What does it cost to pack up your life in Cape Town and live somewhat extravagantly in Thailand? I’m going to tell you right down to the very last Rand

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I gave up my apartment, got rid of a lot of shizz and then basically boxed up what was left of my life to come hang out in Thailand. I told people I’d be here for a month but now I’m not so sure. I’m having suuuuuch a jol, you guys, so it looks like I might stay on for a bit.

If you’re an office-free freelancer (I still can’t bring myself to use the wankiest word ever – ‘digital nomad’) and have been wondering what it would cost to follow suit I’m about to tell you. It’s surprisingly inexpensive and, crazily, living in hotels and dining out for every single meal is actually saving me money.

Also, if you’re not considering working remotely for a bit and merely planning a holiday, this post will come in handy. Just bear in mind that restaurant food in general costs more in super touristy areas like Phuket but will always cost less than what it would in South Africa. Also, Thai street food, regardless of where you are, is always going for a song.

Let’s dive right in, okay?

THE COST OF (MY) LIFE IN CAPE TOWN

Rent: R8 739 (My super rad ex-flatmate and I used to share a ground level 2-bedroom apartment with a garden in a new block in Claremont. This was my half of the rent.)
Electricity: R200 (my half of the R400 we’d spend on average)
Medical aid: R1 849 (I’m on Discovery’s Coastal Core plan with the Vitality add-on. The latter meant I could get 25% off an Emirates flight so my ticket here cost me about R6 500 return.)
Insurance: R596 (I’m with King Price and they’re great. This amount covers both my Kia Picanto and MacBook. My car insurance is quite high as I’m an infamously shit driver who’s claimed several times. I don’t insure my cell phone as I use an ancient HTC M8 that I can replace for piss via Gumtree.)
Cell phone bill: R299 (Low right? I was on Afrihost’s Mobile M plan which gave me 120 minutes talk time and 3GB of data. I can highly recommend it. If you switch now you’ll pay R319 as its gone up since I joined. You can also double your data for an extra R109 per month.)
Uncapped fibre: R248,50 (This is my half of the R497 we paid Afrihost.)
Domestic worker: R200 (This is my half of the cost of the help we’d get twice a month)
Petrol and Taxify: R1000 on average (I work from home so I don’t drive for miles and use Taxify when I drink which is often! Taxify is Uber’s competitor and if you use my code TZCAA you can score R150 off your first trip.)
Groceries and eating out: On average this was about R3 500. A lot of my food and booze was free thanks to all the launches I’d attend but I also love to eat out a lot and throw big ass dinner parties. This is my ‘entertainment’ and, as I don’t have an expensive hobby like golf, I feel the spend is justified)

My ‘other’ non-fixed expenses are just regular things. Clothes, household shizz like bin liners and detergent, highlights every six weeks. A bit of Botox here and there. You know. The usual. Although being a beauty blogger means I never have to buy make-up, toiletries or gifts.

So, what’s the ‘fixed’ total of my Cape Town life? R16 631,50.

Now let’s look at the price of life in Thai Thai, specifically the super cheap foodie paradise/digital nomad haven that is Chiang Mai.

‘Rent’: R7 500 (I’m staying in a series of hotels and keeping within under R250 a day. Every now and again I’ll stay somewhere cheap, like for R120 a night, to justify paying R350 a day for something nicer, like with a pool, just after. Check out sites like booking.com and agoda.com to see how totally doable my budget is. I’m currently staying at Manee House for R218 a night and like it so much I’ve extended my intended four day stay to just over a week. If I’d found it earlier on in my trip, my ‘rent’ would be just R6 500. Also, if you decide to book any accommodation yourself, be it in SA or abroad, do so via booking.com using this link to get a 10% refund when you check out. I get $15 for the referral so it’s win-win.)
Electricity: NONE.
Medical aid: R1 849 (Obviously I keep this going)
Insurance of Kia Picanto and MacBook: R596 (I’m including this as an expense because you’ll probably keep paying your insurance too but, for full disclosure, a friend of mine is using Witblitz, my car, while I’m away so she’s covering this for me.)
Cell phone bill: R109 (I didn’t stop my account with Afrihost. I just switched to their Mobile XS plan to keep my SIM active while I’m away.)
Uncapped fibre: NONE. I cancelled my account when I gave up my flat. I now use the super-fast free Wi-Fi of my hotel, the restaurants I work in or open up my cell as a hotspot. See below.)
Domestic worker: NONE. Living in hotels is faaaabulous.
Petrol and Uber: I now walk, cycle or use Grab, the Thai competitor to Uber. An average trip is about R20 and, at the rate I’m going, I’ll have spent no more than R500. It’s the 23rd of the month and I’ve spent R362. Getting around Thailand is crazy cheap. My flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai cost around R500 but I could’ve got it for much less if I hadn’t left it until the very last minute.
Groceries and eating out: I buy an iced coffee each morning for R13 and eat in a restaurant for both lunch and supper. An average Thai dish like a curry with rice costs R20 while a ‘Western’ one, like spaghetti and meatballs is about R40. This gets higher if you eat in global chains but will always cost less than what you’d pay in South Africa. Always. In an average ‘cheap eats’ restaurant, a Chang beer is about R20 and a Diet Coke will set you back about R15. If you buy the beer and Coke from 7-Eleven they’ll be R12,50 and R6,25 respectively. I’m spending a LOT on food and booze right now and if I extrapolate from my spending log I’ll definitely hit R3 000 by the end of the month which is an average of R100 a day.*

New expenses:

Storage: R1 080 (I’m currently stashing all my belongings at StoreSmart. Read all about that here.)
Thai cell phone: R186 (I’ve bought a dtac pay-as-you-go SIM for R20 and added a bundle for R166 that gives me 4,5GB of data a month. If you’re just visiting for a short while, however, I recommend getting dtac’s Happy Tourist SIM from the dtac counter you’ll find near the exit of every Thai airport I’ve ever been to.)
Laundry: R67 a month to get my laundry done once a week.

So, what’s the damage? A very decent R14 887. This is just under a grand cheaper than Cape Town. (Again, if I’d found Manee House earlier, it could’ve been another grand less.)

I’d also like to add that you could lower this tally dramatically if you stayed in hotels that cost less (very easy to do, I just like places that are super central and have pools) or shared your accommodation with someone else. As it is, everywhere I go I’m paying a double room rate, so if someone was with me it would literally cost R3 750 a month! Also, if you’re not a disgustingly extravagant glutton like I am and choose to eat more delicious market food – or actually go to a grocery store – you could eat very well on much less.

Love, love

Leigh

P.S. This is a post a lot of you have been asking for so I hope you’ve found it helpful and appreciate it as it was written through burning eyes that look like slits. I totally intended on going to the 7-Eleven for an 11pm toasted cheese sandwich (told you, I’m disgusting) and somehow ended up running off to the shittest night club ever with a Bradley Cooper-esque mooi boy from North Carolina. This place was sooo kak they made you buy your booze at the door then took your handbag away from you and stuck it in a locker! (Apparently I screamed: ‘WHAT THE FUCK?!! How am I going to reapply lip gloss?! What if I needed to use a tampon?!!’). Worse yet, country boy (who ironically doesn’t like country music) and I were the oldest people in da club by a million years and felt like two parents who’d bust in to drag out their runaway teen. Fortunately, we didn’t stay long. I’d also stupidly taken a Valium before hitting the streets so I ended up swaying all over them en route to a much nicer bar number two (Leather couches! Aircon! Yay!) where I knocked back enough whiskey to essentially roofie myself. Thus, I am writing this post with the kind of hangover that makes one wish for death (or at least that fucking toasted sandwich) so forgive my lack of piccies. I may add them later when I feel less brain-damaged.

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Editor of South African beauty blog Lipgloss is my Life.

10 thoughts on “What does it cost to pack up your life in Cape Town and live somewhat extravagantly in Thailand? I’m going to tell you right down to the very last Rand

  1. I challenge anyone to read Leigh’s posts in the office, pretending you are working and keeping a straight face. #impossible

  2. Hi Leigh, Iove reading your posts. The highlight of my day. We were in Thailand in Dec/Jan and loved it. So I’m basically reliving it through you. I’m so missing the food, especially the street food. Yum yum. Have a jol!

  3. I look forward to hearing about your adventures in Thailand every day.Wow Its a dream of mine to pack up my life and do the same.Went to Thailand in the late 1970’s and loved it.What a place,but was also terrified taking pain killers with lol.I love all your advice about packing up and details about expenses.Very practical.You living the dream !

    1. Lovely dude! He’s gone off to Laos and if I get round to visiting that country before he goes back to the states (it’s right on the border of Thailand) we’ll get to see each other again.

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