Cost of Living in Thailand: My Monthly Budget

One of the first questions people ask when they think about moving to Thailand is how much do you spend per month.  I haven't sat down to calculate my monthly expense accounting lately as I knew that I was making a lot more money than I could possibly spend in Chiang Mai.

That wasn't always the case, if you guys remember, exactly one year ago I was living on a $600 a month budget and detailed exactly what I spent money on every month.  In my book 12 Weeks in Thailand, I shared my experiences on how I have been able to travel around Thailand for almost four  years without having to go back and get a real job.

My Monthly Expenses:

Rent: 10,000 baht ($334US)

I've lived in a wide range of accommodations in Chiang Mai from Thai budget rooms to hotel suites and even considered renting a house.  But what I've learned to like the most are renting serviced flats which is basically the same as renting a hotel room for a month.  When I was broke I lived in a single room Thai apartment with no tv or fridge for 3,500 baht a month ($116US) but now I prefer having nicer things and having someone clean my room and change my sheets whenever needed.

Utilities are extra, but since I prefer using the fan and only turn the A/C on low my total bills always come out to be less than 1,000 baht a month which is $33US)

Food Costs:

This is my highest expense as I really like to eat, and ever since I started making a western wage while living here, I figured, why not eat the best that Chiang Mai has to offer since it's still cheaper than a standard dinner back home in California.  

Breakfast:  I drink Bulletproof coffee during the week which costs me around $1.50US to make.  On weekends I like having bacon, eggs and avocado with a fresh coconut, which usually costs me 200 baht ($6.67US)

Monthly breakfast cost:  20 x $1.50 = $30 a month for local coffee, new zealand grass fed butter, and coconut oil.  

8 x $6.67 =  $53.36 for brunch twice a week.

Lunch:  For lunch I generally walk to a local Thai restaurant near my office and my meal is almost always 100 baht ($3.33US) as I order two dishes and eggs on the side.  If you were to eat normal Thai food with rice you can have it for half of that price.  

Sometimes I have a whole roast chicken with raw vegetables for lunch or we go somewhere nicer, but it's almost never more than 150 baht ($5US)
30 x 120 = 3,600 baht ($120US) for lunch.

Chiang Mai Roasted Chicken with Green Papaya Salad
Coconuts: I have a coconut almost everyday as my rule is I never pass one up.  Street prices are 25 baht but can go up to 60 at a restaurant.

30 x 25 = 750 baht ($25US) for monthly coconuts.

Coffee: I love good coffee, luckily there are tons of great coffee shops and I get one every day expect sundays.  I make my own using local thai beans when I'm at work, but whenever I'm out and about I have an americano.  

10 x 60 = 600 baht ($18US)

Dark Chocolate:  I am a big fan of Swiss Dark Chocolate.  Luckily at Rimping Supermarket (the Thai Whole Foods) they sell Lindt for 120 baht per bar.  I usually go through two of them per week.  120 x 8 = 960 baht ($32US)


I spend way too much for dinner, but I love to eat.  Most expats and English teachers spend between 35-60 baht for dinner which is $1.16 to $2US.  I spend close to 10x that amount.  But I figure that a normal dinner in the U.S. costs me $20-$30 regardless of where I go or what I eat, so why not spend that same amount here and have the best.

Examples of incredible food in Chiang Mai:  

Kantary Hills Carvey Buffet - 600 baht All you can eat Prime Rib, New Zealand Lamb Chops, Baked Salmon, as well as a full salad and dessert bar.  Every wednesday night at Kantary Hills Hotel, $20US

Tapas - In the U.S. it's easy to spend $80 at a Tapas restaurant and still not be full.  Here since plates are less than 100 baht each ($3) you can order as much as you want and still end up spending less than 500 baht per person ($15US)

Steaks - There are a lot of nice steak houses in Chiang Mai, and prices range from 350 baht for local grass fed steaks to 600 baht for imported Australian steaks.  $12-$20US

Thai Food - Yes you can get $1 Thai food on the street, but you can also sit down at nicer Thai restaurants such as Dash's Teak house or The Whole Earth and order some incredible thai food for less than US prices.  Average dinner is 150-250 baht $8.33US

Salads - Sometimes you just want to load up on raw vegetables, topped with smoked salmon, avocado or grilled meat.  Average cost 200 baht $6.67US

BBQ Buffets - Tons of great grills ranging from Thai style, Korean and Japanese. Prices range from 150 baht - 300 baht.  ($5-$10)

Monthly dinner expense:  30 x 300 = 9,000 baht ($300US)

All You can Eat Broccoli and Prime Rib

CrossFit Membership:

Even though it's been a bit of a waste as I only go a few times a week at the most, I have an unlimited crossfit membership.  Monthly cost 2,500 baht ($84US)

Co-Working Space Membership:

Yes you can work for free at coffee shops or at your apartment.  But personally I love having 24/7 access to PunSpace and think it's well worth the 3,500 baht a month membership rate.  $117US

Motorbike Rental:

If you're staying for more than 3 months, buy a scooter. You can get one for less than 20,000 baht ($667US) and sell it for almost the same when you leave.  I've been a bit of an idiot and have been renting out of convenience at 3,000 baht per month ($100US)  By the way gas is only about $3 a week in one of these things.

Motorbike and fresh laundry

Cell Phone and Data:

I have a data plan for my iPhone and generally spend 500 baht a month for everything.  Best of all, is no contracts and you can top up phone credit at 711.  ($17US a month)

Laundry Service:

I drop off my laundry to be washed and folded and pick it up in the afternoon or the next day.  It's super convenient and only costs me around 100 baht per week.  ($14US a month)


In the U.S. I would hardly ever go to the cinema as it was hard to justify paying $12 to go to the movies.  Here movies are 120 - 180 baht depending on the night and bottled water is only 20 baht even at the theatre.  The theaters are brand new and ever since they opened at the Maya Mall which is walking distance from where we live on Nimmanhaemin St we go every week.  150 baht x 4 = 600 ($20US)


I get at least one or two massages per week.  They are a great way to relax, reward yourself and it's good for body and soul.  I alternate between foot massages while listening to podcasts, thai massages and oil massages.  Prices range from 150 - 400 baht.  Monthly cost 1,500 baht ($50US)


Another fun thing to do, and only 250 baht per person.  We go every week making it 1,000 baht a month ($33US)


Okay so there you have it, that's everything I can think of including the coconuts.  I basically live in a hotel room, eat steak every night, have no responsibilities,  pay people to clean up after me, and do more fun activities than I do back in the U.S. 

So what's the damage?   

Total Monthly Spend: 40,530 baht which is $1,351 US

There you have it, even without trying to live on a budget, it's physically hard to spend more than $1,500 a month living in a place like Chiang Mai.  The best thing about it is that there is literally nothing else I would want to upgrade in my life here even if I was making more money. 


Want to know how I lived off of a $600 a month budget and what it was like traveling around Thailand, doing Muay Thai, Scuba Diving and enjoying the good life on the cheap?  Read my book 12 Weeks in Thailand.  

Want to know how I went from writing books about how to live cheap to making enough money where I completely stopped budgeting or caring how much I spend?  Check out the post Start Here on my blog or listen to Episode 10 of the Travel Like a Boss Podcast.

Hope everyone enjoyed this post, out of curiousity, leave a comment below and tell me what you are currently spending per month where you are living.

Warm Regards,


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Post a Comment

  1. Nice! Can you write about living in Saigon, Johnny?

    1. Hey Hieu, here is a write up about the costs of living in Saigon =) Check it out:

  2. Awesome post man! Quick question, what kind of visa do you have? How are you able to live in Thailand for so long?

    1. Hey Zackary, I'm just on tourist visas which I used to think were a pain in the ass. But now that I make enough money to afford a vacation every 90 days anyways I actually enjoy leaving the country and making "visa runs"

      I started by journey with savings and odd jobs, but then I figured out eCommerce along the way. You can read my entire 5 year financial journey her:

  3. Hi Johnny !

    Great post !

    May I ask, how is the best way to look for free serviced flats in Thailand ?

    I want to do a month or two there (and do scuba diving) and prefer to rent also a hotel room.

    1. Hey glad you enjoyed the post. I usually either book a random hotel for a few nights and walk around the neighborhood I like, or google the name of the city and "serviced apartments." For Chiang Mai I like

  4. Hi Johnny, thanks for sharing.
    Your posts are always very helpful, especially this one since I'll finally visit Chiang Mai in a week. Can't wait to try all the food buffets you mentioned haha.

    1. Hey Dvir, no worries bud, glad you are enjoying Thailand and hope you have a great time up in Chiang Mai next week.

  5. Hi johnny, loving your blog and podcast.
    as a couple living in Sydney Australia our basic costs are about $1000 p/week..
    for the basics!
    Keep living the dream bro. might see you soon :)

    1. Hey glad you two are enjoying the podcast! With $4k a month you can live like a boss out in Thailand! keep following the journey and see you guys soon.

  6. Nice to see you break down your spending with some very specific items like the coconuts and and buffet dinners so people can get a real idea of what quality of life you can have here in Thailand on the cheap.

    1. Hey Ryan no worries, most people leave out real life day to day living costs so it always seems cheaper than it is. But FYI I wrote this when I was spending money on what ever the hell I wanted. My actual monthly spend is now way less than that as I got tired of eating $20 buffets and started enjoying Thai food again =)

  7. Great post! One thing I wanted to see however was the price of clothing. I love shopping, but I've heard that US is generally the cheapest for high-quality clothes. What are the prices like in Chiang Mai? Affordable? Or just I stock up before leave the US?

    1. Hey Adam, the costs of generic or knock off clothes is super cheap as you buy them from the night markets. (Think $3-$5) per t-shirt.

      However if you want good quality clothes or name brands, you want to buy them from home as they are much cheaper there and easier to get.

      Now a days I buy all of my clothes in the US, and just shop at Uniqlo when I'm here which is the same price as it is in the US


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