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Are you looking for a place to live and work remotely that offers a low cost of living, a high quality of life, and a vibrant expat community? If so, you might want to consider Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand, located in the north of the country. It is often called the “gateway to northern Thailand” because it is easily accessible from Bangkok and offers many tourist attractions. Chiang Mai is also known as one of the digital nomad capitals of the world, offering a unique lifestyle and liberal visa policies for expats that allow digital nomads to stay in the country for up to ten years.

In this article, I will share with you my personal experience and advice on living and working as a digital nomad in Chiang Mai. I will cover topics such as the best places to stay, the cost of living, the visa options, the internet speed, the coworking spaces, the culture, and the activities in Chiang Mai.

Why Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai has many advantages for digital nomads and expats. Here are some of them:

Affordable living:

The average cost of living in Chiang Mai is around $1,000 per month, which is much lower than in many other popular destinations for digital nomads. You can find a comfortable one-bedroom apartment in the city center for around $300 per month, or a cozy hotel room for around $25 per night. You can also enjoy delicious Thai food for as low as $1.50 per meal, or splurge on international cuisine for around $5 per meal. Transportation is also cheap and convenient, with local buses costing around $0.80 per ride, or Grab taxis available for around $2-$3 per trip.

Fast internet

Chiang Mai has a fast and reliable internet connection, with an average speed of 29 Mbps. You can easily find free WiFi in many cafes, restaurants, malls, and hotels in the city. You can also get a local SIM card with unlimited data for around $10 per month, or use a portable WiFi device for around £60 per month from ConnectPls. If you need a more professional and productive environment, you can join one of the many coworking spaces in Chiang Mai, such as Punspace, The Brick, or CAMP at Maya Mall. These coworking spaces offer high-speed internet, comfortable desks and chairs, meeting rooms, printers, scanners, coffee machines, and more. The average cost of a coworking hot desk in Chiang Mai is around $175 per month.

Vibrant expat community

Chiang Mai has a large and diverse expat community, with thousands of digital nomads and expats from all over the world living and working in the city. You can easily meet and network with other like-minded people through various events, meetups, workshops, conferences, and online platforms. Some of the popular events and groups for digital nomads and expats in Chiang Mai are Nomad Coffee Club, Nomad Summit, Digital Nomad Girls, Chiang Mai Digital Nomads Facebook Group, and Nomad List Meetup. You can also find many friends and mentors who can help you with your online business or career goals.

Rich culture

Chiang Mai has a rich and diverse culture that reflects its history as the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom. You can find hundreds of beautiful temples (Wats) in Chiang Mai, such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Umong. You can also learn about the local customs and traditions by visiting the various museums, markets, festivals and cultural shows in the city. Some of the must-see attractions are the Night Bazaar, the Sunday Walking Street Market, the Loy Krathong Festival, the Songkran Festival, and the Khantoke Dinner Show.

Amazing nature

Chiang Mai is surrounded by stunning nature that offers many opportunities for outdoor activities and adventures. You can explore the lush green mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, caves, lakes, rivers, and forests that are within easy reach from the city. You can also enjoy activities such as hiking, biking, zip-lining, rafting, kayaking, elephant riding, and more. Some of the best places to visit are Doi Inthanon National Park, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Huay Kaew Waterfall, Mae Sa Waterfall, and Chiang Dao Cave.

How to Live and Work in Chiang Mai?

If you are interested in living and working in Chiang Mai as a digital nomad or expat, here are some tips and steps to follow:

Choose the best time to visit

The best time to visit Chiang Mai is from November to February, when the weather is cool and dry, and the air quality is good. This is also the peak season for tourism, so expect higher prices and more crowds. The worst time to visit Chiang Mai is from March to May, when the weather is hot and humid, and the air quality is poor due to the burning season. This is when farmers burn their crops to clear the land for the next season, creating a lot of smoke and haze in the air. The rainy season is from June to October, when the weather is wet and unpredictable, but also greener and quieter.

Get a visa

The easiest way to get a visa for Thailand is to apply for a tourist visa at your nearest Thai embassy or consulate before you arrive. A tourist visa allows you to stay in Thailand for up to 60 days, and you can extend it for another 30 days at an immigration office in Thailand for a fee of around $60.

You can also get a visa on arrival at the airport for some countries, which allows you to stay for up to 30 days, but you need to show proof of onward travel and sufficient funds. Another option is to get a visa exemption stamp at the airport for some countries, which allows you to stay for up to 30 days without a visa, but you can only do this twice per year by land or air.

If you want to stay longer than 90 days in Thailand, you can apply for other types of visas, such as an education visa, a retirement visa, or a digital nomad visa. The digital nomad visa is a new option that was introduced in 2022, which allows digital nomads to stay in Thailand for up to one year with multiple entries, and work online legally without paying taxes in Thailand. However, this visa requires you to have a minimum income of $2,000 per month, a health insurance policy, and a sponsorship from a registered company or organization in Thailand.

Get Your Unlimited Internet

Before heading to Chiang Mai, digital nomads and vanlifers should make sure they have a reliable internet connection. ConnectPls offers various options for travelers, including mobile routers, physical SIMs, and eSIMs. With ConnectPls, you can subscribe to one of our affordable packages and enjoy unlimited data while exploring Chiang Mai and other parts of Thailand. Stay connected wherever you go, and work or play without interruption.

Find a place to stay

The best area to stay in Chiang Mai as a digital nomad or expat is Nimman, which is the trendy and modern part of the city that has many cafes, restaurants, bars, shops, malls and coworking spaces.

You can find many options for accommodation in Nimman, ranging from hotels, hostels, guesthouses, apartments, condos, and Airbnb. The average price of a hotel room in Nimman is around $26 per night, while the average price of an Airbnb apartment is around $32 per night.

You can also find cheaper options in other areas of the city, such as the Old City, which is the historical and cultural center of Chiang Mai that has many temples, markets, museums, and attractions. The average price of a hotel room in the Old City is around $18 per night, while the average price of an Airbnb apartment is around $25 per night. You can also find more options on websites such as Booking.com, Agoda.com, or Nomad Rental.

Get around

The easiest way to get around Chiang Mai is by using Grab, which is the most popular ride-hailing app in Thailand that offers taxis, cars, motorbikes, and delivery services. You can download the app on your smartphone and pay with cash or card.

The average price of a Grab ride in Chiang Mai is around $2-$3 per trip. You can also use public transportation such as buses or songthaews (red trucks) that run along fixed routes throughout the city. The average price of a bus or songthaew ride in Chiang Mai is around $0.80 per ride. You can also rent a motorbike or a bicycle for more flexibility and convenience. The average price of renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai is around $5-$10 per day, while the average price of renting a bicycle is around $1-$3 per day. However, be careful when driving or riding on the roads in Chiang Mai, as they can be chaotic and dangerous.

Enjoy your life

Chiang Mai has a lot to offer for digital nomads and expats in Chiang Mai. You can enjoy the local culture, nature, food, and entertainment that the city has to offer. You can also learn new skills, hobbies, languages, and more. Here are some of the things you can do to enjoy your life in Chiang Mai:

Learn Thai

Learning Thai can help you communicate better with the locals, understand the culture, and make new friends. You can learn Thai by taking classes at a language school, hiring a private tutor, using online apps or websites, or joining a language exchange group. Some of the popular language schools in Chiang Mai are Effective Thai, Payap University, and AUA Language Center. The average price of a Thai language class in Chiang Mai is around $10-$15 per hour.

Try Thai food

Thai food is one of the best cuisines in the world, offering a variety of dishes that are spicy, sour, sweet, salty, and savory. You can find many street food stalls, local restaurants and night markets that serve delicious and cheap Thai food in Chiang Mai. Some of the must-try dishes are khao soi (curry noodle soup), pad thai (stir-fried rice noodles), som tam (green papaya salad), tom yum (hot and sour soup), and mango sticky rice (dessert). You can also take a cooking class to learn how to make your own Thai food. Some of the popular cooking schools in Chiang Mai are Thai Farm Cooking School, Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School, and Basil Cookery School. The average price of a cooking class in Chiang Mai is around $30-$40 per person.

Experience Thai massage

Thai massage is a traditional healing technique that involves stretching, pressing, and kneading the body to relieve stress, pain, and tension. You can find many massage parlors, spas, and wellness centers that offer various types of Thai massage in Chiang Mai. Some of the best places to get a Thai massage are Lila Thai Massage, Fah Lanna Spa, and Oasis Spa. The average price of a Thai massage in Chiang Mai is around $10-$15 per hour.

Explore Thai culture

Thailand is known as the “Land of Smiles” because of its friendly and hospitable people. You can learn more about the Thai culture by visiting the temples, museums, festivals, and cultural shows in Chiang Mai. You can also interact with the locals by joining a volunteer program, a homestay program, or a cultural exchange program. Some of the best places to volunteer in Chiang Mai are Elephant Nature Park, Care for Dogs Foundation, and Free Bird Cafe. Some of the best places to do a homestay or a cultural exchange in Chiang Mai are Ban Mae Kampong Village, Ban Rai Kong Khing Village, and Workaway.

Have fun

Chiang Mai has a lot of fun and exciting things to do for digital nomads and expats. You can enjoy the nightlife, the entertainment, the shopping, and the adventure that the city has to offer. You can find many bars, clubs, pubs, and live music venues that cater to different tastes and preferences in Chiang Mai. Some of the best places to have fun at night are

  • Zoe in Yellow
  • Warm Up Cafe
  • The North Gate Jazz Co-op

You can also find many cinemas, theaters, comedy clubs, escape rooms, bowling alleys, and karaoke bars that offer various forms of entertainment in Chiang Mai. Some of the best places to have fun during the day are:

  • Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center
  • Art in Paradise 3D Museum
  • The Comedy Club Bangkok at Shangri-La Hotel.

You can also find many activities and attractions that offer thrill and adventure. Some of the best places to have fun outdoors are:

  • Flight of the Gibbon
  • X-Centre
  • Grand Canyon Water Park.

Conclusion

Chiang Mai is one of the best places to live and work remotely as a digital nomad or expat. It offers a low cost of living, a high quality of life, and a vibrant expat community. It also offers a rich culture, amazing nature, delicious food, and fun activities. If you are looking for a place to start or continue your digital nomad journey, you might want to consider Chiang Mai as your next destination.

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