As promised in my previous post (Is it Possible to Save Money Teaching Abroad: Bangkok, Thailand)…
here are the replies from my friends in Bangkok when I asked them if it was possible to save money while teaching in Bangkok, and what their experience budgeting in the big city has been like.
It was never my intention to post their intimate financial details, but I found their responses so poignant, humorous, and enlightening that I had to share them.
For the sake of privacy I’ve changed their names.
Ajarn Gina Grammargood
I have a guaranteed salary of 35,000 baht, excluding extra tutoring money I earn during the month.
Now, about accomodations…
The price of accommodation is going to vary wherever you are.
I live in Silom, a touristy area snuggled between the upmarket Sathorn area and the commercial Siam area.
There are tons of condos here with units from 10,000bht to 80,000baht. Condos are a species all to themselves. They are popular because they have all the amenities you crave in Bangkok like a —
There are the cheaper options of course, tiny spaces with paper thin walls.
Information on these hole in the wall living spaces is most easily found on the internet, but if you put the right amount of research in, I’m sure you can find a place for 4000-5000 baht per month, just don’t expect any of the aforementioned amenities.
I was lucky enough to find a studio apartment for 7,500 baht per month which with bills ends up at around 8,300 baht.
But what about getting around…
Cost of Transportation in Bangkok
Transport is key to Bangkok. It is also very expensive.
The BTS and MRT are in the process of adding and extending the network. This is playing havoc on the already crowded roads. Also, the BTS pass that costs 1,200 is zoned, so if you live outside that zone, you’re screwed.
I lived across the river in the south west area of Bang Wa and worked in Silom. It’s a 20 minute BTS journey that cost 50 baht per trip. Then a further 20 baht for a scooter taxi to the school. You could walk to the school, but I dare anyone to walk three city blocks along Charoen Krung road in the March heat…
Let me give you another example of how Bangkok transport costs can add up.
I tutor a class in Bang Na – The south east end of the city.
From Silom to Bang Na on the BTS – 55 baht
BTS to student’s condo – 50 baht
And these costs are only for one way.
Now, I can hear a few of you in the back going “It’s cheaper to take the Song Taews.”
Yes, the song taews, the open air mini-busses.
They cost anything from 7-15 baht, but their routes are a mystery unless you read Thai, and they are usually not available when you need them.
“What about the buses in Bangkok?”
The buses are awesome and awful at the same time. The prices are excellent, only 15-30 baht a ticket, but the route information at the bus stops is non-existent, and the Bangkok Transport Website is as helpful as a hole in the head.
But then there’s the question of traffic… Do you have an hour and a half to make a five kilometer journey by bus? Or… do you splurge during the rainy season on a 50 baht cab to make the same journey in a third of the time?
Which brings me to cabs.
I love cabs. I really do. They start at 35 baht the moment you climb in, and they can get very expensive if you’re stuck in a traffic jam. On the positive side though, they are air conditioned, and if you see the meter starting to affect your budget, you can ask them to pull over. The best time to get a cab is early morning – 4/5am. No traffic so your trip will cost less.
And then there’s also the motorbike taxis.
These suicidal daredevils can be hit or miss. Journeys start at 20 baht and can go to 150 baht, but the price is always negotiable. The good thing about motorcycle taxis is that they can show you secret routes in Bangkok that can help you shave some time of your next commute.
After a few months here I finally bought my own motorbike, which has brought my transport cost for getting to work down to 50 baht per week.
Right, so now we can get around, let’s go eat.
Cost of Eating in Bangkok
Eating is tricky here. Not only do you have the really great food stalls, but you also have a vast selection of western food that can make your mouth water.
I tend to avoid the stall food though. Not because I’m a food snob, but because after eating nothing but stall food for a month, I developed scurvy.
But I haven’t abandoned my local market just yet, I still head street side to buy my vegetables on a weekly basis.
I cook at home and my budget is about 500 baht per week. I try to buy fresh produce and dairy. Cheese is a luxury.
2 pounds of tomatoes, some cucumber and three big potatoes cost me 70 baht.
I get a free school lunch and on occasion, but it is truly less than appetizing, so I usually chase it with some deep fried snacks from the canteen for about 40 baht.
I get iced teas and coffees from the street stalls for 20-40 baht per serving.
So now let’s talk about the
Nightlife in Bangkok.
There is so much to do in Bangkok; it always feels like something is going on. You can easily end up eating out at least 6 times a week.
If you’re in a western bar/pub, an average bill for two people drinking three beers and having a meal will come to 1200 baht.
The all you can eat Korean barbeque stops come out to about 300-400 baht, not including alcohol.
We also have two brilliant apps in Bangkok.
Foodpanda & Eatigo
Foodpanda basically delivers from all the restaurants to your door for a small fee of between 60-120 baht. An average order for two people from Foodpanda will set you back 500-1000 baht.
Eatigo is an app that gives you discounts at various restaurants in Bangkok. You won’t really save much, but occasionally you can get a hotel meal (all you can eat) for under 1000 baht per person.
The real plus is you can usually add 400 baht to the bill for free flow alcohol option.
So that’s the standard prices to go out.
But how can we save money whilst having a social life?
Well one way is to just go with the flow…
The free flow evenings that is, which are a pretty regular occurrence here in Bangkok. Most of the time it’s free to get in. My advice is to show up early, and drink as much as you can during the free flow hours.
Ladies nights (and men’s nights) are usually free flow, and seem to exist solely to send you to work with a hangover. Most of them occur Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights. Bring about 100 baht for taxi money and you’re sorted.
There’s also the 7/11 pavement sessions – It’s not classy, but it’s not uncommon to meet up with some friends, take up the steps in front of a 7/11 and turn it into your own private bar.
Now let’s talk about most soul destroying aspect of life here in Thailand.
The Thai Tourist Visa
Thai Tourist Visa~ Photo Credit: BreakdownDiode
Now, if you have a degree and a work permit, well, good for you, this won’t apply to you.
But for the rest of us tourists, the cost of staying in the country legally will feel a little like an itchy rash that never really goes away.
Here’s the Bangkok Visa Run cost Breakdown
Trip to and from immigration to do 30 day extension: 300 baht
Immigration extension cost: 1900 baht
Lunch at Immigration because the line has 250 people and you’re 249 in line: 150 baht
Dreaded border bounce: 2000 baht
Even more dreaded visa trip to Laos: 8000 baht
And this happens every three months.
There is one way to get out of it though – go to university and earn a degree and an ED visa.
Thailand Education Visa Cost information
University tuition: 12,000-64,000 baht per semester.
Lost income from attending classes: 15,000 per semester.
ED Visa cost: 2,500 baht
So after all is said and done, lets take stock.
Daily bus to school and back: 40bht x 20 working days = 800bht
Occasional cab on rainy days: 100bht x 8 days = 800bht
Scooter taxis when you’re too tired/drunk to walk: 50bht per journey x 10 journeys = 500bht
BTS/MRT usage for general getting around = 1500bht
Transportation Total: 3600bht
Food @ 2000bht per week: 8000bht
Toiletries/cleaning products: 2000bht
Home internet and mobile phone charges: 1100bht
Total Cost of Living in Bangkok: 22,700bht per month
Leftover Monthly Sum/Savings: 12,300bht.
But don’t let these figures get your hopes up. Bangkok will always have some costs to throw at you. New shoes/clothes for school, stationary supplies, that new book everyone’s talking about, a night out to the movies…
There always seems to be something, but if I manage to keep 5,000 baht in my account by the time pay day arrives, I feel pretty damn good.
So there you have it straight from the source’s mouth, the real experience of teaching, saving, and spending in Bangkok.
But it’s never good to look at an issue from one perspective. So let’s take a look at what another one of my friend’s said about their experience teaching and saving in Bangkok.
Personal Anecdote and Budget 2: Kru Steven Spellingwell
Ok, the first thing to know is that the range of salaries is wicked wide.
I know more people on salaries lower than mine, and most of the teachers I know in Bangkok are making 35,000- 45,000 baht a month.
That being said, I know very few people in the grand scheme of things, and I do know that there are teachers out there making 80 K and higher.
But anyway, enough about generalities and other people, let’s talk about me.
I started teaching at my school through an agency, with a 38,000 baht salary.
At that time I was paying 300$ a month for student loans I have in America. These loans were later raised to 500$, at which time I asked for a raise, and was boosted up to 42,000 baht a month.
So with my loans, that’s 15,000 off my 42,000 baht salary– straight off the get go.
Which leaves me with 27,000.
I rent a beautiful apartment with a swimming pool and a gym for 7,500 . But I am very lucky, as I have friends that are a married couple, and are renting a place near identical to mine, but a bit bigger, for 10,000 a month.
So 27,000 – 10,000.
I pay average 1,000-2,000 baht for my transport in one month. I take taxis maybe two or three times a month, but I mainly use buses and the BTS.
Bangkok BTS~ Photo Credit: Diliff
Buses are not bad, and there are even many wealthy people taking buses these days. It sounds nuts, but there are even some buses that are free rolling around Bangkok.
Even if I didn’t use buses though, I’d say I would spend approximately 1,000 baht on taxis alone. So let’s say worst case scenario, I’d be paying around 3,000 baht for transport. That’s absolute worst case though, including transportation to another job I have.
17,000-3,000 = 14,000
Now how about bills?
I have two a/c units in my place that I run all the time, including throughout the night. The electric bill usually ends up at about 1,200 baht, but on the plus side my apartment is never hot 🙂
15,000-1,200 = 13,800
I also pay for water, which is usually between 70 and 100 baht, and then I pay for wifi/internet on top of that for 650 a month.
I’ll over estimate a little bit to be on the safe side, but let’s just round those costs up to an even 800 a month.
13,800- 800(over estimate) = 13,000
For my phone I buy prepaid top up packages from 711, and they usually never go over 400 baht per month. That’s including the random international calls I make, and the sometimes stupid amounts of time I spend on hold with my loan company and bank.
13,000 – 400 = 12, 600
And so now we finally make it to…
Bangkok Fun, Food, and Beer Funds!
Buffets and restaurants I eat at are around 300 baht per meal. Otherwise I usually pay 100 baht for dinner.
Lunches I eat are around 100 (at school or outside of school.) I eat like 2-3 meals in one sitting so that’s the price is usually 100. Breakfast is usually only 30-50 baht, but I don’t go crazy. My tummy is a softy.
So per week, assuming I’ll eat dinner at an expensive place twice, all my food totals come to about 700 for lunch, 600 for my nice dinners– 500 for my run of the mill suppers, plus a good 400 for breakfast, the total comes to 2,200 baht per week. Multiply that by 4 weeks and we get…
8,800 baht for a monthly food budget.
12,400 – 8,800 = 3,400 baht left…
Getting tight, but let’s not forget I’ve been overestimating a little bit. NOW, for the beer and fun.
I’m not a heavy drinker but when I drink I could potentially spend anywhere from 300 baht to 1,500 baht. I go out maybe around 2 nights a month.
That’s all to each his own though I guess.
So to say the least, I make it by… Some could say barely… but I also live a pretty good quality of life.
Of course, a lot of people won’t have raunchy student loans, like the ones that plague me, and if it weren’t for those, I could potentially save 15k more every month…But that’s life.
I can get by, but if someone were to pocket that extra 15k a month, you could definitely save.
I think it all comes with watching your funds though, and trying to be responsible with your money.
Over the last year I was able to save a few extra grand (with the help of some extra tutoring cash and a few odd jobs) which ended up being a real blessing because later I had an incident where I went to the hospital and I owed 12,000 baht( a nice hospital- private).
Luckily I had managed to save that money over the past few months, but if I didn’t have my loans, I could afford to have an emergency incident every month!
So there you have it straight from the source’s mouth, the truth about teaching English, and budgeting in Bangkok.
I really hope this was helpful, and please share this article with anyone who is interested in teaching abroad in Bangkok. The information here is accurate, personal, and current.
Thanks for reading, and happy travels!