Chiang Mai is a city rich in culture and history. Temples (or Wats) are scattered throughout the city. The people are kind, humble, and happy. There’s something to do everywhere you turn. And the WiFi is not too shabby for southeast Asia.
If you’re looking for a place rich in culture, it’s hard to miss Chiang Mai. Especially if you’re a digital nomad planning to spend some days glued to your laptop, Chiang Mai has everything you’re looking for: great food, good 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), waterparks, elephant sanctuaries (stay away from the ones who offer elephant rides), and much more!
Plus, the people here are extremely friendly. Almost too friendly at times.
One night at dinner, a restaurant owner went out of his way to get us a couple beers. THEN, he refused a tip for his service and insisted we give the extra baht to one of his cooks instead.
It’s a totally different atmosphere over here.
Well let’s get down to the cost of living. It took us a little while to get on our feet and figure out a good system. Once you find the places you like to eat, kill time, and have fun, it gets easier to keep a budget. I’ll go into the things that make Chiang Mai an extraordinary place after the breakdown.
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Cost of Living for 30 Days in Chiang Mai, Thailand
*Keep in mind this total cost is for TWO people.
So if you’re traveling as an individual, you may end up spending half of what we did. Or just as much. We also are frugal by nature, and only had 1 day per week where we allowed ourselves to spend mindlessly (rooftop bars, transportation, food, etc).
Accommodation / Rent: $459.90 through Airbnb (one bedroom apartment outside city center with kitchenette, fitness center, + pool)
Approximately 14,951 baht, which is actually pretty expensive for Chiang Mai.
Depending on when you visit, it could be easy to find an apartment, especially on Nimmanhaemin Road aka “Nimman.” We booked through Airbnb because we didn’t want to spend time after arrival stressing out finding somewhere to stay.
Haven’t tried Airbnb before? Click here to claim $40 of Airbnb travel credit. This credit is free and never expires, so you can claim it now before you forget.
Update: During the last week of my stay, I stayed at In the City 24/7 Hostel + Coworking Space. I LOVED it. 330 baht per night, weekly rates, free breakfast, and the fastest WiFi in Chiang Mai. 10/10 would recommend.
Week 1: 4,190 baht spent
- Eating Out: 1,834 baht (approximately $56.42)
- Groceries + Cost of Living (7/11, water, laundry, etc.): 1,361 baht (approximately $41.87)
- Treat yo self (beer, going out, smoothies, etc.): 539 baht (approximately $16.59)
- Transportation (Grab, Uber, Taxi): 456 baht (approximately $14.03)
Total Expenses for Week 1: 4,190 baht (approximately $128.89 between two people)
Week 2: 5,240 baht spent
- Eating Out: 3,117 baht (approximately $95.88 – we splurged on seafood for Thanksgiving, which was ONE THIRD of this total)
- Groceries/Living (7/11, water, laundry, etc.): 1,105 baht (approximately $33.99)
- Treat yo self (beer, fun stuff, smoothies, etc.): 772 baht (approximately $23.75)
- Transportation (Grab, Uber, Taxi): 246 baht (approximately $7.57)
Total Expenses for Week 2: 5,240 baht (approximately $161.19 between two people)
Week 3: 2,522 baht spent
- Eating Out: 517 baht (approximately $15.90)
- Groceries/Living (7/11, water, laundry, etc.): 1,358 baht (approximately $41.77)
- Treat yo self (beer, fun stuff, smoothies, etc.): 647 baht (approximately $19.90)
- Transportation (Grab, Uber, Taxi): 0 baht (this was a chillaxing week)
Total Expenses for Week 3: 2,522 baht (approximately $77.58 between two people)
Week 4: 3,309 baht spent
- Eating Out: 740 baht (approximately $22.76)
- Groceries/Living (7/11, water, laundry, etc.): 1,561 baht (approximately $48.02)
- Treat yo self (beer, fun stuff, smoothies, etc.): 508 baht (approximately $15.62)
- Transportation (Grab, Uber, Taxi): 500 baht (approximately $15.38)
Total Expenses for Week 4: 3,309 baht (approximately $101.79 between two people)
Days 29 & 30: 5,372 baht spent
- Eating Out: 819 baht (approximately $25.19)
- Groceries/Living (7/11, water, laundry, etc.): 302 baht (approximately $9.29)
- Treat yo self (beer, fun stuff, smoothies, etc.): 240 baht (approximately $7.38)
- Transportation (Grab, Uber, Taxi): 211 baht (approximately $6.49)
- 30 Day Visa Extension (x2): 3,800 baht (approximately $116.89)
Total Expenses for Days 29 & 30: 5,372 baht (approximately $165.25 between two people)
Grand 30 Day Total for 2 People: approximately $1,094.59 with accommodation
- Without the 30 Day Visa Extension: approximately $997.70 with accommodation
- Total Cost Per Person for 30 Days: approximately $547.30 USD per person
Food in Chiang Mai
The important thing to remember about food is you can find a meal at a local restaurant for 30-50 baht per person. Once you settle down and explore alley ways where the cheap food hides, it’s easier to get into a budget routine. Also if you want to drink, expect to pay between 60 to 100 baht for a brew.
- Fancy Meal at a Snazzy Joint: 500 baht and up ($15+) per person. Expect great service and the freshest of foods.
- Middle Class Meals: 150 to 500 baht ($5 – $15) per person. Want a burger with fries? Nice sushi? Spend this.
- Keep it Local: 30 to 100 baht ($1 – $3) per person. Pad thai. Point at pictures if you don’t know Thai. Delicious, simple, and easy. Most food carts, and small local restaurants will offer their best dishes at these prices. Or you can just buy meat and rice dishes for even less!
- Order In from Foodpanda: around 200 baht ($6+) per person. Local cuisine brought right to your door.
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
- Visit an elephant sanctuary
- 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 outside city center (Nimmanhaemin seems overrated if you’re on a budget)
- Eat at local restaurants – they’re delicious anyway!
- Download Grab and Uber. Always compare prices, as they can be dramatically different at the same time.
- 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!
P.S. If you’re flirting with the idea of traveling around the world while you work… make sure to download our Digital Nomad Financial Planner.
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