function initPage(){ }

8 budget-friendly things to do in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand, with plenty of budget-friendly things to do. It is surrounded by luscious mountains, tribal villages, and full of ancient temples. 

You can be transported back in time by exploring its many temples, feel like one with nature by taking a tour through the jungle and playing with elephants, or even enjoy the modernities of the city by cooling down at the beautiful MAYA mall.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly city to explore, look no further than Chiang Mai, in Thailand.

Below, I name a few of my favorite budget-friendly things to do in Chiang Mai.

8 budget-friendly things to do in Chiang Mai

1. Explore Old City temples & monuments (free)

Chiang Mai temples

Chiang Mai’s Old City has over 100 Buddhist temples and a few monuments. And you can easily visit 10 – 15 of them in one day because they are so close together. I literally walked to 12 temples and the Three Kings Monument in an afternoon, but tuk-tuks in the area also offer to take you to different temples for around 100 THB [$3 USD]. Also, all temples and monuments are free to explore!

Here are a few of the temples you should visit:

📍Wat Phra Singh Waramahavihan 👇🏽

📍Wat Si Koet 👇🏽

📍Wat Chai Phra Kiat 👇🏽

📍Wat Phantao 👇🏽

📍Wat Chedi Luang 👇🏽

📍Wat Samphao 👇🏽

wat samphao

📍Wat Umong Mahatherachan 👇🏽

📍Wat Pan Ping 👇🏽

📍Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang 👇🏽

📍Wat Rajamontean 👇🏽

📍Wat Lok Moli 👇🏽

📍Wat Sri Suphan 👇🏽

📍Wat Chiang Man 👇🏽

2. Eat and shop at the Sunday night market (free + food/shopping cost)

Chiang Mai’s Sunday night market is the highlight of any visit to this city. It is full of food vendors, souvenir kiosks, clothing and accessories kiosks, paintings and hand-crafted art sellers, areas full of chairs to get a massage, and so many more things. Stretching about 1km across the main Rachadamnoen Road and other nearby streets, you can walk among vendors on both sides of the road and even in the middle of the road, and marvel at all the budget-friendly things you can purchase from the market. 

The market takes place every Sunday from 4 pm until midnight. And if you aren’t in Chiang Mai on a Sunday, there’s also a Saturday night market at Wua Lai Road, south of the city center, from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm.

3. Take a tour of Doi Suthep temple (around $20 USD per person)

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a sacred temple about 10 miles from the city center, located in the mountains, and overlooking the city of Chiang Mai from above 5000 feet. You can get there by taking a songthaew from the city center for about 30-50THB [about $1-$2], and pay the entrance fee of 30THB, or you can take a budget-friendly guided tour to learn more about the history and meaning behind the temple. Most tours also take you to other temples, a tribal village, and/or the Bhubing Palace, which is the Royal family’s winter palace and gardens.

A great app to book budget-friendly tours in Thailand is called Klook.

4. Take a tour of Doi Inthanon National Park (around $30 USD per person)

Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain and peak in all of Thailand, and temperatures can drop to 55F. On this mountain, you can find beautiful temples, waterfalls, tribal villages, and hikes. The best and safest way to get there is with a guided tour since they pick you up and drop you off at your hotel, drive you the 2+ hours to get there and back, guide you around the National Park, take you to different waterfalls and viewpoints, and even include a lunch buffet to try local dishes. 

Fun fact: Doi Inthanon is technically part of the Himalayan mountain range (the same mountain range as Mount Everest.)

5. Play with elephants at an elephant sanctuary (around $50 USD per person)

While in Chiang Mai, I highly recommend taking a guided tour to an Elephant Sanctuary. Especially if you love elephants! There are quite a few options out there, from Tripadvisor tours to local tourist information packages you can book while in Chiang Mai. 

We decided to book a half-day guided tour on Tripadvisor with the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai for $53 USD per person, and had one of the best days of my life!

Below I’m gonna share the pros and cons of our experience so you have an idea when booking your own.


  • There are 2 different times you can go. A morning half-day tour and an afternoon half-day tour. So you can plan it around your travel itinerary. And you can still do this if you’re only in Chiang Mai for 2 – 3 days.
  • They offer hotel pickup and drop-off around Chiang Mai’s Old City and within 5km of the Old City. (It’s included in the price)
  • You get to feed, pet, bathe, and play in the mud with the elephants. You also learn more about elephants and how they are taken care of them in these sanctuaries.
  • They have a professional photographer to take photos of you and the elephants while bathing them and playing in the mud. So you don’t have to ruin your phone to get good pictures. Afterward, they post them on their FB page.
  • You get a traditional Thai buffet at the end of the tour, before returning to Chiang Mai.
  • Because it’s a sanctuary, there is no riding the elephants! Which is a good thing because elephants tend to be used for entertainment and riding people around which is animal abuse. Here they try to give them the best life possible.


  • It claimed to offer an air-conditioned vehicle, but the whole ride, back and forth, (which is around 1.5 hours each way) was in a rather uncomfortable songthaew, with no AC. But it still felt pretty fresh with the wind in our hair. 
  • This only happened to my group (just our luck!), but they lost the file with our group photos from when we were bathing the elephants and playing in the mud with them. 😭 I was really looking forward to seeing those pictures and now I never will. But the photos from other groups looked amazing!

6. Take a day tour to the northern city of Chiang Rai (around $50 USD per person)

Chiang Rai is a northern Thai city near the border of Laos and Myanmar, and has one of THE most iconic and famous temples in Thailand, Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple. It’s also pretty close to Chiang Mai, about 3 hours away by car. 

You can totally spend a few days exploring this city by yourself. But if you’re staying in Chiang Mai and only have a few days to see the northern part of Thailand, you can book a guided day tour leaving from Chiang Mai. I booked a tour through Airbnb experiences for $50 USD and loved the whole experience! 

Let’s just say it was a VERY colorful tour!

It included stops at: 

📍The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

📍The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Seur Ten)

📍The Black Temple (Baandam Museum)

This guided tour was everything I wanted and more! Our guide Nong was amazing! He told us so much information about Thai culture and the stories behind each temple we went to. He was really friendly and a GREAT photographer, which was very helpful as a solo traveler. 

Our group consisted of only 5 people, which made it more personable and we all got to know each other and enjoy a delicious meal together. It’s also a perfect opportunity to try the delicious northern dish called Khao Soi. 

Each location on this tour is totally worth a visit, and I would highly recommend visiting Chiang Rai!

7. Get a 30-minute or an hour massage (around $3-12 USD)

Massages in Thailand are suuuuper cheap compared to prices in the US. Especially the massages offered throughout the Sunday night market. You can get a foot, head and shoulder, or back massage for as little as 80 to 150 THB [$2.30 – $4.20 USD]. And massage spas around Chiang Mai still offer super budget-friendly prices. You can get an hour Thai massage for 250THB [$7 USD] or pay a little more and get an oil massage or other kinds of massages for less than 450 THB [$13 USD].

8. Go shopping (or just cool down) at MAYA mall (free + food/shopping cost)

MAYA mall offers all the amenities of a modern shopping center. You can go shopping for local and international brands, grab food at the food court, go grocery shopping, watch a movie at the movie theater, and even enjoy my favorite spot – a free coworking space called CAMP. And from the top floor, you can see the marvelous Do Suthep temple perched on top of the mountains.

Learn more about visiting Thailand with these related blog posts.

Heads up: As a way to earn passive income, this post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you buy something through one of those links, I might get a commission at NO extra cost to you. I appreciate your support! 💕

July 14, 2022

  1. […] For more ideas on budget-friendly things to do in Chiang Mai, read this blog post. […]

  2. […] 8 budget-friendly things to do in Chiang Mai […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *