My wife and I have finally gotten settled in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We spent a few days in Bangkok and are now going to stay here for 7 weeks before heading to Australia.
It has been about 6 years since we have been to Thailand, but this is first time we made the trip up north to Chiang Mai.
Why Chiang Mai is Popular for Retirees, Expats and Long-term Travellers
Every long term traveller makes it to Chiang Mai sooner or later, and for good reasons. Great food, great weather and great prices make it a hard city to top.
At only 1.6 million people, Chiang Mai is a little tamer than the raucous streets of Bangkok and its 9.1 million inhabitants. The lack of any public transportation system keeps the traffic a little crazy, but it is also possible to escape to the mountains or to nearby towns.
Chiang Mai Living Expenses
There is no denying that the cost of living is a huge factor in attracting foreign visitors and retirees. My wife and I have a hotel style apartment for $360 per month. My uncle is renting a three-bedroom house outside the city for only $200. I recently met up with Nomadic Matt and he was paying $7 a night for a guest house. Really posh flats can be found for $500 to $1000 if you wanted to splurge, even cheaper if you rent for a year. (2016 update – Check out my Guide to Finding Chiang Mai Apartments. My family has been renting a US$150 per month apartment in recent years.)
Meals typically range from $1 a dish in a cafeteria-style restaurant or food stand to $3 dollars for a nicer sit-down restaurant. Everything is made fresh so the food is fantastic.
Fresh fruit shakes are about $1.25 and a beer in a bar is $2 – $3 for the large 750 ml bottle.
There are endless markets and shops selling inexpensive tourist items, clothing and bootleg software and DVDs. Cafes are everywhere from McDonald’s, Starbucks, Doi Chang and many nicer local shops with good coffee at half the price of the franchises.
I am getting some major dental work done here at about 10% of the cost of Canada. The money I save on the dentist alone will more than pay for our entire stay and airfare.
Retire in Thailand
If you were frugal, Chiang Mai could quite possible be a great city to retire on $500 per month. Eating out two meals a day, going to a cafe every day and not really watching our budget, I estimate that my wife and I can quite comfortably live on less than $1500 a month here. If we were to stay here for the long term, travel less and spend more time at home, we could easily get it under $1000 per month for the two of us. That would get us under that elusive $500 a month retirement budget.
Over all it is a fantastic place to set up a home base for a couple of months.
I have already met Nomadic Matt, like I mentioned but I also have plans to connect with Erin and Simon from NeverEndingVoyage.com, Mary and Warren Talbot of Married with Luggage, James Clark of Nomadic Notes, and possibly even Cody Mckibben of ThrillingHeroics.com.
We haven’t done much work in the last couple of weeks, but hopefully that will change starting now. I will provide a more detail update on our plans, cost of living in Thailand and hopefully some videos very soon.