Establishing in Chiang Mai

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Last edited: December 27, 2021 at 01:51:30

After you've made up your mind and you've decided to plan to stay in Chiang Mai long term, a few things could be worthwhile doing in your first year:

1. Renting a property medium to long term

Chiang Mai and its surroundings offer a true abundance of different kinds of accomodation available for those staying medium (1-6 months) to long term (more than 6 months). From cheap Thai-style apartments to nicer apartments, condominiums, basic and very luxurious houses. You can get good deals for a lease from 1 year, lowering your monthly costs.
It's a probably a wise approach to rent something for a few months to 1 year first, and then move on to something you really like, to rent or buy.
Thai-style apartments can be very cheap, but are very basic. Condominiums can be more luxurious and are safe, in case you're still travelling a lot, but still offer limited space. Houses offer the best deal considering the amount of space that you get, while you can use gas in the kitchen and often have a garden where you can hold pets, but it's a bit complicated to own them.

- Example of a standard rental contract (suitable for condos and houses)
- Orientate yourself on which area you want to stay.
- Questions about buying property, check our Property section.
- Check our classifieds.
- Check real estate agents in Chiang Mai.

There are many properties for rent and sale in Chiang Mai

2. Registering with your Consulate or Embassy

It may be prudent to register your new address with the Consulate or Embassy of your home country. In case of political turmoil or other dangers, some of them send free warnings to their citizens. Also, in case something happens to you, the Consulate or Embassy can contact your family at home or take action.
Some foreigners prefer to be completely out of sight of the official authorities of their home country, though, for privacy or tax reasons.
In some cases, you may need your Consulate / Embassy though, for example when getting a Declaration of Residence that you want to use for the Thai authorities.
Check out Consulates in Chiang Mai.

3. Get a Declaration of Residence

You need a Declaration of Residence for various matters relating to government: buying a motorcycle, getting a driving license and so on. Some Foreign Embassies or Consulates are able to provide this to you, but most common is to go to Immigration and ask them to issue one.
If you're 'only' on a tourist visa (and not on a non-immigrant visa), you may have trouble getting this, even though nowadays Immigration at Promenada has outsourced the service of providing address proof to what seems to be a commercial agent G4T just around the corner.

4. Buying a vehicle (scooter or car) in your own name

By far the common and also most convenient means of transport in Chiang Mai is the motorcycle / scooter, and after that a car or push bike. Renting a scooter costs you some THB 2,000-3,000 per month, while you can already buy a good second hand for THB 20,000 and a new one for THB 40,000 up, so clearly you can easily earn your money back if you buy one for yourself and you don't have to be accountable for damage to a shop.
Buying a scooter is easy, but putting it in your name requires a few steps:
1. get a declaration of residence from the Immigration Office;
2. go to the Motorcycle Registration Office, pay for taxes and insurance.
3. you need to go to the Motorcycle Registration Office every year to renew your scooter license.

When you have a motorcycle, it's better to report here every year.

5. Getting a Thai driving license

Check our article on how to get a Thai driving license.

6. Getting a Wing 41 permit

Those who cross the city often from Nimmanhaemin area to the airport can benefit from a special permit issued by the Royal Thai Airforce, allowing you to drive through the airport area or what is called "Wing 41": the road from the corner of Suthep road near Nimmanhaemin through the airport area to the beginning of Mahidol road.
The advantage of this route is, that there are no traffic lights, and no traffic jams, it's simply a straight road, so especially in the busy hours it can save you some time.
A special office inside the Wing 41 area is open for applications at the end of the calendar year, and sometimes in  the middle of the year. Bring copies of passport, driving license, ownership of vehicle, and pick up your "Wing 41 sticker" a few weeks later.

The shortcut you can make when you have a "Wing 41 permit": the red line is the route you will be allowed to take. The blue line is how you would normally travel, making lots of U-turns and passing some congestions in the busy hours.

How to get a Wing 41 permit?

Go to the Wing 41 office in Nov / Dec with the following documents:
- copy passport;
- copy proof ownership of vehicle (must be your name).

Pay THB 100 and pick up beginning of the next year.

7. Getting proper insurances

Some foreigners forget or purposely omit getting proper insurances. In most cases, this works out fine, but it can be desastrous for those who get into trouble. The most important insurances you should have are a proper health insurance and a third party liability insurance. Other useful insurances are for your scooter, car and property, if you have any.
It can be cheaper to keep the insurances from your home country, and they often cover more than local or international underwriters.

8. Doing regular healthy check ups

If you're not used to living in the tropics and you're getting above a certain age, it's wise to do regular health check ups once a year. It's not expensive and all major hospitals have packages to check on the main parameters, such as blood values, PSA etc. A standard package could cost about 2,000-3,000 baht which is very cheap compared to doing such check ups in the west.

9. Getting a "House Book"

The so-called House Book or 'ta bieng baan' (ทะเบียนบ้าน) is a little blue book that is the Thai government's system to register residency. The book is based on a specific address and will list the residents in the address, not vice versa. In other words, if you move house, you're supposed to cancel your name from the book that applies to the old address, and get your new name in the book that applies to the new address.

Foreigners can get their name in a house book too, not in a blue book which is for Thai nationals, but in a yellow book which is specifically for foreigners. The advantage of having your name in a House Book is that in the future you don't have to go to Immigration anymore to get a declaration of residency, which you need for many things, such as buying a vehicle but also other paper work related to government.

Example of the blue "House Book".

How to get your name in a yellow House Book?

Go to the District's Office of your Tambon with the following necessary documents:
1. one-year non-immigrant visa. You cannot get it with another type of visa.
2. passport
3. two passport photos;
4. address proof, which can be by
a. proof of ownership of a property: title deed (chonod); OR
b. statement by your landlord confirming your address (or manager of the building); OR
c. declaration of address by Consulate or Embassy of residence in Thailand (but can sometimes be skipped); OR
d. declaration of address by Immigration office.
5. two Thai citizens should go with you to support your application
6. original blue House Book.

Pick up a week later.

10. Open a bank account

Read more about opening a bank account and banking in Thailand

Read more about what it takes to be a local in Chiang Mai (or what lacks before you perhaps have gone local):

Ten Signs that you're not a local in Chiang Mai

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What do you think about this article?

Peter Bull Posted on January 06, 2017 at 14:44:37
I might be missing it, but could you tell us about Doctors/ clinic/ hospitalisation etc. We plan to retire in Chiang Mai and need to dot the " i's " . Thank you