It is already time to look back on our 5-month stay in Thailand! Chiang Mai was our first destination in “digital nomad” mode and the least we can say is that we enjoyed this first experience a lot! In this article we have prepared a detailed overview of our monthly digital nomad budget in Chiang Mai. The costs of accommodation, food, transport and even drinks, everything is included!
At the end of the article you will also find a small, more personal assessment of how we are living these beginnings in the entrepreneurial world. Enjoy! 🙂
Budget for our 5 months in Chiang Mai
As usual we have decided to be 100% transparent with you in our accounts. Well yes, banking secrecy is a bit of a Swiss thing, but not on our blog! 🙂
During our 5 months here I scrupulously recorded all our daily expenses in a small notebook. Here is what it shows.
In all we spent 121 days in Chiang Mai. On average we spent 962€ per month for 2 people. That is 16€ per day and per person if you prefer.
Note: We stayed 5 month in Chiang Mai between October 2016 and February 2017.
Notes on these figures:
- These figures are those for people who settle in Chiang Mai for several months. This is not aline travellers’ budgets.
- For my calculations I withdrew our stays in Myanmar, on the Mae Hong Son loop and in Singapore. These figures are therefore our monthly averages (30 days a month) when we are actually in Chiang Mai.
- The Food and Beverage Department includes all the streetfood, shopping for the apartment but also restaurants and bars;). More details below.
- Transport: Only concerns our transport costs in Chiang Mai city. (it excludes the flights to get there)The Extra position is detailed below, but be aware that it includes things like shopping, dentist (ouch) or visits.
- This includes only the costs we had in Chiang Mai. Our total monthly budget still includes items such as taxes we pay in Switzerland, travels, health and travel insurance, which are not included above.
The Food and Beverage Section
As you will have noticed, this is by far our most important expense item. I must admit that I was also relatively surprised when I finished my little Excel table with our accounts. So I decided to analyse this point a little bit to better understand it.
First observation: We drink too much!
Let’s get to the detailed view
- Streetfood and market shopping: Includes all our meals taken on the street as well as in the mini-restaurants from the night market to the university where we go very often. This also includes our purchases of fresh fruit and vegetables at the market. On average we spend 90 Bahts per meal for 2 (lunch and dinner) as well as about 20 Bahts per day on fruits and vegetables.
- Supermarket: Includes groceries for the apartment such as water, coffee, cereals, milk, pasta, etc.
- Restaurants : This includes all our “expensive” restaurant outings. Basically this is equivalent to 7 or 8 restaurants per month where the average bill is 550 Bahts for 2.
- Beer: Hmmm… An average of 29 beers per month for both of us. I would love to tell you that Benoit is the one who pulls the average up, but unfortunately I think that we share the shame quite Christianly. Anyway… A beer at the supermarket varies between 54 and 65 Baht (for a drink at home) and between 80 and 120 Bahts / beer in bars.
Accommodation in Chiang Mai
We had prepared an article for you about finding an apartment in Chiang Mai at the very beginning of our stay here. In this article you will find all the details on the different categories of apartments and the prices associated with each of them.
For us, our rent is 11,000 Bahts per month. To this must be added an average of 800 Bahts per month for water and electricity. Electricity costs are mainly related to air conditioning, ventilation and the consumption of our computers :).
The remaining 200 Bahts being our average monthly budget for expenses related to the apartment such as cleaning products, the purchase of a fan, some dishes, etc.
If you come to Chiang Mai for a shorter stay or if you wish to have your accomodation booked upon arrival it might be worth having a look on airbnb. The offer for Chiang Mai is very broad.
Getting around Chiang Mai
For us, travel expenses are limited to Songtaew races as well as trips with Uber or Grab.
The Songthaews are the collective taxis of Chiang Mai. They are easily recognized because they are red trucks. The concept? You stop a collective taxi and tell him where you’re going (without asking for a price!). If the driver accepts then you go up and the price is fixed at 20 Bahts per person.
If the trip is longer than 5km then the driver will inform you of the price to pay before going up (usually 30 or 40 Bahts for a trip ranging from 5 to 10km).
It is probably the cheapest way to get around Chiang Mai. The disadvantage is that it is difficult to ask for a specific address. It is better to ask to be dropped off at large crossings and know that often they make detours along the way to drop off other passengers.
Grab and Uber are well known applications. It’s relatively new in Chiang Mai and frankly it works very well! The big plus? They take you from door to door. And since the system is recent and there is a strong competition between the 2 apps, we very regularly receive promo codes for one or the other application. Thanks to the promo codes it is not uncommon to be able to do a 5km ride for free or for 10 Bahts.
Stay connected in Thailand: Sim Cards and Internet
In our apartment we had internet which was included in the price. The problem is that the signal was really very weak. So we quickly invested in a private connection. We went through the AIS operator to get a decent wifi connection (50Mbps) for 748 Bahts per month.
We also bought a SIM card with a subscription that gives us unlimited access to 4G for 450 Bahts per month.
NB: The average shown above is a little lower because the managers of our building suck at math and they have billed us less than expected for the Internet. When we told them thex decided to gift us the difference.
Extras and Misc
The great category where you’ll find everything that did not fit elsewhere! :). For us it’s for example the visits to temples or when Benoit bought himself an audio headset for 100€. But it also includes medical expenses such as our mass purchases of antibiotics and bandages when we both returned from Myanmar with infected wounds. Our various visits to the dentist for checks, scaling, cavities (Ouch) and even the creation of a custom-made gutter because apparently I grind my teeth at night! Grrrrrrrrr……
Chiang Mai budget: It all depends on expectations
As you can see from the figures above, Chiang Mai has cost us a little less than 500€ per person per month. We are often asked what the average budget is here, and frankly it is a question that is almost impossible to answer!
There are many factors that come into play.
Important questions to consider when estimating your budget
- Are you alone or travelling with someone? Being 2 lowers the average bill for rent, internet and even food to some extent
- What are your expectations in terms of an apartment? A room with a bed and a fan in an old building outside the centre or a loft with a jacuzzi in the heart of the action? 🙂
- Are you okay working from home or would you prefer to work in a café?
- Do you eat local food or are you more of a pizza, burger and Italian restaurant person?
- Do you drink alcohol? Because yes, in Thailand alcohol is relatively taxed and you quickly find yourself paying more for a beer than for a dish…
- Would you like to take out a fitness subscription? Take yoga classes?
For our part, we consider ourselves to be a couple with average expenses.
Even if to be honest, I think that in comparison with many expats here we are rather in the low average.
Elements that make us in the low average:
- We work mainly from home. Many nomads work either from coworking spaces or from cafés. A subscription in a coworking space costs roughly 100€ per month and per person. Working in a café means consuming… At CAMP for example (the coworking cafe of Maya) you must consume for a minimum of 50 Baht to have access to the internet for 2 hours.
- We walk a lot! A large part of the nomads rent a scooter for a month to get around. For a scooter it is necessary to count approximately 90€ per month for the rental and gasoline.
- Our food. Sometimes we go to trendy restaurants and suddenly spend the equivalent of 5-6 streetfood meals for a pizza and a glass of red wine, but on average I think we eat more often “local” than the average nomad.
- For sport we were satisfied with the small fitness studio in our building (included in the rent) and walking. Many nomads also take fitness subscriptions in well-equipped centres, do crossfit or Thai boxing or yoga classes.
After all, it’s relative! In fact, for us, we don’t have the impression of depriving ourselves at all, quite the contrary! 🙂 But I think that living in backpacker mode for 18 months during our round the world trip also changed our definition of “average spending” haha.
Update 2019: After spending a bit more than 3 years on the roads, I would say that our current budget would probably be a bit higher. Chiang Mai was our first digital nomad destination and we were clearly paying more attention to our expenses than we are now (we were also getting our business started and thus did not want to spend too much). If we would go back today we would probably budget 800€ per person and per month.
Chiang Mai Map: Our good addresses
You were already introduced to this map in our last article dedicated to the must-sees of Chiang Mai. Here it is again:
On this map you will find all our good addresses in Chiang Mai. Feel free to click on a pin to get details on all our favorite areas. Use the menu on the side to filter the pines by category.
Settling in Chiang Mai: the guide
If you want to find all the addresses of absolutely all the accommodations in Chiang Mai we invite you to discover the excellent guide of Mike Hughes (in English) sold 15$ here.In this guide (400 pages) you will find all the information about Chiang Mai that a person settling in may need.
We bought this book before getting here and frankly it really helped us a lot!You will find everything you need to settle here: how to get around, find an apartment, where to eat, which SIM card to buy, install internet at home, withdraw money, visa issues, health in Chiang Mai, dangers, Thai culture, legal issues, etc….
But above all we have access to an online map that contains all the addresses mentioned in the guide!!!!!
Thank you Chiang Mai
So that’s it, the end of this small financial report on our few months spent in northern Thailand. Chiang Mai was our first stop in our new “nomadic” way of life and frankly we are delighted to have made the decision to move here.
These few months in Chiang Mai will have brought us a lot on different levels.
The professional level
We have been able to make significant progress on our various professional projects. To be honest in recent months we have worked hard (even too hard). Our weeks were far from being super glamorous, because beyond our few escapades and aperitifs with visiting travellers we had a really intense schedule. On average, when we were at home, I would say that we spent between 10 and 14 hours a day on our computers… Yep, not very sexy, I’ll give you that.
But what did we do? We have delivered our first websites to customers in Switzerland and elsewhere.
We are almost finished the new version of Novo-Monde which will be released soon!
We obviously continued to write articles on the blog.
We have taken the steps to found our web development company.
And we also spent a considerable amount of time on 2-3 other projects that it is still a little early to talk about, but we promise it will come! 🙂
On a personal level
Chiang Mai was the place where we first tested our new life as a husband and wife who work and live together 24 hours a day. For the moment everything is going very well. We didn’t kill each other, which is already a good sign. 🙂
More seriously, these few months have allowed us to become aware of the few challenges that also await us at this level. We are gently beginning to find our balance. But it requires a good discipline to keep the time “Off” for the couple. By “Off” we mean: no computer, no phone and no discussion that revolves around our customers or websites… Not easy every day, but we learn! Today we are celebrating our 9th anniversary together, so sorry, but tonight we are not reachable 😉
In terms of travel
We loved Chiang Mai for that! Because even if we have worked hard, being based in Asia has also allowed us to make some pretty escapades not too far from home.
In November we left for a scooter loop in northern Thailand!
In December we flew off for a long weekend in Singapore. There we met our Singaporean friends we met in Switzerland just a year ago. A magnificent stay that we will not soon forget!
Finally at the end of January we also left for a 2-week getaway in Myanmar. A country that we dreamed of discovering and the least we can say is that we came back totaly amazed!
This Saturday we will return our apartment. And since our flight is waiting for us on the 31st we decided to take advantage of these few days to quietly descend towards Bangkok by making a few stops. On the agenda? Discover Kanchanaburi but also the Erawan Natural Park! We can’t wait!
In terms of networking
One of the highlights of our stay here! In Chiang Mai we had the chance to meet dozens and dozens of absolutely fascinating people.
On the one hand, other nomads and entrepreneurs who have settled here as well. People who have chosen the same way of life as us and with whom we automatically have a lot in common. The topics for discussion are generally all found! Beautiful friendships that we take with us on our next adventures. With the certainty of meeting many of them again at some point, somewhere around our beautiful planet.
On the other side the travellers!!!!! Thanks to the blog we had many people who contacted us to go for a drink or a bite to eat (I would like to say that I hold them personally responsible for our beer consumption score… especially some… who will recognize themselves!) 😉
Chiang Mai is a place where many long-distance travellers come at one time or another. We’re just totally amazed at the number of people who contacted us and infinitely grateful for all these great parties! A big thank you to all those whose paths we crossed here in Chiang Mai, it was really awesome meeting you guys!
On the way to new adventures
As mentioned before, on Saturday we get back to our backpacks for a short week of travelling in Thailand before heading back to Europe.
In April we will most probably travel between Switzerland and France before moving back to a new destination for a few months. We’d like to tell you where, but to be honest we’re not sure yet ourselves. 😉 The adventure continues!
See you soon,
Fabienne & Benoit
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