Three expats, three lifestyles, three locations.
We spoke to the trio and publish their thoughts on the costs of living to provide a broad comparison of lifestyles for expats living in the Kingdom. There are plenty of other variations and the story is not meant to be a definitive list of costs. The people are real but the names are fake.
Here’s their stories…
British – 46 years old
Has lived in Chiang Mai but now calls Bangkok his home. Whilst he has worked a few different jobs he’s now coasting along as an English teacher at a private school in the capital. He arrived in Thailand in 2004 after working as an investment banker in London. He made some good money but needed a change. George moved straight to Chiang Mai, studied Buddhism and massage and lived “a three year holiday” before getting a job with an NGO.
They gave me a Work Permit so I could stay but there was no payment. I have plenty of money invested and was just living off my interest. I volunteered with them for another two years before needing a faster pace of life again. I had several relationship during my time in Chiang Mai but found most Thai relationships ‘complicated’ so have stayed happily single ever since.”
George moved to Bangkok and had a job at a government school teaching english within a week.
“It wasn’t difficult. In those days you could slip through the net without a TEFL certificate. But I eventually did the full TEFL (teaching English as first language) course whilst actually working an English teacher. Was only being paid 28,000 baht at the time but my life was not complicated and I didn’t require much out of my savings at the time to have a simple, but adequate lifestyle.”
“I now work at a private school where I’ve been for three years and getting 62,000 baht a month salary. Every holiday I venture off somewhere new for a break – there’s three main breaks each year and I always head off for at least two weeks. I’ve been to Cambodia, trekking in Nepal, Melbourne and Sydney, Dubai and Qatar and a crazy month in South Korea.”
“I live quite simply and only dig into my savings for the overseas trips. All my visas and paperwork is handled by the school so life is simple!”
• Rent – 28,000
A one bedroom apartment, nothing fancy, in Sukhumvit Soi 56. Been living here for four years and have a great landlord that keeps everything working. Five minute walk from the BTS.
• Monthly food and entertainment costs – 26,000
I eat out three meals a day and go out for a drink only once a week. Maybe a movie each week. I get out of town and do bike rides with a group often but that’s free.
• Transport – 7,000
I use the BTS and motorbike taxis, have my own motorbike for short trips around and use motorbike taxis if I have to go anywhere where I’ll be drinking.
• Insurance – 38,000 per year
I have a Thai health card which entitles me to basic services at a public hospital in Bangkok. I also have private health insurance from BUPA so I know if anything serious happens I can fall back on a private hospital of my choice. So far, I’ve never had to claim on the BUPA insurance and have used the local health system for some minor flues.
“I’m on a Non Immigrant B visa with a Work Permit through the school I work for. They look after everything. I have to report to Immigration every 90 days.”
PROS: The city lifestyle, hot weather, the food
CONS: My bad Thai speaking, footpaths, traffic
Australian – 58 years old years old
Has been living in Chiang Mai for nearly 20 years with her husband. They both have some savings from their business back in Australia. But Gloria likes to work so they have to dip into their savings less.
“We came here for a holiday and just stayed – we loved it and will never return to Australia. We rented for three years but then bought a small old style house on the river which we spent the next two years renovating – something we’d done back in our Queensland homes over the years. But renovating in Thailand can be a monumental headache!”
Gloria has worked for a chain of Thai restaurants as their guest and tourist services manager for nearly a decade and says she loves the work and the fun she has with the local staff, and meeting people from all around the world.
“I work a full 45 hours a week, just like the local staff, although I know I am paid a lot more than them.”
“The work is important to me so we can live a ’normal’ life here. Both of us participate in a local soi dog charity where we’ve made some great friends from all over the world. They come and go but it’s never boring. We’ve adopted four or five dogs over the years.”
Gloria’s husband has a niche online business selling Lampang-grown organic coffee but says he does it mostly as a hobby.
“It started as a hobby but we end up with more in the bank every month. After doing it for four years we’re now clearing about 20-30,000 baht a month after costs. So it’s becoming semi-serious.”
Gloria and her husband travel every year but restrict themselves to Thailand and neighbouring countries.
“We don’t ‘rough it’ but we always fly discount airlines and stay in smaller family-operated hotels.”
“We paid for our own house (leasehold) out of savings we brought with us. We have a leasehold on the property which we intend to rollover when the time comes. But we’ll worry about that at the time as we’ll both be getting quite elderly at the time and will probably want to downscale. Our bottomline is that it’s all costing us less than renting the same thing and we enjoy having a place where we can do what we like. To rent something like we’ve living in would cost around 25,000 baht I think.”
• Monthly food and entertainment costs – 45,000 (for two)
We always have a our breakfast at home. Lunches and dinners could be anywhere, sometimes home as well. My husband is a much better than I. We have friends over a couple of times a month and attend various events almost every week. We go to little local street restaurants and splurge once a week on a really nice place – we love exploring new eateries around town.
“We might have a wine each evening, that’s about all.”
• Transport – 4,500
We both have a car. We paid cash for them about ten years ago and they’re still going. We paid about 300,000 each for them, old Hondas, just go and go. We never use local public transport though my husband has been known to grab a local taxi from time to time. Petrol and service costs for the cars are about it for transport. We’ve been using Grab lately rather than the local taxis, much better value.
• Insurance – 92,000 per year
“Both of us have private health insurance which covers us here in Thailand and any overseas trips as well. The policy says we pay for any upfront costs then we can claim after. We’ve only used it three times over the past decade or so – me with a fall down from stairs where I broke a leg, my husband with a mystery skin infection and just lately when I had a few ‘ladies problems’. We’ve always gone to the private hospitals in Chiang Mai and been very happy with the staff and services.”
“I’m on a Non Immigrant B visa with a Work Permit through my own company. My husband is on a ‘retirement visa’.”
PROS: Fresh air, always things to do, the local people
CONS: Miss our family sometimes, city traffic, can’t think of a third one
American – 68 years old
Don arrived in Pattaya after a failed marriage in 1997. He’s travelled extensively around Thailand and only been living off his savings. He had a large property company based around the US west coast for twenty years and has enough savings to ‘get by’. He says he’s spent the past two decades in and around Pattaya spending his money on “all the things Pattaya’s best known for.”
“I’ve never had another serious relationship since my marriage failed but I’ve always had the company of pretty ladies around me. I bought a motorbike when I first arrived here, worked my way around the bars, been horribly drunk a lot of the time and had the time of my life. People might look down on me but it’s been a great time. It’s just been one long holiday.”
Don says he used to rent a large condo with a view which he was paying 35,000 baht a month for. But now rents a much smaller place back off the beach, but in an OK area, for 8,500 baht a month.
“It’s not that large but I really don’t spend much time there anyway.”
When it comes to making his savings keep lasting he’s fairly philosophical about it.
“When the money runs out I have no idea what I’ll do. I think there’s enough there to keep me going another decade – that should see me out,” he laughs. “I have no relatives or friends back in the US, so I’ll be staying here for the rest of my life.”
Don has a few friends from the UK who, he says, are doing it hard with their pensions, in baht, dropping value over the past five years.
“They’re really worried as the cost keep going up here but their pensions are valued a lot less than they used to. They’ve got no back up plan – they’re in a real mess.”
“Life for me in Pattaya has been one long party, the best years of my life. Whilst the ladies still like me and I can afford to eat, I’m happy.”
• Rent – 8,500
A one bedroom, 32 square meter condo. Fairly new and ‘cosy’ without being cramped according to Don. “You can rent something with a view but it’s going to cost over 20,000 and I can walk to the beach anytime I want for free.”
• Monthly food and entertainment costs – 42,000
“I only eat twice a day. I have a bruch at home usually then head out for the day. Dinner would usually be at one of my favourite Thai places where I can get a good fresh meal and a drink for less than 150 baht. I admit to spending a lot on alcohol each month, probably more than I spend on food.”
• Transport – 10,000
“I have a motorbike and keep the machine running to zip around the city. I’ll get a taxi home after a big night, plenty don’t but I’ve seen too many old fellas getting rotten at the bar then driving home killing themselves on the way.” Don says he takes taxis a few times a week when he knows he’s going for bug night.
• Insurance – 58,000 per year
“I’ve always had full health insurance. It’s expensive but it’s good piece of mind. Never had a claim since I started about 15 years ago. My premium has stayed the same even though I’ve gotten older – not sure how long that will stay like that. I’ve gone to local hospitals and paid for a few bumps and scrapes.”
“Been on a ‘Geeza Visa’ (Retirement Visa) since I was 50. Before then I used to do visa runs and just made it up as I went along. Except for the 90 day reporting, it’s fairly easy. I have put reminders in my phone for the next ten years!”
PROS: Lots of friendly ladies, cheap to live compared to US, away from the wife
CONS: Shit beaches, some expats, can’t speak Thai
Strong baht a concern for Thai hotel sector
by Bill Barnett
Thailand’s baht performance against Asian currencies in 2018, was unmatched, with the exception of the Japanese yen.
Commenting on the trend financial news Bloomberg have highlighted that in 2019, a further 4% in growth this year have it sitting at the top of the table.
Oddly, one of the underlying factors stimulating the baht’s appreciation is the recovery in tourism arrivals which has a double-digit impact on the country’s GDP.
While the elections remain a wild card on forward expectations, the reality is that the currency has not been hit like the Chinese yuan, which has been disrupted by a threatened U.S. China trade war and slowdown in its economy.
Despite higher than expected tourism numbers in 2018, hotel owners are cautiously optimistic on the prospects for the year.
In reality, despite rising prices for visitors, the economic climate is leading many property developers turning to hospitality assets as the real estate market remains volatile. The general view is that sustainable cash flow as part of their business mix is good and that tourism fundamentals remain strong.
Still, looking at nearby competitors such as Vietnam, which is rapidly growing from a cub into a tourism tiger, the issue of affordability is concerning. Currency swings remain a real and present factor in demand, so expect hoteliers to keep watching currency levels closely in 2019.
Chinese tourists spend big during Chinese New Year holiday
Spending by Chinese tourists during the Chinese New Year holiday around the world was the highest in Thailand.
Alipay, a leading digital payment platform offered by Ant Financial, an affiliate of Alibaba Group has done the sums. The transactions were recorded between February 4-10, and data drawn from the 54 international markets where Alipay is accepted.
The number of transactions in Thailand ranked second worldwide after Hong Kong, and topped the list in Southeast Asia with an average spending of 1,646 yuan (7,650 baht).
The high spending was put down to convenience stores and duty-free shops accepting Alipay and offering special promotions for Alipay users.
King Power Duty Free recorded a 50 per cent increase in transactions thanks to discounts for Alipay users, while transactions at convenience stores also rose by 38 per cent due to their “Alipay corner”.
Chinese visitors are also now able to get tax refunds at 7-Eleven branches in the capital.
Chinese spenders, although spending less time per holiday, spend more per person, per day than other tourist demographics entering the country.
Read a previous story about tourist spending patterns HERE.
Top 10 Phuket fitness options – get fit on a tropical paradise
by Krix Luther
Living and working in Phuket for more than 11 years as a full-time Personal Trainer, I have had the pleasure of watching the island develop and make its mark on the wider Health and Fitness industry. I can comfortably say it is becoming an important Health, fitness and wellness hub of South East Asia.
The island has an incredible amount to offer, so much so, you could get lost if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Knowing what is what, what to do, where to start and which is best for you and your fitness journey, can be a daunting task.
Here’s a snapshot of what the island has to offer, whether you’re a beginner, average gym rat, fitness enthusiast or pro athlete. You will find something that suits you.
So, in no particular order, here are the Top 10 Phuket fitness options.
1. Phuket Detox Centres
Phuket Detox Centre? At first, most people think a Detox centre is some sort of Drug Rehab facility. Although a lot of detox centres in Phuket will state they can aid their clients in overcoming some addictions, their primary objective is to help people cleanse and detoxify the body through different variations of fasting and or dieting.
(The Thaiger recommends you should consult with a medical professional before undertaking any detox treatment)
Phuket detox centres offer similar options. Full fast (which means eating nothing but supplements), Juice cleanse, Raw Food Diet and Healthy Eating. There are plenty of other programs available around the island.
Included in these programs are, yoga, meditation and fitness/movement classes, morning beach walks, wellness talks and a variety of other holistic practices, all tailored to help the body heal itself, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically.
I have worked with pretty much every major detox centre on the island, and they all have their own niche, styles and methods.
2. Phuket Muay Thai Camps
Thai Boxing (Muay Thai) is Thailands national sport and is huge in Phuket. 13 years ago there was only a handful of local Muay Thai Gyms in Phuket. It wasn’t until a gym called Rawai Muay Thai decided to build a professional website, social media presence and advertise Muay Thai training in Phuket to westerners abroad.
Watching its explosive success, it wasn’t long until more gyms popped up doing the same thing. Sinbi Muay Thai, Tiger Muay Thai, Dragon Muay Thai, etc. Then with the growing popularity of UFC, some of these Muay Thai Gyms started hiring MMA coaches along with Brazilian Jujitsu specialists and trainers with wrestling backgrounds. I believe Phuket Top Team were the first to do this followed by Tiger, now you have dedicated MMA gyms like AKA Thailand joining the island.
Muay Thai Gyms in Phuket seem to be popping up as fast as 7 Elevens, some are closing with equal speed as well. But if you are looking to better your Muay Thai game or just would like to get fit by trying something new, then you can check out the list of well established Muay Thai gyms in HERE.
3. Phuket Fitness Centres
There are a lot of gyms now that are just 100% dedicated to fitness classes. Like Phuket Cross Fit, Yoga, TRX, Circuit & HIIT training, correction workouts, workshops and more. They don’t have a regular weightlifting facility or gym membership where you can just rock up and hit the weights whenever you want. It is just a pure class schedule fitness centre.
The main open Phuket fitness centres I would say are Titan Fitness and Unit 27. By “open” I mean you can pop in for 1 class or buy into monthly or block packages. Then there is Phuket Fit, and Phuket Cleanse that is more closed and comprehensive, what I mean by that is they include on-site accommodation and meals, and you can not just walk in for the one-off session, you have to be booked into their program.
All are great facilities. If this is something that’s more of an interest to you, then you can check them out HERE.
4. Phuket Gyms
Phuket has a vast selection of high-end gyms, with top-notch equipment and facilities as well as your old school dirty, rough, broken equipment, no hygiene, Rocky Balboa style gyms. Whichever your preference, Phuket has a gym that suits your needs and budget. So if you are just looking to join a gym on your visit then here is a list of the best gyms in Phuket.
RPM Health Club, Koh Kaew – PHOTO: Phuket Index
5. Phuket Personal Trainers
There are a lot of Personal Trainers in Phuket but only a few freelance ones. Most are attached to a gym or fitness centre and cannot work outside these places. Many people wonder, is a personal trainer worth it? In my biased opinion, the answer would be “Yes… if you can find a good one.”
You can read my article here on “what makes a good trainer.” So you can make your own assessment of the trainer you hired or are about to hire.
6. Phuket Yoga Retreats
Just like personal trainers, there are a lot of yoga instructors in Phuket and few Freelance ones like my friend Kim White. But there are also some great Phuket yoga retreats. These yoga retreats are similar to the detox centres, they are enclosed facilities with accommodation, food, yoga classes along with other holistic heal classes and workshops.
PHOTO: Yoga Health Journal
7. The Great Outdoors
One of the best things about Phuket is that it’s beautiful, the oceans, the beaches, and nature surrounded it. Despite the island’s obsession with getting rid of single-use plastics it still has fantastic places to swim and snorkel.
You can hire a bike and cycle around the mountain roads and be mesmerised by the stunning views, or you can join in the Clean The Beach Boot Camp and have a great workout on the beach once every two weeks, exercising in the sand, the ocean and nature. There is nothing like kicking off the shoes and training in your bare feet. Enjoy the beaches, rainforests, walks and activities around the island. It’s warm and hot all year round (with a bit of rain between May and November). Here’s a list of our Top 10 beaches.
As a last resort, and you’re not a ‘bicycle’ sort of person, rent a motorbike and let the engine do the hard work for you. Make sure you wear a helmet (it’s law), have the appropriate health or travel insurance and appropriate driving license.
In the health and fitness industry, meditation is very much underrated, but there are a lot of physical benefits of meditation, not just mental/psychological ones. And in Phuket, there is a great place to learn how to meditate or take your meditation to the next level at the Phuket Meditation Centre.
If it’s something you were curious about then I would highly recommend trying it out. They have free introductory classes every Tuesday and Thursday.
9. Phuket Free Diving/Scuba Diving
Just like the great outdoors there are some great spots to do a bit of diving in Phuket. Whether you are a hardcore free diver or looking to get your first Scuba Diving certificate, then Phuket has some great options for you. Make sure your divers are accredited and check their experience in diving around the island.
10. Massage, Ice Baths, Sauna
If you going to train hard, then you best recover hard. There is nothing like booking a fitness holiday and overtraining in the first week and getting injured. Phuket has some great relax and recovery facilities, from massages to Sauna and Ice Baths and even float therapy in a sensory deprivation tank. These are great for reducing stress, lowering cortisol levels and preventing you from seeing those classic signs and symptoms of overtraining.
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