All of Thailand can be considered good value and the cost of living in Pattaya is no exception. It’s neither the most expensive, nor the cheapest, of the popular expat locations, yet is certainly cheaper than Phuket in most respects, but more expensive than Chiang Mai.
Pattaya is popular with foreigners and also gets lots of weekenders from Bangkok. Despite this, property prices are cheaper than Bangkok or Phuket. It’s possible to live comfortably on a modest budget, where even 20,000 baht a month (~US$600) is enough to survive on if you budget. Many expats get by very nicely on a monthly allowance of 50,000 baht, while some manage to blow 200,000 baht or more; it all depends on the lifestyle you want.
Food, transport, entertainment, utilities and healthcare are all very reasonable in Pattaya, along with the rest of Thailand. Since property is booming and under big demand on the eastern seaboard, you will find that rents are closer to Bangkok levels.
Pattaya is, of course, a popular tourist destination – especially package deals – and this means plenty of flush, free-spending visitors. This tends to push prices up, but if you’re smart enough to avoid these tourist traps you can reign in your spending.
Others prefer their full English breakfast in the morning or pork knuckle every evening. Although this means greater expense, a complete Western lifestyle in Pattaya remains far cheaper (if you know where to look) than any comparable place in Thailand.
Household expenses in Pattaya
It depends entirely on where you want to stay, in what sort of building, the size of the condo (or house) and furnishings. There are some world-class places in and around Pattaya with fantastic sea-views renting for up to 100,000 baht a month. In contrast, on the increasingly busy eastern side of Pattaya, two-bedroom townhouses can be rented long-term for as little as 10,000 baht a month.
A small/medium condo of about 60 square metres (bedroom and modest living area/kitchenette) with basic furnishings rents for about 15,000 baht. For a roomier two-bedroom place, expect to pay anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 baht, while a large penthouse of 120 square metres goes for about 60,000 baht a month. However, prices do vary from South and Central Pattaya to Jomtien and beyond, and Naklua, in North Pattaya, also has variations in pricing, yet has tended to be somewhat exclusive in parts. Water is cheap, with a bill of 150-300 baht being about average. Electricity costs vary on the amount of air conditioning used: run it 24-hours a day, seven days a week and a bill of 6,000 baht or more is not uncommon; use it more sparingly and the bill may be as little as 600-800 baht a month.
Food and drink
This can be one of the best-value facets to living in Pattaya. But, again, it depends on where you eat, your preferences for Western food every night and how much time you spend in the pub. A Thai meal at a Thai-style restaurant should cost less than 100 baht for a main dish (usually priced between 30 and 50 baht) and drink (20 baht for water; 30 baht for a soft drink; 40 baht or more for a bottle of beer). Thai meals in Western-style restaurants are usually overpriced compared to the Western fare. Most people in Pattaya are here to enjoy themselves and a daily budget (eating at least two meals in a restaurant) could be about 500 baht, including a couple of evening drinks. On the other hand, a nice meal at a touristy restaurant might set you back 600-1,000 baht.
Tesco-Lotus, Foodland, Friendship, Tops, Best, Big C, and other supermarkets, stock plenty of imported items – even Western favourites like bacon and cheese – and a typical monthly grocery bill might be 3,000 baht per person per household.
Local beers (Singha, Chang) aren’t bad and are cheap when purchased from supermarkets (40 baht for a quart of Chang Beer). Locally-distilled whisky brands like Johnny Walker cost 8-900 baht for a litre of Red Label. Step into a touristy bar and the prices shoot up; in fact, they’re not much cheaper than in Bangkok, where a G&T will cost about 150 baht and a pint of imported Guinness 300 baht! The trick is to find expat hangouts that have reasonable prices. Hang out in the local Thai bars and you can get drunk on Mekong (local) whisky for less than 200 baht!
Other living expenses in Pattaya
Phone: calls are very reasonable in Thailand, and the easiest option is a mobile phone. Get a proper contract for better rates, but a simple prepaid card costs 1-3 baht per call usually. Almost all condos come with phones installed, and the management like to profiteer out of supplying this service, but calls are still cheap.
Internet: is not particularly good value in Thailand due to oversubscribed broadband. ADSL is widely available in Pattaya, but the speeds fluctuate by day, week and month. Packages of 10MB sell for as little as 600 baht per month (unlimited), but you’re better off taking a premium package, because speeds are never even half of what is promised at popular times. Several companies offer 3G on trial service, available in Pattaya (about 1,000 baht a month for 5gig download). They also sell dongles (1,000 baht) which can render your laptop connected anywhere. Many restaurants and coffee shops also offer WiFi, often free, and power supply.
Cable TV: there are a number of cable TV companies in Pattaya. The south and central parts are dominated by Sophon Cable TV (200-350 baht a month depending on whether you are in a condo or house); Banglamung Cable and TMN Cable operate largely in the east and northern parts of the city, while Jomtien Cable operates, as the name suggest, in Jomtien. They all offer a similar service and pricing structure to Sophon. All these cable networks have staples, such as BBC World, Bloomberg, Fox, and Australia Network, and many others in a line-up of 60-90 channels. UBC and True cost 1,200-1,500 baht a month and include BBC World, CNN, ESPN, Star sports, several football feeds, the History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel and at least four movie channels, among others. There are more comprehensive packages.
Transportation: taxis are cheap in Thailand, and baht buses (red pickups with seats) cruise the main routes of Pattaya for 10 baht for most journeys along the standard route bordered by Beach and Second Roads. In recent years, a dedicated, air-conditioned, metered taxi service has been established. Most of these can be found lined up in front of The Avenue shopping complex on Second Road in South Pattaya. Most of those living here buy a motorbike or car. Honda Waves rent for 200 baht a day and cost from about 40,000 baht new for a 125CC. Bigger bikes vary from 50,000 to 200,000 baht, depending on age. It is possible to own a car, though traffic can be a pain; that said, Pattaya’s traffic congestion rarely reaches the gridlock experienced almost every day in parts of Bangkok. Prices of new, locally-manufactured Japanese models, however, are very reasonable, although the second-hand market is pricey. For instance, a five-year old Honda City would be around 350,000 baht; from 550,000 new! Car insurance tends to be about 10,000-15,000 baht a year, with standard no-claim bonuses reducing the yearly imposts.
Girls: This is one aspect of Pattaya that can quickly burn a hole in your wallet, yet for many it’s part of their enjoyment. You’ll need to pay a ‘bar fine’–usually 300 baht in the majority of beer bars, 500-700 baht in go-go bars. The girls vary in their fees but the ‘industry standard’ in Pattaya is a minimum 500 baht for short-time (typically two hours) and 1,000 baht, or more, for all night–though is typically 1,000-1,500 baht respectively. By the time you’ve finished buying drinks, tipping them and so on, it can become a 3,000 baht a day habit! Relatively speaking Pattaya has some of the cheapest bar girls in Thailand for tourists and expats.