Thailand costs and prices

Thailand costs and prices

A survey by the Economist newspaper ranked Bangkok's cost of living at only 57% of that of New York, and certainly it's true that is possible to live very cheaply. How much you adapt to Thai lifestyle habits makes a big difference to your costs though - having johk or khao dtom (both types of rice soup) for breakfast everyday will cost you almost nothing, while a bowl of cornflakes may well cost considerably more than you would expect. Wine, cheese, chocolate and other everyday items in the west will similarly set you back more in Bangkok than back in New York. Most other goods luxury goods are taxed extremely heavily in Thailand, meaning purchasing a new Mercedes will cost more here than almost anywhere else in the world.

Some example costs that you may encounter day-to-day are: (approx 1US$=35B, 1EUR=38B, 1GBP=50B)

Food and Drink

Plate of Thai food, some rice and a soft drink at an average small restaurant
40B to 70B
Plate of Thai food and a soft drink on Bangkok's Khao San road.
100B
Plate of western style food and a soft drink in tourist-orientated restaurant.
150B - 300B
Meal for 2 at a high quality Thai restaurant
300B to 500B
Macdonald's BigMac Meal - Small/Large
85B/92B
Grilled chicken and sticky rice from a street vendor
20B
Large (630ml) 'Singha' beer from a 7-11 store
50B
Small (330ml) 'Singha' beer in an average bar
60B to 150B
1 litre of bottled water from a store
7B to 12B
Low-end bottle of wine from a supermarket
450B
Packet of Thai kanom (snacks/sweets)
10B
Small Mars Bar
27B
20 cigarettes (Western brand)
45B
20 cigarettes (Thai brand)
20B

Accommodation

Typical guesthouse room on Khao San Road (small, fan-cooled, shared cold-water bathroom)
150B
Typical 3* hotel room
800B to 1200B
Typical 5* hotel room
3000B +
Discounted room at the Oriental Hotel (arguably the world's best hotel)
US$250 / 10000B
Luxury apartment (per month)
20000B +
Central Bangkok apartment with good facilities (per month)
8000B to 20000B
Non-central cheap apartment with few/no facilities (per month)
2000B to 4000B

Travel

Average taxi or tuk-tuk fare round central Bangkok
70B
Ordinary / Aircon bus fare
3.5B / 8B - 16B
Average fare on the express boats and canal boats
5 to 10B
Chartering a longtail boat for one hour
400B
Average Skytrain fare
25B

Shopping

 
Original Western music CD from a department store
450B to 500B
Original Thai music CD from a department store
120B
Copied Western music CD from Khao San Road
180B
Pirate software from Panthip Plaza
150B
Fake Rolex watch
500B
 
Cheap T-Shirt
100B
Fake pair of Levi's
400B

General

Cinema ticket
80B to 120B
Entrance fee to some of the most popular discos/nightclubs (This usually entitles you to 2 or 3 'free' drinks)
300B to 500B
Copy of 'The Nation' or 'Bangkok Post' newspaper
20B
Cheap haircut
60B

Internet access on a 56K modem, per hour.

30B to 180B

Is Thailand expensive ?

For a lot of things, Thailand is very cheap. A meal can be had for 20B in some roadside restaurants, a cheap room in a guesthouse for 100B or less. For better quality, the price goes up but it remains very good value compared to western countries.

Some imported products, such as luxury cars, are much more expensive in Thailand than in, for example, the USA.

How should I bring money to Thailand ? Which currency is best to bring ? Should I get some baht before I enter Thailand ?

The most popular way of bringing money to Thailand nowadays seems to be with traveller's cheques and/or ATM debit cards. You probably get a slightly better deal through an ATM than with a traveller's cheque (this depends on what your bank charges for withdrawals).

ATM's are everywhere in Bangkok, and widespread throughout Thailand. Cirrus/Maestro seems to be the most prevalent and is the best one to bring though Plus cards would also be fine. You may want to notify your bank before coming to Thailand, as some will automatically cancel your card after withdrawals from Bangkok as a fraud prevention method. Exchange rates are favorable if you get money out this way, but there seems to be a 10000B a day limit (this may vary depending on your bank / card - you may not be able to get this much out).

Thailand's ATM system is not always the most reliable, and machines are often down especially in the provinces. Therefore, it pays to plan ahead and not to be entirely dependent on your card.

Bangkok is unusual in that Traveller's Cheques get a better rate of exchange than cash, and the best rates come either from banks or moneychangers. Bangkok also gives a better rate of exchange than elsewhere in the country. Hotels will generally offer the worst exchange rate. AMEX travellers cheques are the most widely accepted.

If you are exchanging cash, US dollars and GBP sterling seem to have the best exchange rate but lots are currencies can be exchanged. The higher denomination notes always get a better rate of exchange. Make sure any US$50 and $100 notes are in pristine condition with no defects, or they will likely be rejected as counterfeit. Get the most recently dated notes you can as these stand the highest chance of being accepted.

It's not worth getting any Thai baht in your home country, as the exchange rate is likely to very poor. ATM's are in the airport, as is a moneychanger ="#e">see below).

Some banks now have exchange services at convenient locations outside of normal branches. For example, the BTS platform has several mini bank booths offering currency exchange.

What type of credit card is most widely accepted in Thailand ?

Visa is the best to take, then Mastercard, with American Express a fairly distant third. They are quite widely accepted but take care where you use them as Thailand has one of the world's highest level of credit card fraud.

What's the exchange rate like at Bangkok airport ?

Unlike airports in many other places in the world, the exchange rate at Bangkok airport is just about as good as you can get anywhere else downtown. It will certainly cheaper to change money here than at a currency exchange in your home country.

The currency exchange facility is open 24 hours. More details are on the airport page.

How easy is it to get a casual job in Thailand ?

Most foreigners doing this kind of work in Thailand work as English teachers, as this is really the only work opportunity available. Legally, you can't work without a work permit (which is difficult to get, you must have a degree amongst other requirements). A reputable language school should provide this for you, but not all of them will. Even if you're unqualified, getting a job is relatively easy but it will only pay around 25000B a month. If you don't get a work visa, you are in a very weak position and can't do anything if the school decides not to pay you for any reason, or the Immigration bureau decides to check up etc...

If you don't really know how to teach, it's not worth getting a job like this in Thailand. Unqualified teachers are made to work hard, have poor working conditions and you have a responsibility to provide value for money for the students.

Should I tip ? How much ?

At restaurants, it is usual to leave any coins given as change as a tip - This is why 20B change will almost always be given to you in coins rather than a 20B note ! For taxis, fares are often rounded up to the nearest 5B or 10B.

How much can I bargain a price down ?

This is impossible to answer, but in general prices aren't many times what they should be. You can often bargain down between 25% and 40%, but this is not a fixed rule. Being friendly, smiling a lot and speaking Thai are all likely to get you lower prices.

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