I know, I know. It’s been a really long time since my last blog post! To be honest, life happened and I didn’t have time for this blog anymore. Unless it made money (which it didn’t), it wasn’t a priority. But I’ve lived on Koh Tao for almost 9 months now over the last year and a half, so I thought it would be a waste not to share all the information I gathered over time with you guys!
So here’s a new “Cost of Living” blog post that will be muuuuch more accurate than all the others ones I did.
Let’s talk about my methodology: in the past, I used to count how much we spent by tracking everything in the notes on my phones, usually only for a week or two. I’d then multiply that number to get a monthly average. Since them, I’ve purchased the Trail Wallet app to see exactly where my money is going (all of it!) I’ve been using that app for a bit over a year now, and it’s amazing! I log in every purchase I make, and now I know how much money goes to rent, how much goes to food, and how much goes to unexpected expenses.
I’ve also recently started using YNAB (click that link to get a free month!), which is another budget/money tracking app. So now I turned into a crazy lady who tracks all of her expenses manually into two apps. But YNAB had some features that Trail Wallet didn’t have, so I feel better with both. Trail Wallet is great for being abroad and currency exchange, while YNAB is great for knowing if you can afford to go on that next trip or not.
The point of this rant was that I now track my money much more efficiently, so this “cost of living” is going to be way more accurate.
Alright, let’s dive it!
Note that the currency exchange at the time was ฿32 (baht) for $1 US.
GETTING TO KOH TAO
In case you care about the price of our plane ticket from middle-of-nowhere Regina, SK to Bangkok, it cost $1,065 (CAD) for two people. To be honest, I found that going from Canada to Asia is a lot cheaper than coming back. Our flights back home are $2,170 (CAD) for two people. Quite the difference! (And that’s with relatively flexible dates and checking the many variations possible).
Getting to Thailand is not really that hard and the plane ticket prices will vary a lot depending on where you’re coming from. What’s a lot harder though, and much more standard, is how to get from Bangkok to Koh Tao.
Flying via Samui
My favorite way (and the most expensive) is to flight direct from BKK to Samui. You can flight with Bangkok Airways, but this will cost you $100-150 one way, for one person. If you can afford it, it’s much more pleasant. Once you land in Samui, you can take the shuttle for ฿100 ($3) per person to the Seatran pier. From there, getting to Koh Tao on the ferry will take you around one hour and a half. The ferry cost is usually around ฿600 ($19).
Flying via Surat Thani
A cheaper alternative is to fly to Surat Thani, and take a ferry to Koh Tao. The problem I find with this alternative is that you have to stay on the boat quite long. From the Surat Thani airport, you’ll get on a bus for an hour and a half to the pier, then you’ll take a ferry for approximately 3 hours. So depending on how the sea is, it can be a very unpleasant trip. If you’re lucky and the weather is nice, it’s not that big of a deal. You just don’t want to be stuck on a boat for 3 hours when people are vomiting. Check the weather beforehand and bring Dramamine if you get easily sea-sick.
You can fly to Surat Thani from the Don Mueang Airport (DMK) with Nok Air or AirAsia. We’ve only done it with AirAsia so far, but NokAir is another good alternative! You can expect to pay as low as $20 for a one-way flight, but budget maybe around $30-$50 for this. If you get a good deal, that’s awesome! Also, remember that you’ll have to pay extra if you’re checking a bag. That can add up pretty quickly.
The boat from Surat Thani with Lomprayah is usually around ฿950 ($30) per person one-way (which includes the bus from the airport to the pier)
Flying via Chumpon
This is an option that is available, but that we’ve never tried. There are not that many flights to Chumpon, I think there are only two daily and they don’t match up that nicely with the ferries. The great thing about traveling via Chumpon though is that you can score a cheap plane ticket and a short very ride. The downside is that, at the moment, you’ll either have to wait all day in Chumpon to connect, or have to stay overnight.
Other methods to get to Koh Tao
You can take an overnight train to Chumpon and take a ferry to Koh Tao, but again, this isn’t something we’ve done (or have been interested in doing). We have enough money to afford to travel comfortably, and for a couple of digital nomad whose hours are valuable, spending a day riding a train is not such a great deal when we can fly to get to our destination faster, and work once we get there.
There is also overnight boats that you can take from both Surat Thani and Chumpon. If you take the right one, they’re okay. I don’t really any much info on them since we’ve only taken it once, but there are days where the “good” boats run, so you want to travel on those days! Ask locals, they’ll know when that is!
There is a lot of options for long-term lodging on Koh Tao, due to the high number of expats. You can find a place to live for any budget! We like having a whole apartment with a (small) kitchen so we can make breakfast at home in the morning. We also have a living room (couch + TV) because… well we watch a lot of TV.
Last year, we paid ฿20,000 ($630) per month for a studio, which I found was quite expensive for this island. We were new and didn’t really know what was available, so we took that apartment because it was the best we’d found. This year though, we found a much nicer apartment at an even better price! This time we have a big kitchen, a normal-sized fridge, a separate bedroom and a dining table! And our couch is way more comfortable. Oh, and we also get weekly cleanings, which are soooooo nice! (I hate cleaning).
This year, we pay ฿17,000 ($530) per month. We’ve always had to pay for our utilities, and those are pretty much the same as last year. They vary from ฿3,000 to ฿4,000 ($93-$125) depending on how much water we use and if we run the AC every night (we do).
Again, we are digital nomads and have the income that goes with it. We’re not divers living on a divers wage, so we can afford a place like this. If you don’t have such a high budget, there are rooms available in the ฿8,000-฿10,000 ($250-$313) per month that are really nice and clean!
If you’re interested in renting for the same place as us, we live at Mae Haad Homestay. We get the long-term monthly price, so if you don’t stay for as long, you might not get as good of a deal. They also have various apartment sizes, so you might want to check them out anyway! And if you’re coming to Koh Tao to work online, you’ll be happy to hear that Mae Haad Homestay is like 3 minutes for Tao Hub, the only coworking place on the island (where we go daily!)
Depending on what you can handle and the kind of food you like, this can vary widely. Last year, after getting to Koh Tao, Chris and I ate a lot of Thai food (hey, it’s cheap!) but ended up having stomach problems for 3 months… It only got better when we cut the Thai food out of our diet completely.
Now, we eat Thai only 1-2 times a week, max. All of our meals are Western, and we try to eat healthy-ish. We love Coconut Monkey, Big Bite Burger, Kopee Cafe and I Love Salad for lunch. Those are really nice restaurants that we enjoy heading to!
For dinner, we order in often from La Pizzeria (best pizza on Koh Tao!) and Shalimar (best Indian food on Koh Tao!). It’s really good and bad at the same time that you can order online via their Facebook pages… It’s too easy to order, which makes us eat it all the time Oh well… Otherwise, we just go to other Western-food restaurants. I would love to list them all, but I feel like that would take waaaay too long!
Oh, and if you hadn’t figured it out yet, we eat out twice a day. The only meal we eat at home is breakfast. We find that it just doesn’t make sense to cook at home since we really don’t have that great of a kitchen and we find it hard to get fresh food.
Alright, so how much do we actually spend on food? On restaurants alone, we spend an average of $760 per month for two people. That’s quite a high budget, but we really like good food… Our meals are usually in the ฿100 to ฿200 ($3-$6) range for lunch, and ฿150-฿300 ($4.50-$9.30) range for dinner. You can easily eat Thai food for ฿60 ($1.90) per meal, but if you have to spend your day on the toilet, it’s not worth it. Not for us, anyway.
We also spend around $250 per month on groceries, which includes breakfast food, drinking water and alcohol. I eat toats and eggs every morning, Chris eats overnight oats with apples. It’s definitely cheaper to eat breakfast at home, and since those are breakfasts that we can easily put together, it’s worth it. 10 eggs cost me ฿50, but my fave loaf of bread is ฿130. Chris gets his oats for dirt cheap, same for the coconut milk. The only thing that’s a bit more pricey is the apples, but they’re worth it!
To get around Koh Tao, most people either buy or rent scooters (or motorbikes, depending on how brave you are). If living on Koh Tao long term, buying is usually a lot cheaper. That’s what we did last year, and after losing a few thousand bahts on our bikes and getting kind of fat, we decided to buy bicycles this year instead.
This is a very unusual thing to do, there are not that many bicycles on the island. It’s mostly due to the fact that there are quite a bit of hills… But since we got an apartment that is walking distance to our coworking, we only needed a bike to go to restaurants. That wasn’t enough of an incentive for us to buy another scooter. They’re not the safest, but we’ve been lucky enough to not have really bad accidents. We didn’t want to test our luck, though!
And we also wanted to get in shape, so bicycles it was! We bought them on Lazada (the Amazon of Thailand) for ฿3,990 ($125) each. We had to put them together ourselves, which wasn’t really that easy. We bought a set of Allen keys because our bikes didn’t come with any, which cost peanuts.
After using the bikes for a couple of months already though, we can tell that they’re not quality bikes. They’ll do for now, but even though they look good, they squeak a lot. They get us from point A to point B, but they won’t last forever.
We also made a few updates, like buying front and back lights for when it’s dark, a water bottle holders. Oh, and a bell, because people who are a walking don’t hear us. In total, we didn’t spend more than $60 on those updates, but they make biking much nicer!
One tip if you decide to buy bicycles: take the road by the beach, not the main road. The main road is so crowded with scooters, it’s a bit scary. I much prefer the beach road between Mae Haad and Sairee. It’s more of a walking path, so you’ll have to let people know you’re there so they get out of the way, but it’s safer and more pleasant.
And if we want to explore the island more and go to a far beach, we just rent a scooter for ฿200 ($6) per day! It’s really cheap, and how we prefer to do it 🙂
Visa Run / “Out-of-Thailand” Trips
This might not apply to you if you don’t plan on staying on Koh Tao for more than a couple of months. If you want to stay for longer though, you’ll need room in your budget for a trip outside Thailand. Whether you’re on a visa on arrival, a single entry visa or a multiple entry visa, you’ll have to leave Koh Tao after 2-3 months to get a new visa or a new stamp in your passport.
Depending on the kind of trip you do, the price will vary. Since we have multiple entry visas, we can simply exit the country and come right back in. We don’t need to apply for a new visa. Last year, we went for a quick week in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This year, we decided to do a proper border run, where you come back to Koh Tao within a day. The cost for that was ฿2,500 ($78) per person, which includes the transportation from Koh Tao to Myanmar and back. Bring your own lunch though, meals are not included! (There’s usually time for dinner somewhere though).
For our next border run, we’re going to spend a week in Singapore. We usually budget around $1,500 for those trips. That makes our monthly living expenses on Koh Tao quite higher, since trips have to happen quite frequently.
Since we live on Koh Tao for six months at a time, we had a “nesting” budget to make our apartment comfortable. That included buying a toaster, getting a cutting board, buying new pillows, etc. That varies a lot depending on the place you get. This year, we didn’t have to buy bed sheets and towels, but we had to last year. I’d recommend having a good $100 to spend towards nesting if you’re staying for a while.
That included wine glasses too because I need a proper glass
We don’t do laundry at home, instead, we drop our dirty clothes at a laundry place (we just drop them at TaoHub, they do laundry there) and get them back the next day. ฿40-฿50 per kilo is pretty standard. Every month, we spend around $15 on laundry. We don’t have to wash our towels and bedsheets since that’s included in our weekly cleaning, but that would make the price go up!
Otherwise, I would recommend having $500 laying around if you decide to buy/rent a scooter, just in case you crash it. Honestly, I see so many tourists with bandages that it makes me not want to drive one! Accidents happen quite frequently. Especially if you’re not used to scooters. You most likely won’t need the whole $500 if you crash, but at least you won’t have to worry about your medical bills!
So every month, we spend on average $2,250 US on food, rent and other expenses for two people. That includes small, week-long trips outside of Thailand when necessary.
This post is much longer than I thought it would be So I’ll skip the “Random Numbers” section that I usually have at the end of my other “Cost of Living” posts. If you miss it and would like me to add it, can you leave a comment? I’m not going to bother if this isn’t something you’re not interested in!
See ya in the next post, probably coming only in a year and a half, lol!