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Cost of Living: Phuket, Thailand

Published on 9 August 2011 by Billy Bradley | 12 Comments |

Welcome to the largest paradise island of Thailand known as Phuket. I lie on the western edge of southern Thailand enjoying the benefits of the Andaman Sea: emerald green waters, plentiful seafood, and beaches galore! 

I've been known as a tourist trap for those of my visitors that endure the craziness that Patong Beach has become.  But for those that enjoy exploring outside the box and want to call me home I offer the tranquility, beauty, culinary diversity, and a plethora of experiences that will leave my visitors and possible inhabitants crying for more. 

So without further ado, let the Sattvic Family guide you through some basic living costs and details that are essential for those that come on a budget and want to keep their wallets full for as long as possible, for I've been known to sap the money out of those poor 'unknowing' souls.

Right now the Thai Baht is 30 to 1 for USD, 42 to 1 EU and 48 to 1 GBP.;

And P.S. - High season is November to March. Just about everything goes up in price BIG TIME and remember, in Thailand YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!

 

Phuket - map sourced from phuket.net

HOUSING

Where to live?

Phuket has a different culture and way of living for each of its beaches. There are at least 10 large beaches and numerous smaller areas that one can explore on fun outings about the island. Phuket is about the size of Singapore and actually can seem quite large at times. 

It's best that you come stay for a week and have some idea of where you want look. Be sure to come during low season when costs are less and there's more choice!

We love living in the southern half of the island due to its proximity to everything we hold dear; food, Phuket town, and all the activities that we love to stumble upon when turning down a random road.  The three big independent (not Tesco) grocery stores are nearby and that's a biggie if you want to have a taste from home.

What are the accommodation options?

Currently we live in a fully furnished 2 story 3 bedroom 2 bath house in the central area of Chalong, with a gated covered driveway, a small yard on the side, and 4 AC's - 1 for each bedroom and the main room.  We have a Thai kitchen (no oven, just a gas stove with high heat for woking - ESSENTIAL!) and whats called a wash area in the back - a small walkway big enough for hanging damp clothing as dryers are pointless in Thailand heat and they are too costly for your electric bill.

Now we are paying 19000 baht a month and have signed a 1 year lease.

Most housing rentals ask for a contract of at least 6 months but usually no more than 1 year, as the price fluctuates with demand.  Currently there are 3 unoccupied semi-detached houses that have been empty since we got here and I assume their asking price has fallen. 

Most rentals in the populated southern part of the island (including Kata, Karon, Patong, Kathu, Chalong (our fav) Rawai, and Nai Harn) are furnished, with varying number of AC units. 

Expect to pay between 18,000 - 30,000 baht for a furnished 3-5 bedroom with equal number of AC's. Remember, hot water doesn't come through the tap, so make sure the bathroom showers have hot water units!

Another option is the Townhouse, a popular cookie cutter 3 storey building with a storefront open ground floor

Thai shop owners inhabit these everywhere as they have the whole unit, with a store on the ground and their living situation on the 2nd and 3rd floor.  All are unfurnished and most come without AC, but a little persistence or persuasion can land you a big unit for the house. 

There are several open units near us in 5-10 year old buildings at 10,000 baht per month.  The newer and bigger the building, the more expensive! Expect to pay between 8,000-15,000 baht per month depenging on size, age and whether it's furnished or unfurnished (unfurnished obviously being cheaper!.

Much like Bangkok, there are serviced apartments and long term hotel rentals.  There is a nearby resort complex close to the popular Muay Thai gyms that offers little bungalows for 20,000 baht a month.  I’m sure there are cheaper rates in other areas as those are mainly occupied by those who come to train.  Expect to pay 10,000-20,000 baht a month.

If you come with just your luggage, this might be a good temporary home until you work out everything else or if you just want to stay in Phuket for a month or two as a rest during your travels.

  • 3 - 5 bedroom furnished house: 18000 - 30000 baht / month
  • Townhouse: 8000 - 15000 baht / month
  • Serviced furnished apartment : 10000 - 20000 baht / month

Utilities

Electricity is the biggie.  We've got 2 computers, some external hard drives, and use AC a bit more than the regular foreigner.  All told we spend around 2500-4000 baht a month.

Internet varies upon the speed you choose.  We have upgraded from the 6mb downloading plan that was 800 baht per month, including the telephone line, to the 9mb plan that will cost around 1100 baht.  Of course, we never get the promised 9mbs, but it's certainly faster than the older plan.  Local calls are around 2-10 baht per minute.

Our water is free and undrinkable.  Sometimes it dries up for 15 minutes, but it's usually reliable and I can't complain about free water.  I'm sure in some complexes you have to pay, but most houses are hooked up to local sources.

We have a gas stove that uses a knee-high tank of propane.  330 baht will get you a refill, delivery and installation.  You might want to adjust the release valve after the guy leaves though.

We have local Phuket cable at 350 baht a month and if you pay for the full year, you get 2 free months.  It's the perfect TV, with multi national stations and languages.  There's Thai, English, Canadian, BBC, Indian, Malaysian, NHK, Asian food network, Boomerang (old school cartoons with NO COMMERCIALS in both Thai and English - Scooby and  Flinstones in Thai!)  There's even a few pirated movie channels!  Crazy!

  • Electricity: 2500-4000 baht / month (heavy usage)
  • Internet: 800 baht / month for 6MB download, 1100 baht / month for 9MB download
  • Water: Free but not safe to drink.
  • Bottled water: 10-15 baht / litre (cheaper in bulk)
  • Gas (for stove): 330 baht / refill. Bottle lasts several months
  • Cable television: 350 baht/ month for basic channels (including some English)

 

Nai Harn Beach, Phuket

TRANSPORTATION

Growing up in Detroit and moving post college to Los Angeles has made me forever traffic conscious.  I'm always anticipating everyone's possible shifts and turns and watching the road for any signs of cautionary behaviour i.e. creepers, cell-phone talkers, random pedestrian crossings… etc.  It certainly has paid off here in Phuket. 

Take the insanity of Bangkok driving and place it on a road half the size with people using the slow lane as a parking space and you have Phuket driving. Throw in a gaggle of motorcycle carts filled with stall foodstuffs, insane tour bus drivers heading back to the airport for the next overpriced fare, and the random 10 person family on one bike and you are ready to begin. 

For these reasons alone, I do not condone motorcycle rentals or purchases and will not even quote you the price here because of the danger.  I am adamant about this.  Even if you were born on the back of a Harley, you cannot fathom the 6:00pm rush hour traffic and how the Thai's work the road on their bikes. 

It must be a cultural thing that westerners have yet to grasp.  Instead of owning a spot on the road in a lane that we tend to think of (hey he cut me off!) the Thai's take a shared look at it.  If the guy next to you has to swerve because of a parked car or tuk-tuk, you are expected to move over with him to make up the room, even if you find yourself in the median.

So I've scared you enough… so lets look at some costs of other options. 

Car Rental

A car rental is one of the best ways to get around. Just stay off the main roads from 5-7 and you'll be fine.  And always make sure the car has FULL RENTER'S INSURANCE, and not just regular Full Insurance!

Daily rates - 1200 baht - 1700 baht (hotels get a cut and Patong hikes the cost up big time) for the Honda City (like the Civic)

The rates decrease if you take a rental for more than a few days or even a week.  You can try and negotiate them down big time for monthly fees.  You might be able to get them down to 18,000 - 20,000 baht for a low season month on a Honda City. 

It's a good idea to talk to some of the locals for help in finding cheaper deals and the more honest companies, but as always YOU GET WHAT YOU PAID FOR! 

Gas is a little expensive, currently 36 baht per litre (5 bucks a gallon).

Taxi

The Taxis in Phuket are among the most expensive in the world.  A 20 minute night taxi from the airport to your hotel will cost you 1500 baht! That's the same price as a rental car for an entire day. Most rental car companies offer free airport pick up and drop off, so I'd take them up, even if it is for one day of the rental. 

Away from the airport isn't much better.  I was quoted 1200 baht for one hour of errand running to the local supermarket and hardware store only 5km away! 

Once again, arrive and talk up the locals for the best deals/ideas.  Some might even be willing to take you themselves.

Bus

We do have busses in Phuket, but they are not modern, run only every hour or so and look more like a pickup truck with benches and a roof installed by the owner of the vehicle.  Apparently they are legit, but I've yet to try.  40 - 80 baht will get you where you want to go.  Most buses are only for 2 areas like Chalong-Rawai or Kata-Patong.

Bike Taxi

The more widely available and least expensive public mode of transportation is the bike taxi.  For around 10 baht per km you can get where you need to go. And pretty safely I might add.  Granted it's only for one or possibly 2 people, but they are good at taking on a few bags of groceries if you need to make a quick run to the market for essentials.

The verdict ...

All in all, I recommend a monthly car rental.  We have one and couldn't be happier.  We've traversed Phuket Town at midnight, Phromthep Cape at sundown, and done countless spur of the moment beach runs in 20 minutes flat.  Just yesterday the Belgian guy I rent our car from took the car in for a full maintenance check and even replaced the tires, for free!  So the honest merchants are out there, you just have to ask around before diving in head first.

  • Car rental (daily): 1200 - 1700 baht / day
  • Car rental (monthly): 18000 - 20000 baht / month
  • Taxi: 1200 baht for one hour, 1500 baht for a 20min night taxi from the airport to your hotel
  • Buses: 40 - 80 baht, but they're old and services are limited
  • Bike taxi: 10 baht / km
  • Petrol: 36 baht / litre ($USD5 per gallon)

FOOD and GROCERIES

In Phuket, as in most tourist islands, there are 3 levels of dining:

  • High end touristy establishments owned by foreigners, catering towards those who want wine and a full 3-5 course meal. 
  • The local restaurants that depending on location and fare, the prices can be reasonable. 
  • Then there is the what the local Thai's eat. Local stalls and restaurants that make some of the best food you'll ever eat and usually takes going around the block a few times just to find. 

I guess when it comes to eating out, the best food often times is the cheapest and hardest to find, you just have to have your exploring boots on!

High End Restaurants

There are plenty of big time tourist restaurants in every area that prepare any international food prepared exquisitely.  The price is high due to importing the ingredients, but the taste is close to home, wherever that may be. 

Pasta dishes range from 200-350 baht like the hotels, but these chefs know what they are doing, and often times might even be from said country. 

Salads and steaks also apply to the higher price due to the importing of goods, so when in doubt ask yourself where the ingredients come from and most likely you'll have your answer as to why prices are what they are.

Local Restaurants

The second tier are restaurants that cater towards foreigner's looking for Thai food or the restaurants off the beaten path.  The owners of the Asian places make sure to have their signs in English and menus waiting on hand. 

For these restaurants, no searching is involved.  Just drive down any of the main roads in your area and look at the signs. Anything saying Asian food, or seafood, with Thai underneath should be a good bet.  These are nice sit down restaurants, and if you've chosen a good spot you'll have a view and perhaps even beachfront access. 

Most beaches, like Nai Harn or Rawai have this style of restaurant all over then place.  Just check out the menu and jump in. 

Just remember, 'pet pet' means Thai spicy, so be careful!! 

Prices for noodle dishes run between 120 -180 baht.  Drinks and coffee run close to 100 baht.  Seafood or fish dishes run 150-300 baht depending if you get a plate of grilled squid (amazing) or a whole thai snapper steamed with herbs and lemongrass (also amazing - but pet pet!) 

There are also many farang (tThai word for foreigner) owned places that offer homemade tastes with prices in the 100-180 baht range; amazing Italian food made by a Thai/Italian family at 150 baht for the perfect Gnocchi in cream sauce, Mediterranean food that rivals anything found in metro Detroit, and the best Chana Masala I've had at the Chalong Pier, Mr. India.

Local food stalls

The last and usually the best tasting are stalls, Phuket town restaurants, food courts, and generally any wet market where all they do is make one or two dishes ALL DAY LONG. The idea is that they've perfected a certain way of cooking a noodle dish or soup or spicy salad so that there ain't nothing better. 

You can even find food courts in Central Shopping Festival (huge mall in the centre of the island) that blow away any of the overpriced fare offered at the sit-down restaurants.  An amazing Phat See Ew (wide flat rice noodles made with soy sauce and other fixin's) with seafood costs only 60 baht here.  You can even find 40-60 baht Indian food cooked by an Indian!  Dumplings made by a Chinese vegetarian who's ethics play a role in all he cooks (no MSG) and his customers know and thank him for it with repeated business. 

These are the places the locals go and if you want real Thai food, follow suit.

Phad See Ew from Central Festival Mall - 60 baht


Grocery Stores

The Grocery stores share the same principle as the restaurants.  Anything imported has a high cost, the local stuff not so much.  My wife and I have met in Los Angeles where we started our journey of good health and with it came eating organics about 90 percent of the time.  Since moving to Asia that number has dropped rather drastically but we still try and grab the best local produce, within reason.  We've yet to traverse the wet markets due to the pristine state of the produce that scream chemical sprays, but have found that prices aren't that much different than the mega marts, Makro, Tesco or Big C.  I'm sure there are plenty of good hard working farmers who don't spray, but until I have a good source of info from other buyers, I'll pay the extra coin.

Note that there are no meat products, as we are ocean eaters.  Sorry.

Organic, King's Project (I think organic… makes sense) or Hydroponics
  • 1 Tomato - 15
  • 1 Apple - 20 - (NewZeland)
  • 1 Bunch of Baby Bananas – 25 baht
  • Young Coconut –15-30 baht
  • Soy Milk - 85 (Tesco brand organic - NEVER EVER BUY UNORGANIC SOY!!!)
  • Rice Milk - 130
  • 3 long Eggplant - 45
  • 2 Zucchini - 45
  • Phad Thai Rice noodles -60 baht for 800gs
  • 1 large bottle of beer -45 baht
  • 1 bottle of the best sparkling water ever – 7 baht
  • 1 bottle of 1.5L water - 10-15 baht  Case of 6 50-75 baht (you'll be buying lots)
  • 1 Pack Organic Waitrose cheese - 320 baht
  • 1 Pack Thai Cheese - 200 baht
  • 2 Kg Bag of Brown Rice - 85 baht
  • 500g bag of Spaghetti - 65 baht

Schooling

We are unschoolers so the public school system is a mystery to us.  I’ve heard that students start at age 7 other times parents say it’s 3. 

The international schools range in price but the big one in Chalong is rumored to be 30,000 baht a month.  I can't verify that but I do know that is the highest price.  I'm assured there are cheaper schools, but I'm not interested.  Our daughter has the education of nature, libraries, and the animal kingdom, to name a few, to explore.

If you are looking for an international school in Phuket for your child, here are three that I've heard good things about.

Headstart

QSI

British International School

For families with young childrent there are a multitude of preschools in Phuket as well, such as Craven School.

So that's a general rundown on the basics, food, lodging and transportation for Phuket, Thailand.

If you'd like more information on moving to Phuket, please leave a comment or you can also contact me through my website, holisticdad.net.

 


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Comments

  • Thanks for the great breakdown of costs. I have to say that I really didn't expect the cost of living in Phuket to be cheaper than in Penang, Malaysia. I just assumed being such a well known tourist destination that it would be more expensive - westerners heading there for years to stay for a year or two driving up prices etc.

    But from your figures it really does look like one of the cheaper places in SEAsia for a family to live. Well if you take out the cost of fuel and electricity!

    Posted by Tracy, 12/08/2011 1:00pm (3 years ago)

  • Awesome info! Can't wait to go there one day.

    Posted by Rachel Denning, 12/08/2011 1:25pm (3 years ago)

  • Very nice breakdown of cost. Me and my wife are currently considering a job offer in Phuket and have been looking at how far we would get with what they are intending to pay us. This is by far the best breakdown I've come across so far. Would love to chat with you about this though. If you don't mind contacting me per email.

    Posted by Adrian, 04/10/2011 11:14pm (3 years ago)

  • Thanks Adrian,

    I have shot you and email. Please feel free to ask any questions here if you think it might be relevant to other users of the website :) But also happy to answer any questions you might have via email if you would prefer.

    Cheers,
    Colin

    Posted by Colin Burns, 05/10/2011 12:06am (3 years ago)

  • Thanks for the great blog. Excellent information. I'm considering Thailand as our next destination, but shall take into account your advice on high and low seasons. I am British and my wife American. We have two children and are also going down the unschooling path. I am interested to know how you are able to stay in Thailand beyond the 30-day vacation visa allowance?
    Regards,
    Claude

    Posted by Claude Abrams, 27/11/2011 5:55pm (2 years ago)

  • Thank you for posting this article! I am bound to Thailand for tomorrow's flight and I cannot wait to experience what Phuket is all about. This is certainly a great help for my trip! Thanks again! ;)

    Posted by Tina, 05/06/2012 7:10pm (2 years ago)

  • Is it unheard of to get some of your utilities covered? Or should we just expect to pay all of it?

    Posted by Jeanette, 30/06/2012 1:34am (2 years ago)

  • It seems like the cost of living in Phulet has risen throughout the years. It costs more for foreigners in Phuket than in Thailand because prices seem to be raised for tourists. People looking for property for sale in Phuket had better know how to haggle, or else they would be paying a price far above the average.

    Posted by Richard Dillon, 06/08/2012 4:38pm (2 years ago)

  • I would like to stay in Thailand Phuket me and my wife have a small business and a small house, if anyone can help please reply to maenhakim@yahoo.com.

    Posted by Maen Hakim, 30/12/2012 5:04am (1 year ago)

  • I have considered moving to Phuket and your insight into the cost of living is great. I would love to know about the medical that is available. I have visited there and loved it. I am an artist and loved the people and landscape when I was there. Thanks again. Lew

    Posted by Lewis Isaac Testa, 12/06/2013 1:15am (10 months ago)

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