Cost of living in Koh Samui

Baht
Money can stretch far in Koh Samui

So, you want to come and live on Samui? Your first question is probably; how much is the cost of living on Samui? Well, it depends of course on what sort of lifestyle you can afford as Samui is after all a tourist destination and many places cater strictly to holidaymakers’ free spending. It is possible, however, to escape all that, and there is a sizeable expat community who know where to shop, eat and relax cheaply.

However, Samui certainly isn’t one of the cheapest places to ‘retire’ in Thailand and because it’s an island, prices are generally higher than on the mainland. Unlike Phuket it doesn’t support a regular Thai industry. It may seem like paradise but you might find that some services are limited and therefore cost a premium. There are some foreigners who ‘disappear’ into the Thai environment of Na Thon town or the island’s farmer community on the south of the island; they get by on very little but have easy access to the rest of the island’s beauty. The beaches, after all, are always free.

Living on Koh Samui will vary in cost depending on your lifestyle and the standard of living you want to experience. At the lowest end of the scale it is possible to live on around 15,000 baht a month (US$500); however, this will mean living in a small condo, eating local cuisine and being conservative with your social habits.

Socialising can soon see your carefully worked budget fall by the wayside. Your average monthly expenditure will likely be the best indicator to how your party life is coming along. A reasonably average monthly outgoing would probably be around 30,000 baht. This should be enough to rent a one bedroom house with air-con, hot water and TV—away from the beaches—scooter rental for transportation with enough cash to eat a good varied diet and give you some pocket money for a few nights out a week. However, many find it easy to burn 50,000-60,000 baht a month, with regular visits to Western bars and restaurants quickly racking up.

At the top end, the sky is the limit. There are some luxurious properties for rent, and living expenses can go through the roof if you decide to sample all of the world-class restaurants on the island. Daytime activities range from free strolls on the beach or sun worshipping, to more expensive pursuits such as golf or scuba diving the beautiful coral reefs of the neighbouring islands.

As a general indication, here are the prices of some typical items:

A litre of petrol: (30-45 baht depending what type of fuel and where you fill up)
Half a dozen beers in a supermarket: 200 baht
Dozen eggs: 45 baht, litre of milk: 45 baht, loaf of bread: 40 baht
T-shirts at a night market: 100-150 baht
Modest designer label jeans in a Chaweng boutique: 1,000 baht+
Simple noodle dish at a roadside café: 30 baht
Thai meal in a modest tourist restaurant: 60-100 baht
Western dish in an average restaurant: 200-350 baht
Taxi fare: minimum 300 baht (Samui is poor value for taxis due to the local mafia!)
Consultation fee for a visit to the local hospital: 2-300 baht
Basic medical insurance: 20,000 baht per year with Bupa Blue Cross.
New notebook (latest common spec): 15-20,000 baht
DVD rentals: 50 baht
Broadband internet: 600 baht for 10megs for the cheap package

The Samui property scandal

Everywhere in Thailand that has proved popular with foreigners, there has been a lucrative land grab that has made some local tycoons exceedingly rich quickly. Samui is the latest trendy island on which to buy a villa and the market has seen big demand which has resulted in some dodgy deals that have given the island a shady reputation. Although there are plenty of honest developers and realtors on the island, it came to light in mid-2006 that one company had seriously encroached on public land and was openly advertising plots. This isn’t unusual among locals with access to corrupt land officials but it coincided with a government crackdown on foreigners setting up ghost companies with the express intent of owning land. Since then they’ve become very strict with this popular method for circumventing restrictions on freehold ownership and it’s had a huge impact of the villa property industry. Meanwhile Samui seemed to be at the forefront of negative publicity over sleazy deals. Since then developers have devised new long-term leasehold structures, but it’s wise to thoroughly check the background of the property arrangement, and to even check the background of your lawyer to be sure.