International Cost of Living Calculators

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Bhutan, All Areas

Bhutan, All Areas

Cost of living in Bhutan, prices and what it is like to live for an Expat, quality of life / hardship, and compare cost of living for Expatriates as at October 2023.

What is it like to live in Bhutan?

Climate: The climate varies from tropical in the southern plains, to cool winters and hot summers in central valleys and severe winters and cool summers in the Himalayas.

Language: The official language is Dzongkha. It is related to Sikkimese and more distantly to Tibetan. English is taught in schools and is widely spoken.

Religion: Buddhism (official) and Hinduism.

Economy: The economy of Bhutan is based on agriculture, forestry, tourism and the sale of hydroelectric power to India. Agriculture provides the main livelihood for more than 80 percent of the population. Agrarian practices consist largely of subsistence farming and animal husbandry.

Inflation: 4% for Bhutan as at July 2023.

Money: The currency of Bhutan is the Bhutan Ngultrum (BTN). Banking is limited.

Tax: In Bhutan is based on the current personal income tax rates which are progressive up to 30%.

Population: 770,600 (2022 est.)

Expat Life: Bhutanese society is primarily influenced by Buddhism. Business clothing is typically a lightweight suit in the south, however, Thimphu is more formal. It is advisable to dress modestly and to observe and respect local clothing customs. The safety risk for expatriates in Bhutan is low. Risks are mainly those of petty crime, particularly in the border towns. Other risks include those related to the poor road safety and driving conditions. The use of a local driver is recommended.

Health Care: Health care facilities are basic. Altitude sickness can be a challenge for expatriates and visitors. For serious health care treatment, emergency helicopter evacuation to India is usually required.

Bhutan covers all areas within the country other than Thimphu.

Cost Of Living

What is the cost of living in Bhutan?

The cost of living for expatriates in Bhutan as at October 2023 is very low in comparison to other places in the world, with an overall Cost of Living Index (COLI), for all 13 basket groups, of 38.91 (New York =100). We have collected prices for the same items, world wide, based on Expat spending norms, in or closest to the location, and converted them to $USD so that we can compare the cost of 13 different baskets in 780 global locations. For each basket, compared to New York, the equivalent cost in Bhutan is as follows:

1) Alcohol and/or Tobacco: Cost is average for items such as beer, spirits, wine and tobacco related products such as cigarettes. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$700. Average price in a store for a midrange bottle of wine is USD$4.77, domestic/local beer (500ml) USD$13.00, imported/international beer (330ml) USD$1.57 and a pack of 20 cigarettes is USD$6.76.

2) Clothing: Cost is very low for items such as business, casual and children's clothing and footwear. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$330. Average price for an international brand of mens jeans is USD$34, a quality international brand of running shoes USD$43, mens leather shoes suitable for office wear USD$43 while a medium size international summer dress from a global chain store is USD$17.

3) Communication: Cost is low for various communication costs such as home telephone rental, internet subscription, mobile service provider tariff and data costs. A basket costing USD$200 in New York costs USD$120. Average price for a monthly standard plan internet subscription is USD$25, while the benchmark mobile tariff is USD$54.78 per minute.

4) Education: Cost is very low for items such as creche / pre-school fees, primary school fees, high school fees and tertiary study fees. A basket costing USD$30,000 in New York costs USD$9600. Average annual private international school fee (excluding extras) USD$6,287 for Primary School, and USD$6,997 for High School.

5) Furniture & Appliances: Cost is very low for items such as dining table and chairs, home entertainment, kitchen appliances, and sofas. A basket costing USD$2,500 in New York costs USD$1075. Average price for a 6kg front loader Washing Machine is USD$547, and USD$470 for a 46+'' LED UHD TV.

6) Groceries: Cost is very low for items such as consumables, cleaning products, dairy, fresh fruit & vegetables, general food products, snacks, soft drinks. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$410. Average grocery prices in a major international retail store for 1 kg apples is USD$1.90, 1 kg oranges USD$1.39, 1 head lettuce USD$0.56, 1 kg potatos USD$0.34, 1 kg boneless, skinless, chicken breast USD$2.05, 1 kg cheddar cheese USD$2.51, 1 dozen large eggs USD$2.20, 500g loaf white bread USD$0.91, 1 L full cream milk USD$4.21, and 1.5 L water USD$0.46.

7) Healthcare: Cost is very low for general heath care, doctor visits, hospital stays, non-prescription medicine, and medical insurance. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$450. Average healthcare cost for a private practice Doctor visit for an uninsured patient is USD$37, and a private hospital stay per day including nursing care, medications, diagnostic tests, food, and related costs is USD$1,126.

8) Household Accommodation: Cost is very low for items such as apartment rent, house rent, property purchase, mortgage rate, and utilities. A basket costing USD$5,000 in New York costs USD$950. Average expatriate house / apartment rent for a secure upmarket unfurnished apartment (3 bedrooms) is USD$1,151 in a central location, and USD$694 in a suburban location, per month, excluding utilities.

9) Miscellaneous: Cost is low for items such as dry cleaning, linen, magazines, newspapers, office supplies, and postage stamps. A basket costing USD$500 in New York costs USD$235. Average price for dry cleaning (1 mens 2 pc suit) is USD$4.60, while an international newspaper is USD$1.42.

10) Personal Care: Cost is low for items such as cosmetics, hair care, and toiletries. A basket costing USD$500 in New York costs USD$230. Average cost for a mens haircut and blow dry is USD$18, while a womens hair colour, cut and blow dry - medium length is USD$92.

11) Recreation & Culture: Cost is low for items such as books, cinema, sport and theatre tickets. A basket costing USD$500 in New York costs USD$250. Average price for a latest release international cinema ticket (average of on and off peak where applicable) for one adult is USD$4.76, and an international fitness, recreation or sports club membership cost for one adult is USD$93 per month.

12) Restaurants Meals Out and Hotels: Cost is very low for items such as hotel daily room rates, meals and beverages in a restaurant, and take away food and beverages. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$270. Average cappuccino price (regular, medium) is USD$1.79, coke/pepsi (330ml) USD$0.65, burger meal (international franchise or similar) USD$3.98, and a mid-range international restaurant meal for 2 USD$23.84.

13) Transport: Cost is low for items such as fuel (petrol/gasoline), car hire, public transport, vehicle purchase and maintenance. A basket costing USD$1,000 in New York costs USD$590. Average average price over the last year for highest available octane petrol / gasoline (1L) is USD$4.20, while the benchmark car sedan purchase price including taxes/duties for a compact / small / economy vehicle (1.4 L) is USD$15,280.

How does the cost of living in Bhutan compare?

Bhutan is -48.9% cheaper than USA for groceries, -67.9% cheaper for household costs than UK, and 17.1% more expensive for transport costs than India.

What is the quality of life / hardship in Bhutan?

Bhutan is ranked as a high degree of hardship location.The hardship premium for Bhutan for an expat from Australia, is for example 20%, i.e. host location (Bhutan) premium of 30% minus home (Australia) location premium of 10%.

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