Is Chiang Mai Expensive?
Is Chiang Mai expensive? The short answer is, no, it’s one of the least expensive cities in the country. You can find cheap accommodations, eat a meal for a dollar / pound or two and many of the best entertainments are free. However, you can also spend more, depending on the holiday experience you want.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second-largest city, rich in culture and beauty. Here, amidst modernity, you will encounter 800-year old ruins from its days as the centre of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. The city’s canals and the stunning vistas of the surrounding mountains provide natural beauty within its urban landscape. There are also amazing temples, bustling open-air markets, and many day trips for visitors to enjoy. The atmosphere is less commercial than in Bangkok, providing visitors with a more authentic Thai experience.
What Type of Chiang Mai Holiday?
Are you content to eat most of your meals the way locals do, or do you enjoy five-star dining experience? Do you want to stay in luxurious surroundings or would a simple hostel be your preference? Where would you like to go sightseeing, and what kind of day trips would you like to try?
Chiang Mai caters to all travellers budgets.
The currency in Thailand is the Thai Bhat. The exchange rate of Bhat to currencies such as the U.S. dollar, the Euro and the British pound is favourable to tourists. Recently, $1 US is equivalent to about 31 Thai Bhat and 1 Euro is worth about 35 Bhat.
These advantageous exchange rates allow foreign visitors to get more for their money. A typical American couple can enjoy luxury accommodations here for the same price they’d spend on a mid-range hotel in the United States.
Whatever your budget, you will be pleasantly surprised at the value you will find when you visit this gorgeous part of Northern Thailand.
Food and Drink
Aside from accommodations, meals are the main expense for most travellers. Yet you’ll find it’s cheap to eat well in Chiang Mai!
Street food is ample and it’s one of the best ways to authentically immerse yourself into the local culture. Your meals will be fresh, flavorful, and delicious. The only caveat – the spice levels may can be hot. It’s a good idea to learn a few Thai phrases so you can order a mildly flavoured dish or ask your hotel’s concierge to give you the names of safe options.
Along Chiang Mai’s busy avenues, vendors will sell main dishes like Pork Pad Thai for 35 Thai Bhat, which works out to a little over $1 US. Dumplings will cost only 10 Bhat and mango sticky rice about 40 Bhat. Grab a beer from a small shop for 30 Bhat, or soda for 7 Bhat. For less than $5, you’ll have a multi-course meal with your favourite beverage.
If you’d like to spend even less, local sausages are available in the markets for 5 Bhat apiece. These are a speciality of Northern Thailand and worth trying. Pair them with local fruits for a light snack.
Restaurants options are available in every price range, and it’s not limited to Thai food. Whether you’re craving Italian, Malaysian, or American comfort food, you can find it in Chiang Mai. You’ll also find reasonably priced vegetarian and vegan options if you’d like to go meatless. Whatever you choose, you’ll enjoy impeccable service and fantastic ingredients.
Simply taking a walk along one of the canals is a wonderful way to enjoy Chiang Mai, but there are many other free and inexpensive things to do.
You’ll want to visit one of the beautiful Buddhist temples, or wats . When you go, be respectful. Don’t be loud or impede locals who are there to worship. Make sure to stay within areas that are open to the public, such as the prayer hall. This peaceful space will usually have a donation box and signs in English asking you to remove your shoes. Please do so before entering!
In most cases, donations are voluntary. While you are not required to give, if you do, it will be appreciated.
The resident monks are often friendly to tourists. One might say a prayer for you, or engage in conversation. If he seems friendly, feel free to ask polite questions about Buddhism, temple life, or anything else you’re curious about.
Another great place to visit is the Chiang Mai National Museum. For the modest entry fee of $4 US, you can learn about the city’s fascinating history. Another interesting museum is the Chiang Mai World of Insects. This unique place costs $6 US.
Nature lovers will enjoy the stunning Mothathan falls. These are a short drive outside the city and are well worth the $3.50 price to visit.
There are many other sights to see in and around Chiang Mai. Your hotel’s concierge can make recommendations for you, or suggest reasonably priced tours with local guides. Often, there are group discounts available.
Transportation costs in Chiang Mai are quite reasonable. A songteaw costs less than a dollar. If you’d like more flexibility, a scooter can be rented for around $10 a day plus fuel. Even a taxi to the airport will only cost you about $8 one way, though you may be able to arrange pick-up and drop-off service with your hotel.
Chiang Mai is very inexpensive. You can enjoy yourself spending only a few dollars a day by living as the locals do. Or, you can spend as much as you would for a moderately priced trip to the US or Europe and experience delightful luxury. The city is a great value for travellers, regardless of how much you decide to spend!
- Must-See In Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai Four Day Travel Guide
- Walking Tour of Chiang Mai
- Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
- Chiang Mai Customs and Culture