I'm Amanda. I'm a business and marketing coach for ambitious entrepreneur who want to create a freedom lifestyle. I travel around the world full time and spent most my days in Thailand, Vietnam or Bali. I'm a strategy and systems girl and here to help you scale your business and become unstoppable.
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Chiang Mai, the capital of northern Thailand, is an incredible place to base your laptop lifestyle. The city is bursting with culture and activity, and there’s something for everyone: from festivals to temples to visiting with elephants.
One of the major draws of this top digital nomad destination is the low cost of living. But just how much does it cost to live in Chiang Mai? We’ll be diving into all that and more in this post!
Keep reading or watch the video below for a complete breakdown of the cost of living in Chiang Mai!
Thailand was the first place I moved after deciding to quit my 9 to 5 and travel the world, and I never looked back!
Chiang Mai is a bustling city with a small neighbourhood feel. It offers all the modern conveniences you’re used to, at a fraction of the cost. There’s a large community of expats and digital nomads, plenty of things to see and do, and the food is out of this world.
For a more in-depth guide to life in Chiang Mai (included a list of detailed pros and cons), check out my Chiang Mai Digital Nomad Guide.
Below is a sample of what we personally spent as a couple living in Chiang Mai (prices per person).
We chose to spend more on a few extra activities, including weekly Thai massages (which are pretty essential, if you ask me!). We also spent a fair amount on coffee and occasionally ate out at pricey western style restaurants.
Like most places, your budget is what you make it. You can live very comfortably in Chiang Mai on $650 USD/month or less. Now let’s break down each category to help you decide where to save and where to splurge!
Housing in Chiang Mai runs the full range from basic to luxury. Most digital nomads in the area can expect to pay between $300-700 USD a month for rent. Living as a couple or with a friend is a great way to save money. We (my significant other and I) ended up paying $542 USD/month plus about $30 USD in utilities.
Our apartment was a full one bedroom with modern finishes, and the building had a gym and lobby to work out of as well. Remember you can negotiate on rent (we negotiated ours down quite a bit), and make sure to check the wifi speed before signing. You can watch our full Chiang Mai apartment hunting video here!
The best way to use your phone abroad is to unlock it and purchase a Thai SIM card at the airport or in the city. The two major companies in Thailand are TrueMove and AIS, and we paid $15 USD/month for unlimited data with TrueMove.
In general, wifi in Thailand is great. We rarely ever had problems with our phone data, home wifi, or public wifis as far as speeds and connectivity. Internet may be included in your rent or as an extra utility, so make sure you ask!
One of the best parts about living in Thailand is the fantastic (and fantastically cheap) food! You could have the best meal of your life for under $2.50 USD. We typically ate out three meals a day at restaurants and small food stalls and spent about $150 USD/month each.
Average cost per meal: 35-75 THB ($1-2 USD).
Be aware: Chiang Mai has some great western and fine dining restaurants, but if you choose to eat there regularly, your budget will skyrocket! You can read some of my Chiang Mai restaurant and cafe recommendations in this post.
You likely won’t cook much in Chiang Mai, but you’ll probably still buy some snacks or breakfast food. You’ll also need to buy bottled water as you cannot drink the tap water in Thailand.
If you’re looking to save money, make sure you buy extra large water jugs and refill at water filling stations. Not only is this better for the environment, but it’s cheaper than buying small plastic bottles over and over again.
We bought all our groceries at a grocery store in Maya Mall called Rimping. They had everything we needed (including gluten free goods!). You can also try 7/11, which is the main convenience store in Thailand. In total, we spent about $80-100 USD a month on groceries and bottled water.
This could be an extra or an essential, depending on how much of a coffee lover you are! We personally bought at least one coffee a day almost seven days a week, for a total cost of $35 USD a month.
Average cost of Thai coffee: 30-50 THB ($1.00-1.50 USD).
We also spent more money in this category, because we went to cafes to work everyday (see recommendations here!). You could cut costs by working from home and making coffee part of your grocery run.
Chiang Mai is a fairly walkable city, however if you are living outside the city center you will want to consider using the two main modes of transportation: renting a scooter or songthaws.
We didn’t rent scooters because there are typically a lot of police checkpoints in Chiang Mai and at the time we didn’t have a motorcycle license. Luckily, songthaews (shared taxis) run regularly all around the city and are by far the cheapest and easiest way to get around Chiang Mai (each ride costs less than $1 USD).
Tip: Don’t ask how much a Songthaew ride costs. The price is always the same, unless you’re going an extra long distance, in which case the driver will let you know the price.
Taxis are generally safe to use in Thailand and we use them fairly regularly as well. Only use taxis that turn on their meter. Don’t ask for the price or try to negotiate a fixed price. If they won’t use the meter, I recommend waiting for another taxi. You can also use Grab, which is a pickup company similar to Uber.
We spent a little extra to rent an apartment with a gym, but if your building doesn’t have one there are still lots of options. The gym in the top level of Maya Mall–Maxx Professional Fitness–is popular with Chiang Mai digital nomads and costs about $30 USD a month.
We also joined a Muay Thai gym, which is a bit of a pricier option, but super fun if you can afford it! We used the Chiang Mai Muay Thai Gym located downtown, where classes cost 300 THB ($9.50 USD).
These are all the extras we personally spent money on (not included in the cost of living estimate). Any of these could be reduced or eliminated to cut expenses, but these estimates should give you a better idea for your own budget.
If you’ve never had one before, let me tell you: Thai massages are an experience. We absolutely love them, and they’re also super cheap ($6-9 USD for an hour). Weekly massages are a great luxury that most people would never spend the money on at home.
Haircuts are also cheaper than in the states: a men’s haircut or beard trim is about $3 USD and a regular women’s cut is about $15 USD. I also paid about $150 USD for a keratin treatment, which normally cost $500+ USD back home!
There are so many things to see in and around Chiang Mai that we mostly travelled locally. Each month, we spent about $200 USD on travel, including accommodation, transportation and tour fees.
To give you an idea of cost, a popular night out for Chiang Mai digital nomads might be to go to the night market (which is technically free) or go see a movie at Maya Mall. For two people, seeing a movie costs about 250 THB ($8 USD).
Of course not everyone takes vitamins while traveling, but if you do (or are curious how much vitamins cost in Thailand), we spent about $25-30 USD a month.
We didn’t include this in the cost of living estimate because the prices vary so much based on your visa. Wherever you travel, make sure you have insurance! We use Safety Wing insurance and I highly recommend them for all digital nomads and travellers.
Our total cost of living in Chiang Mai comes to $671 USD per month, not including the extra categories mentioned above. I would say $650 USD is a good baseline for your minimum expenses. From there, any travel or extras activities will add to your budget.
The two largest categories are food and rent, so if you’re looking to save money make sure you watch our Chaing Mai apartment hunting video for all the tips! And if you’re still saving up for the move, check out this post to help you calculate the cost of moving abroad.
I hope you found this guide to the cost of living in Chiang Mai helpful! You can subscribe to my Youtube channel here for all the latest digital nomad content, or join us over in the Laptop Lifestyle Entrepreneur Facebook group.
If moving to Thailand still seems like a distant dream, make sure you download the Laptop Lifestyle Blueprint, a free 30 day guide to starting an online business and building your own laptop lifestyle!