A Little Expat Living… Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand (2017)

cost of living in chiang mai, thailand

three on motorbikeWhen I first set out traveling, information was scarce about what it actually cost to live and travel around the world. Nearly a decade later, there’s information, forums, blogs, and books. So much that it’s hard to know what’s hype and what real. Expats the world over talk about Thailand as an expat and retiree spots. It’s one of the most popular places to expat in the world. And for good reason. It’s wonderful. I first moved to Thailand in 2011 and have been back since then.

But what is life actually like once you live in Thailand? It’s also hard to know the hard and fast costs for living in Thailand. When I first moved here, my family couldn’t even conceive of what it was like. This post demystifies the cost of living in Thailand, as well as covers a range of opinions on what it costs to live in the different areas. This is the hard and fast nitty-gritty details on everything from food to transportation to rent. As a traveler, I had always heard that it’s so incredibly cheap to expat yourself in the developing world — and it’s true, it’s cheap! As with many places, there is a trade off in some areas. Political stability, road conditions, and smog are just a few of the downsides, covered more later.

I’ve paid rent in both Orlando and Los Angeles, and my Thailand living costs averaged a third of my previous U.S. living expenses. My cost of living for Chiang Mai came in at $485 baseline in 2011 and about $700 total with all of my quality of life added on top! (Adjusted for 2017, I would say $545 is a better baseline now, considering the rise in motorbike prices and food). And I’m not the only one who has found Thailand a reasonable place to live — this place was popular with Western retirees for years. In 2010, a shift started. Alongside the rise in freelancers workers and those building online business, Southeast Asia became a hotspot for entrepreneurs and digital nomads. By 2017, it is a veritable hub of entrepreneurial and digital nomad activity for those looking for a cost-effective place to start their businesses. And, retirees still love it too. It has a huge, varied, and vibrant expat community. I first landed in Chiang Mai in January 2011 with a one-way ticket and discovered why so many other expats and digital nomads so love Thailand. I’ve been back many times since.

It has that magic combination of low living costs, a rich culture heritage, and a high quality of life. This piece will look at the hard costs of living in various parts of Thailand. Then I drill down into what that price gets you in terms of quality of life. And though I lived in Thailand for a bit more than a year, throughout the piece I share anecdotes from friends and the hard costs they report on what it costs to live everywhere from the Thai islands to Bangkok to Chiang Mai. At the end of this post, I share a huge list of resources for getting started in Thailand — either visiting or living.

(Keen to access this information offline? We offer this as a downloadable PDF for $3.)

What Does It Cost to Live in Thailand?

Living in Thailand comes down to two things: your baseline costs (fixed monthly expenses), and your personal lifestyle, which you add onto the top of those costs. Foreigners will have baseline living costs of USD $485 minimum. That’s in a place like Chiang Mai, and it will cost more to live in the Thai island, Bangkok, or retiree hotspots. This figure is used as a minimum these estimates do not include the visa runs you’ll need if you’re on a tourist visa. Even with the double entry visa, border runs are necessary every 60-90-ish days. Retirees will have their own specific minimum social security and living income they need to prove before they will receive the retiree visa.

Minimums Costs Living in Thailand

Monthly Expense Costs (USD$)
Rent & Internet $160
Electricity & Water $20
Maid $15
Food  $175
Scooter & Gas $125
Evenings Out $50
     Total  $545

For me though, I’m not yet old enough so I do the tourist visas. And the border runs add to the spice of living here! Chiang Mai is a great launching point to other areas in Asia for in-depth explorations of Burma (Myanmar)Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and other quick flights and bus rides around Southeast Asia.If you’ve retired in Thailand, you don’t have to do border runs. And some friends have student visas for studying Thai, and they also don’t do visa runs. The international flights bracketing my stay in Thailand were roughly $800 each way, so factor that into my “fixed” costs as well.

Then you have the cost of unexpected life. I’ve had some medical check-ups, my computer cord broke and had to be replaced, toiletries and that type of thing. My medical expenses are under $100 for women checkups and basic blood work and I pay that at Thai hospitals and out of my pocket. I pay about US$600 per year for my annual travel insurance. The occasional and personal expenses are not included, just the base-line rock bottom costs. If you will need to obtain Thai health insurance, this expat breaks down that process.

When I first moved to Thailand, these stats held true. Over the years, it’s still very low, but you have to search a bit more. The cost of living, and food-related costs in particular, rose over the past few years (around the world, but also in Thailand). As of 2016, I would factor in another $100 per month to your baseline costs. This will account for the rise in food costs, as well as the fact that Chiang Mai is becoming increasingly popular — there is more competition for the budget expat flats.

What’s the Quality of Life?

This section is a close look at what I get for the price of living in Chiang Mai. The quality of life will be similar in other areas of Thailand, it’s just the costs that will change. And the islands, of course, have beaches nearby and some other perks. The north, on the other hand, has mountains, hill tribe cultures, and different foods than you will find elsewhere in the country.

What Do You Get for Your Rent?

Roughly $160 a month in rent pays for my portion of a two bedroom house in the heart of Chiang Mai, within the moat of the downtown inner city (and the $15 maid was provided by my landlord and not optional). I share the house with a roomie and fellow blogger, Jodi of Legal Nomads. We jointly paid 10,000 baht monthly for the house and wifi. The house has tiled floors, one and a half baths, a tiny kitchen (no stove, those are very rare in Thai houses), a sturdy dining room table perfect for working, and a comfy living room. It’s Thai-style; a Western-style apartment will run you a good deal more.

Elsewhere in Chiang Mai, studio apartments run the gamut between 3,500 and 8,000 baht a month. These work well for solo travelers looking for something nice but budget. Nearly all apartments offer wifi. The internet in Chiang Mai is better than many places, but can wildly fluctuate throughout the day (my house has super speedy internet in the am, but not so much in the evening when everyone watches TV and thus slows the cable internet down to a crawl).

Chris and Angela are a 30-something couple living in Chiang Mai long-term. They report a lovely house rental outside of the moat with good amenities. One of the benefits of living in Chiang Mai is that your money stretches far and you can maintain a very nice life with just a bit more luxurious budget.

Other expats report that Bangkok has a similar quality of accommodation, but the costs of living is higher in the big city. Karsten gave the most detailed budget you’ll find for Bangkok, and he very open about sharing what it takes to maintain his life in the city. It’s a realistic look at what a solo 30-something expat can expect when living in Thailand’s capital.

Rental house in Chiang Mai, Thailand

silver temple chiang mai

thai island life

Tasty Local Eats

I regularly chow down on pad thai and pad see ew from the street stalls around town for about 30 baht a meal (a buck!). I add a fresh fruit smoothie to that for a mere 20 baht and call it a meal – totaling out most nights at less than US $2 for fresh, made to order Thai food from smiling street food vendors.

The occasional Western meal jacks the weekly food costs up quite a bit; a thin crust pizza from a farang restaurant sets me back at least 200 baht. I mostly eat Thai food … but I confess, coffee is a daily habit and ice cream is a weekly addiction. iBerry, a trendy ice cream shop more fitting on a chic corner of Los Angeles than a side-street in Chiang Mai, shakes things up with tangy tamarind sorbet, a spicy roselle, and a cooler full of other flavors. Always different, always worthy of my undying affection.

Update: Food costs across the city rise over time; between 2011-2012 food costs rose about 10 baht per local dish. That is a bit more now. Factor in $50 for general increases as a baseline cost, and adjust more if you have a different standard of living. 

chiang mai food

vegetarian soup from ming kwan



Chiang Mai’s small enough to either walk, push bike, or take local songthaews around town, but I prefer a scooter. The rental was cheap enough and zipping around town makes me feel that much more like a local. Plus, the local Thais burst into giggles when I ride up to the night markets with my roomie on the back. It’s easier for us to take one bike when we’re hitting up the same spots, so we ride Thai-style, with two farang on one bike. And they love us for it.

If you’re moving elsewhere in Thailand, then consider the different types of transport options. In Bangkok, you definitely won’t have to buy a motorbike. It’s easy to catch a motorcycle across town for a buck or two, and Thailand’s metro system is operates across some of the more important areas of town. When all else fails, you’ll just grab a taxi and head across town. Bangkok transport costs can, for this reason, vary a lot depending on how often you go out and need to use the various forms of transport.

Most expats in the Thai islands use personal motorbikes. Although the small beach communities are walkable, it’s often a bit further to get groceries, and you won’t likely live in the downtown areas since the beach communities have gorgeous, quiet communities spread throughout the islands.

UPDATE: Costs on motorbike rentals went up $40 more per month as of 2017; it’s still cheaper if you rent from a local though, instead of a shop. And way cheaper if you sign a longer contract. The best rates come when you rent for six months to a year.

renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai

tuktuk songkranthree on motorbike

New Friendships & The Thai Expat Scene 

Chiang Mai has a vibrant expat scene. This is one of the key reasons I returned again in 2011 with my niece. I loved the mix of expats and locals and how accessible the entire town feels. Chiang Mai doesn’t lack choices for evenings out on the town. The city has a bit of something for any mood: karaoke, dance clubs, quiet rooftop bars, and bowling. In the years since I’ve left, there is also a much more vibrant digital nomad community, which has meant some new trendy bars to cater to them too!

It’s important to note that my entertainment budget for Chiang Mai is conservative. I’m not a party animal, so those who are will definitely find this portion of expenses quite a bit higher if they really like to get their groove on regularly. In fact, add at least $100 per month if you go out 2+ times per week and drink.

For the rest of Thailand, the community really differs. Bangkok has a much larger expat community. You can find expats of all ages and styles. There are communities of retirees, a startup and entrepreneurial scene, and a good number of digital nomads who want a big city feel. The Thai islands also have a contingent of expats, though I found this scene to have a much smaller community of long-term young expats. There are older expat families and retirees, and then there is a large number of short-term parties in the region for just a couple months.

expat friends also living in Chiang Mai

loy krathong

Why Thailand?

When I moved to Chiang Mai in 2011, I had this suspicion that I could maintain a fun and full life without obsessing about my expenses. To make this travel life work, I needed to lower my cost of living to keep in line with my online income. I’m still building my marketing consulting work, I was paying off student loan and medical debt, and I also wanted the experience of living overseas. I knew that I could move back to Florida and likely save some costs if I pinched pennies, but it’s not an awesome life to live poor in Florida — I did that for 20+ years. Frankly, the best way for me to not go further into debt is to stay outside of the US.

There are other reasons I love Thailand. The country has great hospitals, checkups are affordable, and dental care is on par with the US. In Thailand, I don’t live in fear of getting sick and being buried under more medical debt. Many of my long-term goals are fulfilled through living here and continuing my travels and volunteering. I live in a Thai neighborhood, I volunteer locally, and I eat locally.

I first published this post about living in Thailand back in 2011. Since then, the post went truly viral. Half-a-million people have read it. I know there are others considering a move to Thailand, and everyone’s circumstances are unique. Some are retirees hoping to stretch their nestegg. Others are digital nomads looking to bootstrap a business from Southeast Asia. And others come for the culture, food, or some combination of it all. More than many places I’ve stopped over the years, Thailand has a truly unique range of expats. The community is huge and varies in each region, which means most expats can find something to love and a place they’ll enjoy calling their new home.

Thailand offers great hospitals and an affordable life. Checkups are affordable, and dental care is on par with the US. In Thailand, I don’t live in fear of getting sick and being buried under more medical debt. It’s just nice.

I am a traveler. My stories span the globe and I’ve been traveling and expat-ing steadily since 2008. Though I no longer live in Thailand (I moved to Mexico and wrote a cost of living post about it too! Check out all my Cost of Living Guides here), I return frequently. Since my first visit, I returned to Thailand with my niece for our year of homeschooling and travel.

This page represents my research and experiences over the years. Many of my friend live similar lifestyles in the region. They live and work in the city long-term, and they live simply (and locally) on this budget. It’s about your travel style. I don’t party and I love Thai food, so it’s easy for me to eat cheaply and enjoy the many, many free local festivals that happen monthly around Northern Thailand. It’s a wonderful spot for socially responsible tourism. Thailand has a compelling quality of life and culture. One of my favorite parts about Chiang Mai was the ability to jet off on the weekend for trips around the region.

As a freelancer, I enjoy knowing that Thailand is a wonderful spot to live, work, and play. Below are the resources I have collected over the years to help with a move, living there, researching, etc. Updated last in May 2016.

If you’re still researching various expat spots, check out our other Cost of Living Guides for a look at what it takes to move to the world’s most popular expat spots.

Resources for Moving to Thailand

The Basics of Moving to Thailand

  • Startup Guide Thailand: Hugely in depth guide to starting a business in Thailand — it covers everything you need and is thoroughly researched and a valuable resource (guides for most major Asian countries too). Another classic reader for business owners is How to Establish a Successful Business in Thailand, though it has no e-version so it gets minus points.
  • Thai for Beginners: An integrated program for reading, writing, and speaking Thai. In person learning is best, it’s a complex language, but with the CDs here you can get a good head start before you hire a tutor.
  • Travel insurance: World Nomads is the perfect for insurance for covering your health and belongings while you’re in the transition phase of moving overseas, or visiting to scope it all out. It’s a solid company and the insurance plans are designed for extended stays. I’ve used them since 2008.
  • The Tax Book for U.S. Expats: This is well-priced and unique to expats and retirees filing abroad. It gives a granular look at forms, terms, and sorting out exactly how to file — good for those with complicated tax situations. More recently released, U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans goes broader and is aimed at younger expats and digital nomads still working and handling how to earn income overseas, pay taxes, and live a nomadic life. It doesn’t explain the terms or niche situations/forms as well as the other book, but instead acts as a guide for younger travelers. Depending on your situation, pick up a copy of one of these guides before you leave so that you will have a tax system in place that maximizes the opportunities to easily file.
  • You’ll also want property insurance once you’re living overseas — I’ve used Clements for many years now.
  • Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America: There are a lot of these general guides. The book above, Better Life is about where is a good culture fit, whereas this is the better of the lot of “move overseas” books that covers the practicalities and very hands-on information you need as someone considering living anywhere outside the U.S. If you’re new all the researching, this can kick-start your process. And if you are laser focused on the retirement topic, versus moving overseas at a different state in life, this retirement guide has great advice.
  • Move to Cambodia: In case you’re weighing the thought of Cambodia, it’s a destination that is hard to find covered online, and this expat’s book is one of the best resources you will find.
  • Sightseeing: A thoughtful and intriguing look at the two sides of Thailand. The one for tourists and the one plagued with economic and societal issues. If you’re interested in better understanding Thai culture before you move there, start here. The short-story format makes it an easy but compelling read.
  • Private Thai teacher: My niece and I took lessons from Lah in Chiang Mai — she’s great. If you’re learning Thai for the student visa, however, you have to go through a language school.
  • Securing Thai expat health insurance: Once you’re in the country living there, you might want local insurance. This expat laid out a really great guide to getting Thai Health insurance.
  • Finding Long-Term Accommodation

    • For long-term Chiang Mai spots, check out these condominium listings on Chiang Mai Grapevine and consider Chiang Mai House if you are looking for help on a long-term house rental. I also collected a list of long and short term accommodation — all places friends have stayed, I have stayed, or I have seen recommended.
    • One ALA reader shared that Huay Kaew Residence is the best wheel-chair friendly accommodation in Chiang Mai (and perhaps the only).
    • In Bangkok, you’ll likely want to find a real estate agent once you arrive, it’s the norm and is affordable. They will help you pick a neighborhood and find something in your price range.

    Planning a Research Trip to Thailand?

    how much does it cost to live in Thailand?Where to Stay

    If you’re moving to Thailand, it’s best to arrive in and book at least a week in a guesthouse. And definitely consider just doing a reconnaissance trip to scope it all out. Before you book long-term, you’ll want to all the options in person.

    What to Do

    Other Essentials

    • Nancy Chandler Maps: These are a must buy for the city you move to in Thailand. They are simply amazing. Detailed, thorough, and essential. I have the Chiang Mai one and it’s all creased and saggy and well-loved.
    • Smog in Northern Thailand in the Spring: Jodi gives her take on a particularly bad smog year. Make sure you time your visit well since you’ll be out and about. And for checking the smog levels right now, go to the Thai government site.
    • Volunteer in Thailand: both short and long term options. Can also search volunteer opportunities and responsible tourism ideass for all of SEA.

    Want to read this offline? Download as a handy PDF.

    Cost of Living PDF: Thailand
    Access this information offline along with additional information detailing the questions you should ask when comparing multiple destinations.

    It’s all wrapped up nicely in a shiny PDF to make your cost of living research easier.

    Buy the PDF for $2

    Cost of Living Comparison

    Still researching the right spot to live? Our Cost of Living Guides share extensive resources or all the major expat spots around the world. These guides include thorough breakdowns of the culture, quality of life, vibe, and — importantly — budget breakdowns so you can better plan which spot in the world best meets your needs.

    Cost of Living in Bali, Indonesia

    cost of living costa rica

    mexico cost of living

    thailand cost of living

    Cost of Living Guide for Amsterdam & Berlin

    Cost of Living in Eastern Europe

    panama cost of living

    cost of living Vietnam

    If there is ever anything that I can do to help, please do reach out on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and let’s talk about how we can make your travel dream a reality. 

    This post was last updated in January 2017.

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    302 Responses to A Little Expat Living… Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand (2017)

    1. stevep November 15, 2012 at 10:59 am #

      Thanks for taking the time to write this up !!….I see you are “building up your on-line Income ” I am also doing this.

    2. ROBERT in Pattaya, Thailand November 8, 2012 at 5:02 am #

      I am an American Expat living in Pattaya. I have lived in Thailand with my Thai partner for 20+ years. I recommend a LENGTHY visit before jumping in with both feet. No two peope have similar tastes, so hence individual cost of living vary. During the past coupe of years there has been a steady rise in inflation. The dollar has fallen in value, and the Thai Baht has gained some strength. Excellent medical services are available at a lesser costs. If can offer any seasoned advice, you can reach me at RPRON@AOL.COM.
      Regards, ROBERT

      • ShannonOD November 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

        Hi Robert, thanks for weighing in on this, and for providing your email for anyone interested–that’s very valuable to have a seasoned expat on tab! I usually send people to the Thai Visa forum to ask there since I haven’t lived in Thailand long enough to have a lot of the hurdles like taxes, visas, businesses, etc., all figured out. Cheers and thanks for providing yourself as a source of help! :)

    3. keith October 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

      hi shannon how are you? i have been to thailand 4 times before and love it. i have always dreamed about living there full time. im from northern ireland. i was always worried about the visa – what type would i have to go for and could i live there permanently just by doing visa runs? by the way im 36 and was considering selling my home and try and live off the monthly interest (whatever that may be now!!) of course i would check it out before i came to any rash decisions! many thanks :)

      • ShannonOD November 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

        Living in Thailand for years on end, just on visas, is difficult. You can get away with the double entry visa that gives you roughly six months with a few hoops (you have to renew the visa at 60 days, cross a border at 90, then once you cross back in … can be the same day…repeat for the second “entry” — renew after 60 days, leave at 90 and get a new double-entry from a Thai embassay). It’s not overly difficult, but you couldn’t do it for a decade. The forums at Thai Visa are FULL of useful information http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/ on this type of situation. Easy solutions are often simply taking a language class a few times a week. It can be done and you can look around the heaps of advice in the forum for some other ideas :)

    4. Brian Chul October 31, 2012 at 12:16 am #

      Hello Shannon, Thank you for this great blog info on living in Thailand. I’ve been really thinking if i save enough dough while working here in the US i can live there F/T in roughly 10yrs very comfortably, i have a full military pension so based on your blog notes i think it won’t be a problem living stress free there. I have a question about the banks, if you have a short list of good reliable banks there?. Thank you again and TC from Maryland, USA. Best Regards, Brian C.

      • ShannonOD October 31, 2012 at 12:39 am #

        So glad you found it helpful, it’s important to note that it really depends on what standard of living you want to maintain. In the post I link to a lot of things you should look at — other budgets, rental houses, condos, agents, etc.Fully furnished is tough–nice condos with a full kitchen could run $600-700 in just rent (check out here: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/the-cost-of-living-luxuriously-in-chiang-mai/ While a one bedroom at Smith Residence http://www.chiangmaismithres.com would be more like $400 perhaps. There is a lot in between as well. And you can rent an entire house for $350 rent (no furniture or utilities).

        Full service and condos here: http://www.chiangmailocator.com/

        As for banks, I would head to the expat forums for Thailand: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/ and ask around, they are wonderful sources of information for anyone considering the move. I know there are specific banking requirements if you retire there, so best to read through the forums and ask for recs! Best of luck :)

      • ShannonOD October 31, 2012 at 12:41 am #

        Sorry if you get two responses from me, I responded to the wrong one at first! For banks, I would head to the expat forums for Thailand: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/ and ask around, they are wonderful sources of information for anyone considering the move. I know there are specific banking requirements if you retire there (fees, and it has to be a government bank I believe) so best to read through the forums and ask for recs so you know all the nitty-gritty specifics! Best of luck :)

    5. »*+*«Kat from CA October 26, 2012 at 8:49 am #

      is it dangerous to walk threw town or go into a local place of business & is tai accentual or could u live there with out learning a new language »^+^« Kat from CA

      • ShannonOD October 26, 2012 at 9:08 am #

        You should always be aware of your surroundings, and any place that is fine during the day could be different at night, but I generally feel very safe in many parts of the country and have walked home with friends from bars in Chiang Mai without a second thought.

        The accents in Thai make the language very difficult, but you can learn it, it’s definitely possible to study, you’ll have ample places to practice, and you can be negotiating/using basic Thai at restaurants within a month or two.

    6. World Traveller September 21, 2012 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and costs on living in Chiang Mai. My partner & myself are heading to Thailand in May for at least 8 weeks and I’m thinking very seriously about changing that to indefinite. You only live once – there’s so much more to life than the rat-race of London – I just have this gut feeling that indefinite is the right thing to do.

      • ShannonOD September 22, 2012 at 5:39 am #

        Eight weeks is a really great starting point, and you may very well fall in love with the city. At the same time, it’s great that you are giving yourself a taste of it, and perhaps another area of Thailand will call to you once you visit. As you said, you only live once, so embrace the adventure, and I wish you so much luck on the trip. If there is ever anything I can do to help, let me know! :)

    7. cluzeo August 26, 2012 at 3:47 am #

      Do you think your health has suffered from such a poor diet of 30b fried food? YOu dont look 25.

      • ShannonOD August 26, 2012 at 9:35 am #

        While I don’t usually respond to inappropriate personal observations, I am nearly 29, not 25. As for the food, luckily you seem to have a misinformed opinion about street food, because it’s really great! There are many more options than just the fried dishes. Lots of delicious soups (khao soi=yum!), somtam is fresh papaya, curries that the vendors make at home and bring to the markets, and I love the grilled/steamed veggie vendors (I am a vegetarian, so I eat really quite healthy most anywhere I go). And if you’re in Chiang Mai, there is a really delicious (one of my favorite in the world) salad restaurants, Salad Concept, on Nimman and their huge fresh salads are only 50b! So, it’s really misinformation that you have to pay a lot to eat well, I prefer fresh or steamed vegetables and can usually eat for 30b Thai (and Burmese, def great Burmese food at that price too) and under 70b Western in Chiang Mai (much more expensive in Bangkok and down south though). Cheers and good luck.

      • Andrew Mitchell January 1, 2013 at 3:37 am #

        Do you think your health has suffered from being stupid?

    8. Stuart August 25, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

      HI Shannon
      Can someone from the South USA live all year round in CM. Is it prefereable to leave during the Wet Season or the REALLY Hot Season. Really fantastic BLOG

      • ShannonOD August 26, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

        It’s definitely okay to live there year-round, though I usually bow out during rainy season. My friend Dan and his wife Lindsay ( ) have lived there for a couple of years now (she’s a teacher), and they stay for hot, rainy, and dry and seem to enjoy it :) And, Chais and Shawna, , live in CM year-round too! Though I prefer the cool, dry season, it can be a wonderful place to live year-round.

    9. Hans August 23, 2012 at 11:31 pm #

      Thank you so much for the conformation! I have been looking at both Vietnam and Thailand but have been worried about the employment should I decide to stay long term. Can you put me in touch with some of your connections or friends that teach conversational English so that I may properly prepare? My email is hansbergquist@yahoo.com

    10. Hans August 23, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

      Hi again! I’ve been chatting with a few people from Thailand and wanted to confirm what I have heard. Is it true that a person from America without a degree can be hired by a language school to teach english with only a EFTOL or TESOL? I’ve been told yes but would have to make a visa run every 60 days…

      • ShannonOD August 23, 2012 at 11:17 pm #

        You don’t need more than that to get hired, and I have friends ( http://noplacetobe.com/ ) who got hired just months after finishing her TOEFL. Now, there are many people who also want to teach, but if you have the qualifications, the time to look and apply, and patience, you can find work in Thailand (and Vietnam, China, etc). Good luck! :) As for visas, if you are hired by a Thai school, they will give you a work visa and that does not typically require you to leave every 60 days.

    11. debitty August 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      Hey thanks so much for giving up your time so patiently. Hubby two kids and I are making plans for a move early next year and finding so many positive people who are Expats in Thailand is clearing away a lot of my fears.

      • ShannonOD August 18, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

        You’re welcome, so glad you found it helpful. Thailand has an enormous expat community, and if you are sending your kids to an International School, you will have an even more instant community to tap into. So much good luck with the move, and I hope you enjoy your time over there :)

    12. Hans August 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm #

      Once again thank you your site has been very helpful! I think cm may be a great place to start! We are planning on spending 4 years in S.E. Asia. Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines are also on the list before we go to Europe. Where are you going next and will you be doing a similar blog?

      • ShannonOD August 5, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

        That is a fantastic length of time — you will see and experience a lot over four years! I am unsure of my next plans, but they may include South America I think, and I will continue to update this site with stories and photos as I travel. :)

    13. Hans August 5, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

      Wow! Thanks for all the info :-) I would prefer 10,000 baht per month because then I would not need to work and don’t really mind if I’m in north cm or even Korat. Is $350 a place that would have a western style bathroom and kitchen with air conditioning? Also any other suggestions as to cheap areas to rent fir 10,000 or less? Thanks again!

      • ShannonOD August 5, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

        Chiang Mai is a great spot because it straddles the traditional culture and Western conveniences. And yes, the bathrooms are most often western, and there is A/C in many, you can easily find one that accommodates that need. But know that electricity in Thailand is really very, very expensive!

    14. Hans August 5, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

      Do you know what the average monthly rent is in bkk and cm for 2-3 bedroom with AC? House or apartment would both be fine.

      • ShannonOD August 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm #

        That’s a tough one because it would really depend on what area you were in (and that can vary widely depending on what school job you get) but I would plan that a 2-3 bedroom would run you $500 – $1000? I only ever lived in Chiang Mai in the north, and I know Bangkok is more expensive than CM. In CM, you can get a house for as little as 10,000 baht…which is about $350 US, so I am really guestimating. Thai Visa Forum is a great place though to find specific information from other expats: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/ :)

    15. Hans August 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm #

      I was in Thailand last November and fell in love with the way of life and how cheap everything was! I’ve been working fir banks for the past 13 years. Unfortunately I do not have a college degree but with my professional experience I was told it should be est to get an English teaching position with the tesol. Is that correct? Also what might I expect for a salary?

      • ShannonOD August 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

        November is a beautiful time of year in the country (rivaled only by December I think) and I loved the Lantern festival they hold at the beginning of the month, I hope you were able to see it? As for teaching English over there, a TEOFL is the core requirement, so if you take that course there is a good chance that you could easily find a job. The salaries really range on the country/city, but I think they average very roughly about $1000 US per month — I am told this is often higher in Vietnam and/or China, but I’m not sure. Good luck finding work and with the move!

    16. Evan Heiser August 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Thanks for posting your experiences and costs for what looks like a wonderful life in Thailand!I love it over there in Thailand, and I am seriously considering flying over, taking a TESOL course, and staying to teach English. It looks like the salary ends up being about $1000 or so USD a month, but it looks like that would be plenty!

      • ShannonOD August 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

        $1000 will definitely get you quite far over there, and I have several friends who have done the courses (you can take them online) and then arrived and managed to find work (sometimes in Thailand, though Vietnam and China are also good options). Good luck with the work, teaching English is a great route to go! :)

    17. Journey Je t'aime July 27, 2012 at 10:44 am #

      I have noticed some places will let you pre-book. If someone is planning on staying 3 months during the high season, do you think it’s necessary to pre-book? I found a place for 11,000 tbh (plus electricity and Internet), but after reading your article/ some other research, it seems like that might be the high end. Any thoughts/ or even direction to another article would be awesome. 

      • ShannonOD July 27, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

        11,000 may be on the high end, but it really depends on what you get for that amount. You can find it for less, and I generally recommend that you book a week in at a guest house in town and then go look in person at a few of the popular areas. I linked to a couple of accommodation posts from other bloggers, and that’s a good starting place once you’re in town. Even in high season, there is a good deal of housing in the city and you will find a place to stay. The GotPassport link at the end of the post has a lot of spots you can check.

        If you’re up for on-the-ground research and don’t mind arriving without all the details locked in place, then I suggest renting a motorbike, riding around town, and looking at the various options, it can vary so greatly between newness, ammenities, and location :)

        Good luck, shoot me an email if you need any other help!

    18. Steve July 17, 2012 at 7:26 am #

      Personally the idea of eating Thai street every day sounds
      appealing as I hate cooking. I’d love to do something like that but I’ve never
      been outside the US so I’ve got a bunch questions that might sound silly. The
      visa thing, can you renew that indefinitely i.e. forever or is there a limit? I’m
      guessing you would almost have to work online somehow for income (for those of
      us not already set for life lol)? With an economy like that I would imagine working
      there isn’t an option? Any suggestions? Are many people bilingual there? Can you buy
      beer by the case more inexpensively and bring home like you can here lol?

      • ShannonOD July 17, 2012 at 9:51 am #

        It’s so great to be able to eat affordable street food and in small shops for just a buck or two a meal. As for the visas, you can not review the tourist visa indefinitley, but once you are there, there are few different ways people stay. You can like get nearly two years of double entry tourist visas, or you can pay to go to a language school a few times a week and get a student visa…that tides people over for a couple years as well!

        Lots of English is spoken, and depending on your trade, there is a whole lot of expat work in the NGOs if you were really keen to work locally as an expat: http://alittleadrift.com/2012/06/how-to-travel-and-work-abroad/

    19. Jeff June 26, 2012 at 2:32 am #

      Hi thanks for you post, can’t help but noticed the costs are only for temporary living, otherwise you need to add many additional costs which you didn’t mention:
      – Clothes & shoes
      – House items (kitchen utensils & appliances, sheets, towels, drapes, etc)
      – Computer stuff (assuming your replace you equipment every 3 years or so)
      – Mobile phone (buying a new one every 2-3 years)
      – Medical costs (it comes out to maybe $50 per month on average, if you don’t need surgery)
      – Vacations (assuming you are living permanently, you need a vacation now and then)

      All the above can add on average $500 to your monthly costs, perhaps more.

      • ShannonOD June 26, 2012 at 9:15 am #

        Thanks for weighing in on it Jeff; in the post, I noted those were the baseline, bottom costs, and didn’t include my plane tickets (ie vacations and that sort). But for baseline, the least you are paying with your own lifestyle heaped on top –well, I think my estimate is pretty good. At the end of the day, yes, some of those other ones have to be included for sure if you stay long term, but the amount of clothes/new things you buy vary so much according to age/person — I didn’t want to assume. And for me, I try to make my gadgets last somewhere in the five year range :)

      • Bob September 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

        And the big one is the cost of visas. The actual runs and cost to do a border run. I spend 36,000b on it this year. Flights abroad to a con-solute, hotels, tuks tuks, visa fees, cross the border every and buy visas every 90 days, drive there. Most English teachers (no degree) make $35,000 a month and struggle. You are suggesting to be in Thailand with out medical insurance as well.

        • ShannonOD September 11, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

          The costs can add up, particularly if you fly, I have always made a mini trip out of the border runs though, and went overland to Loas, which kept my daily costs down a bit. And you only need the major border run ever 180 days, otherwise the cheap daylong run to Burma and back is a mere 700 at the 90 day mark. I have friends teaching in CM who live on the budget I suggest, but since they are teaching they have year-long visas (that they do not pay for, the schools do), so that is a non-issue for people working there. Most of my friends working in the country have visas handled for them. As for medical, I suggest nothing, I merely pointed out that my costs did not include medical — I carry a year-long travel medical policy that is affordable, though I rarely use it and just pay out of pocket for minor checkups since I can get my lady appt for less than $30 each year in Thailand and that’s about all a twenty-something person in good health needs regularly outside of disaster medical. Best of luck, ~S

    20. Boardgyrl86 June 13, 2012 at 7:23 am #

      I have just moved to chiang mai, and we are looking for nice / cheap apartments… any suggestions on what part of town to look in?

      • ShannonOD June 13, 2012 at 8:56 am #

        Hi! I listed a couple links in the post to friends who had blog posts with links to apartments and that sort of thing. Also, some friends have used agents if they were looking for a nice rental (also linked at the end of the post). And ultimately, if you’re keen to drive around a bit, I like the area across the street from Kad Suan Kaew shopping center (go back into that neighborhood behind there and there are options!).

        Good luck!

    21. Cedo Nulli May 27, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

      Nice one.  Finally somebody who doesn’t “have to” spend crazy amounts on rent just to feel comfortable in Thailand.  :)

    22. noodles April 30, 2012 at 6:26 am #

      apologies Shannon – just scrolled down – all is fine – no need to publish :)

    23. noodles April 24, 2012 at 1:50 am #

      Whoever you are bkohlh/craig gardner et al – what totally daft questions. Do you want the author of this website to do your washing for you also? There seem to be some people who are asking questions here that live with their mother – it is obvious – before you move somewhere – do a recky and check the place out.

      • ShannonOD April 24, 2012 at 1:57 am #

        Heh, thanks Noodles, it’s true that a lot of these questions could be answered with a Google query sometimes! :)

        • noodles April 30, 2012 at 6:22 am #

          No problem Shannon – I need some help actually – apologies.
          As said I am doing my 14 months in CM. Just the visa issue.  I saw this website – http://uk.siam-legal.com/1-Year-Thailand-Visa-for-UK-Citizens.php – it basically seems a way of paying to do the 90 days visa thing. I am a UK citizen but don’t want to do the 30 day fly in and out thing. I hope I am making sense here – the link seems like an expensive way around this. I am not near a Thai Embasy so kind of stuck for my options.  Any suggestions? Thanks for any help./

    24. Bkohlh April 23, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

      Would like more info on the food.   I am addicted to my beef and chicken so I would want more American type foods.    
      How much would that add to my cost of living if I ate different?

      • ShannonOD April 24, 2012 at 1:56 am #

        Beef is not very popular in SEA (or Asia for that matter) but pork and chicken can be found everywhere! It’ll add quite a bit to your food bill to eat that regularly, perhaps a $1 or 2 per meal with meat, and more like $3-4 for western meaty meals :)

    25. craig gardner April 22, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

      what about crime.can i bring my own vehicle?would it get stolen?

      • ShannonOD April 24, 2012 at 1:54 am #

        Crime is not a big issue, motorbikes get stolen, but it’ll likely be cheaper to buy a car over there :)

    26. Rome April 22, 2012 at 9:53 am #

      hi,shannon, My name is Randy, is it possible to live comfortable there with budget of 700.00 dollars are less, also are there many if any afro-americans living there. : )

      • ShannonOD April 22, 2012 at 10:01 am #

        Hi Randy! It’s definitely possible to live there on that much, but know that it’s your baseline costs, if you’re living on that, you already have your visa situation figured out, and you are eating at
        local restaurants and markets for many of your meals! If you’re budget-conscious you will get by perfectly! :)

        • randy April 22, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

          thanks for that info, are there some afro americans living there as well

          • ShannonOD April 22, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

            Um, not really. There may be a small community I am not aware of, but I only ever saw a handful at most :-/

        • RobWhis August 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm #

          Hi Shannon, I am planning on spending 6 months in Thailand, is US$12,000 doable? I am thinking of working at home (US) for six months then go back to Thailand for the other six on a tourist visa. I plan on doing that for a couple years to travel and enjoy life. Thanks!

          • ShannonOD August 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

            Hi Rob! $12,000 is a really good sum and you should be able to stretch that quite far (possibly even beyond the six months if you’re a minimalist). When I am in Southeast Asia, I usually average about US$1000 per month. Your 6 months on, 6 months off sounds like a great plan as a way to see places in the world but still fund your travels! :)

            • RobWhis August 5, 2012 at 5:53 pm #

              Awesome, thanks for the info! Be safe out there!

    27. Patmorr April 13, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

      Sounds good , I would like to try it next winter. Any suggestions  I will have 2000 a month to use on expenses

      • ShannonOD April 14, 2012 at 10:22 am #

        With $2,000 your budget is pretty solid, and you should be fine showing up and looking around. My friends stayed in a really wonderful apartment on the higher end, at nearly $700 per month, could be good for you. I rec that you get an agent to take you around, they’ll drive you to various places, and they take a commission on the other end, so it’s worth it for you!

        Then with the rest of your budget you can spend on food, transport, etc, and likely still have some leftover :)

        Here’s my friends post on find an apt:  http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/the-search-for-an-apartment-in-chiang-mai/

        Cheers and good luck!

    28. Johnny2tone April 9, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

      Thanks for this. 

    29. Michael April 1, 2012 at 2:34 pm #

      Hey Shannon,

      I have to say that your blog is awesome, so full of essential information and really interesting and fun stories about your experiences in CM!

      I am planning to move across there in the coming months, i am a full time internet marketer, so the living costs you have highlighted seem easily affordable to me.

      Once i have moved out there who would you recommend seeing about rental properties and scooter rental?

      Keep up the fantastic work, you are one amazing lady!!!

      All my best,


      • ShannonOD April 11, 2012 at 6:49 am #

        Thanks Michael! It can really fluctuate if you plan to go out a lot more, and depending on lifestyle, but I find the above is a great baseline budget to use for a lot of the costs in the area.

        I’m not sure about rental properties, some friends have listed out some common expat properties

        And for rentals, long-term prices at Bikky are pretty decent and they have multiple places throughout the city!

        Hope that helps, best of luck on the move and happy planning, and safe travels!  :)

    30. noodles March 26, 2012 at 6:42 am #

      Hi there – I am taking a year off work and will be in CM in July – I teach at a Brit school in the Middle East but need to get my skills up. I did love CM
      when I was there previously; as a just over 40 year old guy I feel Chiang Mai is the ideal place to study and appreciate life. Totally understand your reluctance to spend all your money in bars – it isn’t that much fun and can prove expensive. Would be nice to catch up with you and just share some views on life. Really appreciate your blog – found very interesting.

      • ShannonOD March 27, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

        Hi Noodles! The city likely hasn’t changed too much since you were last here, still has a great small city vibe :) I won’t be here in July actually, I head back to the States for the summer, but there is a great expat community here (and a couple CM facebook groups if you’re interested) with some great expat friends who spend the summer months here :) Safe travels and let me know if there is anything I can do to help you settle in here! :)

        • Paul Milner March 28, 2012 at 12:38 am #

          Thanks Shannon. The link to any CM facebook pages and contacts would be great. I have been living in the Middle East for 9 years so can’t express how much looking forward to this. I have been looking at condos – there seems to little competition with regards to costs – I could not afford to take a year off anywhere else and study and have such a good standard of living. Thanks again for your help. oops – noodles is uncovered! :)

          • Paul Milner March 28, 2012 at 1:10 am #

            One more thing – intend to get parents over next February – how bad was the pollution then? Was reading about evacuation – looked quite serious for a while.

          • ShannonOD March 28, 2012 at 7:13 am #

            There really are a wide range of affordable options, and even better deals once you’re here and can go look at the places in person (and I highly recommend getting an agent to help you find a place if you’re here for a year or more, commission is very small and they can help set you up with a great deal). As for FB groups, is one of them. And Chiang Mai in February is a tricky question, it was pretty smoggy and gross this year, but last year was rainy, cool and zero smog in Feb…it’d be hit or miss, but if it’s bad you could always just take them south to BKK or the islands :) Cheers and good luck with the move!

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