Moving To Thailand On A Budget As A Sewer Rat

When I first came to live in Thailand in 2012 I had set myself a monthly budget of $1,000 per month.

Back then $1 was around 30฿ which gave me 30,000฿ per month to spend on Thai hookers blow and the odd night with the air-con on.

I was 24 years old and had never lived alone or spent more than 4 weeks in Thailand before that.

Living on a small budget can be fun

I never experienced anything like Bangkok before.

There was cheap food everywhere, the weather was great, the taxis were cheap and the girls were hot.

I got myself a no thrills studio a little out of the centre for 6,5000฿ (M N Place). The window leaked when it rained, sometimes the Internet didn’t work and the soi dogs outside wanted to bite my dick off.

apartment bangkokOh and there were ants, lots of ants.

I went to the worst gym in Bangkok you can think of, the machines were always breaking as you were using them, the squat rack was about to fall apart and there was no air-con.

Sweat all over the benches and the barbel was that old that you had to screw the weights in to use them. My friends used to call it snap-city.

I had no luxuries in life. I could not make a impulse buy for $300.

But this was the first time I ever lived alone and I didn’t give a f*** because everything was new and awesome.

As I was on a tight budget and going out a lot, I couldn’t really afford to eat at too many fancy (or even average priced) restaurants, nor take holidays to places like Samui or Phuket, unless I wanted to stay in a hostel or a dive hotel.

I enjoyed my drink and I went out 3-5 times a month, each night out costing be around $50-$100.

If you’re here on a $1,000 budget and you spend 30-50% of your budget on drinking, there’s not too much more you can do asides from stay in your room or walk about and do nothing.

Things cost more now than they did 4 years ago, so you’ll find it even harder now.

But I was still in the honeymoon period of living in Thailand and didn’t give a single f***.

Seeing huge traffic jams, street vendors, ladyboys (no homo) and different parts of the city were still novel and cute, that I didn’t mind walking 25 minutes in the heat instead of taking a cab to save 40฿.

I remember always spending a good few hours deciding where I would do my visa run to save a few thousand baht off my monthly cost. I’d eat at the food court (50฿ meals that tasted like nothing) and pre-drink in my room before going out.

When I did do my visa runs, I stayed in hotels that were falling apart and barely fit for a women to be raped in.

The novelty wears off

I’m 28 now and the novelty of living in Thailand has long worn off.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love living here, but there’s no way I would want to live the lifestyle I did 4 years ago.


Well a part of me think it’s because I’m older. Living on a budget at 24 and finding your way through life is fun.

But now I’m 28 and I need to get my shit together. There’s no one to help me if I fall.

If today I was the same sewer rat I was 4 years ago, I’d be in deep trouble.
ratWhen I’m 35 I don’t want to live like I did when I was 24.

What’s new 4 years on?

Not too much. I actually still spend the same amount as before at $1,000.

However, if we compare the exchange rate to 3 years ago when the $ was at 30฿, today I’m actually spending an extra 6,000฿ every month than before.

And that’s not including my monthly gym membership to a place that has air-con and weights that won’t break your back when lifting.

Also, I’ve pretty much stopped drinking (which was around 35% of my monthly budget before). If you add that in, I’d be around $1,500-$1,700 approx each month.

I stay in a much better room (a room I actually enjoy staying in), I no longer worry about how much a visa run is going to cost me, or spend hours searching on Agoda trying to find the cheapest room.

So what’s your point Harvie?

The moral of the story

Many of you are planning on moving to Bangkok on a small budget and plan to live a simple life.

And that’s great, but be warned that you probably won’t want to do that long-term so come here with a plan of action.

The older you get in Thailand and the longer you’re out of your home country, the harder it will become to reintegrate back home if you mess things up.

Once the novelty of Thailand wears off, so will staying in rundown apartments and continually doing visa runs on the cheap.

Being young is great, but don’t rest on living a simple life because doing so in Thailand may affect you in the long-term.

You’re on your own here.

You have no friends or family to help you. If in 5 years you find yourself in the same life situation when you first got here, you dun fucked up son.

It only takes one medical bill or bad situation for your life to turn upside down and you don’t fit in back home or in Thailand.

If you’re planning to come to Thailand and live on a small budget, awesome, do it.

But just remember that you need to be active and improve your life situation when you’re here or before you know it, you’ll be one of those depressed expats who hates everyone, doesn’t have enough money to do the things you enjoy and end up selling Bangkok sex maps for $5 to get ahead in life.

32 thoughts on “Moving To Thailand On A Budget As A Sewer Rat

  1. Pat
    31 January, 2016 at 3:30 pm

    At the time we do often wonder why we’re doing this, and things can be very testing….but we always look back years later with huge fondness.

    Starve or sleep?

    I walked the streets of Cologne to save £50 on hotel costs. Instead I had enough cash for a massive kebab feast & a good drink, as I tramped alongside the river at 3am, the weather being minus 4 celcius. If I had got a room, I wouldn’t be able to sleep as I woulda been ravenously hungry, so my logic was founded after all.

    Pizza from a garbage can

    In Paris I messed up my return ticket and had to do two whole nights walking the streets broke with just £15 for essentials. Luxuries like pizza didn’t fall into this category until I was lured to a rubbish bin where I could see a big square box, intact, and inviting me. Inside was 3/4 of the most delicious pizza ever, probably cos I was starved.
    And half a bottle of tropicana orange. They do say be careful as someone could have spat all over the pizza or urinated into the juice for a laugh. If so, then both piss and saliva were flavours worthy of a place in Baskin Robbins or Swensens

    These kinds of things are what’s called experiences, caution to the wind, I assume Harvie that you kept everyone updated on FB about your slum conditions, which can be fun, but in my day there was none of that except hotmail, and going off radar for a few weeks didn’t have my folks calling up interpol like nowadays!

    I bet you look back now and think ‘Wasn’t that f**king great, I had the balls to do that””
    It IS great because most haven’t got any balls for those conditions!

    1. 31 January, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      They are some good stories mate.

      I locked myself out of my room in my first month in Thailand. It was a cheap condo so there was no reception after 5pm. I only had 50b in my pocket and spent the night sleeping in the car park. Must of got bitten by 50 misquotes that day and got zero sleep.

      They are great days and bearable when you’re young. Wouldn’t want to be in the same life situation when I’m older though 😀 .

  2. Pat
    31 January, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    We’ve all seen those farang beggars around Bangkok, it’s unfortunate but is it all self inflicted?
    Hopefully not the case.

    I spent my first 6 months living at Nasa Vegas hotel for 5k a month. Wasn’t the Hilton but it was high up, had a view of the road/railway below (before the airport rail got built) and when I was bored and drunk could sit by the rails putting coins on the track. I got a £1 coin flattened to twice its size

    Shame I can’t post pictures here!

    1. 1 February, 2016 at 2:52 am

      I was actually going to live there when I first moved here, but it was a little far away from friends. I don’t think the price has changed for a studio.

  3. Allan C
    1 February, 2016 at 2:12 am

    I am retiring to Bangkok Jan 2017.
    This blog has given me loads of useful information.

    1) For USD$1,000
    – Does it include your rent ?
    – Does it include health insurance ?

    2) Many of my current contacts in Bangkok advise me to rent rather than buy.

    Most of the studio condos (30sqm) I have been exploring on DDProperty and Hipflat at the ONNUT are are asking
    around B10K per month. ( Link, MyCondo, Condo One)

    If I rent I will not be paying for the maintenance fees which I know is around B30-40 per sqm.

    Would you think the same way, that it is better to rent ?



    1. 1 February, 2016 at 2:48 am

      Hey Allan,

      $1,000 includes rent and living costs. Keep in mind that I know Bangkok very well and know the best places to get value, for someone who does not it may cost them a little more.

      It does not include, insurance, gym costs or visa runs.

      2) Your contacts are smart. Property in Bangkok is over priced. Always rent, the situation here can change at any time.

      1. Lord
        1 February, 2016 at 4:50 pm

        “Always rent, the situation here can change at any time.”

        Why do you think so Harvie? Do you have any concerns in the near future?

        1. 2 February, 2016 at 2:51 am

          The new condos are built badly. Most start falling apart (the decor) after a few years. The goal is to build them as fast as they can for as cheap as they can. Would not want to buy, rather get an older house that is built properly .

          1. Jason
            2 February, 2016 at 10:43 am

            The per sq metre prices are way off even economic returns (rent) for condos being built. Apparently you can get 1% personal loans so I imagine mortgages could be even cheaper fuelling the property bubble(?). Sadly it seems boom and bust are the ways of the current world. Maybe one day I can buy?

          2. 2 February, 2016 at 1:55 pm

            If you look into small cities in Thailand you can buy really nice houses for very little. In a central location in Bangkok with the current law and visas regulations for foreigners, I personally wouldn’t risk buying.

  4. 4 February, 2016 at 5:25 am

    I have been living in Thailand for 3 months so far, mostly just staying in Pattaya. It really gets on your nerves after a while. I guess it’s the location more than anything as Pattaya is a massive toilet bowl that attracts scum of the world not to mention the scum of Thailand coming to earn a quick buck from silly foreigners.

    I’ve learnt pretty quickly that Thais Love Thais and most downright despise us but are tolerated because they want money. they want our money and want us out.

    However I went off the beaten path up in Ubom Ratchathani and had a great time and the locals were so different and nice. I think I’ll fly out to the Philippines to check it out there but when I come back to Thailand I will avoid Bangkok and definitely wont bother going to Pattaya.

    Them soi dogs are a real pain in the arse too. I have heard from multiple bar girls that they get rounded up and taken over the border to Cambodia and Laos, possibly to be killed and eaten?

    for now PI is calling my name and I will be doing so on 1500 AUD a month for now. If PI is no good I will head to Vietnam and maybe Vung Tau just to relax and hang out while I figure out trying to get some different income streams online.

    great blog post on what it’s like scraping by in Thailand.

  5. ro
    4 February, 2016 at 10:57 am


    Good post. I’m moving to Thailand shortly for an undefined period of time. At 25 years of age I’ve realized I hate the corporate world too much to want to work in an office for 9 hours a day. Eating lunch with pretentious fuckers who I have no real interest in talking to. Commuting to work on cold winter mornings. It all eats at the soul pretty quickly. I worked in a high-paying office job for a year and said fuck it, no amount of money was worth being unhappy.

    That’s when I decided to move to Thailand and I am going next week. I’ve been to Thailand 8 times before so I’d like to think I know what I’m getting into by moving there. I have a bit of freelance work to tide me over while I’m out there, but to be honest I have no plan set in stone of how to make a living. I write for some websites and I do something called Matched Betting, My budget for the first month is 28,000 THB. The only thing I’m concerned about is the girl I’m moving over there to live with.

    You’ve probably heard the same story loads of times about Thai women. Mine is slightly atypical so hear me out. I met her in a nightclub (Zoe in Yellow) in Chiang Mai. I had approached her, and we had a bit of fun together for a few days, her showing me around Chiang Mai. She told me she worked as a masseuse and at that stage my naiive self didn’t realize that a masseuse and bar-girl were quite close in terms of how they made a living. I’ve been to her shop dozens of times and it is not the type that blatantly offers sexual services to clients and openly advertised wet massages etc.More of a traditional Thai massage shop but with a “behind closed curtains” propensity to offer sexual favours to clients in exchange for cash.

    After returning to see her a couple of times (I hadn’t been sending her money) she told me that she gave handjobs for cash sometimes. She let me stay in her room every time I went to Thailand and I didn’t pay her for sex or for her not working in the massage shop. I wasn’t too surprised about her revelation that she gave sexual favours to clients, but her openness about it was cool because she didn’t have to tell me.

    I said I wanted her to be my girlfriend, and to my shock she quit working in the massage shop. She went to work as a waitress instead in a popular restaurant in Chiang Mai. She is 32 years of age and I’m 25, again this is why my situation is a bit atypical. She has been working as a waitress for five months and I have helped her out a bit. She doesn’t require loads of money to send back to the family because she only has her granny really.

    The thing I’m concerned about is all the horror stories I hear. All the “my girl is different” type of shit from blokes who end up getting burned. The reason I’ve wrote my whole story out here is to look for opinions. This girl did not have to leave the massage parlor but she wanted to change her career for me. This is why I have given her a chance and helped her out a bit with money. Am I crazy to be going back to stay with her for a few months and see how it pans out? I’m 90% sure there is no husband on the scene. I’m 100% sure she works in the restaurant and works for ten hours a day at that. Thanks for any advice.

    1. 4 February, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      My advice: see what happens. You will know very fast after the first few months if it’s worth your time or not. What she says to you on Skype and what she does are two different things.

      Only time will tell, but apporach with caution.

      1. ro
        4 February, 2016 at 2:31 pm

        Thanks for your reply. I will certainly proceed with caution. I know for a fact she works in this restaurant every day. There are always pictures of her making samosas and other such things. She has called me numerous times at work on facebook messenger. She also sends pictures at night of the restaurant and her wearing the bib with the restuarants name on it. It is in the top five on the TripAdvisor list of Best Restaurants in Chiang Mai. She has shown me her feet as well from working there and they look fucked (they were not like that before). The fact I am going over to live with her means I most definitely believe she has changed occupation.

        There is always the risk that she is screwing around etc but that is a matter of trust and I won’t go into it too much. I know it sounds unlikely that I happen to be one of the very few people who could have a successful relationship with a former prostitute. The only reason I am hopeful is because it is not the typical situation. I am younger than her, I approached her when we first met (and it wasn’t while getting a happy massage), I’ve never paid her for sex. I have no problem helping her out with cash because she has changed her job for me. She knows I am a clever guy but I’m not rich and she knows how much is in my bank account because I told her. She could easily leave me and find an older bloke with more money but she seems to have chosen to stay with me. Only time will tell but I felt it was worth going over and living with her for a few months to see how it pans out. The fact I love Thailand gave me further incentive.

        Anyway, your website is helpful and I’m glad I stumbled across it. Chok dee!

        1. 4 February, 2016 at 3:22 pm

          Hey Ron,

          Every case is different, when you live with someone for a year you’ll have a good idea if it’s going to work.

          I’ll be blunt (I’m not trying to be offensive, but rather give you my honest advice so maybe you can gain something from it).

          From my point of view it seems like you’ve fallen head over heels for this girl. Maybe she’s awesome, maybe you’re the type of guy who falls for girls who show you the littlest bit of attention, maybe it’s a combination of the two or maybe I’m wrong.

          I’ve seen stories like this many times before, and they usually end up in breakup. Having said that, I’ve heard almost every kind of story and they all end up the same. The culture gap between west and east in Huge regardless of your situation or someone else.

          All that aside, it’s about the now and whether you’re happy. Least you’re aware of her past and what the future may hold which is more than most people in your spot.

          Take every step as it comes, hopefully it works out but don’t feel bad as most don’t.

    2. Pat
      6 February, 2016 at 1:44 am

      Don’t mean to burst the bubble, but at 32 she’s most likely got a kid or two and has been through a marriage to some Thai guy. Thai girls are the world champions at lying or twisting the truth.Those innocent smiles and doe eyes are irresistable aren’t they? She’s good at that!

      At 25 you don’t seem to be financially stable enough to enter into such a commitment, sounds like you don’t really know everything about her. Ok, you’ve spent time with her, had sex without having to pay (that was nice of her) and you haven’t mentioned if she’s still in any relationships with other western guys (sorry, but many are, either online or occasional, ie. whenever the guy has his 3wk trip)

      Saying that she only gives handjobs is a load of crap, and I think you know it but are holding out hoping to be the one who can finally get her out of that lifestyle. You may assume she doesn’t really want to work doing that but another truth is that Thais are a pretty lazy race. If she can make easy cash lying on her back being fucked several times a week then she’ll hardly trade in that easy money and move in with you and your 28k budget.

      Look at it again. Don’t be another statistic.

    3. Martin
      2 March, 2016 at 7:34 pm

      A 32 year old woman wants kids! Because they like babies and are their insurance if they are old.

  6. ro
    7 February, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Your comment is quite boring and was entirely predictable if I’m honest. So what if she’s been married before? That bears no influence on whether she’s a good person or not. I know myself the advice is to stay cautious and that’s what I am doing. If it doesn’t work out it doesn’t work out. It’s not like I’m handing her over my life savings or investing anything other than my time into it. I love Thailand (especially the food), and had planned on moving there develop my food blog even before I considered giving this relationship a try.

    You say I don’t know anything about her based on a one time comment on a website? Get a grip dude. I’ve clearly asked her all of these questions before. Whether she is telling the truth is another matter, but I’m not even going to entertain you with her answers as I know you’re the type of person who will assume they will all be lies (all Thai girls are the same etc etc). You also seem to have missed the part where she doesn’t work as a masseuse anymore so calling her lazy is well, quite lazy on your part. Despite the bad stories you may have heard online, there are some genuine Thai people who are ashamed of working in the sex trade. I’ve talked to 2 such people who used to sell themselves as masseuses but decided to move on to the restaurant trade.

    I won’t try persuade you otherwise anyway because you seem to have already had your mind made up that this girl is bad news. If you’re right, fair enough. I don’t judge her because of her past. I will tell you now that she doesn’t have a load of farang boyfriends. Whether you believe me is up to you but I honestly couldn’t rally care. If it all goes tits up, fuck it. At least I tried and won’t lose anything out of it. Life is about learning from these kinds of experiences anyway.

  7. Pat
    7 February, 2016 at 5:05 pm

    Predictable but in many cases unfortunately true, and many don’;t learn from experiences.

    But I say MANY, not all.
    I’m not some loser troll, don’t worry. Just saying it honestly. No offence to you personally.

    Go ahead….. If it’s bad, so what? Life’s too short and it’s an experience to move on from on.

    I hope it ends up all good for you, at least you’ve got the balls to go ahead and do it. Most haven’t. GOOD LUCK MATE.

    1. ro
      8 February, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      cheers Pat. Apologies if I sounded a bit defensive. i just think it’ worth giving a shot seeing as she changed her job, I love Thailand anyway and had planned to go over. This way I have a room sorted out for me and everything already. It’s a no-brainer for me. If I find the requests for money getting outlandish (sick watter buffalo) etc then I’ll be out of there and down to Bangkok in no time.

  8. Kdog
    8 February, 2016 at 2:51 am

    Haha this fucking twit is in pure denial. ^^ Dont say you weren’t warned when it crashes and burns.

    1. ro
      8 February, 2016 at 12:57 pm

      Denial of what? I’ve already recognized her past and the fact that it might go tits up. Just as any relationship could. You seem like a nice bloke anyways, calling someone “a fucking twit” (whatever that means) that you’ve never talked to or met. Probably the dickhead type of farang that give most foreigners a bad name in Thailand. In what way would it crash and burn? All that can happen is the relationship will run its course. I’m going to lose a bit of time if it fails. So what. I love Thailand and any time there is time well spent. There’s hardly a shortage of alternative choices over there if it goes wrong. If your comment is a signpost for the level of intelligence on these articles then I’ll be better off just reading instead of contributing. At least Pat expressed his comment in remotely intelligent terms instead of resorting to name calling and predictable shit about being in denial. Anyway “Kdog”, that’s the last time I’ll bother to address you because you’re obviously a grade A wanker. And yes I am retaliating to your name calling because I don’t appreciate it from hardmen keyboard warriors. Toodles.

  9. Allan C
    8 February, 2016 at 3:13 am

    I had my share of experiences in Thailand, we all need to go through it to learn to be wiser.

    In life there is no guarantee, we need to take chances.

    My experiences have taught me to be careful with my hard earn monies.

    Not just in Thailand, but also in Philippines and Indonesia.

    1. ro
      8 February, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      Good comment. I’ve always been careful with money and never once been in debt so I’ll be fine 🙂

  10. Toby
    16 February, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Hey Harvie,

    Assuming most your work is on-line i.e alone, how long did it take you to meet a good group of mates once you moved over to Thailand ? Are they locals or expats and how long until you learnt decent Thai ?

    Also do you actually have any type of long term plan in place or just going with the flow ?

    Sorry to ask but ‘d be tempted to try living in Thailand for a while but your comment about not being able to re-integrate into the west the longer you stay there is true.


    1. 16 February, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      Hey Toby,

      It didn’t take me too long but that’s because I had a community of friends when I go here via poker. I don’t speak Thai and I have no intention to start. I plan to stay here long-term if visas allow. Best place in SEA by far.

      1. Toby
        16 February, 2016 at 2:12 pm

        OK thanks for the info. One more question, as you are freelancing (as I would be) I assume you are on a tourist visa – whats your personal approach to extending this…do you still make monthly visa runs?

        I understand things have changed now and if crossing the boarder by land they only extend by 15days, rather then the 30 they still do by air.

        Getting a flight in and out the country every month could prove tiresome (and expensive).



        1. 16 February, 2016 at 3:02 pm

          Hey Toby,

          I have some online projects I do.

          I fly out every 3 months and have a holiday somewhere.

          You don’t really have any other option unless you get an Ed visa and do the classes.


  11. Allan C
    20 April, 2016 at 8:27 am

    Hey Harvie,

    Thanks for keeping your websites current and interesting.

    As my retirement draws closer ( planning to settle down in Bangkok Q1 of 2017) I have engaged the services of June (one of the banner advertisers on your site). She will assist me to open a bank account in Mid May.

    I have not decided to : –

    – either apply for a retirement visa (park Baht 800K in a bank), this VISA needs to be renew every 12months
    I do not understand why it is only for 12 months which is a very short period !

    – or go for a ED Visa which will allow me to stay for 12-24 months according to some language school websites, just that i need to report to immigration every 90 days and to pay a VISA fees which I read was Baht 1,900.

    Keep up your good BLOG.

    1. 22 April, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      If you plan to stay in Thailand long-term I would get the retirement visa. I think you need to renew it every 12 months, that should be easy enough. I don’t know enough about the retirement visa to give you more info than that, but if that option is available to you, I would suggest it over the ED visa.

  12. AllanC
    16 May, 2016 at 1:24 am

    I was in Bangkok May 12th to 15th, my gawd it was HOT !!!
    38-39C !!!

    I managed to meet JUNE (Banner Advertisement-Bangkok Helper) who assist me to open a Bank Account and a registered AIS telephone account.

    I have to said, SHE IS A GREAT HELP !!! If you need help please do contact her !

    1. 16 May, 2016 at 8:50 am

      Nice, yeah great service without any hassle.

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