The question of how much do you need to live in Thailand needs to be addressed with caution, I mean how much do you need to live anywhere, are we talking living on the bread line or being able to properly enjoy all that Thailand can offer?
I have never understand the proposition of living in Thailand with next to no money, but fellow expats in this position tell me the given the choice of being in the UK or Thailand with no money, Thailand will always get the nod. I get that, but it comes with risks as you are far less protected as an alien in another country.
My big recommendation is to get health insurance – medical expenses can be very expensive in Thailand. If you are a retiree at some point you will need to use a hospital, it just goes with the territory. I have been living in the Kingdom a long time now and I always hear horror stories. Take the driving here for example, it is horrendous – I think it was even recently name the worst in the world. If you really do need to drive a motorbike always wear a helmet and be prepared at all times, the road are like a crazy console games with motorbikes driving the wrong way, cars jumping traffic lights, traffic under-passing in lanes is just common practice. Ideally you want a car, but if you are on a budget just be very careful if you have to use a motorbike.
So I am kind of circumnavigating the main question here: How much do you need to live in Thailand? I feel like I have added my footnotes to this question, so now I will try and answer it for you.
I will assume you are a retiree with no additional funds coming in from working in Thailand.
Renting accommodation can still be very good value and given the uncertainty in property sales in areas like Pattaya and oversupply of condo units it means you can get a relative bargain. Other areas do not suffer quite as much, but this is just my opinion. If you really wanted to you could rent a small condo with no aircon, cold shower, no kitchen or furniture in a Thai block in East Pattaya for as little as 3,000 baht (US$95) per month, but I would not recommend this. Come on, there needs a line and this is no way for a Westerner to live.
If you have a very limited budget I suggest you have a cut off point of 7,000 baht (US$223) per month, it will be a simple unit on the outskirts and will likely have air con and even a small kitchen area. But shop around as, like I said, there are good bargains especially if you are willing to sign a long term contract. A mid range property you can get for around 20,000 baht (US$637) a month.
Electricty and Water Bills
If you rent in a small unit then you expense here is can be very low, more so if you don’t use an airconditioner – which I would not recommend. This bill can easily be as low as 500 baht a month.
But, I don’t recommend this style of living, you will be uncomfortable with the condo you live in and the room will be simple. I am going to suggest you need a budget at least of 10,000 baht a month for rent and 1,500 baht (US$47) a month for electricity and water, but – in my opinion – even this is not great living, but that is just my opinion as I like my creature comforts and luxury.
Food, Drink & Entertainment
I am not even going to tell you what I spend each week on food and drink for my family, but it is very high – more than I would spend living in the UK. I eat out most days and don’t eat from Thai food stalls, but I work here and have a succesful business.
I am going to give a fair price for what I think would give you an acceptable living standard here in Thailand. So, call it 500 baht a day, so 15k baht (US$478) a month; any lower and I think you are on poverty line a little. Yes sure you can eat for 40 baht for a Thai dish from the market and water is cheap, but is this really how you want to eat everyday? Don’t get me wrong it can be very tasty if you find the right vendors.
I have been in the UK recently and the supermarkets are cheap now, I would be considering staying in my domestic country as a more viable than eating a cheap bowl of Thai food from a market each day. I am sure many retirees will disagree, so you need to make your own conclusions as to what is best.
If you want a good level of living in Thailand then budget for 1k baht( a day. This is fine, on days you do not use all your budget you can set aside for clothes for example – which are cheap from the market if needs be.
So, how much do you need to live in Thailand?
You can budget from as little as 30k baht a month if you needed too, I don’t recommend this but you can do it. When I speak to many working expats in Pattaya they say 60k baht a month would give you a pleasant life in Thailand, and I would agree. But the more you can afford then the more you can get out of living and retiring in Thailand. You have so many places you can travel too from islands, Bangkok, National parks to nearby countries.
By the way, the average salary in Thailand is around 12,000 baht (US$382) a month. But remember you are Western and used to a certain level of living.
The decision is ultimately yours, but do have a back up plan in case it all goes wrong in Thailand – always have enough tucked away that if it all goes wrong you can jump on a plane and get back to your own country and that you have somewhere to stay whilst you get back on your feet. I also highly recommend a level of health insurance which for a single person I am guessing you can get for around 30k baht a year.
BUT, an important point this – as it will impact on you financially. You will very likely to meet a nice young Thai lady and enter into a relationship. This can throw your budget out the window, big time. Be very careful!
Good luck, whatever you choose.