You may find it hard to believe, but the cost of living in Thailand for an entire month (including everything) is most likely less than your rent payment at home. As digital nomads, we’re constantly looking for places to stay for a couple of weeks, a month, a year, and Thailand is always one of the top options when it comes to affordability and amenities.
If you’ve been considering working abroad, or just want somewhere to put down some temporary roots, Thailand might be the place for you.
Where else can you rent an apartment for around $200 / month, dine on delicious Thai food for $1 or join the gym for $25 / month?
In this guide to the cost of living in Thailand, I’ll list the 3 best places to live, what to expect and what you’ll spend each month.
Table of Contents
Why choose Thailand?
Visa situation When Living in Thailand
Cost of Living in Thailand: Chiang Mai
Cost of Living in Thailand: Koh Samui
Cost of Living in Thailand: Bangkok
Summing Up The cost of Living in Thailand
Why choose Thailand?
There are numerous places to visit in Thailand and it has long been a backpacker favourite. since the hippie days it has continuously been one of the most popular destinations and is always on lists of cheap countries to visit. There’s just something magical about the Land of Smiles.
From the beautiful beaches and lush jungle, to the unique culture and delicious food, Thailand is a fascinating country to see…and live in.
These days, it’s becoming more of a hot-spot for digital nomads and retirees who want to enjoy one of the cheapest places to live in the world. It’s fantastic how much farther your money can go if you move to the right destinations – and Thailand is definitely one of the best options.
We’ve spent around 6 months both living in Thailand and travelling around the country, and even though we’ve lived in numerous other places around the world (Malta, Mexico, Grenada, Barbados, Argentina, Indonesia, etc.), we still list Thailand as one of our favourites.
The people are friendly (although a bit jaded by tourism), but they make you feel welcome and aren’t rude. Plus, we’ve never had an issue with our safety in Thailand.
There are international hospitals available, with high standards and low price tags. I’ve personally visited the Bumrungrad international hospital in Bangkok and we’ve both been to the dentist in Bangkok as well.
My only issue with the hospital was that it was incredibly busy and I couldn’t make an appointment, and since it was a non-emergency, I had to wait quite a while for a check-up. Regardless, the hospital was very clean, the equipment was modern and the doctor spoke English.
In Thailand, you can get many medications over the counter without having to visit a doctor for a prescription first. The pharmacists are helpful (and knowledgeable) and you can purchase things like antibiotics and birth control pills within minutes. This saves you time and money.
Apart from feeling safe and not having to worry about healthcare, you can enjoy the beaches, mountains and jungle. Or, you can hop on a cheap flight to a nearby destination for a quick holiday away.
With the cost of living in Thailand being so low, you’ll have money left over each month for a holiday – whether domestic or international.
The only decision you’ll need to make is which part of Thailand you want to live in.
Visa situation When Living in Thailand
If you aren’t living in Thailand full-time (ie: running a business or retiring there), then you can enter Thailand on a tourist visa. If you’re from one of these countries, Thailand is one of the best visa free countries because you don’t have to pay for your visa.
However, you can only stay for 30 days before you will have to either renew your visa at an immigration office (for a fee), or leave the country and return.
When we were living in Koh Samui, we landed at the Bangkok airport and received a 1-month visa for free, and then extended it at the immigration office on the island of Koh Samui to receive a further month. The cost of that extension was 1,900 thb ($58).
The immigration building for visa extensions in Koh Samui
Another option is to obtain a 60 day tourist visa before entering Thailand (at a consulate abroad, or in your home country). You will be allowed to extend that visa once more when you’re in Thailand, giving you a total of 90 days before you need to leave the country.
If you’re arriving by air, there is no limitation on the amount of times you can enter Thailand in a year if you are from one of the visa exempt countries, and you leave and return by air (not sea or bus).
It’s not an ideal visa situation if you plan on living in Thailand long-term, as you’ll constantly have to leave the country.
But, it’s always nice to head out on a holiday and with cheap flights with AirAsia and IndiGo, you can fly to nearby countries of Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos and enjoy a weekend away before returning to Thailand.
If you are 50 years of age or older, and you want to retire in Thailand, you can apply for a retirement Visa, which is valid for one year. However, you aren’t able to open up a business or you would need a work Visa.
According to the us embassy and Consulate in Thailand:
Applicant must be able to provide proof of a pension or other regular income from a source outside of Thailand;
Applicant’s pension or other regular income must be no less than the equivalent of 65,000 Baht ($1,995) per month;
Alternatively, the applicant may meet the financial requirement by maintaining a Thai bank account with a minimum amount of 800,000 Baht ($24,500). (Applicants will need to show that they have 800,000 Baht in savings each year when they renew their visa.)
Any applicant married to a Thai citizen may be able to receive a visa on that basis rather than retirement.
As you can see, there are numerous variations to the visas you can obtain, and the extensions you can receive. always check with the Thai Consulate for the most up to date information.
Note: new rules state that you must be able to show sufficient funds in the amount of 20,000 THB ($610) when entering Thailand as a tourist. Whether or not the immigration officer asks you to show proof is up to them. But, to make sure you’re not turned away or questioned, make sure to have sufficient funds (doesn’t have to be in Thai Baht) on you. We were never asked to show proof of funds on entry in 2017. Also, you must have proof of onward travel out of Thailand. Click here to learn how we deal with that requirement.
Cost of Living in Thailand: Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is known as being one of the top digital nomad hubs in Asia – it has everything you could want or need. This is the place to live in Thailand if you want to be surrounded by other entrepreneurs and those who work remotely.
You’ll find people who get paid to write online as freelance writers, virtual assistants, social media influencers, web designers, people who teach English online and numerous other genres of remote work.
In Chiang Mai, you’ll find many restaurants (both local and international), bars, shops, gyms, a cinema, grocery stores, spas and much more. It has everything you could want or need when living abroad.
There are numerous things to do in Chiang Mai to keep you busy – watch some Muay Thai boxing, practice yoga, or take a motorbike out to the waterfalls or on scenic drives in the mountains.
Another option is to head to nearby cities. check out the fun things to do in Chiang Rai and all of the chilled out things to do in Pai. If you’re feeling antsy, hop on a cheap domestic or international flight at the Chiang Mai airport and head off for a weekend away on the southern islands of Thailand, or nearby country.
How To find An apartment in Chiang Mai
There are a few ways to find accommodation in Chiang Mai. Unless you’re going to book through a respectable website like Airbnb, I would definitely wait to see the apartment in person before agreeing to one online.
Even with Airbnb, I recommend choosing a “Superhost” or a place with good reviews. due to Airbnb scams, I would be hesitant to book an apartment that was newly listed and had zero reviews. Airbnb hosts will often offer a discount for 1 month+ stays.
In Chiang Mai, it’s more popular to arrive and look around once you’re on the ground. If you don’t want to book through Airbnb, you can check out these companies and agents in Chiang Mai:
Chiang Mai Properties
Chiang Mai House
Basically, send them an email of what you’re looking for in an apartment, and they will have some viewings lined up and take you around to look at places. The cost of living in Thailand is low, but the cost of apartment rentals in Chiang Mai is really low.
You can find places for around $200 / month (it will most likely be a studio apartment, however). Typically, for a newer apartment with a pool and kitchen expect to spend around $400 – $600 / month.
If you are renting a small house outside of the city center, you would spend around $450 / month for 6 months or more. and finally, if you’re looking for a more modern, luxurious accommodation (with 2+ bedrooms), you’ll spend around $1,000 / month. The longer you rent for, the cheaper it will be.
As you can see, the cost of living in Chiang Mai really depends on the type of accommodation you want, which part of the city you live in, and how long you rent for.
Something to note is that ideally, you can find a place that has a swimming pool and/or a gym attached. The days can be hot in Chiang Mai and with no beach around, having a pool can be a lifesaver.
But, if you can’t find a place with a pool, you can always purchase a pass at one of the fitness centers and use their facilities.
Best areas to stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Old Town
This area is in the middle of all the action. You’ll be surrounded by numerous accommodation options and western restaurants. accommodation prices tend to be on the higher end here.
Chang Khlan Area
Accommodations in this area are cheaper than the Old Town, yet you’re just a 15 minute walk southeast of the Old Town. This area is less modern, with a few seedy bars, but it’s still a safe place to live. You’ll also find lots of street food and cheap restaurant options.
Nimmanhaemin road Area
This is a popular, trendy, “cool” area located northwest of the Old Town. This part of Chiang Mai is home to a large expat crowd, numerous coffee shops, western restaurants, a massive mall with a cinema and lots of co-working spaces. It is one of the more expensive areas Chiang Mai to rent in, but is where many digital nomads choose to live.
Since this area is close to a university, you’ll find lots of students around. It’s located north of the Old town about a 25-minute walk to the center, and a 5-minute walk to a large grocery store.
Accommodation is cheaper here and again there are lots of street food and cheap restaurant options. If you’re looking for a really low cost of living in Thailand, check out this area in Chiang Mai.
See Also: Mae Hong son loop – A guide to The scenic Motorbike Journey
Costs of Living in Chiang Mai
Depending on your lifestyle, you can live for very cheap, or live like a king (while still spending less than you would in your home country most likely).
Costs are incredibly varied in Chiang Mai, with some people living on the budget end in a studio apartment and spending a total of $600 / month including everything.
Others in the mid-level range spend around $700-$800 / month, and at the higher end from $1,000 and up. There are top-end options as well, but with so many nice houses and apartments in the budget – mid-range, it’s really not necessary to overspend in Chiang Mai.
Obviously, if you’re a couple or if you find some housemates, you’ll be able to split the cost of rent and utilities.
Here’s a list of some average costs of items in Chiang Mai:
Apartment Rental – Nightly
$9 – 12 / Night
Accommodation Rental – Monthly
$200 – $1,200 / Month
Electricity and Internet
$150 / Month
$75 – $110 / Month
Full tank of Petrol in Scooter
$3 / 10 minute ride (approx)
Co-Working space Membership
$100 / Month (for the best co-working space)
$25 / Month
Bottle of wine (midrange)
Domestic Beer in a Bar
Imported Beer in a Bar
Liter of Milk
Loaf of Bread
Western style Meal
Thai street Food Meal
$1 – $3
Total cost of living in Chiang Mai per month: $600 – $1,500 / person
How to buy a Motorbike in Chiang Mai
A digital Nomad guide to Living in Chia