My Cost of Living in Thailand – 2014

In the 2011 and 2012 Cost of Living Reports I predicted an indulgent purchase. Finally happened last year:


(The size of cash wad is misleading because the largest bank note here is 1000 baht, or about $32.50)

How indulgent? I spent more on electronics than any other category. More about this below.

A frequent question on expat forums is how much does it cost to live there. Including a lifestyle description with such a question usually gets better answers because the only meaningful answer depends on how one want to live. One should also ask the expats in different towns because costs vary substantially. There is easily a 50% difference in Thailand between the cost of living in areas with non-trivial sized expat populations. The table with my costs for 2011 through 2014 is at the bottom of this post.

Before I retired my lifestyle included far fewer toys, gadgets, upgrades, alcohol, expensive entertainments and luxuries then my peers. In retirement such a lifestyle fits right in with many of the pension drawing single men here.

At my age, 60, medical costs add up. I’m insured by a French firm for 100% hospitalization in Thailand and 7 other SE Asia countries. Out patient is out of pocket. For stays of less than 7 weeks outside that area, it covers urgent care 100% both in and out patient. Meds for 3 chronic conditions runs about $60 a month.

Hua Hin is one of the most expensive places to live a western style life in Thailand. I have a BIG furnished studio apartment with A/C and hot water. One could rent an unfurnished 2 story row house for less than I’m paying.

About 40% of meals come from one or more of the markets: super, fresh (Thai), and the expensive place with foreign imports for those with a monkey on their back and just can’t live without Oreos, certain brands of cheese or beer, etc. The rest of the meals range from vendor stands to places aimed at those here on a golfing budget. About once a week I eat in the tourist district, not because it’s more expensive there, but because the routes I have to ride to avoid the usual helmet, license and registration checkpoints. I don’t have a license.

Electronics and clothes are replaced when they wear out, except for this year. Replacements were also upgrades. A powerful PC tower and big screen for photo editing replaced a dying notebook. I accidentally killed my travel netbook, then bought a better one.

Replaced a short term travel camera with a kit containing a body and 2 lenses. It’s a Micro Four Thirds system camera that should be all I’ll ever need. Everything past this purchase was pure indulgence. I bought another lens, another in Japan, and another lens the day after Christmas – which came in a kit with a camera body. That body was selling for $1,000 in both the US and Thailand. Buying it in the kit meant it cost $250 vs just buying the lens. The body and lens are both weather resistant, the only such photo gear I own. How could I say no? I pretty sure I’m done buying lenses. For now.

If would have cost me much less by now if I’d purchased a motorbike. I rent because of the hassles of ownership, because I can afford it and it allows putting off the big hurdle of getting a license until I decide to stay here. That’s right. Almost 5 years in Hua Hin, and I’m still just passing through.

I Run the A/C at 28C (82F) from one hour before going to bed until I awake. During the hottest 2-3 months of the year A/C is often on at 30C (86F) in the mid to late afternoon, until it’s cooler to go outside. Hot water for shower use is just enough to prevent initial shock during the hot months, most of the time in winter.

Entertainment is nerdy or low cost: Photography, photo editing, learning more about both photography and photo editing, being an internet omnivore, walking on the beach, exercise, hanging out over coffee or watching sports that I’m not interested in bars while conversing with blokes who show signs of intelligent life.

Here are the costs 2011 to 2014. Values shown are average cost per month in US dollars at the then current exchange rate.

Oops. Should have replaced ‘ECM’ in the table with ‘USA mail address and forwarding service’.

[Update] Double Oops. Should have noted the higher ‘Shelter’ costs in 2012 and 2013 was from staying 2+ months in Chiang Mai.

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