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

Note from Editors: In view of the current situation, please avoid all unnecessary travel and try to stay home. Don’t worry, like all things, it will end at some point and you’ll be able to travel again. In the meantime, check out what you can do while staying at home.

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).

Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok is both cheap and convenient.

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. 

Currency in Thailand is Thai Baht.

1 baht = $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?

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.

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

How did I keep my costs low?

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.

A gym in Chang Mai
My gym in Chang Mai

Can you do it cheaper?

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.

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

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?

Adrian 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.

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

  1. 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!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      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.

      1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. Adrian Landsberg

    Hey guys yeh it is a special place :) I love how much variety there is there and the real quality of life you can have for such a cheap price.

  4. Lisa - Wee Wanders

    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 :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      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!!

  5. Jess @UsedYorkCity

    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!

    1. Adrian Landsberg

      Yeh Jess not buying stuff really makes all the difference, if you can reel it in it makes a big difference to your wallet. It’s all about exercising your control !

  6. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown

    Very cool… I am really tempted to try the expat life in Chiang Mai for a bit, it seems like it would be a good change from the Caribbean!

  7. Chanelle Boshuizen

    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.

  8. Mary {The World Is A Book}

    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.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      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 :-(…

  9. 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 :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

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

  10. Adrian Landsberg

    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 !

  11. Tim | UrbanDuniya

    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 :)

    1. Adrian Landsberg

      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 !

  12. Charli | Wanderlusters

    Jeepers that rocket launcher is huge! A great break down of how to live comfortably on a budget. We’ve yet to explore Asia but when I see posts like this it makes me want to visit!

    1. Agness Walewinder

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

    2. Adrian Landsberg

      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 !

  13. 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.

    1. Adrian Landsberg

      Thanks Marisol, I’m not a big temple guy either, rather be doing something active but if your into temples I believe there’s heaps in Chiang Mai.

  14. Becky Padmore

    I love Chiang Mai, I’ll have to go back and visit when the lantern festival is on! Looks beautiful :-)

  15. Looks like an amazing time. It’s hard to believe that it’s so cheap and you can still do awesome things.. phaw!

    1. Adrian Landsberg

      It really is Charlie, although I reckon maybe over the next few years as it gets popular it may get a little more expensive but I think it will still be incredibly affordable !

  16. 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!

  17. Rob @ Hungry Escapades

    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!

  18. 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.

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