Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cost of Living in Thailand as a Teacher

Living in Thailand initially got me stoked on how cheap everything is, but that was when I had my American income frame of mind. Being a teacher provides us with more than enough income to live comfortably in Thailand, but you still have to be smart about superfluous spending.

So here is a break down on my expenses in the past 3 months living here (remember, this is fairly subjective and could vary depending on your priorities while here... like how buying a guitar was very important for me the first month...goodbye 3,000 baht...oof).

Exchange Rate: 30 baht = $1 US Dollar

My salary: 25,000 baht a month (paid on the last Friday of every month)

Basic Expenses
Accommodation: Free (most likely) // Monthly: Free
If you are going through the CIEE program (or OEG) you will most likely get housing taken care of. Some of the teachers I’ve met have to pay rent and utilities, but share it at a discounted price with multiple roommates. I am at a boarding school, so housing and utilities are free. 

Dining Out: roughly 100 baht a day // Monthly: 3,000 baht
Thai food is one of the things that bring me the most joy here. Seriously. The food here is so good it will make you emotional. Maybe that’s just me.

My school feeds me for every meal, so hypothetically my food expenses could be zero, but I find myself wanting to leave campus often and try new restaurants out on my own time, which equals about 100 baht a day.

A cheap Thai meal: 20-30 baht a plate (the best pad thai/som tam/mango sticky rice you’ve ever had at a restaurant where no English is to be found)

An expensive Thai Meal: 90-150 baht a plate (normally just as delicious as it’s cheaper counter part, but at a more westernized location that is more appealing to foreigners, usually because things are in English)

Average Western meals (because sometimes you just need a pizza dammit) 
          250 baht for a hamburger & fries
     60 – 80 baht for French fries
     300 baht for a personal pizza
     500+ baht for larger pizzas

Groceries: roughly 300 baht per visit // Monthly: 1,000-2,000 baht
Unfortunately I am not blessed with a kitchen, so I rely on leftover meals and snacks to satiate my appetite and occasional midnight eating binges. Some people get to cook a lot of their meals, so their expenses in this category would be much higher.

My groceries mainly entail candy for my students, dried fruits, granola bars, instant noodles, fruit, and more fruit.

Laundry: 30 baht per load // Monthly: 180 baht
Do yourself a favor and have someone do your laundry. I didn’t know hell until I washed my pile of clothing in my scary shower during the scorching heat of May, sweating through all the clothes I was wearing, then needing to wash those as well, and to top it all off the water was brown. I was washing my clothes in mud, or something worse than mud. And anything cotton (so everything I own) didn’t dry for 3 days in the humidity. #endrant

Then I met Aoy, who has one washing machine and a small market near the school, and she is my new Tuesday & occasional Thursday laundry buddy. For 20 baht you can wash a small load, and 30 baht a large load. It spins out your clothes so they are nearly dry when you take them home, and a short hanging on a drying rack will do the trick.

Motorbike: 150 a day (if rented daily) // Monthly: 2,500 baht  (if rented per month)
I could write a whole page on Motorbikes…but main point: Wear a helmet. Don’t be stupid.

Taxi: 40+ per ride // Monthly: depends on how often or if a taxi if your main source of transportation
If you call a taxi to pick you up, they tack on 20 baht for a call center fee. The meter will always start at 30 baht. Most of the time your driver will be awesome and just charge you the meter fee, but occasionally they like to stiff people and charge 10 baht per kilo…which can seriously add up and is always more expensive. Make sure you tell your driver meter, and if they say no…another taxi will say yes.

Tuk Tuk: only if you are desperate
While Tuk Tuks should be cheaper, they normally aren’t. Unless there are 6 of you and piling into one to get a few kilos away is more convenient. They will give you a flat fee that will probably be twice as much as a taxi ride, but they are every where and if you want to pay for the convenience, go for it.   
Phone (Data & Minutes): anywhere from 100 - 2,500 baht a month (totally subjective here)
2,500 baht may seem like a lot, and it is. This is how much I spend because I have a data plan and call home quite often. But these things have been my saving grace in connecting me with my family and my boyfriend back home. So for about 550 baht a month, I get an unlimited data plan and can use my iPhone for anything. The rest is for those long calls home, where you find yourself on the phone for over 45 minutes telling your loved ones everything that has been happening, and hearing about life back in the states. For anyone doing a long distance relationship on their journey here, being able to text (use Line or WhatsApp) and call at anytime has made things a lot easier on being 7,500 miles apart :(

On the other end of the spectrum, my roommate only uses around 100-200 baht per month on her phone since she relies on other methods of communication (like the internet or calling other people through OEG because it’s free).

Booze : roughly 1,000 baht a month
Large Beer (Leo, Chang, Singha): 80 baht
Campari and soda (elixir of life and happiness and rainbows): 120-180 baht

Because alcohol.

* I’m definitely leaving out a lot of other things you spend money on in Thailand, but this is a good rough guide to see the absolute basics (take out booze if that's not a priority...)

Miscellaneous Expenses 

Bus to Chiang Mai from Chiang Rai: 185 baht
Movie ticket: 180 baht
Thailand has some swanky movie theatres.
Thai Massage (1 hr): 200 baht
These should be required after every day of work. For everyone. Ever.
Opening a bank account: 500 baht
It is a lot easier to have a Thai bank account so you aren’t carrying around your monthly paycheck of 25,000-ish baht in your wallet, or getting charged like crazy for exchange fees from withdrawing from your home bank account.
Trip to the Hospital / 6 different prescriptions: 650 baht
A hospital visit is synonymous with seeing a doctor in Thailand. When I had my panic attacks the first weeks here, I went to the hospital and for 650 baht was given 6 prescriptions for my anxiety and sleeplessness. Needless to say, wtf that’s ridiculously excessive. I took one or two only when I really needed to, not all 6 every day. BUT, if you are in need of a doctor/hospital visit, it is quite cheap to get help.

So living in Thailand won't completely drain your bank account. However, I have been close to spending most of my paycheck each month, oops.

Any other things I left out you are interested in? Let me know! I'll update the list accordingly :)

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