How Much Does it Cost to Live in Chiang Mai?

So we spent just over 5 weeks in Chiang Mai and it still didn’t feel like enough. Want to know how much it cost?

Unlike every other month, things were a bit different here, as we were staying put for the whole time and generally not doing much. However the costs still added up and sadly the dream of living on £20 per day and clawing some money back was shattered. Why? Read on…

Accomodation – £397.43

The vast bulk (£311) of this was for our apartment for a whole 5 weeks, which worked out at around 500THB (£9.05) per night. The rest of the costs come from our first 2 nights in Chiang Mai in a hotel which was 1150THB (£20.81) per night and 3 nights in Pai which was 725THB (£13.12) per night. Of course while in Pai we were also paying for the apartment so had double accomodation costs for that.

Eating Out – £274.96

Despite having an apartment this is still relatively high, as quite simply in Thailand it is cheaper to eat out. This seems completely wrong coming from England where the opposite is certainly the case. This does not just apply to cookking western food at home. Even if you wanted to cook Thai food at home (we did once) it costs far more than buying from a street stall to take home or even eating in a restaurant. Economies of scale I guess.

The cost of eating out in Chiang Mai ranges from 35THB (£0.66) for a basic lunch of Khao Soi (curry noodles) or pork leg on rice to well over 200THB (£3.77) for western food like a pizza. A full meal in a decent restauarnt with a couple of beers would usually come out at around 500-600THB (£9.43 – £11.31) which is absurdly cheap for England but not something we could afford to do very often on our budget.

Transport – £155.90

The vast majority of this cost (£144.74) was for the rental of both our scooters for 5 weeks which works out at £4.13 per day. We could have got cheaper rentals but we wanted decent reliable bikes and the cost was worth it to us, especially as it meant we needed virtually no other transport during our stay. The rest of the cost is for songthaews (shared taxi’s) which we used occasionally when we arrived, departed and for the occasional night out when we both wanted to drink, and for one obligatory tuk tuk ride when we were drunk…

Groceries – £227.48

Surprised to see this so high but our apartmnent came with nothing – meaning we had to buy toilet roll, soap etc as well as some basic condiments for the fridge (couldn’t go without mayo or Srichaca sauce). We also bought several 6 litre bottles of water per week as Thai tap water is not drinkable. It would have been far cheaper to fill up at a machine which are all over the streets of Chiang Mai but as luck would have it there was not one anywhere near our apartment. We also bought plenty of cold drinks but saved money here since we could buy big bottles of Coke and ice tea instead of small ones.

We also developed a bit of a toastie habit, which in Thailand = £££ since cheese is unbelievably, ridiculously expensive since it is mostly imported. Ham isn’t too cheap either. This was our one vice, we just couldn’t justify making any other western food at home or it would have cost too much. Anyway, why would we want to when there is amazing Thai food everywhere?

There may also be quite a few Chang beers and bottles of Sangsom rum hidden in this category…

Attractions – £168.62

Not going to lie, this killed us a bit. We didn’t need to do any of this stuff, but then while we had come to Chiang Mai to slow down, we didn’t just want to exist, we still wanted to see things. The bulk of this cost is for Katy at the Elephant Nature Park, and both of us at the ziplining and Thai cooking school, as well as the occasional temple entry.

Shopping – £101.64

This is high because all our clothes had started to wear out so we needed to replace some! Katy bought lots of clothes from the night market, and later needed to buy more because the dogs ripped them up, and we also had a bit of a spree in H&M which sadly is no cheaper than at home but sometimes you want something a bit classier than a Chang or 7-11 T-Shirt from the market.

I also bought a couple of cables and GoPo stuff to replace broken/lost things.

Alcohol – £34.70

So yeah we only went out like 4 times in the whole 5 weeks, we’re so wild. Hence why this is so low.

Coffee/Drinks/Snacks – £99.81

You may as well knock off the last 2 things because this is almost exclusively down to me spending my days in the multitude of coffee shops Chiang Mai offers, knocking back countless iced cappucinos. Sorry.

Petrol – £25.87

This is amazing. This covers 2 scooters for 5 whole weeks, and remember Katy was driving 10-15 km each way most days to the dog shelter, plus I made the return journey about 4 times. Not to mention we also went to Pai which was 5 hours riding each way. We rode into the city and beyond almost every day as well.

The cost per litre for unleaded in Thailand is around 38THB (£0.71) which is very cheap compared to home, but also scooters are so cheap to run. I love them.

Miscellaneous – £184.77

This covered all sorts of things, namely our 60 day visas (£36.18), SIM cards and topups (probably about £20 all in all), a visit to the dentist (£32.57), a few haircuts and massages, and most importantly our electric bill for the month which was sadly quite high due to air con (£55.83). Also a bunch of other things that I really should have made notes about rather than filing under ‘misc’

Laundry – £2.89

A crazily low cost for 5 weeks and a few loads each week – we’ve spent more for one load in some places! Each load at the laundrette was 20THB (£0.37) and a small pack of washing powder cost 30THB (£0.56) which lasted for ages.

Total – £1,677.70 over 38 days

Per Day – £44.15

So, we went over budget. Slightly. But we had a great time, met some cool people and fell in love with the city. Like really fell in love with it, so much so that we want to live there again in the future.

It also was a great opportunity to wind down, get some well needed rest and most importantly get some life admin done. Replacing clothes, getting injections and going to the dentist is all boring stuff, but it’s essential at some point and not always easy in some parts of the world. Chiang Mai offers a perfect balance of budget and comfort, which is why it is so attractive for expats.

One Response

  1. Brian September 9, 2014

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