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You may be wondering what our cost of living in Chiang Mai is? Our numbers may surprise you if comparing with North American costs.
We took some time to get comfortable from the culture shock, but we now can understand why others love Chiang Mai so much. With the low cost of living, a sizeable expat and digital nomad community, along with the variety of food options, we understand why so many keep returning.
Cost of Living in Chiang Mai – First Month
We feel that most of our expenses were spent at the grocery store since we were there at least 3 times a week. I’m a huge snacker so we tend to have to replenish fairly quickly.
Read here for a day in the life post in Chiang Mai.
Here’s our total cost (rounded) for 2 people in one month:
|Food (meals, coffees and groceries)||$700||$527|
|Alcoholic Beverages (ie. beer and wine)||$67||$50|
|Entertainment (i.e. movie)||$15||$11|
|Transportation (i.e. Grab – taxi service, Songthaews – ride sharing service)||$10||$7|
|Phone (sim card & data plan)||$23||$17|
|Misc (ie. paper towels, toilet paper, dish washing soap, etc.)||$13||$10|
|Utilities (ie. electric & water)||$36||$28|
Our Breakdown Explained
Our rent is actually on the higher end since we stayed in the “trendier” part of Chiang Mai in the Nimman area with lots of contemporary restaurants, cafés, bars, shops and boutique hotels. We had a one bedroom, one bath, with a kitchen and a living room. It also came with a washing machine, microwave, stovetop, and all kitchen utensils (dishes, utensils, pan).
We’ve read and heard that one could get a studio apartment for much less at around $350 USD or approx. $460 CAD. You’ll still be within the main areas, however the building won’t be as new and modern.
Overall, we estimate that we spend approximately $100 per person per week on food and drinks. Albeit, the majority (maybe 85%) of that is eating local foods.
In Thailand, you cannot drink the tap water. We’ve also heard mixed info about brushing your teeth with tap water. However, to be on the safe side, we opted to use bottled water. We had water delivered via our apartment’s management office twice a week at a cost of $2.80 CAD / $2.10 USD for a cart of 24 glass bottles, 500 ml each.
We paid to go to the gym and Ernest’s Muay Thai classes in our first month there. After the first month, we became “lazy” and opted to workout in the apartment gym.
Our entertainment cost was going to watch a movie once. All other entertainment was pretty much free (ie. visiting the temples).
For transportation, we spent the majority on getting from the airport to our apartment at a cost of 150 Thai Baht or $6 CAD / $4.50 USD which was a 15 minutes ride. The local ride sharing (ie. songthaews aka red trucks) cost approx $2 CAD / $1.80 USD per person per ride anywhere within the city. However, unless we were feeling lazy, we pretty much walked every where.
We purchased a one month plan at the airport which came with a sim card and unlimited data. It wasn’t until our one month was up and we went looking for a new plan did we realize that the airport plan was much more expensive. Therefore, the number above is an average of the full two months.
The airport charged us $32 CAD / $24 USD for a 30 days plan with unlimited data (still a pretty good deal compared to what we were paying in Canada). While at the telecom store, we purchased a 7 days package which came with unlimited data for $3.55 CAD / $2.67 USD.
The laundry service in Chiang Mai is awesome! We drop off our clothes each week for laundering which costs $2 CAD / kilo of clothing! Then we pick it up the next day and they’re nicely folded and placed in a bag.
Since we were in CM during their cooler months (winter months are Dec – Feb), we really only ran the air conditioner periodically during the day and all night (approx 10 hrs). This comprised most of our electrical costs. We also used the stovetop (occasionally) at night for preparing dinner.
Water costs came out to $6 CAD / $4.55 USD per month and usage consisted of the usual (ie. showers, dishes, etc).
What’s Not Included In The List Above
We purchased one month’s travel insurance from World Nomads. If you’re ever looking for travel insurance, they’re a well respected company which came highly recommended. Purchasing from them was also very straight forward and can be done online. There was also no need to purchase insurance prior to your trip; it can be purchased at any time during your trip.
We also visited Malaysia and Phuket at the end of our first month in Chiang Mai which we did not include since it’s not really part of the cost of living in CM.
This leads us to visa costs which is also not included since we did not pay for any visas and instead received the 30 days landed visa exemption twice.
Additionally, we did a full day cooking class in the last few days of our 2nd month in CM which cost $48 CAD / $36 USD per person.
We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on how the cost of living in CM compares to where you are. Leave a comment below.
PS – the photo above is the actual picture of our apartment building in Chiang Mai, Thailand.