The process of finding an apartment in Chiang Mai is nothing like what we deal with back home (in Australia). In classic Thai fashion, you can arrive, visit, book and move in, all in the one day here (even on a Sunday). There’s usually no need to commit to more than a month-by-month lease and most places come fully furnished.
If you’re familiar with Chiang Mai, the process is pretty simple and straight-forward but if it’s your first time to Chiang Mai, you may experience difficultly figuring how it all works.
For our first stay as digital nomads in Chiang Mai, we did what we were used to, we booked a place online. At first, we were happy with our decision but when we got our electricity bill (which was almost half our rent) we decided never to stay at that apartment ever again.
Once you read this article, you’ll realise that booking in advance is not necessarily the best way to go about it and although it worked ok for us the first time, we had learned by the end of our stay that shopping for an apartment ‘on the ground’ was usually the most effective.
Our Process for Finding an Apartment in Chiang Mai
Quick search on AirBnB
The reason I say ‘quick search’ is that your probably not going to find the best deals for monthly rentals on AirBnB. That being said, you should select a time period of at least a month and find out the monthly cost.
For our first stay in Chiang Mai, we found our room on AirBnB and then contacted the building directly for a saving of about $100 AUD. We felt a lot more confident making a booking with a host that had already been vetted on AirBnB but decided not to pay extra to secure the booking through the actual platform. Even if you don’t end up doing the reach-around like us, AirBnB is a good place to get ideas (especially if you’ve never stayed for one month or more in Chiang Mai before).
Check out RentHub
RentHub is probably the best website to view apartment listings for short-term stays in Chiang Mai. It’s not as easy to use as AirBnB and you’ll need a browser that translates Thai to English but you’ll get to see the ‘real’ prices of a variety of apartments all over Chiang Mai. After which, you can usually contact the building manager directly or through the RentHub itself.
If you have friends or family who are currently living in Chiang Mai, ask them where they are staying and how they like it. In my case, I put the question forward on the Slack team #nomads.
I see a lot of people asking in digital nomad Facebook groups but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that as I know from keeping an eye on these channels myself that the question gets asked a lot and it can get quite annoying. Instead, please check out the links at the bottom of this page containing apartment ideas from other digital nomads.
Choose your Area & Budget, Make a Short List and Get out There!
If you’re familiar with the digital nomad community, you’re probably aware that the Nimman area is where you’ll find the largest density of coworking spaces and cafes with free Wi-Fi. As you move away from the Nimman area, you’ll find the apartments generally get cheaper but the further you get out of town, the more essential it becomes to hire a bike. My girlfriend and I avoid riding altogether by choosing apartments in the Nimman area that are a close walk to the places we like to go like Punspace, Kad Suan Kaew shopping mall, Maya mall and a bunch of awesome restaurants.
In terms of budget, we had paid 9,000 (~250 USD) for our last month (or 13,000 when you combine it with the electricity bill we paid) and weren’t willing to downgrade. Your budget is of course, up to you but to give you an indication, you can get a highly basic room for 3,000 (~85 USD) at the bottom end of the scale, right up to 20,000+ (~560 USD) for something really nice with furnishings. This time we keep our budget the same as last time (around 10,000 – 15,000) which we would of course split between us.
Once you choose your area, use your research from the previous steps, make a list and hit the road. The best way to shop for an apartment is ‘on the ground’.
Examples of Apartments you’ll find in the Nimman Area (and just outside)
Nimmanhemin Soi 6 | 6,500 baht month rent (~183 USD) | Electricity: 7 baht per unit | Water: 200 baht per month | Internet: 600 baht per month
Baan Thai, just off Nimmanhemin Rd is a popular choice for digital nomads in the Nimman area. Affordable at 6,500 baht, we felt that the room was a bit basic and were a bit weary of the electricity rate as we had been stung the last time we were in Chiang Mai.
Nimmanhemin Soi 8 | 8,000 baht month rent (~225 USD) | Electricity: 5 baht per unit | Water: 30 baht per month | Internet: 350 baht per | Gym: 300 baht per month
We had seen pictures of some good rooms in Hillside 3 but the room we were shown was way too basic for us. Especially after seeing Baan Thai, we immediately ruled out this room as an option.
Siri Mangkalajarn Rd Lane 1 | 25,000 baht month rent (~700 USD) | Electricity: 5 baht per unit | Water: 30 baht per month | Internet included
Despite this apartment being outside our budget, we decided to have a look anyway. Of course, it was very nice but perhaps a little bit over-priced at 25,000 given some of the better valued options we discovered later in the day.
Huay Kaew Residence
Huaykaew Rd | Electricity: 7 baht per unit | Water: 25 baht per month | Internet: 300 baht per month
Studio Room – 5,500 baht per month (~155 USD)
Room with Kitchen – 12,000 baht per month (~337 USD)
Neither of the rooms at Huay Kaew Residence appealed to us. Both of them were incredibly old and the room with a kitchen did not include utensils. Compared to the rooms we discovered later in the day, they both seemed like terrible value for money as well.
Ratchaphuek Alley | Electricity: 6 baht per unit | Water: 30 baht per month | Internet included
Big, One Bedroom Apartment – 15,000 baht per month (~420 USD)
Smaller, One Bedroom Apartment – 12,000 (~337 USD)
We were very impressed with the rooms at Pansook and we agreed that they were by far the best we’d seen in our price range. The 3 bigger rooms that we viewed varied in style and layout but the 4th room had the right balance of space and features.
Plubplueng Soi Alley | 10,000 bath month rent (~280 USD) | Electricity: 6 baht per unit | Water: 30 baht per month | Internet included
Further down the room in a new area of development lies Pansook 2 where the rooms were similar but yet again smaller. If it wasn’t for the slightly off-track location, we probably would have gone with this one instead of the slightly bigger and more expensive room in Pansook 1.
Chiang Mai Lodge
Ratchaphuek Alley | 8,500 baht month rent (~238 USD) | Electricity: 9 baht per unit | Water: 30 baht per month
The room at Chiang Mai Lodge was a very quaint and clean studio with ensuite. After Pansook, this was our favourite.
Ratchaphuek Alley | 6,000 baht month rent (~168 USD) | Electricity: 9 baht per unit | Water: 200 baht per person per month
Another very nice room with a small kitchenette. Probably one of the best value-for-money rooms we came across on the day.
Corner of Ratchaphuek Alley & Sermsuk Rd | 5,500 baht month rent (~154 USD) | Electricity: 10 baht per unit | Water: 300 baht per month
Probably our number 1 choice if we were on a tight budget. If I was staying in Chiang Mai by myself, I would have chosen here. Our biggest concern however was the noise polution from some of the bars across the road.
Ratchaphuek Alley | Rent: 3,000 baht | Electricity: 8 baht per unit | Water: 100 baht per unit
To be honest, for this price we were expecting a much lower quality than what we saw. If we didn’t have a higher budget, this would have been the apartment we moved into.
Chiang Mai Rose House
Ratchaphuek Alley | Rent: 4,500 baht (all inclusive)
Another great option for those on a budget. It seems like this particular side of Santitham is a great place to live cheaply but still be close to Nimman.
Luxury Huay Kaew
Plubplueng Soi Alley | Rent: 18,000 | Electricity: 8 baht per unit | Water: included
Quite Luxurious but over-priced in our opinion. It seems that apartment prices in Chiang Mai tend to go up disproportionately with value. While Luxury Huay Kaew was very nice, I’d be much happier saving a third of the cost to live in an apartment that is slightly less fancy.
Nimmana Haeminda Rd Lane 5 | Rent: 18,000 | Electricity: Government Rate | Water: 30 baht per unit
Palm Springs Areca
Palm Springs Fountain
Both very nice rooms that we were so close to choosing for our third time in Chiang Mai but decided against it due to price. If we decide to come back for 6 months we’d probably move into Palm Springs Fountain where the room was a little bigger.
Sirimangkalajarn Road | Rent: 7,800 | Electricity: 7 baht per unit | Water: 26 baht per unit | Internet (restricted at 2 devices): 350 baht per month, Extra devices at a rate of 200 baht per month per device
We chose this room for our third stay in Chiang Mai due to a combination of location (close to Punspace), Price and Quality. So far, it’s been 2 weeks and we’ve had a good experience. Although, I was quite disappointed by the 2 device internet restriction and that fact that we have to log back in each time we come back to the apartment.