Scuba Diving is not a line of work that will make you rich (unless you are a business owner, maybe…) but it is certainly one that provides rewarding experiences daily, and a way to live of one passion for the ocean and its creatures. For all those considering to make the move and become instructors (which has a cost in itself), I have summarised some budgetary figures down here than can hopefully help some of you readers or curious readers…
Here is a typical monthly budget as a PADI Instructor, working liveaboards and daytrips in Khao Lak:
First thing to know, your salary is likely to fluctuate with the activity, as most centers base the wages on daily salary depending on the type of work. For example:
Daytrip: 1,000 – 1,200 baht
Overnight trip: 1,200 – 1,400 baht
Office day: 500 – 900 baht
Commissions on trips sold / courses, etc : 5-10% of trip sold
Commissions on scuba diving gear sold in shop: 5-20% of item sold
totalling this, my average salary has been of about 35,000 baht so far, i.e. 950 euros
The strategic part lies here. Khao Lak, and many parts of Thailand where you can work in scuba diving, are touristic places, and therefore pricey compared to the prices you could get in Thailand outside of tourist area. In order to reduce costs, the goal is therefore to try and get closer to what thai people pay for daily living. It’s not always easy, for the following reasons:
- westerners tend to expect / need / require western comfort, and it goes from accomodation to food, to socialisation activities that are different than locals.
- thai people tend to charge higher prices to westerners by principle. It is especially true with accomodation, because there reaches a point where negotiation becomes difficult: everyone needs a roof! Thai people who are caught lowering their prices to westerners for a quick sale get a very bad rap from their peers…
- some places do not have english pricelists/menus, and few are the westerners who can decipher thai alphabet. This opens door for people to charge extra to clueless tourists / Farangs (local word for foreigner)
Anyway, there are still smart tips one can use to save some money in day to day living, this is the object of an upcoming post.
Also, tracking your expenses with a great, simple app like TOSHL can help watch over those bills. So here is what I have observed so far:
Accomodation: 8,000 baht (for a spacious bungalow with aircon in a quiet area) I guess you could go down to 5,000 or even 3,000 baht if you are OK to take on a grimier, older, noisier fan room.
Food & Drinks: 6,000 baht
NB: Overnight trips are much better for the budget since you are usually paid more and don’t need to pay extra for food. That means you also have to eat many times over the same boat food. Thai food is very good in general, but having to gulp the same curries over and over again can be a bit disgusting over time. It creates for me the need to eat western food when I’m back on land, so back to paying more…
Transport: 3,000 baht (for scooter rental, monthly fuel and some repairs)
Monthly income tax & social security: 2,700 baht
Visa fees & visa runs: 3,000 baht(working visa setup (5,000 baht, covered at 50% by dive operator + cost of 2 visa runs to Malaysia (4000 for trip + 300 MYR visa fee each) for Non-Immigrant Visa B projected over a 6 months season, brought back to a monthly cost)
Health & Personal Care: 500 baht
Sport: 500 baht
I like to go the gym every now and then, as I believe that scuba diving makes you burn a lot of calories, and makes you skinnier over time. Don’t wanna get too skinny! And the energy, immune system, and general body well being is very welcome too.
Prepaid phone plan with Internet: 300 baht
Miscellaneous: 1,000 baht for laundry, snacks, small equipment,…
Total income: 35,000 baht
Total expenses: 25,000 baht
Savings: 10,000 baht, i.e. 273 euros per month
That’s right, you can still save some money in Thailand, working as a scuba instructor! If you have a lavish, high-alcohol, high-nicotine lifestyle on land when not diving, you could easily be in the red too, but you should be able to make ends meet! A few months of savings will buy your return ticket to Europe if you are careful enough.