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Cost of living in Chiang Mai as a digital nomad

Cost of living in Chiang Mai, Thailand as a digital nomad in May 2022

Are you wondering how much it would cost to live in Chiang Mai for a few weeks, or even months? 

I had the pleasure of living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for 34 days as part of my digital nomad journey around Southeast Asia. And I kept track of all of my spending (literally ALL of it!). From credit card charges to cash spending, I made sure to document how much each meal, shopping, accommodation, taxi fare, and everything in between costs. Mostly as a way to keep track of my spending and budget while living abroad, but also to be able to share my experience and knowledge with you. 

Obviously, each person would probably spend different amounts based on their habits. But as a budget traveler, living off of my savings, and traveling slowly around the country, I tried to spend as little as possible but still be able to sightsee, eat delicious meals and enjoy my life abroad.

I separated my spendings into 10 categories. Some of these categories are everyday spendings, and some are things I spent extra money on or aren’t really a cost of living. Below the table, I explain each one in more detail.

Cost of living table- Chiang Mai

1. Necessary flights – $67 USD

This is the cost of my one-way flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Although technically this cost is not actually a cost of living, I added it as part of my costs of living in Chiang Mai to keep track of how much I’m spending on flight tickets from one place to another, which IS a necessary cost nonetheless. But this cost will depend A LOT on where you’re coming from and if you’re only buying a one-way ticket or a round-trip flight. 

Extra flights – $0 USD

While in Chiang Mai, I didn’t really take any extra flights. Just stayed in the city or nearby cities that were accessible by car. I spent a bit on this category while living in Bangkok in April, so I wanted to save money this month and travel more locally.

Transportation – $26 USD

Unlike Bangkok where most of the transportation I took was on taxis, in Chiang Mai they have these things called songthaews. Songthaews are basically pick-up trucks that are converted into 2-row seat red “buses” that take you almost anywhere in the city for 30 THB ($1 USD). So, even though I took like 15 of these, this cost was never gonna be too much at that low price. Also, Chiang Mai is very walkable and small enough that you can go anywhere on foot, so I saved a lot of money by just walking to places.

Long-term accommodations – $393 USD

Long-term accommodations are the hotels or Airbnbs I stay at for most of the time I’m in a city. In this case, I stayed at Cozytel hotel (through Airbnb) in the Old City of Chiang Mai. This cost will vary depending on the type of accommodation you stay at (like staying at a hotel over staying at a hostel) and if you’re sharing the cost with someone else. 

Hotel getaways – $0 USD

While in Chiang Mai, I didn’t really stay anywhere else other than Cozytel hotel. I had considered staying a night at Chai La Orchid hotel in the mountains of Chiang Mai but a night costs around $60-70 USD and getting there would’ve been another $60 USD, so I decided not to and save money on this category.

Food – $401 USD

Food is definitely one of my biggest costs so far and definitely a necessary one. I honestly tried to eat as much local food as possible, and I sometimes tried to go for something “cheap” from the menu. But other times I would just get what I wanted regardless of the cost. With that being said, the average cost of my meals was around 150 THB [$4.50 USD], with none of them surpassing 300 THB [$9 USD]. Part of this cost also includes a few beers or cocktails I would have with my meal, as well as non-alcoholic drinks like water, coffee, and smoothies. And since I didn’t have a kitchen, I had to eat out almost every meal (except the occasional cereal breakfast I would have in my hotel room, which is still included in that cost).

Alcohol – $38 USD

As I mentioned in the food category, some of the alcohol costs were just added to the full meal and not individually. But whenever I would go out for just a drink or actually documented the alcohol cost separately, I added it to this category. Alcohol is comparably cheaper than in the US, especially in Los Angeles. Most cocktails are around 100 – 200 THB [$3 – $6 USD] and local beers can go for around 60 – 120 THB [$1.80 – $3.50 USD]. I even bought bottles of local wine for 200 THB [$6 USD] each.

Shopping – $73 USD

My shopping expenses mostly came down to souvenirs, toiletries, and a few local clothing items and accessories. Since I’m aware I have limited space in my suitcase I don’t go too crazy with my shopping. Everything I bought was mostly necessary things like toilet paper, soaps, feminine products, and locally made clothing I needed to visit temples and stay fresh in the warm and humid weather.

Activities – $150 USD

My activities category encompasses everything from guided tours, massages, nail salons, and even movie theater tickets. Basically anything sightseeing or for entertainment that costs money. My biggest spending in this category was the tour to visit temples in Chiang Rai which came out to $50 USD for a full day of exploring. Other temple tours came out to $15-30 USD per person, movie theater tickets are around $6 USD, and massages ranged between $2.50 to $10 USD.

Other travel expenses – $65 USD

This category is for everything else I spent money on while in Chiang Mai, or travel-related recurring monthly payments I have to make regardless of where I am. These include things like my travel medical insurance, SIM card and phone data, and laundry expenses.

So, without adding my flight ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, my cost of living in Chiang Mai comes down to $1146 USD for 34 days, or around $34 USD per day.

And my total spending (including flights) while in Chiang Mai, Thailand came out to $1213.

Found this post useful? Do you have any questions about the cost of living in Chiang Mai?

Let me know in the comments below!

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Chiang Mai temple 2

June 30, 2022

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