Compared to the cost of living in Bangkok, living in Chiang Mai can be pretty cheap. A 1-bed condo can cost half what it costs in Bangkok, so that is one of the major savings. And even though it’s a fairly small town compared to Bangkok, it will have everything you need. The city center is small enough to get around on foot, and even if you need to us a songthaew (open back truck), you can get most places for $1 or less.

When I stayed in Chiang Mai a while back, my total costs came to around $1,300, compared to the average of around $2,000 I spend in Bangkok. So if you’re on a tighter budget then Chiang Mai could be a great location to be based. The town is surrounded by beautiful countryside and mountains, so it’s great for getting out of the city for a few hours or longer.

Many expats who live in Chiang Mai either buy or rent a scooter to get around. It’s one of the best ways to get around the city easily and is also pretty inexpensive. You can rent a scooter for a day for around $3.

Chiang Mai Scooter Rental

Chiang Mai Scooter Rental

Because the city center is so touristy there are hundreds of cafes, restaurants and bars where you can get a coffee, food or a beer very cheaply. Live outside of the center and your costs will be cheaper still.

Accommodation

You can pay anything from around $150 to $1000 a month for a condo or house. If you want to be in the center it will cost you more, but many expats choose to live further out and rent a house instead of a condo. Even a 3-bed house a few miles out of town can be had for as little $500 a month. Which you prefer depends on whether you prefer to be in a more tourist area or a more local area.

Food

Like Bangkok, you can pay very little or an extravagant amount for your food. Head to the South Gate market in the evening and you can pick up dinner for $1. There are about 10-15 stalls selling food and everyone sits outside to eat. Other areas of the city also have plenty of street stalls. A meal in a small local restaurant might cost $2-3, which is still very affordable for most tourists and expats. Sushi at the Sunday night market costs $0.15-$0.35.

Sushi At Chiang Mai Sunday Market

Sushi At Chiang Mai Sunday Market

Chiang Mai is well worth a visit, as it has very lively craft markets on both Saturday and Sunday evenings. The Sunday one is particularly book and covers many miles of road in the city center. The locals flock there every weekend.