Chiang Mai, Thailand is known as the mecca for digital nomads – and for many very, very good reasons! Located near the mountains of Northern Thailand, it’s warm year-round, cheap as they come, very safe, and very walkable – all the stamps of a wonderful digital nomad hub. With welcoming locals, a friendly nightlife scene, fantastic food and tons of places to work, Chiang Mai is basically a DN’s dream.
From November until February, the weather is pleasant and warm, while “smoke season” (i.e. a haze of smoke comes over the entire region thanks to farming practices) starts sometime around February and ends in April. The rest of the year (April-October) tends to get hot, sticky, and rainy—but it goes without saying, Chiang Mai is truly magical year-round.
The good points should also be part of the intro description.
Big digital nomad scene
|Can get rainy/hot|
Has a “burning season” April/May
No beach access
|Similar destinations: Oaxaca City, Mexico or Ubud, Bali|
WHERE TO STAY?
Filled with digital nomads, expats, and not too many tourists, Nimmanheamin is the place to be if you want the best nightlife, restaurants, and shopping of Chiang Mai. It’s also closest to the coworking spaces.
Sanitham is still within reach of the more bustling Nimmanheamin, but offers a more affordable, “Thai-style” way of life.
Old Town is the most frequented tourist location and, as the name implies, very central in Chiang Mai. Hostel and hotel prices here are still surprisingly cheap—you’ll find a lot of backpackers here.
ACCOMMODATION IN CHIANG MAI FOR DIGITAL NOMADS
Thanks to its active digital nomad scene, there are many well-outfitted apartments to rent in Chiang Mai – you just have to find them. Most DNs recommend staying in a hostel or Airbnb for the first few days while you get acquainted with the scene, and you might want to buy a SIM card to more easily get in contact with renters.
To help your search, you can join one of the Chiang Mai FB groups, or simply hop on a moped/walk around – many available apartments simply have “for rent” signs hanging around.
You can also check Nomad Rentals to see what’s available – but it’s not recommended to rent directly through their site.
Glur Chiang Mai Hostel located close to everything, Glur Chiang Mai offers bright, clean rooms for nomads looking for a bit more privacy than your average hostel.
Featuring a bar, saltwater pool, fitness facilities, and breakfast, Brick House Hostel is the ideal place for backpackers in search of everyday, convenient comforts.
COWORKING AND GOOD PLACES TO WORK
Chiang Mai has no shortage of modern coworking spaces to choose from. With high-speed WiFi around every corner, however, you might not even need to spend the money on a desk—whatever type of ambiance you’re seeking, you can find it here.
Mana Coworking Space is convenient and affordable, particularly if you enjoy tasty tea and coffee (free with a day rate).
With three separate locations, PunSpace Coworking lets you choose between trendy convenience, a relaxed courtyard, or peaceful spaciousness.
The Brick Startup Space features 3 types of meeting rooms, and with a thoughtful, bright interior, is meant to inspire new ideas.
My Secret Cafe in Town is hidden a bit from the main drag but has the ideal laid-back vibes and comfort to get some work done.
If you need to do some serious downloading or uploading, 1989 Cozy Cafe is the top-notch spot with high-speed WiFi.
Ombra the Garden Caffee has a relaxed vibe, fabulous WiFi, and some of the best lunch in town.
Get a dose of serious caffeine at Ma-Chill Coffee + Espresso, and get some work done too.
For a less spendy breakfast option with great WiFi and coffee, Overstand Coffee is a fantastic option in a convenient location.
WHERE TO MEET NOMADS
It’s not hard to meet digital nomads in Chiang Mai – they’re everywhere! But if you want to get a head start, check out some of these Facebook groups:
COST OF LIVING
Chiang Mai is known for its affordability – a night in a hostel can run you as little as $5 USD, and you can find entire meals for less than a couple bucks. The average cost of living for an expat is $782/month, while a liter of beer is around $2 USD. Chiang Mai is cheap, cheap, cheap!
MONEY (ATM PRICES)
- Like most destinations in the world, Chiang Mai ATMs charge fees—usually around 200 to 240 Thai Baht, plus whatever your bank will charge for an international transaction.
- Azimo App works in Thailand for any money transfers you need to make, as well as Western Union
- Some places accept credit cards, but not all… most people pay in cash in Thailand. You can also use Alipay and WeChat pay in some cases.
WIFI SPEED INFO
- Chiang Mai has high-speed internet virtually around every corner—you’ll likely never have to worry about finding WiFi here!
- The Chiang Mai Airport is only a short journey via tuk-tuk or taxi from the center of the city. Expect to pay around 100-160 baht to get there.
- UBER is not really a thing yet in Thailand, but finding a taxi or a tuk-tuk is hardly ever a problem.
- Many people also rent scooters, motorcycles, and bicycles to get around—or they just plain walk!
MOBILE INTERNET/SIM CARD USE
- Buying a SIM card isn’t hard in Thailand—you can usually pick one up at the airport or even local kiosks. Smart Tropic, AIS, or DTAC are the most recommended SIM cards with pre-paid data to keep you connected no matter where you are.
- Visas are a source for headaches in Thailand, and it all depends on where you’re from/how long you intend to stay. Generally speaking, upon entering Thailand you receive a tourist visa for 30 days, which you can extend up to 60 days at a local consulate for a fee. You can also apply for multiple-entry visas which allow you to come in and out of the country 3 times. Some people try to make “visa runs” every month or so—we recommend NOT doing this as officials have cracked down in recent years on visa runs.
Pros & Cons of Living in Chiang Mai
Extended accommodation guide for Chiang Mai
An awesome video that shows the destination.
An amazing city guide that is more general than ours.
A youtube channel with loads of content about the destination.
A great Instagram with city info.
An article with great vegan, vegetarian restaurants
A list with XX things to do on the island.
HOW TO SPEND YOUR FREE TIME
There’s soo much to do in and around Chiang Mai for people of all backgrounds and interests.
Go to Pai for the weekend—a magical little mini-Chiang Mai, Pai is nestled in the mountains a couple of hours from the city and has tons to offer in terms of hiking, food, and overall relaxation.
Visit Doi Suthep. Just 12km outside of the city on the highest point in the region, the sparkling Wat Phra That Doi Suthep boasts stunning views and a what many consider an ultimate Thai cultural experience.
Hang out in the Sunday Markets. Every Sunday the Old Town shuts down to traffic and opens up to countless vendors of food, local goods, artisan crafts, you name it. Come with an empty stomach and leave more than satisfied.
Check out Doi Inthanon National Park—just 1.5 hours from Old Town, take a car or risk driving a moped here to find a lovely forest with stunning waterfalls and hiking trails.