Thailand's most expensive cities

Hello everyone,

What are the most expensive cities to live in Thailand? What are the costs of things such as rent, utilities, weekly groceries, dining out, etc.?

What is the lifestyle like in these cities, for expats and locals?

What are the different neighbourhoods like? Are there more affordable areas?

Do you have any experience living in any of Thailand's most expensive cities? What was it like?

Which cities in Thailand would you recommend? Are there any that offer particularly good value for money when it comes to cost of living?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


I have not lived in a CITY... unless you call Hua Hin a "city".
I can only offer insight on "most expensive places to live".

Firstly, I'll try to make one clear distinction between what's expensive for the expat resident, and what's expensive for the tourist.
Here, I'll focus on the expat buys.
Then, I'll have to make it clear that, if you're an expat who wants to maintain a significantly western lifestyle, notably, buying a lot of imported goods, notably clothes, food, wine, furniture and electronic goods, expect import duty to be high, and living expensive, wherever you live.
You CAN buy cheap Chinese imports, but, check the brand's reputation if you want your purchase to last more than 2 months.

For everyday /weekly groceries, whetever you live, Big C and Tesco Lotus superstores will be in the nearest town, and prices will be competitive.  You'll normally find their shelves marked in English and Thai.
If you KNOW how to look for good fresh fruit and vegetables, local markets are everywhere. Any local market of any decent size has COMPETITION between vendors. You don't need much Thai speaking ability to check the price per kilo, and most vendors know not to try to take advantage of the farang if you ask the price first, and they see you check with more than one vendor.
You will probaby find that market prices are a bit worse on some of the islands (and depending on local seasonality), such as Koh Samui, as the transport costs are higher.

Another nationwide generality...
Vehicle parts, including tyres, will be cheaper from the larger, nationwide outlets, nearer the large cities, particularly around Bangkok and Hua Hin. I"d guess Pattaya may be similar.
The more you get out "into the sticks",  you won't find so many of the large outlets. You will find that weaker purchasing power, and weaker competition, pushes the prices up.
You will find cheap labour in the small town independent vehicle repair shops, but look around for someone with a decent reputation.
I have found the repair shops tied to the "brand" car dealers (e.g. Toyota, Nissan)  more expensive, and more likely to sell you a complete unit (eg. clutch, aircon), rather than acquiring and fitting a single component. However, I THINK they are more likely to have appropriate electronic diagnostic tools.

Finally, as a nationwide generality... household electrical goods... if a worldwide corporate giant, like Samsung or LG, have factories in Thailand, you will normally get reasonable value for money for their goods.  These companies cannot risk their reputation for quality, and the Thai government needs their investment for manufacture within Thailand.
Watch out for offers on models which still have manufacturer's guarantees, but are not the latest models, from the last 2 years. These will often have all the features you need. Tesco Lotus and HomePro often have offers

So....just about everything I have said so far has been pretty general. The reason I have done this is to collate the SIMILARITIES between expense levels in the places I have lived for more than 2 months, during the 3 years I have lived in Thailand.
These are: Bophut in Koh Samui,  a village in Kalasin province (north-eastern Thailand) and Hua Hin.

The main differences I have found between expense in these 3 areas have been in land /property prices, but I think that may not be the intended focus of this "most expensive cities".

Koh Samui
Koh Samui has the reputation of being expensive, and some parts of it are. Chaweng is a bit of a down-market sleaze pit, so you can find a few inexpensive restaurants. Chaweng's Laem Dunh market has a good choice of reasonably-priced fresh fruit and veg.
The "walking street" days in Chaweng, Fisherman's Village, and Maenam offer street food at a decent price.
Fisherman's Village tries to be up-market, and this is reflected in restaurant prices on the main "strip".
Cheap cooked food is plentiful in the Food Halls of Tesco Lotus and Big C. Ask if they vill give you "extra yai" (big portion) and offer a bit more money.  Not the venue for a romantic candle-lit dinner, though!
Expect that running a vehicle here, notably a car, will be more expensive than most other places in Thailand.

Hua Hin
The noticeable thing about HH is that, possibly because of the proximity to Bangkok  (3-4 hours drive), a huge variety of things are available to buy.
The Market Village shopping mall has a Food Hall that serves foods of many nationalities, at cheap prices.
Go just outside the town, and local markets near Pranburi sell fruit and veg (specially seasonally-available) at very cheap prices.
Hua Hin has plenty of reasonably-priced restaurants located south, on soi 94.
For the freshest, cheapest sea food, restaurants near Sam Roi Yod (30 mins drive south) would be difficult to beat, for value-for-money.

Real Thai rural experience, at real Thai prices.
Local town markets have some of the cheapest fresh food and veg.
Food stalls serve good cooked food, at the cheapest prices... but westerners won't like the entire menu (e.g. frogs, snails, insects, and very spicy food).
If your Thai speaking ability is not too good, like mine, find restaurants with picture menus, and point. Some of the best, simple Thai food can be found in these places, as well as things like wild boar (a favourite) are there at very cheap prices.
I don't shop for western food in my local city. I will have a day out in Khon Kaen (or maybe Roi Et), and stock up the cupboards /freezer there, as well as any purchases of good quality furniture and household electrics. At the same time, I'll take in a western food restaurant and a good pub.
So, it's possible to live very cheaply here, if you don't seek constant availability of western food and entertainment.

I don't understand. Who goes to Thailand to live in the most expensive city? From my understanding people go to Thailand because of how they feel about Thailand, not where is the most expensive place to live.

What's to understand?  She just asked which are the most expensive cities in Thailand.  That is a pretty generic question.

Granted, Thailand has been sold as a cheap retirement destination for those poor souls who can't afford to live in their home countries but it doesn't exclude those coming here for other reasons.  Not all discussions must be limited to the “cheapest”.  Discussion of the more expensive aspects of Thailand may even benefit those looking to avoid the same and live on the cheap.

Personally I don't think it is as simple as cheap cities and expensive cities and lets be honest there just aren't that many real cities in Thailand.  Even in Bangkok there are slums where you can live cheaply and then there are areas where condominium prices are through the roof. 

Even upcountry where I live, there is a range of living standards from the poorest village peasant to foreign royalty who live a very different sort of life.  On the high end their Lamborghinis cost more here but real-estate and servants cost much less.

For as long as I have been here one of the things people feel most adamantly and amorously about Thailand is sex, of every variety both legal and illegal.  So if we are being honest money and sex are high on any list of considerations when regarding Thailand as a place to go and one topic is pretty much off limits in polite society.

Great article very informative I understood everything.

By the way I understand that there is a Lamborghini dealership in Chiang Mai. Even in the publication City Life I have seen pictures of the Lamborghini car club. Even the billionaires that own Red Bull live in Chiang Mai. By choice I don't travel in that circle.

I like Pattaya the most; it is close to Bangkok and offers a wide variety of places to see and visit. Great shopping, dinning and clubs. Beaches are clean and inexpensive to rent chairs and wave runners. Excellent mall, that offers European dinning, movies, and shopping.  Pattaya is a great beach city and only a 1.5 hour ride to BKK and the airport.

Priscilla is a global moderator and she's just here to trigger discussions.

1. Phuket
2. Bangkok
3. Pattaya

Actually what is consider expensive cities in Thailand as it's very subjective due to individual lifestyles. Gasoline in Bangkok is cheaper than other cities due to transportation cost.

Certain food are more expensive or there is none outside Bangkok.

Let me use have a steak meal in Bangkok. There's 69 baht for a steak meal by the road side or Thai market. Then there's Sizzler with buffet salad bar. There's Choke Chai Steak restaurant as their cows are in Saraburi. For better environment and meal, there's Neil's Tavern which serve decent steak etc

For fine dining, then there's New York Steakhouse at JW Marriott Hotel whereby you can enjoy great steak, wine etc

After your dinner, adjourned to the lobby for brandy or whisky or beer with relaxing music.

All depends on individual choice and lifestyle. I tried a burger at Choke Chai Steak restaurant and it taste terrible. McDonald's Angus beef burger is much better and cheaper too. Service at Choke Chai is bad and not worth the price to pay. My first and last time there.

So what is consider expensive in relation to service, environment, price and lifestyle.

Another example, if one lives in the province but sleep on 650 threads count Pasaya bed sheet which cost 8,000 baht compared to another person who sleeps on 650 baht bedsheet from Tesco Lotus. It's not only bedsheet but include 2 pillow case and 1 booster case too.

Try washing for 2-3 times by washing machine and you can tell the difference. Lie down on both bedsheets and the difference is known immediately.

I consider more on the lifestyle then the cities as to how does one wish to live and enjoy their life.

Out in the province, to get imported food is difficult likewise for fine dining and different choices of restaurants.

If one buys food at Tesco Lotus or Big C after 1730 hours for food, yes it's cheaper but not fresh. A bundle of vegetables is 5 Baht but one must cook immediately otherwise it turns bad even you keep in the fridge. Look at the fishes eyes as it's dull and gills dark brown or black as that is not fresh.

Look at the chicken wings as lots of fat under the skin compared to the ones in the fridge. Price is different and you pay cheap including all the fat under the skin.

Let's be objective, no one does a loosing business especially without profits or low profits compared to amount of  capital invested.

Are you going for quality or quantity?

Cheap goes with what your lifestyle is.

Lifestyle is a given anywhere in the world !!!

In general good reasonable housing , food and living is better outside of Bangkok.
If you like to live at tourist traps like Phuket and Pattaya you will pay more for general living, I found one of the cities Nakhon Ratchasima to be reasonable and just outside city as well decent places to live , buy food and or eat out are obtainable and good.

In my opinion Khao Lak is very expensive. I have been many places in Thailand ( but not all of course) and Khao Lak is the most expensive For most everything. Even in Phuket Chang Mai and Bangkok I can find better deals than Khao Lak. From taxi to accommodation (and God forbid beer ) everything just  costs more. Albeit the area is beautiful and I could not imagine leaving here the reality is...its pricey!

Klingon 63, good for you if you are happy.

One can also live cheap in big cities like Bangkok and Pattaya which is outside the city. As for me I live in 2 homes, Pathum Thani and Samut Prakarn which is outside Bangkok.

Cost of living is not higher than the province. As for food, it's very individual taste as some can eat Thai food from the market with lots of sugar, msg and oil.

For me, I don't have msg, knor cubes, fish sauce and sugar for my food when I cook. If I wish to eat beef, I go for Australia or Kobe beef. I will have difficulty to get that in the Thai province.

If I do BBQ or smoke, I can add apple wood which I don't get in the province. Likewise charcoal from USA and smokeless charcoal.

For me, it's inexpensive to live near big cities. If I live in smaller Thai cities and without the food I like, then to travel a distance to get it is not cheap anymore.

For your info, I eat brown rice mix with red rice or raspberry rice or Japanese rice. White rice is cheap or if one wishes, eat about of glutinous rice and drink water or beer then it's get bloated up is cheap. Just 3-5 baht for glutinous rice is very cheap.

Thais can eat raw vegetables in dipping sauce for 10 baht and 5 Baht for glutinous rice and that is cheap to live even in Bangkok. Perhaps 1 small piece of deep fried chicken wing and glutinous rice is 15 baht too and that's cheap living in big city.

From my point of view is, what do you want to eat, live and lifestyle.

Stay is a small studio apartment without Aircon and furnishing. Sleep on a towel as pillow and bare concrete floor. That's cheap in Bangkok too for rent.

Hi Jud, you need your own transport in Khao Lak likewise for other small Thai cities. There's no public transport or you wait for ages to get a ride on the 2 rows seats pick up truck.

Khao Lak is where one relax in the 5 star hotels to sun bathe, watch sunset and sunrise, spa, pool, dine in.

Rejoice, surely no one sleeps on anything less than 900 thread count Egyptian cotton…even out in the boonies. ;)

Village Farang, if you take a look at Pasaya bedsheet in central department store, their standard is 450-500 thread counts and feel the material. Then compare to the 650 baht ones at Tesco Lotus.

I'm not sure if your city has Jaspal Home Deco shop as their bedsheet is 500-550 thread counts.

Pasaya has their high end bedsheets and window curtains in Bangkok as well in their own shop.Theirs are higher quality ones and lovely. Even after using for more than a year, the material is still good and colour doesn't fade.

REALLY !!! ????
What happened the subject  was most expensive places to live in Thailand and we somehow we made it to bed sheet quality discussion  ?????
Wow some people just take things to harlarious extremes and WAY OFF !!! Subject :)

I am partial to Santas brand and I am presently sleeping on their Calabria linens (900tc).  I believe Santas falls under the Jaspal Group.  I was just trying to add a little humor and apparently failed.

(Note to self, refrain from any attempt at humor on this forum.)

Village Farang, Santas is from Jaspal too

Klingon 63, lifestyle corresponding to expenses related to the subject of expensive Cities. One can live in small city but having expensive lifestyle or live in big city but live on shoe string budget.

I believe with all the years of working and living on shoe string budget in a foreign country is crazy unless one is a refugee. I might as well go home to live a better life.

I think it's natural for people to live a better life and enjoy the fruits of their labour. No one wants to jump into a pit of problems, stress, worries and fear in a foreign land.

My motto is keep peace, love and joy in my heart always. My today is better than yesterday and my tomorrow is better than today. I have the freedom to do as my dream or chase after it instead of gloomy or thinking of balancing the budget.


I see that some conversation and subjects here go totally out of context here :)
I certainly do not live a shoestring budget here but a balanced and enjoyable one.

One should know balance is important in life to much of one thing is not good with balance comes enjoyment in life , Besides the subject was what cities do you think are expensive to live in Thailand pretty straight forward no judgement of how others live or the quality of the sheets they sleep on :)

bill kip wrote:

I don't understand. Who goes to Thailand to live in the most expensive city? From my understanding people go to Thailand because of how they feel about Thailand, not where is the most expensive place to live.

Hey Bill. Did someone piss on your bowl of "cheerios" today? The OP asked an appropriate, and pertinent question, for sure.  So, lighten-up there, bud! Ok? Now, have a happy, and stay on-topic, please!  :cheers:

FYI ~ To keep a loooong-story short, Thailand is affordable for nearly every budget-baseline, and, in any location in Thailand. That's what makes Thailand the best, over-all Expat location on the planet, by comparison. :top:

Most expensive places -- tourist hangouts.  In the middle -- expat hangouts. Least expensive -- true Thai hangouts. Geography -- probably less expensive merchandise and goods where the shipping is easiest. Living space: most likely less expensive where nobody goes.  dcb

I love it when people talk like the only true Thais are impoverished peasants.  I have found some of the best places to hangout are popular upscale Thai places.  My favorite place for breakfast in Chiang Rai is hugely popular with Thais and also attracts foreigners because of all the free publicity they get on social media.

Here is my breakfast from yesterday.

Moderated by Bhavna 6 years ago
Reason : Err image link

I don't think it was me who said that true Thais are "impoverished". Where did that come from? My wife and her family certainly aren't impoverished. I talked about hanging out with true Thais costing the least. OK, you can go to a place where Thais are doing good business in the tourist industry and are happy to take in some tourist trade money. But most Thais work hard and don't blow money like tourists and visitors do. Thais are smart with their money. They go to places that Thai people like to go and take vacations where Thai people like to relax. BTW: Thailand has only a 0.62 unemployment rate. Now, how is that? Who used the word "impoverished"? . . . Must have been an assumption.  dcb

I understand that the common assumption is that Thais are cheap and thrifty but that is perhaps the kind of Thai people they hang out with.  Some people insist that Thais only view us as an ATM but again I suggest that is only some Thais.  The Thais we know best don't go to cheap places and they don't ask me to pay.  More often than not they won't let us pay or even contribute.

Some of the cheapest and most rundown places I have been unfortunate enough to visit are run by farangs trying to eke out a living here in Thailand.  There are cheap touristy places and expensive ones and I am just saying I don't agree with the assumption that tourist=expensive, expat=medium, Thai=cheap.  That may be your experience but it has not been mine.

Dear villagefarang: Please do not put words into my mouth or into anyone's mouth in this forum. A person named Priscilla, wanted to know what the most expensive places were in Thailand. I made a statement based on the years of my traveling throughout the country, traveling alone, playing in bands with superb Thai musicians, living with my friends and family who are all Thai, going on vacations with my family. I am an evidence based writer and I know what I am talking about and I can give evidence from here to eternity. You sir are taking things way off topic and making an issue . . . you seem to be making stuff up for want of an argument. I nor anyone else in the forum, as far as I have read, have made the statements you are positing. "Farangs being viewed as ATMs, rundown places run by farangs", etc etc. These are all concoctions -- Can you provide solid evidence? If you think this is truth then what about "all truths are half true"? You talk about Thai citizens as if you are a supreme authority yet this is based on a seemingly unfounded opinion with little foundation to give substance to what you are claiming. Maybe you and I can return to the topic at hand and perhaps tell Priscilla who started this forum what you think the most expensive places in Thailand are, and maybe why this is so. If you would like to open a new discussion based on one clear and solid point or argument that you want to make, I will read it it if it comes up in my  email. But putting words into the mouths of others is . . . unsavory at best. Regards, dcb.

Hello David,

Great reply !! Pay not attention to VilliageFarrang.

He's an angry person that seeks attention and conflict for the sake of a simple question or conversation whenever there posted.

Cheers to You :)

OK, Thank you.  dcb

“Most expensive places -- tourist hangouts.  In the middle -- expat hangouts. Least expensive -- true Thai hangouts.”

These may be your experiences but they are not mine and I was under the impression I was entitled to an opinion as well.  Tourist hangouts are often quite inexpensive because of the kind of tourist they cater to.  Many expat hangouts also cater to low-cost clientele.  Many Thai hangouts are not in the price range of many tourists and expats.

In my opinion Bangkok can be listed as both the most expensive or one of the least expensive because of the wide variety of options available to a foreigner.

As Ruffian Dick correctly pointed out early on in this thread, Priscilla is a moderator who's job it is to stimulate discussion and get people talking.  I thought that was what we were doing.  I haven't gotten angry at anyone or deprived anyone of having an opinion or told anyone they are lying or making stuff up.  I have simply shared my experiences which may or may not agree with newer arrivals or those with more limited social exposer.  With nearly 70 million Thais there is a lot more variety here than some people might be aware of.

Ruffian Dick wrote:

Priscilla is a global moderator and she's just here to trigger discussions.

You're right. I think Priscilla has disappeared? I thought she was doing some kind of research. It was a strange question actually -- Usually it's the other way around i.e. least expensive. So what are the most expensive cities to live in re rent, etc? I would hazard to say Hua Hin and downtown Bangkok. Am I right? Perhaps you would like to add some pricey cities or city areas.   dcb

Priscilla has not disappeared.
As Ruffian Dick stated she is a forum moderator and has opened this thread to trigger discussions.

OK. got it. I've just noted some other prompts by Priscilla. OK, Hua Hin . . . expensive, especially if you would like some digs on or near the shores of the gulf.  dcb

Hello David,

Priscilla is the gate keeper of the sight she always post questions or ask for feedback just about every month :)

Aha. OK. Hello Priscilla. It's a pleasure to meet you here. Interesting questions! Finest regards.   dcb

The most sleazy filthiest place in Thailand sounds like the same person who says there is no prostitution in Pattaya

Pattaya so clean? Sure and there isn't any prostitution in Pattaya. The worst place in Thailand by far

Actually there are nice places in Pattaya, Prostitution is everywhere in the world , Get a grip you want it you'll look for it !!!!

If you don't want it there are nice places in Pattaya to visit :)

Cheers to You :)

Not sure where you live but I know my area. Of course I have my own transportation, I live here. This forum is for information for others and my opinion on a question.
There is only one true 5 star resort here. Even the Mariott here is not 5 star so I am not sure what you are talking about.
Maybe stick with sheet threadcounts you appear to know about that.

Jud, I don't live in Khao Lak and went there to relax for holidays. I got 2 homes in Thailand and travel around whenever needed. Besides I travel around the Asia Pacific countries too. If you think Marriott is not 5 star then it's your choice.