Is It Possible To “Live” A Great Life In Chiang Mai, Thailand For Less Than $25 A Day?

This is a guest post written by a fellow budget travel blogger of The Lifestyle Compound – Adrian Landsberg, in which he is going to share with us how much it costs him to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand a month and how to enjoy the expat life, on the cheap.

I love Chiang Mai, ever since I went there in late 2012 for 6 days I fell in love with the city, the mountainside, the people, the amount of cool stuff you can do there and most of all, the awesomely low cost of living. After that first trip I wanted to go back and see if it was possible to live a great life there for less than $25 a day. And you know what ? It’s very possible. I decided for my experiment that I would ‘live’ there like a ‘local’ and live how I usually would if I was  in Australia (except I wouldn’t have a job here).

Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai
Lantern Festival in Chiang Mai

For me this means eating up to 3-5 healthy meals a day, having my own transport, a gym membership, a place to live, some entertainment money and a few nights out on the town. Well I’m happy to report that had I not gone bunji jumping(naked) and had a few too many nights out, I would have been right on budget for living a great life for less than $25 a day.

Current currency in Thailand is Thai Bath.

1 bath = $0.031

Here’s a breakdown of my costs:

FOOD 7200 baht a month ($221)

ACCOMMODATION 5650 baht a month ($173)

SCOOTER 3000 baht a month ($92)

GYM MEMBERSHIP 1500 baht a month ($46)

MISCELLANEOUS 2040 baht a month ($62)

TOTAL: 19390 baht a month (28 days) =$593 a month, $21 a day!

What did I do for a month?

A guy on a scooter in Chang Mai
Me on my scooter

I’m glad you asked. I didn’t just stay in Chiang Mai, since I had my own trusty steed of a scooter I was able to do some trips up to two northern towns, Pai and Chiang Rai. Not to mention riding all over Chiang Mai going to the gym, finding food and exploring. Most days when I wasn’t doing that stuff, I’d be getting up pretty early, going for a run, eat, do some writing for my blog and some other projects I’m working on, go to the pool, hit the gym then eat some more.  In between this I was visiting temples, socializing, going out for drinks and dinner, getting massages, going to the hostels pool, seeing Muay Thai matches, reading, doing a few little trips on my bike and just generally having an awesome time.

How did I keep my costs low?

A gym in Chang Mai
My gym in Chang Mai

Well I’m naturally a bit of a tight ass ! But to help out I stayed in low cost dorm accommodation (usually 99 baht), did my own laundry, used ATM’s as minimally as I could to reduce the fees, didn’t buy any ‘stuff’ and just kept costs low where I could. You may think accommodation that cheap wasn’t too great ? Well it was actually one of the better hostels I’ve ever stayed in, they also had a pool you could use for an extra 50 baht. But really, Chiang Mai is just good value for money. The standard of living is quite high and with so much cool stuff to do like mountain biking, elephant caring, cooking classes, mountain villages, bunji jumping, quad bike riding etc, the city just begs you to stay for longer.

Can you do it cheaper?

A guy with a rocket
You don’t want to mess with me!

Of course ! I love my fitness therefore I’m always eating a lot so you could definitely save money on food as well as the gym membership. If you didn’t need your own transportation then you wouldn’t need a scooterhot, not to mention you wouldn’t have to spend money on fuel either. But you may still want to hire a bicycle or take tuk tuks here and there to get around. You probably could get your accommodation a little cheaper in some areas but you wouldn’t save much more than this. So there is money to be saved if you want to and if you can get your costs under mine, which is quite doable, you could spend the extra on doing some of those cool activities.

So maybe you think that that isn’t traveling ? That I wasn’t having fun ? That I wasn’t being a ‘true’ backpacker ? Well the answer is I was honestly having the time of my life. It’d been my dream for a long time to quit my job and go travel and ‘live’ in one place for a while to just do the things that I like doing,  and I finally did it. For me that is staying fit, eating well, indulging in the odd massage, socializing, writing, working on self improvement, riding around the country side, having fun and immersing myself in a different culture. And I didn’t have a job to go to ! Oh that was great !

A guy climbing mountains

I can’t recommend Chiang Mai high enough as a place to live. If you like low cost living, a high return for your money, good food, great weather and a fun city to be in then I guarantee you’ll love it. Just be careful, you may end up quitting your job like me to go try living there.

Would you decide to live in Chang Mai?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAdrian Landsberg started The Lifestyle Compound for his love of entrepreneurship and travel. In October 2103 he quit his job of ten years to chase his dream of going on a multi-country, bucket list smashing mission. Recently he has bungee jumped, walked the most dangerous hike in the world and trekked to Mount Everest Base camp. Adrian enjoys writing about building passive income, traveling and living life against the grain of society.

This post was originally published in
About Agness

Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"

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  • It’s been several years since we’ve been to Chiang Mai, but we really loved it for all that you could do and how great on the wallet it was. I remember seeing so many ex-pats living there and it just makes sense!

    • That’s amazing guys! We have been to Thailand plenty of times, but never made it to Chiang Mai. I always wanted to see the Lantern Festival though.

      • Last time I went to Chiangmai was in 2014. In February, the weather is cool and dry. On midday, the temperature normally not exceeding 29 degrees C. At night it is normal to dip below 15 degrees C. You could do a lot of sight seeings and visits without worrying the weather days and nights

        Plus the people is very friendly and always willing to help you for road directions etc ( but as usual when you are traveling abroad be cautios of strangers, be on safe side ) .

        Food is heaven!! Superb and delicious Thai authentic delicacy but you need to know where are the best place for eating.! and Thais especially the hotel staff like our fellow receptionist

  • I’ve heard about Chiang Mai being a cheap place to live for a while and this proves it to be true. It really is super cheap and it sounds like you were having a great time Adrian! I wouldn’t mind stopping there for a while at some point.

  • I’m heading to Chiang Mai in the summer and by the sounds of it I won’t want to leave!

    At the moment I’m busy squirreling away every penny that I can in order to travel as long as possible so it is reassuring to hear that the costs of living are low and my budgets are realistic. Thanks for sharing :)

    • Great to hear that. If you have some questions, ask a question in a comment box and we will get back to you with the answer :). Have fun!!

  • Such a great article! I’m trying to minimize my monthly spending right now by not buying any stuff, as you say! Such a refreshing lifestyle change, and definitely helping to clear clutter within the apartment by not bringing new stuff in!:-) Happy travels!

  • I went to Thailand a couple of years ago and I had fun the most since it didn’t burn a hole in my pocket! Really, the best vacation ever, and my cheapest so far.

  • I’ve always heard great things about Chiang Mai but an even better reason to go with being able to live there cheaply with a great lifestyle. Happy that you’re able to live the life you dreamt of living. We’re in the early stages of spring cleaning and it is liberating.

    • We wanted to move there before visiting Bangkok, but we thought it would be too expensive as Chiang Mai is commonly known as touristy place, but now we kinda regret it :-(…

  • Adrian, I’ve been reading a ton about Chiang Mai the past several weeks from many different bloggers. It’s definitely enticed my fascination because I almost wonder if there some spiritual energy draw there. I’ve got to get me one of those grenade launchers, sir :)

    • MIKE! Take Phoenix and move to Chiang Mai!!!! He would love the idea I guess – stunning beaches to play around :)!!

  • MIKE; Get yourself onto one of those rocket launchers, there a lot of fun !
    MARY; Thanks Mary, I am very blessed to be living the life I want at the moment that’s for sure, I count myself very lucky. It took a lot of hard work to get here though !
    RIKA; I never caught up with any expats while I was there but there is a big expat community there. I’m seriously thinking about going back and signiing a three month lease on a place !

  • I wasn’t particularly keen on Chiang Mai when I was there, but I think that was because I was expecting something quite different (I don’t actually remember what I was expecting, but I had been in Sri Lanka’s high country the week before, so I think I was a bit underwhelmed by Thailand’s “mountains”).

    That said, I’d really like to go back and try again, because I ended up appreciating the subtle differences in culture between Chiang Mai and Bangkok and the south of Thailand. And the food was delicious! Additionally, i’d love to go back for the lantern festival. I’ll definitely be checking back with this post when I get back there!! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Yeh I understand Tim. I get the same with some countries too, I think it comes down to a few factors like who you meet, what you see, the experiences you have etc. But as long as you go in with low expectations then it can only get better !

    • When I saw the picture of him with this huge rocket launcher I was like “Ok, I don’t wanna mess with this guy!” :)

    • Charli: Haha shooting that rocket launcher was probably the biggest highlight of my first trip to South East Asia. You won’t regret going to South East Asia, your dollar goes soooo far !

  • This is a refreshing article about Chang Mai, Most of the articles I read and photos about Chang Mai were about temples, festivals and food. Adrian is the first bigger I’ve read that showed the fun and cool side of it – without breaking the bank.

  • Chang Mai is such a wonderful place, too! I’ve been there two or three times (always for more than a few days) and it’s true, there is so much to do there. It’s more of the “real Thailand” than anywhere else and is just plain wonderful!

    Thank you for sharing. Happy travels!

  • I loved Chiang Mai when I visited and definitely want to go back! It’s great knowing you can do it so cheaply too, some absolute bargain opportunities to be had if you’re a bit savvy!

  • I have heard from a lot of people that Thailand is the nest place for backpacking on a budget. After reading your post ,I am going to include Chiang Mai for sure, as earlier I was only planning to visit bangkok and Pattaya. Would love to see some more pics of streets, food and some natural beauty.

  • It’s actually baht and not bath :), but you’re correct. If you don’t go out doing a lot of drinking you can live in Chiang Mai on $25 a day although I wouldn’t want to if I was on vacation as there’s so much to see and do there :)

    I’ve lived in Thailand for almost 12 years and Chiang Mai is still my favorite city. It’s beautiful, the markets are incredible, the food is amazing and there’s so much to see. Plus, for less than $30 a night you can get a room in an absolutely beautiful 4 star hotel right in the middle of everything.

    Then again, there really isn’t anywhere in Thailand I don’t love. I’ve been in Bangkok for all of my 12 years in Thailand, and I still think it’s one of the best places on the planet :)

    Awesome blog, by the way.

    • Hey Rachel,

      Yeh I hear ya, Thailand just has something magical about eh ! I’ve only been to Bankok once but was a little too busy for me. But I know some people love the place.

      Lucky you getting to live in Thailand for 12 years !

  • I have stayed in Pattaya and Phuket. Chiang Mai sounds great. My only concern is the burning season from late March,April, early May. Sound like a real problem for health. Can you please tell me the real story on that. Randy

  • Hi everyone,

    I lived in Thailand for 8 years, and yes chiang mai is a great place and when I do retire I will end up living there for sure.

    but for people visiting Thailand for the first time there are many places just as good to visit from the south of koh samui , Phuket, to Bangkok , to the farm lands in the east.

    you will be made welcome by the thai way where ever you go, just stick to the rules of the land and you will be fine, the king is number 1 for thai people so never speak bad about the king or deface the thai money by screwing it up in your hand ,this is frowned upon.

    I have my own place on koh samui and have done since 2004 I stay in lamai the second largest resort on the island and i must say koh samui is well worth a visit if you go to Thailand.

  • Well, let’s face it $25 is around 800 baht. that is plenty of money here. If you want to spend 800 baht a day you really need to try hard. Considering that the food is 30 baht for a meal 800 baht will take you a long way.

  • Thai is a great article and I enjoyed reading it. I have been to Thailand 4 times myself and now that I am on disability I am really considering moveing there myself. I have several American friends that live there but I think they have a little more money than I do ha ha. But I still think that I could live there on 2000+ a month. Thinking about getting the 90 day non immigrant visa and moveing to CM and just test the waters to make sure I can before I try for the retirement visa. My question is about a place to live. Just how much would a one bedroom apartment or condo cost me? Not looking for anything fancy just need a place with A/C and internet, be able to cook some of my meals there and be close to good shoping. I have seen many articles on the internet that you can get a nice place for around 200 to 300 US a month. Is this still accurate? Any info or advise you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Hi Lonnie, thanks glad you liked the article. I think form what I’ve heard and read also a pretty decent place can be got for about what you say. I think you could definitely get something for under $300 a month.
      I’ve seen places that even go for about $150-200 a month. I think the biggest difference though is how long you lease is, if you are willing to sign a 6 month plus lease you can get something pretty decent. Hope that helps :)

  • Chiangmai never fades from my mind! Guest what? I went to Chiangmai again, for 2nd time , 3 weeks ago. Chiangmai still amazes me, with its sight and people and environment. In January, the weather is cool, although it was not so cool like I felt in 2014. But still, its was nice to walk around Chiangmai without drenching in sweat even in midday..
    The different were Night Markets, be it Sunday or Saturday, there were a big number of tourist from China. Night markets were pack with peoples compared to 12 years ago.
    Most of the time, I had to brush my arms with others and walk slowly. The night markets were still as interesting as it were 12 years ago. Except that, I found out the many local cotton outwear products were less in variety and number compared to 1st time I went there.
    The people, is still the one that I admired 12 years ago. The sale peoples I met at night markets ( she was so fond with Malaysian), the Tuk Tuk driver, SongThaew ( pick up Taxi) driver, hotel reception ladies and hotel shuttle driver, the lady at Halal Food Shop at Loi Kroh Road, Thai Local Cuisine at Yaring Food Cafe ( sweet girl, friendly smile and nice to chat with )
    Lots of new shopping complex, Warorot Market, Kalari Bazaar etc
    Please wait for me Chiangmai, I will be there again for sure :)

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