A Little Expat Living… Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand (2022)

Last updated on January 20, 2022

cost of living in chiang mai, thailand
three on motorbike

So, you’re researching how much your life will cost elsewhere in the world and you’re thinking living in Thailand. There’s a lot of information to sort through now. When I moved to Chiang Mai a decade ago, the city was a very different place for expats (digital nomads were scarce but retirees aplenty), and information was nonexistent about what it would actually cost to live there.

This post was essentially the first online Thailand cost of living breakdown, sharing the nitty gritty details of what your money buys in Thailand, what costs more than back home, and how your own goals might align to moving somewhere in the country (digital nomads and retirees tend to choose a handful of key hotspots around the country). Since it’s hard to know what’s hyperbole in these types of guides, and how your mileage will vary, this guide—and all of my guides to the cost of living around the world—thoroughly cover factors that move the needle on helping you decide if Thailand is the right place to call your future home. This post demystifies the cost of living in Thailand, as well as covers a range of opinions on what it costs to live in the different areas.

Let’s talk in general about why Chiang Mai and other Thai cities are among the most popular expat and digital nomad locations. It comes down to the low cost of living paired with incredible culture and amazing food. These three factors alone contribute to the massive number of retirees who have known about Thailand for years—it’s no secret to them that your money goes far here. But when I arrived in 2011, the term “digital nomad” was in its infancy. A handful of travel bloggers decided to hang out in Chiang Mai for a season; we loved all three of those factors, and so we came back the next season, and then many just moved there permanently. Since then, (and really since I wrote this post, which went viral and was featured on the BBC, among other outlets) Chiang Mai lured other digital nomads with a low cost of living, the promise of good wifi, and a community of others who work remotely. Within a couple of years, Chiang Mai and Ho Chi Minh City became the hotspots in Southeast Asia for entrepreneurs interested in low living costs so they could build and launch businesses.

In 2011, my baseline cost of living for Chiang Mai came in at $485—this number excludes visas, visa runs, personal travel, and annual travel insurance). Adjusted for 2022, as you’ll see below, many digital nomads can live on a baseline of $650 a month. Again, excluding expenses that run annually like insurance, or quarterly like visa runs—these add hundreds of dollars to your average costs, but they will also vary depending on your own insurance costs, costs of running a business, and varying visa costs for some people. Retirees live a bit of a different life—they often buy a condo outright and then have baseline costs of $800 to $1200 for retirees, accounting for healthcare and other expenses and an easier visa situation. Any way you slice the budget though, it’s more affordable to live in Thailand if you’re able to make a living online. I’ve paid rent from Barcelona to Oaxaca to Orlando to Los Angeles, and my Thailand living costs averaged a third of my previous U.S. living expenses (and about half of my current expenses in Spain).

As with many places, there is a trade off living in some areas. Political instability, road conditions, and smog are just a few of the downsides—we’ll cover how those affect where in Thailand you might want to live. Although I’m surely in the “digital nomad” category, I’ve included many links and resources to help those at any stage of their lives. Retirees with a monthly social security check more easily secure long-term visas since they align more with the type of foreigners Thailand prefers living there full time. Note that cities and towns across Thailand not only have different costs of living, but the profile of the communities differs, too. Thailand offers a huge, varied, and vibrant expat community. We’ll cover it all, plus your quality of life, what you money buys, and how to know if moving here is right for you.

Note: Many countries are not currently accepting American travelers and have closed borders to prevent spread of COVID-19. Use this cost of living information as a baseline to plan your travels and move once the world reopens to tourism (likely 2022).

(Keen to access this information offline? We offer this as a downloadable PDF for $2.)


Why Move to 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 was building my SEO consulting work while also paying off student loans and medical debt, so I had prioritized becoming debt-free within two years. Although I could have moved back to my hometown in Florida and likely save some costs by pinching pennies, living as a poor person in Florida is not an awesome life—I did that for 20+ years. Frankly, the best way for me to not go further into debt was to stay outside of the U.S. If you’re a digital nomad on a tight budget, or a retiree with a fixed social security check, you understand the core desire for a low cost of living even if your circumstances differ.

So I moved to Thailand, talked to others, and discovered everyone’s core motivations for moving there came down to a few key areas. Medical care can be a major motivating factor. Thailand offers the some of the better hospitals in Southeast Asia, checkups are affordable, and dental care is on par with the U.S. When you move to Thailand, you don’t live in fear of getting sick and burying yourself under medical debt—Thai health insurance is moderately priced and it works. If you’re looking for a place that can support any of your current or future health issues, it’s a compelling factor.

There’s also the culture. Thai culture is lived out in the open at the markets and in the many celebrations that take place throughout the year (Loy Krathong, Umbrella Festival, and Songkran to name just three). It’s a vibrant culture and a fun one to access as an expat instead of as a passing tourist. So much underneath the culture is impossible to absorb during a two-week trip of the country’s “best of” highlights. That culture extends into the truly exceptional culinary traditions (you will eat your face off!), but also the sheer number of international influences (you can still find sushi and decent Mexican in the bigger cities!).

The expat community is another compelling reason to consider Thailand. More than many places I’ve lived over the years, including Mexico and Spain, 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. In some places you find the community is retirees hoping to stretch their nest-egg and enjoy the twilight years, while elsewhere are concentrated packs of digital nomads looking to bootstrap a business from Southeast Asia. And within both of those communities is any and everything in between—some living there for the culture or the food, and some for shadier reasons that I won’t get into. It’s a mixed bag.

For me, I chose to live in Thailand for two years because it fulfilled many of my long-term goals. I lived a more minimalist life (I am a huge fan of the tiny house movement), but it was not sparse. I love beauty and spending money on things I valued. I lived in a Thai neighborhood, I volunteered locally and I ate locally, I made friends widely in the expat and Thai communities, and I spent my days working when I needed to, but not slavishly tied to my computer in a bid to constantly make more money. Living in Thailand allowed me to enjoy a slower life alongside some of my now closest fiends.

Visas: Chiang Mai is a great launching point to other areas in Asia for in-depth explorations of MyanmarLaos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and other quick flights and bus rides around Southeast Asia. If you’ve retired in Thailand, you don’t have to run to the border. And some friends have student visas for studying Thai, and they also don’t do visa runs. If you’re doing visa applications and visa runs, your costs are higher and your ability to stay long-term is also precarious (Thailand is cracking down on the number of back-to-back visas it will issue). This situation was made even more precarious and impossible in the wake of 2020’s lockdowns—those not legally living in Thailand on long-term visas faced some challenges as many nations across Asia (and the world) closed their borders for months on end.

What Does It Cost to Live in Thailand?

Living in Thailand comes down to two things: your baseline costs (fixed monthly expenses), and your personal lifestyle, which you add onto the top of those costs. Foreigners will have baseline living costs of USD $600 minimum. That’s in a place like Chiang Mai, and it will cost more to live in the Thai island, Bangkok, or retiree hotspots. This figure is used as a minimum—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 60-90-ish days. Retirees will have their own specific minimum social security income they need to prove before they will receive the retiree visa. This number includes eating a fair amount of Thai food, choosing a smaller apartment, and things like that—it’s about the minimum base average you could reasonably expect to maintain long-term, and I find that it’s mostly digital nomads who are willing to live on this figure. Retired expats report minimum monthly expenses above USD $1000 when accounting for different modes of transportation, healthcare costs, food, etc.

Minimum Cost Living in Thailand in 2022: USD $650

Your baseline cost of living in Thailand is $600 as a baseline minimum for Chiang Mai expats, and more like $750 to live in Bangkok—layer your Thai visa and lifestyle costs on top of these numbers.

Monthly ExpenseMinimum Cost (USD$)
Rent & Internet$230
Electricity & Water$30
Maid$15
Food $190
Scooter & Gas$100
Evenings Out$75
     Total $650

Chiang Mai Cost of Living: $650 to $1800

The table bears out my own minimum expenses to show how I lived on $600 USD each month in Chiang Mai (adjusted to 2022 dollars). Since I was not yet old enough to qualify for the income-based retiree visa, I did the the tourist visas and the border runs mentioned in the quick facts section above. The international flights bracketing my stay in Thailand were roughly $800 each way, so factor that into my “fixed” costs. If you are on a tight budget then you need to consider if and how often you will return to your home country. Another digital nomad detailed exactly what life looks like on $650 a month, with an expense breakdown, too.

When you look at other budgets, understand that everyone includes different things that they prioritize in their lives. I wanted to provide the minimum so others could actually see the baseline they could then stack on top of that cost of living their own priorities, business expenses, etc. I paid more than the $650 if you average in things I pay for annually, like the US$600 per year expense for my annual travel insurance. Really basic medical check-ups are included in my monthly fee because they came to under $100 for women checkups and basic blood work across my many months living there. If you will need to obtain Thai health insurance, this expat breaks down that process.

In Chiang Mai, roughly $230 a month in rent pays for nice but basic digs. I shared a two bedroom house in the heart of Chiang Mai, within the moat of the downtown inner city (our $15 maid service was provided by my landlord and not optional). I shared 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 had 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 was Thai-style, so note that a Western-style apartment runs 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 had super speedy internet in the am, but not so much in the evening when everyone watched TV and thus slowed the cable internet down to a crawl). That’s when you might need to factor in the price of a monthly co-working space subscription.

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—they’ve lived there for several years and average $2,624 a month for a couple. I don’t love that they included the cost of running their blog in the expenses as it’s certainly not a universal expense (and my expenses running this blog are half of theirs, so it’s not even accurate to all bloggers), but it’s interesting to note that only $456 of that figure is their rent. Their budget shows that 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.

And if you’re really looking for comfort, you’ll pay USD $1,200 for a huge Western-style house furnished that is well-outfitted. Jubril from the Passport Heavy YouTube channel gives a tour of the house (minute 6:14), as well as what it costs to live that lifestyle in Chiang Mai.

Rental house in Chiang Mai, Thailand
silver temple chiang mai

Bangkok Cost of Living: Cost of Living: USD $700 – $3,000

Bangkok has a similar quality of accommodation, but the cost of living is higher in the big city. Karsten shares the most detailed budgets you’ll find for Bangkok, and he’s very open about sharing what it takes to maintain his life in the city. It’s a realistic look at what a 30-something expat can expect when living in Thailand’s capital. He spends on the upper range, he has a wife, but it appears that most of his expenses are solo? Although I am not sure, really, and his breakdown is unclear. He spends $2,600 a month and lives well on that much money. Of that money, about $400 per month goes toward a Western-style apartment. It’s interesting for anyone considering moving there to see how a $600 monthly budget in Chiang Mai compares to a higher budget in Bangkok—Karsten gets a lot for that much money.

On the other end, you can go bare bones in Bangkok and live in the $400 range (My friend Mark was living on less than $300 a month in 2011), but that’s going to be tough. Even for $700 a month, you will make serious sacrifices in your budget that you wouldn’t if you lived in the more affordable cities like Chiang Mai. For $700, you are not living in the expat neighborhoods (you’re certainly not in central Bangkok) and you are eating a ton of street food, probably not splurging on nights out at the expat bars and such, and you’re not using Uber and the like. But, you can definitely enjoy Bangkok still, grab coffees from a favorite vendor, use mototaxis or your feet to get around town, etc. I don’t think this baseline budget is sustainable long-term—you’ll need to plan on increasing your expenditures if you live in Bangkok for longer than a single three-month visa.

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 find elsewhere in the country.

What Do You Get for Your Rent?

Basic and budget accommodation in Thailand means Thai-style furniture and kitchens. This is usually fine for backpackers and those really prioritizing budget over comfort, but Thai furniture is much harder and less cushioned compared to traditional Western styles. So a budget studio apartment will likely feature an incredibly firm mattress and some heavy wooden furniture. Thai accommodation also doesn’t feature kitchens like most Westerners would expect—there is often no stove and it’s pretty sparse. Places boasting a Western style kitchen usually mean it’s a remodeled kitchen with a stove, at least medium sized refrigerator, and a few other amenities.

It’s for these reasons that many expats splurge and spend a bit more for Western style apartments, especially after the first year or two of living in Thailand.

To find long-term Chiang Mai spots, consider using 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. This is also a good post that can help you imagine what places look like at different price points, as well as some solid recommendations on buildings and areas.

Notably, one ALA reader shared that Huay Kaew Residence is the best wheelchair-friendly accommodation in Chiang Mai (and perhaps the only, in his experience).

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. You can also start your research using this guide to apartment hunting in Bangkok.

Tasty Local Eats

chiang mai food
vegetarian soup from ming kwan

I regularly chow down on pad thai and pad see ew from the street stalls around town for about 40 baht a meal (a buck!). I add a fresh fruit smoothie to that for a mere 30 baht and call it a meal, totaling out most nights at less than US $3 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 you back at least 250 baht. I mostly eat Thai food, but expect that you will spend more than you anticipate on food from home—you just will. Plus, I confess that 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.

Your balance of Western and local foods will greatly impact your bottom line, so consider how often you will cook your own food, eat local, and eat at expat spots.

Transportation

renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai
tuktuk songkran

Chiang Mai’s small enough to either walk, push bike, or take local songthaews around town, but I preferred using a scooter. The rental was cheap enough and zipping around town made me feel that much more like a local. Plus, the local Thais burst into giggles when I rode up to the night markets with my roomie on the back. It was easier for us to take one bike when we were hitting up the same spots, so we’d ride Thai-style, with two farang on one bike. And they loved us for it, especially since my roomie is “Thai-sized” according to locals.

If you’re moving elsewhere in Thailand, 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.

Most expats in Thailand for more than a year buy a bike, but if you want to rent you’ll find the best rates when you rent for six months to a year.

New Friendships & The Thai Expat Scene

expat friends also living in Chiang Mai
loy krathong

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 spread across a much larger area. 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 partiers in the region for just a couple months.


Thailand offers great hospitals and an affordable life. Checkups are affordable and dental care is on par with the U.S. 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! And as of 2022 I have lived in Barcelona, Spain for four years. 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 (not included in my baseline costs).

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.

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

  • Travel insurance: You will need comprehensive worldwide expat insurance and separate property insurance policy once you’re living overseas—I’ve used IMG Global and Clements for many years now with great success and highly recommend both. 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. Once you’re in the country living there legally, you’ll want local insurance. This expat has a great guide to securing Thai Health insurance. You’ll also want property insurance once you’re living overseas—I’ve used Clements for many years now.
  • Learn Thai: Thai for Beginners is the most recommended starting point as it’s a bit outdated but does the lessons well. This gives you a good head start and a paper book, which is valuable for studying, but you will need more information beyond that. You may want to hire a tutor when you arrive, or use one of the recommended online courses like ThaiPod 101 or Learn Thai from a White Guy. My niece and I took private 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.
  • Handling Taxes: The Tax Book for U.S. Expats is well-priced and unique to expats and retirees filing abroad. It gives a granular look at forms, terms, and sorting out exactly how to file — good for those with complicated tax situations. More recently released, U.S. Taxes for Worldly Americans goes broader and is aimed at younger expats and digital nomads still working and handling how to earn income overseas, pay taxes, and live a nomadic life. It doesn’t explain the terms or niche situations/forms as well as the other book, but instead acts as a guide for younger expats. Depending on your situation, pick up a copy of one of these guides before you leave so that you will have a tax system in place that maximizes the opportunities to easily file.
  • Making the Move Overseas: There are a lot of general guides for moving or retiring overseas. Getting Out: Your Guide to Leaving America is the better of the “move overseas” books—it covers the practicalities and very hands-on information you need as someone considering living anywhere outside the U.S. If you’re new all the researching, this can kick-start your process. And if you are laser focused on the retirement topic, versus moving overseas at a different state in life, this retirement guide has great advice.
  • Cost of Living Elsewhere in SEA: In case you’re weighing the thought of Cambodia, it’s a destination that is hard to find covered online, and Move to Cambodia is one of the best resources you will find. If you’re considering Vietnam as well, the Vietnam Cost of Living Guide covers it in depth.
  • Cultural ReadingsSightseeing is 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.
  • What You Should Know About Smog: Jodi gives her take on what a particularly bad smog year looks like in Chiang Mai. Make sure you time your visit well since you’ll be out and about. Google now lets you easily check air quality levels right now, and use these tips to keep your lungs healthy.
  • Get Around Town: Absolutely use a Nancy Chandler map when you first move to Chiang Mai or Bangkok, the maps are amazingly detailed. And I have a thorough guide to transportation in Thailand here.
  • Running a Business: A 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. And for a first-person account, Karsten shares his actual expenses here.

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


Cost of Living PDF: Thailand

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Cost of Living Comparison

Still researching the right spot to live? Our Cost of Living Guides share extensive resources on 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.

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320 thoughts on “A Little Expat Living… Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand (2022)”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  2. 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
     

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  3. 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?

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  4. 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?

    Reply
    • 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 family
      lives here and you might be able to find some inspiration on their site!

      Reply
  5. 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!

    Reply
  6. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  7. 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

    Reply
    • 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…

      Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
        • 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 :)

          Reply
  8. 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 :)

    Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  10. 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?

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
    • 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…

      Reply
  11. 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!

    Reply
  12. 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.

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  13. 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.  

    Reply
  14. 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!

    Reply
    • 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:
      <<Great people on there and you'll be able to meet people right away :)

      Reply
  15. 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.   

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  16. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  17. 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

    Reply
    • 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?

      Reply
  18. 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!

    Reply
    • 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)! :)

      Reply
  19. 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 –

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  20. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  21. 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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  22. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  23. 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!

    Reply
  24. 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!

    Reply
    • 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 :)

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

    Reply
  26. 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 :)

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  27. 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!

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  28. 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.

    Reply
  29. 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! :)

    Reply
    • 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?! ;-)

      Reply
  30. 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.

    Reply
    • 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?! ;-)

      Reply
  31. 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!

    Reply
    • 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 ;-)

      Reply
  32. 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.

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  33. 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.

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  34. 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.

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  35. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  36. 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..

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  37. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  38. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
    • 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 :-)

      Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  39. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  40. 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!!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  41. 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. :)

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  42. 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!

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  43. 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!

    Reply
  44. 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!

    Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
  45. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  46. 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!

    Reply
    • 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

      Reply
    • 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! :)

      Reply
        • 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!

          Reply
  47. 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!

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  48. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
      • 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 :)

        Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  49. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
  50. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 :)

      Reply
  51. 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)?

    Reply
    • 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. :)

      Reply
    • 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! :)

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  52. 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

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    • 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 :)

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  53. 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!

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    • 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 :)

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  54. 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.

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    • 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!

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    • 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!

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