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Chiang Mai Cost of Living 2022

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Chiang Mai cost of living

Hey, everyone! I’m in Chiang Mai to help out my parents for 3 months. I’m living quite well, but I’m not spending much money at all. That’s mainly because I’m staying with my parents for now. I go out to eat every day and it isn’t too expensive. However, the cost of living in Chiang Mia has increased over the last few years. In particular, the price of pork and other meats has increased recently. I read that there is an African swine fever outbreak going on. They had to cull a lot of pigs hence the higher price. Anyway, I’ll share the Big 3 expenses so you can get a taste of how much it costs to live in Chiang Mai.

*The exchange rate is about $1 to 33 baht.

Housing (10,000-15,000 baht, $300-600/month)

I’m looking for a condo to rent for 2 months. This is a bit difficult because most places want you to sign a lease for 12 months. So I’m looking on Airbnb and a couple of local short term apartments. I think Chiang Mai was overbuilt a few years ago. There seems to be a good discount because there are very few tourists. The price might increase when things are back to normal, but who knows when that will happen.

Long-term rental: I found a few nice condos in the Nimman area for around 10,000 baht/month, about $300. These are relatively nice units in a nice area. You could go cheaper and find a spartan studio for around 5,000 baht or go for a nicer unit for around 15,000 baht. But I think 10,000 baht is a good budget for a comfortable unit in a good area.

Short-term rental: I found a couple of short-term rentals for around 10,000 baht as well. These are not as nice as the long-term rentals at the same price. But they are good enough for me. I’ll spend a lot of time at my parents’ place anyway. You could spend way more if you want nicer short-term rentals. On Airbnb, the usual seems to be around $600/month.

Hotels: There are a ton of hotels in Chiang Mai. I paid $23/night for a really nice boutique hotel. I got lucky, though. I think the usual rate for this level of amenities is usually around $35/night.

In summary, you can spend $300/month for a modest unit or around $600/month for a much nicer unit.

Transportation

Actually, I’m pretty weak with this one. I’ll just add what I know.

Songtaew – shuttle trucks that carry people around town. If you’re going around the old town, then this is the easiest way to get around. It cost 30 baht per ride, about $1. You can just flag one down in the direction you’re going. However, they won’t take you if you’re going out of town. Oh, the price was 20 baht last year. So 50% increase since the last time I was here.

Grab – similar to Uber. My dad said this starts at 200 baht. It depends where you’re going. If you’re going a bit out of town, this might be a good option.

Tuk tuks – These are the old motorized tricycles that we all know and love. I think they charge per person, around 40 to 200 baht. It depends on how far you’re going.

Motorbike rental – You can rent a moped for about 2,000 baht per month, around $60. However, you should have the right license or else insurance won’t cover any accident.

Bus – I haven’t taken the buses. They cost 20 baht per ride. You can read more about the Chiang Mai bus routes here if you’d like.

Walk – Free! Mostly, I walk everywhere. I need to walk off all the food I ate anyway. Chiang Mai is a small city. You can walk from the east wall to the west wall in about 20 minutes. It’s fun to wander around. With Google Maps, you’ll never truly get lost.

Anyway, I didn’t spend much on transportation.

Food

Now, we get to the fun part. Food is so affordable and accessible in Thailand. You can eat out every day and still spend less than in the United States. I’ll share some pictures here. The price range from 30 to 800 baht per meal. It really depends on how much you want to spend. I’ll just put the price in USD.

This beef khoa soi was the best I’ve ever had. It was super cheap at 50 baht, $1.50.

Khaw Hlaw, $2. Basically noodle soup without the noodles. This one was spicy and peppery. Nice.
Thai sausages, each stick was 50 cents. These were stuffed with pork and rice or pork and noodles. This cart has a Michelin Bib Gourmand award.
Seafood curry omlette on rice, $2.50. This dish was good. The squid was fresh and cooked just right, not tough. This shop has a Bib Gourmand.
Fried seasoned pork on toast, $3 – This was from the same shop as the omlette above. The fried toast was great.
Shan noodles ($1), meat balls (50 cents), and sour pork (33 cents). I got this takeout from a small shop that isn’t in the touristy area.
Japanese bento lunch ($5). This was from a homey Japanese restaurant. I really like this place and will go back soon. Free cold barley tea.
Burmese fermented tea leaf salad ($2). This was better than the same salad that cost $17 in Portland.
Yunan noodles ($1.25). I had this at the Yunan market in Chiang Mai.
Grilled chicken ($3), papaya salad ($1.25), and sticky rice (30 cents). There are some delicious charcoal grilled chicken shops in Chiang Mai.
Larb buffalo tartare ($1), stir fried pork ($1), sour pork (50 cents), and sticky rice (30 cents). This was from a cart. They set up tables and chairs on the sidewalk so no rent.
Sushi buffet ($25). This was actually in Bangkok, but there are sushi places in Chiang Mai too. You can spend a lot of money if you want to.

All in all, you can spend anywhere from $1 to a lot more per meal. I think $10-15/day is a reasonable budget for food. But we all eat differently. It really depends on whether you like local food or not.

Entertainment

I haven’t done much here in Chiang Mai. I just went to work in some cafe and got a massage.

Massage: Thai massages cost around 300 baht/hour in the touristy area. You can find cheaper places that cater to locals for around 150 baht/hour.

Earl grey milk tea ($2.25). This touristy shop also has a bakery and the desserts look really nice. I was too full to eat anything, though.
Mocha ($1.25) and strawberry ice cream on toast ($2). This was at a local shop so the price was more affordable. The snack was way too sweet, though.
Imported green tea from Japan ($4). The tea was nice and foamy. They whisked it up the traditional way.
Mocha ($3). This was the best mocha I had so far. Smooth and creamy. Very good.
Charcoal iced latte ($3). Nice. I guess it’ll clean out some toxin?
Haircut and tattoo ($5). I didn’t get a tattoo.
Dishes (about $3 each). I picked up a few to take home. Hopefully, they won’t break in my luggage. I’m sick of our IKEA plates.

Cost of living in Chiang Mai

The cost of living in Chiang Mai is pretty affordable right now. The rent is discounted due to Covid and the food is still cheap. For me, I can live comfortably on about $1,000/month. But I’m a simple man. If my family was here, I’d find a nicer condo, eat more expensive food, and buy more random stuff. For a family of 3, I think $2,000/month would be a pretty comfortable budget.

Oh, this doesn’t include healthcare and other incidentals. If you go out more and spend more, then you’d probably need a bigger entertainment budget.

All right, I hope you enjoyed this field trip. Thailand is opening again so get your tickets if you want to visit!

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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. After 16 years of investing and saving, he achieved financial independence and retired at 38.

Passive income is the key to early retirement. This year, Joe is investing in commercial real estate with CrowdStreet. They have many projects across the USA so check them out!

Joe also highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. They have many useful tools that will help you reach financial independence.

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