The cost of living in Chiang Mai, Thailand is an inherently hot topic. What other city offers such a comfortable standard of living – delicious local and international food, community happenings and meet-ups, modern conveniences, and an endless array of housing options – for so little!
So the big question is: How much does it cost to live in Chiang Mai? Here’s a look at every last
dollar baht we spent over the past year.
PIN IT FOR LATER!
In case you’re new to our website, here’s a quick introduction:
We’re a married American couple in our early 30s and have been living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for four years.
We currently rent a small Western-style house very close to Chiang Mai’s Old City. We get around town on a motorbike that we bought when we first moved here.
When we aren’t doing blog-related tasks, we spend our free time going to the gym, studying Thai, cooking elaborate meals, binge-watching Netflix shows, hanging out with friends, and traveling.
As far as lifestyles go, we are ‘middle of the road’ type of people. Comfort, health, and safety are important to us and we usually choose the option that is the best value for our money.
Ok, now that THAT picture is painted, here’s what you’re really looking for:
Average Monthly Cost of Living in Chiang Mai
As with all of our cost of living posts, we’re completely transparent about what we spend. We made sure to include recurring costs as well as one-time or extraordinary expenditures such as:
- our annual round-trip flight to the USA
- Thai visas and the associated upkeep
- ATM and money transfer fees
- doctors visits and health insurance
- blog operation costs
|Chiang Mai Expenses||Cost in Thai baht||Cost in US dollars|
|Rent + Household Items||฿15,868||$456|
|Groceries, Eating Out, Drinks||฿27,196||$782|
|Bills (Utilities + Subscriptions)||฿5,198||$149|
|Motorbike, Gas, Taxis||฿1,964||$56|
|Health + Wellness||฿10,102||$290|
|Travel + Entertainment||฿10,537||$303|
Rent & Household Items
Average Monthly Cost: 15,868 THB / 456 USD
We’ve rented the same two-bedroom house for the past three years. It has everything we could want in a home: Western-style kitchen and bathrooms, comfy (non-wooden) furniture, a washing machine (!), efficient AC units, and a small fenced in yard for our cat.
Could we pay half as much for a similar house outside of the city? Yes, but it’s important for us to be within walking distance of the Old City Moat since Angela doesn’t drive a motorbike.
As far as household expenses go, we’ve purchased a few kitchen appliances, organizational units, and an air purifying unit (Lazada has been a godsend!). To make our house feel like a home we’ve bought plants and decorative flowers as well as things to keep our home clean (trash bags, sponges, dish soap, laundry detergent).
Our cat doesn’t cost us much. His expenses (medication, food, kitty litter) are lumped into this category as well.
|ITEMIZED HOUSEHOLD ITEMS|
|Rent: 2 bedroom house (per month)||฿14,000||$403|
|Set of 6 small ceramic soup bowls||฿300||$9|
|Laundry detergent (1.5 L)||฿89||$2.50|
|Three-tiered shoe rack||฿999||$28|
|Purina One cat food (1.4 kg)||฿309||$9|
|Exam + 10-day meds for cat||฿720||$21|
Groceries, Eating Out, Drinking
Average Monthly Cost: 27,196 THB / 781 USD
Our consumable items include dine-in or to-go restaurant meals, groceries from indoor grocery stores, fresh produce from our outdoor market, as well as coffee and alcohol. This category makes up the largest part of our cost of living in Chiang Mai and is nearly double our rent.
We cook most of our meals at home – all but maybe four or five meals per week – so we do a lot of grocery shopping. We buy about half of our groceries at our local open-aired Thai market, a quarter from mini convenience stores, and the other quarter from international grocery stores.
|ITEMIZED MARKET ITEMS|
|Chicken breast (1 kg or 2.2 lbs)||฿100||$2.80|
|Extra large eggs (10)||฿45||$1.30|
|Potatoes (1 kg or 2.2 lbs)||฿40||$1.15|
Three or four meals per week we eat out and gravitate toward cuisine-specific restaurants. They’re not necessarily fancy, but they offer specialized menus with satisfying food and somewhat Western-quality service.
We eat at open-air Thai restaurants a few times per month, but not nearly as often as we did the first two years we lived here. Our best meals have always been at places where the customers are almost entirely Thai people.
We drink about twice per week. We occasionally drink the local Thai beers (Leo, Chang, Singha) but lately we’ve been happy drinking simply cocktails, like gin and soda. Every once in a while we’ll treat ourselves to imported beer or wine.
We also drink a lot of coffee, both at home and at cafés. Ever since Chiang Mai’s coffee culture took off, we’ve developed a taste for high-quality espresso drinks, which are surprisingly easy to find in the city.
|ITEMIZED DINING OUT & DRINK ITEMS|
|Thai meal (2 people)||฿100||$3|
|Mid-range meal, no alcohol (2 people)||฿1,270||$37|
|Leo beer at a bar (660mL large bottle)||฿100||$3|
|Pint of Guinness||฿210||$6|
|Jacob’s Creek Shiraz from a store (750mL bottle)||฿599||$17|
|Cappuccino from a nice café||฿70||$2|
If you’re planning to move to Chiang Mai, you might also like…
The Future Expat’s
7-Day Guide to Chiang Mai
This week-long itinerary is a collaboration of the best things to do around the city as well as practical places you’ll need to know once you’re an expat. Plus, it has our personal recommendations for comfortable hotels in Chiang Mai, best restaurants, vehicle rentals, expat areas, and more.
Bills: Utilities & Subscriptions
Average Monthly Cost: 5,198 THB / 149 USD
Our regular monthly bills include electricity, water, and internet. We have Netflix (8.99 USD) and Pandora (4.99 USD) subscriptions, too, and several phone plans.
We use air conditioning during much of the day (low to medium setting on 25⁰C or 77⁰F) and our fan is normally on at night. Our water bill is based on what we use for showering, washing dishes, and our laundry machine. We buy drinking water separately and also replace our propane tank (hooked up in the kitchen to our gas stove) about twice per year.
|ITEMIZED UTILITIES & SUBSCRIPTIONS|
|Average electricity bill (335 units)||฿1,376||$40|
|Average water bill (not drinking water)||฿114||$3|
|Internet 50 Mbps down / 10 Mbps up||฿1,000||$29|
|Phone bill 5 GB data plan||฿535||$15|
Transportation: Motorbike, Gas, Taxis
Average Monthly Cost: 1,964 THB / 56 USD
As far as our daily transportation goes, it’s split between riding a motorbike, songthaews, and Uber within the small confines of Chiang Mai City. We own our Honda Forza (no rental fees), so we only pay for gas and a few bike-related expenses. Ever since Uber made its debut in Chiang Mai back in 2016, we have used this service religiously. It’s fast, reliable, and affordable.
|TIP: As of April 2018, Uber is no longer in Chiang Mai, but an alternative ridesharing app called Grab Taxi is. If you’re new to Grab Taxi, get 100 THB off your first ride when you download the Grab app and use our discount code: GRABTIETOTHAI (or just sign up here).|
|ITEMIZED TRANSPORTATION ITEMS|
|Two DOT-certified full-face bike helmets||฿4,000||$115|
|One-way Uber ride in Chiang Mai (5 km)||฿60||$2|
|Full tank of gas (11 L or 325ish km)||฿280||$8|
Health & Wellness
Average Monthly Cost: 10,102 THB / 290 USD
This category includes costs associated with medical expenses, grooming, clothes, and healthy habits. Most of our money is spent on staying healthy. This includes what we spend on our gym membership, workout equipment, protein and supplements, and massages.
This year, our medical expenses included a routine checkup, some tummy medication, a few trips to the cosmetologist, a trip to the dentist for a general cleaning, contacts and respective exam, and a few first-aid items.
Grooming entails all toiletries (shampoo, deodorant, suntan lotion, razors, makeup, etc) as well as haircuts from upscale barbers, manicures for special occasions, and highlights.
|ITEMIZED HEALTH & WELLNESS ITEMS|
|General dental cleaning||฿1,200||$35|
|6 Sets of contacts + exam||฿1,900||$55|
|Gym membership (monthly)||฿750||$22|
|Massage (1.5 hours)||฿500||$14|
|Yoga class (1.5 hours)||฿200||$6|
|Men’s haircut and wash||฿300||$9|
|Gel polish manicure||฿400||$11|
During international vacations, we’ve taken out traveler’s insurance through World Nomads (i.e., 174 USD for our two-week trip to Cambodia and Vietnam). We currently self-insure and pay all expenses out-of-pocket, but we have recently looked into several health insurance policies that will cover us while we live in Thailand. Cigna quoted us around 250 USD per month per couple.
Average Monthly Cost: 8,519 THB / 245 USD
This category covers expenses that wouldn’t exist if we were still living in the USA.
The true cost to properly maintain a Thai visa not only includes the initial cost of visa, but travel expenses to get the visa, visa extensions, and re-entry permits, too. We have also included Thai language lessons as part of our expat expenses as well as money transfer fees.
|ITEMIZED EXPAT EXPENSES|
|Private Thai Lessons (per hour)||฿350||$10|
|Enrollment for 1-year Thai class||฿27,900||$801|
|Non Immigrant Visa + 3 extensions||฿7,700||$221|
|Money transfer fees (per month)||฿650||$19|
Two items that are not included in our expat expenses but are relevant for most people are ATM fees and currency exchange fees. Our ATM fees are refunded at the end of the month (an average of 23 USD). We’ve never tracked how much we lose in currency exchange fees, although maybe we should start.
Travel & Entertainment
Average Monthly Cost: 10,537 THB / 303 USD
We didn’t travel as much as past years but we still visited Phuket, Bangkok, Chaiyaphum, Phu Chi Fah, Krabi, and Koh Chang. Now that we travel with a drone, we rent a car (35 USD per day). We’ve been MUCH happier! In terms of safety, comfort, and convenient storage space, it beats riding on a motorbike and strapping 2500+ USD worth of camera gear to our bodies.
In between big trips, we take day trips or spend long weekends close to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai also has a lot of scheduled meetups, which we go to from time to time. It’s great for meeting people who have similar hobbies, such as running, hiking, trivia nights, drinking craft beer, etc.
We also spent a full month in the USA, which we do about once every 12 to 15 months.
|ITEMIZED TRAVEL ITEMS|
|Compact car rental (per day)||฿1,200||$35|
|Round-trip flight Chiang Mai to Bangkok||฿3,283||$94|
|Round-trip flight Chiang Mai to Washington DC||฿25,734||$739|
|Taxi Bangkok airport to hotel (35 km)||฿450||$13|
|Airbnb studio apartment in Bangkok (per night)||฿1,127||$32|
Average Monthly Cost: 11,938 THB / 343 USD
There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to keep our blog running smoothly, and every year we spend a bit more. This includes the cost of products (usually one-time purchases) and services (usually recurring monthly or annual charges) to keep up with our expanding audience.
What really drives up the average of this category are the electronics we’ve bought (drone, two new iPhones, waterproof cases). They are one-time expenses but we’ve averaged the cost across 12 months. In all honesty, we wouldn’t have bought them if it wasn’t for the blog.
Try Our Thailand Budget Calculator!
If you’d like to see what your budget might be like living in Thailand, enter the amount in US dollars in the budget calculator below. It’ll work its magic and send you a customized monthly budget itemizing important expenses from rent and utilities to food and entertainment. It’ll be the first step to helping you predict your finances before moving to Thailand.