Chiang Mai City Guide for Nomads & Expats

Chiangmai is a great city for expats and digital nomads looking to explore all that Southeast Asia has to offer. With a vibrant, modern city centre, plenty of amenities, and affordable cost of living, it’s no wonder why the city is becoming a popular destination for those looking to relocate. The reliable and efficient transport infrastructure makes it easy to get around, while the wide range of activities and entertainment provide plenty of opportunities to explore and meet like-minded people.


The city is surrounded by stunning natural beauty, with lush jungles and majestic mountains to explore. For digital nomads, Chiangmai is a great place to work remotely, with plenty of cafes, co-working spaces, and other amenities to support your lifestyle. Plus, the people in Chiangmai are friendly and some can communicate in English, making the transition relatively easier.


Whether you’re looking for a new place to call home or just a short-term stay, Chiangmai is a great city offering something for everyone. With affordable food, housing, and transportation, as well as a diverse range of outdoor activities and day-to-night entertainment, it’s the perfect destination for those looking to live, work, and explore in Southeast Asia.

colorful local marketplace street in chiang mai thailand

What are the Best Places to Work Remotely In Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai, Thailand, is a popular destination for digital nomads and remote workers due to its affordable cost of living, vibrant community, and picturesque surroundings. Here are some of the best places to work remotely in Chiang Mai:

Coworking Spaces in Chiang Mai

  • Punspace: Punspace has multiple branches across Chiang Mai and offers comfortable workspaces, high-speed internet, meeting rooms, and community events. It’s a popular choice among digital nomads and freelancers.
  • CAMP: Located in the trendy Nimmanhaemin area, CAMP provides a modern and spacious coworking environment with various seating options, meeting rooms, and a rooftop garden for relaxation.
  • Other popular coworking locations in Chiangmai include Alt_ChiangMai, The Social Club, and Yellow Coworking Space.

Chiang Mai Cafes and Coffee Shops

  • Ristr8to: Known for its exceptional coffee, Ristr8to has a cozy atmosphere and a great selection of seating areas, making it a favorite spot for remote workers. The branch in Nimmanhaemin is particularly popular.
  • SS1254372 Cafe: Situated in the Old City area, SS1254372 Cafe offers a peaceful ambiance, comfortable seating, and a range of beverages and snacks, making it an ideal place to work for extended hours.
  • Other great cafes include Akha Ama, Looper Co., Early Owls, The Baristro x Ping River, Grroon, MARS (which has wall scenes that look like you’re on Mars or in Antelope Canyon – bring your camera to take photos!).

Libraries in Chiang Mai

  • Chiang Mai City Library: The Chiang Mai City Library provides a quiet and conducive environment for studying and working. It offers free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, and a collection of books and resources for research or leisure.
  • There are a wide variety of both public and private libraries including Chiang Mai University Library, Ratchamangala Phisek National Library, Chiang Mai Provincial Public Library, and Mahasamut Library.

Cozy Work-friendly Cafes in Chiang Mai

  • Woo Cafe: Located near Chiang Mai University, Woo Cafe and Art Gallery offers a charming and peaceful atmosphere with indoor and outdoor seating. It has a selection of beverages, snacks, and vegetarian options.
  • Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center: This modern shopping center offers high speed wifi, comfortable seating, and easy access to cafes, restaurants and shops. It is the ideal spot for remote workers looking for a place to base themselves while working.
  • Other cafes popular with the locals include Colab Cowork & Cafe, The Story 106, Chapterone

Outdoor Spaces and Parks

  • Huay Tung Tao Lake: Just outside the city, Huay Tung Tao Lake provides a tranquil and scenic setting for remote work. You can rent a lakeside bamboo hut or set up a picnic spot while enjoying the natural surroundings.
  • Nong Buak Hard Public Park: Situated in the Old City, Nong Buak Hard Park offers shaded areas, benches, and free Wi-Fi, making it a popular spot for working outdoors amidst greenery.
  • Other popular spots include Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, Huai Kaeo Arboretum, Chaloem Phrakiat Park

Remember to check the availability of amenities, Wi-Fi strength, and noise levels when choosing a place to work remotely in Chiang Mai. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to support local businesses by making regular purchases while working in cafes or other establishments.

local hostel room in chiang mai thailand

Culture in Chiang Mai

Culture in Chiangmai is a tapestry of rich traditions, vibrant festivals, and warm hospitality. Nestled in northern Thailand, this city exudes a unique charm that captivates visitors with its ancient temples, bustling markets, and a deep connection to Lanna heritage. Chiangmai is deeply rooted in its rich history, traditional values, and close-knit community. Here are some key aspects of the culture in Chiangmai:


Lanna Culture

Chiangmai was once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, and traces of its unique Lanna culture can still be seen today. Lanna architecture, art, music, and cuisine have distinct characteristics that set them apart from other regions in Thailand. The city’s temples, such as Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang, showcase beautiful Lanna-style architecture and serve as important cultural and religious landmarks.


Buddhism and Spirituality

Buddhism is deeply ingrained in the culture of Chiang Mai. Temples, or “wats,” play a significant role in daily life, with residents regularly visiting them for prayer, meditation, and making offerings. Buddhist festivals, such as Songkran (Thai New Year) and Loy Krathong (Festival of Lights), are celebrated with great enthusiasm and provide a glimpse into the spiritual traditions of the region.


Chiangmai Festivals and Celebrations

Chiang Mai is known for its vibrant festivals and celebrations. The Yi Peng Lantern Festival, held during the full moon of the twelfth lunar month, sees thousands of lanterns released into the night sky, creating a mesmerizing spectacle. The Flower Festival, held in February, showcases elaborate floral floats and parades, while the Khao Phansa Candle Festival marks the beginning of Buddhist Lent.


Hill Tribes and Indigenous Cultures

Chiang Mai is surrounded by hills and mountains inhabited by various hill tribes, such as the Karen, Hmong, and Akha. These tribes have their distinct traditions, clothing, languages, and handicrafts. Visiting their villages provides an opportunity to learn about their way of life and cultural heritage.


Traditional Arts and Crafts in Chiangmai

Chiang Mai is a hub for traditional arts and crafts. Intricate wood carving, silverware, ceramics, silk weaving, and umbrella painting are just a few of the crafts for which the region is known. Exploring artisan villages and markets, such as the Baan Tawai handicraft village, allows visitors to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship behind these traditional arts.


Warm Hospitality

Chiang Mai is known for its friendly and welcoming locals. The people of Chiang Mai are known as “Khon Muang,” and their warm hospitality is a hallmark of the city’s culture. Visitors often experience genuine kindness, making them feel at home and leaving a lasting impression.

Chiang Mai’s culture is a blend of ancient traditions, spirituality, art, and community. Exploring the city’s cultural heritage and engaging with the local community provides a deeper understanding and appreciation for the unique charm of Chiang Mai.

Food in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, located in northern Thailand, is renowned for its unique and vibrant food culture. The cuisine of Chiang Mai reflects the region’s rich history, blending traditional northern Thai flavors with influences from neighboring countries such as Myanmar and China. Chiang Mai’s food is known for its distinctive aromatic herbs and spices, bold flavors, and a wide variety of dishes that cater to different preferences.


One of the most famous dishes in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi, a fragrant and flavorful noodle soup. It consists of yellow curry broth, tender egg noodles, and a choice of meat (typically chicken or beef), topped with crispy noodles and garnished with pickled mustard greens, shallots, and a squeeze of fresh lime. Khao Soi perfectly encapsulates the fusion of Thai and Burmese culinary traditions and is a must-try when visiting Chiang Mai.


Another beloved local specialty is Sai Oua, also known as Chiang Mai sausage. Made from a combination of ground pork, aromatic herbs, and spices, Sai Oua is often grilled or fried to perfection. This flavorful sausage offers a delightful mix of smoky, spicy, and tangy notes, making it a popular street food snack or accompaniment to meals.


Chiang Mai’s food scene is also known for its emphasis on fresh ingredients and the use of local produce. Talat Warorot, the city’s largest market, is a food lover’s paradise, where you can find an array of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. The market is a treasure trove of flavors, offering unique ingredients like fresh tamarind, jackfruit, longan, and fragrant lemongrass, which are often used in Chiang Mai’s cuisine.


Additionally, Chiang Mai boasts a vibrant street food culture. Walking through the streets, you’ll encounter countless food stalls and carts selling a wide variety of delectable treats. From skewered grilled meats and succulent sausages to crispy fried snacks like spring rolls and deep-fried banana fritters, the street food of Chiang Mai is a feast for the senses.


The cuisine of Chiang Mai also includes a range of delicious curries, stir-fries, and soups that showcase the region’s unique flavors. Gaeng Hanglay, a flavorful pork curry made with a blend of aromatic spices, tamarind, ginger, and turmeric, is a popular choice. Another notable dish is Khanom Jeen Nam Ngiao, a tangy and spicy noodle soup made with a tomato-based broth and topped with tender pork or beef, fermented soybeans, and fresh herbs.


In addition to its savory offerings, Chiang Mai is also famous for its sweet treats. The city is known for its abundance of fresh fruit, which is often transformed into refreshing desserts such as mango sticky rice, where juicy ripe mangoes are served with sweet coconut-infused sticky rice and drizzled with coconut milk. Another beloved dessert is Khao Lam, a sticky rice and coconut treat cooked in bamboo tubes, resulting in a delightful combination of textures and flavors.


Overall, Chiang Mai’s cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors, showcasing the region’s culinary diversity and creativity. From aromatic curries and fiery street food to fragrant soups and tantalizing sweets, the food in Chiang Mai offers a culinary adventure that is sure to satisfy any palate and leave a lasting impression on visitors.

local cooking dumpling potstickers food in chiang mai thailand

Healthcare in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai, Thailand, offers a range of healthcare options for residents and visitors. The city has a well-developed healthcare system with numerous hospitals, clinics, and specialized medical centers catering to different needs. Here are some of the healthcare options available in Chiang Mai:


  • Public Hospitals: Chiang Mai has several public hospitals that provide affordable healthcare services to both Thai nationals and foreigners. Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital, also known as Chiang Mai University Hospital, is one of the largest and most well-known public hospitals in the city. It offers a comprehensive range of medical services and has departments specializing in various fields, including general medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics, and gynecology.


  • Private Hospitals: Chiang Mai is home to several private hospitals that provide high-quality medical care and services. These hospitals offer a more personalized and comfortable healthcare experience, often with shorter waiting times. Some renowned private hospitals in Chiang Mai include Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai, Lanna Hospital, and Ram Hospital. Private hospitals typically have English-speaking staff and offer a wide range of medical specialties, advanced diagnostic facilities, and modern treatment options.


  • International Hospitals: Chiang Mai also has international hospitals that cater to the needs of expatriates and medical tourists. These hospitals are known for their international standards of care and are equipped with state-of-the-art medical technology. One such hospital is Chiangmai Ram Hospital, which offers a comprehensive range of medical services and has multilingual staff members who are experienced in dealing with international patients.


  • Clinics and Medical Centers: Chiang Mai has numerous clinics and medical centers that provide specialized services, such as dental care, dermatology, ophthalmology, and alternative medicine. These facilities offer consultations, diagnostic tests, minor procedures, and ongoing treatments. They can be a convenient option for non-emergency medical needs and routine check-ups.


  • Health Insurance: It is advisable to have health insurance coverage when residing or traveling in Chiang Mai. Travel insurance is a great option for many and covers 24 hours emergency medical coverage and dental procedures, lost luggage coverage and more. Many private hospitals in Chiang Mai accept international health insurance, but it is important to check with your insurance provider to understand the coverage and any requirements.

It’s worth noting that the availability and quality of healthcare services may vary among different facilities. It is recommended to do thorough research, seek recommendations, and consider the specific healthcare needs when choosing a healthcare provider in Chiang Mai.

Staying Fit and Healthy in Chiang Mai

Staying fit and healthy in Chiang Mai is achievable with a combination of healthy lifestyle choices and taking advantage of the city’s offerings. Here are some tips on how to stay fit and healthy in Chiang Mai:


  • Engage in Physical Activities: Chiang Mai is surrounded by beautiful nature and offers various opportunities for physical activities. Take advantage of the city’s stunning mountains and countryside by going hiking, biking, or exploring nature trails. Chiang Mai also has fitness centers, swimming pools, and sports facilities where you can engage in activities like yoga, Muay Thai, or join group exercise classes.


  • Embrace Thai Cuisine: Thai cuisine, including the local dishes of Chiang Mai, often incorporates fresh ingredients and balanced flavors. Enjoy the abundance of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and aromatic herbs and spices that Thai cuisine offers. Opt for healthier options like grilled or steamed dishes, stir-fried vegetables, and traditional soups. Be mindful of portion sizes and moderate your consumption of fried or heavily sweetened foods.


  • Visit Local Markets: Chiang Mai has vibrant markets like Talat Warorot and the Sunday Walking Street Market, where you can find a variety of fresh produce, herbs, and spices. Explore these markets and incorporate locally sourced ingredients into your meals. Stock up on fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs to maintain a nutritious diet.


  • Stay Hydrated: Thailand’s tropical climate can be hot and humid, so it’s essential to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated and support overall health. Be cautious of tap water and opt for bottled or filtered water.


  • Practice Mindful Eating: In addition to the nutritional aspect, cultivating mindful eating habits can contribute to your overall well-being. Slow down while eating, savor the flavors, and pay attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Eating mindfully can help prevent overeating and promote a healthier relationship with food.


  • Join Fitness and Wellness Communities: Chiang Mai has a thriving wellness community, with various fitness studios, yoga centers, and wellness groups. Consider joining these communities to connect with like-minded individuals and stay motivated in your fitness journey. Attend fitness classes, workshops, or wellness events to further enhance your overall well-being.

Remember, maintaining a healthy lifestyle involves a holistic approach that encompasses physical activity, balanced nutrition, adequate rest, and regular healthcare. By embracing the local culture, staying active, and making mindful choices, you can enjoy a fit and healthy lifestyle in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai.

baan kang wat artist village in chiang mai thailand

Things to Do In Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai offers a plethora of fun and exciting activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are some suggestions for fun things to do in Chiang Mai:


Explore Old City and Temples in Chiang Mai

Take a stroll through Chiang Mai’s historic Old City and discover its charming temples, such as Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Admire the intricate architecture, ornate decorations, and serene atmosphere while learning about the city’s rich cultural heritage.


Visit Chiang Mai Night Bazaars and Markets

Experience the vibrant atmosphere of Chiang Mai’s night bazaars and markets. The famous Sunday Walking Street Market in the Old City is a must-visit, offering a variety of local handicrafts, clothing, street food, and live performances. Other popular markets include the Night Bazaar on Chang Klan Road and the Saturday Night Market on Wualai Road.


Take a Cooking Class

Learn the art of Thai cuisine by taking a cooking class in Chiang Mai. Discover the secrets of traditional recipes, visit local markets to select fresh ingredients, and engage in hands-on cooking sessions. It’s a fun and educational way to immerse yourself in Thai culinary culture and bring home new skills.


Go on Outdoor Adventures in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s natural surroundings provide ample opportunities for outdoor adventures. Go trekking in the lush mountains, zip line through the treetops, or take an elephant sanctuary tour to interact with these majestic creatures ethically. Other activities include bamboo rafting, ATV rides, and visiting waterfalls like the stunning Huay Kaew Waterfall.


Attend One of Many Thai Festivals

Chiang Mai hosts numerous vibrant festivals throughout the year. The most famous one is the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, where thousands of lanterns are released into the sky, creating a magical spectacle. Other notable festivals include Songkran (Thai New Year), Loy Krathong (floating lantern festival), and the Flower Festival.


Visit Elephant Sanctuaries

Chiang Mai is known for its ethical elephant sanctuaries that prioritize the well-being and conservation of these gentle creatures. Spend a day at one of these sanctuaries where you can observe elephants in their natural habitat, feed them, bathe them, and learn about their conservation. Mae Sa Elephant Camp is my personal favorite. At the last show I attended my friend Ben lost to an elephant in a dart-throwing contest!


Relax with a Thai Massage

Treat yourself to a traditional Thai massage at one of Chiang Mai’s reputable spas. Thai massage combines acupressure, stretching, and rhythmic movements to provide relaxation and rejuvenation. It’s a perfect way to unwind and experience the healing traditions of Thailand.


Attend Traditional Thai Performances

Immerse yourself in Thai culture by watching traditional performances like Khon (Thai classical masked dance), Muay Thai (Thai boxing), or traditional Lanna dance shows. These performances showcase the rich heritage and artistic traditions of Thailand.


Remember, this is just a glimpse of the numerous fun activities Chiang Mai has to offer. The city’s vibrant culture, natural beauty, and warm hospitality ensure that there’s always something exciting to do and explore in this enchanting destination.

white temple wat rong khun chiang mai thailand

Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai

If you’re looking for the perfect destination for nomads and expats, Chiang Mai is an ideal choice. With its rich cultural heritage, stunning scenery and friendly locals, it’s no wonder why Chiang Mai is one of the most popular destinations in Thailand.


The best time to visit Chiang Mai for nomads and expats is from November to February. During this time, temperatures are cooler and there are fewer tourists than during the peak months of March to May. This is the perfect time to explore the city and take in the sights without the hustle and bustle of the busy season.


While March to May is the hot season in Chiang Mai, it is still worth a visit. The temperatures are high, but the humidity levels are also high, so it can be quite uncomfortable. However, the city is alive with activity and there’s plenty to do and see.


The rainy season in Chiang Mai is from June to October. It’s best to avoid this time of year if you’re looking for warm, sunny weather. However, it is the time of year when the weather is cooler and more pleasant. This is a great time to explore the city’s many temples, markets and other attractions.


Finally, Christmas is a great time to visit Chiang Mai as it is the time of year when the city is decorated with festive lights and decorations. This is the perfect time to take in the sights and sounds of the festive season and enjoy some delicious local cuisine.

Is Chiang Mai a Good Place for Digital Nomads and Expats?

Chiangmai is one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads and expats. Many call Chiangmai the digital nomad capital of the world for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few below that we’ll touch on later.


  • Low cost of living: The cost of living in Chiang Mai is relatively low, especially when compared to other cities in Southeast Asia. You can find a decent apartment for around $300 per month, and a meal at a local restaurant for around $2.
  • Incredible cuisine: The food in Chiang Mai is a tantalizing and diverse culinary experience. Known for its bold flavors, aromatic herbs, and spices, Chiang Mai cuisine reflects the region’s rich cultural heritage.
  • Rich culture: Chiang Mai is a city with a rich culture that dates back centuries. There are many temples, palaces, and museums to explore, as well as a vibrant street food scene.
  • Friendly people: The people of Chiang Mai are known for being friendly and welcoming. You will quickly feel at home in this city.
  • Large digital nomad community: Chiangmai boasts one of the most passionate nomad communities in the world and has many groups and events to connect with other foreigners in the community.

Cost of Living in Chiang Mai

Chiangmai is a great city for nomads and expats looking for an affordable place to live. The cost of living in Chiangmai is generally lower than other cities in Thailand, with groceries and basic necessities available at discounted prices. You can find a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre for around $300-400 per month, and a two-bedroom apartment for $500-600 per month.


Transportation is also quite affordable, with bus fares of $0.50 and taxi fares between $2-3. Eating out is quite affordable, with street food costing $2-5 and sit-down restaurants costing $5-10. Utilities such as electricity, water, and internet can cost around $50-90 per month. All of this makes Chiangmai an ideal city for nomads and expats looking for a comfortable place to live without breaking the bank.

tuk tuk public transportation chiang mai thailand

Visa Requirements in Chiang Mai

When planning to visit Chiang Mai, it is important to know the visa requirements beforehand. Citizens of most countries can enter Thailand for tourism purposes without a visa and stay for up to 30 days. However, if you plan to stay longer, you will need to apply for a visa before your trip. US citizens can apply for a Tourist Visa, which allows for stays of up to 60 days.


Citizens of some countries may need to apply for a Non-Immigrant Visa, which allows stays of up to 90 days. If you plan to stay longer than 90 days, you must apply for a long-term visa. In some cases, you may also need to provide proof of financial resources and health insurance to apply for a visa. Before applying for a visa, it is best to check with your embassy or consulate to make sure you have all the necessary documents.

Jobs & Work Requirements in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a great destination for nomads and expats seeking job opportunities. The city offers a range of employment prospects, from teaching English, working in the hospitality industry, and freelancing. Many employers in Chiangmai are open to hiring foreign workers without a work permit, and the minimum wage is 300 Baht per day.


When applying for a job in Chiang Mai, you should prepare a cover letter, as well as a portfolio of your work if you are applying for a creative or technical job. Standard working hours in Chiang Mai are 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and most employers will offer overtime if needed. Having a basic knowledge of Thai is beneficial, as many jobs require some level of communication in both English and Thai.


Overall, Chiang Mai is a great city for nomads and expats looking for job opportunities. With its wide range of job prospects and welcoming employers, Chiang Mai is sure to be a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Enjoy your trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand!


Always blue skies ✈️


  • Insured Nomads

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