Bangkok Budget Breakdown

Having now lived in Bangkok for over a year and chatting with many other fellow ex-pats, I’ve put together a comprehensive guide of a monthly budget in Bangkok. I’ve tried to demonstrate the possible ranges in this lovely city so that you get a decent idea of how much you’ll be spending if you take the plunge and move to Bangkok. Enjoy!

bkk

Rent

Rent is obviously going to be your biggest expenditure and it can be tricky to find an ideal place. Rent can range anywhere from 4,000 baht to 30,000 baht and it all depends on what you’re looking for. Here are some things to consider:

Approximately 120,000 baht (not mine, sadly)
Approximately 120,000 baht (not mine, sadly)

1. Location: Location is a huge indicator of price. If you want to live anywhere near the snazzier parts of Bangkok (Sukhumvit, Thong lor, Silom, etc.) you will have a very difficult time finding an inexpensive condo. Also, the closer you live to the BTS or MRT, the more expensive you’re condo will be as it’s a hot commodity (and with good reason, as they’re both super cheap and cut transport time and traffic). However, don’t despair if you have your heart set on these areas, as you can perhaps find a good deal if you’re looking at a longer lease and don’t mind walking a ways to your mode of transport.

2. Lease length: Basically, the longer your lease, the better deal you get. Signing a 6 month lease can instantly drop 2,000 baht off of your monthly rent. Sign a year long lease and you could be looking at 3,000 baht cheaper a month. Month to month is obviously the most expensive, and it’s tough to find.

3. Bedrooms: One-bedrooms are generally a bit more expensive than studios. Studios are in abundance in BKK so you will have the most luck getting a good deal on a studio apartment. However, if you want a one-bedroom, expect to pay close to 4,000 or 5,000 more for it.

4. Kitchen: In traditional Thai apartments, kitchens are typically non-existent or outdoors (even in our apartment with an electric stove, there’s a little gas-stove on the balcony). If you want a stove or the elusive oven, you are going to have to pay extra for it. Basic apartments usually only come with a sink and a refrigerator. With a stove or oven, expect to pay anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 more for it.

5. Extras: A lot of foreigners in Bangkok like to stay in condos that come with a pool and fitness, and this can often be done for a decent price. I would have loved to have both, but we were looking at a 3 month lease and it just wasn’t happening. Because the pool/fitness condos are usually newer and geared toward foreigners, expect to pay around 3,000 to 6,000 more a month for those condos. The upside is, they usually come with an equipped kitchen and have decent one-bedroom prices.

So what does this all mean? What price range are we actually talking here? Let me give you some real live examples:

A decent-sized, furnished, one-bedroom condo with kitchenette (stove, fridge), with a pool and fitness near a non-popular BTS station (like Ari, Saphan Kwai, Victory Monument, Sanam Pao, Chong Nonsi, etc.) will run you between 12,000 and 18,000 baht per month with a long-term lease (6 or 12 months).*

A studio apartment with en-suite bathroom but no kitchen, fitness, or pool at a further BTS location (On Nut, Bang Na, Mo Chit) will run you between 4,000 and 8,000 baht, short or long-term leases.*

A one-bedroom on the other side of the river (Wongwian Yai, Bang Wa, etc.) with a stove and fridge, pool and fitness, can run you anywhere between 8,000 baht and 14,000 baht.*

Pro Tip: If you have any Thai associates, like co-workers or agents or friends, ask them for recommendations. Thais get much, much cheaper accommodation than foreigners.

*The above examples are from people who live in those areas. They are definitely not all-encompassing and you can get better deals with research, luck, or just looking around.

Utilities

A delightful tangle of wires
A delightful tangle of wires

One of the great things about Thailand is that utilities are extremely cheap. For example, living in a one-bedroom apartment with my boyfriend, we never spend more than 100 baht (about 3$) on water per month.

The electric bill can vary greatly, mostly depending on how often you use your air-conditioning units and whether or not you cook. We have two air-con units, one in the bedroom and one in the living room, and we cook on an electric stove about 4 nights a week. During the cooler months like December, our electric bill can be as low as 1000 baht (about 33$) and during the hottest months, it can be as high as 2,000 (about 65$). However, you are definitely in control of your electric bill. If you want to save, invest in a nice fan or try to close doors so that the air-con stays in the area you’re in. Try to eat street food more often and skip on using the stove. By being conscious of your electric use, you can have a bill as low as 25$ a month, easily.

Groceries

Only paid 100 baht (about 3$) for all this!
Only paid 100 baht (about 3$) for all this!

Groceries, like most other things, can vary. Luckily, there are a lot of great street vendors all over Bangkok that sell fresh, quality fruits and veggies at ridiculously cheap prices. We have a local vegetable shop where we get our weekly produce and then a Western grocery store where we get all of our other essentials (bread, cereal, beans, soy milk, yogurt, tortillas, imported produce, etc.). We end up spending about 1,000 baht a week (33$), but we only eat breakfast and dinner at home about 4 nights a week. We’re also vegetarian so that cuts down on our costs.

Going Out

A lovely car-bar from Chiang Mai (aka a bar on wheels)
A lovely car-bar from Chiang Mai (aka a bar on wheels)

Going out is probably where most people slip up on their budget. Bangkok is notorious for its amazing nightlife and with good reason. There are a vast multitude of bars and restaurants that are all over the map, from your car-bar with 30 baht drinks (1$) to your upscale rooftop bar with 300 baht drinks (10$). The hardest thing about saving money in Bangkok is that you can afford to go places you never could at home. The nicer restaurants and bars are adjusted to Thai prices so that the more upscale places are equivalent in price to mid-range places back home. For example, we live in a bit of a hi-so area with a really fancy restaurant where everyone dresses to impress and orders whiskey and sushi like it’s going out of style. We go in our jeans for the pizza and beer. The beer pitchers are about 6$ and the delicious, wood-fire pizza is about 10$.

However, going out can easily be budgeted and controlled. Just be sure to mix your ‘splurge’ nights out at Western restaurants/bars/pubs (yeah, everyone needs a fix from time to time) with a night out for beers at your local Thai bar or a night eating street food. This works for us at least!

Shopping

My closet-full of Thai clothes
My closet-full of Thai clothes

This is a fun one. One of my absolute favorite things about Thailand is you can pay upscale, designer prices for your clothes, and then you can find them on the street for a tenth of the price. What do I mean? Let me give you an example. I once saw a dress I fell in love with at H&M, but couldn’t bring myself to buy it. It was about 800 baht (25$). About a week later, I saw the exact same dress at a street stall for 200 baht (7$), which I could have easily negotiated down in price. Since the clothes are often made in Thailand or in neighboring countries, they somehow manage to make it off the supply line and into small shops.

Clothes, like all things here, range drastically in price and quality, but you can get some amazing deals at places like the gigantic Chatachuk market or MBK mall. Or you can hit up the designer stores at posh malls like Paragon or Gaysorn. So you could say shopping here is dangerous, but it’s also very, very cheap. We probably spend about 60$ per month on miscellaneous shopping trips to markets and malls, on shoes and work clothes and random things that crop up.

Cell Phones

Cell phone plans in Thailand are delightfully affordable compared to US prices. I have a little plastic thing that I just use as a pay-as-you-go phone, and I usually spend about 300 baht a month (10$), making daily phone calls and a lot of texts. I know that a data plan for an iPhone costs around 500 baht (15$) and varies depending on how much data you want. There are probably some great packages, and I would suggest companies like TrueMove or dtac as they are very popular.

Transportation

A typical day on the moto
A typical day on the moto

Transport in Bangkok is very cheap. My boyfriend and I manage to spend about 120 baht a week on gas for the moto (4$). If you work far from where you live, you can usually take the BTS or MRT for less than 40 baht a trip (1.25$). Then you can hop on a moto-taxi for around 30-40 baht to get you where you need to go. Taxis generally cost less than 100 baht, especially if you don’t get stuck in traffic. There are also great, cheap buses that run all over the city, although I’ve only managed to determine routes for a few of them. Most end up at Victory Monument, and from there you can BTS onward. Transportation should cost less than 200 baht a day (about 7$) to get to work and back.

Hopefully this guide helps you get an idea of how to budget your monthly expenditures in Bangkok. Good luck, and let me know if you have any questions in the comments!

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