Living in Chiang Mai | The Complete Guide for Digital Nomads

living in Chiang Mai

It’s been several months now that I have been living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My plan was to use this snug little city as my home base while I run around doing my crazy shenanigans and building my YouTube channel and blog.

All I can say is that I honestly love it. I am able to spend as much as I want without fear of going broke. And it has given me the focus that I needed on my financial freedom journey.

If you want to keep expenses low without fear of living on your parents couch, do yourself a favor and find out how living in Chiang Mai could be one of the best decisions you could possibly make.

Here is what we are going to go over in today’s guide

Cost of living in Chiang Mai Thailand

One of the biggest reasons why I love living in Thailand is the cost of living. It is so cheap to live here it is ridiculous. You can get a pretty spacey apartment for around $200 to $300. And if you really want to live lavish, higher end apartments range from $600 to $800.

Food is not so bad either. I eat out for every single meal. I can easily walk from my apartment to any local restaurant. Any type of food you can possibly imagine is only just a 5 minute walk from where I live in the Nimmanhaeman Road area. I eat A LOT of food. But still, I only spend no more than $10 to maybe $15 a day on my meals. And since I never do my own cooking, it feels like I have my own private chef.

When I want to relax a bit and maybe get a drink, I take a $1-$2 Uber or Grab ride down to Zoe in Yellow, a popular bar for backpackers, where I can enjoy a couple of drinks for only a couple of dollars and hang out with a bunch of other travelers from all over the world.

And whenever I get bored of the city or need to take a Visa run, I can simply take a $30 to $60 flight to a neighboring country and do some exploring.

In total, I probably spend less than $1000 a month. Not too bad considering the fact that the lifestyle I live here would cost anywhere from $5000 to $7000 a month in the United States.

Finding a Place to Live

Whenever I want to live in a new city, the first thing I do is get a hotel or an airbnb. My goal is to test the area out first to see if it has everything I need. For example, when I first got to Chiang Mai, I knew that I wanted to live near a coworking space, a gym, a Muay Thai gym, and by a bunch of restaurants.

The first thing that I prioritized was that it needed to be by a coworking space so that I can mingle with other digital nomads. Because of that, the apartment I picked is extremely close to the two coworking spaces in Chiang Mai. I am only a 5 minute walk from Punspace and a 15 minute walk from CAMP in Maya Mall.

living in chiang mai Punspace
All the digital nomads in Punspace working from their laptops

From there, I found out that there was also a gym, a Muay Thai gym, and a bunch of restaurants near the area as well.

The moment I found the general area that I liked, that is when I started looking for apartments. Apartment hunting is extremely easy and has no commitment. I secured a fully furnished apartment with a flat screen TV, newly installed hardwood floors, and a mountain side view for around $200/month. Oh and it gets better. I’m not locked into this apartment for a year like most apartments in the U.S. The amazing thing about Chiang Mai apartments are that “the lease” is month to month meaning I can leave this apartment and find another one or move to another country whenever I want to.

How to Get Around

For me, getting around is easy. I simply put my shoes on, and walk 5 minutes to wherever the hell I want to go. If I want to go somewhere a little further, I can simply get a Grab Taxi for only a couple of dollars that would pretty much take me wherever I want to go in the city. I enjoy Grab more than Uber here in Thailand because there is a chat box function that allows you to talk to the driver and translates the language that he is typing in into english which makes it easier for me to communicate with them.

For those that like to have more freedom, a motorbike is only around $70-$100/month to rent. Not to shabby.

How to Make Friends

One of my biggest fears when moving to a new city alone was that I would have no friends. This was what initially prevented me from pulling the trigger and making the move here to Thailand.

But as scary as moving to a new place with people that you don’t know can be, the transition over was not so bad at all.

The best way I learned to make friends here is by finding people with similar goals as me. Those are the people that I would have the most in common with.

For example, I value freedom over anything else, and because of that, I knew I didn’t want to work a job my entire life – which ultimately made me figure out how to make money online.

It turns out, this was a huge motivator for other people that moved to Chiang Mai as well. And because of that, coworking spaces like CAMP and Punspace started popping up in the area which are places where these digital nomads could go to work on their laptops and hang out.

This is where I found my first couple of friends out here. It was as easy as strolling up to the coworking space and saying what’s up to the people that you are sharing the table with.

Another goal of mine was to become better at self defense. Because of that, I ended up enrolling in Muay Thai training sessions just down the street.

It was when I started doing Muay Thai did I not only make a bunch of friends, but it was the first time that I actually felt like I had a family to go to here in Thailand.

What was cool was everyone that trained in Muay Thai was from all over the world. There were also some locals that attended too. One of them was this woman named Mam, which I call mom, because every other week she invites all of the people that train at the gym to her restaurant and feeds us!

living in chiang mai restaurant
All the Muay Thai homies being fed at Mam’s restaurant

I ended up clicking with these people the most because we didn’t have to talk about business all the time (my usual conversations with people) when we hung out. All we did was we enjoyed each other’s company and went on travel excursions on the weekends.

Surprisingly, there were also a bunch of pretty girls that would go too, which is a plus for a single digital nomad in his early 20’s like myself 🙂

Ways to Make Money and Earn a Living

One of my favorite concepts in the world is Geoarbitrage – a concept made popular by The 4 Hour Work Week. What it means in english is making money in dollars or euros and spending it in places with Baht or Pesos – making the cost of living far more cheaper to you than to the locals.

Many people that find work in Chiang Mai are teachers that are hired by the schools and universities to teach English. That is awesome and all but the downside is you get paid in Thai Baht.

$1 US Dollar = ~34 Thai Baht

What I recommend is to find ways to make money in a stronger currency and using that money to enjoy a higher quality of life with far less costs than you would normally pay in places like the U.S. and places in Europe.

For example here is the power of Geoarbitrage:

The best way to do this is to find ways to make money online. Here are some ideas:

Living in Chiang Mai – In Conclusion

At the end of the day, living in Chiang Mai was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It gave me the focus I needed to build my businesses. And it was also the place where I made some lifelong friendships.

But the most important aspect of living in Chiang Mai was that it allowed me to further progress my journey towards financial freedom. So that I could continue to live an abundant, adventure filled life with the people I care about.

Find out more by reading: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom

Question: If you had a chance to live anywhere in the world.. where would it be? Leave a comment below!

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About the author 

Mike Vestil

Mike Vestil is an author, investor, and speaker known for building a business from zero to $1.5 million in 12 months while traveling the world.

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