After moving to Chiang Mai, a lot of people have been asking me how much it costs to live here. Honestly it costs as much as you spend, so if you aren’t good at managing money, then you’ll probably blow your load all over the place.
However, if you’re responsible and can stick to a budget, then you can make your dollar stretch pretty damn far.
To start, I want to list my monthly budget for you guys, and then explain each spending category with detailed specifics.
Then the article will continue to Part 2, where I go over some very insightful information about Money And Happiness. It’s some of my best work ever, and if you value your financial future and overall well-being, you definitely want to check it out.
So without further adieu, let’s get it started.
My Chiang Mai Budget
Please note that the THB to USD is 35:1. That means that each US Dollar is worth 35 Thai Baht. The exchange rate can change as with all currencies, but it has been pretty consistent at around 35:1 throughout 2016.
Food – $337 (12,000 baht)
Food is my most expensive spending category $337/mo, as I always find myself meeting up with friends for lunch or dinner at the more expensive restaurants.
In addition, I eat out for all my meals, as I can’t stand cooking – I’m way too lazy for that.
Another reason on why food is my highest spending category, is that while the food here is amazing, the portion sizes are probably about 50% smaller than in the US.
Therefore, I often find myself ordering double the food.
If you really wanted to be frugal, you could probably live on 6,000 baht/mo, but that would require eating only thai food. While the thai food is still really good, you will get sick of it if you have it for every meal.
I wouldn’t ever cheap out on food, as I feel like having the budget to eat whatever you want without thinking about money, gives you the most freedom out of all the other spending categories.
Rent – $186 (6,500 baht)
Next up on the budget is rent, which takes up $186/mo.
I’m living in a studio apartment with a full bathroom, fridge, and microwave, but it’s pretty shitty compared to other places I can get at the same price. Also, the bed is rock hard!
I’m going to move in January to a brand new building and still pay around the same price. At that point I’ll make an apartment tour video, which will show the insane value of the US Dollar here.
If you want to pay even less, you can still get a solid place for like 3,500 baht, you’ll just need to sign a 3 – 6 month contract. I wouldn’t recommend that though, as you never want to be locked in to anything – value your freedom above all else.
And then the really nice places go for 10,000 baht and up, with the best of the best above 20,000.
I could get one of these places if I really wanted to, but I don’t feel like I deserve it yet. I like living far below my means and will elaborate on this later on in the post.
Transportation – $86 (3,000 baht)
In third place, we have transportation, which includes my motorbike rental, gas, and the occasional Songthaew (shared taxi truck), or Uber.
I got my motorbike three weeks ago, and it costs 2,700 baht/mo to rent. I can’t say enough good things about these puppies, as I can’t imagine my life without one anymore.
They are so much fun to ride, and they give you the freedom of going wherever you want, whenever you want.
What’s even crazier is that it only cost me 100 baht ($3 USD) to fill up my gas tank, and it’s still 75% full. I’ve had the bike for three weeks!
When I first got here I was super scared of the bikes as there are a lot of accidents, but after riding on the back of friends’ bikes, I got used to it fast and was itching to get of my own.
The first 2 weeks I was here, I was either walking or taking Songthaew’s everywhere. The Songthaew’s are cheap at 20 baht a trip anywhere in the main city, but it really adds up quickly.
If I kept that up I would’ve spent 3,000 a month just on the taxis alone. But now I have access to all forms of transportation at the same exact monthly price.
Miscellaneous – $70 (2,500 baht)
After transportation we have miscellaneous, which includes alcohol, and other random shit that I’m sure I’m forgetting about.
Not too much to write about this section, except that alcohol prices are pretty much the same as in western countries.
What I’ve been doing, and what I’ve been doing since high school, is just buying a big handle of vodka and filling up water bottles.
Luckily the bars aren’t like the US where you can’t bring anything inside, so I’ve had no problems crushing vodka on the cheap, while everyone else is paying big bucks for buckets and mixed drinks.
Also, there’s no open container laws here, so you can take your drink anywhere. Walking down the street with a beer in-hand is what real freedom is like!
Utilities – $57 (2,000 baht)
Next up is utilities, which includes electricity, water, and high-speed WIFI in my apartment.
The electricity cost me around 1,200 baht this month, which is mainly from using the air-con. You have to be careful with the air-con, as people have had crazy high bills their first month here.
Then my water was around 200 baht, and the WIFI is a flat 500 baht every month. The WIFI is surprisingly good, and is almost the same speed as I had back in the US.
PS: A lot of my friends think it’s weird that I don’t work from a co-working space, but I got into online business so that I didn’t have to wake up and go to an office every morning.
I get all of my work done from my bed, as that’s where I’m most comfortable, with no distractions to deter my attention.
I am probably the laziest person in the world (second to my dad), and I am going to write a future post on how I leveraged my laziness into a positive attribute.
Gym – $14 (500 baht)
The great thing about the gym here is that one it’s got all the equipment you’d ever need, and that you can get a day pass for 60 baht ($2 USD).
I’m only averaging 2-3 times per week, so it’s coming out to around 500 baht a month. If you go more frequently though, the monthly rate is still only like 900 baht.
The gym has also got a great protein shake bar, and right outside is this great chicken place that gives you a very healthy serving. I get the same thing every time and it always hits the spot.
Phone – $14 (500 baht)
To wrap up the budget, my SIM card gives me like 5GB of data and free auto-connecting WIFI around most of the city.
The best place to get your SIM card is at AIS in Maya Mall, which is super easy and everything has worked flawlessly so far.
Before I got here I didn’t really know how the phone situation was going to work out, but as long as you bring an iPhone, you should be fine for only 500 baht a month.
Total – $758/mo (27,000 baht at 35:1)
After adding everything up, I’m spending around $750/mo here. I’d say this is an average budget for someone who just moved here, but people definitely spend a lot more, or a lot less.
I’d say the rock bottom budget would be $500/mo, but that wouldn’t be too fun and I would never do it. On the other hand, $1000/mo would be a significant increase of lifestyle quality.
It’s crazy that only $250 USD can swing your lifestyle so drastically, but that just shows how much value this city has to offer if you take advantage of geo-arbitrage.
Now, I could definitely spend more money here and really ball out, but I like to save at least 50-75% of my income.
I’ve found that I get much more satisfaction from watching my bank accounts grow than living a lavish lifestyle. And sure, once I am making more money I will increase my monthly spend accordingly, but for now I am happy where I am.
If you want to learn more about Money And Happiness, check out Part 2 of this series. I think it’s one of the most valuable pieces of content I’ve ever made, and can immediately change the way you look at the world.
Well guys there you have it, you now know exactly how much it costs to live in Chiang Mai, as well as the insane value you can get here.
Drop me a comment below with your thoughts and questions, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I read it.
Catch ya later! – Brian