Thailand has become a hub for retirees and digital nomads in the past decade for a plethora of reasons—the great culture and low cost of living are just two of those reasons. If you’re thinking about making the move, then you’ll be surprised at how far your money will reach.
How does someone live in Thailand for $1,500 or less? It’s actually pretty simple! Regular living costs only add up to around $650, so you’ll have plenty of money for your free time. Here’s a breakdown of things you’ll need to pay while living in Thailand adjusted for 2020 inflation (this is based on living in Chiang Mai):
- Rent (includes internet): $230
- Electricity and Water: $30
- Maid Services: $15
- Food: $200
- Scooter and Gas: $100
- General Time Spent Out: $75
There are plenty of additional things you can spend your money on, along with upgrades to your lifestyle so that you’re not living on a baseline pay. With a budget of $1,500, we’ll give you an overview of a few different lifestyle budgets to give you a better idea of what your life in Thailand could look like based on your priorities.
How to Live in Thailand on 1500 Dollars or Less Per Month
It’s no secret that Thailand has some of the best varieties of beautiful landscapes, and the historical and cultural areas only add to the appeal. If you’re thinking about traveling to Asia, then this is one of the most common places to go.
There are a few basic things you’ll need to know about that apply to every kind of lifestyle, such as healthcare and tax information. We’ll go through all of these first—they might have a significant part to play in your own life, so make sure you account for anything before trying to come up with a budget.
While Thailand does have some forms of public healthcare insurance, it’s difficult to get and not the best choice; you’ll have nearly no benefits. It’s better to go with private health insurance, and you can even choose to get traveler’s insurance depending on how often you have to return to your native country (which largely depends on what kind of visa you get).
While there are private health insurance providers in Thailand, it often comes with language barriers. If you don’t know Thai, or you’re struggling to learn Thai, then it can be problematic to use one of these insurance providers.
Even if you have health insurance, try to keep a good savings built for any medical emergencies. If you have to go to the doctor or even go to a hospital, you’ll oftentimes have to pay up front and get reimbursed by your insurance provider later.
However, if you’re someone who’s young and relatively healthy, you might choose to not get health insurance. Thailand is the perfect place for that; you’ll find that doctor consultations can cost about $15, and even dental procedures like fillings only run around $30.
Thailand’s healthcare services are extremely cheap, so it’s not a bad option to decide not to get health insurance. You’re also more than likely driving a scooter, not a car, so you won’t have to worry about car wrecks sending you a giant emergency room bill, either.
If you live in Thailand for longer than six months, then the country requires that you begin paying taxes on your income no matter what kind of visa you have. Don’t worry though—Thailand works with most other countries to ensure that your money isn’t getting taxed twice.
You’re going to have the best luck working with a tax accountant whenever you go to file your taxes. Since all the tax information is going to be in Thai, it might be difficult to do yourself; going with a professional is your best option.
If you plan on living in Thailand, then you’ll need to decide which kind of visa you’ll need to get. While Thailand doesn’t require visas from 50 different countries for short-term vacations, you’ll need to get one if you plan on staying for less than three months.
However, if you plan on working or staying long-term, then you’ll have to choose between the many different non-immigrant visas. Here are the most common ones you’ll need to choose from:
- B (work and business)
- ED (education)
- M (film producers, journalists, media, etc)
- O-A (retirees)
If you’re curious about what kind of visa to get, you can always get in touch with the nearest Thai Embassy (or consultant) to make sure you get the correct visa for your situation. If you’re just traveling, you can always choose to get back-to-back tourist visas; this requires that you go back to your home country in between though, and that can get expensive.
Beyond your visa, you’ll need to fill out alien registration paperwork and keep your departure card on you at all times. This will need to be filled out every 90 days, no matter how long you’re in Thailand.
You’ll also need to make at least $1,800 a month or have $24,000 in a Thai banking account to move to the country. A combination of both is also acceptable. If you’re coming with a spouse or significant other, then only one of you (or both of you combined) have to meet this requirement. Even if you’re making $1,500 a month like this article prepares you for, then you’ll be fine as long as you have a couple hundred dollars to a thousand dollars saved up.
You can find our guide on how to retire in Thailand here.
Finding Room in Your Budget While Still Staying Under $1500
We all know that our priorities have a huge impact on what we spend our money on—that doesn’t change even when we move to a foreign county! Because of Thailand’s cheap cost of living, you’ll be able to have a $1,500 budget and still splurge where you’d like.
There are several flexible places in your budget. You can either spend more than the average amount and sometimes less in these areas:
- Maid Services
Where you decide to live in Thailand has a huge impact on how much you’re going to spend on rent. For example, you can find places in Chiang Mai to stay that’s only $230 a month; you can also find places to stay in Chiang Mai that cost $600 a month.
Here’s how you can adjust your budget with higher rent costs in each of the main cities (and still stay under $1,500):
- Bangkok – The highest rented areas in Thailand are in Bangkok. In central locations, you’ll spend about $625 on a one-bedroom apartment. If you’re looking for places outside of central areas, you can find one-bedroom apartments for around $320 a month. If you’re looking for an upgrade, then you can get fully furnished homes for $845 a month in the outskirts of Bangkok.
- Pattaya/Phuket – You’ll spend around $400 on a one-bedroom apartment in Pattaya, making it fairly expensive. You can upgrade a bit by looking at three-bedroom condos for around $600 a month, making it pretty affordable for groups of people traveling. If you want to live on the beachside of Phuket, you can expect to spend $425 for a one-bedroom apartment and $940 for a three-bedroom condo. If you move a little away from the shore, those numbers drop down to around $300 and $635.
- Koh Samui – You’ll find rent to be about $550 a month in Koh Samui for the average apartment without furniture. You can go up and down depending on how extravagantly you want to live.
- Chiang Mai – This is where you’re going to find the cheapest places to live. You can find inexpensive apartments that cost $230, but you can also find fully-furnished three-bedroom apartments around $600. You can even find larger apartments for cheaper if you steer away from the central city area.
Keep in mind some of the tradeoffs for rent expenses. For example, while renting in the central areas of cities is more expensive, you don’t have to spend as much money on gas. In fact, you’ll probably be able to walk most places—you may not even need a scooter at all.
While the list above highlights one-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom apartments, you can find studios and even two-bedroom apartments pretty much everywhere. You can find fully furnished spaces as well, which can be extremely helpful if you plan on visiting home often (or because your visa makes you visit home often).
People are attracted to Thailand for many different reasons, and one of those is food. Thai food is infamous around the globe, and you’ll only find the best Thai food in Thailand itself. There are plenty of restaurants and local markets that provide you with the best Thai cuisine.
For this reason, some people expect to eat out the majority of the time instead of cooking at home. With plenty of different places to eat in every city you visit, you’ll constantly be faced with food decisions.
You can eat for fairly cheap at many local restaurants and food carts, around $2 according to Numbeo. This is the perfect option for people who enjoy the nightlife scene and who want to experience authentic Thai food throughout their time in Thailand.
Even if you enjoy splurging and eating three-course meals, it’s only $11 per person. Those prices are comparable to fast food prices in many places in the United States. For $50 a month, you can plan on having fancy Thai meals once a week!
If you’re someone who enjoys cooking, then you can cook things at your home for cheap. You can cook extremely well on $200 a month, and there’s room to cut that down too, especially if you’re a vegetarian or vegan. Even steering away from milk can save you money—a gallon costs $6.46!
Alcohol plays a large part in many budgets, and it’s definitely something to think about when you’re making your own budget. While beer sits at about $2 a pint, it can add up over time…especially if you’re someone who enjoys nights out on town.
Keep in mind that you’ll also learn plenty of delicious recipes, and you’ll have access to all different kinds of Thai spices and foods. You can live easily and find a good combination between going out and cooking at home.
There are plenty of different things you can do in Thailand to pass time, and some of them cost more than others. For example, visiting the local Buddhist temple is free and gives you a great day filled with learning about history and culture—you can also head to the local cinema and spend $7 on a movie ticket.
If you’re looking for tons of entertainment, then you’re probably going to want to live near tourist areas (which means you’re already spending more money on rent). That means you’ll have less free money, but with a $1,500 budget, you’ll have plenty to spend on things to do, even if you go to the movies once a week.
Another fairly common activity is going to the gym. If you’re an active person, then you might find that you want more to do compared to walking around Thailand’s city areas. In that case, you can get a gym membership!
Gyms are much more expensive in Thailand than in other countries. For example, the average gym membership is going to run you about $50 a month. That’s ten times the cost of Planet Fitness’ prices in the United States.
You can also spend time at various parks and courts, such as tennis courts, and pay by the hour. This is a great idea to keep costs low and still get exercise into your routine.
While shopping can be a great stress relieving activity for plenty of people, it’s also one of the quickest ways to drain your money in Thailand. Clothes are much more expensive here, and you’ll find that one shopping trip can drain your free money in your budget. If you’re trying to live on $1,500, then you should try online shopping instead.
Don’t forget about the beaches! No matter where you are in Thailand, you should be able to get to a nice beach easily. This is a free activity that’s also relaxing and a natural stress reliever; it’s a great way to have fun for free, especially if you’re spending a lot of money on rent or food.
While you might not be accustomed to having a maid in your home country, they’re pretty common in Thailand. In fact, it’s a great job to take up if you’re looking for work as well.
You can get your home cleaned monthly for about $15. This money should afford you a pretty deep clean, so as long as you tidy up throughout the month, you shouldn’t have to do much deep cleaning yourself.
If you’re wanting to leave things like dishes and laundry for a maid to do, then you can do so for about $50 a week (or $200 a month). This gives you plenty of free time to enjoy, but keep in mind that your money will be being spent on a maid instead of other things you’d enjoy.
If you’re really struggling for alone time and peace, then you can hire a live-in maid for around $450 a month. While this takes up a good chunk of your $1,500 a month budget, it’s definitely doable provided you use your money as wisely as possible.
It also helps you save money on things like food—you won’t feel the need to go out to eat when someone can cook you great Thai meals. You won’t have to worry about keeping your home in tip top shape, which can save you a lot of stress.
Live-in maids can even watch your children for you. This is a great alternative to childcare services in Thailand, which themselves run about $315 a month. If you’ve got younger children, a live-in maid can definitely provide you peace and quiet while you work or study.
This is something that’s definitely up to you; while it’s a common custom in Thailand, it doesn’t have to be something you choose to do. Many people view cleaning as a way to relieve stress, and some people find it difficult to trust others in their home. However, you can learn a lot from any maid, and a live-in one can definitely help you adjust to Thai culture pretty quickly.
You’ll find that utilities in Thailand are extremely cheap, similar to rent. You also have a pretty good influence on them—for example, you can choose how much you’re using electronics or keeping air conditioning on.
One of the cheapest bills you’ll have is internet. For $20 a month, you can have unlimited, high-speed internet anywhere in the country. If you’re coming from the United States, then this is a huge cut in internet costs that can leave you wondering why it’s so expensive in your home country.
You also have a ton of power over your electricity bill. If you’re not home much, then you’ll see a difference in your electricity bill compared to using your TV all day, every day. If you’re trying to cut costs, then this is a great way to adventure around the city, or take a book to the beach.
By exploring the cities and experiencing the great culture of Thailand, you’ll save yourself money on utilities! It’s especially helpful when it comes to things like air conditioning; if you’re someone who needs their apartment at an exact temperature no matter the weather outside, you can easily run your electric bill up to $70.
However, even if you are running up your electricity bill, it’s still relatively cheap compared to anywhere else in the world. When rent and internet is so cheap, you can easily run your electricity without worry and live under $1,500 a month.
How to Connect Your Budget to Your Lifestyle
Now that you’ve got the basics of traveling to Thailand down, it’s time to work out how you can make your budget under $1,500 no matter what kind of lifestyle you enjoy!
Thailand is known for its diversity, and you can find plenty of areas that support almost any lifestyle you can think of, whether you enjoy the nightlife scene, historic areas, or the quiet beach life.
One of the biggest things that can have an impact on your budget (and your lifestyle) is the city you choose to move to in Thailand. There are plenty of great options that are safe and enjoyable to live in. It’s up to you to decide what has the best options when it comes to things to do and places to go.
Since people are flocking to Thailand because of the different lifestyle options and cheap way-of-life, there are plenty of hubs in almost every city with travelers and people from other countries. The people of Thailand are also friendly, and you’ll feel pretty welcome almost anywhere you go.
Here are some of the most common cities to move to; each have their own perks, and you’ll find something for every lifestyle between the four:
- Koh Samui
- Chiang Mai
The capital of Thailand is undeniably the biggest economic and social area in Southeast Asia. You’ll find all sorts of different things in this metropolitan area, and you won’t have any issue finding a job. The nightlife is abundant, and you’ll be able to visit cultural areas such as museums and galleries.
Bangkok isn’t the cheapest place to live, but it’s not the most expensive. The majority of additional costs will come from your time spent out on the town. You can get a pretty nice space to live for relatively cheap—there are plenty of options around $700.
The biggest downside to living in Bangkok is the pollution. In 2018, the smog count reached levels so high that it was considered too dangerous to go outside in. You’ll definitely want to wear a mask when you’re walking around, especially if you’re someone who is prone to health risks.
Pattaya is perfect if you’re looking for somewhere that’s got plenty of things to do while living on the beachfront. You’ll notice a similar atmosphere compared to Bangkok, but you’ll also feel a more relaxed, ocean-life feel.
Lately, Pattaya has been losing its great reputation because of growing too quickly—there are many areas, such as the red-light district, that have travelers concerned. That’s why Phuket is becoming more and more popular for long-term visitors.
Phuket is the biggest island in Thailand, and you’ll find a lot of the same things here that you would in Pattaya. The upside is that you don’t have to deal with the negative parts of fast-growing tourism.
If you’re someone who plans on going out to eat a ton, or wants to spend time getting the best of both worlds, then one of these locations is perfect for you! Your budget will be a little heavier on rent, but not like Bangkok. You’ll also be spending more money eating and spending time in town.
You can think of Koh Samui as a smaller version of Pattaya or Phuket. While it’s still known for the large tourism crowds, it’s on a smaller level and not at all times of the year. While you won’t have to worry about too much, you do have to deal with crowded beaches.
However, Koh Samui is becoming more popular. Crowds of partygoers aren’t uncommon during the warm season, and Koh Samui is only predicted to grow as time goes on. If you’re not looking to live in a tourist hub, then you might want to think about the future before moving here.
This is a pretty well populated area, and you’ll settle in with a lot of free money in your budget. While this isn’t the cheapest area to rent in, it’s definitely not the most expensive, and you don’t have to deal with high prices because the tourism isn’t at that level yet.
This city is an extremely popular area for digital nomads and retirees across the country. You’ll find a relaxed way of life here, and you won’t have to worry about noisy parties or tons of tourists coming in and out.
The surrounding mountains bring cool weather, making it ideal for those from cooler areas. Chiang Mai is also a great place for those who love culture—there are several Buddhist temples, and you’ll find an abundance of traditional artisans.
Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest places to live in Thailand; this is where the $650 budget from above came from. Your money will go pretty far here, so you’ll either have a small budget or plenty of money for your free time.