We arrived in Chiang Mai, Thailand after spending two weeks traveling throughout Myanmar. We spent two months in Chiang Mai which allowed us enough time to really get a feel for what it’s like to live in this magnificent city. There are an estimated 40,000 expats living in this city and we met so many nice people during our time here. Add in the low cost of living, warm weather, and abundance of activities, and we can understand why so many foreigners have come to live in Chiang Mai.
The cost of living in Chiang Mai is a bit lower than the capital of Bangkok or the southern beaches and islands. We’ll break down our average monthly costs category by category, and also provide some suggested budgets depending on the type of lifestyle you want to live in Chiang Mai.
Our Cost of Living in Chiang Mai
Housing – US$550 Per Month
We stayed in a brand new one-bedroom apartment building with a fitness center and beautiful pool. It was small but had everything we needed. We found this apartment on Airbnb, and the monthly cost of $550 included all utilities and internet.
Food (Groceries and Restaurants) – $362
We enjoyed eating out at some local restaurants while here in Chiang Mai, but most of our food for the month was purchased at the grocery store. You can get a local dish at a food stall for around $1.50, or get a meal at a mid-range restaurant for around $6-$8.
Activities – $319
We bought tickets to attend the Yee Peng festival just outside the city. The highlight of this festival was releasing paper lanterns into the sky. The cost, including dinner and transportation to the festival, was $151 each.
Another activity we enjoyed was spending the day at an elephant rescue camp. We helped prepare food for the elephants, fed them, took them for a walk, and helped bathe them in the river. The cost for this experience was $83 each including transportation to and from the center, and lunch.
Back in the city we took a Thai cooking class so that we could learn how to be expert local chefs. The cost for the half-day class was $28 each.
Transportation – $98
The bus system in Chiang Mai is small but useful, and rides cost $1. A popular method to get around the city is by Songthaew, which are red trucks that act as shared taxis. When one comes by, you wave it down, ask the driver if they are going to your destination, and then hop in the back of the truck if you decide to do so. The cost is usually $1-$2 depending on the distance.
Miscellaneous – $457
Our average monthly miscellaneous expenses were much higher than normal during our time in Chiang Mai. This is mostly because our passports were getting ready to expire. We paid $110 each to get them renewed at the American consulate here. We also paid $63 each to get our Thai visa extended, and bought a new tablet for $185. Add in toiletry items, laundry, and other little items like this and it all adds up.
Health – $587
Whoa, that was a biggie. Our average monthly health spending is usually limited to the $192 premium for our international health insurance policy. But we had heard that medical care is excellent in Thailand, so we basically had every kind of check up you can think of done here: blood tests, dermatology tests, a mammogram (for Emily of course), dental cleanings, and three cavities filled (for Ryan). The service we received was very high quality and so much less expensive than back home. It’s nice that you only need to make your appointment a few days ahead of time. And the doctors and nurses speak English, too.
And The Grand Total for our Cost of Living in Chiang Mai (Drum Roll Please…)
Adding up the categories described above, our total average monthly spending came to $2,373. We averaged $2,000 per month during our past year of travel in South America, so this was a little bit higher than normal for us. But it was still reasonable considering our health checkups and passport renewal. Note that the total spending here does not include our flight to Thailand or some donations that we made.
We loved our time in Chiang Mai and are already planning to come back here next year. It’s a beautiful city, offers so many opportunities to connect with other expats and locals, and is very affordable. If you don’t believe us, come see for yourself!