Phuket has a fairly large community of full-time farang (Western) residents and there are plenty more people who spend large parts of the year living in Phuket.
With the highest per-capita income of any province of Thailand outside Bangkok comes a corresponding increase in the cost of living. Having said that, living in Phuket is still much cheaper than living in the West. Living in Phuket in comfortable, but modest, fashion will set you back around 40,000 baht a month (~US$1,200; €1,000, £900).
Although Thailand can be a very cheap place for Thais, you would have to go and live among them to get the benefit of meals for a dollar and condo rentals for US$100. Some do, and it can be a reasonably comfortable, if somewhat down-market, experience.
But most foreigners, especially in Phuket, opt for a more luxurious lifestyle which can soon cost the same as a suburban lifestyle back home, since you are tempted by all sorts of premium services – weekly spa visits, imported wine, and so on. In fact, some of these ordinary pleasures can be more expensive than home.
Rent Costs in Phuket
It depends where on the island you want to live. A studio apartment in Phuket Town can cost as little as 3,000 baht a month. For that price, you won’t get much – a bed, wardrobe, fan and bland bathroom. For around 4,000-6,000 baht a month you may get cable TV, air-con, hot water and nicer furnishings, and maybe even a little kitchenette. Nearer the beach, expect to pay a minimum of 5,000 baht a month for a bare-bones studio apartment in Patong, and from 20,000 baht or more for a well-appointed, multi-room apartment with a beach view.
Houses in Phuket are generally good value, but again depending on how near the beach you want to be. A fully-furnished, two bedroom house with air-con costs 8,000-14,000 baht a month in the Phuket Town area. For a similar place in the Rawai area, you will be looking at 12,000-18,000 baht. There are also some luxurious houses on the island, but be prepared to dig deep for them. You can find amazing places with private gardens, pools and gorgeous ocean views for 60,000-200,000 baht. Of course, the cost of living when renting in Phuket depends on the standards you prefer, but many wealthy people wish to be by a beach.
Cost of Food in Phuket
Phuket has a wide variety of cuisines, and how much you spend depends on where you go and what you want to eat. There are plenty of Thai-style noodle shops and street food stalls, where you can get eat for 30-50 baht per plate. Fried chicken is a Muslim speciality and a filling meal can be had for 35 baht or so. A meal at a simple sit-down Thai restaurant is usually about 80 baht, including drink.
For 100-150 baht you can get a great meal at a better Thai restaurant. Most midrange and high-end Thai restaurants also serve Western food for 200-300 baht per person, but often they don’t quite get it right. Phuket has excellent foreign restaurants, though, and some at quite reasonable prices.
For 400-600 baht you can get a good Western meal for two, and 800-1,000 baht gets you a five-star Western dinner – Italian, French, German, Spanish, Russian and even Arabic. If you want to really splurge, there are plenty of places that will happily relieve you of 4,000 baht for a meal for two with a bottle of wine.
Beverages in Phuket
Drinking is a favourite pastime in Phuket and won’t make as much of a dent in your cost of living as it does back home. At a pub, a small bottle of local beer (Singha, Chang, Leo) usually costs about 50 baht, while a large bottle is about 80-100 baht. Imported beers (except Heineken) are harder to find and considerably more expensive.
A pint of Guinness flows from the tap at 300 baht, and a bottle of Corona (with the obligatory piece of lime) costs 150-200 baht. Spirits are usually 100-150 baht a glass (mixer included) for imports and 60-80 baht for the local stuff (all double measures).
Local whisky and rum, such as Sangsom and Mae Khong, is cheaper, but if you spend the little extra your head will thank you for it in the morning. Prices will double the second you step into a heavy tourist area like Patong. The Thai way to go out is to buy a bottle of whisky (100 Pipers: 300 baht; Johnny Walker Red: 800 baht; Johnny Walker Black: 1,000 baht) and bring it into the bar with you. Corkage fees almost never apply in Thai-run bars and restaurants, but it’s good form to buy your mixers and ice from the bar. Of course, stocking up from the supermarket is the cheapest option – most of the cost of a beer here is the mark-up levied by the tourist establishments.
Phone and Internet Costs in Phuket
Internet cafes generally charge 20 baht an hour in town and 30-60 baht an hour near the beaches. A cheap mobile phone can be had for 800 baht, SIM card 100 baht, with top-up cards to be found at any convenience store. The rate varies from network to network, but is usually as little as one or two baht a minute. DTAC has one of the lowest rates, while 1-2-Call has the best coverage. If you have a work permit or Thai ‘sponsor’ then you can get a subscriber account that will offer more competitive rates.
Internet services within hotels are often unreasonably expensive (though more and more are getting the plot and offering free wi-fi), while some cafes around the island offer free WiFi or for a minimal charge. ADSL is also widely available if you are in a populated and well-developed area, with rates from 600 baht a month for a flaky 10meg connection. For more remote areas that do not yet have internet cabling, an air card (or CDMA modem from CAT) is a good option – it’s also portable, but doesn’t work everywhere in Thailand. The modem costs about 10,000 baht and the service is around 850 baht a month.
Cost of Getting Around Phuket
Phuket is a fair-sized island and walking from place to place can take time. The most efficient means of transport is a motorbike. Rentals are readily available and cost about 3,000 baht per month, which includes insurance. Honda motorbikes are very reliable and the cost of maintenance is low (250 baht to change a tyre, 120 baht for a tune-up and oil change). Be warned, though, that Phuket’s roads are chaotic and many a farang bears the scars of a motorbike accident.
If that’s not enough reason to always wear a helmet, remember that helmet laws are about the only traffic laws regularly enforced. One 300-500 baht fine is enough for most people to learn that lesson. A second-hand scooter is around 20,000 baht, while a new one is upwards of 40,000 baht. Larger motorcycles cost 35,000-65,000 baht used and upwards of 80,000 new, but come without registration since the import duties are almost a much as the value of the vehicle.
Few police will bother you if you don’t have plates, though, as long as you wear that helmet! Second-hand cars can be purchased for 85,000 (10-year-old Suzuki jeep) to 200,000 baht (older Toyota Soluna). In fact, locally-manufactured vehicles, including the 600,000-baht Honda Jazz, are good value. You will need a non-immigrant visa in order to buy a vehicle.
A motorbike taxi in town costs about 30-50 baht and 100-150 in the beach areas. A tuk tuk from town to the beach costs about 300 baht. Taxi prices go up at night. The songthaew minibuses from town to the beach ply a fixed route for 30 baht but it’s a very slow ride. On the whole, metered taxis on the island are very reasonable, if you can persuade them to use the meter, and that depends on how many gullible tourists are nearby. More information on transport here.
Entertainment Costs in Phuket
Movies cost about 100 baht for a basic seat, while VIP seats at Central (reclining seat with blanket, drinks and popcorn included) are 500 baht. Bowling is 80-100 baht a game (not including shoe rental). The only discos that charge a cover are in Patong, and not all of them do. The cost is 100-400 baht and includes a drink. ‘Female company’ for a night is negotiable, but usually 1,500-3,000 baht.
Cost of Buying Phuket Property
Apartments in Phuket generally start at around a million baht for a small studio, while a two-bedroom condominium starts at four million. Houses in the many developments springing up around the island can be had from around 3 million baht, but you are paying a price for the prestige of living in them. Undeveloped land in Phuket costs around one million baht per rai (1,600 square metres) in the sticks, up to 30 million in the most desirable locations but, despite what some property dealers tell you, it is not legally possible for foreigners to own land and the maximum enforceable land lease is 30 years. Phuket has become an international property focus point in Asia and villas and, at the very top end, large luxury villas in prime locations sell for as much as US$10million.
Clothes Costs in Phuket
There are plenty of open-air markets where you can buy shirts and tops for 100 baht and jeans for 400 baht. At the more upmarket department stores, shirts and t-shirts are 200-500 baht, and jeans 800-1,500 for brand names. There are countless tailor shops located all over the island. A tailored suit, including jacket, trousers and two shirts, costs about 4,000 baht. Most clothes are made in Thai sizes, so finding something that fits can sometimes be a challenge. Shoes are one of the best-value items available to shoppers but, again, finding the right size can be difficult. Patong has a larger selection of big sizes than elsewhere on the island.
Cost of Computers in Phuket
They are made in Thailand and generally cheap, with brands such as Acer, ASUS and Lenovo from 12,000 to 30,000 baht, depending on spec. Laptops are widely sold and are roughly 25 per cent more expensive for a similar spec model. Accessories–printers, USB sticks, WiFi routers, and so on–are all very reasonably priced, as much as 40 per cent cheaper than retail equivalents on the high street in a developed country. There is a MacZone in Central Festival with a service centre, but prices there are pretty much the same as in any other country.
Courses Costs in Phuket
A month-long, 120-hour TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course costs US$1,600 including accommodation. Thai lessons are 5,900 baht for a 20-hour one-on-one course, with discounts available for small groups. A one-day Thai cooking course costs 1,000 baht per person and a PADI Open Water diving certification (four days) is 9,000-12,000 baht.
Phuket Healthcare Costs
A visit to the doctor will cost from 500 baht for a simple check-up or consultation. Likewise, dental work is cheap, yet competent, with a cleaning costing around 800 baht. Private hospitals in Phuket are up to international standards, with competent doctors and excellent facilities. Bupa, AIA and other international companies have local operations offering suitable health from about 20,000 baht a year.