We spent two months in Chiang Mai as ‘digital nomads‘. It is a wonderful city with just the right blend of urban conveniences, cultural activities and local nature spots. As the second city of Thailand it is almost hard to believe that Chiang Mai follows crazy-hectic Bangkok. But as this is my fourth visit to the city over six years I have noticed it is growing from the sleepy city in the North into a modern hub of creativity and commerce.

The city has become busier, the cars have got bigger and if you get stuck behind a songtaew (red taxis) or tuk-tuks at the slow-changing traffic lights then you will feel like you’ve inhaled half a tank of burnt oil.

Still, increased pollution aside (and something relatively synonymous with cities) Chiang Mai retains that approachable vibe that causes expats from all over the world to come spend some time there.

Why is Chiang Mai such a hub for digital nomads, travel bloggers and tourists on the slow travel trail? 

I think it’s the unique combination of cheaper living costs, fast internet speeds, an expat community of likeminded people, great food, fantastic scenery, culture and plenty to do.

Plus, you can get a mean bowl of Koy Soi Gai – the infamous Chiang Mai Noodles Curry, which tastes delicious!

But seriously, when you can pay just £120 (US$180) for a monthly rental, a meal costing between £1-4 (US$1.50 – 6) and more coffee shops with high speed internet than you can possibly fit into a daily routine in a two-month period (trust me, we tried), it’s easy to see the attraction.

However, it can be a little overwhelming when you first arrive in the city. You might have an idea of what you want but there is actually so much choice it can be hard to decide. And if you arrive during the dry season (Nov – Feb) which is peak-time you might have a trickier time finding accommodation etc.

In the end, it took a couple of weeks to get the apartment we wanted as they were fully booked. Many others were already booked out until March. It started to get a little stressful and whilst there is plenty of information about it would have been nice to have it all in one place. It would have saved us so much time that we could be putting elsewhere.

So in the spirit of blogging and sharing, here is my resource list for Chiang Mai. It is primarily aimed at long-stay folk, but also has some useful info for travellers passing through.

Be sure to scroll to the end for a handy map we’ve made to help you find everywhere we mention in this list. 

Hope it helps!

Practical Guide To Living and Working In Chiang Mai

Short-term accommodation

2230 Hostel Soi 1, Nimmanhaemin Road

Most digital nomad types tend to find their accommodation around the Nimmanhaemin Road so it would be ideal to base yourself there whilst you look. We found 2230 Hostel on our final night and it was ideal location-wise. It’s a brand new hostel and constructed in an unusual capsule style. The owner was friendly, it’s affordable and a good place to start. {Book here!}

Eco Resort

If you’d like to start off your time in Chiang Mai with a bit of relaxation but for a budget price you could check out the Eco Resort on the East side of town. There’s a decent sized pool, restaurant and a few pieces of gym equipment, all set in garden surroundings. We stayed there for 3 nights and it was a nice escape from it all. Plus, it was interesting to see another side of town. {Book here!}

Long-term accommodation

We spent quite a long time riding around Chiang Mai on a moped asking around at every condo and ‘monthly rental’ sign we could find. Here are just a few of the places to give you an idea:

Baan Thai Pool

Baan Thai, Soi 6, Nimmanhaemin Road

We stayed at Bann Thai and can recommend it for being affordable, accessible and it has a pool (see photo above)! It’s 5,200 to 6,000 Baht for a room plus 200 Baht for Water and 7 Baht per unit for Electricity. Wifi is optional and costs 600B a month.

The apartments are pretty much a room with an en-suite. There is a small balcony, desk, tv, refrigerator, wardrobe, desk, chairs and aircon. We chose the 6,000 Baht room which included bed linen and twice-monthly cleaning. They have friendly 24 hour security out front and it’s walking distance from so many fantastic restaurants, food carts, coffee shops, shopping, etc.

There is no kitchen facility to here so you either eat out or purchase a cheap kettle. I’ve even heard of some folks buying a blender and toaster – if you’re staying a few months or more it might be worth it.

Hillside Condo 4, Huay Kaew Road

Hillside is a 10 minute walk from Maya Shopping Centre and Nimmanhaemin Road. It’s also 5 minutes walk from the Kad Suan Huay Kaew Shopping Centre. It’s over twice the price of Baan Thai at 14,000 Baht per month. This includes a kitchen and a lovely pool. They charge 700 Baht a month for internet, 15 baht per unit for water, and 7 baht per unit for electricity.

The building is a tad dated and looks like it was intended to be a ‘destination’ with shops etc. This didn’t happen so there are lots of empty units downstairs. That said the rooms have more facilities and the pool area was probably better than Baan Thai.

Srisuwan Mansion, Maekuamoong Rd

My friend was staying at this condo and I believe there’s a small community of other expats there. The rooms are large but relatively basic. If you stayed for a while you might want to purchase a small fridge and kettle.

It is located just beyond the main city, off Canal Road. So it’s a lot quieter and if you’re lucky you get a view of the mountain.

There is a pool and restaurant there, but a 60 Baht charge to use the pool.

Residence SG, near Wat Chet Yot

We liked Residence SG. It’s brand new and about 7 – 10 minute walk from Maya Shopping Centre. It’s in a quiet Thai neighbourhood near Wat Chet Yot. It cost 6,000 – 8,000 Baht per month with a minimum 3 month contract. Wifi is included, 200 Baht for water and 9 Baht per unit for electricity.

The rooms are beautifully decorated and include a small kitchen area with sink and refrigerator.

Kantary Hills, Soi 12 Nimmanhaemin Road

If you fancy a bit more luxury and have the budget go for Kantary Hills for 54,000 Baht a month. Included in the price is a gorgeous room, full buffet breakfast, daily cleaning service, wifi, a small living room area and kitchenette, bed linen, aircon. Pretty much everything you’d hope for in a 5 star condo.

Kantary Hills has a lovely pool, sauna and steam room, complimentary tea and coffee, 24 hour security, business facilities, etc. The location on Nimmanhaemin Road puts it right in the thick of all the action.

Bike Rental

Buddy’s, Huay Kaew road

This motorbike rental place actually bills itself as an internet shop but I’ve rarely seen more than 3 people in there at a time. Their main business is renting out mopeds and motorbikes. We rented several off them over a period of a month and they were fair, honest and easy to rent from. They do require either your passport or a deposit of 3,000 baht for a rental. Located opposite the Kad San Kaew shopping centre.

Coocase, Huay Kaew Road

Another great small bike rental place. This one was near the Maya Shopping Centre. We got a great deal for a longer term rental and they offer touring bikes as well which is great if you want to drive up to Pai, Chiang Dao or do the Mae Hong Son route. We found them to be honest, reasonable and friendly. They also require a big deposit or your passport for renting a bike.

Both places provide free helmets, make sure you wear one. Not only is it safe but it’s the law. You will get pulled over by the police and fined if caught not wearing a helmet.

Internet

AIS Wifi Sim Card

Be sure to plan ahead and get your smartphone unlocked so you can use another sim card abroad. The pay-as-y0u-go sim cards are cheap and easy to set up in Thailand.

We recommend you go to an AIS store, we went to the one in Maya Shopping Centre. Sign up for the PAYG with internet package. They offer 12GB of high speed internet (afterwards it drops to standard speed) for 799Baht for 3 months (afterwards it reduces to 4GB).

Not only do you get fast 3G on the go but you can also use free internet wherever there is an AIS Hotspot. One of which is upstairs at Maya in Camp, co-working space.

CAMP Maya Shopping Centre

Co-working spaces / Coffee Shops

Camp

We spent a good deal of time here over the first few weeks of our stay in Chiang Mai. It’s a co-working space / coffee shop on the 5th floor of the Maya Shopping Centre. It’s brand new, less than a year old, and is huge. There are a variety of different style desks and it proves rather popular with the local Thai students. They are open 24 hours a day. To access their WIFI you need to spend at least 50 baht on food and beverages. It lasts for 2 hours at a time. Alternatively, if you have bought the AIS sim card as recommended above you can simply log into the AIS hotspot wifi and use the internet as much as you want.

Coffee Monster

Located outside of the main town and just off Canal Road. This co-working space is popular with the drop-shipping crew if that’s your bag. It’s a lovely big space with plenty of different desk areas, a nice pond, a pool table out the back and other private meeting rooms. The wifi is fast and free but they do like you to purchase something from the coffee shop. I found this a lot more chilled out than Camp, just more of a hassle to get to. The fast internet was great for uploading Youtube videos.

Punspace

We never got around to using Punspace. But we’ve heard lots about it. Apparently it’s popular with the programming and designer crew. You pay a daily or monthly access fee and it’s supposed to be a really lovely space to work out of. There are now two branches, one in the Nimman area and the other near Tae Pae gate.

Wake Up

Wake Up cafe is a 24 hour coffee shop on Nimmanhaemin Road between Soi 8 and 10. It’s a relatively new space currently spanning two floors with a couple more to open soon. It features cute interior features such as swings as seats and booth capsules. The coffee is great and any purchase gets you a 4 hour wifi code. You can even buy a 10baht water for the wifi if you really wanted to or use the attached Subway.

Mont Blanc

This one is for the cake lovers. Mont Blanc is on Nimmanhaemin Road and serves fantastic desserts French patisserie style. They offer free wifi for customers and the decor is probably my favourite in this area – it’s all mid-century vintage furniture and clocks. Love it.

Guu

Every kind of pancake filling you could possibly think of, and then some. Guu Roti serves fantastic pancakes and has surprisingly super-fast internet. We uploaded a Youtube video in a matter of minutes whilst eating a Garlic Chicken Pancake. Recommended, but be warned, it does get very busy here in the evenings.

Tom n Toms

A coffee chain open 24 hours on the corner opposite Maya shopping centre. They serve good pretzels and coffee, which makes a welcome change from Pad Thai. The internet can be temperamental but when it works it’s a good speed.

Bibie

A new kid on the co-working space block. Bibie opened just a week or so before we left Chiang Mai. Located on Nimmanhaemin Road by Soi 8, it has excellent wifi speed. You can pay hourly, daily or monthly rates and included is the wifi and free tea/coffee/ovaltine and water.

Black Canyon Coffee

Black Canyon doesn’t seem to be as pervasive in Chiang Mai, or Thailand as whole, as it did a few years back. But we did spend a few occasions working out of the one next to Tae Pae Gate. The wifi is a good speed and they serve coffee in a boot! Who wouldn’t want their coffee in a boot?!

94 Coffee

Possibly my favourite spot for coffee. I was always surprised by how quiet this place was, but kind of liked that it felt like our special spot that no-one knew about. Their wifi is free but they like you to make a purchase. The coffee was a great blend. The food is average, but it’s a huge space with comfy sofas – ideal for a few hours of working.

Goat Coffee

I literally found this place the day before we left Chiang Mai. I stumbled past one morning, walked in asking if they did breakfast and they offered me a waffle with honey. So I parked up and enjoyed a delicious waffle and coffee. Again, this coffee shop is pretty quiet but with fast internet and a cute interior. They don’t mind you staying a while and just behind the coffee shop is the best place in Chiang Mai for Kao Soi Gai (more on that below). Highly recommended.

Kaweh

I almost didn’t want to post about this place as it’s a hidden gem. Sadly we didn’t stumble across it until the end of our stay, but Kaweh is a gorgeous coffee shop to work out of. The coffee is great, if a little on the small side (sadly). The space is large with various nooks and sectioned off areas which offers a degree of privacy. We would probably spend a lot more time here if still in Chiang Mai.  There is a lovely cheap Thai street food style restaurant next door that serves delicious and cheap food.

Starwork

On the other side of the city there is new work space. Raj found it when he got last while we were staying at Eco-Resort and spoke to the lovely owners. They weren’t open quite yet but he had a look around. With similar pricing to Punspace at 180baht per day for a hot desk, the space has free tea and coffee but also benefits from a gym with showers and 24 hour access if you hire a desk for a longer period.

Food

Pad Thai Man – Hussadhisawee Road

Our favourite Pad Thai is from a man with a street food stall on the nightly street food market halfway down Hussadhisawee Road. We discovered him on our first week in Chiang Mai and after trying many a Pad Thai in the city we kept craving the noodles from Pad Thai Man (that’s not his actual name, that’s just what we call him). We would often go out of our way to go all the way over to his street food stall just for these delicious 35baht (approx. 70p) Pad Thai’s.

Burmese Restaurant Chiang Mai

Burmese Restaurant

This place became a staple for lunch and/or dinner (sometimes both meals!) in the latter half of our stay. Located on Soi 8 of Nimmanhaemin Road, it was just a few minutes from our apartment. The food is fresh, delicious and insanely cheap. I recommend the Tea Leaf or Tamarind Leaf Salad, Pork Curry and Pad Thai (see photo above). We could eat a healthy, tasty dinner for around £1.50. Hoorah!

Guu Roti

Another recommendation on Nimmanhaemin Road. Guu serves up all manner of pancakes, sweet and savoury. I recommend the Garlic Chicken one, it’s soooooooo tasty. The internet is super fast here, they give you loads of free tea and if you go week days mornings it’s relatively peaceful.

Beast Burger

For when you need a break from rice and noodles, the burgers at this food truck, on Nimmanhaemin Road between Soi 6 and 8, are fantastic. For beef lovers they offer the standard and double beast burger with all the trimmings. For us, we opted for the delicious Pulled Pork burger. It was slightly spicy, gooey and terribly more-ish. We also grabbed sides of onion rings and chips. Be warned, this is just a food truck, their food is great and they get very busy. So be prepared to wait up to 30-40 minutes during busy periods. It’s totally worth it though. Prices range between 100 and 200 baht.

Maya Basement Food Court

If you want cheap and cheerful food then head to the downstairs or basement level of almost any shopping centre in Thailand. We enjoyed the Roast Pork on Rice for 40baht from the Maya shopping mall.

3 Little Pigs Chiang Mai

3 Little Pigs

We only made it here once, sadly, but definitely worth a mention. 3 Little Pigs is a Soul Food restaurant with a slightly quirky interior. The menu is incredibly appetising with plenty of Western options (good for when you’ve overdosed on Pad Thai) including ribs, gumbo, jamabalaya, burgers, enchiladas, and sandwiches. It is located on the North road outside the city gate.

Kad San Kaew Street Food

Just outside the shopping centre, Kad San Kaew, on the Huay Kaew Road, they host a street food fair every Thursday and Saturday. There is a lady in the corner that serves a delicious Kao Soi Gai for 30baht.

Kao Soy Nimman

For the best Kao Soi Gai in Chiang Mai (that we tried, at least) head to Nimmanhaemin Road Soi 7 to Kao Soy Nimman. We loved the pork version actually, which is Kao Soi Moo. The soup is perfectly spiced and creamy, the contrast of wet and fried noodles is fantastic and it just works. We ended up eating here a couple of times a week.

Salad Concept

This is a super popular restaurant that now has a couple of branches in Chiang Mai. They serve up huge bowls of salads, wrap and tasty smoothies. A welcome change from all the fried noodles. Although it is a little pricier at around 200baht (£4) or so a meal.

Bake and Bite

For a huge range of Western style breakfast head to Bake and Bite. A hidden gem just behind Baan Thai on Soi 6 of Nimmanhaemin Road. It’s frequented by lots of expats looking to get their Full English Breakfast, Eggs Benedict, Breakfast Burritos or just a decent Poached Eggs on Toast. It’s pricy compared to most eateries in Chiang Mai, but if you’re craving some pancakes or waffles this is your place.

Thai Moogata

Sukonthan Thai Buffet

Last, but by no means least, our favourite place to eat in Chiang Mai is the awesome Thai buffet just off Huay Kaew Road. I first came here back in 2008 when my hosts at Spicythai Backpackers brought us all here. We were the only Westerners there and it was a brilliant experience to be part of.

For just over 200 baht you can eat as much as you want, including soft drinks and dessert. You are given a barbecue on your table and you help yourself to raw meat, seafood, noodles and vegetables. You then cook your food together on the table adding any seasoning or chilli sauces as appropriate. They also have a huge section of pre-cooked appetisers including ribs, wings and nuggets.

We have so much fun eating at the Sukonthan (Moogata) Thai Buffet, we even made a video for you.

Rimping Supermarket Chiang Mai

Supermarkets

Bar the 7Elevens that seem to be available roughly every 100metres wherever you go in Chiang Mai (believe me, you’ll soon be running in there for the extra cold aircon relief once hot season hits), there are a few supermarket options including TescoLotus, Tops and Rimping.

For big stuff like duvets and household goods try the big TescoLotus on the ringroad. For cheaper food and a great range of expat products (hello Waitrose Bran Flakes!) try Tops Supermarket downstairs at Kad San Kaew shopping centre. And for a posher alternative try Rimping which is downstairs at Maya Shopping Centre.

Somphet Market

There is also a fantastic fresh fruit and vegetable market called Somphet every morning down a side street not far from Tae Pae Gate on Soi/Moo 6. Most of the cooking schools go there for their market session so you know the food is fresh. You can pick up fruit and vegetables plus some preprepared curries, rice, noodles and fried meats.

There are so many markets in Chiang Mai they probably deserve their own post. But rest assured you can buy almost anything you want somewhere in Chiang Mai.

Healthcare

Dentist – Nimman Dental Clinic

We used the dentist on Soi 1 Nimmanhaemin Road and we’re really impressed. We both went for a check-up with a scale and polish. Raj ended up needing some filling so we went back for that. The dentist is completely fluent in English and incredibly professional. We were really pleased with their service and price. The check-up is free, cleaning is around 800baht (£16) and the fillings were 600baht (£12) each. If you are time sensitive then arrive early as they only call the dentist to come in if you actually turn up.

Pharmacy – Boots Pharmacy – Maya, Central Festival & Taepae Gate

For the Brits it’s rather reassuring to see a Boots in Thailand. They’re a pretty common sight in the major cities and the stock is pretty much the same to back home. So they’re recommended for pharmacy needs. But generally most local pharmacies in Thailand are of a pretty decent standard.

Sports and Fitness

Chiang Mai is quite a health conscious city and any afternoon spent on the Chiang Mai University campus will get your fitness juices flowing. Here are a couple of places to get your fitness on and keep those Pad Thais in check.

Chiang Mai University Campus

If you head to the University and go in the direction of the gymnasium then you will find a full length running track and a sports complex. Just outside the sport centre is a series of outdoor resistance machines the likes of which you find in many public parks and inside there is a full gym with treadmills, cycles and more equipment.

Inside there are also 2 halls, one for basketball and group yoga sessions and the other with several badminton courts, a table tennis area and a boxing ring with punch bags. Membership is roughly 500baht per year but every time Raj used it he wasn’t charged.

Pimanthip Golf Course

Perhaps a bit difficult to get to if you take the wrong turn, the golf course is more than a 9 hole affair. Equipped with double tier driving range with 50 balls for 100baht and club hire from 100baht, there is also an archery school, range and a quad bike centre.

Powerhouse Gym

Located on Nimmanhaemin Soi 6, near the Baan Thai residence is Powerhouse. A Western-standard, well-equipped gym with classes including yoga and spin. At 2000 baht a month it is not cheap but if you are a gym fan then this could be your place.

Touch

Similar to Powerhouse, Touch is very modern. To fit in with its surroundings in the Maya shopping centre it boasts brand new equipment and various classes. For those who work mostly is Camp, this could be an option for you are it is located just moments away. Again around 1800 baht per month range.

Kad San Keuw

There are a couple of gyms here on the upper levels of this shopping centre. They are cheap and no-nonsense. Home to the less discerning patron, they have the equipment, it’s not new, it’s not always clean but it works and their 20kg weights weigh the same as anywhere else. When you are paying only 400baht a month, you can see why it’s busy at all hours.

Other Places of Note

Central Festival Shopping Centre

A brand new shopping centre located on the ringroad. It has a huge cinema complex (has 3D and 4D screenings) including some rather lovely luxury sofa options.

Chiang Mai Lake

Huay Tung Tao Lake

You don’t need the beaches of the south to unwind. You can enjoy some relaxation time at the lakes. Grab a spot on one of the open sided mini bungalows, order some food, and just chill out for a few hours.

Elephant Nature Park

A brilliant day out that benefits both tourist and animals. The elephants have all been rescued from working or mistreatment. There is no elephant riding here (that hurts them) and the focus is on protection and saving the elephants. It was the best day out ever.

Immigration Office

If you need to extend your visa the immigration office is located near to the airport and the Central Plaza shopping centre.


Tourist Police – 1155

They have varying degrees of helpfulness but if you’re in trouble you’ll get an English-speaking police officer on the end of the line.


Phew! Hope this list helps. It should be a good starting point if you are looking to spend a long stay in Chiang Mai and will help you get settled as soon as possible.

Here’s a map we’ve made to help you find some of the places we’ve mentioned.

Have fun and sawasdee-kaa!

14 Responses

    • Elizabeth

      Kinda jealous you still have a few more months. Just thinking of all the trips to Pad Thai man I’d be making right now. :-)

      Reply
  1. Tracey

    Gosh, what a detailed guide for those thinking of a move to Chiang Mai! I’ve never visited the Far East though it has always held a special kind of magic in my mind. With cheap living and easy access to high speed internet networks, it’s easy to see why it holds such a massive attraction for so many young foreigners.

    Reply
  2. Fiona

    Although I’ve lived in CM for a few months, I’ve only visited a few of the places mentioned in your superb guide!! I feel really inspired and am looking forward to exploring further. Thank you :-)

    Reply
  3. Dave | Jones Around The World

    Just what I needed. I’m moving to Chiang Mai for 1 month or so in April. I was looking at AirBNB’s that I found for cheap, but maybe I’ll check out some of those spots before I book anything! Great guide!

    Reply
  4. Walker

    LOL at “slightly quirky interior” for Three Little Pigs! You mean the normal array of tables leading to an area where the Santa Claus-looking owner has set up a small bed that he intermittently plops down on between sessions of grilling meat and directing staff? Entertaining, and such good food.

    Reply
    • Elizabeth

      Actual lol to your comment. We didn’t realise that was the owner! We were so confused by Santa taking a snooze at the back of the restaurant.

      Reply
  5. cory

    Hello! Thanks for your great post. I am looking to visit chiang mai and establish contacts there to eventually work in the area and hopefully retire. I would not be a digital nomad necessarily, but really poking around to see what opportunities could exist for an american with professional environmental and safety consulting experience. I feel that since most people in that area are not linked to such long term stay or future goals that it may be difficult to mine the existing knowledge and networks.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Raj

      Hey Cory. Thanks for visiting.
      There are plenty of people in Chiang Mai in your situation. They have been there for years and are very happy. I would say the most important things to get you sorted for such a long stay is to learn Thai and work out your visa situation. It will get complicated and expensive to continue to go in and out of the country every few months. Taking up a teaching position or a job would be best but get a feel for the place first. There are long term communities and hanging out in any of the coffee shops and co-working spaces you’ll meet some of them. There are lots of people there that you will have something in common with.
      Try the markets too, the real markets like the early morning produce markets or off the track markets, westerners shopping there will be the long termers or residents.
      Westerners are really open with each other and it will become second nature working out which ones are there for longer than others. We wish you a wonderful time and give our second home a wave from us!

      Reply

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