Costs of Living in Bangkok 🏙️
Bangkok, or Krung Thep if you’re Thai, is Thailand’s largest metropolis and capital city. Straddling the middle fork of the country, Bangkok is a melting pot of foreign cultures and influences whilst remaining unmistakably Thai.
If you want home comforts, accessible public transport and the buzz of a big city, Bangkok is probably your best choice.
We credit Numbeo for providing a wealth of statistics on the costs of living in Thailand’s greatest city. However where Numbeo falls short is it lacks the knowledge of a money-savvy expat who has lived in the city for years.
Let’s take a look at Numbeo’s summary of costs of living for Bangkok.
To be critical of Numbeo, the benchmark of 20k baht for the monthly expenses of a single person seems highly optimistic.
It’s certainly doable, seeing as many people in Bangkok live on much lower salaries.
However to the average expat it would be very testing to live on 20k baht per month; you would have to live far out of your comfort zone and avoid having too much fun.
Although Numbeo’s claim that Bangkok is 43% cheaper than New York, it’s an arbitrary comparison at best because both cities are so remote; geographically, culturally and economically.
Costs of Food in Bangkok 🍲
Out of all the places to live in Thailand we are comparing in this guide, Bangkok has the most choices of food simply because it’s the biggest.
Where Bangkok falls short of other places in Thailand is it can be difficult to find local foods from areas in remote parts of the country. For instance, some more specialist Isan dishes or the northern noodle dish khao soi.
Three items stick out on this list: beef, cheese and wine. Almost all of these items are imported because Thailand doesn’t mass produce them.
Beef isn’t readily available for a few reasons, the first being that Hinduism prohibits its consumption. Whilst Hinduism isn’t a major religion in Thailand its had a noticeable influence upon Theravada Buddhism.
Another reason why beef isn’t widely consumed in Thailand is that the land and climate aren’t suitable for rearing cattle. Well, the sort of cattle that you would want to eat. There’s plenty of buffalo in the provinces.
If you’re craving a steak in Thailand you will find it readily available in many foreign restaurants. However the quality is hit and miss and the price is usually high due to the beef being most likely imported frozen from Australia or New Zealand, or Japan is if it’s wagyu.
For the most budget-friendly steak in the whole country, go to You Hunt, We Cook in one of the many malls like Siam Paragon. You can grab a quality steak from the butcher counter and they will cook it right in front of you for as little as 220 baht for 300g.
Regarding the steep cost of cheese, dairy products were never part of traditional Thai cuisine, mostly due to the lack of cows, sheep and goats. Many Thais suffer from lactose intolerance because dairy products were never a part of their ancestors’ diets. Cheese is subjected to high import taxes plus it’s also a dense, heavy food.
Foreign food in general is expensive in Thailand. The locals aren’t known for being cuilinarily adventurous and will rarely eat outside their comfort zone of Thai, Japanese, Korean and fast food.
If you’re living in Bangkok on a budget then you’re practically forced to eat the same stuff as the locals, which isn’t a bad thing at all because it’s delicious.
Costs of Transportation in Bangkok 🚉
If you live in Bangkok then you have the luxury of not needing your own vehicle. The Sky Train, MRT, buses and sheer abundance of car and motorcycle taxis and Grab (Thailand’s Uber) drivers make it unnecessary for you to have your own transport.
Despite all this public transport, Bangkok’s traffic is notoriously bad–it actually ranked 8th in the world for the cities with the worst traffic.
However that doesn’t take into account Bangkok’s excellent trains and the fact that motorbikes can weave through traffic with ease. Yes the traffic is terrible, particularly along the main strip of Sukhumvit but don’t let that stop you visiting or living there.
The train network is expanding rapidly and now reaches far into the outer suburbs. It’s now possible to get from Bang Wa, previously the last stop on the BTS’s Silom line, to Sukhumvit in 20 minutes via the expanded MRT network.
This is fantastic news for anyone seeking cheaper rent or wanting to live in the areas that are typically less popular with foreigners.
Costs of Utilities in Bangkok ⚡
Utilities costs are often overlooked when considering to move to a new city. The examples provided by Numbeo aren’t the most detailed or accurate but expect to pay between 2,000-4,000 baht each month for electricity, water and internet.
Electricity costs vary upon which district you live in, the central ones being the most expensive.
Another thing to take into account is air conditioning; it’s in every condo and it would be unbearable trying to live without it. Some people get by on just a fan but for most aircon is a must. If you sleep with it on then you can easily run up another 1,000 baht of electricity every month.
Numbeo doesn’t provide a cost for mobile data SIMs but you can pay around 700 baht per month and get unlimited data, SMS and calls. AIS, True and dtac are the three major mobile network providers of Thailand.
Bangkok’s internet is widely-available and has decent speeds, most likely due to being a coastal city that’s directly fed internet from a main undersea cable. You may take the quality of the internet in Bangkok for granted until you visit a country without a dedicated cable like Laos and experience a dramatic drop in speed.
Costs of Sports and Leisure in Bangkok 🏊♂️
What Numbeo doesn’t tell you about Bangkok is its sheer abundance of gyms and swimming pools. Any average condo in the city has a gym and a pool. They may not be the best gym and pool ever but having even the most basic facilities can save you money and time.
Where the basic fitness facilities provided by condos fall short is that often the pools are shallow and full of kids during the day time. This isn’t a problem if you have kids of your own or are a night time swimmer though.
Condo gyms are usually basic, with treadmills, a bench press, a squat rack and free weights. If you’re a bodybuilder then you will likely find your condo gym to be lackluster compared to a paid gym like Virgin Active or Muscle Factory. For the average person, though, condo gyms should be more than adequate.
Bangkok has some great parks if you’re into outdoor running or cycling and can bear the sapping heat and humidity. Lumphini park has joggers and cyclists going in circuits round its lake from dawn to dusk. The park also has a free outdoor gym. Don’t worry about the water monitors lurking in the water, they’re more interested in insects than you.
However if you fancy the idea of jogging along the pavements then you’ll be in for a rude awakening; they’re often cracked and uneven. During rainy season the roads will flood with knee-deep water due to poor drainage.
Thinking of cycling on the roads? Forget it, it’s just too dangerous. Stick to the parks or use an exercise bike. Too many erratic drivers plus Bangkok makes no effort to encourage cyclists unlike many other cities. Plus did we mention it’s just too hot?
Numbeo also lacks estimates for fitness activities that aren’t just the gym or tennis.
Muay Thai classes are widely available and Expatden does a great job of covering them in detail. Classes cost around 500 baht per session. They range from no contact to full contact so do your research carefully before attending.
Yoga classes cost around 500 baht per session or 3,500 baht per month at Virgin Active, Kri Yoga or Absolute You for unlimited sessions.
Cinema tickets can be as little as 120 baht with certain promotions like AIS privileges.
Costs of Childcare in Bangkok 👶
The costs of childcare and schooling skyrocket if your child doesn’t speak Thai, which is most likely.
Assuming you want to send your child to a reputable international school, which provide the highest standards of pre-university education in the country, you’re going to be charged a hefty fee.
According to whichschooladvisor.com, tuition fees for international schools range between 150k-90k baht per year, with the average fee being 550k baht. Although Thailands’ international schools are cheaper than the schools of its neighbours (Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia) it still boasts the 2nd most expensive school in the APAC region.
Costs of Clothing and Shoes in Bangkok 👖
These prices seem too steep; maybe they are accurate if you go shopping in Central World, Siam Paragon, ICONSIAM then perhaps because these are Bangkok’s flagship malls.
However the average Thai isn’t going to buy clothes in any of these places; they’re full of vanity shops that understock and overprice their items for branding rather than direct profit. Only inexperienced tourists or the wealthiest Thais and expats seeking authentic designer goods would buy clothes in these places.
The average Thai and expat knows better and would almost always buy their clothes and shoes from malls and markets like MBK. The ground floor of MBK is packed full of discount clothes, even selling authentic well-known branded goods at a fraction of the price of the premium malls. You can haggle a pair of brand new Converse down to less than 1,000 baht if you’re skilled enough.
Costs of Renting and Buying Property in Bangkok 🏠
Property prices shown here are accurate for condos but they don’t mention townhouses at all.
For example, according to Hipflat you can rent a 3 bedroom house in Phra Kanong for 25,000 baht per month. Houses are considerably cheaper than condos though lack usually facilities like security, a juristic office, and a gym and pool.
Salaries and Financing in Bangkok 💸
The average monthly salary is misleading and unrepresentative of an expat’s earning potential.
You must have a work permit to legally work in Thailand as a foreigner and your salary must be at least 50,000 baht for you to qualify for one. That’s more than double the average salary represented here.
Thailand may have one of the world’s lowest unemployment rates (1-2%) but it comes in the guise of a glorified wellfare system. Pull into a gas station and watch one person fill your tank up and eight stand there watching them. They’re technically not unemployed but they’re hardly being given the best career opportunities. This heavily skews Numbeo’s salaries downward.
Distribution of Expenses in Bangkok 📊
Finally, here’s a breakdown of how an individual living in Bangkok’s expenses are typically distributed.
Note that this is an average comprised of the data of the many users who have submitted theirs to Numbeo. It will vary widely from person to person, of course.
Costs of Living in Pattaya 🍹
Pattaya is Thailand’s world-famous party city and attracts 8 million tourists a year. The main attraction is Walking Street and the pockets of bars tucked along Beach Road and its many sois and alleys.
If you like clubbing and drinking the night away then you’ll find plenty of entertainment in Walking Street, but if that’s not your scene then Pattaya doesn’t have much left to offer.
Pattaya is not renowned for the quality of its beaches, nor as an epicurean hub for foodies. Of course there’s plenty of Thai food there but there aren’t any signature dishes that are famously linked to the area, unlike how Isan and other parts of the country have their own famous dishes.
Jomtien is a 10 minute motorbike ride from Walking Street and is a tranquil juxtaposition to the boisterous nightlife of Walking Street. If you want the best of both worlds, Jomtien is more suited to daytime activities because of its cleaner beaches and generally quieter atmosphere.
Without further ado lets get into Numbeo’s living costs of Pattaya:
Of course, Pattaya is cheaper to live in than Bangkok, as we would expect from comparing any city to a country’s capital. What we want to delve into in more detail is not only how Pattaya’s general costs of living compare to other cities in Thailand but also the practicalities and impracticalities of choosing the party city as your home.
Numbeo claims that to maintain an equivalent lifestyle in Pattaya to what 100k baht a month in Bangkok would get, you would need to be earning 80k baht a month: a 20% reduction.
Pattaya’s rent prices are a staggering 38% cheaper than Bangkok’s but it suffers from exorbitant restaurant prices. The former is simply because Bangkok is more densely populated, the latter is because Pattaya is frequented more by tourists who are more likely to eat at restaurants than locals.
Costs of Food in Pattaya 🍲
As mentioned in the summary above, Pattaya is generally cheaper than Bangkok but suffers the most from its astronomical restaurant prices. We’re assuming these are restaurants that cater mainly for foreign customers; they can charge more than Bangkok because Pattaya’s tourists are in vacation mode and less thrifty than an expat.
Although Thailand is famed for its food, that won’t stop a tourist who’s craving a pizza from paying a premium for one. Pattaya’s foreign restaurant marketing gets away with price gouging due to tourists being more lax with their spending than expats.
Costs of Transportation in Pattaya 🚉
Comparing transport between Bangkok (left column) and Pattaya (right column) isn’t the fairest comparison because Bangkok has the BTS, MRT and canals, and Pattaya only has roads.
Pattaya’s taxis price gouge based on its high level of tourists, costing 275.2% more per kilometer. However there’s not much reason to use Pattaya’s taxis if you’re living along the coastline or have your own transport–the latter is almost essential if you’re planning on living there for an extended period.
Costs of Utilities in Pattaya ⚡
There’s not much to say about the costs of utilities in Pattaya (right column) compared to Bangkok (left column) apart from that they’re almost the same.
Jobs in Bangkok typically pay more though so it should be expected that Pattaya’s utilities are cheaper but they’re not.
Costs of Sports and Leisure in Pattaya 🏊♂️
Pattaya’s (right column) gyms are cheaper than Bangkok’s (left column) by a large margin, most likely because they can’t price gouge tourists as easily as restaurants and taxis can.
We don’t think the tennis court price comparison is very useful simply because there are only three tennis courts in Pattaya compared to the dozens in Bangkok.
Costs of Childcare in Pattaya 👶
Whilst Pattaya’s (right column) pre-schooling is only slightly cheaper than Bangkok’s (right column), its international schools are a whole 30% cheaper.
This is probably due to less demand because we can’t imagine many expats want to raise their kids in Pattaya.
Costs of Clothing and Shoes in Pattaya 👖
The difference between the prices of clothing in Bangkok (left column) and Pattaya (right column) are minor.
However, like the costs of clothing and shoes in Bangkok section above, the prices seem to be from bricks and mortar shops rather than markets where locals do most of their shopping.
Pattaya’s night bazaar, for example, sells clothes at less than 10% of the prices given here. Their clothes may have fake labels or be lower quality but they’re still clothes nonetheless.
We don’t think these costs are as accurate or useful as others.
Costs of Renting and Buying Property in Pattaya 🏠
As you would expect, property in Pattaya (right column) is cheaper than property in Bangkok (left column).
Interestingly, single bedroom apartments in Pattaya’s city centre are disproportionately cheaper than those on its outskirts.
These prices, if correct, reflect a stronger demand to live far from Walking Street, Beach Road and the malls. Perhaps it’s the older generations who are seeking a quieter life away from the boisterous nightlife of the coastline.
It’s not clear whether the prices take surrounding areas like Jomtien into account or are just strictly derived from Pattaya.
Another surprising difference is how multi-room apartments are dramatically cheaper to rent or buy in Pattaya compared to Bangkok, ranging between 30-50% difference.
Salaries and Financing in Pattaya 💸
Salaries in Pattaya (right column) are clearly less than those paid in Bangkok (left column) by a large margin. These numbers appear to be derived from the salaries of locals because work permits must carry a minimum monthly salary 50k baht.
If we take the -40% salary difference as absolute and use that to compare the monthly cost of living between Bangkok and Pattaya (~20k and ~17k respectively, according to Numbeo’s summaries of each).
The type of property you’re renting is the dealbreaker for choosing whether to live in Pattaya or Bangkok; living alone in the city centre of Pattaya is only ~23% cheaper than Bangkok but a 3 bedroom apartment in Pattaya’s centre is a huge ~50% cheaper, renting or buying.
Distribution of Expenses in Pattaya 📊
Final Verdict on Pattaya vs. Bangkok 📚
If you’re a couple with a child who needs international schooling, and you have your own business or work remotely, Pattaya is better than Bangkok.
If you’re a single professional with a work permit who needs local employment, Bangkok is better than Pattaya.
Costs of Living in Phuket 🏖️
Bearing in mind that Phuket is an island with towns scattered over it rather than a densely-populated city like Bangkok, we can expect it to have an unusual economy compared to other places in Thailand.
Although technically an island, Phuket is close to the mainland and connected via a single bridge.
Costs of Food in Phuket 🍲
Overall, food in Phuket (right column) is cheaper than in Bangkok (left column) as long as it’s local food.
A meal at an inexpensive restaurant in Phuket costs 60% more than for the same in Bangkok, yet nearly everything else is cheaper. This makes sense because it’s similar to Pattaya’s tourist-based economy.
Costs of Transportation in Phuket 🚉
Phuket’s infamous taxi ‘mafia’ is a cartel of taxi, tuk tuk and motorcycle taxi drivers who price gouge with their fares. It’s unclear why this ‘mafia’ operates only on Phuket and nowhere else in Thailand but it’s probably to do with the fact that Phuket is an island and its tourists are a captive market.
Phuket is large enough that its various towns have large distances between them that are too far to travel without transport, forcing people without bikes or cars to use taxis. This drives up the demand of the captive market, apparently enough to price gouge them by 275%.
On the topic of taxis, if you’re tempted by the far cheaper minivan as a means of getting from the airport to your hotel, beware the annoyances it comes with. They will drive around the whole island taking each guest to their hotel, perhaps dropping you off last. Some will even make unannounced stop offs at shops or travel agencies that tell you your hotel is full or closed–beware!
Costs of Utilities in Phuket ⚡
Electricity in Phuket (right column) is cheaper than Bangkok (right column) but mobile data is more expensive.
Costs of Sports and Leisure in Phuket 🏊♂️
Costs of Childcare in Phuket 👶
Surprisingly preschools cost almost 50% more in Phuket (right column) than Bangkok (left column). This is most likely due to the Island forcing a captive market to choose from a limited number of schools.
However if this was entirely the case then international primary schooling would surely cost 50% more in Phuket too but it’s actually 12% cheaper.
Costs of Clothing and Shoes in Phuket 👖
Clothing and shoes are cheaper in Phuket (right column) than Bangkok (left column).
Costs of Renting and Buying Property in Phuket 🏠
Property in Phuket (right column) is cheaper to rent and buy than in Bangkok (left column).
Salaries and Financing in Phuket 💸
Interestingly local salaries in Phuket (right column) are higher than in Bangkok (left column).
Distribution of Expenses in Phuket 📊
Final Verdict on Phuket vs. Bangkok 📚
Phuket is the location of choice for those who enjoy clean beaches and own their own transport. Due to the fact that its various towns are scattered so far apart from each other makes walking between them out of the question.
We’ve already discussed the obscene costs of taxis so living in Phuket leaves you with no choice but to rent or own a bike or car.
Costs of Living in Chiang Mai 🌄
Chiang Mai is the cheaper to live in than Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket, which makes sense because it’s comparatively smaller and attracts less tourists.
The northern lilt of the Chiang Mai accent, the northern Thai cuisine, the cooler climate, the clear roads–all characteristics that distinguish Chiang Mai from other places in Thailand.
Costs of Food in Chiang Mai 🍲
Just about all types of food, local and foreign are cheaper in Chiang Mai (right) than Bangkok (left).
Chiang Mai’s culture and cuisine is heavily influenced by its nearby neighboring countries: Myanmar, Burma, Laos and even China. Food isn’t as spicy up north as it is in the southern or eastern regions of the country.
Signature dishes include khao soi, egg noodles in a meat and coconut milk curry soup; kanom jeen nam ngiaw, rice noodles in a vegetable broth; sai oua, a smokey and spicy pork sausage–to name but a few.
Costs of Transportation in Chiang Mai 🚉
Chiang Mai is a walled city enclosed by a square road around its perimeter. It has limited public transport, offering only car and motorcycle taxis, and songtals (bus vans).
If you’re planning on living in Chiang Mai you will probably need to rent or buy your own transport.
This is probably why Chiang Mai (right column) taxis are more expensive than in Bangkok (left column) but they don’t price gouge anywhere near to the extent that they do in Phuket.
Costs of Utilities in Chiang Mai ⚡
Utilities are cheaper in Chiang Mai (right column) than in Bangkok (left column).
Costs of Sports and Leisure in Chiang Mai 🏊♂️
Sports and leisure facilities and memberships are cheaper in Chiang Mai (right column) than in Bangkok (left column).
Costs of Childcare in Chiang Mai 👶
Childcare and schooling is cheaper in Chiang Mai (right column) than in Bangkok (left column).
Costs of Clothing and Shoes in Chiang Mai 👖
Clothing and footwear in Chiang Mai (right column) is generally cheaper than in Bangkok (left column).
Costs of Renting and Buying Property in Chiang Mai 🏠
Real estate in Chiang Mai (right column) is generally cheaper than in Bangkok (left column).
Salaries and Financing in Chiang Mai 💸
Despite just about everything being cheaper in Chiang Mai (right column) than in Bangkok (left column), local salaries take a huge hit.
We recommend sourcing your own income rather than working for an employer by being a digital nomad or running your own business.
Distribution of Expenses in Chiang Mai 📊
Final Verdict on Chiang Mai vs. Bangkok 📚
Chiang Mai beats Bangkok in nearly every single aspect when it comes down to cost of living. The downsides are the expensive taxis, burning season and how manic it gets during Songkran (unless that’s your thing).