One of the biggest pulls to living in Thailand is the low cost of living. Meals are cheap, housing is reasonable, motorbike rentals can be negotiated, and wild nights out won’t break the bank. With the Baht at 33 to 1 USD, as of January 20,2022, you’re bound to enjoy this financially liberating life as a foreign teacher.
There are various levels of schools in Thailand, which will determine the value of your base salary.
Public schools – Government funded, which means their resources are only as good as the performance of the students. You can expect your average income to be 30,000B – 35,000B ($900 – $1060).
Private schools – These schools require tuition and misc. school fees, making them better resourced. Expect your average income to be 35,000B – 40,000B ($1060 – $1200).
International Schools – These are the highest-ranking schools in Thailand. Higher expectations = higher salary, which you can anticipate to be around 40,000B – 60,000B ($1060 – $1800).
Kindergarten Schools – Almost always private, these schools are for children 3 – 5 years old. Salaries for young educators will fall around the average of 35,000B – 40,000B ($1060 – $1200).
Whether your school offers you accommodation and health insurance is at their own discretion. I worked at a private school in Chiang Mai that did not provide accommodation and insurance support, while my friend who also worked private in Lampang did. Word from the wise: It is up to you to negotiate before signing any contracts. Know your worth/needs, don’t rush, and don’t take the initial “No” as a final answer.
**Note: Salaries are based on Chiang Mai COL, Bangkok salaries are generally 20% higher to accommodate capital city COL. Salaries should not be discriminatory based on NNES or NES.
Now that you know your earning potential, let’s get into banking, saving, start-up costs and cost of living (COL) by answering some commonly asked questions…
How do I open a bank account? And which bank is best?
You can open a bank account once the school has finalized your work permit. Your school will most likely refer you to a preferred local bank (SCB, Krungsiri, Kasakorn, Bangkok). Make sure you have your passport, work permit, and the bank’s minimum to open an account. If you have everything you need, it’s a straightforward process.
What do I do with my money if I don’t have a bank account?
As always, keep your money in a secure, locked, and inconspicuous space. Don’t be like me, “hiding” your money in a “safe” place… for someone to skim off the top – exasperatedly rolls eyes.
How can I transfer my USD or Baht and vice versa?
Known for its ATM and conversion fee refunds, Charles Schwab is (IMO) the best international banking service. But if you’re trying to convert your Baht into USD, the cheapest option is to exchange with a reliable friend. Yes, Western Union and TransferWise have recently allowed Baht to USD exchange, but at a nauseating service and conversion fee.
How much can I really save in Thailand?
While your ESL job will definitely cover the bulk of your basic needs, you may want more flexibility. Various kinds of private tutoring are available via learning centers.
I had three jobs while I was in Thailand: English teaching, Nannying, and Swim teaching. The latter two hustles allowed me to save ~40,000B over 8 months so I could move down to Koh Phangan for a carefree couple of months.
How much money should I save for a start-up?
Let’s keep it simple for 2 months, using the upper limit in the total (everything in Baht):
Housing + deposit = 8 – 12k + 2 months advance
Motorbike rental = 2k / month + 2,000 deposit
Apartment goods = 3 – 10k (pre-furnish vs unfurnished)
Initial bank deposit = min. 10,000B
General food & drink costs = 400B/day = 12,000B
Play money = 2 – 3k / month
Total Costs = 89,000B = $2,700
*Pro-tip: Make sure you always budget some cushion for incidentals.
**This is a rough estimate, make sure to do your own research!
What is the cost of living in Thailand?
This website can help you get an idea of COL, but for a more personalized overview here is what my budget sheet looked like most months:
(Everything in Baht)
Rent = 8,000
Food = 6,000 (groceries & dining out)
Play = 4,000
Healing = 1,500
Self-Care = 2,000
Utilities = 750 – 1000
Gym & Yoga: 540 (60B entrance) + 1000 (10 class pass)
Gas = 360 (I owned my own bike)
Total Expenses: 24,500B
For context: I made 35,000B at my English teaching job, so I was able to save anywhere between 7-10k baht each month, comfortably! Include Nannying & Swim teaching, my average saving could total 13k baht some months. My school gave me free lunch and I could get breakfast, coffee, and snacks for no more than a total of 100B/day, which helped to significantly reduce my food budget. I bought my own 2018 Yamaha 125 GT for 15,000B and used it for 2 years, which helped balance rental fees, but I still had to invest a lot for repairs.
Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of what to prepare for before making your way overseas. Money is an important resource in allowing people to travel, and live freely, and comfortably. Knowing how to manage it in a country outside your comfort zone can be intimidating! But know that with thorough research and planning, you’ll be sure to make your money matter.
Written by Marina Foster for Teacher’s Friend