Cost of living in Chiang Mai

Last edited: August 30, 2017 at 08:18:26

Chiang Mai is arguably one of the cheapest places in the world to live in. You can get a local meal on the street for just 30 baht (approximately USD 1). On the other hand, if you tend to be attached to some Western hobbies and food, you may pay a higher than expected bill. So all-in-all, it all depends on what consumer goods you put inside your basket, as economists say.


Here's a cost estimate for 3 different kind of budgets.





monthly budget
(in USD)
  USD 300-470   USD 470-940   USD 940+
monthly budget
(in THB)
  THB 9,500-15,000   THB 15,000-30,000   THB 30,000
housing Thai style apartment THB 2,000-3,000 better apartment, condo or house THB 4,000-10,000 luxury apartment, condo or house THB 10,000- 25,000
utitlities (water, electricity)   THB 500   THB 1,500   THB 2,000+
internet shared THB 100-200 private line THB 630 faster line THB 900+
transport 2nd hand scooter THB 1,000-2,000 new scooter THB 2,000-3,000 car THB 2,000-4,000
food, coffee basic THB 6,000-9,000 moderate THB 9,000-15,000 luxury THB 15,000+
entertainment mostly free THB 1,000-2,000 parties, drinking THB 2,000-4,000 indulging THB 4,000+
healthcare & insurance at home THB 0 some fixes THB 1,000 well-protected THB 3,000
visa and trips never leave in 1 year THB 1,500 some trips THB 3,000-5,000 several fun trips THB 5,000+
special expenditures Thai lessons, buy stuff THB 1,000 + fitness membership THB 2,000-4,000 + golf membership THB 4,000+

Of course, this is just a rough estimate and example of what lifestyle you could lead for which budget.
There are costs which are a one time expenditure, such as the purchase of a scooter (and which in theory you could depreciate over time, but there's no need to make things too complicated here). Also, there are costs such as a health insurance, which you may have at home or purchase here.

What costs you have entirely depend on you, what kind of things you buy. Live on noodles and you'll last long, buy a pack of Swiss muesli or specially imported stuff from Europe and your bill will mount much higher.

Some guys even keep an explicit budget of fun things like drinking, going out and buying girls, in that case you can easily double your spending. Other guys brag about or make a sport out of living as cheap as possible (, but I wouldn't be proud of it).

Living cost at very cheap levels in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai resident proud to live on USD 7 per day

The truth however is that the majority of local Thai are probably living off a budget of less than THB 10,000 per month, so in theory you can too. From their perspective, anything on top of that is in fact pure luxury.

Overall, for probably the majority of foreigners living in Chiang Mai a monthly budget of up to THB 15,000 is considered moderate, up to THB 30,000 is fair, and any figure above that is comparative luxury.

Cost of living in other places in Thailand

Similar budgets for Pattaya, Bangkok and Phuket are probably higher by some 50%, 100% and 150% respectively, compared to Chiang Mai. In Bangkok you'll spend much more money on a decent place to live, on transport and on reasonable food. In Phuket nearly all prices are much much higher than in Chiang Mai.
Other places in Thailand such as Chiang Rai, Udon Thani etc. are probably at about the same cost level, at least they can't be much cheaper because the market isn't as competitive and you may pay even more for imported goods.

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Erik Posted on September 30, 2022 at 20:15:52
Please update this article as it was last edited in 2017. I'm sure you're all busy, but if someone has an opportunity, this article could definitely use an update. In my experience, the lower category is so rare or nonexistent that it's not accurate anymore, for example: rent at 2,000 THB/month would be very rare indeed. But living in CM on less than $500 USD per month would be impossible for most Westerners.
Thank you
Cricri76 Posted on September 24, 2021 at 15:38:39
Merci pour toutes ces infos sur Chiang mai, c'est une ville que j'aime depuis 35 ans, et nombreux séjours aussi dans les ethnies des montagnes.
Merci pour votre travail, plein de choses à aller découvrir.
Hung Tran Posted on May 21, 2019 at 08:45:50
how do I get there from Bangkok. I need a local partner from day 1.
Bob Posted on May 19, 2019 at 06:45:59
I will be looking for a female partner
Rondo Posted on December 26, 2018 at 11:33:57
Good info - Informative and most important relevant.
Dave Posted on July 29, 2018 at 06:07:23
I found this very Informative, good reading :)
rashid Posted on October 05, 2017 at 12:06:00
quite informative and wel calculated calculations
RB Posted on December 10, 2016 at 09:02:20
I would atleast double the amounts. Living in luxury with 30K baht...what a joke!