Expat living guide: What it’s like to live in Chiang Mai

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!

US passport over map of he world

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.

Yee Peng floating lantern festival

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.

Chiang Mai local woman

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.

chiang mai mountains

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.

pink piggybank

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.

colorful umbrellas in chiang mai thailand

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.

Have you ever considered living abroad? What’s your dream destination?
Share your thoughts in a comment!

About the author

Maryn Mcdonnell is a travel lifestyle writer who loves exploring the world and shares her travel experiences with other passionate travelers out there!

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Planning your future expat life in Chiang Mai Thailand? Pin this!

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21 Thoughts to “Expat living guide: What it’s like to live in Chiang Mai”

  1. How hot does it get in Thailand? I’ve never been anywhere near there. Is it humid?

    1. You will definitely love it 🙂 The food is great. The attractions are fantastic. The weather is the hottest during March-April around 27-33 °C.

  2. Luna S

    The festivals and events look like they would be absolutely beautiful to attend, I really like the lantern festivals.

    1. I love the festival too 🙂 Thanks for your comment.

  3. Nia De la torre

    I’d love to see the culture in Chiang Mai !

    1. I am sure you will definitely love it 🙂 Thank you so much for your comment.

  4. The city looks so colorful, the weather seems perfect except hot seasons.

    1. I agree but could not resist the fun of the Songkran Festival in April as well! 😀

  5. Thailand sounds amazing. Immersing your self completely into the culture must be the greatest means of learning about a nation. Love it!

    1. totally agree! 🙂 It’s one of my favourite travel destinations.

  6. Oh wow, I would love to attend one of those festivals.

  7. The city looks so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your experience of being a expat in Thailand. It was very useful.

  8. Francisco

    We’re planning on SE Asia for next overseas trip, Thailand is right up there in places we want to go!

  9. yeah!! I love to travel to Thailand, almost more than 3 times in a year, just love your captures in this sharing. Thanks for this awesome sharing. cheers, siennylovesdrawing

  10. Chiangmai Is a new place to me and I am so happy to find your post. Your post is informative for avid travelers like me. Thanks a lot.

  11. I Loved Chiang Mai! (Apart from the part I got pulled over by the police!!) but the city was amazing. Best part of Thailand hands down

  12. I will be in Chiang Mai this month on 24th. Thanks for this amazing blog post.

  13. It looks like such a beautiful place to live. It looks like you are enjoying yourselves there.

  14. blair villanueva

    Travelling to Thailand is pretty cheap and no wonder that many expats wants to visit Thailand, and some even dream of staying there for good. Thailand is a haven for many (western) expats.

  15. I have never visited Chiang Mai but after reading this blog, I am adding it to my travel bucket list!!

  16. Chiangmai Is a new place for me. it’s a really beautiful place. I Would like to visit Chiang Mai

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