Cost of living in Pattaya
Some time ago I came up with the theory that it would be possible to live comfortably in Pattaya for 1000 Baht per day. In order to test it, since 1 January 2003 I have kept records of every baht I have spent, where I spent it and what I spent it on. Now, after two full years, it is possible to analyze the records to either confirm my theory or put it to rest. If you are a retired millionaire or someone for whom money is no object, don’t read on. What follows will only be of interest to the 99% of us with limited resources.
Accommodation: Clean, comfortable, fully furnished apartments, townhouses or bungalows are available in and around Pattaya for between 4000 and 8000 Baht per month. Of course, the further out of Pattaya you live the cheaper the accommodation, but this is offset by added transportation costs to and from the city or the markets. For argument’s sake, let’ say something reasonably handy can be found for 6000 Baht per month.
Utilities: Your electricity bill depends upon your way of life and the charge imposed by your landlord. The basic amount charged by the electric company is around 3.5 Baht per unit but some serviced apartments have been known to charge up to 8 Baht per unit. This is a rip-off. Paying direct to the electricity provider is the cheapest option. You receive a monthly computer-generated invoice and can pay it at any 7-Eleven.
The use of air-conditioners greatly adds to the bill so it would be wise to choose your accommodation carefully. Make sure you get a breeze and plenty of through-ventilation when you open the windows. Unless you like to freeze, a ceiling fan above the bed is adequate for a comfortable night’s sleep and floor fans work well whenever there is no breeze. I have two air-conditioners in my humble home but never switch them on. Consequently, my electricity bill was rarely more than 750 Baht per month.
Water is usually charged at 20 to 25 Baht per unit but you would have to be a fish to go through more than ten units per month. Many places also charge 100 Baht for garbage collection so, all up, your utility bills should come to no more than 1100 Baht per month.
Food: This is up to each individual so if you are into fine dining at restaurants then you will pay the price. If you are budget minded and like Thai food then eating at inexpensive Thai restaurants and food stalls is very reasonable. In my opinion it is cheaper to eat out in this fashion than preparing your own meals but let’s assume you do both. You will need a gas cooker and bottle, both of which should already be installed in your home. One of those large gas bottles costs less than 300 Baht to refill and lasts a long time. I’ve been using mine daily for over a year and it is nowhere near empty. This will require an initial outlay for some pots, pans, plates, bowls, cups, glasses and utensils but all that is very cheap at the markets. I also have a toaster and a hot water jug.
If you buy some eggs, bacon, sausages, bread and butter, that will cover breakfast. Later, if you bought three Thai dishes at around 30 Baht each, it would be difficult to claim you were still hungry. If we say that will cost 150 Baht per day or 4500 Baht per month. Adding 25 Baht for gas, 100 Baht for cooking oil and condiments, 100 Baht for toiletries and cleaning products then rounding up, it would not be unreasonable to say that, for one person, a monthly grocery bill of 5000 Baht is close to the mark.
Laundry: I’m going to make two totally unjustified assumptions here. Firstly, I’ll assume you are an adult male and secondly, I’ll assume that, like me, the method by which clothes are cleaned and ironed is foreign to you. This being the case, Pattaya has no shortage of laundries. It has been my experience that the best value is from those offering 100 pieces for 600 Baht. Some offer 80 pieces for 500 Baht. You make a one-off payment and from then on they simply deduct the number of items in each load from the total. The following day you pick up the clothes washed, ironed and folded. Be aware though that underpants and each sock count as one piece and that bed sheets and towels may count as two. For this reason (and another reason of which all men will be aware), I wash my own underwear and socks. As a result, 100 pieces of laundry usually covers one month and 600 Baht is reasonable for a laundry bill.
That completes what I call the ‘essential’ expenses and we have reached a total of 12700 Baht. Of course if you want to live at that basic level you may as well move into the mountains, become a hermit and make a good job of it. Therefor, we now come to ‘non-essential’ items.
Medicals: Although not really an expense until you get sick, you had better make sure you have sufficient funds to cover treatment just in case. Medical insurance can cost between 8000 and 20000 Baht per year depending on the company and the benefits. For the sake of easy calculation, let’s take an average of 12000 Baht per year or 1000 Baht per month.
Transport: Very cheap if you have your own motorbike or car. I do not, but even so, my use of Baht Buses and motorcycle taxis costs on average no more than 900 Baht per month.
Telephone/Internet: If you don’t have any relatives or friends, this is not necessary. I have a mobile phone and use two cards per month totaling 600 Baht. I use a cheap Internet cafe at 40 Baht per hour. Assume five hours per month on the Internet and the total for Telephone/Internet is 800 Baht per month.
Television: Without cable, the local free-to-air stations are ‘pass me the razor blades’ stuff. Sophon cable (60 channels of utter rubbish) costs up to 350 Baht per month. Add 1300 Baht if you want UBC as well. I have Sophon cable and spend my ‘television time’ sitting with the remote, starting at Channel 1 and surfing up to Channel 60 then back again before turning the television off. That’s my exercise for the day.
Every foreigner also has visa expenses which can be anywhere between 2000 and 24000 Baht per year depending on the type of visa and how many visa runs are required. Assume the worst-case scenario and add 2000 Baht per month. We’ve now reached a grand total of 17750 Baht leaving 12250 Baht in the kitty for ‘entertainment’ before passing the magical figure of 1000 Baht per day.
Thus I proved my theory. For a man living alone and possessing limited vices, a budget of 1000 Baht a day would provide a comfortable living in Pattaya. It would be a different story back home. Being a little over 400 British Pounds, around 600 Euros, a little over 1000 Australian Dollars, almost 780 US Dollars or 4800 Norwegian Kroner per month, it would be lucky to pay the rent.
The author is ‘A fool in paradise’ who writes for the excellent community magazine ‘Pattaya Trader’. It’s free and provides a lot of information for everyone who want to live in Pattaya for a while. Pick it up from one of the several locations in the city.