Life on a Budget in Chiang Mai

How to live on around 12000 baht per month.

Great Advice and Tips

So you may have seen My Original Life on a Budget post, but here is the updated COVID 2020-2022 budget that now includes some Thai Health Insurance details from my awesome friend Tawm. Click if you looking for a great quote for your needs!

Everyone is still surprised by the numbers when I say I live on about USD$400.

There are many things that you can do to live on a smaller amount here in Chiang Mai. Firstly, being local can save you a bunch, having even the slightest amount of Thai language can help you out a lot. I have a couple of cheat sheets for the “Basics of Thai

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Daily Life

I live and work(unpaid volunteer) in the area known as Chang Klan, about 1 kilometer east of the old city. Cheap in time and money!

I have a Yamaha Aerox 155cc motorbike. It is only about 100 baht per week for fuel or USD$3. I just registered it and it costs a whopping 550 baht or around USD$16 for the year, including compulsory insurance.


So, I live in the Chang Klan area or “Night Bazaar”. Rooms run from 2000 baht per month to around 20000 baht(just nearby in the Astra or similar buildings), but you can probably find “dumps” cheaper and “palaces” more expensive.

I pay 3500 baht for my room and because of it’s position I get a lovely cool breeze 90% of the time, so have no use for the supplied air conditioner. Utilities average around 700 baht per month, so I am not complaining. Home Internet is 420 baht.

So one big consideration for you is to be close to
where you want to be most of your time.
Chiang Mai Ambassador


In Chiang Mai you have so many sources of food and sometimes the most expensive option is to eat at home. Personally, I am extremely lucky to live and work on a street with one of the best restaurants in Chiang Mai. It’s not the Shangri-La, the Le Meridien or McDonald’s, but a small family run business, that is always full of local Thai people(the best sign) and a fair few of my converted contacts and colleagues.

I tell people, that I don’t have to go to the supermarket, buy the food, keep the food cold, clean the food, prepare the food, cook the food or even clean up after the food. And each meal costs 40 baht. I am not the smallest guys and I walk away satisfied every time. It’s almost fast food also with me taking about 15 minutes each meal unless the place is packed.

If you want to know more, maybe I can share my secret. It’s where I end up in my video. I even made a website for my restaurant. Look for the blue and white awning directly across the road from Tipparat Place Hotel.

Other Food

Occasionally, I have to eat elsewhere and if you have a look around this blog you will find a few of my regular places, they are usually when I spoil myself for a once a week or so, buffet dinner or lunch.

If I have someone to take out, usually I will take them to try a place I haven’t been to, to see if there are other Chiang Mai restaurants I can recommend. I will hit up Tripadvisor to choose. But most times I am dreaming of my “local”.

Phone and Internet

I am running an AIS service and have been for five and a half years, I switched to post paid a couple of years ago and it works better for me. I spend about 50 baht on calls per month. I changed to 6mb monthly internet subscription and all up it costs around 650 baht per month.

I have an acceptable Wifi internet included in my accommodation and don’t have excessive needs anyway. I also have internet in my workplace, so no extra charges there.


I don’t smoke, drink alcohol or coffee, so that is a massive money saver!!! You probably won’t be giving up your beer or spirits for me, so my budget life doesn’t include these “luxuries and relaxants”. However, I do know that many people “BYO” to many venues and whilst it’s not encouraged, I know it happens. Most venues will be happy to serve you mixers to go with your BYO, but sometimes they will ask a modest charge for you to BYO. Saying this, if you don’t want to take your bottle home or are planning to be a regular and you don’t finish your bottle that night they will keep it for you for next time.


If you want coffee, the best resource for coffee without doubt is my friend’s blog – Chiang Mai Coffee Lover . I have never drunk coffee either, so I know nothing except that many people love coffee and need it daily. If there is one thing about Chiang Mai, that’s not about the massive numbers of Nomads here, that there are a massive number of coffee shops here, with the numbers growing almost daily. It has been said that there is a new coffee shop opened every second day in Chiang Mai, it fails to mention how many are closing. I will however mention a couple that are closer to my heart, Akha Ama and Bay’s Cafe. Lee at Akha Ama is inspiring, watch him at TEDx Chiang Mai.


Occasionally, I have to eat elsewhere and if you have a look around this blog you will find a few of my regular places, they are usually when I spoil myself for a once a week or so, buffet dinner or lunch.

It doesn’t cost that much to network with great people. The different communities of people in Chiang Mai are interesting and a great outlet if you want to be socially active. One awesome thing about Chiang Mai is that it is one of the Creative Cities of South East Asia, so there is always something going on. You can sign yourself up to get an email every Monday morning to let you know everything that is happening that week or month. Do this by emailing . The other way to find out what is happening is the Chiang Mai Events Facebook Group.

There are so many different social and sporting activities you can connect up and I have listed them in my Chiang Mai Basics page. Watch out for all the personal development opportunities led by some of the Chiang Mai Digital Nomads.

The details in Baht for my Life on a Budget in Chiang Mai

Accommodation – average 4500 per month

Food & Living – 1000 per week

Internet & Phone – 750 per month

Fuel – 500 per month

Incidentals – 2000 per month

OUTSIDE OF BUDGET and not included above

Medical Insurance 26000 baht per year – yes it is expensive, yes I should factor it in, but it is a once a year payment from outside funds. I recommend EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE INSURANCE. Living (especially driving) is dangerous in Thailand.

Medical and Dental – not an every day expense. I have spent approximately 25,000 baht in my nearly 13 years. Including wisdom teeth removal and root canal.

Visas and Work Permits – approximately 17000 baht per year. 5000 government fees and 12000 suggested donations to my foundation.

Other long term visa options are around USD$1000-1500 per year and some good options are available at CMLOCALS – Free Visa Advice page.

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