Surprises in Thailand II: Utility Prices!

We have rented a small two bedroom apartment for our time in Chiangmai, Thailand. Now the utility bills have started to roll in. Here are some samples

Two months use on my cell phone for calls and text: 200 Baht (about $5.75)

Internet service: about $21 per month

Water bill for one month about $4.00 per month

Electricity for February (not much air conditioning) about $12.00. (I’m told that this could quadrulple or quintuple now that the hot season is upon us!)

Drinking water bottles delivered to the door: $1.80 per crate of 20 reusable one liter bottles.

This is all a LOT cheaper than what I am used to in the United States! And I’m not enough of an economist to understand why this is so. Utilities are not labor intensive, so delivery of services like water, telephone, and internet should be similar—but they are not. I’m told that there are government subsidies on electricity and water, but I’m not sure how this works into the economics of things.

As for that other great utility, gasoline, it is selling for about 25 Baht per liter (US $0.75 per liter, i.e. $2.64 per US gallon, i.e. about the same price per gallon as in California now—which is more expensive typically than other US states. It runs me about $20 to fill the tank of my 1997 Mitsubishi Sedan every two weeks or so.

And as for labor, the minimum wage is currently 300 baht per day, which is just under $9.00. A plate of rice in a street side restaurant is about 35 Baht, which is $1.00. I eat a lot of this type of food, albeit I will often indulge, and spend something extra (often $0.30 or so) to dress up the rice or noodles!

Getting used to alternative pricing is part of the expatriate life. After two months here, I am still in the bad habit of converting from Baht into US$. This too will pass!