Enjoy a Low Cost of Living in Thailand

You can live well in Thailand for just under $2,000 per month.

Where you decide to settle will have a large impact on your monthly expenses—a view of rice paddies from your balcony will be less expensive than looking out over the waves crashing onto a sandy beach. And a modern condo in one of Bangkok’s many bustling neighborhoods is not going to come dirt cheap.

There are still lots of opportunities to lead a quality lifestyle for not a lot of money in many places. Here’s a sample monthly budget for two people living comfortably in Chiang Mai.

 ExpenseU.S. $
Rent (furnished, two-bedroom condo or house)$640
High-speed Internet$32
Cable TV (top-of-the-line package)$64
Electricity (constant AC)$106
Phone (basic cell phone data plan)$21
Water$11
Groceries/wine/beer$319-$531
Entertainment (dining out and other activities)$106-$212
House cleaner (once a week)$64
Healthcare$21
Visa Maintenance$32
Transportation (maintenance and fuel for 150cc scooter)$21
Incidentals$159
Monthly total$1,596-$1,914

This  would be a realistic budget for a retired couple living in various parts of the country and dining on a mixture of local and international foods. When you realize that Chiang Mai has a population of several hundred thousand and comes with all the amenities of a large, modern city, you can appreciate just how low some of these costs are.

It is certainly possible to live on less, especially in the smaller towns and more rural areas. You can still find studio and one-bedroom apartments available for as little as $300 per month. Buying most of your groceries at the local markets as opposed to the large international chains will save you a bundle. Finally, because of the relatively inexpensive cost of healthcare, many expats rely on savings for medical emergencies in place of purchasing health insurance with high monthly premiums.

Even after adding in a little extra money for travel and other extras, it is still a fairly low budget for a quality retirement in a tropical setting.

Retire to This Low-Cost Thailand Haven For $1,500 a Month

By Steve LePoidevin 

“Every day is a new experience,” says Kate Dixon. “We live a 10-minute walk from one of the best food streets. For less than $10, we can both have a delicious Thai meal with a couple of beers. We rarely cook at home anymore, and go out on average once a week to a Western restaurant. Even then, we rarely pay more than $15 for the two of us.

“I only wish we had done this 10 years ago.”

These days, Kate and her husband Howard call the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai home.

“I had always planned on retiring at 70,” says Howard. “After my career in the Navy, I had a variety of jobs for the next couple of decades. Before we moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, I was working in the field of aged-care nursing. It soon became obvious that my next step would be checking myself into the facility. I was actually older than several of the residents.”

As the magic age of 70 drew closer, the reality of retirement was rearing its head. After a close look at their finances the couple realized they could get much more mileage from their fixed income if they moved to a country with a lower cost of living.

Chiang-Mai
Located near the foothills of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai has a cooler, more temperate climate than the rest of country.

“Chiang Mai jumped out at us as the place to move,” says Kate.

They figure their monthly budget is approximately $1,500, excluding their travel expenses. They pay about $410 for their furnished two-bedroom, three-bathroom soi house. Sois are the quiet side streets right in the center of the city. This traditional type of housing is common throughout Thailand and consists of several adjoining homes, each with its own gated entrance and parking area.

Add on a monthly electricity bill of about $28 for the hottest part of the year, and $3.50 for water, and it still amounts to a small monthly total.

“We live off Howard’s Navy pension, plus a part service pension for serving in Vietnam,” says Kate. “I also get a part service pension because I’m his wife.”

This monthly income means the pair satisfy the Thai retirement visa requirements. You must have a monthly income of 65,000 baht ($1,830), or 800,000 baht ($22,480) in a Thai bank account or a combination of both. For couples, it is necessary for only one spouse to satisfy the requirements. The other can “piggyback” as a dependent.

As with other expats, they love the low cost of healthcare in Thailand. They are partially covered with travel insurance, and agree that paying for medical expenses out-of-pocket is very feasible considering the inexpensive cost of hospital visits and the exorbitant cost of medical insurance after the age of 70. Kate said, “A recent visit to a specialist only cost me $14 and Howard only paid $430 for a new porcelain crown.”

When asked if they had any regrets about moving away from family and friends to a new life thousands of miles away, they both cheerfully responded immediately, “Not at all! We are in constant contact with email and Skype.”

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