I’ve been living in Chiang Mai for just over a month now. Below are my living expenses from March 4, 2013 – April 3, 2013 (31 days). I’m using an exchange rate of 1 USD = 29.50 THB, which I estimated to be the average exchange rate as the rate during this time fluctuated around 29.20 to 29.90.
My total expense for this period was around $887. I budgeted $1,000/month here in Thailand, so I did pretty good this first month. I also lived a very comfortable lifestyle, better than my lifestyle back home in the states.
Here’s the breakdown.
|Rent (with weekly cleaning service) ||$407|
|Food and Drinks||$332|
- Rent: $373
- Cleaning Service: $34 (once every week)
- Water: $6.80
- Electricity: $47.50
My biggest expense and could have been much lower but I chose to get a nicer place in a good location. It’s possible to find apartments in Chiang Mai for $100-200 a month. I stayed in The Bliss hotel.
Food and Drinks
For food, I usually just buy them cheap from the food stalls near my apartment. It’s possible to have a meal here for $1, though I usually “splurge” and spend about $2 for a meal. Once in a while I do go and eat at nicer restaurants, but this will usually cost me $3-5 (and for just less than $7, you can go to a buffet with all the meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, dessert, and non-alcoholic drinks you can eat/drink).
An example $1 meal is a plate of pad thai for $0.50, 2 meat-on-sticks for $0.33, 500 mL of water for around $0.11 (you can buy a 6L jug for $1.32 at 7-Eleven, even cheaper if you use the water-refilling stations). That actually comes out to less than a dollar. My typical meal for $2 is usually rice, with a good amount of meat (usually chicken and pork), dessert (like a banana waffle or a couple bags of fruits), and water. This is a very good meal for me.
During the day, I would normally have tea or coffee at a café for $2-3 (once or twice a day). I sometimes feel guilty spending this much money on tea and coffee, but I like working in cafes and you have to buy something to use them.
Once in a while I would go out for drinks, usually with people I’ve met through CouchSurfing. A 640 mL bottle of Chang (the local beer) usually go for $2.70 in bars/restaurants (or $1.53 at 7-Eleven). If you’re a big drinker then this could get expensive. Fortunately, I’m not.
I walked most of the time, so my transportation cost was very low. A trip from where I’m staying (near Nimman area) to the Old City (downtown) costs about $0.68 to $1 each way. I go there once or twice a week to meet up with other travelers. On the way back I usually just walk as it’s much cooler late at night and I actually enjoy it.
- Unlimited Wi-Fi (AIS): $3.39
- 100hrs GPRS/EDGE (AIS mobile data): $11.86
- SMS/Voice (AIS): $1.70
Instead of paying $16.95/month just for Wi-Fi alone at my hotel, I decided to subscribe to AIS unlimited Wi-Fi, which lets me use their Wi-Fi hotspots all over the country. In Chiang Mai, I can pick up the signals from 3BB hotspots, which AIS partnered with, in most cafes and restaurants. It’s not always reliable, though. There are times when it’s very slow and connection drops often, but usually it’s good enough. At certain times I could get a 10Mpbs connection (downstream).
I also signed up for 100hrs of mobile data and I haven’t found an area yet where the signal is weak. This acts as my backup Internet as well in cases the Wi-Fi is acting up or couldn’t pick it up. AIS allows tethering at no additional cost, so I could use my phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot to share the Internet connection with my laptop.
SMS is about 1 baht per message and voice is also cheap (cost varies). I allocated 50 baht/month for this and it’s more than enough.
I prepay everything. just load money to my account, which can easily be done at any7-Eleven store (they’re everywhere). Just go to the store and tell the cashier you want an AIS top-up, tell her the amount, pay the amount, and she’ll print out a receipt with a 16-digit PIN you can enter from your phone to top up your account. Very easy and convenient.
I have travel insurance with World Nomads. I haven’t used it yet and hoping will never have to. It has medical, emergency evacuation, and theft coverage.
I haven’t done any activities yet that cost money. Some activities I’ve done include going to the park, going to a music festival, the Sunday Night market, and just meeting up with other travelers for food and drinks.
This coming month I’ll probably check out the elephant park, tiger kingdom, see a muay thai fight, and maybe get a few massages (they’re cheap, $6-7 for an hour massage (without the happy ending)).
These are just toiletries, office supplies, soap, kitchen supplies, etc.