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A Little Expat Living… Cost of Living Breakdown in Thailand

Cost of Living Thailand

When I first set out traveling in 2008, information was scarce about what it actually cost to live and travel around the world. Now, there’s a lot more information, forums, and books. So much that it’s hard to know what’s hype and what real. Expats the world over talk about Thailand as an expat and retiree spots. It’s one of the most popular places to expat in the world. And for good reason. It’s wonderful.

But what is life actually like once you move to Thailand? When I first moved here, my family couldn’t even conceive of what it was like. This post will demystify the cost of living in Thailand, as well as cover a range of opinions on what it costs to live in the different areas. This is the hard and fast nitty-gritty details on everything from food to transportation to rent. As a traveler, I had always heard that it’s so incredibly cheap to expat yourself in the developing world — and it’s true, it’s cheap! As with many places, there is a trade off in some areas. Political stability, road conditions, and smog are just a few of the downsides, covered more later.

I’ve paid rent in both Orlando and Los Angeles, and my Thailand living costs averaged a third of my previous U.S. living expenses. I’m not the only one who has found Thailand a reasonable place to live — this place was popular with Western retirees for years. In 2010, a shift started. Alongside the rise in freelancers workers and those building online business, Southeast Asia became a hotspot for entrepreneurs looking for a cost-effective place to start their businesses. I landed in Chiang Mai in January 2011 with a one-way ticket and discovered why so many other expats so love Thailand.

It has that magic combination of low living costs, a rich culture heritage, and a high quality of life. This piece will look at the hard costs of living in various parts of Thailand. Then I drill down into what that price gets you in terms of quality of life. And though I lived in Thailand for a bit more than a year, throughout the piece I share anecdotes from friends and the hard costs they report on what it costs to live everywhere from the Thai islands to Bangkok to Chiang Mai. At the end of this post, I share a huge list of resources for getting started in Thailand — either visiting or living. This post was last updated in May 2016.

What Does It Cost to Live in Thailand?

Thailand Living ExpensesThese are my baseline costs, or rather more fixed monthly expenses. This is used as a minimum — add your own lifestyle on top of it. These estimates do not include the visa runs you’ll need if you’re on a tourist visa. Even with the double entry visa, border runs are necessary every 6-90-ish days.

The border runs add to the spice of living here though! Chiang Mai is a great launching point to other areas in Asia for in-depth explorations of Burma (Myanmar)Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and other quick flights and bus rides around Southeast Asia.If you’ve retired in Thailand, you don’t have to do border runs. And some friends have student visas for studying Thai, and they also don’t do visa runs. The international flights bracketing my stay in Thailand were roughly $800 each way, so factor that into my “fixed” costs as well.

Then you have the cost of unexpected life. I’ve had some medical check-ups, my computer cord broke and had to be replaced, toiletries and that type of thing. My medical expenses are under $100 for women checkups and basic blood work and I pay that at Thai hospitals and out of my pocket. I pay about US$600 per year for my annual travel insurance. The occasional and personal expenses are not included, just the base-line rock bottom costs. If you will need to obtain Thai health insurance, this expat breaks down that process.

When I first moved to Thailand, these stats held true. Over the years, it’s still very low, but you have to search a bit more. The cost of living, and food-related costs in particular, rose over the past few years (around the world, but also in Thailand). As of 2016, I would factor in another $100 per month to your baseline costs. This will account for the rise in food costs, as well as the fact that Chiang Mai is becoming increasingly popular — there is more competition for the budget expat flats.

What’s the Quality of Life?

This section is a close look at what I get for the price of living in Chiang Mai. The quality of life will be similar in other areas of Thailand, it’s just the costs that will change. And the islands, of course, have beaches nearby and some other perks. The north, on the other hand, has mountains, hill tribe cultures, and different foods than you will find elsewhere in the country.

What Do You Get for Your Rent?

Roughly $160 a month pays for my portion of a two bedroom house in the heart of Chiang Mai, within the moat of the downtown inner city (and the $15 maid was provided by my landlord and not optional). I share the house with a roomie and fellow blogger, Jodi of Legal Nomads. We jointly paid 10,000 baht monthly for the house and wifi. The house has tiled floors, one and a half baths, a tiny kitchen (no stove, those are very rare in Thai houses), a sturdy dining room table perfect for working, and a comfy living room. It’s Thai-style; a Western-style apartment will run you a good deal more.

Elsewhere in Chiang Mai, studio apartments run the gamut between 3,500 and 8,000 baht a month. These work well for solo travelers looking for something nice but budget. Nearly all apartments offer wifi. The internet in Chiang Mai is better than many places, but can wildly fluctuate throughout the day (my house has super speedy internet in the am, but not so much in the evening when everyone watches TV and thus slows the cable internet down to a crawl).

Chris and Angela are a 30-something couple living in Chiang Mai long-term. They report a lovely house rental outside of the moat with good amenities. One of the benefits of living in Chiang Mai is that your money stretches far and you can maintain a very nice life with just a bit more luxurious budget.

Other expats report that Bangkok has a similar quality of accommodation, but the costs of living is higher in the big city. Karsten gave the most detailed budget you’ll find for Bangkok, and he very open about sharing what it takes to maintain his life in the city. It’s a realistic look at what a solo 30-something expat can expect when living in Thailand’s capital.

Rental house in Chiang Mai, Thailand

silver temple chiang mai

thai island life

Tasty Local Eats

I regularly chow down on pad thai and pad see ew from the street stalls around town for about 30 baht a meal (a buck!). I add a fresh fruit smoothie to that for a mere 20 baht and call it a meal – totaling out most nights at less than US $2 for fresh, made to order Thai food from smiling street food vendors.

The occasional Western meal jacks the weekly food costs up quite a bit; a thin crust pizza from a farang restaurant sets me back at least 200 baht. I mostly eat Thai food … but I confess, coffee is a daily habit and ice cream is a weekly addiction. iBerry, a trendy ice cream shop more fitting on a chic corner of Los Angeles than a side-street in Chiang Mai, shakes things up with tangy tamarind sorbet, a spicy roselle, and a cooler full of other flavors. Always different, always worthy of my undying affection.

Update: Food costs across the city rise over time; between 2011-2012 food costs rose about 10 baht per local dish. That is a bit more now. Factor in $50 for general increases as a baseline cost, and adjust more if you have a different standard of living. 

chiang mai food

vegetarian soup from ming kwan

 

Transportation

Chiang Mai’s small enough to either walk, push bike, or take local songthaews around town, but I prefer a scooter. The rental was cheap enough and zipping around town makes me feel that much more like a local. Plus, the local Thais burst into giggles when I ride up to the night markets with my roomie on the back. It’s easier for us to take one bike when we’re hitting up the same spots, so we ride Thai-style, with two farang on one bike. And they love us for it.

If you’re moving elsewhere in Thailand, then consider the different types of transport options. In Bangkok, you definitely won’t have to buy a motorbike. It’s easy to catch a motorcycle across town for a buck or two, and Thailand’s metro system is operates across some of the more important areas of town. When all else fails, you’ll just grab a taxi and head across town. Bangkok transport costs can, for this reason, vary a lot depending on how often you go out and need to use the various forms of transport.

Most expats in the Thai islands use personal motorbikes. Although the small beach communities are walkable, it’s often a bit further to get groceries, and you won’t likely live in the downtown areas since the beach communities have gorgeous, quiet communities spread throughout the islands.

UPDATE: Costs on motorbike rentals went up $40 more per month as of 2016; it’s still cheaper if you rent from a local though, instead of a shop. And way cheaper if you sign a longer contract. The best rates come when you rent for six months to a year.

renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai

tuktuk songkranthree on motorbike

New Friendships & The Thai Expat Scene 

Chiang Mai has a vibrant expat scene. This is one of the key reasons I returned again in 2011 with my niece. I loved the mix of expats and locals and how accessible the entire town feels. Chiang Mai doesn’t lack choices for evenings out on the town. The city has a bit of something for any mood: karaoke, dance clubs, quiet rooftop bars, and bowling. In the years since I’ve left, there is also a much more vibrant digital nomad community, which has meant some new trendy bars to cater to them too!

It’s important to note that my entertainment budget for Chiang Mai is conservative. I’m not a party animal, so those who are will definitely find this portion of expenses quite a bit higher if they really like to get their groove on regularly. In fact, add at least $100 per month if you go out 2+ times per week and drink.

For the rest of Thailand, the community really differs. Bangkok has a much larger expat community. You can find expats of all ages and styles. There are communities of retirees, a startup and entrepreneurial scene, and a good number of digital nomads who want a big city feel. The Thai islands also have a contingent of expats, though I found this scene to have a much smaller community of long-term young expats. There are older expat families and retirees, and then there is a large number of short-term parties in the region for just a couple months.

expat friends also living in Chiang Mai

loy krathong

Why Thailand?

When I moved to Chiang Mai in 2011, I had this suspicion that I could maintain a fun and full life without obsessing about my expenses. To make this travel life work, I needed to lower my cost of living to keep in line with my online income. I’m still building my marketing consulting work, I was paying off student loan and medical debt, and I also wanted the experience of living overseas. I knew that I could move back to Florida and likely save some costs if I pinched pennies, but it’s not an awesome life to live poor in Florida — I did that for 20+ years. Frankly, the best way for me to not go further into debt is to stay outside of the US.

There are other reasons I love Thailand. The country has great hospitals, checkups are affordable, and dental care is on par with the US. In Thailand, I don’t live in fear of getting sick and being buried under more medical debt. Many of my long-term goals are fulfilled through living here and continuing my travels and volunteering. I live in a Thai neighborhood, I volunteer locally, and I eat locally.

I first published this post about living in Thailand back in 2011. Since then, the post went truly viral. Half-a-million people have read it. I know there are others considering a move to Thailand, and everyone’s circumstances are unique. Some are retirees hoping to stretch their nestegg. Others are digital nomads looking to bootstrap a business from Southeast Asia. And others come for the culture, food, or some combination of it all. More than many places I’ve stopped over the years, Thailand has a truly unique range of expats. The community is huge and varies in each region, which means most expats can find something to love and a place they’ll enjoy calling their new home.


Thailand offers great hospitals and an affordable life. Checkups are affordable, and dental care is on par with the US. In Thailand, I don’t live in fear of getting sick and being buried under more medical debt. It’s just nice.

I am a traveler. My stories span the globe and I’ve been traveling and expat-ing steadily since 2008. Though I no longer live in Thailand (I moved to Mexico and wrote a cost of living post about it too! Check out all my Cost of Living Guides here), I return frequently. Since my first visit, I returned to Thailand with my niece for our year of homeschooling and travel.

This page represents my research and experiences over the years. Many of my friend live similar lifestyles in the region. They live and work in the city long-term, and they live simply (and locally) on this budget. It’s about your travel style. I don’t party and I love Thai food, so it’s easy for me to eat cheaply and enjoy the many, many free local festivals that happen monthly around Northern Thailand. It’s a wonderful spot for socially responsible tourism. Thailand has a compelling quality of life and culture. One of my favorite parts about Chiang Mai was the ability to jet off on the weekend for trips around the region.

As a freelancer, I enjoy knowing that Thailand is a wonderful spot to live, work, and play. Below are the resources I have collected over the years to help with a move, living there, researching, etc. Updated last in May 2016.

If you’re still researching various expat spots, check out our other Cost of Living Guides for a look at what it takes to move to the world’s most popular expat spots.

Resources for Moving to Thailand

The Basics of Moving to Thailand

  • Startup Guide Thailand: Hugely in depth guide to starting a business in Thailand — it covers everything you need and is thoroughly researched and a valuable resource (guides for most major Asian countries too). Another classic reader for business owners is How to Establish a Successful Business in Thailand, though it has no e-version so it gets minus points.
  • Thai for Beginners: An integrated program for reading, writing, and speaking Thai. In person learning is best, it’s a complex language, but with the CDs here you can get a good head start before you hire a tutor.
  • Travel insurance: World Nomads is the perfect for insurance for covering your health and belongings while you’re in the transition phase of moving overseas, or visiting to scope it all out. It’s a solid company and the insurance plans are designed for extended stays. I’ve used them since 2008.
  • How to Retire Overseas: Everything You Need to Know to Live Well (for Less) Abroad: A great book to get started on being a retiree expat—good reviews, current, and in paperback and Kindle.
  • Sightseeing: A thoughtful and intriguing look at the two sides of Thailand. The one for tourists and the one plagued with economic and societal issues. If you’re interested in better understanding Thai culture before you move there, start here. The short-story format makes it an easy but compelling read.
  • Private Thai teacher: My niece and I took lessons from Lah in Chiang Mai — she’s great. If you’re learning Thai for the student visa, however, you have to go through a language school.
  • Securing Thai expat health insurance: Once you’re in the country living there, you might want local insurance. This expat laid out a really great guide to getting Thai Health insurance.
  • Finding Long-Term Accommodation

    • For long-term Chiang Mai spots, check out these condominium listings on Chiang Mai Grapevine and consider Chiang Mai House if you are looking for help on a long-term house rental. I also collected a list of long and short term accommodation — all places friends have stayed, I have stayed, or I have seen recommended.
    • In Bangkok, you’ll likely want to find a real estate agent once you arrive, it’s the norm and is affordable. They will help you pick a neighborhood and find something in your price range.

    Planning a Research Trip to Thailand?

    how much does it cost to live in Thailand?Where to Stay

    If you’re moving to Thailand, it’s best to arrive in and book at least a week in a guesthouse. And definitely consider just doing a reconnaissance trip to scope it all out. Before you book long-term, you’ll want to all the options in person.

    What to Do

    Other Essentials

    • Nancy Chandler Maps: These are a must buy for the city you move to in Thailand. They are simply amazing. Detailed, thorough, and essential. I have the Chiang Mai one and it’s all creased and saggy and well-loved.
    • Smog in Northern Thailand in the Spring: Jodi gives her take on a particularly bad smog year. Make sure you time your visit well since you’ll be out and about. And for checking the smog levels right now, go to the Thai government site.
    • Volunteer in Thailand: both short and long term options. Can also search volunteer opportunities and responsible tourism ideass for all of SEA.

    Cost of Living Comparison

    Still researching the right spot to live? Our Cost of Living Guides share extensive resources or all the major expat spots around the world. These guides include thorough breakdowns of the culture, quality of life, vibe, and — importantly — budget breakdowns so you can better plan which spot in the world best meets your needs.

    cost of living guides

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    • Flipnomad

      lovely house shannon… is it easy to get a visa extension?

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Flip! The house was such an wonderful find :) As for the visa extensions, they are fairly simple to get, and at least from CM, if you don’t get approved you can do a quick border run to Burma or Laos and get the handful of extra days!

    • Hahah. Oh lord. Every time I pop by your webspaces, you and Jodi, there’s more “move here NOW” propaganda. ;)

      But it sounds terrific, and the prices are indeed INSANE.

      This rang so very true for me: “The best way for me to not go further into debt is, frankly, to stay outside of the US.” Replaced US with England, and that’s true for me too. With rent, food, bank charges (various debts I’m paying off) and sundries I’m needing £850 / $1400 to break even every month. That is going down as I reduce my debts, but even so, it’s simply impossible to go fulltime with my writing. Living in Thailand (including ongoing debt payments back here in England) would halve that – and that’s certainly doable in terms of fulltime online income.

      So that’s the challenge for me, right there. :)

      It was only a few months ago that the marshmallows-and-tarsiers-lady made me aware of the possibilities Thailand presented in terms of launching my online freelance work fulltime. Too short a time to do anything about it right now, sadly, so I’ll be missing meeting you guys until you’re back there. But yes. Part of my plans now. And it’s shocked me out of a state of presuming the rest of the world was somewhere near as pricey as living here.

      Consider me thoroughly enlightened by you both, for which I owe you beer.

      • Anonymous

        Hehe, I just can’t help all of the propaganda Mike, I say it out of a love for CM! :) Plus, if your debts are what you say they are, it sounds like you could use a wee bit lower cost of living. Let’s keep talking and I’ll keep pimping out the location independent lifestyle over here in CM!

        Oh, and I’ll take that beer when I next see ya!

    • Wow, that is very reasonable! I can’t wait to get to Thailand and spend some extended time there… We are the traveling sort who can’t just see a place in a couple of days and so this seems like a place where you can do this with low expenses, thanks for sharing!

      • Anonymous

        You will definitely enjoy pausing here – plus it’s a great base to see so many of the other major “to-dos” in Northern Thailand, so it’s like having a temporary home with weekend trips to the neighboring cities and mountain towns :)

    • Anonymous

      Awesome. I love living costs posts. I’ve always had Thailand as my first major goal to live in completely off my website earnings and thought I was close. But after reading this I know I can do it now. So thanks very much! I will go there some day and be free =D

      • Anonymous

        Woo hoo for getting to that point Rob! That’s a big step, realizing that you truly have reached the threshold for location independence. Here in CM, once you’re here to you can up those costs or even lower them depending on your lifestyle, so I definitely think it’s a great place to enjoy and yet still live within a budget :)

    • Lmd_psu

      Interesting post. Is it possible to rent such a place for just1 month?

      • Anonymous

        Hi there! You can definitely get a place for a single month – many of the guesthouses will rent you a room on a discounted monthly rate – and even discounts for weekly too! The longer you sign a contract for, the steeper the discount, but either way, it’s still very reasonable here in Chiang Mai, even if you stay for a couple weeks! :)

    • Gee thanks Shannon – I’m still wrestling with whether I should move to Vietnam or Chiang Mai come October (I’ll be taking the CELTA in CM, but the plan is to after, move on to VN) and…

      Your CM breakdown is swaying me… ;)

      I wonder how the COL in Chiang Mai compares to a similar size locale in Vietnam (such as… Da Lat)?

      • Anonymous

        I think you’ll have a hard time leaving CM once you make it here – you’ll fall right into a social circle and the food all around is delicious, and the Thais are so welcoming! I haven’t been to Vietnam yet, but I imagine you can also really enjoy it. I would also consider the weather that time of year and locale…Oct/Nov is the height of dengue, so keep that in mind – they will be pretty similar in weather, but every little bit of extra “dry” counts. :)

    • Ack! dupe.

    • Having spent a couple of months there I can tell you it’s all true. I’m already plotting my return as well.

      Oh I stumbled upon that Silver Wat just before I left. Glad you saw it too.

      • Anonymous

        I loved the Silver Wat because no one else was there! And when you plot your return James, you let me know…it wouldn’t take a lot to sway me back this way :)

    • Andrea and John

      A very lovely life for little money indeed! We really enjoyed being expats in Paris. Rent wasn’t cheap there at all, of course, but the food and atmosphere were fantastic and it was awesome to be in Europe and so close to other places to travel.

      As we travel through South America we are meeting lots of expats from Europe and the US who seem to be driven here for similar reasons to yours. Cost of living in these places just causes people to work so much that they can’t really enjoy their lives. ~Andrea.

      • Anonymous

        I can’t imagine Paris – it’s one of those cities I would love to experience for a time as an expat, but the costs of living have made me push that into the “down the road” dream. I think that if you have the funds to properly enjoy Europe, then you can have an amazing experience in its own right :) Thanks for weighing in Andrea!

        • Andrea and John

          It is expensive, definitely. We were fortunate enough that John’s work made it possible for us to be there but I can appreciate it being out of reach. We were surprised at how many students were able to live within the Periferique; healthy government support, of course.

    • Interesting and useful post!

      My most recent expat experience was New Zealand and that was incredibly cheap as well (though nowhere near these prices, of course). I’m considering an longer stay in South East Asia, 3 – 4 months during the northern winter. I’ve been thinking about Singapore, because it seems a good base for exploring the region. But perhaps Chiang Mai could be just as interesting. Is it a child-friendly city as well, do you think?

      Oh, and that pink scooter… very cool.

      • Singapore is a great base but very expensive for rent. If you’ve got kids I’d imagine you’d need at least a 2 bedroom apartment? Expect to pay around SGD $2,000 for a gov’t apartment that size or $2,500 up for an older condo well outside the city centre.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for sharing the Singapore costs of living…I had no idea that it was that much more expensive than here since I haven’t yet visited! Yikes :)

      • Anonymous

        Glad it was helpful and timely Sophie! As for child-friendly, absolutely! The GotPassport.org family live here withe their 8 year old and she really enjoys life in this city. She knows all her favorite street-food vendors, and the Thais just love little kids on the whole, it’s a very receptive culture :)

    • ilainie

      Wow! Chiang Mai was already on our list, but I think it just moved up a couple of notches.. Sounds like you are enjoying life there. The food looks incredible. I hope we meet up with you at some point! Best!

      • Anonymous

        I would love for our paths to cross…and with both of us jaunting all around it’s a definite possibility :) As for CM – you will love it here, and it’s a kid-friendly city too, so Miro will undoubtedly like it too! Lots of daytrips around the city and great food always nearby!

    • Cathy

      This is such an incredibly useful post. I’ve often wondered exactly how cheap it would be, but I was never sure where to look to find the information. I figured I’d have to go to a bunch of different sites, call people, etc., but now it’s all right here! More travel bloggers–especially those who advertise themseleves as traveling on a budget–should post information like this.
      With all this great info, though, I’m still left wondering a couple of things, and I apologize if you’ve mentioned these things in another post…How did you find such cheap flights–where do you usually look? There are so many places that I want to go that would be so cheap–ONCE I got there–but the plane tickets are prohibitively expensive for me (and many others). I’m also wondering how you found the apartment in the first place. I’ve heard that finding places to rent is a very different process outside of the US, and I’m curious how it works in Thailand. I read Sophie’s (who commented before me) breakdown of how it works in New Zealand, which was interesting and helpful, so I wonder how it compares.
      By the way, I absolutely love that your blog addresses so many of the “mundane” parts of travel–especially when it comes to money. Too many travel blogs (even ones I like) are so focused on the stories, and readers don’t know how they too can do the same awesome things–they can only live vicariously through these posts. So, a big thank you!

      • Cathy

        ah! just found your list of budget airlines! awesome!
        again, I appreciate how frank you are with money and explaining how you can afford to do these awesome things

      • Anonymous

        Glad you found it useful Cathy! :)

        The cheap flights are definitely done using those discount airlines. SkyScanner.net is a great place to go when booking Asian flights because it actively searches a couple of the smaller Asian airlines that are not in Kayak/Orbitz and sites like that.

        Finding a place to stay in Thailand is really about asking around once you get here mostly, as well as looking at expat forums for the city/country you are visiting – just do a quick google search for “expat advice/living/information _____city you’re heading too!____” They are a wealth of help and information.

        If you ever need help down the line, I am just an email away! :)

        • CuriousGeorge

          What about medical?  Vehicle insurances? Phone services (if you keep a cell too?)

          • Anonymous

            I carry an annual travel medical insurance (sometimes) but mostly go without insurance and just get care when I need it…which is really quite cheap here in Thailand. Cell was in the other costs and only about 10 bucks a month…and, no vehicle insurance, I rent from a local and they don’t require it.

            Hope that helps!

    • roy

      Really interesting to see some specific numbers. Maybe I should go there for a few months!

      • Anonymous

        I don’t think you can go wrong spending a bit of time here, that’s for sure – esp if you’re looking for a place in Thailand! :)

    • Laura

      You know I’ve been to CM so I’m well aware of just how cheap it is but I’m so glad you’ve put this info out there! It shows people just how cheap it is and reminds me why I need to go back ;) Btw, I like the accent green color you’ve added here on your website! Enjoy your last couple of months in Thailand.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for seconding the prices here Laura! You definitely do need to come back…perhaps early next year?! (that’s when I’m looking to finagle a way back) Also, thanks for the compliment on the site, I spent an obscenely long time agonizing :)

    • Mybirthdayisdecember31

      Thanks for this!! Really interesting. I also appreciate the mini-rant about US healthcare. I’m Canadian and living in NY, and frankly, this is isane. Even with insurance I’m afraid of tripping. Don’t even ask what that’s done to my yoga practice…inversions are just out of the question!

      • Anonymous

        Yikes! The healthcare is a real issue, and a surprisingly large part of why I stay out of the US. Hope your yoga goes well! :)

    • Hey, Great post! I’ll def share it with my readers at JustinWasHere. It’s nice to have an honest and current breakdown of prices abroad! I used to live in New Zealand – not exactly cheap, but more affordable than the US and definitely a high standard of living with a friendly and welcoming local population. Also, no language barrier!

    • Mybirthdayisdecember31

      Come to think of it…requests for Nepal, Provence, Kauai and Tel Aviv…?

      • Anonymous

        Only one of those I’ve stayed in is Nepal, so I will consider that! :)

    • Skottandshawna

      Sometimes I wonder how come there are so many posts from travellers in Thailand, but after reading this, why wouldn’t there be!?? This is ridiculous! Thanks for the detailed post!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for weighing in here – Thailand is definitely an expat haven – and not just Chiang Mai, Bangkok and the islands too are gathering points for travelers partly because you can really enjoy life a lot and not feel stressed about spending too much cash! :)

    • Great info! Thank you so much for sharing! It looks like we’ll be headed here in a couple months and this helps out drastically as to how much we’ll need for staying put a few months. :)

      • Anonymous

        You guys will love it here – and I definitely recommend camping out for a couple of months, you won’t be bored (lots to do within day and weekend trips of here) and you can catch up on work if you need to by then! :)

    • This is a really interesting post! Living in asia sometime (SOON) is one of my goals, so it’s great to see one way of doing it. It sounds like you’re having a fantastic time, and if being in Chiang Mai it lets you do what you love for a fraction of the cost that you’d be doing it at home, plus be close to so many great travel opportunities…why not?! Plus…it’s Thailand!!

      • Anonymous

        You really can’t be Thailand in terms of the options out there and available to you – lots to see and do, good food and affordable :) Hope you make it here soon!

    • Thank you for breaking the costs down for us, Shannon! Very useful. I can empathize about the health insurance thing. That’s the one thing that has kept me from quitting my job and plunging into a potential freelance life. The health insurance situation in the States sucks. Thailand sounds pretty good.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Gray! Sorry to hear that the health insurance situation is holding you back – it’s so frustrating to have something so essential be such a burden :-/ But yes, if you can get over here to Thailand then I really think you could perhaps beef up the freelance side without the worry of getting sick! Plus it would be great to meet you over here on this side of the world :)

        • It could happen. You never know. :-)

    • Deedee Clohessy

      *sigh*
      I love Chiang Mai and want to move there…with luck my plan will pan out soon!!!

      • Anonymous

        I’ll cross my fingers for you Deedee that you make it here soon! And when you do just let me know if you have any questions :)

    • Anonymous

      Great job! I will feature it in my weekly newsletter

      • Anonymous

        Many thanks Johnny! Appreciate it – we missed each other by just a day in Penang by the way; I met up with James and he had just visited you at your hotel! So perhaps next time :-)

    • Sam Tett

      What a great post. As someone who has lived for many years in both the US and England (hoping that one of them might turn out to be more viable as a reasonable place to live), this post resonates with me. I simply couldn’t get by with a satisfactory quality of life in the UK, and (despite the constant “land of freedom and opportunity” propaganda), it seems equally impossible in the US. It costs me more per month just to insure my car than it does in Thailand for your entire rent payment (INCLUDING internet!)…and health insurance? Forget about it. It’s a far and distant dream, here. Even if I could afford it, I don’t think I could ever be comfortable parting with THAT much hard-earned money for something that should be available to everyone – especially since American doctors are so extravagantly overpaid. If I wasn’t dead-set on getting out of here before, I certainly am now…thanks for the reality check, Shannon.

      • Anonymous

        I complete agree about the health insurance issues here – the costs are just outrageous and make me spend money begrudgingly on it when I am in the states (and I really do try to never spend money in a place of frustration :( But I am happy to have shown you that it is possible to live a lot more affordably in Asia and other areas! Let me know once you hit the road if you ever have any questions :)

    • I’m speechless. I honestly didn’t know it was THAT inexpensive.

      • Anonymous

        That’s the base costs, I do spend more every month on things like the doctors apts and that sort of thing, but yes, it’s really reasonable. Hope to see you living here too sometime soon! :)

    • Great post and useful info Shannon. It’s time we share the living costs as a family here in CM! :-)

      • Anonymous

        I think that would be really useful – several of the commenters here on this posts asked about CM as a family-friendly city, so there’s a need for that type of info! :)

    • This is really useful. We are thinking about somewhere to base ourselves for a while to focus on our business and save some money (constant travel gets expensive even in relatively cheap countries) and Chiang Mai is definitely calling us. With so many bloggers loving it there we can’t really ignore it. I’d love to hear more about the vegetarian food options.

      • Anonymous

        You ask and I shall deliver Erin! I have a post coming in a few weeks about all of the best veggie eats in town and what it’s like as a vegetarian in CM :) As for living here and focusing on business – I think that’s a really solid idea; I have been so fortunate right now because there are such a variety of skills between the travel bloggers living here, so we are able to share skillsets and knowledge and use the others in the community as a sounding board! It’s a really wonderful community here, so you can’t go wrong :)

    • Pitiranggon

      As a Thai people, I totally agree. especially the high cost of dental care, my uncle paid for his dentist $50,000 but in Thailand you just pay about $1200-$1500!!! everything much cheaper..

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for sharing those costs! I haven’t had to do any major dental work, but I have heard from others that it’s just incredibly cheap and comparable in how good it is! :)

    • Jennifer Barry

      Hi Shannon, since it’s so cheap there and I LOVE Thai food, I am so tempted to book a plane ticket right now. :) I think it’s great you are showing how well you can live in Asia, especially if you are making money in dollars or euros.

      • Anonymous

        Do it! :) Hehehe, I think you would have an amazing time living here for a bit, and Asia, well yes, it’s so doable on our currency even given the crappy economy right now :) Thanks for weighing in Jennifer!

    • Totally see why there’s such an active expat community there. I can see myself living there and eating Thai food forever — now to convince Jack that he can too.

      • Anonymous

        Just get Jack here and he’ll be convinced about the Thai food – and if that doesn’t lure him, assure him that there is plenty of delicious Western food options that really are just as good as home! :)

    • Anonymous

      Head exploding. Bags packed.(For someday, cause you never know.)

      • Anonymous

        Come Margo, come! We would have a great time being Travel Belles here in Chiang Mai :)

    • What a great break down. I don’t party much either but would increase the food and gas expenses for myself. The living accommodations seem really reasonable.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Kirk! As a guy, you might do well to add a little bit to the budget, most guys do tend to eat a bit more than me, but to be fair, my roomie is a meat-eater and she spends about the same on food, so it has that going for it! :)

    • really great breakdown — I love posts like this that get into the day-to-day details of living abroad. Well done and congrats on having a great time.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Michael! I really have been floored myself by how affordable it’s been to be here in CM for a few months – now we just have to get you out of the Middle East and over here! :)

    • Excellent post Shannon. I’d say your prices are right on target as I spent just a little bit more there during my month stay back in Oct/Nov 2010. As a matter of fact, due to the prices and the quality of living in Chiang Mai, even Thailand in general, I hope to spend 3-6 months there next year. Thanks for the reminder of how great Chiang Mai really is!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for seconding the prices Ryan! :) And I don’t think you can go wrong with coming back here, the community of other bloggers is just so amazing. And who knows – we could just cross paths here again later this year ;-)

    • Jason

      Sounds great Shannon. Looks like you’re getting quite a good deal for everything. With the Aussie dollar the way it is at the moment on it’s record highs, I bet the Australians living in Chiang Mai are living it up. Informative post, as well as a little seductive. Makes me want to come over.

      • Anonymous

        No doubt the Aussies are loving it now! I have an American friend heading to Perth next week and he was none-to-pleased by the fact that the Aussie dollar is so high! But with that being noted – when are you coming this way then, sir?! ;-)

    • I’ve heard whisperings of the advantages to Chiang Mai and you’ve brought the reality to light. Can I say it’s even better than anticipated?!

      Your reasons are sound, it’s all about moving towards the life you want and why not build it somewhere that’s fun and full of friends? Yes! :)

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for weighing in Jeannie! It really is an appealing city on all fronts :) And the friends and community here are the reason to stay, for sure! You coming this way at some point?! ;-)

    • DanaiyaInspire

      Shannon, having read your article I am confident to continue my blog. I encourage Woman to Travel, so they can explore the world and definitely live an enjoyable life. Your words confirm all that.

      Thank you for your sharing.

    • I’d move to Chiang Mai in a heartbeat if my sig. other’s job was location independent, too! I’m embarrassed to say how much I spend on rent in Singapore… let’s just say my *apartment* costs more than 10x your house!

      • Anonymous

        Wow, I had no idea Singapore was such an expensive city! Maybe in the future the travel gods will look your way and give you a way to branch out and try Thailand or some other Asian cities! :)

    • Adam

      I went to Chiang Mai last summer and it was one of the best times of my life.

      • Anonymous

        So glad to hear you enjoyed it Adam! CM is such a wonderful and friendly city – lots to do and see so I can understand why you had such a good time :)

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for weighing in Justin, several people have mentioned New Zealand in the comments here and I’m intrigued! And the lack of a language barrier can be a real plus :)

    • Anonymous

      Thank you so much for the kind words – and yes, your blog sounds like it’s needed out there to empower women to travel :)

    • Brady Stump

      Enjoyed the blog post!

    • I’ve heard so much about the cheapness in the last couple of years, but never seen a realistic breakdown like this before, even close friends who’ve spent time there haven’t explained it, and now, of course, I understand. I thought I did quite well here, but your total costs amount to around half of my rent/internet! Yet, I rent a two bedroom apartment, and for almost the same price my son, who moved to England last year, rents what is basically one room in a house share. Prices vary so much around the world!

      • Anonymous

        It really is amazing how much it varies in what you can buy with the same amount of money in various places. As long as you can afford your lifestyle, and enjoying it, then it really comes down to preference! Enjoy island life (would love to make it to the Canary Islands someday soon!) and thanks for stopping in and commenting :)

    • Sonya

      Lately, I’ve heard about so many travelers going or moving to Chiang Mai. Thanks for the great tips!

      • Anonymous

        You’re welcome Sonya! If you ever find yourself here, let me know :)

    • Soo cheap, love it! I’m going to be in Chiang Mai in exactly 4 days so good to good to have a rough idea how much $$ is going to be leaving my wallet. Thanks!

      • Anonymous

        Will you really! You have to let me know when you get here and we can get
        lunch or dinner! :)

        • That would be great! Flying in later today and we’re planning to be there for 4-6 days at this stage. Let me know when suits you!

    • Esther

      i’m a single parent with a baby on the way. thinking of moving to thailand for a new life. wondering whta are the cost of living there n how do i find cheap rent yet comfortable apartment foe me and my baby. need some advise on that.

      • Anonymous

        Costs of living would be about the same as what I mentioned in the posts
        since you could probably do with just a one-bedroom that was comfortable for
        you and your baby. Thailand is a wonderful place to base out of and my
        neighbors have two kids (a baby and a toddler) and seem to do well over here
        :) Good luck!

        • Esther

          thats great! thank you..((:

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    • This is such a useful breakdown, especially because you’re specifically showing us what you’re getting for your money! Great to see you’re not living as a pauper. I think my greatest concern with letting go of my job and focusing on my own business is the lack of health insurance, but you nicely cut through that fear. Thanks for sharing the details!

      • Anonymous

        Thanks Jim! And glad you found it helpful…you really do get a lot for
        every dollar you spend here! You really can’t beat the healthcare here – and
        for that matter, medical tourism to Mexico is a growing industry too if it
        happens to be closer to you :) Best of luck!

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    • I loved my time in Chiang Mai. My only regret was that I didn’t stay longer. I was based outside the old fort in the suburbs. It was very chill and quiet and it was nice becoming a “regular” at the local eats.

      • Anonymous

        That’s about my only complaint too – I have to leave next week and it just
        feels like it’s too soon! I haven’t ventured much into the suburbs, but it
        sounds lovely, being with in local areas and becoming a regular is a
        highlight :)

    • Paul D

      Love this blog! Thank you so much for posting. I’ve never seen anyone break down the cost of living and what you get for it the way you did. I have been to Thailand on three occasions, and would love to move there for a year or so, but my wife is settled into a very good job in Toronto, so I don’t think it’s likely. Thankfully in Canada we don’t have your worries about health insurance, but cost of living is still much higher than many other places (especially in Toronto).

      As a writer and professional speaker / business consultant, I can do my job from anywhere, so Chiang Mai sounds great! I guess I’ll do so vicariously through others for now. Enjoy your time there! Cheers –

      • Anonymous

        Really glad you found it helpful Paul! It’s the baseline costs to be sure, there is more you could spend, but Thailand is a great place to minimalize and pare down :) You have half of the equation down with your job being location independent, it’s even great for a few month stint if your wife ever feels like negotiating a short sabbatical! :)

    • Thanks for this post. We really want to move back to Thailand and are considering Chaing Mai. It is great to get an idea of living costs. As we are a family of soon to be four I’m sure the costs will be a lot more but it’s great to know. I’ve heard so many great things about the medical care there. I’d feel quite comfortable moving there now and having my baby there.
      I’m totally jealous by the way!

      • Anonymous

        Huge congrats!!! Yay, a new baby :) I don’t think you could go wrong
        coming here, the hospitals in town are clean, and a few of them are
        English-speaking too. Your costs would be higher to be sure, but not by a
        ton. The house Jodi and I rent is 10,000 baht total for a two bedroom and
        the family across from us (same exact house) has exactly your family size,
        little baby, toddler, and a couple – so that’s roughly what you’re looking
        at for a little house or two bedroom apartment!

        Keep me posted if you decide to come here (and the GotPassports are a great
        resource)! :)

    • Willofalaska

      thanks for all your posts. do you recommend any books for more information? and once again you have done a great job getting the word out. retiring in 15 years and was looking for good alternatives

      • Anonymous

        Thanks! I actually don’t have any expat book recommendations in particular,
        there are some great travelogues out there, is that what you are looking
        for?

    • Probably some of the best value in the world I’d say!

      • Anonymous

        I would have to second you on that one! Thailand has wonderful value for
        money :)

      • Raj

        Agreed , great place and you can live the comfortable life here

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    • Stephen

      Thanks for the price breakdowns. It really is a great place to live and work (via the web) cheaply. I spent less than a week there, got lots of work (writing/publishing) done and spent very little money. I know I want to return to stay longer.

      • Anonymous

        Glad you found it helpful Stephen, CM is a wonderful place to settle and
        because the internet speeds are decent I found it easy to pound out some
        work :) If there is ever anything I can do to help once you move back
        there, let me know!

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    • Russell Wilkes

      I just happened to stumble across your site today. It’s just what I had been looking for. I don’t want to be thought of as the typical american stereotype that I’ve read about on other sites . Thank you for your honesty and your sincerity. I hope to emulate what you are doing shortly. Fortunately I’ll have a modest income that should prove to be sufficient for the lifestyle you have painted for me. I’m looking forward to making many friends and experiencing the culture of Thailand.   

      • Anonymous

        Hi Russell! Thanks for stopping in and sharing your experience; Thailand is
        one of my favorite countries and a great place to be an expat. If there is
        every anything I can do to help you plan, or answer any questions don’t
        hesitate to drop me an email! :)

    • TravelingTeacher

      Thank you for this positive information about living in Chiang Mai! I have spent a few months in the Gulf of Thailand, but have never been to Chiang Mai before. I will be coming to live there very soon and will be working as an English teacher. You wouldn’t believe all the negative stuff that is out there on the ESL Teaching forums, online articles,etc. I was starting to worry! Your information has been very reassuring and helpful. Thank you so much!

      • Anonymous

        So glad this alleviated some of your concerns. The vibe up in the north if
        very, very different than the islands–but a good different in my opinion :)
        I have many expat friends living in CM right now and they are teaching
        English and really enjoying it. I’ll be back there in the late fall myself,
        so get in touch if there is anything I can do to help. Also, there is a
        Facebook group for expats in CM: http://www.facebook.com/TeamChiangMai
        <<Great people on there and you'll be able to meet people right away :)

        • TravelingTeacher

          Thank you so much for the FB page recommendation, it is just what I have been looking for!

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    • Thanks for posting this. I just showed this post to my husband.  It didn’t take long to convince him we should move to Thailand.  

      • Anonymous

        I love it when this post has that effect! When you guys start planning let me know and I’ll help where I can! :)

    • Rogersjed@gmail.com

      Hello I’m a retired military member Im very interested in moving an living in Thialand. I’m collecting data on costs an quality of life. In the various areas of Thialand. Also I’m curious about the volunteering in this part of the world.

      • Anonymous

        Hi Roger, thanks for commenting, I really think CM rates high in Thailand for quality of living, and because CM is in the north, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities not only with the local Thai communities, but with Burmese refugees as well. Feel free to send me an email if there is anything else I can do to help! :)

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    • Denwalters22

      I’ve always wanted to travel after I finish my undergrad. but I’m spectacle about the costs of living and how to pay for it all, but this definitely helped. Adding Thailand to the list!

    • Meancharlie

      Waaaa thanks for the info. I just came back from bangkok last week for vacation and fell in love with thailand. Planned to stay for 2 weeks but extended one more week just because it’s AWESOME :) Plus i met a girl over there and absolutely fell in love with her. Ya, call me naive but she’s 10x better then all my ex. We’ve been talking about opening a restaurant or hostel in CM in the future. Talk about living cost ggrrrrr. I make around $70k a year and it’s not even nearly enough to support the life style here in the US sighhhhhh. BTW know how much will it cost to open a small business there in CM? restaurant, hostels, tailor shop……..building/land cost?

      • Anonymous

        The transition back home is a tough one once you’ve been to Thailand, it’s one of my favorite places :) Chiang Mai is a wonderful city and there are a a lot opportunities for expat restaurants and shops. I am not sure about the business start up costs, but I know that once you come back you will no doubt be able to find some of the local expats and they will give you candid details on the ups and downs of owning a business there! Also check expat forums and that sort of thing to find current Western business owners :) Good luck!

      • Seeker

        Ah, another farang newbie with Jasmine Fever… Do your homework grasshopper, before you turn your life upside down for someone you just met… No matter how well she treats you, now…

    • Renee

      Would love some advice. Coming for three months with my foster daughter from Ghana so she can do a course at a Thai massage school and although I have been to Thailand twice over the years, wondering what is our best option for housing. Been searching the apt/guest house sites and really want a place we can cook too. Any suggestions? I will be doing some yoga and whatever classes may take my fancy, some dental work and medical. We will do a  little traveling too. Would love to chat with you.

      • Anonymous

        Have responded in email, but for general purposes to have the information handy, I really prefer to find a place in CM once you get there — book a guest house for several days and then do some hunting and you will find great deals :)

    • Anonymous

      Helpful

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for sending that link, though I am not at the retiring stage, it is helpful to have that information here. Cheers and thanks :)

    • Erumdo

      Dude. 3 months does NOT make you an expat. But a backpacker with a rental apartment. 

      • Anonymous

        Cheers and thanks for the feedback and for (not) reading so closely…lived there for five months actually (and am not really a backpacker at all so much anymore), and I am currently living here for another six months at least, in my book, that makes me an expat but you’re entitled your opinion! :)

        • Andrew Mitchell

          Sounds like Erumdo is a traveler snob. I love those people. As in “you’re doing it but you’re not doing it as well as me.” I’ve surfed in a bunch of places around the world and there are all of these foreigners (guess what, we’re all foreigners) who have declared themselves the “locals” in all of these surf spots. It’s like “oh, you should have been here ten years ago, you missed it.” OK, whatever. We’re all trying to do it the best we can. As long as you go somewhere and are respectful to the natives and their culture, then you’re doing it right.

          • ShannonOD

            There are people for whom it will always be a pissing contest and this post has brought out a bunch of them! I appreciate you sharing your own experience Andrew. The world is dynamic and changing, and if you love a spot now, right now, then that’s the time to be there–that “10 years ago” argument frustrates me too! Good luck with the surfing, I have always loved passing through the beach communities that spring up around the great surf spots. Safe travels :)

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    • Devon Johnston

      Loved reading your story. I am getting ready to retire on $1400 a month, Yikes! Can you imagine how I will live in the US on that! I’ve been making around $100k a year for the last 20 years so I am used to living well. (Would have lived less well and saved more if I had understood the reality of retirement)
      Thailand is one of the places I have admired from a distance and considered as my retirement place, but making the move without knowing anyone, it is scary, although I did read about the expat clubs there so besides you, there are plenty of English speaking folks around. I would not want to move without my daughter and grandson, which would mean she would need to find work. Things have to be considerably different there, so doubt you can answer this, but what are the chances for a home-improvement expert and artists to make money there?
      Thanks for the great articles,
      DJ

      • Seeker

        Sorry to burst your bubble, but Thailand has very restrictive work permit visas rules and / or foreign business investment regulations… Your daughters best option for employment would be as an English teacher in the Thai school system, as long as she has a 4 year degree in something and a TEFL certificate…

    • Ben Pablo

      Typed in “cost of living thailand” in Google and your entry popped up as the highest-ranked non-sponsored one, and I was glad I came across it! Moving there has always been in the back of my head, and it’s mainly because of the affordability. The baht isn’t far from Philippine Peso, and I don’t make much, being only a few years fresh out of college. But I’ve been there and I like the culture, so I’m definitely going to explore the possibilities. Thank you for the details and the insights :) And feel free to ask me about anything at all if you plan to visit my country.

      • Anonymous

        Glad you happened upon the post! I know of other Filipino expats here so I think you are right, it’s comparable and doable with the exchange rates…when you’re close to moving here, let me know if you have any questions, likewise, I will definitely send you an email when I visit the Phillipines :) Cheers and good luck planning your move!

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    • Bruce Kendall

      Here is my budget when we move to Thailand in March 2012.
      But we will be living in Pattaya, on the Dark Side.The house is already paid for.Internet                                       $50

      Cable TV                                    $10

      Water (we have a pool)                $40

      Electric                                      $40

      Food                                         $250

      Truck and Gas (truck
      is paid for) $100

      Evenings out    (4
      times)             $200

      Travel    (2 times)                       $400

       

      Total                                        $1100If I can keep it to this I will living Phat!

      • Anonymous

        That looks doable Bruce! And great that you have a plan in place; though I haven’t been to Pattaya, good luck! ;-)

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    • Pascal

      Hello Shannon, thanks for your great articles. Is it a good idea to move in thailand with my wife and my 3 kids? Can I find good school? How much to rent a 4 – 5 bedrooms house?

      • Anonymous

        I think it depends on what you are looking for, but there are many other expats with families living here, and numerous high quality international schools that give an excellent education. The http://www.gotpassport.org/ family
        lives here and you might be able to find some inspiration on their site!

    • Brittany

      I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog! I’m also from Orlando, actually living here now. Just got back from living in Switzerland for a year, and I’m ready to head back out there!  What do you do in Thailand, job wise?

      • Anonymous

        Hi Brittany! I’m envious of that year in Europe, I would love to find a way to spend a year traveling around their affordably :) As for work here in Thailand, teaching English is probably the easiest way, but there are also a whole lot of NGOs and similar type work too. I work online, but this type of work is what many of my friends do to get visas and live here long-term! :)

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    • Bruce

      I enjoyed reading your blog.  I live on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.  We have the highest electrical rate in the nation.  Our mountain ridges receive more rain than any other place in the world.  You would think we would harness the hydro and go green but the so-called enviornmentalist fight the Hydro Power.  So we burn fossil fuel to make electricity… Go figure!  BTW my electric bill runs about $400 a month, milk is $5 a gallon, etc….

      I’m building a new home, I am way over-budget.  One of the guys working on the house is married to a girl from Thailand.  They just finished building a home in Thailand.  It is comparable to my home on Kauai.  Their home cost them $50,000, I don’t even want to tell you how much I have into my home.

      Long story short, my friend and his wife are encouraging me to sell everything and move to Thailand.

      I googled Americans living in Thailand and found your blog…

      Mahalo Nui Loa!!!
      I plan to move to Thailand,

      Bruce
       

      • Anonymous

        Hi Bruce, glad you found my site and perhaps a little bit more inspiration to perhaps move abroad, the cost of living is so much lower here than in the US it’s scarcely even comparable. That’s one of the best parts of moving abroad, keeping your quality of life, but scaling down the costs so you can enjoy your time :) There are so many other things to consider here (foreigners cannot own land directly), politics, and visas, but overall, if you can make the move work, and you like spending time in Thailand you could definitely be living for a fraction of the cost. If there is ever any questions I can answer, just shoot me an email! :)

    • Eugene

      Hey Shannon. Thanks for this post and for giving us an insight into your life in Thailand. My wife and I will be going there again on holiday next April which I just found out is the hottest time of the year. :-r

      I’m still working on convincing her to agree to sell everything and go and spend at least a few months there but she’s not biting yet. Our child (a rabbit called Coco) might not cope with the heat though so
      for now we’ll leave him with a sitter and enjoy the holiday. She’ll be happy to hear that there’s some decent coffee and ice cream in Chiang Mai though and I’ll be using this info during the next round of our negotiations.

      • Anonymous

        April is a tough time to travel here for sure, it’s baking hot and in the north, were they do crop burning the air quality can be pretty bad. But, it’s also not the high tourist season, so there is something to say about that! If you visit Chiang Mai you will be amazed by all of the Western comforts when you need them…ice cream is plentiful and coffee is often mediocre, but there are a few pretty decent spots! Let me know if there is any way I can help once you plan to come this way, I should actually be here in April :)

    • Hi Shannon!

      I know I’m this is an older post, but I have had it bookmarked for months in preparation for my own move to Chiang Mai! I’ve been here for over a week now and scored a pretty cool apartment on Nimman Road. I was wondering if you could tell me where you rented your scooter. I haven’t found any places with rates lower than 3000B. Did you have a native Thai speaker help you?

      Thanks so much, 
      Susan

      • Anonymous

        Nimman is such a great area, very lively and some of my favorite restaurants are over there! Will send you a message about the bikes :)

      • Skycop15

        Scooter rentals are everywhere, around 200 baht. You give up your passport until return, get insurance please. Good luck you can get hurt and or killed! Thai’s do not stop!

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    • Jimskid

      hi there, ive done homework about working in thialand but ive seen nothing of the legality of an expat working in Thailand.  once i start the journey, what is a good staging area, maybe with a cheap pensione or youth hostel?
      thank you so much for your help
      jim, dallas texas
      jimskid@hotmail.com

      • Anonymous

        That’s a tough one Jimskid, it is completely illegal to work here in Thailand without a visa, so I can’t really recommend you do that, but yes, some hostels might let you exchange accommodation for work if you ask around. That being said, there are a lot of teaching English jobs here, and you could take a contract and save up money, and then leave, not sure what your travel plans look like, but there is definitely work to be found (both legit and not) all over SEA for backpackers simply asking around :)

        • Jimskid

          it was so nice to get a fast response, thank you

    • Jthieme23

      Hi Shannon. im actually looking into teaching ESL in Thailand in the next few months. I was wondering about Health insurance there. I have Insurance here till June and then I have nothing, but after that Id have to figure something out. If my job doesnt offer it can i get insurance there?

    • Anonymous

      Shannon,
      What a generous spirit you are! I have enjoyed reading your blog and it is one of the first ones that piqued my interest in Chiang Mai. Reading about your adventures has been really inspiring. I have a question for you related to visa expenses; my husband is a telecommuter and we have decided to take a “personal development year” in Thailand. My husband will work remotely and I will be finishing a novel and perhaps volunteering. My question: If we want to stay in Thailand for a year or so, is it advisable to sign a year lease on a house or apt?  If so, what expenses can we expect to incur over a year to keep a valid Visa? I have been searching online, but haven’t found the answer to the question “What is the least amount of visa related expenses we would incur in order to stay in Chiang Mai for a year?” Thank you in advance for your time.. I know you are busy with your niece. ;-)  Would love to meet you and your niece when we get there.
      Peace out,
      Loree
      P.S.  I also really resonate to your Joseph Campbell quite..

      • Anonymous

        Hi Loree! Thanks for getting in touch and congrats on the move to Thailand, I am pretty partial to the country :)

        As for visas, that is one of the trickier parts of staying for a year. You will have really just a couple options since I don’t think you’re at retirement age yet (totally different visas!).

        The double entry visa: Gives you two entries, each on 60 days and each entry can be extended by 30 days…so this is about 6 months. Then you would have to leave and get a second double entry visa. With this visa, you have to leave the country every 90 days and at least cross a border. All told about 6,000 baht to buy it and then cross a nearby border). (Apply for your first double entry from home!)

        The second kind is a year visa but it’s multi entry (so you can come in and leave as many times as you want) and you get 90 days each time. I haven’t done this one, but friends have and it’s the ideal between the two. Call your closest Thai consulate and see if they would issue this one…it’s worth the fees.

        Also, for some more living here type posts and help: http://www.gotpassport.org/?s=visas This family has some great resources.
        And as for the house, renting a house can be cheaper, but there are allll
        kinds of apts here in Chiang Mai, and just a bit outside the moat you can
        get a pretty great house for the same as an apt in the city, so it really
        depends on what you want (check out the link above, they also have a
        housing post!). Consider, if you do a apt and commit to 6 months, then you
        can easily get out of it if you decide to try out living elsewhere in
        Thailand!

        Cheers and good luck on the move, if you’re here in the next few months we
        can definitely meet up! :)

        • Anonymous

          THANK YOU Shannon!  Soooo helpful!! I look forward to reading about your latest adventures.
          Cheers,
          Loree

    • “The best way for me to not go further into debt is, frankly, to stay outside of the US.”

      Sad, but true! I’m seriously thinking to live there with my 2 little girls and My wife!
      Thanks for sharing!

      • Anonymous

        I couldn’t agree more! It’s gotten so that even a modest income puts you at the poverty level, whereas you can live a really nice life over here in Thailand for that amount. Good luck with the planning! :)

    • BadDude

      wow is cheap to live in thailand, and still have money saving.

    • BadDude

      Hope someday, I can visit thailand.

    • Beenthere

      50 bucks per month entertainment?? what do you do?? put 50 bucks down the toilet and see which way it spin’s?? 50 buck’s get’s jack sh’t in Thailand …

      • Anonymous

        If you’re a frequent blog reader you’ll note that I’m not a big partier and preder a night of bowling or karaoke over sinking a lot of money into alcohol, so 50 bucks a month bought me a few beers with friends each week, which is quite enough for me. By all means, factor is a lot more if you have a different lifestyle, my intention was to give baseline costs for consideration. If you like to flush money down the beer-toilet, then by all means quadruple that number for sure. :) Cheers.

        • Suanprig

          i agree with both of you. it depends on how you live. Ive lived in cm for many years and I have thai friends with 30,000,000 baht plots (US 1M) then again i know monks here who own and earn nothing.

          • Got to agree with $50 a month getting you nothing.  That’s only 1,500 baht. So, maybe five or six nights out over the month, and that’s it.

            Of course, if you go with a group of friends for dinner to a Thai restaurant you could stretch that to about 10 nights out. But it wouldn’t be anywhere near enough for anybody who likes a drink. One beer is 50-70 baht.

            • Anonymous

              Gotta say, 5-6 nights out is about right, I think I noted in the piece that I go “out” about once a week at the time, and that includes karaoke nights, where beer is the backdrop to simply hanging out :)  

      • Mac

         Very few people will save money by spending less, it’s just not human nature. You may get more for what you spend, but you will not ‘save money’ or ‘live cheaply’. In fact, you will end up spending as much as you did in the country you immigrated from.

      • Tim

        He gets 1ea.-bar girl for 50.00 a month.  LOL  You need about 4,000.00 a month (Minimum), unless you like sitting in your room alone for 30 days at a time.  If you pay cash for a condo and then have 4,000.00 USD a month for spending money, you will have a great time there.

      •  You don’t need much if you don’t party like a rockstar, I’ve been living in Chiang Mai for 3 years and my monthly budget on entertainment is about 10,000 baht.

        • ShannonOD

          Thanks for weighing in on that Chris, I was taking a bit of flack on that one :) Cheers and good luck living here!

      • Obviously if your idea of entertainment is getting wasted and all that goes with that daily … $50 dont get you a lot. 2000b gets me a whole lot of entertainment. My Idea of what is entertaining is probably different to yours though :-)

      • Obviously if your idea of entertainment is getting wasted and all that goes with that daily … $50 dont get you a lot. 2000b gets me a whole lot of entertainment. My Idea of what is entertaining is probably different to yours though :-)

    • Tom

      Im not from US but I wanna living in Thailand. Nice nature, girls, good costs of living, great nightlife :) 

      • Anonymous

        No worries, there are expats from all over here, with all kinds of interests :)

    • zly

      well living story

    • I think while you can live on $500 a month in Thailand (not Bangkok!) temporarily, it’s just not possible full-time.

      I’ve been in Thailand for 11 years and can get away with $800-1,000 a month in Bangkok and that’s a comfortable lifestyle. But, if I wanted to do any traveling or go out much at nights, or to nicer restaurants, that would easily rise to $1,300-$1,600.

      Plus, the dollar is set to fall even further, making $500 a month just about impossible, unless you have two or three roomates and never eat western food :)

      IMO, $1,500 a month is the perfect salary in Thailand. It allows you to have a life, travel and pay for the dreaded visa runs. I wouldn’t recommend much less than that long-term (and btw, I’m female so don’t have a Thai girlfriend to also take care of :))

      • Anonymous

        Agreed, it’s not possible on just $500, but this truly is my base costs for being here in the North (not BKK), without visa runs and without frequent Western food (which I don’t do except for a couple times a month). I’d say that budget wise and as NOT a heavy drinker/partier I *easily* spent less than $1000 per month and still enjoyed my days, that was mostly just working and hanging out with friends though! :)  

        Glad to see how it can vary if you spend money in different areas (and definitely varies if you have a Thai gf, as you noted! :)  Thanks for weighing in on this with your expenses, it helps to have a wide range of people’s experiences here. 

    • Allons-y Tout de suite

      This is a great post, Shannon. And your diligence in answering everyone’s replies is admirable!

      I don’t normally post on blogs, but Rachel and others have me wanting to ask some questions…

      $200 covers your rent, electricity, water, internet and maid.
      $175 for food
      $65 for scooter and gas
      $50 for evenings out

      If this is accurate, I don’t understand why so many others say you’d need $1000 or even $1500 a month to live a “reasonable” lifestyle. What are they doing?!

      I’ve been living in Japan for the past 15 years in Osaka, which is apparently the 2nd most expensive city in the world.

      This is a rough breakdown of how much I spend (figures in yen, which is currently at about 80yen to the dollar).

      Rent and water, 91,000 (for a pretty good sized two-bdrm apt, one room I use as a classroom)
      Electricity, about 9,000 on average (high because I teach out of my home and need the air con on all the time – it would normally be closer to about 5000 yen if I had a normal job)
      Cell phone bill, 8000 yen
      Gas bill, 5000 yen
      Phone and internet, 5000 yen

      In addition to all this, I budget around 90,000 yen ($1125 US) for all other expenses. That means groceries, eating out, drinking out, meds at the pharmacy when needed, toiletries, public transportation ($5 for a round trip), gas for my motorcycle, AND $300 smoking. (Bad habit I need to quit, I know!)

      Remove smoking from the equation because I don’t think most here are including that when they ask how expensive Thailand is and I’m left with around $825 US for the month for all that stuff.

      So, this is where I’m a bit confused.

      Rachel says around $1000/mo for comfortable. I’ve seen other blogs where guys are saying they wouldn’t recommend less than $1500. This seems very high to me.

      I’m spending $825 a month for these expenses, but your list already includes food and at least some going out. If it takes an additional $500/mo to be comfortable, that’s almost as much as I spend here in Osaka!

      Is there something I’m missing? Or when people say “have a life” they actually really mean “go drinking a lot”? I don’t really drink much so I can’t imagine spending much more than maybe $100, MAYBE $200 more than your budget to do everything I want to.

      As for things not included in your budget, such as clothes, I know that you can get lots of great clothes for cheap enough to almost be negligible. (Jeans for $10, t-shirts for $5 — and these were great quality knock-offs. Lasted me ages!)

      Can you (or maybe Rachel and others) show me where the additional $500-$1000 would be needed? Maybe I’m not considering everything properly.

      Thanks for reading!

      • ShannonOD

        Thanks for including your breakdown for Osaka…I had no idea it could be that affordable! As for prices here, there really is a difference between living a bit more local, and the Western conveniences. I think 1500 per month is awfully high for CM, but you could wrack that much up if you are in a nice apt, eating Western food, and consuming a lot (buying clothes, shopping, etc). Then there are the visa-runs to factor in, which add a bit to the expenses (a quick run to the Burmese border here runs about 700 baht at 30b to the USD, and if you need a Thai visa that could be as much as 2,000 baht or more for the visa alone).

        I eat like a local, and live in a pretty small apartment (and when this post was rented lived with a room-mate in a house). $500 was the base cost, I couldn’t spend less than that. Medical expenses, checkups, more Western food, that sort of thing maybe added another couple hundred, but if you are based here long-term, for a year or more, you could DEF find a way to live well under $1000/month.

        For another post on CM budgets though, friends of mine wanted a nice apt with a full kitchen, and that made living costs sky-rocket in some ways: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/the-search-for-an-apartment-in-chiang-mai/
        On the other hand, you could have a “kitchen” in the cheaper places if you go Thai style with a propane tank and burner. :)

        So yes, there are options, all depending on how long you’re staying. If
        you’re here for three months and plan to party a lot, then $1500 could be
        right on. The better deals on motorbikes, apts, etc come when you’re here
        for a while, and when you find the great local spots to eat and hang out!

      • Whatever

        1.  You’ll need more than $200 to cover your rent/electricity/cable/internet etc.  Just running your air conditioner for the hot months (8 months out of the year) will run you $50.  For $150 you’ll be living in a room…not an apartment.  I’d recommend $300-400/month for rent on the low(ish) end.

        2.  There is NO way that you can rent a motorbike and gas it up for $65/month.  Last year, Jan, the owner of Bikky charged 2000 Baht a month for her cheapest rentals (Honda Wave/Suzuki Shogun) and this year (March) the price was 2500 Baht. Pay the extra 200/month for a better helmet also.  Realistically, you can get by for $100-120/month including gas.

        3.  Western food is more than $3-$4/meal.  A double-cheeseburger at McDonalds is 78 Baht and most western meals (not fancy meals btw) will run you at least 180 Baht.  Forget eating cheese and other western foods while you are there.  Fruit is 10 Baht a serving.  A latte (like the ones that Shannon pictured) is 60 Baht.  Stay away from the fruit “shakes” it’s just a bunch of simple syrup mixed with some fruit and ice.  Sugar overload.  Thai meals will cost you 35 baht and it is primarily rice.  You’ll probably want an order of vegetables also for nutritions sake (another B35).  I’d budget $10/day for food at a minimum including coffee and water.  $10 a day does not include western food or beer/soda. 

        4.  Karaoke is one of the more expensive things that you can do in Chiang Mai…unless you are renting a booth at one of the malls (Airport Plaza or Central Kad Suan Kaew).

        5.  Toiletries aren’t cheap.  Especially if you want your western brands.

        6. Cell Phone.  Use True Money sim cards.  1 Baht/minute for calls to the U.S.

        6 You’ll spend much less on Smoking in Thailand than Japan.  Marlboros are 78 Baht / L&M are 58 Baht.

        7. A movie will cost $4.  Bowling is about $1.25/frame

        8 Gym membership (you do want to stay in shape don’t you?) will cost $40/month short term (one month) and $33/month for a six month membership at the cheap places (fitness thailand)  Cali Wow will cost much more.  It’s too hot to exercise outside (not to mention, too polluted).  Thais don’t seem to exercise much.  The women are thin, but they have no muscle tone.

        9 Haircut $5.  Massage $5 hour.

        So, bottom line, there is NO way that you can live in Chiang Mai on $500/month.  I sure can’t and I drink/party less than Shannon.

        Here is my breakdown to live cheaply…

        $400 rent/utilities
        $300 food
        $100 motorbike
        $100 incidentals (toiletries, vitamins, haircuts, phone etc etc etc)
        $100 entertainment

        $1000/month bare minimum… $1500/modestly comfortable

        And we haven’t even touched on medical, visa costs, longer distance travel (or are you just going to stay in Chiang Mai?)

        Source…been there done that.

        Everybody likes to brag about how *cheaply* they can exist in Thailand.

        • ShannonOD

          Thanks for weighing in, I find you right on a lot of fronts, and grossly different than myself as well. Since this is a personal site, I did in fact live on a bare minimum of $500 (which is what I called it and said that visas and medical was not included. And, I stand by the fact that:

          1) 10,000 gets you an entire house with many bedrooms, a one bedroom can be around 5,500b if you look around and don’t go to the expat spots. Very cute studios for 2,500b even if outside the moat.
          2) I left CM last month and STILL paid 1,500b per month and I rented locally, not from Bikky.
          3) Who the hell would go to Thailand to eat at McDonalds? And, simply ask for a shake without sugar (Mrs. Pa at CM gate does great ones and will point you to the naturally sweet fruits so it tastes good!). Also, as I say, I’m vegetarian, enjoy a lot more expenses if you indulge in animal flesh regularly, veggies are cheap and delicious!
          4) The mall, exactly what I mention in my CM post as cheap and fun things to do, did it with friends just last month and it was great fun (and cheap!) 5) Agreed, I try to bring deodorant from home since I hate the selection of liquidy gel stuff.
          6) True sucks for everything other than calls home (which is free on Google Voice), I use DTac
          7) Yep, 4 bucks for a movie, and 2.50 for a popcorn – perfect afternoon! 8) Running is free. Plus, I don’t exercise unless it’s to P90x in my house, so it looks like CM is cheaper for those ppl like me. :) Check out the CM marathon and other monthly races if you want to get involved with the community, a lot of them fundraise for the refugees!
          10) yep, and how many haircuts do you need, I certainly don’t get one a
          month, which is why it’s ridiculous to put that in a montly budget.

          Bottom line, I just left CM after living there for 5 more months with my 11
          year old niece, and though a few prices had gone up (smoothies 20b instead
          of 15, vegetarian dinner is 5b more too) we BOTH lived for right around 1,000 per
          month, so I don’t know what the heck you people are talking about. Get some
          local friends, eat with them, rent from them, and life gets cheaper :)

          Cheers and thanks for sharing what it costs to live a bit more in CM!

          ~S

          • Tom

            Shannon

            I lived in CM and Bangkok for a total of 2 years. I hope you aren’t running on the busy streets of Thailand. If you are, you are inhaling alot of carbon soot that will never come out of your lungs. Have you noticed any decline in your breathing capacity? If so, you have black soot in your lungs, and it doesn’t come out. Fair warning to everyone reading this.

            • ShannonOD

              Thanks for pointing that out Tom, the smog this past year was really intense, and it did have health effects on me at the time, but from most of the research I found, it’s chronic exposure to smog that causes the serious issues. The research studies I found showed that your lungs and immune system can recover from just a season or two in it. It’s most unfortuante for the residents, who are exposed to the smog annually for months at a time. It is something to keep in mind, and I kept a mask on my face when the levels were particularly bad.

        • I have to argue: a $50 monthly rental for a scooter is pretty common. $100 per month on haircuts and toiletries sounds ridiculous but maybe you have 10 times more hair than I do and need to braid your back hair.

          My rent for a private room with bath was $140 per month. I personally visited Shannon and Jodi’s house and it was *sweet* — I was quite envious. A friend had a place for 170US that included wifi, AC, cable and maid service, all within the Old City walls.

          Shannon drinks about 1/100 as much as I do so her monthly costs are significantly lower than mine. But your claim of 1500 US per month to be ‘moderately comfortable’ is ridiculous. I partied like a rockstar and still came in under 1100 US per month. (total does not include cost of liver transplant)

          I suspect you’re what I call a “Get off my lawn!” — an expat who likes to do nothing but complain about the place they have chosen as a home and how much better it was 10 years ago.

          Don’t like it? Go home. And take your neggy peggy horseshit with you.

          • ShannonOD

            Thanks for weighing in Wes (and for defending the costs!). And good to know that even with a lot more nights out drinking, it is truly affordable. You definitely are able to include more of the costs if you go out a lot more but still hunt around for a good deal on the apartment. I never made it to your abode, but I know it was near the old city, internet, close to food and reasonably priced. Couple that with you being able to dink regularly for under $1100 a month and you have me convinced all over again that we should move back there and hang out some more! xo

    • Allons-y Tout de suite

      Oh, one more question. Sorry.

      I would love to save as much as I can for the next 5 years and then go there to retire. (I’ll be 48 then.)
      I do love Thailand and the food. It’s a wonderfully strange country, friendly, interesting, exciting…

      But…

      I’m not interested in going over there to buy a bar girl to be my girlfriend. I’m not interested in meeting someone who just sees me as a wallet and/or a sponsor for her family. I’m sure there are some great girls there but I’ve heard sooooooooooooo many stories of guys going there and getting taken that I would feel like I can never truly trust anybody. I wouldn’t have a problem providing for a girl that I have a real relationship with but I don’t want to be providing for someone who’s going to be working on the side and other nefarious things, if you know what I mean. Plus there’s the language problem that I’m not sure I want to deal with. I’ll learn some, of course, but it would take years to learn enough for real communication and I don’t know if I’m ready to invest that level of effort in the language.

      So, I guess what I’m getting at is, are there any western women over there? Obviously there are, since you are there, but aren’t most of them just dropping by for a couple months? Is there a significant number of long-termers there or should I just resign myself to the fact that bar girls are (and if not, girls just looking for a free ride for them and their families) all that is available?

    • Hans

      I just got back from Thailand a few months ago and did not really get to visit Phuket or CM since most of Bangkok outside of the financial district was flooded. The taxi brought me to Pattaya when I ask to go to the beach lol and stayed waiting for the water to run off in Bangkok. I’m looking into Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam to see where my money will go farthest and hope to teach English as well. Do you know if Thailand is the cheaper of the three? Also any other cities I should consider for cheap and good quality of life?

      • ShannonOD

        I think it really depends on what you are looking for– a lot of expats choose Thailand because there is so much access to Western amenities. But as far as teaching English, both Thailand and Vietnam are really great options and both have large expat communities. I have friends who have lived in Hanoi and really enjoyed teaching there. Same thing with here in Chaing Mai, if you have your TEOFL certification, then you could likely find a job here (if you came at the right time while they were hiring for the new school year). There are many opportunities and I think Vietnam and Thailand likely sound like the best options for price and ease of finding a job! :)

    • Pingback: The Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand()

    • Bobpalmer47

      Thank you Shannon for you information. It coincides with what I have experienced and what four other links have put out. My girl friend, her son (6 years old) and I are considering Thailand for residence. I have been there 5 times for 2 to 4 months. I have done the Myanmar Visa run renewal three times. My girl friend has not been to Thailand.

      • ShannonOD

        Your welcome, glad you found it helpful and good luck with the move! There are a lot of expats with children here, particularly if you put her son in an International school, so you will find a great community when you come! :)

    • CMilton

      Hi Shannon
      I am sooo happy for you and your new life. I have been to Thailand (many moons ago) and would like to have some insight on Chiang Mai. I am a massage therapist (and a nurse) who would like to add Thai Massage and study at ITM. I would be interested in topics like accommodations, cheapest flight into which city as an entry point……my plan is to stay 3-4 weeks….not sure if an apartment or guesthouse is the way to go. I am definately on a budget as I have obligations back in the US.
      I would appreciate any imput……..and thanks for your blog……so inspired by it.
      PS I have a scooter at home, so not a problem for me regarding transportation, although funds favor walking. So a reasonable distance to ITM would be a preferance. Flights seem to be on the high end so any suggestions???????? Thx Cheryl

      • ShannonOD

        I have a few tips for you Cheryl, I did a guide to CM post here: http://alittleadrift.com/2011/08/best-places-in-chiang-mai/ with hotel and restaurant recs. Finding a good guesthouse and renting for 3-4 weeks at a discounted rate is your best bet, if you look around once you get here, you can likely find something great. Here is a longer list of accommodation options: .
        For flights, flying into Bangkok is often the most budget option, check Skyscanner.com for the discount airlines in the region. Also try Hipmunk.com and Kayak.com to perhaps find more budget options getting here. Once here, flying around Thailand though use the discount ones. If you want to be mostly walking distance for the month, making sure you book something near Thae Pae gate is best :) Good luck!

    • Tomcort123

      Me and My Son are moving to Thailand in the next 6 months as teachers. We have everything sorted just saving up for visa and flights and stuff. Just wondering what the cost of living is? and what sort of money and things we will need to bring over?

      • ShannonOD

        It’s still really close to what I outlined in my post, double or triple the food budget for two people (and particularly if you think you’ll be eating Western food frequently). I haven’t visited where you’ll be staying, but it has the potential to be really affordable since its not BKK or the islands. As for what to bring, don’t worry too much, anything you forget can be bought here, they have huge malls and stores with just about anything you need :) Cheers and safe travels over here!

      • ShannonOD

        It’s still really close to what I outlined in my post, double or triple the food budget for two people (and particularly if you think you’ll be eating Western food frequently). I haven’t visited where you’ll be staying, but it has the potential to be really affordable since its not BKK or the islands. As for what to bring, don’t worry too much, anything you forget can be bought here, they have huge malls and stores with just about anything you need :) Cheers and safe travels over here!

    • Tomcort123

      We are moving to Sara Buri are there good schools to teach at there?

    • I’m right around the same number as you each month, $600 gets a pretty decent standard of living. I recently documented a month at $400 a month on my site, that was hard but doable.

      • ShannonOD

        Thanks Neale, I think the real difference comes down to the food you like, and what you consider a good time. I am living here with my niece this year, and am still well under $1000 for two people! Happy to hear others have found the same here….400 must have been a bit tricky though! :)

      • ShannonOD

        Thanks Neale, I think the real difference comes down to the food you like, and what you consider a good time. I am living here with my niece this year, and am still well under $1000 for two people! Happy to hear others have found the same here….400 must have been a bit tricky though! :)

        • Erick John Ukay

          hello. just want to ask if i am a tourist there in thailand, im i allowed to find a job or make a small business? thanks.

          • Erick John Ukay

            pls. rply in this email address: rule_0709@yahoo.com

          • ShannonOD

            HI Erick, if you are a tourist, you are forbidden from working. You have to have a special work visa to do that!

    • I’m right around the same number as you each month, $600 gets a pretty decent standard of living. I recently documented a month at $400 a month on my site, that was hard but doable.

    • noodles

      Hi there – I am taking a year off work and will be in CM in July – I teach at a Brit school in the Middle East but need to get my skills up. I did love CM
      when I was there previously; as a just over 40 year old guy I feel Chiang Mai is the ideal place to study and appreciate life. Totally understand your reluctance to spend all your money in bars – it isn’t that much fun and can prove expensive. Would be nice to catch up with you and just share some views on life. Really appreciate your blog – found very interesting.

      • ShannonOD

        Hi Noodles! The city likely hasn’t changed too much since you were last here, still has a great small city vibe :) I won’t be here in July actually, I head back to the States for the summer, but there is a great expat community here (and a couple CM facebook groups if you’re interested) with some great expat friends who spend the summer months here :) Safe travels and let me know if there is anything I can do to help you settle in here! :)

        • Paul Milner

          Thanks Shannon. The link to any CM facebook pages and contacts would be great. I have been living in the Middle East for 9 years so can’t express how much looking forward to this. I have been looking at condos – there seems to little competition with regards to costs – I could not afford to take a year off anywhere else and study and have such a good standard of living. Thanks again for your help. oops – noodles is uncovered! :)

          • Paul Milner

            One more thing – intend to get parents over next February – how bad was the pollution then? Was reading about evacuation – looked quite serious for a while.

          • ShannonOD

            There really are a wide range of affordable options, and even better deals once you’re here and can go look at the places in person (and I highly recommend getting an agent to help you find a place if you’re here for a year or more, commission is very small and they can help set you up with a great deal). As for FB groups, https://www.facebook.com/TeamChiangMai is one of them. And Chiang Mai in February is a tricky question, it was pretty smoggy and gross this year, but last year was rainy, cool and zero smog in Feb…it’d be hit or miss, but if it’s bad you could always just take them south to BKK or the islands :) Cheers and good luck with the move!

    • Michael

      Hey Shannon,

      I have to say that your blog is awesome, so full of essential information and really interesting and fun stories about your experiences in CM!

      I am planning to move across there in the coming months, i am a full time internet marketer, so the living costs you have highlighted seem easily affordable to me.

      Once i have moved out there who would you recommend seeing about rental properties and scooter rental?

      Keep up the fantastic work, you are one amazing lady!!!

      All my best,

      Michael

      • ShannonOD

        Thanks Michael! It can really fluctuate if you plan to go out a lot more, and depending on lifestyle, but I find the above is a great baseline budget to use for a lot of the costs in the area.

        I’m not sure about rental properties, some friends have listed out some common expat properties

        And for rentals, long-term prices at Bikky are pretty decent and they have multiple places throughout the city!

        Hope that helps, best of luck on the move and happy planning, and safe travels!  :)

    • Johnny2tone

      Thanks for this. 

    • Patmorr

      Sounds good , I would like to try it next winter. Any suggestions  I will have 2000 a month to use on expenses

      • ShannonOD

        With $2,000 your budget is pretty solid, and you should be fine showing up and looking around. My friends stayed in a really wonderful apartment on the higher end, at nearly $700 per month, could be good for you. I rec that you get an agent to take you around, they’ll drive you to various places, and they take a commission on the other end, so it’s worth it for you!

        Then with the rest of your budget you can spend on food, transport, etc, and likely still have some leftover :)

        Here’s my friends post on find an apt:  http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/the-search-for-an-apartment-in-chiang-mai/

        Cheers and good luck!

    • Rome

      hi,shannon, My name is Randy, is it possible to live comfortable there with budget of 700.00 dollars are less, also are there many if any afro-americans living there. : )

      • ShannonOD

        Hi Randy! It’s definitely possible to live there on that much, but know that it’s your baseline costs, if you’re living on that, you already have your visa situation figured out, and you are eating at
        local restaurants and markets for many of your meals! If you’re budget-conscious you will get by perfectly! :)

        • randy

          thanks for that info, are there some afro americans living there as well

          • ShannonOD

            Um, not really. There may be a small community I am not aware of, but I only ever saw a handful at most :-/

        • RobWhis

          Hi Shannon, I am planning on spending 6 months in Thailand, is US$12,000 doable? I am thinking of working at home (US) for six months then go back to Thailand for the other six on a tourist visa. I plan on doing that for a couple years to travel and enjoy life. Thanks!

          • ShannonOD

            Hi Rob! $12,000 is a really good sum and you should be able to stretch that quite far (possibly even beyond the six months if you’re a minimalist). When I am in Southeast Asia, I usually average about US$1000 per month. Your 6 months on, 6 months off sounds like a great plan as a way to see places in the world but still fund your travels! :)

            • RobWhis

              Awesome, thanks for the info! Be safe out there!

    • craig gardner

      what about crime.can i bring my own vehicle?would it get stolen?

      • ShannonOD

        Crime is not a big issue, motorbikes get stolen, but it’ll likely be cheaper to buy a car over there :)

    • Bkohlh

      Would like more info on the food.   I am addicted to my beef and chicken so I would want more American type foods.    
      How much would that add to my cost of living if I ate different?

      • ShannonOD

        Beef is not very popular in SEA (or Asia for that matter) but pork and chicken can be found everywhere! It’ll add quite a bit to your food bill to eat that regularly, perhaps a $1 or 2 per meal with meat, and more like $3-4 for western meaty meals :)

    • noodles

      Whoever you are bkohlh/craig gardner et al – what totally daft questions. Do you want the author of this website to do your washing for you also? There seem to be some people who are asking questions here that live with their mother – it is obvious – before you move somewhere – do a recky and check the place out.

      • ShannonOD

        Heh, thanks Noodles, it’s true that a lot of these questions could be answered with a Google query sometimes! :)

        • noodles

          No problem Shannon – I need some help actually – apologies.
          As said I am doing my 14 months in CM. Just the visa issue.  I saw this website – http://uk.siam-legal.com/1-Year-Thailand-Visa-for-UK-Citizens.php – it basically seems a way of paying to do the 90 days visa thing. I am a UK citizen but don’t want to do the 30 day fly in and out thing. I hope I am making sense here – the link seems like an expensive way around this. I am not near a Thai Embasy so kind of stuck for my options.  Any suggestions? Thanks for any help./

    • noodles

      apologies Shannon – just scrolled down – all is fine – no need to publish :)

    • Nice one.  Finally somebody who doesn’t “have to” spend crazy amounts on rent just to feel comfortable in Thailand.  :)

    • Boardgyrl86

      I have just moved to chiang mai, and we are looking for nice / cheap apartments… any suggestions on what part of town to look in?

      • ShannonOD

        Hi! I listed a couple links in the post to friends who had blog posts with links to apartments and that sort of thing. Also, some friends have used agents if they were looking for a nice rental (also linked at the end of the post). And ultimately, if you’re keen to drive around a bit, I like the area across the street from Kad Suan Kaew shopping center (go back into that neighborhood behind there and there are options!).

        Good luck!

    • Jeff

      Hi thanks for you post, can’t help but noticed the costs are only for temporary living, otherwise you need to add many additional costs which you didn’t mention:
      – Clothes & shoes
      – House items (kitchen utensils & appliances, sheets, towels, drapes, etc)
      – Computer stuff (assuming your replace you equipment every 3 years or so)
      – Mobile phone (buying a new one every 2-3 years)
      – Medical costs (it comes out to maybe $50 per month on average, if you don’t need surgery)
      – Vacations (assuming you are living permanently, you need a vacation now and then)

      All the above can add on average $500 to your monthly costs, perhaps more.

      • ShannonOD

        Thanks for weighing in on it Jeff; in the post, I noted those were the baseline, bottom costs, and didn’t include my plane tickets (ie vacations and that sort). But for baseline, the least you are paying with your own lifestyle heaped on top –well, I think my estimate is pretty good. At the end of the day, yes, some of those other ones have to be included for sure if you stay long term, but the amount of clothes/new things you buy vary so much according to age/person — I didn’t want to assume. And for me, I try to make my gadgets last somewhere in the five year range :)

      • Bob

        And the big one is the cost of visas. The actual runs and cost to do a border run. I spend 36,000b on it this year. Flights abroad to a con-solute, hotels, tuks tuks, visa fees, cross the border every and buy visas every 90 days, drive there. Most English teachers (no degree) make $35,000 a month and struggle. You are suggesting to be in Thailand with out medical insurance as well.

        • ShannonOD

          The costs can add up, particularly if you fly, I have always made a mini trip out of the border runs though, and went overland to Loas, which kept my daily costs down a bit. And you only need the major border run ever 180 days, otherwise the cheap daylong run to Burma and back is a mere 700 at the 90 day mark. I have friends teaching in CM who live on the budget I suggest, but since they are teaching they have year-long visas (that they do not pay for, the schools do), so that is a non-issue for people working there. Most of my friends working in the country have visas handled for them. As for medical, I suggest nothing, I merely pointed out that my costs did not include medical — I carry a year-long travel medical policy that is affordable, though I rarely use it and just pay out of pocket for minor checkups since I can get my lady appt for less than $30 each year in Thailand and that’s about all a twenty-something person in good health needs regularly outside of disaster medical. Best of luck, ~S

    • Pingback: The Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand « Wandering Salsero()

    • Steve

      Personally the idea of eating Thai street every day sounds
      appealing as I hate cooking. I’d love to do something like that but I’ve never
      been outside the US so I’ve got a bunch questions that might sound silly. The
      visa thing, can you renew that indefinitely i.e. forever or is there a limit? I’m
      guessing you would almost have to work online somehow for income (for those of
      us not already set for life lol)? With an economy like that I would imagine working
      there isn’t an option? Any suggestions? Are many people bilingual there? Can you buy
      beer by the case more inexpensively and bring home like you can here lol?

      • ShannonOD

        It’s so great to be able to eat affordable street food and in small shops for just a buck or two a meal. As for the visas, you can not review the tourist visa indefinitley, but once you are there, there are few different ways people stay. You can like get nearly two years of double entry tourist visas, or you can pay to go to a language school a few times a week and get a student visa…that tides people over for a couple years as well!

        Lots of English is spoken, and depending on your trade, there is a whole lot of expat work in the NGOs if you were really keen to work locally as an expat: http://alittleadrift.com/2012/06/how-to-travel-and-work-abroad/

    • I have noticed some places will let you pre-book. If someone is planning on staying 3 months during the high season, do you think it’s necessary to pre-book? I found a place for 11,000 tbh (plus electricity and Internet), but after reading your article/ some other research, it seems like that might be the high end. Any thoughts/ or even direction to another article would be awesome. 
      Thanks! 

      • ShannonOD

        11,000 may be on the high end, but it really depends on what you get for that amount. You can find it for less, and I generally recommend that you book a week in at a guest house in town and then go look in person at a few of the popular areas. I linked to a couple of accommodation posts from other bloggers, and that’s a good starting place once you’re in town. Even in high season, there is a good deal of housing in the city and you will find a place to stay. The GotPassport link at the end of the post has a lot of spots you can check.

        If you’re up for on-the-ground research and don’t mind arriving without all the details locked in place, then I suggest renting a motorbike, riding around town, and looking at the various options, it can vary so greatly between newness, ammenities, and location :)

        Good luck, shoot me an email if you need any other help!

    • Thanks for posting your experiences and costs for what looks like a wonderful life in Thailand!I love it over there in Thailand, and I am seriously considering flying over, taking a TESOL course, and staying to teach English. It looks like the salary ends up being about $1000 or so USD a month, but it looks like that would be plenty!

      • ShannonOD

        $1000 will definitely get you quite far over there, and I have several friends who have done the courses (you can take them online) and then arrived and managed to find work (sometimes in Thailand, though Vietnam and China are also good options). Good luck with the work, teaching English is a great route to go! :)

    • Hans

      I was in Thailand last November and fell in love with the way of life and how cheap everything was! I’ve been working fir banks for the past 13 years. Unfortunately I do not have a college degree but with my professional experience I was told it should be est to get an English teaching position with the tesol. Is that correct? Also what might I expect for a salary?

      • ShannonOD

        November is a beautiful time of year in the country (rivaled only by December I think) and I loved the Lantern festival they hold at the beginning of the month, I hope you were able to see it? As for teaching English over there, a TEOFL is the core requirement, so if you take that course there is a good chance that you could easily find a job. The salaries really range on the country/city, but I think they average very roughly about $1000 US per month — I am told this is often higher in Vietnam and/or China, but I’m not sure. Good luck finding work and with the move!

    • Hans

      Do you know what the average monthly rent is in bkk and cm for 2-3 bedroom with AC? House or apartment would both be fine.

      • ShannonOD

        That’s a tough one because it would really depend on what area you were in (and that can vary widely depending on what school job you get) but I would plan that a 2-3 bedroom would run you $500 – $1000? I only ever lived in Chiang Mai in the north, and I know Bangkok is more expensive than CM. In CM, you can get a house for as little as 10,000 baht…which is about $350 US, so I am really guestimating. Thai Visa Forum is a great place though to find specific information from other expats: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/ :)

    • Hans

      Wow! Thanks for all the info :-) I would prefer 10,000 baht per month because then I would not need to work and don’t really mind if I’m in north cm or even Korat. Is $350 a place that would have a western style bathroom and kitchen with air conditioning? Also any other suggestions as to cheap areas to rent fir 10,000 or less? Thanks again!

      • ShannonOD

        Chiang Mai is a great spot because it straddles the traditional culture and Western conveniences. And yes, the bathrooms are most often western, and there is A/C in many, you can easily find one that accommodates that need. But know that electricity in Thailand is really very, very expensive!

    • Hans

      Once again thank you your site has been very helpful! I think cm may be a great place to start! We are planning on spending 4 years in S.E. Asia. Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines are also on the list before we go to Europe. Where are you going next and will you be doing a similar blog?

      • ShannonOD

        That is a fantastic length of time — you will see and experience a lot over four years! I am unsure of my next plans, but they may include South America I think, and I will continue to update this site with stories and photos as I travel. :)

    • debitty

      Hey thanks so much for giving up your time so patiently. Hubby two kids and I are making plans for a move early next year and finding so many positive people who are Expats in Thailand is clearing away a lot of my fears.

      • ShannonOD

        You’re welcome, so glad you found it helpful. Thailand has an enormous expat community, and if you are sending your kids to an International School, you will have an even more instant community to tap into. So much good luck with the move, and I hope you enjoy your time over there :)

    • Hans

      Hi again! I’ve been chatting with a few people from Thailand and wanted to confirm what I have heard. Is it true that a person from America without a degree can be hired by a language school to teach english with only a EFTOL or TESOL? I’ve been told yes but would have to make a visa run every 60 days…

      • ShannonOD

        You don’t need more than that to get hired, and I have friends ( http://noplacetobe.com/ ) who got hired just months after finishing her TOEFL. Now, there are many people who also want to teach, but if you have the qualifications, the time to look and apply, and patience, you can find work in Thailand (and Vietnam, China, etc). Good luck! :) As for visas, if you are hired by a Thai school, they will give you a work visa and that does not typically require you to leave every 60 days.

    • Hans

      Thank you so much for the conformation! I have been looking at both Vietnam and Thailand but have been worried about the employment should I decide to stay long term. Can you put me in touch with some of your connections or friends that teach conversational English so that I may properly prepare? My email is hansbergquist@yahoo.com

    • Stuart

      HI Shannon
      Can someone from the South USA live all year round in CM. Is it prefereable to leave during the Wet Season or the REALLY Hot Season. Really fantastic BLOG

      • ShannonOD

        It’s definitely okay to live there year-round, though I usually bow out during rainy season. My friend Dan and his wife Lindsay ( http://www.canvas-of-light.com ) have lived there for a couple of years now (she’s a teacher), and they stay for hot, rainy, and dry and seem to enjoy it :) And, Chais and Shawna, http://fullcoursetravel.com , live in CM year-round too! Though I prefer the cool, dry season, it can be a wonderful place to live year-round.

    • cluzeo

      Do you think your health has suffered from such a poor diet of 30b fried food? YOu dont look 25.
      Cluzeo

      • ShannonOD

        While I don’t usually respond to inappropriate personal observations, I am nearly 29, not 25. As for the food, luckily you seem to have a misinformed opinion about street food, because it’s really great! There are many more options than just the fried dishes. Lots of delicious soups (khao soi=yum!), somtam is fresh papaya, curries that the vendors make at home and bring to the markets, and I love the grilled/steamed veggie vendors (I am a vegetarian, so I eat really quite healthy most anywhere I go). And if you’re in Chiang Mai, there is a really delicious (one of my favorite in the world) salad restaurants, Salad Concept, on Nimman and their huge fresh salads are only 50b! So, it’s really misinformation that you have to pay a lot to eat well, I prefer fresh or steamed vegetables and can usually eat for 30b Thai (and Burmese, def great Burmese food at that price too) and under 70b Western in Chiang Mai (much more expensive in Bangkok and down south though). Cheers and good luck.

      • Andrew Mitchell

        Do you think your health has suffered from being stupid?

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    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and costs on living in Chiang Mai. My partner & myself are heading to Thailand in May for at least 8 weeks and I’m thinking very seriously about changing that to indefinite. You only live once – there’s so much more to life than the rat-race of London – I just have this gut feeling that indefinite is the right thing to do.

      • ShannonOD

        Eight weeks is a really great starting point, and you may very well fall in love with the city. At the same time, it’s great that you are giving yourself a taste of it, and perhaps another area of Thailand will call to you once you visit. As you said, you only live once, so embrace the adventure, and I wish you so much luck on the trip. If there is ever anything I can do to help, let me know! :)

    • Pingback: Things we love about Chiang Mai | GlobetrotterGirls Travel()

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    • »*+*«Kat from CA

      is it dangerous to walk threw town or go into a local place of business & is tai accentual or could u live there with out learning a new language »^+^« Kat from CA

      • ShannonOD

        You should always be aware of your surroundings, and any place that is fine during the day could be different at night, but I generally feel very safe in many parts of the country and have walked home with friends from bars in Chiang Mai without a second thought.

        The accents in Thai make the language very difficult, but you can learn it, it’s definitely possible to study, you’ll have ample places to practice, and you can be negotiating/using basic Thai at restaurants within a month or two.

    • Hello Shannon, Thank you for this great blog info on living in Thailand. I’ve been really thinking if i save enough dough while working here in the US i can live there F/T in roughly 10yrs very comfortably, i have a full military pension so based on your blog notes i think it won’t be a problem living stress free there. I have a question about the banks, if you have a short list of good reliable banks there?. Thank you again and TC from Maryland, USA. Best Regards, Brian C.

      • ShannonOD

        So glad you found it helpful, it’s important to note that it really depends on what standard of living you want to maintain. In the post I link to a lot of things you should look at — other budgets, rental houses, condos, agents, etc.Fully furnished is tough–nice condos with a full kitchen could run $600-700 in just rent (check out here: http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/the-cost-of-living-luxuriously-in-chiang-mai/ While a one bedroom at Smith Residence http://www.chiangmaismithres.com would be more like $400 perhaps. There is a lot in between as well. And you can rent an entire house for $350 rent (no furniture or utilities).

        Full service and condos here: http://www.chiangmailocator.com/

        As for banks, I would head to the expat forums for Thailand: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/ and ask around, they are wonderful sources of information for anyone considering the move. I know there are specific banking requirements if you retire there, so best to read through the forums and ask for recs! Best of luck :)

      • ShannonOD

        Sorry if you get two responses from me, I responded to the wrong one at first! For banks, I would head to the expat forums for Thailand: http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/ and ask around, they are wonderful sources of information for anyone considering the move. I know there are specific banking requirements if you retire there (fees, and it has to be a government bank I believe) so best to read through the forums and ask for recs so you know all the nitty-gritty specifics! Best of luck :)

    • keith

      hi shannon how are you? i have been to thailand 4 times before and love it. i have always dreamed about living there full time. im from northern ireland. i was always worried about the visa – what type would i have to go for and could i live there permanently just by doing visa runs? by the way im 36 and was considering selling my home and try and live off the monthly interest (whatever that may be now!!) of course i would check it out before i came to any rash decisions! many thanks :)

      • ShannonOD

        Living in Thailand for years on end, just on visas, is difficult. You can get away with the double entry visa that gives you roughly six months with a few hoops (you have to renew the visa at 60 days, cross a border at 90, then once you cross back in … can be the same day…repeat for the second “entry” — renew after 60 days, leave at 90 and get a new double-entry from a Thai embassay). It’s not overly difficult, but you couldn’t do it for a decade. The forums at Thai Visa are FULL of useful information http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/ on this type of situation. Easy solutions are often simply taking a language class a few times a week. It can be done and you can look around the heaps of advice in the forum for some other ideas :)

    • ROBERT in Pattaya, Thailand

      I am an American Expat living in Pattaya. I have lived in Thailand with my Thai partner for 20+ years. I recommend a LENGTHY visit before jumping in with both feet. No two peope have similar tastes, so hence individual cost of living vary. During the past coupe of years there has been a steady rise in inflation. The dollar has fallen in value, and the Thai Baht has gained some strength. Excellent medical services are available at a lesser costs. If can offer any seasoned advice, you can reach me at RPRON@AOL.COM.
      Regards, ROBERT

      • ShannonOD

        Hi Robert, thanks for weighing in on this, and for providing your email for anyone interested–that’s very valuable to have a seasoned expat on tab! I usually send people to the Thai Visa forum to ask there since I haven’t lived in Thailand long enough to have a lot of the hurdles like taxes, visas, businesses, etc., all figured out. Cheers and thanks for providing yourself as a source of help! :)

    • stevep

      Thanks for taking the time to write this up !!….I see you are “building up your on-line Income ” I am also doing this.

    • Isabel

      Thanks for all that useful information Shannon. I’m a Canadian teaching in Bangkok since 4 months and fell in love with ChiangMai. I’m looking into ways to break my contract here and move up there with my freelancer boyfriend (who is back at home also looking into ways to take a year off from work). Do you know if there’s a lot of teaching or web design jobs over there? We wonder how much savings we should take with us to cover for the first 2 months of job hunting… Bangkok seems to be more expensive but with more job opportunities. Maybe I’m wrong about the work though. Would be nice to get your opinion on that. I miss rock climbing in Bangkok and know that Chiang Mai got lots of climbing spots so I would be happier there I’m sure. How many hours a week do you need to work to live that lifestyle? Seems like I got the same in Bangkok but things are more expensive.

      • ShannonOD

        Hi Isabel! Thanks for commenting and sharing your situation. There are definitely teaching jobs in Chiang Mai, I have several friends who work as teachers, but it is competitive and you should give yourself time and perhaps time your move to when schools hire new teachers (after breaks maybe, not sure when that is). Web design is a lot harder — there may be companies needing that, but at the same time Chiang Mai bussiness-wise is a lot smaller market. Has your boyfriend considered freelancing for any past clients he had so he is making a stronger currency? Rock climbing is available in CM for sure, it’s not a huge community, but I know there is a rock climbing wall and often trips outside of town. Networking is a big part of it all, if you have connections, start asking them about friends and opportunties in CM, it’s a small country and there is a lot of overlap in the businesses and people in many ways. And lastly, consider the non-profit community for opportunitites–CM has MANY more non-profits and organizations like that and you or your boyfriend could look into that route as well.

    • bill

      Hello, thank you for taking time to post some of your know how to live comfortably in Thailand. I am interested in living in Thailand for at least three months (get out of cold in michigan ) and maybe longer. ‘ve l worked and lived in Africa and have done some travel around Europe and Africa and enjoy the international annuities. I’ve heard about Thailand and would like to try it. I don’t need to work but volunteering sounds good.
      Thank you,
      Bill

      • ShannonOD

        Thailand is a great place to go for three months– you can get a feel for the country, see a lot if you are keen to explore, or settle into a three month apartment rental and begin to feel like a local by the time you leave. Work visas are tricky and require some extra obstacles to jump through if you are keen to find work in Thailand, otherwise you could definitely find volunteering to do nearly anywhere in the country! :)

    • Bill

      Shannon, I would like to hire you to get me settled in Thailand for three months and thereafter I’ll handle it. How do we do this?

    • candace

      Do you still recommend Chiang Mai for older people? I need to quit working. I am 67 and just can’t do my job well anymore. It’s time to leave but I don’t have much income for retirement. Do you think health care is decent? Do you know any older Americans there? I’d be interested in their perspective. thanks

      • ShannonOD

        Hi Candace! Your question is great, and yes, I think Chiang Mai is a really wonderful spot for older people–I know many of my expat friends were 50+ and they had a vibrant community and routines they enjoyed. Transportation is such that you can either use the shared open taxi-trucks, or you can buy a bicycle (one friend does this to get around) or even a motorbike–the city is small enough that a bike is a great option if you’re fit enough for it. As for healthcare, they have several US quality/certified hospitals, and I have always found them clean, efficient and to tell the truth, if I was diagnosed with a major illness I would likely go to Thailand for treatment, that’s how good they are. Hope that gives you some new things to look at/think about! ~Shannon ?:)

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    • I’ll be going to Cambodia in a few months to teach english and really didn’t even consider Thailand because I only ever hear party stories about peoples visits there and I am not a big party person. But after reading this article I am definitely going to make sure I visit Chiang Mai and maybe I’ll even look for a teaching job there! Thank you for the article.

      Best regards,
      Meghan

      • ShannonOD

        Thailand has some really wonderful areas! The north is more of the cultural center, and the partying you heard about happens down in the islands mostly (and BKK of course). Good luck finding teaching jobs, there are many in the region and each city can have such a different vibe from another, so be sure to explore! And let me know if I can help in any way :)

      • TravelingFirefighter

        Hi Meghan, Just got back from a 6 week solo trip to Thailand. Never had a sip of alcohol, only 2 nights out past 10pm, and I still had a great time. Do the trip that YOU want, not what other’s want. TravelingFirefighter@yahoo.com

    • Terry

      Shannon, thanks for your great blog and good luck on your blogging. Great going so far. I have been living in Thailand now for 10 years and ready to give BKK the push-off. I was thinking Chaing Mai might be a good alternative so planning an exploratory trip. I noticed your very modest price for a motorcycle rental. Where did you find one so cheap? Is it monthly, weekly? I did find Tony Big Bikes rents automatics for 210 baht per day. Your expert advice sought. Terry in BKK

      • ShannonOD

        Hi Terry, I rented from a friend of a friend and that surely is why I got a lower price than it looks on the surface. If you rent from Bikey or Tony, the big ones, the prices are harder to negotiate. But even with them, if you are renting for six months to a year you have real room to bargain. A friend found similar rates with a year renting, I managed my rate for five months. Once you are there ask around, see if friends of yours in BKK have family that are keen to rent–that’s how I found a good rate. I know my friend who had the year managed to get it for about 2000b for the 6+ months. Hope that helps and best of luck moving north! :)

    • ralph bellange

      I’m planning on visiting thailand with my friends in march, where do you suggest we stay if we want to party and have fun..

      • ShannonOD

        CM Bluehouse is in a great location ) and all of the great party spots are walkable from there, and I think it is clean and safe for your belongings. There are a lot of great guesthouses, but that is the only one I have expereince with really! Also, my post on recs for the city is here: http://alittleadrift.com/2011/08/best-places-in-chiang-mai/

    • Shannon

      I was researching the cost of shipping Thai food to the US and on google I saw my name next to a link for this site(my name is Shannon O’Donnell) I just thought that was funny! Have fun in Thailand :-)

      • ShannonOD

        Thanks Shannon! I hope you found a way to get yourself shipped some Thai food, it’s delicious!

    • I love visiting Chiang Mai. I run my own internet business and I’ve often thought of just packing up and moving there because it’s a great way to live cheap and save on expenses… Only thing is I have a cat and I don’t know what I’d do with him. I’m going to spend 5 weeks in chiang mai next year and working a bit as I travel with my boyfriend. I am very excited. I love finding articles like this and sharing them with my family because they can’t believe how cheap you can live in Thailand. I would probably spend much more than this for a bigger place and kitchen (I write recipe ebooks) but I love how all other expenses are so low. :)

      • ShannonOD

        That cat is tough Veronica, I understand that it can be hard to tidy up things up home enough to be able to travel long term. Five weeks is a great length of time to figure out if you like the town. You would definitely need to spend more on rent, but you could get a *beautiful* place with a full kitchen and then still have affordable food for your cookbook work! If there is ever anything I can do to help, please let me know . Happy planning and safe travels :)

    • NATATAT

      Hi! Liked your blog! Can you tell me where you think is the best place to live there, for about $200 or $300? :D

      • ShannonOD

        I think inside the moat can be great if you want a monthly guesthouse rental and to be walkable to a lot of things, or there are a *lot* of apartments off the Northwest corner of the moat, near Kad Suan Keaw mall and the Santitam area. Those all should have places in your price range! :)

    • Great blog. Thank you!!!

    • Stereo

      Just searching google for things about Chiang Mai and came across this. I never lived there but I have been there twice and am seriously considering “disappearing” for a year or so and CM is my first choice for living on a budget. Very reassuring to see you have the same experience with the city and the prices. This just inspired me even more. Thanks :)

      • ShannonOD

        So glad you found the information useful Stereo, and that we are on the same page with CM. If you’re looking for a place to really just disappear and sink into the local pace of life, I think CM is tops for that. Good food, as many activities as you might want to do, and good expats all over the city! Good luck on making the transition! :)

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