Expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand

Chiang Mai is one of the best places to live in Thailand. The city is a popular location for digital nomads, expats, and retirees wanting to stay somewhere comfortable, cool, and nice.

Expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand is easier than you can imagine. There are clubs and pubs, condos to rent, interest groups for travelers, volunteers, entrepreneurs, digital nomads, shopping malls, supermarkets with a variety of western food, hospitals with English speaking doctors, gyms, international schools, and international cuisines. You simply choose to immerse yourself in the fascinating culture or have a piece of the west.

If you think expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand fits you, here are some things to help you settle in!

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expat life in chiang mai thailand visa
Expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand: Visas

1. Visas

Most expats stay in Thailand on the tourist visa (valid for 30 days) offered on arrival at land borders or airports. If you want further thirty days, you must renew it about 3 to 7 days before the expiry date at any Thailand immigration offices.

For longer stays, consider applying for a single-entry tourist visa. This is valid for 2 months before preparing for the move to Thailand. The visas are usually available at the local Thai consulates in most countries.

Check Thailand visa requirements

expat life in chiang mai thailand festivals
Expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand: Festivals & events

2. Festivals and events

There are a number of festivals in this populous city. A favorite of many expats is the mass lantern release. It takes place during the Yee Peng floating lantern festival, which takes place annually, November. Other Loy Krathong and Yi Peng activities include the release of banana leaf boats onto the river and parades.

expat life in chiang mai thailand culture
Expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand: Local culture

3. Culture

Chiang Mai has a youthful culture paired with a laid-back pace and historical charm. The local population is accommodating and welcoming to expats. Also, many Thais speak in English and English words can be found on most menus in cafes and restaurants. Because of this city’s large foreigners’ community, you are likely to network or connect with other expats with ease.

expat life in chiang mai thailand nature
Expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand: Amazing nature

4. Nature

If you love outdoor sports, there are a lot of opportunities in Chiang Mai to go on an adventure; taking of trekking, rock climbing, archery, caving, and zip-lining. The surrounding scenery is gorgeous – hot springs, waterfalls, rice paddies, dense jungles, and lush green hills.

expat life in chiang mai thailand money
Expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand: Travel budget

5. Money

There are several ATM machines you can access all over Chiang Mai. However, the local banks charge a small fee of 200-baht for those withdrawing cash from the ATMs using international cards.

In general, the cost of living in Chiang Mai Thailand depends on your style of living and how long you stay. The city is a cheap place to live and there is a lot of great street food and excellent food scene.

If you would like to earn a living, teaching English in Thailand is an excellent option as it offers a great opportunity to interact with local residents and you will learn their culture, language, and make new friends. All you need is a TEFL certificate.

However, it is difficult for a non-native speaker to find employment, but with the right attitude, you can find it. Opening your own business is a great option as well, but dealing with the bureaucratic Thai system make the process so complicated.

expat life in chiang mai thailand weather
Expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand: Beautiful Weather?

6. Weather

The perfect time to visit the city is the cool season, which starts from November to February. In December and January, the mornings and nights can get pretty cold. To be safe, bring warm clothes.

The worst time to visit the city is from mid-February to March – the city can become polluted and smoky as farmers burn their fields. The hot season starts from March to June and the rainy season from July to October.

Living in Thailand from the end of October can be really cool as the sky is clear, everything is green, and there are few tourists. Remember that when the high season begins, finding an apartment can be a bit hectic.


We believe that the above factors gave you a picture of what is it like to live in Thailand as an expat. Chiang Mai is a great location to visit and what makes it more appealing is the fact that you can get anything you would need to further simplify your life.

About the author

maryn mcdonnell guest post writer on the travel bunny blog

Maryn Mcdonnell is a travel lifestyle writer who learned first-hand about expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand. She loves exploring the world and shares her travel experiences with other passionate travelers out there!

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