Having heard that Chiang Mai is the place to go for aspiring digital nomads, I decided to investigate what the hype is all about.
If you don’t know what a digital nomad is, it is individuals that want to earn their income working online and not be constrained to be in a specific location at any given time. Many digital nomads move from one city to the next adopting a modern nomadic lifestyle.
However, because of fast internet speed and cheap cost of living, many digital nomads make Chiang Mai, Thailand their home base for a big chunk of the year. Renting a decent apartment for $350 a month is common and typically includes fast internet connection. There is also plenty of co-working spaces available all over the city if you prefer to work in an office environment.
Looking for an apartment in Chiang Mai
As soon as I arrived in Chiang Mai, I began looking for an apartment to rent. I went on google and checked several websites but I ran into the same common problem. Most websites require you to stay for one month or longer. Many places also tend to be sold out between the months of December to March when it is Chiang Mai’s peak season. People from colder regions of the world such as North America or Europe escape their cold winters by travelling to Chiang Mai, Thailand. As a result, apartments tend to sell out very quickly leaving you with poor options if you don’t book ahead of time.
Because I was booking last minute, I experienced some difficulty finding a nice apartment that is decently priced. In the end, I finally turned my attention to Air Bnb and was able to cut a deal with one of the apartment owners. In the end, I paid $312 CAD for a 24 night stay in a furnished apartment.
Food in Chiang Mai
My everyday experience in Chiang Mai was decent. Because I was staying in an area full of street food, finding food to eat was a convenient process. Every time I needed to eat, I would simply go down my apartment and grab a quick bite at the many food stands available in the area. Most meals cost between 25-60 baht which is roughly $1-$3. Not only was the food cheap, there was also tons delicious variety for you to try!
Most people in Chiang Mai rode motorbikes or scooters. I personally did not go this route because I wasn’t comfortable riding scooters yet. I opted to use Uber instead. A typical Uber ride cost between 50-75 baht which is about $2-$3. I typically used Uber to take me to the gym or co-working space.
They also had red mini-trucks that people used as transportation. I personally found them confusing to use and used them sparingly.
When I return to Chiang Mai, I will try renting a scooter and use that method to get around the city. (I’ve gotten some experience riding scooters after living in Da Nang, Vietnam for nearly a month)
I found myself being very productive in Chiang Mai. The whole city is teeming with hard working online entrepreneurs and freelancers making it easy to feel motivated to work hard.
Internet speed was very fast so dealing with slow connection was never a problem.
The city also had tons of co-working space available if you’d like to work in an office environment. I personally used M-A-N-A Co-working space and found their service and facility to be quite good. I believe they charge 15 baht ($0.60) per hour for the shared working space or 25 baht ($1) per hour for a private room. You can also pay to use their facility for an entire day. It was 100 baht ($4) to use the shared working space for the entire day and 150 baht ($6) to use the private room for the entire day.
I personally used a private office most of the time; however, in the future, I will mix it up depending on what kind of work I need to complete during the day.
They also have photocopy and printing services which I used a few times. I think they charged about 5 baht per page ($0.20).
When I booked a private office space for the entire day, they also served me with unlimited tea.
Overall, I had a great experience working in Chiang Mai.
Depending on what you’re into, Chiang Mai has a decent variety for entertainment. They have many local malls which you can go to for shopping or watching a movie. I personally found the movie theatres in Chiang Mai to be quite good.
I’m not much of a drinker and never went to any bars or clubs. But they are available if you enjoy that scene.
There are also plenty of places to go sight seeing or hiking. However; Chiang Mai is very different from Bangkok and expect a more relaxed atmosphere as oppose to an exciting one.
Chiang Mai has plenty of gyms available if you care about health and fitness. Higher end gyms are available for those looking for something nicer and cheaper gyms are also available for people who’s looking to get just their workout in without breaking the bank.
I personally went to Go-Gym for many reasons. First, their prices are good at 60 baht ($2.50) per drop in. The gym doesn’t have aircon and was more of an “outdoor” gym than indoor. I mean, it was an indoor gym but they only had a fence surrounding the area so you do feel like you are outside. I didn’t find this to be a problem at all, especially because they had fans all over the place to keep you cool.
They also sold protein powders which I found to be overpriced. I suppose it can’t be helped because the protein powders had to be shipped from North America causing the cost to go up.
Healthy food was also available if you look for it. I found a few restaurants serving organic dishes full of lean protein and vegetables. I definitely enjoyed my time working out in Chiang Mai but I will probably bring my own protein powder and supplements if I decide to live in this city for an extended period of time.
This is the area I probably struggled with the most during my time in Chiang Mai. It’s not because it’s hard to make friends here but you do have to make an effort to meet people.
While working in co-working spaces, it is not difficult to make friends with fellow online entrepreneur or freelancer.
There are also plenty of meetup groups around the city you can join through meetup.com or couchsurfing.org.
The city is also full of expats and foreigners so if you prefer to hangout with your own kind, it wouldn’t be difficult at all!
Hanging out with a fellow Canadian digital nomad
When it was time to leave Chiang Mai, I felt a little sadness inside me. I really enjoyed my time in this city as I worked on my blog and other online endeavours. Because I had a good time in Chiang Mai, I will definitely return to this wonderful city of Chiang Mai in the future.
The cost of living is very cheap and the everyday life here is quite good. I now see why digital nomads use Chiang Mai, Thailand as their main base of operation.