I know I kinda left you guys hanging with the post about Thailand investing breaking up my moving to Thailand series last Tuesday. Sorry about that and I hope you are still around to continue reading the story. This week I am finally going to tackle the part of the move that is directly related to my finances; the cost of the move and getting set up in Thailand once we arrived.
As you might have already heard, Thailand is a cheaper place to live than many cities in the West. Even in Bangkok our cost of living is far below what we would pay for a similar lifestyle in New York, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver or most any similar sized city in North America or Europe (as well as some in Asia). While you might hear me complain sometimes about how expensive Bangkok is, that is only in relation to the rest of Thailand.
And contrary to popular beliefs Thailand (well Bangkok anyway) is by no means third world. The infrastructure, public transport, dining options and lifestyle are well developed and becoming more so very rapidly. Unlike the West, Asia is experiencing quite an economic boom over the past decade and it is showing in the improvements not just in infrastructure, but also in the lifestyle of the citizens. There is an emerging middle class in Bangkok, just as you may have read about the emerging middle class in China.
Thailand Moving Expenses
Our actual cost for the move is probably much lower than you might expect. The reason for this is that we chose to leave everything behind, coming with just 6 large suitcases and 3 carry on bags. Everything else we owned was sold prior to the move. Selling all that stuff actually gave us enough for the airfare and initial costs, so it wasn’t a bad trade off. Our reasoning was that we would be renting and in Thailand virtually every rental comes completely furnished.
The move consisted of me, my wife and our (then) 1 year old daughter. Since our daughter was only 1 she qualified as a lap infant and could have flown for free, however we opted to buy her a ticket (it was discounted by 20%) for the added room on a 20 hour flight as well as the additional baggage allowances. Maybe not the most frugal of moves, but one which helped our sanity. Total cost for 3 one way tickets from New York to Bangkok – $2575.50. We also paid $250 for a limo to the airport as well as $132.01 for a room overnight at JFK since our flight left at 10am and we didn’t want to get up at 3am to get to the airport on time. So, total costs for leaving the U.S. came to $2957.51.
Arriving in Bangkok
As you might imagine, we arrived in Bangkok quite exhausted and jet lagged. First priority was getting a taxi and getting to the hotel. Taxi’s in Bangkok are quite reasonable and ours cost about $10 for the 45 minute trip from Suvarnabhumi Airport to our hotel on Sukhumvit Road. Hotels are also quite reasonable, if you are willing to forgo the big chains (Marriott, Hilton, Centara, Amari, etc.). Our hotel was the Hope Land Executive Residence on Sukhumvit Soi 46. The rooms we quite large and came with a kitchen/dining area and breakfast was included (mediocre breakfast). We booked for 7 nights at a total cost of $418.60 or $59.80 per night. Less than half the cost of our JFK accommodations with a room 4 times the size and breakfast included. Total cost for the move to this point – $3376.11
As mentioned previously it took just 3 days for my wife to find work and an additional 3 days to find an apartment. The apartment did require a deposit (common here) and that amounted to THB56,000 or roughly $1800. We also had food and transportation expenses during that week. Honestly I didn’t track them, but I know we ate primarily from street vendors and local restaurants that entire week so my guess would be we spent maybe $200 the whole week. At the end of the week we decided to head up north to my in-laws house while waiting for the apartment to be ready. Because we were taking our 9 bags with us and had 5 passengers (my wife’s parents had come to Bangkok), we decided to rent a van for the 10 hour trip. That van cost $150. Almost half the cost of the 3 hour trip from PA to JFK. Total cost for the move to this point – $5526.11
An Inexpensive Break
We had planned on spending 10 days at my in-laws resting and recuperating and having no expenses. Of course you know the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry. A Thai village is a quiet place. Typically everyone has their dinner by sundown (6:30pm) and is in bed no later than 9 at night. Everyone gets up with the sun because the early morning is cool and there are chores to be done. For me, there was limited communication because no one within 100 miles spoke any English. There is no running water in the house and certainly no hot water. There is no air conditioning to retreat to when the temperature reaches 100 degrees. There is no such thing as child proofing for an inquisitive 1 year old toddler.
In the end, while inexpensive, the visit was not restful in the least. Our daughter required constant attention, we missed conveniences like air conditioning and hot water and by the 5th day we were ready to go. To be fair, I did offer to stick it out. The decision to leave was my wife’s. Rather than head back to Bangkok early we chose to move farther north to Chiang Mai, a city much smaller than Bangkok and with a blooming art scene as well as more natural beauty. Added to that was the fact that my wife wanted to go back to Doi Suthep, where 3 years before she had prayed to get pregnant. She needed to give her thanks to the Buddha.
Our Time in Chiang Mai
As I said, Chiang Mai is a smaller city than Bangkok, but there is still plenty to do. Obviously we took a half day to travel to the top of the mountains overlooking Chiang Mai so my wife could give her thanks at Doi Suthep. There is also the famed night market, the Chiang Mai zoo, the old city with loads of restaurants, shops and historic attractions, trekking and elephant camps and the summer palace of the Thai monarchy. Our 5 days in Chiang Mai passed quickly and before we knew it we were headed back to Bangkok. Total cost for the Chiang Mai segment of our move = $500 ($200 for airfare, $120 for the hotel and about $180 for food and sightseeing). Total cost for the move to this point – $6026.11
Back to Bangkok and Our Apartment
When we arrived back in Bangkok (17 days after landing in Thailand) our apartment was ready and so were we. Next week I will detailed what is cost to complete the comfort of the new home as well as giving you guys a peek into our monthly budget for a family of 3 in Bangkok.