Costs – 1 European Road Trip & 2 Months In Thailand

Spend Money or Save Money

It is time to talk money people!

I know this is what you have been waiting for, because people are actually contacting us and asking.  Of course we always share it all with you and that includes exactly what we are spending.  I haven’t done a budget post since leaving Spain, as I have been trying to figure out our routine and get a handle on things.


A few changes in lifestyle for us, kind of threw me into a spin with keeping diligent records.  All has now been calculated, analyzed and factored.  Hey no tears were shed either!  I know this post is about our cost of living in Chiang Mai, but I am first going to briefly squeeze in a little about our 2 months of nomadic travel, prior to arriving in Chiang Mai.  If you really just want Thailand, scroll down to “Time for Thailand“.

Actual Spend July 2014 – 4 Week European Road Trip



We spent a month on our Summer 2014 European Road trip.  We were enjoying a little houseboat living in Amsterdam, biking our way around Center Parcs in the Netherlands, Sampling our way through Bruges Belgium, sipping a little of the bubbly in Champagne France and walking around Old town Stockholm Sweden, before flying over to Thailand.  Below is all of the money we spent.  We were still working from a Euro budget, as we were still in the land of Euros.  Remember our cost to live in Spain for 1 year?

Of course being on the move during peak tourist season comes not only with crowds, but also a little more costly as well.  We learned this from our Summer 2013 6 week summer road trip, so we were prepared and planned for an appropriate budget.  I am not going to review too much, but if you have questions just ask.


Our Miscellaneous spend was off the charts for a couple of reasons.

  • We had some Euros left in our pocket and decided to pay for some accommodation with that, rather than exchanging it at the airport.  We didn’t bother to figure out what was spent within each category, we just knew we had about 1200 euros (our apartment deposit etc. was returned in cash) and we spent it all, plus a bit more.
  • Please also note that $1300 of the Misc was for the purchase of our Travel insurance from Our medical insurance from Spain does cover us worldwide, but we wanted the extra coverage of travel insurance.  So if you are planning a road trip the actual spend would be less for you.

Time for Thailand!

Thailand Budget 2 Months

Actual Spend in Thailand – August & September 2014

Spot on Budget!

$3000 (ish) a month

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how, but we were spot on budget for August & September. I don’t want you thinking we weren’t keeping track, I always keep track. It was just a huge adjustment for me to move into a cash culture.  Just about everything is in cash, including our rent.  I find it difficult to keep track of every single purchase, so I keep track of how much comes out of our bank and how much we have left at the end of the month. Oh and don’t forget how freaked out I was with our electric bill for only 10 days!

I roughly monitored the big categories, but this is what we spent.  I ran the numbers at least 3 times each and it is what it is! Then I noticed the numbers were almost identical and I double checked everything again!  These are the numbers and I am sticking to it.


We were on the move for the first few weeks in Thailand.  We spent a week in Bangkok, with a moment to eat some bugs and a scorpion.  We also spent a week in Koh Chang before taking that night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.  Once in Chiang Mai, we took a week to find an apartment and then a few days of getting settled into our Family Friendly Chiang Mai apartment.

Chiang Mai Apartment Family Room

Analysis of our Actual Monthly Spend for 2 Months in Thailand

Okay this is the fun stuff for me!  If you want to catch some zzzzz’s, keep on reading.



    • Remember our 15 hour train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?  Well, that was a deal, as we were in second class seats with a fan.
    • We actually rented a car for a couple of days in August, just after moving into our apartment.  It was handy to drive to the bigger Tesco and stock up on items that we needed to settle into our place. (Towels, a few dishes, a pan, food etc).  Cars are very inexpensive to rent, especially with Avis Thailand.  We also rented a car for our 5 day road trip to Chiang Rai and our border run to Myanmar.

Food & Household Supplies

  • This one is a little tricky.  As I have mentioned before, this is a cash culture.  However, we do have a kitchen and we do cook!  We have a few small grocery stores we frequent every few days.  Each has something the other doesn’t, so we make our rounds.  They all accept credit cards, so this makes us happy and it is super easy for me to keep track of things.
  • The amount shown for this category not only includes food, it includes our household supplies. We have purchased a rice cooker, frying pan, tea kettle, paper towels, toilet paper (plenty of it), dish soap, laundry soap, shampoo and more.
  • We probably eat out about once a day or every other day.  The typical total for all 4 of our meals is usually between $6-8.  Keep in mind this is for traditional Thai food.  For this we would pay cash and it has been lumped into the Misc fund.  It roughly adds up to about $100 a month and is included in the total.
  • Now when we want to splurge a bit or need a fix from “home” we go for some Western Food (Mexican or Fast Food), it will run about $20 for the 4 of us to eat. This isn’t something we do often and when we do, these places usually accept credit cards. You know we prefer to use our Chase Sapphire, when we can.  Gotta earn those air miles.


  • Another tricky one!  I know exactly how much cash we start with each month, how much we withdraw and how much we have left at the end.   We do the math and all cash, excluding eating out, is considered miscellaneous.  Here are a few things we did with the misc spend in August and September:
    • Activities – Visiting the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park and other activities around town.  In the future, I think this will be a category all on its own.
    • Optometrist – A pair of glasses for Lars $248 (prescription, no scratch transition lenses and frames)
    • Orthodontist – $12. Yes, you did read that correctly.
    • $60 for our Medical Insurance in Spain. It is world-wide coverage, but we don’t feel comfy with using it as such.  This contact runs by calendar year, so we can’t cancel until December 2014.  So this will be money we won’t be spending come the new year.
    • $35 a month for the kids online learning school curriculum and program (Time4Learning).
    • Random things for the apartment Clothing and shoes.  Of course the kids are growing like weeds here.  Lars had a new pair of shoes in July and grew out of them before they wore out! He is now in size 10 mens, so not many inexpensive options there.
    • Movie tickets and other entertainment.


  • I know what you are thinking, “Why do they have travel when they always travel?” Next time, I am going to rethink this.  Since we were in an apartment most of the time and using it as a home base, I chose to keep it this go round.  I just didn’t want to muddy the water on the cost of an apartment and have people think it was higher than it actually is.
  • In August we spent a week in Koh Chang and a week in a hotel in Chiang Mai. This is what we count as “Travel”.  In the future, it will just fall under accommodation.
  • In September we took a 5 day road trip for our border run.  We went south to Mae Wang, east to Bor Sang and then north to Chiang Rai, Mae Sai (plus Myanmar), and the Golden Triangle.

    Border Run - The Golden Triangle Thailand, Myanmar, Laos

    Selfies, Instagram, Facebook – We love technology!

US Storage

  • This is a set fee and it just went up from $130 a month to $146.  The only reason we have this cost is because there were certain items we felt we couldn’t live without.  I sure hope when we ever return to the US, that we still feel the same about those items.  They are costing us a fortune!  If you are leaving your home country to travel for 1+years, just get rid of your stuff!


  • This is my favorite, because it is so cheap!
    • Internet – in our complex the fee is 350 baht ($11) for one computer or 500 baht ($15) for two.  We are of course 4, so our monthly cost for internet is $30.
    • Our pay as you go phone and data costs run us about $12-$15 each.  So about $25-$30 in total for 2 phones.  We have 2 smart phones and we purchased SIM cards for each. The SIM cards were about $3 each.  The kids use my mobile data to keep up with their friends in Spain via social media.
    • Skype – This is about $10 – $15 a month.  We need to make those calls to the USA and this is the easiest for us.


  • Rent is 23,000 Baht ($720 depending on exchange rate) a month.  The utilities are what can fluctuate based on usage.
  • Water runs about $4 a month.
  • Electricity was $60 in August (It was only 10 days, but we ran the AC all of the time!).  We learned our lesson and the next month was much better, at $126 for the full month of September.
  • Satellite TV – 300 baht a month ($10)

Okay, there you have it!  Our money has been spent and we are sharing it all with you.  We do hope it helps you out, so please feel free to let us know if it does.  It is TONS of work to do this, so feedback is much appreciated.

Please Remember!  With any budget you make your own choices, so every family’s spending habits are very different.  We are only sharing our costs, so you have a data point to add to your research.  If you are a family of 4, this may or may not be in the same ballpark compared to what you spend, it is just a guide.  You can easily live on less or more in Chiang Mai!

Feel free to comment below and let us know how you think we did.  Please feel free to ask any questions you like or heck, let us know your budget and spending for your travels or everyday life.

If you want more info on the cost of living in Spain for a year, this is the right place.  We can also provide you with loads of info in you are thinking of moving to Spain or interested in residency in Spain.

What to do in Chiang Mai!

We also have a very all inclusive list of Things to do in Chiang Mai with kids or without.  This also includes our expenses living in Chiang Mai, where to eat and places to stay in Chiang Mai.
Things to do in Chiang Mai, a Family Friendly Chiang Mai Guide


17 thoughts on “Costs – 1 European Road Trip & 2 Months In Thailand

    • Thanks Andrew! We have actually had that same budget since Aug 2012, through all of our travels and still going. That said, we have a couple of months here and there when we go off the charts. As we will have in the coming months as our son needs braces, but we do our best to stick to the $3000 a month mark.

  1. Thank you for the very informative post. We are leaving in just over 5 weeks for our round the world adventure and reading your cost breakdowns makes me stop panicking about not having enough cash saved up! (Especially for Europe)
    Enjoy reading your posts thank you!

    • Oh how exciting for you Iri. Don’t panic, it will all work out somehow! I am not sure if you have seen our costs for living in Spain for a year, but we have loads on cost breakdowns. Where are you starting out and your route? We will be in SEA for at least another 7-8 months or so. Let us know if you are passing our way.

  2. Hi,
    thank you so much for your great break down of costs, for both Spain and Thailand. What surprises me a bit is that the monthly cost for Thailand ($3000) is that close to the monthly cost for Spain ($44.500 / 12 = $ 3700). I had always thought that Thailand would be a lot cheaper that Spain. Not so, it turns out!

    I think I may prefer Spain as a country to retire to over Thailand (climate, convenience, culture and infrastructure). But since my last visit to Thailand was more that 20 years ago, things may have changed quite a bit, and evened things out a bit 🙂

    • Hey Bjon,

      You are very welcome! Of course every family is going to vary with their budget and choices. Over all, I would say Thailand is much cheaper. Let me explain:

      Spain: to keep costs lower in Spain, we selected a village about 1 hour away from the nearest city. Our apartment was a long-term rental, which drove the monthly rental price down to about the same as one week in peak season. We also rarely ate out and made most of our meals. We would travel when we would find deals and that would often dictate our destination. We did stick to the $3000 a month and the extra $8000 you see over the $3000×12 is our 6 week road trip around parts of Europe in the peak high season.

      Thailand: We are able to eat out often and do more activities in Thailand while living off of the same budget. We have opted to stay right in the heart of the city, which is more expensive than the suburbs and I am sure if we were remote, like we were in Spain it would be super inexpensive. We only rented our apartment for 3 months, which drives the price higher. The longer your rent the lower the price. There are great deals for half the price, if we wanted to stay put for a year. Food is extremely cheap in Thailand, if you avoid the western food. We are not avoiding the western. We have been enjoying it to the fullest, as we didn’t really have this option in our town in Spain for 2 years.

      I hope that helps and I would say Thailand is quite a bit cheaper, but we are just enjoying more and that drives up the spending.

      • Hi again Heidi,
        thanks for your reply. That clears things up a bit as far as cost of living goes in those two countries. What would also be very interesting to hear from you guys is your general impressions of the differences between the two countries and it’s people. My impression is that you guys are quite similar in many respects to my wife and I… such as your requirements for standard of living, culture, travel, food, service etc.

        Since my wife and I are in a process now of evaluating which country to retire to (at least part of the year), your blog is a treasure of info for us. We probably have a thousand questions we could ask you 🙂

        But, to keep things brief and to the point, I’m going to take the liberty of asking you a simple, but probably equally difficult question to answer: If you guys had 2 full years to spend freely in any of the two countries (Spain, Thailand), without the kids (I know, not really an option now, but if you were retired perhaps…). Throw in that money was no problem at all. Which country would you choose to live in?

        PS: If you at all feel uncomfortable/unable to answer this question, please feel free to say so. Or, if you would choose another country altogether feel free to suggest that too 🙂

        • Now you are getting tricky on me Bjorn! Just do both! 🙂 We are glad you are finding our blog useful. The differences and similarities, may need to become a future post.

          If we had 2 full years, we would do exactly what we did. We would choose 1 year in each (even though we did 2 in Spain). If we had to choose only one, well that is tough. My thoughts are still with Spain, as that was our original choice. I was the only one in the family that had previously visited SE Asia. It really depends what you are looking for.
          Both countries have easy access to multiple neighboring countries and cultures. I think there is a bit more diversity in Europe between the cultures and food. Asia is different in each country, but those are subtle and almost feel similar.

          Europe overall, will be more expensive to travel, eat stay etc. If you are on a limited budget, Thailand is a sure thing. If you are adventurous with food Asia is great too. I am not sure where you are from, but if you want “different” Asia is the place. You can find rustic and small and learn culture in both locations, but I think our family really enjoyed Spain as our first step into a new culture. It was likely an easier transition from the USA to Spain as opposed to the USA to SE Asia. I feel like we took baby steps to accepting change, thus making our transition in Thailand easier. If you are already well traveled that may not be an issue. Phew! feel free to send us an email as well and let us know a little more about your background. just choose the “contact us” on the blog menu.

        • Bjorn, Our friends Randy and Lori are also new to Chiang Mai and have shared their expenses. This may help as they are early retirement and here without kids. I am sure they would also be willing to answer any questions you may have about expenses in Chiang Mai.

          • Thank you so much for your insights and willingness to share your travel experiences and thoughts with the rest of us “dreamers” out here 🙂

            My wife and I are very well travelled and live in Europe (she is American, I am European), so I think Spain will be our permanent retirement home (familiar culture and short way to the rest of Europe). But, we plan to see much more of other continents before we eventually settle in Spain.

            Your, and other travelers, blogs are truly treasure chests of info for people like us 🙂

  3. Nice breakdown! Love seeing how people spend their money and how much things cost all over the world! I did this for Central America and realized how much less I could have spent!

    • Thanks Katie. Yes, I like looking at others as well. It doesn’t matter what country it is for. We could always cut corners, but there is always a surprise waiting for us too. As long as we stick to our budget of $3000 or less, we are golden.

  4. Do you attempt to negotiate discounts at the places you stay based on the popularity of your blog? Would you recommend that to other world travelers?

    • Hi Nelson. Yes, we do and it works sometimes and we get a big No most of the time. If we have a post for accommodation that says “we were hosted by” or something like that, then we did receive a discount. It doesn’t happen very often, but I would recommend it to anyone. It is worth a shot, the worst thing they can do is say “no”.

      We actually have had a B&B reach out to us in Chiang Mai and offered us a room for 2 nights, if we would write a review on our blog. We did tell them the review would be honest and not sugar coated, if something bothered us. So we will spend a couple of nights on the other side of town early next month. It should be fun.

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