Southeast Asia forum

Cost of living (not traveling) in SEA

  • buecax

    Joined Travelfish
    15th July, 2009
    Posts: 44

    Hi all,

    I am interested in the actual cost of living (as opposed to travelling) in Southeast Asia, i.e. rent, food, internet, etc.

    My situation is this: Although I have savings on which I could survive for a couple of years, I currently only have a monthly income of about 300EUR (400$) which in Germany isn't even enough to pay the rent. I expect my income to rise but it won't double or triple overnight. I do not need to live in expensive Germany, all I need to be able to work is a fast and reliable internet connection.

    I believe that some of you are currently living in SEA, so maybe you could give me your first hand experiences.

    Thanks!

    #1 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 03:38

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  • captainbkk

    Joined Travelfish
    16th February, 2012
    Posts: 417

    Sie stellen die falsche Frage.
    It is NOT a matter of ''what is the cost of living''-its more how cheap can I (-ich, also dirselber) live on for longer time. HOW long can I endure without tipically German things of life-like the currywurst or guter bohnenkaffee.Ausserdem gibt es ja ...zig DE-sprachige Foren die etwa alles von TH-einschl. Ihre Frage-beantworten. You can expect an awful lot of 'ja-ja-leben von Hartz IV und dann mal betruegerisch heraustricksen)''. Thailandforum.de, nittaya.de, reise-preise.de usw.
    In general TH IS the best country-perhaps with the Phillippines included- to live on a meagre budget for longer time. This due to the fairly easy and generous entry formalities and very easy and abundant supply of cheap lodging and fast internet. Other countries are maybe even a little cheaper, but lack the other needed things.The euro swanks quite a lot against the THB and for now is reasonably high-about 44,45-last year it was below 40, but it has also been nearly 50. Thus 300 € is about 13,333 THB. This makes for about 10 €/day=450 THB.
    Well-it is possible to live on that, but do not expect any generous living. Even though many people say big cities -like BKK- are more expensive- I think this is wrong. You CAN live quite cheaply in BKK, but there are of course also an awful lot of chances to break the bank. BKK has free buses (if you can find out how they run), a lot of free things to go look and entertain, and an awful lot of cheap housing-which is advertsied only in Thai and needs knowledge of Thai.
    Apartment-1 room: after some searching in non too desirable areas (far from BTS=U bahn): room for 4-5000 THB, PLUS cost for water, fone, electric (put on the AC to cold in hot season and this may double the bill). 150-200 THB/day.
    Food: IF you can eat Thai=rice+veges- all the time and make some western food yourself, daily for 150 THB.You MUST save for larger expense: the visa-every 3 month renewal or go out to Laos or so and renew.
    If lucky and looking not to dirty/Szenerisch- you may be able to find teach some odd lessons in German or ""einbuergerung''-pays 250/350 THB/stunde.
    THus that leaves the usual biggest expense in TH unpaid for: the pretty girls. Und Ihr DE wollen doch ja alle ans Meer-und das geht also nicht mit dieser etat.Oh-and if that internet is needed for to do poker-forget it, in TH-gambling its illegal and most sites are unaccessible.

    #2 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 06:39

  • Captain_Bob

    Click here to learn more about Captain_Bob
    Joined Travelfish
    27th May, 2006
    Location Thailand
    Posts: 1571

    In Thai terms your budget comes out to around 13,000THB/month. Plenty of Thai people get by on that amount, but they have the advantage of possibly sharing rent or living communally with family or friends and knowing the local eat spots and getting the correct local price for everything. Not quite so easy as a foreigner and it will cost a bit extra to get started, for example if you rent an apartment they will want a security deposit, and depending on where you may need/want a scooter or small motorbike to get around (buy/rent) and probably need a few household items to begin. When you add cheapest room rate plus electricity plus internet, transportation, cheap food stall meals and few miscellaneous items your money will be mostly or all spent. If you drink alcohol and/or require western food or any imports your budget will likely be insufficient. I have western friends living here making around 25,000THB who still struggle to pay the bills, but they also like beer and western meals now and then.

    #3 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 07:13

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6241
    Total reviews: 10

    My son lived here for four years on 12,000 baht a month. But he went native. He ate Somtam every day, he didn't hit the clubs very often... you can do it, if you live cheap and go without. You have to go native though.

    #4 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 09:08

  • buecax

    Joined Travelfish
    15th July, 2009
    Posts: 44

    @captainbkk: You have a very weird image of Germans...

    I do NOT live on Hartz IV (or any other state benefit for that matter). I sell photographs via online agencies. That's why I need fast internet to upload large files! I have NO interest in gambling, beaches or "pretty girls". And I have already lived several years abroad without access to Currywurst...

    #5 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 09:20

  • daawgon

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    #6 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 10:27

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6241
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    I forgot to mention that my son is German too. And he did fine without access to currywurst.

    I think Captain (and he is marching to the beat of his own drummer) was trying to humorously say you will have to learn to get by without your old cultural comforts. I know a few guys out here in the middle of nowhere where I live who complain (I kid you not) "I can't get any decent English food around here."

    #7 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 10:56

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 2148
    Total reviews: 11

    "I can't get any decent English food around here."
    That's just whinging poms. I know this pom who lived in Khon Kaen for 2 years and he hates chillies and doesn't even like salt and pepper on steak! He ended up leaving Thailand cause he ran out of money living the farang lifestyle. On top of that he can't speak a word of Thai despite living there. Makes me laugh.
    I haven't lived there but having been there many times and knowing the cost of things and what comforts I would need a budget of 30,000 is reasonable but 35,000 would be better. Anything less and you really have to cut corners and miss out on things.
    But it depends where you live and Bangkok is more expensive and you wouldn't want to live in a cheap room there. Expect to pay an extra 5,000 to 10,000 baht a month for a decent apartment compared to other mainland places.
    If your budget is only 13,000 a month then you have problems and will eat into savings. You can rent basic bungalows for 5,000 a month in rural areas but they aren't real good and internet may be slow.
    How old are you? If you are young enough to go back to working in a position where you can earn a proper income I would do that for a few years and save up and then make the move.

    #8 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 18:42

  • DLuek

    TF writer
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Thailand
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    Leonard's right that it really depends on where you want to live. Expect to pay 5,000 to 10,000 baht a month for what I feel is a livable room in Bangkok (you could find cheaper but it would mean being far from the city center and/or in a not-so-secure building). WiFi can be an issue at cheap serviced apartment buildings that advertise it for free; it's often very slow and/or times out all the time (you might get lucky but I wouldn't bet on it). If you want to set up your own modem through True or one of the other providers that will be another 800 baht a month plus some initial deposit and fees as I recall. You'll also have to shell out for electricity and water, monthly costs which are usually inflated at serviced apartment buildings where the owner basically decides how much to charge for them. I get a bill straight to my apartment and pay around 1,500 a month for utilities, but it would be a lot more if I used the A/C for longer than an hour or two a day. Then you've got transport -- BTS, taxis, etc. can add up, perhaps motorbike rental or tuk tuks elsewhere -- expect another couple thousand baht per month unless you stay close to home all the time. Also you have to factor in travel / health insurance, visa runs and other incidentals. In short, I'd say 13,000 is not enough in Bangkok unless you're extremely disciplined, love cheap local food and hardly drink or go out. Even then it's pushing it.

    It would be more manageable somewhere out in the provinces, like Mukdahan or Sukhothai or Trat town. '

    #9 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 22:15

  • exacto

    Joined Travelfish
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    I like DLuek's suggestions for Mukdahan and Trat in particular. I'd be interested to learn what MADMAC's few western friends there in Mukdahan pay for the types of services DLuek mentions above too, if MADMAC has that information and is willing to share.

    Thailand seems like the logical choice for a long-term stay in Southeast Asia, as it tends to have higher-quality services at lower prices. But I also noticed that the cost of living index that daawgon listed showed Indonesia as even cheaper. Maybe Somtam has some basic estimates on the cost of living in Bali on the cheep. The Philippines seemed like an interesting suggestion too.

    For the record, some of the best German food I've ever had was in Bangkok. Cheers.

    #10 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 22:41

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  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6241
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    You can get a quality one room apartment here for 3,500 a month right now. It will have air, but you have to pay the associated eletric and water bills. Assume 5,000 for a decent room with wifi. I know a place close to the night market (which is likely where you would often get dinner) that is in this price range.

    That leaves about 8,000 baht for food. You can eat here for 100 baht a day if you go cheap, 200 if you want a bit more and a beer with you meal. That's 1,000 baht for 5 days. So you'd have a little bit left over every month, for incidentals. It's scraping by, but I know a lot of people who do live like this.

    #11 Posted: 28/4/2014 - 23:19

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
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    You need money for visas, health, insurance and other things. Petrol is also expensive in Thailand and it would be boring to just stick to a limited area.

    A couple on 13000 each could get by sharing a room but solo geez u would be struggling. I couldnt do it.

    #12 Posted: 29/4/2014 - 00:36

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6241
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    Visa is once a year, and it's cheap. What kind of Visa he would get is another matter altogether, as he doesn't qualify normally. He'll need to finagle an education visa or something on some pretext.

    "Petrol is also expensive in Thailand." I spend 400 baht a month for gas in and around town.

    "it would be boring to just stick to a limited area."

    He will be sticking to a limited area with that much money. But also if he's working every day, he's likely to be sticking to limited geograghy because he's busy working. But I stay here for months on end without going anywhere other than dad's in Yasothon. Living here is different, vey different, from visiting.

    "A couple on 13000 each could get by sharing a room but solo geez u would be struggling. I couldnt do it."

    My son did do it, for four years. It can be done. And he enjoyed himself. But you're right, you have to pinch pennies.

    #13 Posted: 29/4/2014 - 09:10

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 2148
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    You must not ride much on 400 baht a month. 50 baht lasts me 2 days.

    #14 Posted: 29/4/2014 - 10:23

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

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    To get an education visa you would have to pay for a course and show proof.

    #15 Posted: 29/4/2014 - 10:24

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
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    'My son did do it, for four years. It can be done"


    Kids studying around the world get by on bare bones by eating stuff all and cheap stuff. But when you get older living like that sucks. What if you get bored? What if you want a holiday? What if you want to buy some shoes and stuff? Students call on parents to buy them stuff and help out.
    What's the point of going overseas to live if you can't actually see and do much?

    #16 Posted: 29/4/2014 - 10:29

  • Geer1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Either your job doesn't require much work or you have a really crappy job to only be making $400 a month. Internet in a lot of places in Thailand isn't that great so if you rely on it heavily make sure you research your location well to know it will work.

    #17 Posted: 29/4/2014 - 22:03

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6241
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    "You must not ride much on 400 baht a month. 50 baht lasts me 2 days."

    I live downtown. My TKD studio is less than a click away. My dance studio less than that.we have a 7 right around the corner. Nothing is far. And if he moved here, that would be the smart way to go. Find a small city, inexpensive city and live downtown. Keep in mind Leonard he is looking to live here because he can't afford to live in Germany. He's looking for a cheap alternative. This is a question of travelling and seeing things. There's a logic to it I see.

    "To get an education visa you would have to pay for a course and show proof."

    This is Thailand, and I would bet at a consulate in Germany (like the one in Stuttgart where I showed no proof of anything to get a one year visa) you could get a visa. You know the deal here. The are rules and then there are rules.

    "Kids studying around the world get by on bare bones by eating stuff all and cheap stuff. But when you get older living like that sucks."

    He did not ask if it would be fun, he asked if it can be done. I think we've made it clear it would suck. But consider his alternative. You think living bare bones like that is more fun in Germany? My son was 26 when he finished studying. Not exactly a kid. And he has some savings, as he has alluded to. So he has some cash to access for new shoes and stuff.

    What if you get bored? What if you want a holiday?

    I get bored sometimes. And I want to build a fantastic new house on the Mekong. Sometimes we don't get what we want. He's a big boy. Again, no one is saying it will be all fun and games, we explained it's doable. I think it's also clear that you can scrape by, but it won't be some sort of working vacation.

    #18 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 00:31

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

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    He could be a 25yo dreamer or a 70yo for all we know.

    #19 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 03:47

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Probably not a 70 year old, he'd qualify for a pension which even at a minimum he could live on here. But otherwise, who knows. Point is we armed him with the adequate info to make an informed decision based on his querries. Mission accomplished.

    #20 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 10:47

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

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    Hasnt come back. Maybe he gave up on the idea.

    #21 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 19:13

  • exacto

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    "...if he moved here, that would be the smart way to go. Find a small city, inexpensive city and live downtown. Keep in mind Leonard he is looking to live here because he can't afford to live in Germany. He's looking for a cheap alternative."


    Spot on, MAC. It's the cheap alternative. He certainly doesn't have enough money for a holiday in Germany either, if he doesn't have enough money to even pay rent.


    I've thought about this sometimes, particularly on those extra crappy days at work. Get a 1-year visa and head to Thailand. I'd likely pick Nong Khai or Trat myself, but Mukdahan has quite a bit to offer a long-term expat trying to live on the cheap.

    #22 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 19:43

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

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    But at home you have family. Living in Thailand would be fun with money but no money and no family it could be real lonely.

    #23 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 20:10

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    That's true. It depends on whether or not you're a lone wolf kind of guy. But I do know guys who are teachers who have been out here more than a decade with no family and seem content. I will be the first to admit that living with a small amount of cash would blow, but it doesn't seem he has an option there one way or another.

    #24 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 21:42

  • travellings-
    arah

    TF writer
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    Posted from within Vietnam.

    To add a Vietnamese perspective: in Hanoi you can get a bedroom in a shared (expat) house for around $200 and could survive on $5/day for food. Add to that the utility bills, which will depend on the house, but let's say $20/month, and transport costs - cheapest option is by bus but you could get a bicycle, though neither option is great in the summer -, let's say $20 month too. You should also get health insurance, but that's $50/month. So with the insurance that's over your budget and still doesn't allow any money for socializing or the occassional food upgrade, but it could be just about feasible, if you're willing to dip into savings for the one off costs like insurance and visas. It'd be cheaper outside of Hanoi of course, but I have no idea of the costs.

    Same issue applies as mentioned previously - visa situation could be tricky without a job. At minimum you'll have to leave the country every 3-6 months to renew, so that's a cost to consider.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

    #25 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 22:12

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Teaching provides contact with people which makes learning the language easier and you can make friends that way. An internet based job doesnt. Pretty lonely if u dont have funds to go out and socialise.

    #26 Posted: 30/4/2014 - 22:15

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
    13th August, 2008
    Posts: 386

    There's also beautiful, scenic Ubon. It's not the Twilight Zone guys. LOL

    #27 Posted: 1/5/2014 - 00:02

  • exacto

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    Neosho,

    How is the internet connection there in beautiful, scenic Ubon? Do you think a guy could get by on US$400 a month in your neck of the woods?

    #28 Posted: 1/5/2014 - 01:07

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

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    He lived in Udon 2 weeks ago.

    Cheapest option is to pitch a tent in MM's backyard and play chess everyday in lieu of rent:-)

    #29 Posted: 1/5/2014 - 01:37

  • neosho

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 386

    Leonard....I've always been in Ubon. If somewhere I said Udon, it was a typo. That happens a lot with me.
    Exacto...If you're in the city the internets not to bad. Out here where I am, I use a dtac air card (700 bhat) and it's kind of sketchy. I'm like everyone else on the $400. Houses can go for 5,000 baht and up, plus electric and such. Can't really say about apartments. The small restrauants would be a couple of $ a day. Transportation on busses are 10 baht but they quit running at dark. A person could bicycle fairly easy. Good luck with speaking English. LOL I couldn't do it, but I'm sure there are a lot of Thais doing it on less.

    #30 Posted: 3/5/2014 - 21:18

  • LeonardCohe-
    n1

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 2148
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    Oh ok. Yeah nice scenary out that way and an airport makes it accessible.

    #31 Posted: 3/5/2014 - 22:25

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6241
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    "Cheapest option is to pitch a tent in MM's backyard and play chess everyday in lieu of rent:-)"

    I dont have a backyard. I live in the city center in a shophouse. But I'll be happy to play chess with him.

    #32 Posted: 6/5/2014 - 22:17

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