We finally made it to Chiang Mai and have been living here for nearly 3 weeks! I’ll write a post later on our shockingly low cost of living, but first wanted to capture our start up costs before I forget. Every time you move somewhere new, there are always extra costs in setting yourself up comfortably that are easy to forget about after you’ve settled, yet still affect the budget.
Visa to Thailand
We applied for two 6-month multiple entry visas at the Thai Consulate in Essen, Germany. To get the visas, we first needed to be residents of Germany, then presented a passport that had more than 6-months left of validity, printed out our bank statements showing a balance of at least 5K EUR (7K if you’re a couple), filled out a form that we downloaded online, and paid 150 EUR each.
There is a Thai Embassy in Berlin but they seem to require more information, so even though we were in Berlin at the time we needed our visas, we opted to make an extra trip to Essen since we were flying out of Cologne anyway.
We’ll have to leave Thailand every 60 days, or 90 days if we extend the visa from within Thailand latest on 59th day of our 60 day period.
Visa cost: 300 EUR
Getting into Thailand
When we booked our plane tickets, we were planning to fly from Cologne to Bangkok, then taking the overnight train to Chiang Mai.
But because we still had Luna (the cutest foster dog in the world!), we didn’t want to buy any tickets until we could re-home her properly. She got adopted 2 weeks before we had to leave our flat. Phew!!
After Luna left us :(, we immediately searched for our Eurowings flight from Cologne to Bangkok, but it had gone up in price significantly.
Instead, we found one-way tickets from Cologne to Phuket (also with Eurowings) for only 200 EUR per person! Flying Martin’s bike was an extra 100 EUR. Pretty great to get to another corner of the world with a gigantic bike box (see above).
Flight from Germany: 500 EUR
Per person: 200 EUR
Bike cargo: 100 EUR
A few days in Phuket before Chiang Mai
Phuket is in the south of Thailand and is over 1,500 km away from Chiang Mai. It’s a beach area along the Andaman Sea, known for fun and relaxing. Totally what we needed after our last rushed weeks in Germany.
It was a wonderful trip! We stayed very close to Patong beach and paid only 32 EUR for our entire 3 day trip! The price for a double room at 99 Residences Patong was only 8 EUR per day, but because I got our dates wrong, I booked an extra night by accident and only realised it when we got there a day late. Oops!
Very nice and convenient hotel. Stay there if you go to Patong. Here’s the view from our balcony:
Phuket is known to be the most expensive area of Thailand. Particularly, the taxis are very expensive compared to other costs. We only took the taxis twice to get to and from the airport. It cost us 1,900 Baht (50 EUR) for the 2 trips. We needed to book a big van because of the bike, but if you aren’t travelling with a bike or anything big & bulky, you can take a shared mini van service for 200 Baht per person or the public bus for 100 Baht per person (2.50 to 5 EUR pp).
I’m not sure what our food costs were in Phuket but we survived there using the foreign money we had left over from other trips, that we never bothered to exchange back into euros. There were money exchange stands everywhere in Patong so it was convenient to finally get rid of our Indian Rupees, Danish and Swedish Crowns, Qatari Rials, USD, GBP, etc…! I’m going to estimate that we spent 30 EUR for the both of us on food in Phuket. We ate delicious local foods like pad thais, fried rice, and stir fried noodles. 😛
Phuket trip costs: 112 EUR
Flying from Phuket to Chiang Mai
We booked one-way tickets from Phuket to Chiang on Air Asia, including heavier (15kg) carry on luggage (which I don’t think is necessary because they don’t check as long as you have normal sized looking carry ons i.e. knapsacks). The bike was extra. Flight time was only 2 hours or so.
Total domestic flights: 110 EUR
Per person: 47 EUR
Bike cargo: 17 EUR
Finally in Chiang Mai!!
For our first 2 days in Chiang Mai, we stayed at the Royal Peninsula Hotel. It’s a nice hotel, though a bit dated, and quite famous here in Chiang Mai. Normally I think it’s quite pricey but we booked it through Agoda for 12 EUR a night including breakfast. What a steal! We also swam in the pool once, after a long day of apartment hunting.
Okay so back to the Chiang Mai airport. We landed and proceeded to overpay for a taxi to take us 8km to our hotel. Cost of the taxi was 260 Baht for a big van that could hold our bike. There are other options like negotiating with a SongTaew (red pick up truck) driver, but we weren’t in the mood for it and just wanted to get into the city already! Also coming from Phuket where we had just paid 1,000 Baht for a taxi, the 260 Baht seemed reasonable even though we knew that locals would never take such a thing!
Cost of hotel for 2 days: 24 EUR
Cost of taxis during those 2 days: 18 EUR
Apartment hunting in Chiang Mai
After we got comfy in the hotel, we hit the pavement to find our apartment. It’s pretty easy to find monthly rentals when you’re here on the ground. There are many furnished places that you can pay for and move in on the same day.
I’ll post more details on our apartment later, but in short we found a decent place for only 3,000 Baht (75 EUR) per month! We had to pay the first month’s rent and a 4,000 Baht (102 EUR) deposit. Then we asked for a fridge because we noticed there wasn’t one, and our landlady gave us a fridge but says we’ll have to pay 200 EUR (5 EUR) extra per month. So our rent is really 80 EUR per month. That’s fine for us!
First month’s rent: 75 EUR (she didn’t charge us for the fridge yet)
Deposit: 102 EUR
Total: 177 EUR
Buying furnishings and supplies
The apartment has all the hard furnishings but not the soft ones like sheets or towels. We brought our own towels but spent about 30 EUR getting sheets, pillows, flannel blankets, and a bathroom mat. We’ll have to replace the sheets soon because they are very poor quality and are breaking after so little use. It’s hard to find good sheets here unless you pay a lot, so I’d recommend bringing your own if you have space in your suitcase.
We’re not planning to live off of street or restaurant food, so we bought a rice cooker with steamer tray for 490 Baht (12 EUR) and an awesome blender for 1,950 Baht (50 EUR).
Total home furnishing costs: 92 EUR
Setting up mobile phone plans
Having a phone plan with data is not too expensive here, so we both signed up soon after moving into our flat. We each chose separate phone companies based on our needs and to see which company is better. Both plans are prepaid and month-to-month, and we had to pay extra for the SIM cards.
dtac plan for Martin – 399 Baht per month for 4.5 GB of data
AIS plan for Jessica- 399 Baht per month for 3 GB of data (but free high speed WIFI with hotspots all over Thailand)
That’s 10 EUR a month for each of our plans, with more mobile data than we’ve ever had!
There was also some tax on top of all of this, and I think we had to put a little extra money in for some talk time minutes. I’ve forgotten how much exactly but all in all, very affordable compared to what we’re used to.
SIM cards: 1,000 Baht (26 EUR)
2 monthly data plans: 800 Baht (20 EUR)
Because we are cyclists for fitness and fun, we do have some bike costs asides from flying the bikes around. Martin opted to bring his Rose Cyclocross (you can’t get these out of Germany), and I opted to sell my old Bianchi and buy a new bike in Thailand.
I was planning to pay up to 1,000 EUR for a new bike, but when we went to Jacky Bike in the Nimmanhaemin area, I fell in love with a 2017 Trek 7.3 WSD hybrid bike for 17,500 Baht or 490 EUR (after credit card charges and exchange rate fees). This is a great deal! My Bianchi sold for 500 EUR in Germany so it more than paid for this brand new Trek. I’m very happy about that! I also got a helmet and lock for about 32 EUR on top of it, and soon I will need a kickstand.
Martin changed his cassette to a 32, which also required him to change his crank set and chain. Cost of all that was 4,300 Baht or 110 EUR. Also a very good price.
New bike and accessories: 532 EUR
Bike cassette update: 110 EUR
Total bike costs: 642 EUR
How much we’ve spent in our first weeks in Thailand
Our total start up costs including visas, flights, trip to Phuket, rent, deposit, phone plans, furnishings and bike stuff totals 2,021 EUR, not including food. Subtracting the bike and Phuket trip, it would be 1,267 EUR.
But even including the bike and Phuket trip, this is comparable to what a lot of people would spend to set themselves up here initially. Their plane tickets could be a lot more depending on where they are flying from, and many expats opt for fancier apartments and home furnishings.
2K is what us 2 frugal bike nerds spent, but moving forward our costs will be *a lot* less.
What’s also neat to us is that asides from the visa, flights and bike, we lived off of that foreign money I mentioned earlier. This is money we had forgotten about FOR YEARS and kept in our “other currencies” stash. It was worth about 300 EUR, plus we had another 200 EUR (in euros!) with us. So the 500 EUR total lasted us a while, even though we paid rent and deposit and furnished our new apartment with it. Last week was the first time we had to make an ATM withdrawal.
Now that we’re all set-up, I can’t wait to show you what we spend on a month-to-month basis. I’ll also try to update more often and not leave this like a ghost town. Stay tuned!