Why Chiang Mai is the best place to live in Thailand

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Last edited: October 08, 2022 at 08:26:59

People may differ in taste and personal preferences, but many would agree that Chiang Mai is definitely one of the best places in Thailand to live in, if you have decided to make Thailand your home. Unless you can't live without the sight of the sea and beaches, or you crave the cosmopolitan feeling of a big city like Bangkok, you can find almost anything in Chiang Mai that overall can give you a good quality of life.

Here are the main reasons for most people to establish yourself in Chiang Mai:


For a lot, if not most people, this is the number one reason to choose Chiang Mai as their long-term home base, whether they admit it or not. In Chiang Mai, virtually everything is cheap: housing, food, local services, they are all dead cheap. You can get a haircut for 150 baht, a meal for 50 baht (or even free at some places), a massage for 100-150 baht and you can rent a local basic appartement from 2000 baht. Some foreigners blog (or brag) about how little they can spend in one month, some can survive on less than THB 10,000 per month, but I wouldn't be proud to call that an achievement.
The only stuff that is relatively expensive are the things that need to be completely imported, for example beef steaks, imported yoghurt, luxury cars and so on.

Now the point here is of course not to encourage you to live on a shoe string, but it is that by living in a place where things are so cheap, it takes off the burden of having to work hard, and that is precisely what many people in Chiang Mai like. It gives you the time and space to relax or do other things besides your job, without the pressure of having to go to work 9 to 5 or worse.

It's hard to say what an average budget to live comfortably in Chiang Mai is, but I'd say with a thousand baht a day (for all expenses, including housing) you're pretty comfortable.

Read more about the cost of living in Chiang Mai here 


Chiang Mai is a medium sized city in Thailand feeling much smaller than the metropolis of Bangkok with millions of people. How many people really live in Chiang Mai is hard to say: official figures of the Chiang Mai municipality amount to only 100,000-200,000 inhabitants but that doesn't include the agglomeration and people who are not officially registered here, such as workers from other provinces and probably foreigners like you. Typically, young Thai people keep their 'house book' at their parent's house even if they work somewhere else.
Practically, Chiang Mai feels like a city with 300,000-500,000 inhabitants, making it a city that is not too small and not too big. You can reach all interesting areas in town on a scooter within 20min. Compare that with Bangkok, where you can get stuck in traffic for 45 min to get just one block further.

Chiang Mai offers basically everything you need for daily life. There are ample shopping malls, swimming pools, fitness centers, golf courses, hospitals, western supermarkets and so on. This will be sufficient for most of the needs of foreigners. The only things that are harder to find are those which is are typical for a metropolis such as the international culture scene, concerts, world-class museums, embassies, blue chip companies and so on.

Compared to its size, the density of things that matter for foreigners is much higher than in places such as Bangkok. As for restaurnants, you can find almost any cuisine in Chiang Mai. The only food which is harder to get in Chiang Mai is fresh seafood.


Tucked away in the North of Thailand, away from hard and commercial life in Bangkok and from mass commercial tourism in the South (Phuket and Pattaya), local people in Chiang Mai are amongst the most genuine in Thailand. Although being a major tourism destination in Thailand, local people generally have kept their original identity and treasure their local culture.
On the negative side, one can experience it as having a provincial character, but seen positively you can meet many simple and modest local people.

This is a place where, on the market, you can see a vendor adding another few leaves of vegetable on the scale to match the weight you requested, instead of trying to cheat you rightaway.

Chiang Mai used to be the center of a regional Kingdom called Lanna, with a distinct culture and separate from the great Siamese powers in the south. Conquered and influenced by Myanmar in the past, and nowadays a magnet for all kinds of minorities, Chiang Mai hosts a multitude of different cultures, sometimes living in their own neighbourhood but harmoniously with each other: hilltribes, Chinese, moslims, Indians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and many more.

Ethnic diversity other than the majority of Thai Buddhists.
There are no tensions between ethnic groups in Chiang Mai, like in some parts of the South of Thailand.

What stands out of Thai culture is its extreme tolerance: you can be who you want to be, there are no extreme,rigid or fanatic viewpoints that deny each other the right of existence. Some foreigners feel more free in Thailand than in their home country, but that can partly be because as a foreigner you can live in your own bubble here.


Chiang Mai used to have the reputation of having a cooler climate, but the truth is that Thailand is hot, hotter, hottest, so even Chiang Mai is hot most of the year, especially if you're from a moderate climate. However, compared to the South where it's hot all the time, at least in Chiang Mai there are periods when it cools down a bit, notably during the rainy season when it has been cloudy for a few days and a few weeks in Jan / Feb, when it can be really chilly (not having a heating system in your house).

Read more about climate


Chiang Mai is located in a valley and surrounded by mountain ranges, which you can see in great detail when the sky is clear. It only takes less than an hour drive to be completely out of the urban heat, and experience total nature.
However, within the boundaries of the city, there is nature everywhere, Chiang Mai is probably one of the greenest cities in Southeast Asia. Similar sized cities in Asia are not always as green as Chiang Mai, for example in Phnom Penh most trees are cut.
Local culture in Chiang Mai respects older trees, so you often see that entire building sites are built around a tree which even goes through a roof.
Hence, Chiang Mai offers a unique balance between city life and rural life. Wherever you are, you will always be able to enjoy nature, whether it is a lush restaurant garden during lunch or simply the view on the mountain Doi Suthep from your balcony. Having an apartment with mountain view sounds luxury but is a common good in Chiang Mai.

Mountain views in Chiang Mai are a "common good" and there is always a unique balance between nature and city.


You can live almost any lifestyle you want in Chiang Mai: from relaxing, chilling out and doing virtually nothing, to an active lifestyle with yoga or focussed on well-being, or playing golf or any other sports. Possibilities to work and do business are more limited, as Chiang Mai is not a business city, but a lot of foreigners find their own work or ways to earn money.

Read more about how to make money in Chiang Mai


Chiang Mai is one of the safest places in Thailand and you can walk around everywhere without being hassled. There is a very low crime rate. Most crimes related to foreigners happen in Pattaya, Phuket and Bangkok. Local and Russian maffia seem to feel more attracted to a 'Miami Vice' lifestyle with beaches and sea in Phuket and Pattaya, than to a mountain retreat in Chiang Mai. Also, for some reasons more foreigners 'jump' from the balcony in these places than in Chiang Mai (authorities blame the strong winds).


Chiang Mai is, after Bangkok, probably the best connected city in Thailand when it comes to flights, making it a convenient homebase or travel hub in Southeast Asia. Most major cities in Asia can be reached with only one stop-over.


If you have decided to establish yourself in Thailand, besides Chiang Mai there are a few other popular places where foreigners go.

PHUKET - Phuket of course has the sea and beaches that Chiang Mai doesn't have. Expect a much higher price level for almost everything, because many things have to be imported from the mainland and Phuket has many tourists.

BANGKOK - Some people just don't like the proviincial character of Chiang Mai and prefer a real big city. Then Bangkok is your choice. Expect more traveling times and more costs if you want to live comfortably.

HUAHIN - Huahin has enough facilities and has the sea, it is a rather calm place and less happening than Phuket.

PATTAYA / JOMTIEN - People choose Pattaya or Jomtien to live in, because it's close to the sea and not far from Bangkok.

KO PHAGNAN - Being a tropical island cut away from everthing, this place attracts more hippy-style people interested in yoga and cryptos.

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What do you think about this article?

Kotaman Posted on October 03, 2022 at 23:27:26
İ will move to Chiang mai now İ m sure
Erik Posted on September 30, 2022 at 20:09:43
I think this article should be updated annually as it is a primary topic for this website, or, more importantly, for the target audience.

I would recommend that the "updated..." date notice at the top is bolder and that the year is in parenthesis in the title, "...to live in Thailand (2022)"

These are just recommendations, but I feel this article is important, and worth updating regularly.

Thank you
DixonRivera Posted on October 12, 2021 at 18:33:19
Thank U