the heart of this tropical paradise and offers a fast-paced, cosmopolitan lifestyle.

In the northern Thai highlands, visitors flock to the bustling expatriate center of Chiang Mai and the quieter city of Chiang Rai. In the south, the seaside resort cities of Phuket and Pattaya are just two of the many popular destinations favored by tourists and ex-pats alike. 

While these and other cities rank among the most popular in Thailand, many ex-pats end up settling in quiet, out-of-the-way beach towns found everywhere along the country's 2,000 miles of shoreline.

Housing Costs in Thailand

Housing costs vary quite a bit depending on where you settle. That said, a $1,000 monthly budget could be enough to live in whichever Thai city interests you the most.

Rent in Bangkok

Bangkok rents rank among the highest in the country. According to Numbeo, an international price comparison website, a one-bedroom apartment in the central districts of Bangkok costs about $665 per month on average, which could break a $1,000 budget.

If you are willing to live outside the central districts, however, a similar one-bedroom apartment costs only about $340 per month. A three-bedroom apartment in an outlying neighborhood is about $885 per month, an affordable price if you plan to share housing costs with a spouse or roommate.

No matter where you are in Thailand, it costs more to live in a city center than it does to live on the outskirts.

Rent in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai

A centrally located one-bedroom apartment in the highland destination of Chiang Mai costs about $400. A three-bedroom unit nearby costs about $800 per month. Outside the city center, prices for one- and three-bedroom apartments are around $290 and $510 per month, respectively.

Rental prices are substantially cheaper farther north in Chiang Rai, where you can get a centrally located three-bedroom home for under $680 per month.

Rent in Pattaya and Phuket

In the south, central Pattaya may be too expensive for some on a $1,000 budget. A one-bedroom apartment in the city center goes for about $530 on average, while similar housing in an outlying neighborhood costs just over $310 per month. A three-bedroom condominium outside Pattaya's center costs about $620.

Down the Malay Peninsula, the near-shore island of Phuket has centrally located one-bedroom apartments not far from the beach for about $410, while three-bedroom condos cost around $900 per month. Farther from the beach, one- and three-bedroom apartments are available for around $280 and $615, respectively.

Utility Costs in Thailand

Basic utilities including water, electricity, and garbage service run about $70 or $80 per month in most locations. Bangkok utilities are an exception, averaging around $100 per month. If you use round-the-clock air conditioning, it might add about $70 to the monthly electricity bill in most parts of the country.

Unlimited Internet service is pretty cheap throughout Thailand, averaging under $23 per month. Prepaid cell phone service averages about $0.05 per minute across the country. Cellphone plans are also available from a number of Thai providers.

Cost of Living in Thailand

Living costs are quite low in Thailand, especially compared to costs in the U.S. or Europe. Fresh fruits and vegetables, packaged food products, and consumer staples like pasta, bread, eggs, and meat are widely available and inexpensive throughout the country.

According to Numbeo, the national average for a loaf of bread is about $1, eggs run about $1.60 a dozen, rice is about $0.50 per pound, and boneless, skinless chicken breast is about $1.15 per pound.

Grocery stores in Thai cities overflow with familiar and exotic ingredients to spice up your home-cooked meals. Most ex-pats who cook meals primarily at home should be able to eat very well on less than $200 per month.

Dining out is also a good option in Thailand, even for those on a budget. A cheap but delicious meal from a local restaurant or a food cart frequented by locals costs about $2. If you feel like splurging, a three-course lunch or dinner at a mid-range neighborhood restaurant costs about $22 for two people, not including beverages.

Other Expenses

Other basic living expenses such as household cleaning products and personal hygiene products are inexpensive in Thailand if you stick to local brands. A budget of $50 to $100 should be plenty for these items. Your costs may be higher if you regularly purchase contact lenses, cosmetics, clothes, and souvenirs.

Public transportation options are available everywhere in Thailand. Bangkok has a public bus system and a mass-transit rail system.  The most common transportation options outside of Bangkok include taxis, minibusses, motorcycle taxis, and three-wheeled vehicles known as tuk-tuks.

Taxis are quite inexpensive on average, starting at about $1.10 plus about $1 per mile. Other options are often substantially cheaper. Numbeo data suggests an average fare of fewer than $0.80 for local transport.

Healthcare in Thailand

Thailand has an excellent and inexpensive healthcare system. While quality care is available throughout most of the country, the bigger cities offer state-of-the-art medical equipment and world-class facilities that attract medical tourists from the U.S. and around the world.

International Living magazine reports that an exam and consultation with a general practitioner or a specialist typically costs between $15 and $20. A visit to the dentist will set you back about $33. Although many ex-pats choose to pay for healthcare out-of-pocket due to the low cost, affordable health insurance policies are available from Thai and international insurers.

Sample Budget for Chiang Mai

To live comfortably in Chiang Mai on $1,000 per month your budget might look like this:

  • $400 for a centrally located one-bedroom apartment
  • $200 for groceries
  • $80 for household and personal items
  • $100 for utilities, Internet, and cell phone service
  • $40 for transportation.
  • $180 (the remainder) for healthcare, extra air conditioning, dining out, entertainment, or travel.

The Bottom Line

Thailand's low cost of living makes it an ideal destination, whether you want to just visit or you plan to stay for a while. Keep in mind that many ex-pats are comfortable living on a tight budget, but that doesn't work for everyone. If your comfort level demands a more expensive lifestyle, be sure to make the appropriate adjustments to your budget.