Thailand has been a popular destination for the remote workforce in the last decade, mostly because it can offer a good mix of warm weather, reasonable prices and welcoming culture. There are many countries with similar climate and cheaper prices but their infrastructure is usually pretty bad so they might not have well-equipped hospitals, big shopping malls, high-speed Internet connection and so on.
I've been living in Phuket for the last 5 years and the cost of living here occasionally pops up in the conversations with my friends and colleagues who live in other countries would consider visiting Phuket in the future so I've decided to calculate the average cost of living in Phuket so it can be used as a reference.
Thailand is not cheap compared to the neighboring countries and Phuket is the most expensive province in Thailand but the benefits of infrastructure can outweigh the extra costs for many foreigners who work remotely or just want to have a long vacation in a foreign country.
The official currency in Thailand is Thai Baht (THB) and it's surprisingly stable. 1 USD can be exchanged for ~32 THB and it's not hard to find an exchange booth with a fair rate after your arrival, just don't do it in the airport, it's usually a ripoff.
The cheapest apartments start from 4,000 THB ($130) per month and they don't usually have an air-con which is torture given the average temperature in Phuket is above 30 degrees all year long. A decent condo with a good location, security, air-con, parking and a swimming pool would cost you about 8,000 THB ($260) and this is a nice choice for single people but it's not the best choice for a couple. Here is the condo that I rented for a few months:
This condo costs about 9,000 THB ($285) per month and it's a good choice if you live alone but it's a bit tight for a couple. The bigger options would be a 2 bedroom condo or a detached house and they would cost you 10,000-15,000 THB ($320-$475).
The electricity bill for a condo should be under 1,000 THB ($32), assuming you have an air-con and you use it pretty often. The water bill should be below 100 THB ($3) and the internet bill is usually below 500 THB ($16).
Food & Clothing
Your food expenses will largely depend on what kind of food you prefer. European food is expensive in Thailand, probably because it's imported so there is no way you would pay less for it than in the EU, the import costs are high and your wine drinking and cheese eating habit might cost you a lot. Here are the typical prices for some European foods:
- Wine: 500+ THB ($16+) per bottle
- Cheese: 1,000+ THB ($32+) per kilo
- German sausages: 300 THB ($10) per pack (3 pc, medium)
- German beer: 150 THB ($5) per bottle
Clothing prices may vary, but they are more or less the same for the international brands.
Locally produced food is much cheaper and you can stay within 4,000 THB ($130) a month if you don't buy a lot of imported foods and about 7,000 THB ($222) a month should be enough for a person who buys all kinds of food from time to time.
The cafes and restaurants in Phuket are cheaper compared to the western countries. You can have a dinner for two in a fancy place for about 1,000 THB ($32). Movie tickets are not that different from developed countries and it's safe to expect about 350 THB ($11) for a ticket in the evenings. The national parks have a habit of charging extra money for foreigners so be ready to pay up to 350 THB ($11) for a visit.
All foreigners need a visa in order to stay in Thailand long term and that can cost you quite a bit. The actual numbers may vary depending on your length of stay and your visa type but on average it costs about 3,500 THB ($111) per month. Here is more information about staying in Thailand long-term
Another thing to consider is transportation. There is no public transport in Phuket so you usually have 2 options:
- Rent a bike: 3,500+ THB ($111+) per month
- Rent a car: 10,000+ THB ($317+) per month (and 1000+ THB ($32+) for gasoline)
Oh, and we probably have to include health insurance in our estimation. The actual price may depend on your age but 2,000 THB ($63) per month would be a fair guess.
Let's sum up all of the categories above to come up with an estimate cost of living in Phuket:
- Condo: 8,000 THB ($253)
- Utilities: 1,500 THB ($48)
- Food & clothing: 7,000 THB ($222)
- Entertainment: 2,000 THB ($63)
- Visa expenses: 3,500 THB ($111)
- Bike rental: 3,500 THB ($111)
- Health insurance: 2,000 THB ($63)
Total expenses: 27,500 THB ($870)
As you can see, it's not expensive to live in Phuket but it is also not cheap. The cost of living would be close to 40,000 THB ($1,270) if you prefer to rent a car and if you want to live in a more spacious condo or a house.
Personally, I like to use NUMBEO when I want to quickly compare 2 different cities in terms of costs of living and more often than not, those estimates tend to be pretty accurate.