After tomorrow we are leaving Chiang Mai and heading to the south of Thailand to explore some islands. We spent three and a half months in Chiang Mai and we are really going to miss this city. It’s a great place to visit. Chiang Mai has a unique kind of buzz to it, oscillating between a busy city life in the center and a more tranquil setting as soon as you distance yourself by a few kilometers. If you are adventurous enough to rent a motorbike and head out exploring, a wonderful countryside bursting with all kinds of flowers and wildlife awaits you.
Chiang Mai is quite an affordable city. If you travel on a budget, you can still live here very comfortably. If you have some more money to spend, you can live in Chiang Mai like a boss. In this post I would like to share with you our monthly expenses in Chiang Mai for two people, and to tell you what you can get for the money you spend. Please, see the table below.
|Monthly Expenses in Chiang Mai for 2 people|
|Total Monthly Expenses for 2 people||$1759 (€1344)|
So what can you get for $880 (€672) a month in Chiang Mai?
We rented a one bedroom apartment in Twin Peaks Condominium. It’s fully airconditioned and equipped. It has a kitchen with two cookers and a fridge, a washing machine, an iron board, all the appliances you need, tableware – anything you might want to have at home. However we still had to buy some things to make our life at home more comfortable, as we spent lots of time at the apartment and cooked most of our food there as well. There is a gym and an open-air pool at the building. The staff is very friendly. Our apartment is located in a very convenient place, just a 20 minute walk away from the Old Town and only a few minutes away on foot from the Night Bazar and many cafes and restaurants.
The apartment cost per month is 23,000 Baht ($782). We also pay extra for the electricity and water supply, as well as internet. It is possible to find much cheaper places here though. Most of the people we met in Chiang Mai rented their apartments at the price of 6,000-8,000 Baht ($203-270). If we come back to this city again, we would probably rent a house somewhere out of the city for no more than 15,000 Baht ($507).
We love to eat and we eat a lot. Mostly I cook at home, but 4-5 times per week we eat out and occasionally visit cafes. Half of the money we spent for food was actually spent in restaurants and cafes. Also every month we spend $22 per 2 people for drinking water. We buy 6 litres water bottles in the 7/11 shop just across the street.
Chiang Mai, as elsewhere in Thailand, offers very cheap local food, especially if you buy it from the street. So one dish of Pad Thai (tasty local plate of noodles) will cost you around 40 baht ($1.35), while some tasty healthy fruit shake can be bought for the same amount of money. Most of people spend much less for food, but our problem was that I couldn’t eat Thai food very often, due to my stomach condition. And western food here is a bit more expensive. The average bill in some good western restaurant (without alcohol) is around 600 baht ($20) for 2 people. On the other hand the local food restaurants can serve you the same amount of food for 300 baht ($10) for two persons.
If you are going to cook at home, you can find a wide variety of products in supermarkets like Rimping, Top’s Market or Tesco. Our favourite is Rimping. Don’t forget to take a look at the local markets! You will be surprised by the prices of fruit, vegetables, nuts and other food! Here you can buy one big very juicy and yummy pineapple for 20 baht ($0.68), a pack of 20 average size bananas for 30 baht ($1), a one kilo of mandarins for 40 baht ($1.35) etc. The most expensive fruits here are probably apples.
First month of living in Chiang Mai we mostly walked and used local trasport – Songteaws or Tuk-Tuks. So this part of the budget includes our expenses for local transport, taxi from the airport, renting a motorbike and fuel.
One trip by Songteaw around the city will cost 20 baht ($0.68) baht per one person. If your route is more complicated or you travel in the evening, or outside the city, the price can be raised from 30 baht ($1) to even 400 baht ($13.5) – if you are going far from the city privately. The usual price of a Tuk-tuk for one trip is 50 baht ($1.69) and upwards.
The easiest way to get around the city and out of it is to rent a motorbike. You can rent a scooter in Chiang Mai for 150 – 400 baht ($5-13.5) per day or 2500-5000 baht ($85-170) per month, depending on the condition, age and model of the motorbike. Bigger bikes of course cost more, and are only recommended for longer trips outside of the city, or offroading. The price for fuel here varies depending on the gas station, from 35 to 50 baht ($1.18-1.69) per litre. Usually we fill our tank for 90 baht ($3) and ride our bike without thinking about fuel for 7-10 days (if we don’t go out of the city a lot). Going up mountains or opening up the trottle can burn gas pretty quickly though. You can read more about transportation in Chiang Mai here.
We don’t go to night clubs or bars, we usually go out for eating or taking a coffee. We went a few times to the cinema. The ticket here cost 170 baht ($5.8) and 220 baht ($7.5) for 3D movies. We visited a cookery school here and had a great time. From time to time we go to massage. Our favourite place is Zabai Thai Massage. You can get a one hour of Thai massage or foot massage here for 200 baht ($6.8). There are so many places for massage in Chiang Mai, even at the markets, where you can find prices a bit cheaper if you like.
We also went to yoga classes, which cost us 250 baht per 1 person every session. We visited the Chiang Mai Zoo twice, where we had quite a good time. Once we bought a tour from the agency, which probably was the most expensive entertainment item in our list – 1,100 baht ($37) per person. For us the best entertainment here was to hop on our bike and ride somewhere outside the city, enjoying the wonderful countryside and cleaner air.
This includes things like a haircut for me- 300 baht ($10), different necessities for our apartment, soap, detergents, hairbrush, body oils, protection from mosquitos, commissions from the bank when we withdrew money. So basically, this part of the budget can be much lower or higher, depending on your needs.
Other Expenses, Not Included
There are a few of expenses which we didn’t include in the above.
- We made a trip to Pai and spent $85 for the hotel for 2 nights.
- We had to do a Visa run, so we spent 1,000 baht ($34) for 2 people for visa.
- We didn’t really use our mobile, but we bought a local sim card of AIS which cost us 50 baht ($1.69) and spent around 200 baht in total for top ups. Here the mobile connection is quite cheap – 2 baht ($0.07) per 1 minute and 2 baht per 1 sms within Thailand.
- I had stomach issues after eating Pad Thai at a local place, so we spent 3,678 baht ($124.5) for seeing the doctor twice and for medicine. We went to the Ram Hospital and were very pleased with the service and doctor’s qualification.
We like tracking our travel expenses and analyse if we can spend less or more. It helps a lot when you are planning your long term travelling, especially when you consider that you are living in a new place where prices can be radically different than what you are used to in your hometown. In Thailand, if you come from practically any Western country, you will most likely find things cheaper than back home, but it’s still wise to plan and monitor your expenses.
We keep track of all our expenses using the trusty but old fashioned Microsoft Excel, but nowadays there are handy apps such as Trail Wallet, developed by fellow nomads Simon and Erin from Neverendingvoyage.com. Since we have an Android phone, we haven’t been able to make use of this app, but I would probably use of an Android-equivalent app if I found one.
Hope this post was helpful. We wish you a fantastic stay in Chiang Mai! Please, let us know if you have any questions or comment to share!