Thailand is a beautiful country and one of the more popular destinations for American expats and retirees. There are many places in Thailand where you can live quite comfortably on less than you can in the United States because the cost of living in Thailand, in general, is much lower than that of the U.S.
However, like everywhere, some places in Thailand are more expensive than others, and unless you don’t need to worry about any budgeting at all, you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s the cheapest place in Thailand in which to live?”
To save you time and effort, here are the top 5 cheapest places to buy property in Thailand.
- Thailand is a multicultural country popular with expats from around the world due to its growing business opportunities, low crime rates, and low cost of living.
- Expats and retirees heading to Thailand have a wide variety of housing options, including renting apartments, buying houses or condos, and living in resorts.
- The country tends to be very uncomfortable during the rainy season. Even so, Thailand has an excellent climate and some of the most beautiful weather in Asia.
- On average, Thailand’s cost of living is roughly 60 percent lower than that of the U.S., and anywhere from 15 to 30 percent lower than much of the rest of Asia.
- Thailand prohibits foreigners from owning land. However, expats and retirees can still purchase apartments and condos, which cost about four to 23 percent less than equivalent homes in the U.S.
- The cost of renting an apartment in Thailand is about 16 percent of what it costs to rent an equivalent apartment in New York City.
- Thailand is the 65th costliest place to live in the world.
The 5 Cheapest Places to Buy Property in Thailand
Where do most expats live in Thailand? We’ve listed our five picks from most expensive to least expensive based on general housing prices.
The capital of Thailand, Bangkok makes our list even though it’s Thailand’s primary city center. Like any major urban center, it has its problems, including the threat of political instability. However, expats find themselves drawn to Bangkok for things like its property ownership opportunities and potential for jobs.
Bangkok is growing rapidly and may become a megacity with a population of over 10 million in the not-too-distant future. Because of that, the city can feel very crowded at times. Its central district is home to several high-rise buildings that expats find very attractive in large part because it gives them a short commute.
Of course, because Bangkok is so large, the cost of living varies wildly in Bangkok and its surrounding suburbs.
Average Rent and Home Prices in Bangkok
- Average rent in USD: $424 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, which is more expensive than Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and Krabi. It’s also slightly more expensive than Phuket, though not by much. Rent is 85 percent cheaper than a one-bedroom apartment in New York City and approximately 60 percent cheaper than the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment across the United States.
- Average home prices in USD: For a condo, you can expect to pay around $198,000, which is more expensive than Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and even Krabi. For a house, you’ll shell out $383,000. Keep in mind that buying a house anywhere in Thailand is considerably harder than buying a condo because of the country’s restrictions on foreigners owning land.
Other Living Costs
Necessities are more expensive in Bangkok, but not out of the realm of affordability depending on your income and lifestyle. On average, you’ll pay 57 percent less for things like groceries, utilities, transportation, and even childcare compared to New York City and the entire United States. You’ll also pay about 15 percent more than other cities like Chiang Mai.
Keep in mind that despite Bangkok’s affordability, it’s more expensive than the other cities on our list.
Well south of Bangkok and on Thailand’s peninsula, Phuket is an exotic location with warm breezes, sandy beaches, and friendly people. It’s a multicultural hub of activity attracting more expats and fewer tourists each year. Phuket attracts mostly teachers and hospital workers, along with those who work in the hospitality industry.
Something to keep in mind with Phuket is that its population is unusually diverse, so some districts have vastly different vibes than others. You’ll find native Thais from all over, along with low-income retirees, wealthy retirees, and business expats from all over the world there.
Average Rent and Home Prices in Phuket
- Average rent in USD: $400 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Phuket, Bangkok, and Krabi all have similar prices for apartment rentals, though overall, Phuket is a little cheaper. Rent in Phuket is eight percent higher than Chiang Mai and 16 percent more expensive than Koh Samui. It’s 85 percent cheaper than New York City and 75 percent cheaper than the average rent in the United States.
- Average home prices in USD: If you want to buy a condo in Phuket, you’ll find the average price for one is about $158,000. They’re more expensive than Chiang Mai, but much cheaper than Bangkok. A house will run more than $500,000, which is considerably more expensive than Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Krabi, and comparable to Koh Samui.
Other Living Costs
Generally, costs for things like transportation, utilities, groceries, and other consumer goods and services in Phuket are about seven percent lower than the cost of living in Bangkok, but roughly 55 percent lower than New York City.
Phuket is more expensive than Chiang Mai, Koh Samui, and Krabi. In fact, you’ll find that the overall cost of living minus rent is considerably less in Krabi than in Phuket.
People don’t often think of Krabi when they think of moving to Thailand. However, Krabi is worth a look even though it’s not a major expat hub because of its laid-back nature and opportunity to get away from the grind of larger, more bustling cities.
Like many towns in Thailand, you can get your fill of the beach in Krabi, and you’ll see tourists everywhere. It’s not as big a tourist destination as places like Koh Samui, though, and neither is it a hub of industry like Bangkok.
Most expats here are retirees looking to escape the chaos of big cities and huge tourist destinations, but many work in domestic industries like education and hospitality.
Average Rent and Home Prices in Krabi
- Average rent in USD: $392 per month. Krabi is cheaper than Bangkok and Phuket but more expensive than Koh Samui and Chiang Mai, falling almost right in the middle of the average rents for one-bedroom apartments on our list. You’ll find that rent is about 25 percent cheaper than that in Phuket and 30 percent cheaper than Bangkok. Krabi is 85 percent less expensive than New York City, though.
- Average home prices in USD: Condos have an average price of $185,000 in Krabi, which puts them pretty much in line with everything else except Chiang Mai. If you can qualify for and buy a house, they cost only $210,000, compared to half a million in Koh Samui and Phuket. They’re much cheaper than houses in the U.S., too.
Other Living Costs
For most necessities, Krabi is comparable to most of the other cities on our list, including Bangkok. However, you’ll shell out considerably more for groceries in Krabi than pretty much anywhere else.
One oddity about Krabi is that grocery bills can run 25 percent more than what you’ll find in Bangkok, 30 percent more than Chiang Mai, and a whopping 50 percent more than Koh Samui. However, eating out is at least as cheap as or cheaper than those same cities. You might save some on your food bill by eating out in Krabi.
Related: Risks of Buying Property in Thailand
4. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is consistently one of the least expensive places to live in Thailand. Its compact nature makes getting around easy, and for expats who want to live in an urban or suburban environment, Chiang Mai provides that without the chaotic pace of life you’ll find in Bangkok and other larger cities.
If you’re looking for a combination of familiar and new, exotic experiences, this city has shopping malls and chain restaurants, but also gorgeous temples, Buddhist festivals, and a mass lantern release ceremony in November.
Average Rent and Home Prices in Chiang Mai
- Average rent in USD: $370 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. It’s slightly more expensive than Koh Samui and close to Krabi, but considerably cheaper than Bangkok and Phuket. Chiang Mai is also about 85 percent cheaper than New York City and about 50 percent cheaper than the United States as a whole.
- Average home price in USD: $145,000 for a house compared to $653,000 in New York City and $408,000 across the U.S., and $76,000 for a condo. For those who want to buy property in Thailand, condos are popular because of land-owning restrictions, but if you manage to buy a house, you’ll spend a pretty penny.
Other Living Costs
Necessities like groceries, transportation, childcare, utilities, and more, are likewise considerably less expensive in Chiang Mai than places like Bangkok, Phuket, and even Krabi.
Furthermore, the cost of living in Chiang Mai except for rent is roughly 60 percent less than that of the U.S. and in New York City. Overall, Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest cities in Thailand to live in.
5. Koh Samui
Koh Samui is quite possibly the most exotic location in Thailand. It’s an island, so you might think it’s too expensive, but the truth is that it’s much less expensive than other locales in the country.
While it was once a fishing and farming island, today, Koh Samui is a huge tourist destination, so you’ll find no shortage of resorts, boutiques, restaurants, and other things typical of such places. However, Koh Samui still adheres to many Thai traditions, and if you venture away from the tourism section, you’ll find many friendly Thais just living their lives.
Average Rent and Home Prices in Koh Samui
- Average rent in USD: $336 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Koh Samui has the cheapest rent of any city on our list, including Chiang Mai. It’s approximately 82 percent less expensive than New York City and 75 percent less expensive than the average rent across the United States.
- Average home prices in USD: Condos in Koh Samui are likewise much less expensive than every other city on our list, coming in at around $130,000. You’ll be hard-pressed to find that kind of affordability on other islands throughout the world or across the U.S. However, if you’re able to buy a house, the average cost of one will run a whopping $456,000, but finding a house to buy anywhere in Thailand is nearly impossible for foreigners.
Other Living Costs
Koh Samui enjoys some of the lowest costs of living in Thailand, and certainly when compared to the U.S. Necessities like groceries and utilities cost anywhere between 12 and 20 percent cheaper than Phuket and Bangkok.
Even though Koh Samui has a massive tourism industry, you might be surprised to discover that touristy things such as eating out are still cheaper there than in cities like Phuket. However, it’s slightly more expensive than other places in Thailand, like Chiang Mai.
Is Buying Property in Thailand a Good Investment?
Thai law throws wrenches into the works of property investment there. In addition to understanding the real estate market there, you need to understand the law to know what you’re getting into.
Foreigners and Owning Land
Thailand prohibits foreigners from owning land, which means you can’t buy and own a house, a townhouse, or commercial property with its own land. As such, it’s not worth it to look at these properties as either homes or investment properties unless you want to start up a Thai Limited Company.
That’s where condos and apartments come in. These aren’t “landed properties” so you can buy and own them even as an expat, as long as Thailand owns at least 51 percent of the building’s units.
That means that 49 percent of the condos in any given building are available to expats, so you might have less opportunity than you imagine when it comes to buying condos. That’s especially true if you’re looking to buy condos and rent them out. You need to choose your buildings carefully to avoid running afoul of the law.
Thai Real Estate Market
The prices of condos and housing in Thailand skyrocketed between 2005 and 2020, translating into less government involvement and more developers moving in. That, in turn, helped spur the real-estate investment market.
However, Thailand’s housing prices recently crashed along with the rest of the world due to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. In many places across the country, prices began to stabilize in early 2021 after losing as much as half their previous value. “Buy low, sell high,” is a basic rule of investing so lower prices give you a higher opportunity to make a sound investment.
But there’s another complication of which to be aware: Remember that 49 percent of each building that foreigners can own? Serious investors from places like Hong Kong and Singapore already own them.
Because of that, you might find it difficult to get your foot in the door. Even so, don’t toss away the dream completely.
Incentives to Buy
Thailand’s economy is relatively fragile even in the best of times because it’s become so heavily reliant on tourism. Any disruption in the global economy can bring theirs crashing down around them.
They work hard to tempt buyers and investors with low prices and extra discounts in the low to mid-range market. The high-end, luxury market sometimes rebounds on its own when prices crash because people who couldn’t otherwise afford such property now can, so they pounce on those opportunities.
So is buying property in Thailand a good investment? As long as you do it smartly, yes, it is. Make sure you understand Thai law, how to read the country’s market before you dip your toes in the investing waters, and how to inspect properties so you know exactly what you’re buying.
Also, consider getting a lawyer to help you out. Even if all you’re doing is buying a place to live, understanding all of this and having a lawyer at your side will make the buying process easier.
If you were wondering ‘What is the cheapest city in Thailand?,’ look no further. While the five above may not be the absolute cheapest imaginable, they’re affordable and give expats many opportunities whether for work or retirement.
Thailand has its problems, like every other country. Its generally low cost of living, especially compared to the cost of living in the United States, makes it attractive to many people the world over. Because of that, expats get to experience multiculturalism on a level they may not have seen before in a beautiful, welcoming country.
Is there anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!