Cost of Living Chiang Mai

Before Dave and I moved to Chiang Mai we had pored over different blogs from other digital nomads and travellers who had based themselves there. We realised it is possible to over-prepare yourself for a move and we were definitely guilty of that after reading so many ‘cost of living Chiang Mai’ posts.

We had looked online for different rental properties, visa runs, monthly spend and we had already started joining the many Facebook groups for expats in Chiang Mai before we arrived… Don’t get me wrong, it was all useful information that we were finding, but sometimes you just need to dive straight in and figure things out for yourself.

Graffiti in Chiang MaiFor a long time we had been unsure whether the blogosphere really needed another account of someone’s monthly spend in Chiang Mai – There are quite a few already, but most of the monthly spend recaps were from vegetarians who didn’t seem to drink much. (We’ve listed some examples below).

So with the risk of sounding like a bogan, (Australian slang) Dave and I were really surprised at how our spend compared to the others – considering we are beer-swilling omnivores ;-)

Dave and I have become quite talented at the art of thrift. We had to. We had been trying to save the majority of our wages back when we were living in the world’s 3rd most expensive city – Sydney. Therefore our budget breakdown figure is probably a good indication of the lower end of your monthly expenditure that you can use for two people living together.

Our Monthly Spend for Chiang Mai

Spend

Thai Baht

US Dollar

Rent – 1 bedroom flat

8000

278.62

Water

150

5.22

Electricity

560

19.50

Internet – 2 devices

600

20.90

Transport

700

24.38

Groceries

3386

117.93

Eating out

5267

183.44

Laundry

150

5.22

Medicines

684

23.82

Alcohol

2286

79.62

Cinema tickets and snacks

680

23.68

Miscellaneous

348

12.12

Total

22811

794.46

Which is just under US$400 each a month.

How we Kept our Figures so Low?

As you can see, we spent quite a lot less in transport costs compared to the other blogs that we have listed below. We only hired a moped for day trips out of the city with friends or if we just wanted to go explore for a few days. We found Chiang Mai to be so small that we were happy to walk everywhere. Also, you would be surprised at how much more you can take in from a city when you are not hooning about on a moped everywhere.

We lived a couple of streets away from the old town and Nimmanheiman Road – these were the main areas that we would visit within the city.

Food stalls in Chiang MaiWe only really ate Thai food, except for breakfast. This was normally oats or cereal bought from the supermarket. Our average spend for a meal eaten out was between 25-40 Baht each and contrary to what a lot of blogs will tell you, this will get you a lot more than just Pad Thai. If you watch where the locals eat, you will find some amazing and cheap curries, soups and stir-fries. A lot of times our 25 baht spend would also include a soup and drinking water as well.. Bonus!!

As mentioned, the majority of our meals were eaten out at food stalls or small restaurants. But we also found a great market near our place that would sell us four curries for 60 Baht – add some rice or noodles and you have your next four meals ready to be warmed up at home. We quickly learnt that the supermarket isn’t the cheapest place to do your shopping, unless you’re hitting one of the bigger supermarkets in the evening.

Chiang Mai foodA great money saving tip we learned is to only withdraw money from Aeon ATMs. This is the only way you can avoid the 150 Baht charge for withdrawals. You can find these ATMs normally at any of the big supermarket centres (Big C, giant Tesco Lotus) and in a few of the shopping centres (Airport Plaza, Siam TV Building, Pantip Plaza).

We had a lot of fun while we were in Chiang Mai and managed to spend so little. We weren’t always conscious of living cheaply, but it is easy to do if you are not going out drinking every night.  I guess being thrifty is a skill that is hard to lose!

Where we Could Have Spent Less?

We could have easily spent half the amount on rent and gone for a studio apartment, but as we were spending so much time at home working we really enjoyed having 2 rooms and a bigger place with balconies.

Our trip to the cinema was quite an indulgence for us and not something that we would do every month. Although visiting a Thai cinema was well worth it, even just for the moving rendition of “Long Live the King” which is played before the beginning of all movies.

The medicine spend was a one off – we were feeling a bit rundown and bought a lot of multivitamins.

The miscellaneous expenses were for travel items in preparation for our visa run to Laos later in the month. If you are taking one of the overnight minibuses, make sure you invest in a travel pillow if you want to get any sleep. (Also go directly to the bus company to book it as opposed to the numerous travel agents for obvious reasons).

Links to other Chiang Mai Monthly Spend Posts

As promised, here are links to some other blogs who have mentioned their monthly spend while they were in Chiang Mai. Overall you should get a pretty good idea of what your budget can be over one month.

Never Ending Voyage – Monthly Spend

A Little Adrift – Monthly Spend

Magic Travel Blog – Monthly Spend

Alyona Travels – Monthly Spend

Big Little Planet – Monthly Spend

How was your spending in Chiang Mai? Check out how we thought Chiang Mai compared as a digital nomad hotspot

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Comments

  1. says

    ????????? Just stumbled across your blog from the StudioPress forums and I had to comment on this post.

    You hit the nail on the head. You can’t really go by what everyone else is saying. I was able to live well in Bangkok for as much as you were spending in Chiang Mai. It all depends on how well you integrate with the culture and your own lifestyle needs.

    The main thing that surprises me is how much you spent on food. I had two pretty solid meals a day, and a whole mess of milk tea, plus snacks for about 2500 ??? a month. I actually ended up putting on several kilos haha.

    I’m actually beginning my own online presence now to build up some passive income so I can do what you guys are doing, although I’ll be spending probably all my time in SE Asia as I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d wanna live in the world. So, much respect to you guys for doing what you do, and I hope I’ll be joining you shortly!

    • Dave Erin says

      Hi Dallas,

      Remember the figures we have given was for two people, we were spending around 2600 baht per month on food each.

      We’re actually heading back to Thailand in November so perhaps we will cross paths at some point! Good luck with your online work and passive income. I’ll be sure to keep checking out your site!

      Dave

  2. Dave says

    Yours is the first blog I’ve found that accurately represents the costs of living in Chiang Mai. My Thai wife and I live in Doi Saket (about 12 miles out), buy our food at the local markets and take a ‘yellow car’ into town when we want to go shopping for a whole 18 baht (54 cents) so the cost of living like a local is even lower than what you posted above.

    My biggest surprise was the cost of medical care – I went over the handlebars of my mountain bike on a gravel road and face-planted Superman-style. Instead of going to one of the major hospitals, my wife took me to the local clinic. The doctor (not a nurse) spent a half hour picking gravel out of my face, arms and knees, bandaged me up and gave me antibiotics and painkillers. He apologized that he would have to charge me full price since I wasn’t a Thai national – 150 baht – a whole $4.50. That’s what I call Affordable Care (anyone in Washington reading this?)

    • Dave Erin says

      Hey Dave!

      Ooh sounds like the bike injury would have hurt!

      We did consider living a little bit further out from the city also, but we didn’t know in which direction to head. We are back in Chiang Mai now actually and have spent slightly more on accommodation this time as we wanted a kitchen.

      We will tally up the difference in total spend and perhaps write a second post. Having a kitchen isn’t actually working out to be too much more expensive, especially now we can buy raw ingredients from the local markets and cook large dishes.

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