Originally published at: Chiang Mai for Digital Nomads: The Definitive Guide 2021
Talking about one of the best cities for digital nomads, Chiang Mai tops the list. There is so much more to this place than one can imagine. The land is beyond beautiful and offers numerous perks to live and work in harmony with nature. Be it the majestic mountains or the riverside evenings, and there are experiences to be lived at least once, if not more.
Chiang Mai, a northern Thailand city, is rich in history, culture, and traditions. Capital of the erstwhile Lanna kingdom, this place of historical importance has now developed itself to welcome foreign freelancers and entrepreneurs to stay and thrive while keeping its roots intact.
Read on to know more about the place. How to get here, what to do and where to hand out.
Places To Live: Accommodation In Chiang Mai
The first thing you would be worried about is where to stay. Stay in a hotel until you find yourself a reasonable accommodation.
Visit some of the popular neighborhoods for digital nomads in Chiang Mai. These include Old City, Hang Dong, Nimman, and Chang-Dong. Besides, there are other parts waiting to be explored and are equally good.
You should also check out some useful resources to find out a suitable place to live.
- Chiang Mai Thailand: A Facebook group that features advertisements for accommodation. It may also include items kept on sale.
- Nomad Rental Condos: Condos to fit in your budget in Chiang Mai
- Nomad Rental: Service apartments to be rented in Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai Locals: Accommodation guide to help you explore all the options while renting a house.
- Agoda or Airbnb
Hostels offer another excellent facility for staying. If you are looking for privacy at a budget, move into Gur Chiang Mai Hostel. The rooms are clean with ample sunlight and better than an average hostel.
Places To Work: Coworking in Chiang Mai
With Chiang Mai becoming a hub for global digital nomads, coworking spaces have come up in different districts. The many modern coffee shops and cafes only add to the popularity of the place.
Scroll down the list for the best coworking spaces for digital nomads Chiang Mai.
Punspace: A popular choice for many, it has three locations—Nimman, North Gate, and East Gate. Punspace offers compact seating with a small grass courtyard. It is open 24*7 but only for members, which implies you need a membership to work without disruption.
ISDSI: A uniquely designed coworking space, ISDSI is one of the most sought-after coworking spaces by the nomadic community. The open office concept is furnished with classrooms, conference rooms, a library, and much more to turn your working hours into a delightful experience.
WAKE UP: Both a coffee shop and a coworking space, the WAKE UP franchise boasts many coworking spaces in their name all over Thailand. Most digital nomads and students throng the third floor of this temporary workstation designated as a ‘quiet zone’.
CAMP: A big coworking space, CAMP has the best internet connectivity of all in Chiang Mai. A triple treat of a coffee shop, coworking space, and library make it irresistible for digital nomads. When in Chiang Mai, you can work for free, but you will have to pay for the internet after the first hour.
M-A-N-A: A relatively small space, M-A-N-A can seat only ten people at a time. It is cost-effective, but you must arrive on time to book your place. The staff is warm and friendly in this brightly lit office with comfortable chairs and offers free jasmine tea to all visitors.
Places To Meet: Networking in Chiang Mai
There is no shortage of networking opportunities for the digital nomads Chiang Mai. with weekly meetups, dine-n-drink, outings, seminars, and more activities, and you will never feel left alone. You can also meet the upcoming entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote workers and grow your network.
At certain times of the year, such as mid-October to mid-February, the community comes alive with plenty of events and meetings. You can learn more about these from the many social networks available for digital nomads.
Chiang Mai Digital Nomads: A Facebook group to help digital nomads seek help, advice, and support. It has more than 30,000 members and is still counting.
Digital Nomad Coffee Club: Chiang Mai: Another networking group for digital nomads. Members meet every week and have guest speakers to answer their doubts.
Nomad Summit: It is the most sought-after conference for a digital nomad. Chiang Mai hosts this event in January, where you can listen to top online entrepreneurs.
Chiang Mai Digital Nomad Entrepreneurs: if you are someone with an entrepreneur bent, this group is for you. Meet startup owners and successful entrepreneurs.
The Break Room, by Chiang Mai Digital Nomads: A Facebook group for digital nomads to discuss food, accommodation, and other important livelihood stuff.
Chiang Mai Happy Hour Nomads: It is for new digital nomads in Chiang Mai. Join in for drinks or make new friends. Just keep an eye on weekly meetups.
Digital Banking in Thailand
While Thailand has a flourishing digital nomad community, digital banking is still in its nascent stage compared to many Asian countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
However, the Thai Government is taking all the necessary steps to modernize the banking sector. As per a media report, in January 2020, the Bank of Thailand (BOT) started contemplating digital banking licenses. In association with some key parties, BOT has worked on electronic lending and more such financial services.
If you’re travelling to Thailand from Europe, the USA, or certain countries, you can also consider opening a Wise account and get your Wise debit card, which lets you spend Thai Baht without paying hefty fees.
Moving around the beautiful city of Chiang Mai is relatively easy. You can use one of the many modes of transportation listed below:
Red Trucks (Song Taew): The signature transportation means of Chiang Mai, Song Taew is seen almost everywhere. Two types of Song Taew are available. One is public; it follows a set route. The other type is privately owned. The private red trucks drive along streets to pick passengers. If you spot one, lift your hand or raise your thumb to stop the car.
Grab: Apart from Uber, Grab is a popular ride-sharing application you can use in Chiang Mai. It is the perfect choice for two or more individuals. Grab offers more user-friendly options than Uber, such as Grab Taxi, Grab Rot Daeng, GrabCar+ Premium, and GrabCar Economy. Therefore, it is preferred by many.
Segway: Another option is Segway, a popular means for many globetrotters. You can use it to explore Chiang Mai. Book it through Trazy and enjoy the sightseeing in the Old Town and other places. Just make sure you drive it safely.
Motorcycle Taxi: One of the famous means of transportation, motorcycle taxis are visible from a distance as the riders wear a bright pink vest. But you find them like red trucks. You will have to visit their stop, negotiate the price for your destination, and cruise along.
Tuk Tuk: Not just red trucks, tuk-tuk is also a signature transportation facility for digital nomads in Chiang Mai. They, too, come calling for passengers, but the price is usually higher than red trucks and sometimes Uber. It depends on your ability to negotiate the price quoted.
Bus: There are eight lines specified for Chiang Mai public bus. These eight routes encompass over 100 stops, including the most popular Nimman, Three Kings Monument, The Phae market, Chiang Mai International Airport, Wualai market, Old City, and more. Hop on and travel economically.
Food and Groceries
Chiang Mai offers some traditional Northern Thai cuisine known as Lanna Cuisine for locals and visitors. If you are here, you must try these lip-smacking cuisines worthy of trying at least once. However, many can’t resist the taste and come calling again and again.
Besides, digital nomads planning to stay in Chiang Mai can buy their groceries from the new and all-equipped supermarkets for a long time. There are natural, organic, and western foods and groceries nicely laden to make quick selection and shopping.
A few supermarket chains in Chiang Mai include Tops, Big C, Rimping, Makro, Tesco Lotus, Tesco Lotus Express. Use Google Maps to locate them.
If you are lucky, your apartment may have a dryer unit and a washer. But, if this convenience isn’t present, please consider one of the following:
Drop off service: Look for ‘Laundry shops’ in your area on Google Maps and drop your dirty laundry at one of them. Usually, these shops charge by weighing your clothes.
Self-service machine: Laundromats are readily available. A few are even supported with wi-fi to allow you to work while your clothes get cleaned up.
Laundry delivery service: If you are someone who hates waiting at the laundromats, then have all your dirty laundry picked up and dropped off. However, beware. Most claim ‘free pick up and drop off’ but aren’t.
Leisure and Lifestyle
The metropolis of Chiang Mai serenaded by mountains all around, has bustling markets, beautiful mountains, cafes’ and modern malls. The northern city is affordable and has a diverse population of Thai locals, students, artists, monks, and international expats.
There is so much to do here. Night Bazaar, Walking Streets, Bars and Clubs, cabaret shows and Muay Thai Boxing matches, and more. If not this, visit the organic product market in Jing Jai or Bor Sang market for handicrafts.
Nightlife in Chiang Mai
Much to everyone’s surprise, digital nomads in Chiang Mai can experience the amazing nightlife. With loads of dance and drink opportunities, you can also attend live music venues. While Nimman Road is famous among the youth for its live music and great food, riverside drinking with live rock tunes and jazz is also a thing here in Chiang Mai. It is a hallmark for locals. Live bands usually have six or more members, and all of them are dressed up immaculately.
There are rooftop bars and clubs all over Chiang Mai. In a few bars, you may have to stand up for the King’s anthem when the bar is about to close down. Some of the best places to experience Chiang Mai’s nightlife at its grandeur are Warm Up, Fabrique, Monkey Club, and the “Hipster Bar.”
Nightlife in the Old Town isn’t as exciting as the other parts of Chiang Mai. You won’t return home hungry as Thailand’s street food culture ensures that everyone sleeps after having a good meal. You may even take a cruise (dinner cruise) on the Ping River.
To make the most out of the Chiang Mai nightlife, check the area to find your preference.
The largest city in Northern Thailand, Chaing Mai, offers an extravaganza of outdoor activities. From adventure to cultural experiences and food to budget traveling, digital nomads Chiang Mai have access to all.
So go out and explore the tropical forest and mountains or nearby national parks and waterfalls. Climb the sticky waterfalls, or hike up to the jungle temple. Chiang Mai also happens to be the cultural capital of the country. Also, there is no better place to soak in the Buddhist culture of Thailand. Visit beautiful temples or meet the saffron-robed monks.
If food is your go-to activity, Chiang Mai is heaven. From delectable street food to luxurious outside dining, it has everything you can think of. Or you can also tour a Night Safari on foot or on the open-sided tram to see one or all the three animal zones- Predator Prowl, Savanna Safari or Jaguar Trail.
The best indoor activity for anyone anywhere is shopping. So shop till you drop at a mall nearby. Chiang Mai has several modern malls. Another popular choice is a museum. Check out the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders at the Nimman road, or if you are a nature enthusiast, Chiang Mai National Museum is for you.
Paint an elephant at the Elephant House or go bowling. Digital nomads Chiang Mai may even contemplate learning Thai cooking. Besides, Thai massage is a popular activity or enjoy a pool day in the many pools sprawling all over the city.
Cost of Living in Chiang Mai
The cost of living for digital nomads Chiang Mai is less than most of the tech hubs worldwide. By living here, you save a lot more than in Bangkok. The expenses will be significantly lower in the housing section. A decent meal can be bought at as little as 1.82 Bahts at the sprawling vegan and vegetarian haunts.
Cost of Accommodation in Chiang Mai
Most of the accommodations for digital nomads Chiang Mai come at a moderate rate. There are houses and apartments for rent out and about the city. From economical Nimman to luxurious Riverside and in between, you can expect it all in this misty mountainous city.
However, the cost of an apartment is dependent on a few essential elements, namely:
- The location
- Assorted kitchen
- Building (old or new) and the infrastructure
- Renting Span
Below are a few housing options suitable for a digital nomad in Chiang Mai for 1-5 months.
|Amenities||Rent (Average Price)|
|A Basic room without a fan or fridge||2,000 Bahts|
|A Basic room in an old building with a fridge and AC in 250 sq ft (excluding electricity bills)||4,000 Bahts|
|A room with a kitchen (or a stove). Sometimes with a swimming pool||8,000 Bahts|
|Apartments with separate rooms, kitchen, and swimming pools (In Nimman and similar places)||10,000 Bahts|
|An entire house with all the necessary attachments||12,000 – 18,000 Bahts|
Please note the last one is difficult as most owners are reluctant to rent out for shorter periods to digital nomads Chiang Mai.
Additional Expenses for Apartments
If you decide to move into a rented apartment, be prepared to pay for the water and electricity you consume during your stay in Chiang Mai. Your water consumption is measured in m3. However, it is 20-30 Bahts/m3 but may vary from owner to owner.
The electricity charges range starts from 4 Bahts/KwH to 10 Bahts/KwH. KwH is an electricity measurement unit in Thailand.
It is suggested that you move into short-term accommodation and explore the area to find the house, townhouse, or condo that suits your preferences. This strategy greatly helps finalize the right place within your budget and in the locality most suitable for you.
Cost of Food and Drink in Chiang Mai
Digital nomads Chiang Mai can relish their taste buds with some of the best street foods. The cafes and restaurants are equally good. There isn’t much difference in the prices, and only you get more options.
Take a look at the great options available here:
|Food||Average Price (in USD)|
|Street Food & Cafes||0,33 – 2,7|
|Restaurant||1,7 – 8|
|Tourist cafe||1,2 – 2.7|
|Tourist meal (restaurant)||2.7 – 5,3|
Bars are expensive for drinks. A beer bottle may cost you around $2, and the cocktails can be two or three times more. In comparison, the same drink can be bought at $1 outside. Some of the cheapest places to get yourself a nice drink in Chiang Mai include Maddog Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai Pub Crawl, and Fat Elvis.
|Beer (pint size) in restaurants and pubs||2-3 USD|
|Beer (retail bottle) in supermarkets||0.83-1 USD|
|Cocktail (a full glass)||1.33-4 USD|
Cost of Transportation in Chiang Mai
Different modes of transportation will cost you differently. Here is a breakdown of all to help you decide based on your budget.
|Mode of transportation||Cost (in USD)|
|Intercity Bus||1,3 – 2,3|
|Green Bus A-class||4,4 for 3.5 hours|
|Taxi (3 km)||5,33|
|Tuk Tuk (3 km)||1.33 – 1.67|
Other Cities for Digital Nomads in Thailand
Apart from Chiang Mai, Digital nomads can consider Koh Phangan, Bangkok, Pai, Koh Samui, Koh Lanta for living and working remotely.
Learn more about these places to help you consider them.
Bangkok: After Chiang Mai, Bangkok is the next digital hub. Consider this modern city for upcoming neighborhoods such as Thong Lor and Ekkamai, high-speed internet, numerous cafes, and no shortage of reasons. The nightlife here is among some of the best in the world.
Pai: With lush green hills in northern Thailand, this hippy central offers healthy food cafes and coffee roasteries, and some new age bars. With good cafes and loads of seating, Pai caters to digital nomad population.
Koh Samui: A vacation mecca, Koh Samui is on the east coast of Thailand and provides coliving rooms on rent for digital nomads. So, you’ll have the chance to relax and work with good internet near the sea.
The Not-So-Great Parts of Living in Thailand
Like every other country, Thailand possesses some good and bad things. The bad isn’t too bad to miss living in this beautiful country. However, there are a few annoying elements. If improved, Thailand can become one of the top places to live.
- Pollution: Too many vehicles and factories make the atmosphere polluted in Thailand. Other resources that add to the already igniting problem are transboundary haze in border and rural areas and biomass burning.
- Language: For digital nomads, Chiang Mai or entire Thailand poses language barriers. There are not many English-speaking people, and those who do know are not confident enough to converse.
- Heat: The temperatures become overbearing from March to June, with April and May being the hottest. Often referred to as the ‘burning season,’ the air quality becomes relatively low and gets extremely bad sometimes.
- Traffic: Congestion on the roads is normal. Heavy rains, poor road conditions, and bad driving lead to too much traffic. This is especially annoying for expats coming from developed countries.
- High Expat Population: While to have individuals with a similar mindset and lifestyle is a boon in a myriad of ways, having too many expats can offset things sometimes.
- Crime: Organized crime has troubled Thailand for years now. It is more prevalent in the cities. The illegal activities include human trafficking, counterfeiting, drug trafficking, and document fraud.
- Political Instability: When a nation lacks stability in its political system, new reforms and development take a back seat. Unfortunately, Thailand has been facing this issue for many years now.
- Expensive: With a booming tourism industry and expat population, prices are on the rise. Bigger cities, in particular, are facing this more. Digital nomads Chiang Mai may not face the heat as the place is still affordable.
Visas & Entry Requirements: What Type Of Visa Do I Need To Live In Thailand?
Thai Visa regulations can be confusing. Fortunately, obtaining one isn’t as tricky. A few documents, however, need to be translated into Thai or English. And one should notarize all the documents translated into the English language.
Types of Visas you need to enter Thailand include:
Tourist Visa: Nationals from a few countries don’t require a Thai Tourist Visa and can stay for 15, 30, or even 90 days. Permission for other nationals is dependent on their nationality and entry mode.
Non-immigrant Visa: There are many options for people who want to visit Thailand for other reasons than tourism. These include B visas, O visas, and OA visas.
Work Permits: To obtain this, the sponsoring company of the expat must apply for this visa. These individuals can enter Thailand on a non-immigrant visa.
Student/Education Visa: As a student, you can stay up to 90 days on a single entry or up to 90 on multiple entries. But a few documents are necessary for studying in Thailand. These must be submitted before applying for a visa.
Visa on arrival: It allows you to stay for 30 days. However, your eligibility depends on the country you come from. To stay longer, do a visa run or border run.
10-Year Visa: Thailand 10-year visa program is a relatively new scheme that aims to attract wealthy foreigners into the country. If you have assets worth a minimum of $1 million and your two-year income is above $80,000, you might be eligible to apply.
Thailand Digital Nomad Visa
There is no one spesific Digital Nomad Visa Thailand currently offers. However, you can check out the following options:
- Tourist Visa (TR)
- Business Visa (B)
In a recent development, the Bank of Thailand has proposed a ‘Smart Visa’ to permit foreign freelancers to work without a work permit. It is already approved by the center and awaits approval from the cabinet. Once it gets approved, digital nomads can work and stay for up to four years.
Internet Connection: Wifi Speed
Recorded internet speed for Thailand is 206.81 megabits based on Speedtest.net results.
Quick Tips for Digital Nomads in Chiang Mai
We’ve listed some tips below so our fellow digital nomads in Chiang Mai make most of their stay:
Connect: Grow your network. Thailand, especially Chiang Mai, offers big groups and meetups to grow your connections.
Learn Thai: English is not that widely spoken in Thailand. You need not be fluent in Thai, but learning a few phrases to start a conversation can prove useful.
Set a Budget: Though Chiang Mai isn’t costly, digital nomads need to plan their budgets accordingly.
Discipline: Yes, you are a nomad. You would like to work and explore. But do not go overboard. You do need money for your nomadic life. So, the main focus should always be work.
How To Save Money in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Stay vigilant of going over budget. There are chances you will end spending more than required if you don’t follow the money-saving tips mentioned below:
Electricity: If your owner asks for more than 8 Bahts per kWh, say no. Anything over eight is too high for an electricity bill in Chiang Mai
No airport taxis: Do not be fooled by the taxi service at the airport. It is expensive. Book one on Grab or wait for Song Taew in front of the departure door.
Avoid fines: If you drive a motorbike without a license or a helmet or drop cigarette butts on the ground, you can get yourself fined.
Don’t buy groceries: Always ask a house helper to buy groceries for you. They will get it at the best price possible in the city.
What Type of Digital Nomad Is Chiang Mai for?
Chiang Mai is for a digital nomad who wants to live at a place thriving with a nomadic community. It’a a place that offers good food at a reasonable price and excellent dining and networking opportunities.
Have you ever been to Chiang Mai? Let us know…