For 2 months at the tail end of 2015, we called Chiang Mai, Thailand home.
We quickly settled into a way of life that revolved around yoga and Crossfit, afternoon swims, walking among the temples, and exploring the vast food scene.
Christmas and New Year’s Eve were special nights out on the town, as were the dual Thai festivals of Loi Krathong and Yi Ping.
As we explored the city we met a diverse and exciting group of new friends, and shared our favorite places with visiting friends and family.
We enjoyed a high quality of life with a surprisingly low cost.
Total Monthly Expenses
|Monthly Expense||Daily Expense|
|Housing & Utilities||$512||$16.50|
|Food & Alcohol||$1,223||$40|
* not inclusive of $553 for airfare, visas, and insurance.
Housing & Utilities
We rented a service apartment for the full two months. Amenities included a gym, roof-top pool, twice weekly cleaning service, and central location.
The base rent during the first month was 13,000 THB (~$365.) In month 2 we moved into a slightly larger apartment for 14,000 THB (~$395.) For $1/day we had an extra window, a larger kitchen, and a bathtub. (See Smith Suites on booking.com for more details.)
During the two months we paid $17 for water and $107 for electricity, which provided liberal use of hot showers and air conditioning. Internet access was 400 THB/month (~$11.)
The apartment staff was awesome, and we tipped frequently to the tune of $65.
We also stayed 2 nights in a great hotel in Chiang Rai for 950 THB/night (~$27.)
Chiang Mai is fairly small; everything is within a few kilometers. Red and yellow songthaews can take you most places fairly quickly for 20 THB/person ($0.55), and tuk-tuks even faster for 80-100 THB ($2.25-$3.) But most people seem to use a scooter, ourselves included.
The daily rate for a medium-term rental is 100 THB (~$3.) 100 THB would fill an empty scooter tank, and for 7 weeks we would use only 250 THB (~$7) worth of fuel. We had one flat tire that the local AAA equivalent fixed for 200 THB (~$5.50.)
We also hired vehicles for a trip to the Doi Suthep temple and to Huay Tung Tao lake when friends and family were visiting.
Finally we traveled to Chiang Rai via 1st class bus, and hired private cars to the White Temple and Black House. Tuk-tuks and taxis covered the gaps.
Chiang Mai transit: $65
Scooter rental & expenses: $148
Private taxi with family to Doi Suthep temple: 700 THB / $20
Private taxi with friends to Huay Tung Tao lake: 1000 THB / $22
Chiang Rai Bus: 849 THB / $24
Chiang Rai transit: $25
We ate at restaurants for 99% of our meals. We also enjoyed afternoon coffee and the occasional snack.
Often by the time we had finished breakfast we had spent more on food than on rent. We could interpret this as either we had a great deal on our apartment or we spent way too much on food. I prefer the latter, as we spent 70% more per person than the Mad Fientist on his recent trip to Chiang Mai (assuming $0 for GCCjr.)
So let’s analyze that, shall we?
Our average meal price was $5.30/person for 93 meals, including beverage and tip (Avg breakfast=$3.60, avg lunch=$5.60, avg dinner=$6.75.) Other bloggers we met spent closer to $1.50/person, e.g. Travel Dave and James Clark of Nomadic Notes (older data.) I also had coffee with one reader who makes most of his meals at home and spends much less.
By prioritizing Budget meals over Mid-range (see the difference), and eschewing the occasional fine dining experience, we could have spent ~$700 less/month. Or not.
We also spent ~$5/day on groceries (mostly produce) and $0.75/day on alcohol.
Entertainment and Activities
There is no shortage of entertainment in Chiang Mai, from seeing the latest Hollywood films in 4D or Imax to high end yoga retreats.
We toured a large number of temples since they are a great destination for an afternoon walk. They are also mostly free to visit.
Exercise is also a great form of entertainment. Yoga classes were 200 THB each ($5.60) when purchases 5 at a time. Crossfit was 2,700 THB/month (~$75) or 1,000 THB (~$28) for a 1-week pass.
And I’m sure all new mothers would agree that massages are a necessity. Fortunately in Chiang Mai they start at 200 THB/hour (~$5.5.) Usually I hung out with GCCjr and played guitar during this time… I found a half way decent guitar and donated it when we left.
If that wasn’t enough, I read all of Ramez Naam’s Nexus Trilogy on Kindle. It is easily the best technothriller out there. #imho
Doi Suthep Entrance (for 4): $22
Nexus Trilogy: $14
Star Wars: $11 (4D. 2D matinee option for <$3)
Laundry services abound in Chiang Mai with rates of 40 THB/kg for wash and dry service, and turn around times of about 1 day. $50.
We refreshed our wardrobe a bit with yoga pants, gym shoes, and T-shirts from Uniqlo. We do this instead of over packing. $211
GCCjr also got some new clothes, a bathtub, and a whole bunch of formula and diapers… in one end and out the other. $202
Does shaving count as entertainment or just a normal cost of life? Maybe both when you go to a fantastic barbershop and get a hot towel shave. 400 THB (~$11.)
Airfare, visas, and insurance are not included in our total expenses above.
We flew direct from Taiwan on V-air, a discount airline based in Taipei, for the low price of $227. One way tickets are as low as $50.
For our 3 months in Thailand we applied for a single entry visa in Taiwan (60 days), and extended that visa in Chiang Mai (+30 days.)
Visa in Taiwan: 1200 TWD/person (~$38)
Visa extension in CM: 1900 THB/person (~$54)
Photos and copies were extra. Total visa expenses: $326
We followed the fantastic visa extension guide from Chris & Angela at Tieland to Thailand and it took only a few hours. Thanks!
Winnie & Julian are covered by Taiwan’s national health system when we are in Taiwan. I self insure. On the road, we are all self-insured. Others may prefer to purchase Travel Insurance, as we do when traveling to countries with broken healthcare pricing systems, such as the US.
Favorite Chiang Mai Photos
See Instagram for more.
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