Living Like a Thai Day 1: The 200 Baht a Day Challenge

Living Like a Thai 200 baht a day challenge

Follow me as I, an American expat living in Pattaya, Thailand, try to live like a Thai on only 200 baht a day!

All daily and monthly totals can be found at the end of each days post.

All prices will be in Thai baht and U.S Dollars to give a frame of reference

As of today June 1, 2011 the currency exchange rate of Thai baht to the Dollar is 29.37 which means 200 Thai baht roughly = $6.80 and that is exactly what I will have to live on per day for the entire month of June. That is exactly $204 for the entire month! All of my expenses for the month have to be paid out of this little bit of money Including rent ( read below for explanation ).

As I wrote yesterday I am starting the 200 baht challenge today and as you can see in the above photo I already have my daily stipend in hand. I want to be very clear that I have no intentions of cheating as I really want to see if this can be done and I want to see if I can change some of my lazy practices that have crept up lately.

In the past 2 months I have gotten very lazy when it comes to eating, I’m not going to Burger king or other chain stores but I’m not being as financially smart with my food dollars either. While I do enjoy a tuna sub from subway on occasion or a pizza from Pizza Hut they are very far and few between…and expensive. For the most part I eat Thai but I don’t eat as Thai as I should. Living in an expat town like Pattaya affords me many choices when it comes to eating Thai food and unfortunately I have fallen into the rut of convenience and usually eat at expat type restaurants.

Green bottle pub expat type restaurant typical Thai roadside restaurant

While the Thai food is great at the expat type places I am paying a premium for a nice table to sit at while I eat. Consider one of my favorite meals Gang Kiow Wan Gai ( Thai green curry with chicken ) for example. At one of my favorite expat restaurants, the Green Bottle Pub, a bowl of green curry and a dish of rice will cost me 85 baht ( $2.89 ) which isn’t a bad deal at all. The same meal in an American restaurant would cost me $6.00 or more. But, the same meal at a Thai sidewalk restaurant or roadside stand would only cost me 30 baht ($ 1.02 ) That’s a pretty big difference for the same exact meal and in the long run eats up money for no reason.

So, not only am I trying to see if an expat like myself can constrain himself into a more Thai lifestyle for the sake of an experiment I also want to see if I can change some of my own habits while still enjoying Thai life.

A barren Thai Fridge

Living Like  a Thai Day 1

Day one started out with me opening the fridge and seeing what you are seeing above…not much, and a perfect way to start the challenge clean. Seeing as it was 9am I was hungry but I decided to think a little before I just wandered out and foraged for food. I tried to think as Thai as I could and then it came to me, noodles! Americans love their potato chips and when you go to the supermarket or 7/11 their are aisles dedicated to them. Well in Thailand the Thai’s love noodles and when you go to the store here there are aisles dedicated to that awesome ramen goodness…I’m going shopping.

Ramen Noodle cups mmmm

I decided to head to Carrefour ( soon to be Big C ) and purchase a ramen pack or two, it certainly wouldn’t break the budget and would give me several meals cheaply and no one can say that eating ramen isn’t Thai. Once at Carrefour I found the noodle aisle and started looking at the various packs of noodle cups for my favorite ( spicy pork noodles ) I found a 3 pack of noodle cups for the princely sum of 37 baht ( $1.25 ) so I bought 2 packs which would give me 6 meals all for a whopping 74 baht ( $2.50 ). I also reasoned it would be good to have some food around the house instead of going out all the time. By the way these noodle cups are really good.

Pre cooked Thai breakfast Pre cooked Thai breakfast only 20 baht! Cooked noodle meal only 10 baht

As I was heading to the cash register I walked through the meat section and I noticed some pre cooked packaged meals that they make there in the supermarket. Being breakfast time and being hungry the first meal appealed to me. A very simple plate of fried rice, egg, small hot dog, small drumstick and some cucumber all for 20 baht ( $.68 )…SOLD! Next to that were some small individual portions of noodles for 10 baht ( $.34 ) each, I find these very tasty and picked up 2 of these as well for 20 baht ( $.68 ).

Water: the elixir of life

Armed with my small cache of food I headed back to the Condo but made a pit stop by 7/11 along the way to pick up some water. A large bottle of water which cost me 37 baht ( $1.25 ). Once I got home and put my food away I ate my pre packaged breakfast from Carrefour and I was surprised at how good it was and filling. I think I will be heading back there again for more.

Guay Tiaw Mu Nam Sie  ( pork noodle soup with cabbage and mushrooms )

Later in the day I ventured down the street from my condo where there are a row of Thai roadside restaurants that look more like shacks made out of shipping pallets and corrugated metal roofing. They serve breakfast and lunch every day and usually close by 4pm. I perused the goods and picked up a nice bowl of Guay Tiaw Mu Nam Sie ( pork noodle soup with cabbage and mushrooms ) for dinner. At 20 baht ( $.68 ) the price couldn’t be beat and as I have eaten this woman’s soups before I know it will be amazing.


Some observations thus far:

Rent: I had said I wouldn’t be including rent as part of the experiment because I am already in a condo and paying way more than the average Thai ever would but that isn’t exactly fair to the challenge as a Thai living on 200 baht a day still has to pay rent and so should I. So, here is what I propose. The average Thai that I know lives in an apartment with at least 2 friends; these apartments run anywhere from 1800 baht ( $61.28 ) to 5000 baht ( $170.24 ) a month. I will be splitting the difference at 3000 baht ( $102.14 )and taking on 2 imaginary Thai friends as roommates which will make my share of rent 1000 baht ( $34.04 )this month. due at the end of June. I will still be covering electricity and water on my own.

I already have a leg up on most of my Thai counterparts as I live in central Pattaya which means I can walk everywhere easily. I don’t need to use motorcy taxi’s, baht buses or own my own transportation. These costs over the period of a month can and do add up.

My bad habits…Smoking is the worst habit I have and it only gets worse when I drink. If I am not out I might smoke a pack of cigarettes in 2-3 days but if I am out drinking ( which I won’t be on 200 baht a day ) I can smoke a pack or 2 a night. Obviously something will have to give. Either I will be quitting smoking or buying Thai brand cigarettes. Imported cigarettes such as Marlborro cost 78 baht a pack or $2.65 while the Thai brands are like 40 baht a pack I think, or $1.63.

Electricity…I would have to pick the hottest part of the year to do this experiment :P I use a fan most of the time while I am at home but at night I can’t sleep without aircon. Unfortunately my bedroom window has no screen and I can’t just let the window hang open or I will wake up to thousands of bugs and a few rogue tokay lizards. I still have to be very careful with aircon usage as the average bill is 1400 baht a month just using aircon when sleeping.

Living Like a Thai Day 1 Totals

Purchase Amount Cost Total
3 pack ramen noodle cup 2 37 baht 74 baht
pre-cooked breakfast 2 20 baht 40 Baht
Pre-cooked noodle meals 2 10 baht 20 baht
.6 litre bottle of water 1 37 baht 37 baht
Bowl of soup 1 20 baht 20 baht
Todays Total 191 baht ( $6.50 )
June Totals 191 baht ( $6.50 )


Woohoo! I have a whole 9 baht to carry over into tomorrow…and unfortunately I am going to need it!

P.S. I’ll be keeping up a regular posting schedule as well as the daily living like a Thai series so check back often.

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23 Comment(s)

  1. Wouldn’t a nice cold big bottle of beer Sing taste great right now!!!!

    Gordo | Jun 1, 2011 | Reply

  2. Stumbled on to your blog today and look forward to your daily updates on living on 200 baht a day. Great series!

    Christian Lee | Jun 1, 2011 | Reply

  3. At Home I buy rice and cook enough (2 cups) for 3-4 meals , plus pasta good for 2-3 meals and a 5 pound bag of potatoes at the dollar store , and add sauce and veggies to them…..
    But that is because I have rice cooker, microwave and a fridge ,

    Its cheap to eat well , and still be full


    Dave | Jun 1, 2011 | Reply

  4. Dave, I have a rice cooker and I need to buy rice but honestly it’s cheaper in most cases to buy the food at a Thai roadside stall….it’s just more convenient to cook at home sometimes.

    Talen | Jun 1, 2011 | Reply

  5. Lol, Gordo it would be nice…if you look at the pic of my fridge you’ll notice one lone bottle of San Mig light and lonely can of Leo beer for when I get desperate :P I think I’ll be fine and might even be able to spring for a tiger light by the end of the month.

    Talen | Jun 1, 2011 | Reply

  6. Looking forward to follow your challenge!

    Some tips:
    According to this article, the average rent for a working class Thai is 1400 baht per month.

    If you buy water from street dispensers it will only cost you about 5 baht to fill a 5 liter bottle, if you have one nearby your place this might help you save some expenses

    Somchai | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  7. Quit smoking? Heh. Now that’d be a fabulous result. And the idea is not impossible really, because once you get something into your head, you won’t let go. So if anyone can do this challenge, even with quitting smoking and everything else, it’s you.

    I was going to mention the water too. It adds up. Most of my Thai friends don’t buy bottled water – they fill up bottles at home to take around. I guess the water comes from those roadside dispensers but I haven’t asked.

    Catherine | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  8. Somchai, I plan on using the water stations but unfortunately the closest one to my condo is about 1/2 mile away.

    I can’t afford 1400 baht rent that’s why I have 2 imaginary roommates :)

    Talen | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  9. Cat, I had to buy a water bottle to have a bottle to fill up :P

    I’ve literally started out the month with nothing except some shampoo and soap which I will have to buy at some point in the month as well.

    Talen | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  10. Ouch Talen!Think I might suggest my Thai partner follows your lead, she doesn’t smoke or drink but I can’t imagine her surviving on 200 Baht a day. Too bloody Westernised by now.

    Mike | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  11. Looking forward to you getting more creative. Sounds like a good weight loss plan as well ;)

    Lani | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  12. I’m following this with great interest, Talen. I trust you’ll be able to do it easily, especially once you quit smoking (or at least reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each day).

    Here’s a quick tip regarding the Mama Noodles: buy the packaged variety instead of the cups. You can get a six-pack of packaged noodles for about 30 baht. Twice the amount of food for less than the price you pay for the cups.

    Claudio Sennhauser | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  13. I admire you, man. You are truly practicing sufficiency economy more than those guys preaching it while moving around in Benz/BMW and now their posters are hurting our eyes begging to be elected into parliament !

    Bobby | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  14. i know that you have good intentions but i find this insulting to people that they have to live for 200 baht a day all their lives. For you is just a a joke , a game that you will feel be proud about..just for a month, and then you will go back to your farang lifestyle.
    If really you want to live like a thai, stay in a cheaper place and work like adog for 12 hours a day.AND IF REALLY YOU WANT TO BE IN THEIR SHOES..DO IT FOR ONE YEAR TO SEE HOW IT TASTES.

    someone | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  15. Someone, how could you possibly find this experiment insulting in any way? I am not making fun of Thai people nor am I being disparaging in any way. I know one falang who has lived here on less than Thai wages for 2 years and he is doing just fine.

    And what exactly do you think you know about my falang lifestyle anyway.

    This is neither a joke or a game to me or I wouldn’t be doing it.

    Talen | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  16. Bobby, don’t know if I should be admired but everyone should practise some constraint these days with the economy like it is.

    Talen | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  17. Claudio, Yes, I could have bought the 5 pack of noodles but they only had shrimp or squid ones and I didn’t care for them…next time it will definitely be on the list.

    Talen | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  18. Lani, I think it will be a weight loss program for me and I definitely need to shed some pounds so hopefully it works out that way.

    Talen | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  19. Mike, as long as she doesn’t need to buy all her food at Tesco then you should be okay :P

    Talen | Jun 2, 2011 | Reply

  20. Great idea!
    This looks like it will be an interesting series and I will follow it every day.

    It will be interesting to see if you can go the distance and your conclusions at the end.

    What about things like satellite TV?

    Aaron | Jun 3, 2011 | Reply

  21. Aaron, I have no doubt I can go the distance I just wonder what will be thrown at me on the way. I don’t pay for internet or cable tv now I get them for free so I will pay the same amount :P

    Talen | Jun 4, 2011 | Reply

  22. Great first report, Talen. Excellent detail. Will be watching daily. It’s like a Charles Dickens serial! “Poor” boy makes his way in the big city.

    Now, on to Day 2 . . .

    SiamRick | Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

  23. Rick, I feel like a Dickens character…not sure which one though…dopey maybe…wait…that’s the dwarfs. :P

    Talen | Jun 8, 2011 | Reply

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