The importance of low cost of living:
When I first started out as a digital nomad, my initial destination was Bangkok, Thailand. I had planned to stay for just a week, venturing on to Chiang Mai afterwards. However, I loved BKK so much that I made it my home base for the following five months. A couple forays outside of the country as Visa runs (though this may be less possible post-coup) that were relatively inexpensive made my stay in Southeast Asia a memorable one.
The beginning of my digital nomad journey was also the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey as a solo virtual attorney. Therefore, I had to keep costs low, particularly in the first few months of my trip. Luckily, Bangkok is a great place for those short on money to make what they do have go very far. Here’s my approximate budget reflecting the cost of living in Bangkok:
$220 (7200 THB)
I began staying at the Romance Mansion a few days after I arrived (after a short stint at a middle-of-nowhere hotel). It isn’t centrally located, so if you need to be in the center of the Bangkok action, this may not be the place for you. However, there’s a BTS train station right down the street (with motorcycles that run back and forth for 10 baht, if you’re lazy) that is 9 stops from Asok, where my Regus office was located.
However, the daily rate was quite cheap at 500 THB (just over $15), payable each morning in order to stay that night. If you sign a contract, you have to put 10,000 THB down, but the cost of the room is only 6,000 THB a month. The contract was a minimum of three months, and you get the deposit minus a cleaning fee back at the end.
Romance Mansion isn’t amazing. The internet is spotty at best up in the rooms, but better in the lobby (though there are mosquitos, so bring the bug spray). The room is decent sized, it’s got a (admittedly shitty) television and a shower. It’s twice as big as the place I’m renting here in Tokyo, for one quarter the price. Check the reviews on Agoda, if you’d like.
You can spend more money, and if you’re staying for a year, you can find decent apartment and condo leases. It’s all a question of what your budget is and where you’d like to be located.
$1-$1.50 (30-50 THB) per meal, so probably $150 or less for the month if you do it right
Great food is extremely cheap in Bangkok. If you hit up a supermarket or mall food court, you can get a variety of good stuff for a low, low price. Street food is even less expensive, though potential sickness made me a bit trepidatious. The street Pad Thai was some of my favorite food in the city, however, so I couldn’t resist it.
Of course, you can spend more than this for meals, but for the budget-conscious it is great.
maybe $30-$50 a month
As I said above, I had to travel by train to get to my Regus office M-F. However, if you get a Rabbit card and keep refilling it, the cost of public transportation isn’t bad. If you take taxis a lot, particularly after midnight, the costs will add up. If you work at home, you can save money, as well.
I budgeted $250 a month
I liked that I had to leave to renew my visa every month, since it gave me an excuse to go exploring other countries. Flights are relatively cheap, so you can spend a weekend in Saigon or Singapore for just a few hundred bucks. If you’re just doing a visa run to the border, it’s only like $60-$80, if I remember correctly.
Other considerations, however, include the flight from your home country to your destination. If you spend $1000 to fly to Thailand, that should be budgeted over the number of months you plan to stay. Thanks to the Making it Anywhere blog for that tip!
Those are my general fixed costs. I also spent $50 a month on my Regus Businessworld service, as well as some law firm practice management software and other related costs. However, if you’re just running your blog or other business from your laptop, you can’t do much better than Bangkok. Chiang Mai is supposed to be even cheaper, but I prefer living in the big city. Maybe next time I go to Thailand I will do Chiang Mai.