Just How Cheap Is Life In Southeast Asia?
Thailand is one place in the world where you can still enjoy aspects of first-class living at economy-class prices, as Asia Correspondent Paul Terhorst explains:
“A friend from Bangkok visited Vicki and me recently in Chiang Mai. The three of us had lunch at the five-star Shangri-La Hotel. The place oozes elegance. The weekday businessman’s special lunch buffet is pasta, pizza, and dessert with espresso coffee, all for about US$8. When it’s just Vicki and me, we eat where Thais eat. A plate of fried noodles—Pad Thai, a spicy curry with rice, or a stir-fry veggie dish—for just a dollar or two.”
“If you’re in the market for an affordable and exotic place to retire, consider settling down in Chiang Mai, where a retired couple could live for as little as US$1,055 per month if they rent…or for as little as US$765 per month if you own your own apartment or condo.
“We know a single man, an American, who lives on US$200 a month, with half that going for rent. He gets around on a bicycle and eats at noodle stalls…or free when a temple offers lunch. He makes a sport of spending as little as possible.
“We know a Thai-American woman who bought an apartment in a small town 15 kilometers from Chiang Mai. She manages on US$600 a month from Social Security and, as she is Thai and older than 60, enjoys free government health care.
“Those are special cases, though. Exceptions. You should start with a bigger budget…
“House and apartment rents can vary a great deal. We know a couple that rents a place in the countryside 12 kilometers from old town Chiang Mai. They pay US$135 a month for a small home and garden. You will pay more, of course, for a bigger, newer place in town.
“Foreigners can own an apartment or a condo in Thailand, though, unless you go through hoops, not real property. Still, owning is an option.
“Note that costs skyrocket if you want to live in Bangkok. Figure that, in the capital, you’ll pay double for rent, transportation, eating out, and entertainment.”
How, exactly, would a budget for a couple retired in Chiang Mai break down? Here you go…
If you rent:
Rent: US$400 (though, again, this can vary greatly)
HOA Fees: US$0
Property Taxes: US$0
Transportation: US$100 (it costs 60 cents to ride the local bus; an average taxi ride is US$2.50)
Electricity: US$50 (depending on air-conditioning use)
Telephone: US$15 (for a cellphone, depending on use)
Cable TV: US$50 (including English-language movies)
Household Help: US$50 (once or twice a week)
Entertainment: US$250 (including meals out)
Homeowner’s Insurance: US$0
Total: US$1,055 per month
If you own:
HOA Fees: US$75
Property Taxes: US$0
Cable TV: US$50
Household Help: US$50
Homeowner’s Insurance: US$35
Total: US$765 per month
Thailand is one place where it can be affordable to keep a car. Here’s how the monthly costs for car ownership would break down:
Car Registration: US$20
Total: US$180 per month…only US$80 more a month than the budget for using local transportation