What are the best and cheapest cities to live in Thailand?

best areas to live in Bangkok

Thailand is one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads and anyone looking for a new life in a beautiful country with low living costs. In this post, we’re going to look at some of the cheapest cities to live in Thailand and five of the best options for anyone thinking of moving to the ever popular Southeast Asian country. At the bottom of the page, you’ll also find a cost of living comparison for Thai cities with figures updated for 2023.

Table of Contents

5 of the Best Cities to Live in Thailand

Chiang Mai

cheapest cities to live in Thailand

One of the best cities to live in Thailand and one of the best cities to live in Southeast Asia, particularly if you’re able to work remotely. Chiang Mai is located in the north of the country and sometimes referred to as Thailand’s second city. It is a world away from the hustle and bustle of 24-7 Bangkok though and has many advantages on it.

The first is the cost of living. While Bangkok is hardly expensive by global standards, it’s significantly more costly than most cities in Thailand and if you really want to save money, then Chiang Mai is a better option and less than $1000 per month should be more than sufficient to maintain a comfortable lifestyle. 

However, unlike some of the very cheapest cities in Thailand, Chiang Mai still offers a pretty high quality of life, with loads of options for getting properly immersed in Thai culture, while still being in an international kind of place with lots of ways to meet people from around the world.

The climate is also cooler and the heat more tolerable than in most parts of Thailand. Chiang Mai is particularly popular with digital nomads and the city is home to one of the world’s largest communities of nomads and remote workers.

Living Cost Index – 30,000 Thai Baht per month ($880)


Phuket Living

Many visitors to Thailand are drawn to its islands and many stunning beach destinations. While the dream of an idyllic life on the beach isn’t impossible by any means, there are many factors to consider before deciding to base yourself on one of the more remote islands which may lack the kind of basic facilities that you are used to taking for granted.

If you want something of a happy medium in terms of living on a beautiful island but also one that is modern and well developed, then Phuket is perhaps your best option. Located on the largest island in Thailand, Phuket City has a population of around 80,000 and all the amenities you’d expect of a reasonably sized city, as well as good transport links to all four corners of the island.

While it is one of the more expensive regions of Thailand, you won’t be short on options in terms of nightlife, restaurants or entertainment and it’s relatively easy to find accommodation. You’re also well based to do lots of trips out to some of the best islands in Thailand on the Andaman Coast in your free time.

Living Cost Index – 40,000 Thai Baht per month ($1170)


best areas to live in Bangkok
Bangkok skyline via Evo Flash, CC BY 2.0

Bangkok is a city that divides opinions and few visitors leave without strong feelings one way or another. It’s certainly unwise to make any decisions about living in Bangkok without even visiting but if you are drawn to its energy and are somebody who generally prefers big cities, it’s certainly one of the best options for living in Southeast Asia.

It has by far the most to offer in terms of daytime activities while there are few places in the world that can rival it once the sun sets, with everything from tasty street food markets to world class restaurants and every kind of night out you could possibly imagine.

Negative aspects to life in Bangkok include the traffic and air pollution while the city isn’t located right on the coast meaning you’ll have to travel a fair bit to get to the beach. It’s also the most expensive place in Thailand but if you do your research into the best places to live in Bangkok, you can still find plenty of affordable accommodation options in areas that will still leave you well connected with the most exciting parts of the city.

Living Cost Index – 45,000 Thai Baht per month ($1320)

Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat)

If you’re looking for a quieter city and an experience that is all-round more “Thai” then Nakhon Ratchasima is an interesting option. Commonly known as Korat, the city is located around 250 km northeast of Bangkok.

You won’t find anywhere near as many expats or travellers here, but if you really want to try and immerse yourself into Thai life and culture without as many of the comforts of home, Korat is worth considering and according to Nomad List, it ranks very well in terms of internet speed and overall safety, two important factors for anyone considering moving to a new city, particularly those able to work remotely.

The cost of living is also very much on the low side. One bedroom apartments can be rented for under $200/month in Korat and those really looking to cut costs to a minimum should be able to get by on even less than 30,000 Baht per month.

Living Cost Index – 30,000 Thai Baht per month ($880)

Hua Hin

Hua Hin
Hua Hin via Prince Roy, CC BY 2.0

Finally we head to Hua Hin, an affordable coastal option for anyone looking to live by the beach but still have easy access to Bangkok.

The 200 km journey between the two cities means Hua Hin regularly fills up with visitors from the capital at weekends and during public holidays. Most of the time though, Hua Hin is a relatively quiet town with a 5km long beach and lively night market perhaps its most notable features. It boasts some excellent seafood restaurants but it may be a bit too sleepy for some, although there are some quirky celebrations and festivals that brighten up the year including the Hua Hin Jazz Festival and Hua Hin Vintage Car Parade.

The city is home to a reasonably sized international community. Overall it tends to attract more retirees and older expats and travellers while younger ones are more likely to head to the islands in the Gulf of Thailand or on the Andaman Coast.

Living Cost Index – 28,000 Thai Baht per month ($820)

Thailand Cost of Living Calculation Explained

We used numbeo’s cost of living comparison tool to help calculate an estimate for the cost of living in each case. These figures are based on real experiences of people living in Thailand so as a means of comparison at least, it should be a useful tool for giving you an idea of how living costs vary across the country as of 2023.

The figures are designed to represent a realistic value for the total living costs of a single person. That includes the cost of rented accommodation but they are more designed for people looking to be relatively careful in terms of what they spend rather than those looking for a life of luxury.

Overall though, the actual numbers should be seen more as an index rather than a highly accurate estimate of what you will spend, as clearly everyone leads different lifestyles. Those living with a partner or friends should be able to save a bit more in terms of sharing accommodation costs.

Note that the cost of any health or travel insurance packages are not factored into the figures quoted on this page as they will heavily depend on your age and circumstances. Digital nomads and remote workers in Thailand may wish to check out SafetyWing who offer flexible travel health insurance from $45 per 4 week period as well as some more extensive remote health plans.

Cost of Living (2023) – What are the cheapest cities to live in Thailand?

CityCost of Living Index (Monthly in Thai Baht)
Chiang Mai30,000
Nakhon Ratchasima30,000
Hat Yai30,000
Hua Hin28,000
Chiang Rai27,000
This Thailand cost of living data was last updated in May 2023. At the time of writing, $1 = 34 Baht, €1 = 37 Baht and £1 = 43 Baht.

Above you can find the estimated cost of living in nine cities across Thailand. As stated previously, your actual living costs will clearly depend heavily on your lifestyle so this is only designed to be a guide!

For anyone looking at living in Thailand permanently, cities like Chiang Rai, Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Nakhon Ratchasima offer the best value and compare favourably to living costs in many other Asian countries. However in some of the less international cities that don’t receive many visitors, it’s advisable to learn the Thai language to get by on a day-to-day basis.

There are few places in the world that can offer both a high quality of life and low living costs, but that’s very possible to find in Thailand. Even Bangkok, ranks as one of the cheapest major global capital cities with costs there still much less than even the very cheapest cities in Australia for example.

This post on the best and cheapest cities to live in Thailand was last updated in May 2023.

What are the best and cheapest cities to live in Thailand?

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