Cost of Living: Thailand V. Chicago

One of the major benefits of living in Thailand is the low cost of living. Even someone making minimum wage in the States could live fairly well here. The exchange rate is about 1 US Dollar per 31 Thai Baht. I know, awesome right?! Check out some cost comparisons of my monthly expenses.


Chicago- I paid over $1,100/month in rent, and utilities ranged from $124-$150. Sure, that was a larger space, but it also wasn’t located in a tropical climate with amazing mountain views.

Thailand- I currently pay $290/month in rent, and utilities range from $13-$32. My apartment also came furnished with a king-sized bed, vanity, desk with office chair, a small dining table with chairs, balcony with a mountain view, Wi-Fi, cable and there’s even a pool on the roof.


Chicago- My monthly phone bill was $100, with no international calling included and I was also locked in to a year long contract.

Thailand- I currently pay between $3.25 to $11.50 per month. The price varies based on my international call usage, and my bill has never exceeded $12 in the 9 months I’ve been here.


Chicago- $450/month for my Jeep, $89 for insurance and an additional $120 for gas. Oh, and lets not forget the cost of general maintenance such as oil changes, tunes ups, brakes etc.

Thailand- For my first 3 months in Chiang Mai I rented a motorbike for $80/month, then I decided to just purchase one. I found a like-new one for $1,290. An oil change costs just under $10, and a full tank of gas is about $3.25, which lasts me a little over a week.


Chicago- The average meal costs me between $7-$12, not including beverage.

Thailand- The cost of food widely varies as with any place. The average price of a meal depends on whether or not you grab a bite from one of the hundreds of local food stalls, or go to a sit-down, air-conditioned eatery. On average, I pay about 40-100 baht, or about $1.29-$3.20 per meal. Add an additional dollar on top of that if you want to add a fresh fruit smoothie. Sushi is one of the more “expensive” meals I have from time, and the cost averages about $8-$10 including a drink.


Chicago- $30 every two weeks, sometimes even less frequently because- $30!? That’s why.

Thailand- One concern I had about moving to South East Asia was the lack of barbers that were well versed in the art of cutting black folks’ hair. I just assumed that I’d be left to my own devices. Imagine my surprise when I found an English-speaking, Thai barber that knew how to cut and fade my hair. I pay just under $10 for a haircut, which is actually on the pricier side by Thai standards. The average cost is about $3-$3.50.


Chicago- Prior to moving to Thailand I had only experienced 3 massages in my entire life. This was entirely due to cost. The average massage costs about $70 dollars for 60 min. All three of those massages were quite counterproductive, because instead of truly relaxing I kept thinking of all the other, more important things I could have used that money for.

Thailand- I have massages fairly often now, and I pay between $6-$13 for a 60-minute Thai massage, and I am able to actually relax and enjoy the experience. The cost varies, based on how aesthetically pleasing or “western” the studio is.


Chicago- A gel manicure costs $32 and beyond.

Thailand- The price can vary from $6.15 for gel polish only, to about $17 for a spa manicure with gel polish. They usually last about two weeks, and I’ve even had a few manicures that lasted closer to three weeks.

This list is just a small sample of how amazingly low the cost of living is in Thailand. My dollar goes so much further here, and it has allowed me to travel more in the past 9 months than I ever had during my entire life in the States.