Living Abroad in Thailand: Cost of Living, Teaching, and More
Have you ever wondered what it's like to live abroad in a country whose culture is extremely different from yours? I once wondered the same. I finally gave into that gnawing question and investigated it for myself by moving to Thailand.
Spoiler alert: I've lived in several places around the world since then.
This post is dedicated to the first foreign place I've lived in: Chonburi, Thailand.
Living in Chonburi, Thailand
Cost of Living
Back in 2014, I'd earned around $900 USD per month for teaching English in a public school. Not much from a Western viewpoint, but that's considered a decent salary in Thailand. That proved to be true while I lived there.
Rent: for renting my somewhat small, kitchenless studio apartment in Chonburi, I spent around $150 USD per month. However, it would've been cheaper if I hadn't run my air conditioner constantly!
Looking back though, I don't think I could really survive off of just $900 per month. I could right after college because I didn't have any sort of bills to pay and lived with my ex, but now, I don't think I could.
Food is incredibly cheap in Thailand— and delicious! I had to eat out every meal every day because I didn't have a kitchen-- and I made it work with my $900 per month salary.
I often ate breakfast for free at my school, since it was provided for us. As for lunch, I went to a restaurant right next door to our school every day. I'd get a plate of rice, some sort of meat, and vegetables. I'd normally pay about $1-$2 each on that. I'd pay maximum $3 if I was craving something really lavish, like two meals or a fried chicken dish!
As for dinner, I'd often go to an adorable little cafe/restaurant right across the street from my apartment building called Black Ice. It was my go-to place for dinner! I'd often get rice with stir-fried chicken with basil and a fried egg, or pad kra pao gai (ผัดกระเพราไก่). That is still one of my favorite meals to this day and I still crave it! Plus, it was only about 50-60 baht, which is around $1.50 USD. What a deal!
Even though I ate out for every meal, I didn't break the bank and thoroughly enjoyed it because Thai food is unbelievably delicious. No regrets.
Keep in mind: not all apartments in Thailand come without kitchens. Mine just so happened to not have one. I did search for other apartments at one point and found some with kitchens. However, the rent was higher.
Things to do/Entertainment
Every Friday night, I’d go to the street market! I loved to be apart of the local, crowded market, but I was mainly there to eat some awesome food, like kebabs, dumplings, and even crickets! It was also just cool to walk around and admire some of the wild stuff they had, like grenades, rifles, bugs, dogs for sale, and other stuff!
There are bars in Chonburi, but not so many that are foreigner-friendly. There was a brothel next door to my apartment building, so there's that! Ha! Sorry to bore you, but I did not frequent that place. Instead, I just mainly went out to eat and occasionally drink beers at the restaurants with friends. Beer was so cheap, too. About 40 baht ($1.28) for a large bottle of beer!
There are places in the surrounding area you could go. You could always go to Bangkok as well, since it's about an hour and a half away via minivan! You could even go to Pattaya, which is just an hour away. There's also Bang Saen, which has a beach, boardwalk, and is also a college town. That's also about 25 minutes or so from Chonburi.
There are several means of transportation and all are affordable. Generally, I used song taos and motorbike taxis. Song Taos are pickup truck taxis. Yes, just someone's pickup truck with a roof and benches in the truck bed! However, they’re very convenient as there are many of them, they go all over the city, they'll stop for you anywhere you are along their route (no bus stops!), and they're cheap. I never paid more than $5, even when going extremely far!
Motorbike taxis are exactly what they sound like. You ride on the back of someone's motorbike and they take you to where you need to go! Usually, the motorbike taxis were more expensive than the song taos.
Regular taxis are available, too, but you have to call them and they're easily the most expensive.
Minivans are also a big mode of transportation all over Thailand. Those usually take you a bit further destinations. For example, I'd use those to get to Bangkok and Pattaya. Those were relatively cheap, but slightly terrifying, as the drivers drive like maniacs, and cramped, since they tend to stuff people in there!
Thailand has been referred to as the "Land of Smiles" because their people are just so happy and friendly. That turned out to be very true when I lived there, especially the people in Chonburi. People there were always willing to help me in any way they could, even if they didn't speak English. I'd gotten several car rides from random people when it was raining or extremely hot just because the people were so caring and considerate!
There weren't very many foreigners in Chonburi, so many people didn't speak English there. Even so, so many people would try to help me no matter what. That was a huge plus and really made me appreciate and admire Thai people.
Since I taught English, it's worth mentioning the students. The children there are incredibly sweet, curious, and fun. They were also very curious about me, my life and really wanted to get to know me. I loved my students there!
In summation: Thai people in general are some of the friendliest people I've come across in my travels.
Things to Do
I already touched on this a bit before, but I wanted to go into more detail and not just talk about nightlife.
Bang Saen is a college town, where you can go to some bar, restaurants, and a beach. The beach is relatively nice and the boardwalk is good for a nice walk. There are lots of fresh seafood for sale there!
Monkey Mountain is another place you can go in Chonburi Province (just outside the city of Chonburi and near Bang Saen). It's just as it sounds: a mountain covered in wild monkeys! You can walk up the mountain and along the way, admire and/or feed the wild monkeys. But use caution: they really like their bananas and peanuts (which you can buy there from local vendors), so they may become a little aggressive and surround you for them!
You could also go to the gargantuan and very modern mall that's there called Central Plaza. They have tons of stores, cool restaurants, like conveyor belt sushi, and a movie theatre that often plays new movies in English!
Chonburi Football Club is a popular soccer team there and attending their matches is a great time if you're willing to spend at least $20 per ticket. The crowd is so much fun and passionate! Plus, the crowd that gathers outside the stadium to celebrate afterwards is the absolute best part! The one game I went to was one of my favorite nights ever in Thailand.
Ang Sila Chinese Temple, or Wat Thep Phuttharam, is a breathtaking and color-drenched Chinese temple in Chonburi. It is one of the most beautiful temples I've ever visited and I highly recommend it!
Hell Garden, or Wang Saen Suk, in Bang Saen is also a huge must-do! It's a Buddhist garden filled with gory statues depicting what Buddhist hell, or Naraka, is like for those banished there for all eternity.
When I arrived to Chonburi in November, it was the dry season. It was definitely hot, but not overbearingly toasty, averaging at about 82°F (28°C). However, there's tons of humidity, so it's quite sticky and hot.
Towards the end of my time in Chonburi, which was around March and April, it became increasingly hot and humid. The temperatures were almost always in the high 90s (F) or mid-30s (C) and the humidity was just off the charts. I was constantly soaked in sweat and lethargic. It was brutal!
However, when it rained, which is rarely did, it was wonderful to experience because it just cooled everything dramatically and was fun to watch because it would just downpour.
By the way, if you're going anywhere in Thailand in April, make sure you take part in Songkran! It's a festival celebrating the Thai New Year where everyone gets water guns and soaks each other! Best holiday ever!
I freakin' missed it because my flight was that day, since I failed to do my research before buying my ticket out of Thailand. Despicable.
I very much loved and always miss Thailand, even Chonburi! Thailand is such a magical place and really isn't overrated in the least!