Chiang Mai is a city rich in culture and history. Temples (or wats) are scattered everywhere throughout the city. You can socialize with a combination of happy, local Thai people and the expat community. There’s plenty of workshops and activities to do throughout the city. And it’s easy to find a place with good WiFi!
If you’re a digital nomad planning to spend some days glued to your laptop, Chiang Mai has everything you could be looking for: great food, WiFi, and coffee.
There are even plenty of things to see and do when you want to take a break from the computer: hiking, shopping, exploring wats (Buddhist temples), and even a waterpark!
Plus, the people here are extremely friendly. Almost too friendly at times.
During my first month in Chiang Mai, a restaurant owner went out of his way to grab us a couple beers from 7-11. Then, he refused a tip for his kindness and insisted we give the extra baht to one of his employees instead!
Cost of living in Chiang Mai varies. You can spend as little as $500.00 USD in one month living in Chiang Mai. After spending a few months here, I found my average cost of living to be somewhere between $800 – $1,000 (eating at a mixture of Thai and Western restaurants, drinking, going out and treating myself).
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Cost of Living for 30 Days in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Accommodation/Rent: 5,000 baht – 14,000 baht (varies)
- Airbnb: Approximately $450+ USD or 15,000 baht for a one bedroom with kitchennette, fitness center + pool
- Apartment/Flat: A safe average for an apartment or studio would be between 5,000 and 14,000, depending on location and amenities. Popular neighborhoods to live are Nimmanhaemin, Santitham, and Jed Yod.
- In the City 24/7 Hostel + Coworking Space: 330 baht per night (one daily meal + coworking inclusive)
So far, I’ve found nothing similar to In the City Hostel + Coworking around the world! It’s a coliving space and coworking office. The people there are typically laid back digital nomads who stay in Chiang Mai for longer periods of time. If you want a comfortable place to transition into Chiang Mai, I recommend In the City! Even when I’m at an apartment, I typically work from In the City during the week!
Eating Out (Western Meal): 120 – 400 baht
- Enjoy a burger at Rock Me Burger for less than 300 baht, Japanese food, an English breakfast for less than 200 baht, etc.
Eating Out (Thai restaurant): 30 – 100 baht
- Even if you don’t know Thai, many of the restaurants come with photos so you have an idea of what to expect (and can point at the photos when you order)!
Coffee: 45 – 90 baht
- Grab rideshare (mobile app): between 40 – 200 baht per ride
- Songthaew: 30 baht
- Tuk Tuk: 60 baht + (I found tuk tuks in Chiang Mai to be pretty expensive!)
- Mobike bicycle share (mobile app): 10 baht for 20 minutes
Laundry: 40 baht per kg
Massage: varies between 200 – 600 baht
Visa Extension: 1,900 baht
What to Do in Chiang Mai
Visit Wat Doi Suthep
On most of our daily walks, we admired the sight of Wat Doi Suthep sitting at the top of Doi Suthep mountain on the edge of Chiang Mai.
So of course, we had to visit.
When you visit Chiang Mai, set aside some time to visit Wat Doi Suthep. We actually walked from town and hiked our way up the mountain, but Wat Doi Suthep is easily accessible by car.
Wat Doi Suthep is a very beautiful, intricate temple.
Like with all Wats in Thailand, as a woman you must dress modestly. This means wearing a top that covers your shoulders, and pants that go below your knees.
Behind the temple, you also get a gorgeous view of Chiang Mai city.
Entrance Fee: 30 baht per person
Approximate Cost of Taking a Songthaew down: 60 baht per person
Visit Wat Pha Lat
Wat Pha Lat must currently be an underrated part of Chiang Mai, because when we went there were hardly any others there (especially compared to the amount of people who visited Wat Doi Suthep).
It’s a beautiful temple in a quiet setting. You can visit Wat Pha Lat on your way up to Wat Doi Suthep.
Wat Pha Lat is one of those places you should not miss when you’re visiting Chiang Mai. It’s one of those places so peaceful, and so beautiful, I’m thinking about going again.
Want to hike up, too? Read Hiking Up to Wat Pha Lat (and Wat Doi Suthep) on the blog The Daily Pursuit.
Walk through Sunday Night Market
Every Sunday evening, two main roads that cut through the center of Old Town are transformed into one of the biggest markets you will ever come across. You can buy handcrafted gifts, listen to old-fashioned Thai music, watch street performers, and sample local delicacies.
Old town’s Sunday Night Market is definitely worth experiencing at least once while you spend time here. If you’re not good in crowded spaces, maybe pass on this one.
If you plan on buying something, this is the place to try and haggle to get the most bang for your baht.
Visit Maya Mall
Maya Mall is a high-end shopping center just outside Old Town Chiang Mai. It’s not just a shopping center, either. It’s also a hub with a ton of different things to do… including some form of Dance, Dance Revolution!
It has a ton of highlights:
- arcade (ddr, karaoke, tekken, basketball)
- rooftop bars + restaurants
- movie theatre
- japanese food!
- grocery store
Although its pricing can be expensive compared to the rest of Chiang Mai, you can easily have a fun “date night” for around $30 total (a nice dinner, a few beers, arcade games galore).
Chiang Rai Province Day Trip
While you’re in Chiang Mai, you can hire a tour company or private driver to take you to visit Chiang Rai. The tour company Stay in Chiang Mai Tours took us to visit Chiang Rai Province. You have options to take a full day trip or a half day trip.
The full day trip includes:
- a knowledgeable, English-speaking tour guide (our guide also spoke Chinese!)
- passes to see the famous + beautiful White Temple, the Baan Dam Museum (Black House), and a visit to the Karen Hill Tribe Village
- a delicious, filling lunch. They cater to vegetarians as well.
- Golden Triangle Experience (Myanmar, Thailand, Laos): You will need to bring your passport if you want to do this section of the trip (they will not stamp it). They take you on a longboat on the Mekong River to be in the middle of three different countries. It is a cool experience and they make a pit stop at a trading center in Laos where you can buy souvenirs and Laos Snake Whiskey.
Cost: 1800 baht per person (around $55-60)
Visit Catmosphere Cat Café
If you need a little cattitude in your life, Catmosphere Cat Café is nothing less than purrfect. Your admission fee can be as little as ordering something like a coffee or smoothie on the menu.
The staff are nice, the cats are cute, what’s more to ask for in life?
Other Things to Do in Chiang Mai
- Learn to make authentic Thai dishes by taking a cooking class
- Go to the Night Bazaar east of the wall
- Visit the zoo
- Walk around Chiang Mai University
- Explore Old Town and all of its rich history
- Experience the energetic night life of Nimmanhaemin Road
Tips to Travel Chiang Mai on a Budget
- Find an apartment or accommodation instead of using Airbnb
- Eat at local restaurants – they’re delicious anyway!
- Jump in a songthaew instead of a Grab
- Put your sales skills to the test and haggle. Every price in Southeast Asia is negotiable, except when it’s written down.
What to Read Before You Visit Chiang Mai
Navigating Chiang Mai was helpful and inspired by some of the following articles:
- Things to Know Before Visiting Thailand by Nichole of The Daily Pursuit
- Where to Find an Apartment Rental in Chiang Mai by Mike of Hobo With a Laptop
- How to Extend a Thai Tourist Visa in Chiang Mai by Chris and Angela of Tieland to Thailand
If you’re really interested in visiting Chiang Mai for an extended period of time, all three of those blogs have TONS of information about Chiang Mai, and Thailand in general.
What’s on your travel list?
I love slow travel and Chiang Mai is perfect for that. You can get cozy, enjoy the community, and get lost exploring the ins & outs of the city.
So, jetsetter. Are you going to visit the beautiful city of Chiang Mai anytime soon?
Let me know your wanderlustin’ dreams and goals in the comments!