Why do you live in Chiang Mai, Thailand?
Backpackers, digital nomads, expats, and travel bloggers have to answer this question once in a while. Not easy to explain, it feels like there is something magnetic in that city, something that every day attracts new travelers or entrepreneurs. Many reasons made us fall in love with Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, and many more made us want to return there!
It is incredible how such a small place can connect so many people and attract different kinds of travelers. Living in Chiang Mai is a type of experience almost every backpacker or digital nomad must have on their resume because living in Chiang Mai is totally different from being a tourist in the city. You have a different mindset, your packing list is different, and your targets are different.
So to solve this nomadic mystery, we talked with some expats, digital nomads and entrepreneurs to try to figure out why this city is so special and why they choose to live in Chiang Mai.
We asked a simple question to them: Why do you live in Chiang Mai?
Clelia Mattana [Italian]
Founder, Editor & Photographer » Keep Calm and Travel
“So why do I live in Chiang Mai? First of all, the old city offers some pretty interesting sights, I love the contrast between the chaos and the peaceful canal and pretty fountains that flow in the heart of the city. When getting around by red taxis you can spot so many lovely temples, as the city is filled with them at every corner, and it’s nice to discover yet a new one randomly! Second…it’s damn cheap! For a digital nomad, this is one of the main aspects to consider when it comes to deciding where to put your roots for a few months. And let’s not forget the most important aspect on why I decided to stay here for so long: networking! Contact with other digital nomads and bloggers is the best aspect of staying here: exchanging ideas and suggestions with like-minded people is a great opportunity to create strong relationships and friendships. Since I’ve missed TBEX 2 times in a row, being in Chiang Mai allowed me to still catch up with many bloggers and I couldn’t be happier!”
Jack Davis [American]
“ I came to Chiang Mai to do a writing project and planned to stay for six months. It’s now been a year and a half. I decided to stay because it’s simple: I fell in love with Chiang Mai 🙂
There are several reasons:
1º – the food is amazing.
2º – it’s the safest place I’ve ever lived.
3º – the cost of living in Chiang Mai is cheap.
4º – and the most important reason: the people. The sweetest, kindest and hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. They call Thailand ” The Land of Smiles “. So fitting. I will also add, that the intangible feature for me is that my “stress level” is at its lowest point ever. I find I have more of a spiritual connection here. I find it quite easy to ” live in the present “. So grateful to be here.”
Carlo Cretaro & Florence Murphy [Irish]
Travel Bloggers » Next Stop Who Knows
“Over the past two years, we’ve traveled and worked in many cities around the world. Each time we go to a new city, we always compare it to Chiang Mai. Why? Because, in our opinion, Chiang Mai is the perfect city to work online, live cheaply and have a great lifestyle. The food is delicious, the locals are friendly, the weather is comfortable (apart from the Smokey season) and the WiFi infrastructure is excellent.
Add into the equation: endless networking possibilities, a vibrant digital community, a plethora of co-working spaces, and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect “digital city”. Over the past few years, Chiang Mai has exponentially exploded with an influx of people, all looking to bootstrap their online business while enjoying the fruits of living in a very affordable part of the world. This is our third time to come back to live in Chiang Mai for a while, and it definitely won’t be the last.”
Anja Winter [German]
Teacher » Learn German with Anja
“One reason why I love Chiang Mai is because it was so easy to get started as a teacher here. Thai people still have the notion: “Oh, you’re German? Well, then you can teach German!“ I didn’t need any special qualifications as a German teacher, and this has helped me to discover my true passion without any hassles. “Learning by doing?” Here you go!
Another reason why I absolutely love to live in Chiang Mai is the way it was constructed. For people with a terrible sense of direction like me, this city is the best place to be. You just need to know where the square (the old city) is and the rest will be in some direction around it. Hop on a scooter and hardly ever get lost again.”
Dave Brett [English]
Travel Blogger » Travel Dave
“Chiang Mai just has everything a digital nomad could possibly need. Fast WiFi/4G connection, it’s half the price of Bangkok, easy, affordable condos with all the facilities you could possibly want. Fantastic, affordable, and healthy Thai food, an endless supply of coffee shops, and places to chill in the evening. Many say it only takes a few days to settle and feel at home and some seem to stay forever.
Thai people are very polite and welcoming, it’s very safe here. It’s super easy to integrate and feel at home instantly, this makes it a perfect spot for first-timers looking at kick-starting this lifestyle. New Co-working spots and condos are popping up all the time and meeting the current demand, I believe life in Chiang Mai is getting better and easy every day.”
April Black [American]
“The reasons why I came here and why I’m still here have evolved. I knew I wanted to move here before I even got here… before I even came to Asia! After several friends had come here and then told me about what it was like, I knew Chiang Mai was the spot where I would settle down for a while. Chiang Mai has everything I want and need for living abroad, especially as a first-time expat.
The list of why Chiang Mai is the ideal place in Southeast Asia to live is endless!! With the mountains overlooking the city, it has the best food in Thailand, with a huge variety of Western and Asian foods. People tend to be more outdoorsy here. It’s one of the most relaxed cities in Thailand, the people here are quite artistic, and the weather is the most ideal in the country. It has tons of nature: mountains, lakes, waterfalls, hiking, rice fields, and more… It only takes a 1.5-hour flight to get to the beach (for less than $45!). It’s culturally diverse with many like minded expats from all over the world living here as well as a digital nomad hub. It’s a medium sized city with a small-town feel.
Why I’m still choosing to live in Chiang Mai is because the expat community here is small and they’ve become my family. After living here for 2.5 years now, it’s become home for much longer than I had planned, but it’s also hard to leave as it really is the perfect place to live in Southeast Asia.”
Bárbara Rocha & Vagner Alcantelado [Brazilians]
Journalist & Video Maker – Melhores Momentos da Vida
“Chiang Mai has a cool, vibrant vibe, and it`s a more laid-back city. It’s hard to get bored with so many options of cafes, restaurants, shopping malls, more than 300 temples, local markets and cultural events. Even with such a busy life, the atmosphere here remains peaceful and pleasant, with little traffic and without the tourist harassment common in other big cities like Bangkok.
Typically, the Thai are very smiling and attentive, but in Chiang Mai, they seem even friendlier. The cost of living is super cheap. You can live in a nice, modern studio with internet, cable TV, and swimming pool in the building for less than $200 USD per month. An organic food meal on my street costs $ 2 USD. ;-)”
Alejandro Nuñez [Mexican]
Entrepreneur & Travel Writer – Mi Viaje por el Mundo
“After have been traveling for years, I have found just a few places that I could call home and, after my hometown, Chiang Mai is probably the number one on that list. Chiang Mai is the mix of the best food you will find in Thailand, friendly locals, cheap cost of living, warm climate, and good internet speed, it is the place where all the digital nomads and retired people come and stay.
The first time I left, I thought I wouldn’t come in a long time because I wanted to travel more. After a few months, I felt burned out, so I made the best decision I could possible make: come back to live in Chiang Mai. Even though most of my time here I spend it working, the city has every kind of attraction that you can ask for, but if you are missing the sand and the sea it is only a 1-hour flight away.”
For all those reasons, we decided to live in Chiang Mai too. Our first time there was on November 2014, the plan was to stay only two weeks, but after making friends, be spoiled by the delicious and cheap food, and the huge offer of co-working spaces (check this video from CAMP, our favorite co-working space!) we feel in love for the city and decided to stay for over a month. And of course, it wasn´t enough. On March 2015, we went back to the practical and easy city.
After one year of traveling [and working] around the world, for us, Chiang Mai is one of the best places to focus on work and live as an expat in Thailand. That´s why it has become a paradise for digital nomads, entrepreneurs and bloggers. We made so many friends and learned so much there that definitely we gonna come back soon.
After Chiang Mai, another hot spot for digital nomads is Bali in Indonesia, more specifically Canggu and Ubud areas. We wrote an article with all the details and info. Read our Bali Digital Nomad Guide here.
I miss a lot the Sunday Night Market, the Thai food for less than $ 2 USD [especially the papaya salad], the day trips to the mountains & waterfalls, and the iced coffee… While writing this post, Rob and I had a serious conversation and decided to go back to Thailand sooner than we had planned. We were supposed to stay around Europe till October, but he is already searching for flights for the end of July. We’ll be landing in Bangkok, but for sure, we’ll head north.
72 thoughts on “Why live in Chiang Mai? The home of Expats & Digital Nomads”
So nice to see so many familiar faces in the post! 🙂
Even If I only saw a few temples from the songthaew and the best thing I know in Chiang Mai is the 7/11 down the road (I know this is coming so I’m anticipating it ahahha), I had the chance to visit a few interesting places and most importantly, to meet some great people! 😉
Thanks for being part our post Clelia!!
Any plan to get back to Chiang Mai? WEe are flying to Thailand on July 22nd, but we´ll stay in BKK for a while!
All the best sweet!
Keep travelling and blogging! 🙂
It was great to meet most of the bloggers in this post. Hopefully, we’ll get to meet up again sometime, somewhere down the line 🙂
I´m sure we gonna catch up soon… Time and distance don´t matter for good friendships!
Wish you guys all the best!
Send kisses to Florence!
We are headed to Chiang Mai in August so it will be fun to see in person what you are talking about! It sounds like an enchanting city and we can’t wait to explore it! Maybe we will get the bug to stay there too!
I hope you love Chiang Mai Alyssa!!!
It took me few days to get used with the city and the pace of life (Chiang Mai was my first time & first city in Southeast Asia)… But it didn’t take too long to fall in love, so true that now I want to go back!
Safe travels 🙂
fantastic post and Chiang Mainis somewhere id love to move to.
How do you go about visas now as I’ve heard the Thai government have stopped allowing people do border runs? And how can you find a condo or apartment to move into before you get to the city?
Thanks for stopping by!
We have Brazilian passport and we can stay in Thailand 90 days (we renew our visas 3 times while there, just went to for a few days trip Cambodia – Philippines and Malaysia). We never overstay and also never had a problem. I have a friend that last week did the visa run to Myanmar and back to Chiang Mai without a problem either.
The big issue is if you are hired by a company or do some kind of “local work” there while tourist visa, then you might have a problem.
For the condos you can search on Google and Facebook (there are some communities). We booked a hostel for the first week and then looked around the city to find the best option for us! 😉
I’ve heard they changed the visa laws recently to crack down on people without a proper work visa. How do you guys stay long-term in Chiang Mai? Thanks!
We have Brazilian passport so we can stay in Thailand for 90 days with a tourist visa. We never had a problem regard to the visa while we are working online (at coffee shops and libraries). The big issue is travellers that are working as teachers (in private classes and small schools), hostels, etc. without the proper working visa.
Also some people do the visa run to Cambodia or Myanmar just in one or two days, just for crossing the border, sometimes coming back to Thailand in the same day. That can be a bit suspicious too. But if you follow the rules and don’t overstay your should not have any problem, like us and like many people we know.
Thanks for stopping by. All the best
I couldn’t agree more, Chiang Mai is just a perfect mix of awesome food, affordability, climate, friendly people and yes, most importantly an amazing wifi connection!! Cannot wait to be back!!
Definitely Chiang Mai has an incredible WiFi!!!
Hope to meet you soon Carolin, maybe in Chiang Mai or BKK!!
All the best baby!
Thailand is in my bucketlist. Would try to visit this place.
If you go to Thailand you must visit Chiang Mai, it’s a unique place!
All the best!
Chiang Mai seems to attract interesting people and world travelers. I haven’t been to this place yet, but for sure I’ll be there in the near future.
If you want to meet a great bunch of digital nomads and entrepreneurs Chiang Mai is definitely the address for you. We have made so many good connections and friendship there that I can´t even count in one hand… We have learned a lot while sharing experiences with those guys!
Thanks for stopping by!
This article was incredibly helpful! My travel partner and I have been contemplating moving to Thailand and you have totally sold us on Chaing Mai.
Glad to hear that April!!
Hope you enjoy Chiang Mai as much as we did. And if you need any help to settle there just send me an email!
wow, I’ve always wondered why Chiang Mai was so popular among travel bloggers. I’ve kind of thought it was a coincidence if I was keeping stumbling upon it while wandering around the blogosphere… but now I know it isn’t! 😉
I’m happy that you like the post and that I answered a question that was haunting you for a long time!
Chiang Mai is the place to be if you want to meet with blogger and amazing people.
All the best!
So many reasons! It’s not a place I have ever been, but I certainly feel as if I’ve been missing out now. One to add to the list 🙂
If you have the opportunity to visit Chiang Mai, go for it Sarah!
It´s an amazing city to visit, you can go for a week or maybe stay longer… 🙂
I love Thailand but it’s been years since I’ve been to Chiang Mai. Now that we’re travelling full time I do feel like it would be a great place to go, work for a little bit and live cheaply.
Chiang Mai is the perfect spot to rest for a while, focus on work and live cheaply… Few days there and you will be ready to keep travelling.
All the best,
It’s so interesting to read about living in Chiang Mai. I visited as a backpacker years ago, but it really does seem like a perfect spot to live for a while.
It true is, Mindi!
After two times in Chiang Mai we are ready to go back again! I think we got bitten by Chiang Mai´s bug! 🙂
so great to see many writers in this post
Flat out my fave place on earth outside of the Southern tip of Phuket. LOVE CM! It is magnetic. We’ve traveled there some 4 times and have lived in CM for close to a year, on and off, over the past 4 years. No place like it.
So you got bitten by the “Chiang Mai Bug” too!
Glad to hear that is not only me 🙂
We have been in Phuket last year and enjoy the island, maybe we should have stayed a little bit more in the southern part to find out if it is good as CM.
All the best,
Very interesting perspective from a good sample of international travelers and expats.
Glad that you liked it!
Sounds good, specially the good WiFi, but I’m still not convinced yet 😉 visiting the Philippines first.
Philippines is a paradise, there is no way to compare with northern Thailand. But if you need to work, there is no place on earth like Chiang Mai. Believe me!!
Enjoy Philippines, but be aware of the crappy internet connection around the islands!
Wow! My husband, daughter and I plan to go to Thailand in the fall. We should definitely spend some time in CM, we hope to meet you all!
I´m sure you and your family will love Chiang Mai, it´s a great place to visit and leave!
We keep in touch, would be a pleasure to meet you there!!
Never been to Chiang Mai. Thanks for this eye-opening collection of interviews!
You are welcome Carol!!
And thanks for stopping by!
All the best!
Your descriptions of the food sound fantastic – it’s no wonder everyone falls in love with Chiang Mai.
So now you have a good excuse to go back to Chiang Mai: meet us and other awesome bloggers 😉
And you are right, the food there is the best!!
We never been to Indonesia, but it is on our plans, so I will check Yogyakarta out!
Thanks for stopping by!
Chiang Mai gets everyone by the stomach! 😉
All the best,
So nice 😀 Good to know that Chiang Mai has fast Wi-Fi!!! xD
but for real, it seems to be a cool place to live.
I would totally enjoy living in Asia anyway, so this post made me happy!
Chiang Mai is a lovely city, the fast WiFi is just a plus 🙂
For us one of the best places to live in the Asia!
Fantastic post. So great to hear so many fantastic opinions and perspectives of a place. I haven’t made it to Chiang Mai just yet, but after reading this & after 10 years of nurturing an addiction to Pad Thai, i’m almost certain i’ll want to stick around!
If you love Pad Thai, you will love Chiang Mai… Believe me, I have tried several dishes all around Thailand and anyone cook it as good as in Chiang Mai Sunday Market 🙂
Also, the papaya salad are the best ones!
WOW! I had no idea what a wonderful place this is! Thanks for sharing. While you didn’t mention children specifically, everyone goes on and on about how friendly the people are so I think kids would be welcome and have a wonderful time, don’t you?
Your inspirational post just bumped Thailand to the top of the list!
Natalie, The Educational Tourist
The place is perfect for children too, so many things to see, amazing temples, huge statues of elephants around the city and friendly people. I think the kids would love there, definitely!
I’m glad that you liked the post and I made you thinking about travelling to Thailand, it´s a great country!
All the best,
I’ve never been to Chiang Mai but I’ve read lots of posts about it, mostly by young backpackers. That made me think it must be overrun with a young partying crowd, which made me not want to visit. This post gives a much more nuanced view, and I’ll add Chiang Mai to our plans when we finally get to Thailand!
For sure there are many young backpackers in Chiang Mai, but the vibe is really relaxed and not much partying… All the pubs and bars close around 2 – 3 am, and the city is more a cultural hub than a destination for wild summer holidays.
If you go to Thailand you definitely need to visit Chiang Mai and the little towns around, the north of the country is completely different from the south and from the island, much more authentic.
All the best,
Would have to agree that Thai food is some of the best in the world!
Then obviously, the place is so cheap, so no surprises there!!
You are right Chris, cheap and good food are a great combination, but I think Chiang Mai has something more. The vibe and the atmosphere are unique there.
Great article guys! I am also a HUGE travel buff. And I absolutely love Thailand. I am super excited that my fiance and I are planning to live in Chiang-Mai this fall! I hope to meet a lot of other digital nomads like myself. I will most likely be spending time creating videos. If you guys haven’t been to my YouTube channel, check it out. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-fQ20g6nA6drF2oEvbk6Xg
Again, thank you for writing this insightful article!!
Tks for the kind words. You guys will love Chiang Mai!
Keep the good work with the videos! Just subscribed to your channel 😉
Nothing new on the northern front.
For living ok, for the first-time SE Asia travellers again ok, but for those who have already have been to any similar culture SE Asia country think twice before going, u wont find any much new experiences than the typical temples, elephants, natute experience or Thai food, cheap shopping opportunuties. I can hear those of you bloggers ask, what else would any human wish to look for ? Please read my first sentence. Others, beware the tons of positive reviews, CM is not for everyone.
Before we moved to Chiang Mai I read a blog with the same message as your comment: Chiang Mai can be really good but not for everyone! And thanks God we have different tastes and opinions! As you said there many other interesting cities in SE Asia, Chiang Mai maybe is on the spotlight now, in a few months or a years can be another one.
Thanks for stopping by! 😉
Btw, Natalie, i am definitely admiring your posts on travelling and am trying to read all of em. Among the bloggers i follow, u 2 are well far ahead of any others in posting frequency. How do u manage to write that much, its amazing. Have fun, and sorry if the previous message harassed any of u guys in any way, i had to share my own view.
Now you made me even happier Fatih!
I’m really glad to know that you follow us and you enjoy reading our posts! This is priceless! And don´t worry about you comment above It´s always good to hear the both sides. Feel free to be part of all discussion, that´s how we learn to travel better.
About the amount of posts we write, I actually think it is not that much, even though is a hard work for us. As a team and we can pull off between 2 – 4 posts a month.
Wish you all the best too,
Thanks for the great post on Chiang Mai. Alison and I live and work in the Philippines, but we get the opportunity to travel frequently and SEA has become our playground. We haven’t been to Chiang Mai yet, however we have just booked to visit in November for 5 days. We can’t wait to experience the magic that everyone describes.
Hope you have fun in Chiang Mai, it’s a special city!
If you need more info about the city send me an email and I can give you two some good tips.
Enjoy Philippines, we are planning to go there on December.
Welcome to Thailand.I hope you enjoy to travel here
Thailand is great, love to be her!
This article is so inspiring. My & my boyfried just came to Chiang Mai yesterday. Looking forward to discover this city.
If anybody would like to meet with us and organize «live in Chiang Mai» tour around the city, we would be so thankful. Because for now we feel a little bit lost.
Btw, we came from Kiev, Ukraine and we’re internet marketers (email, SMM, landing pages building, copywriting).
Love and hugs to everybody! <3
Glad to meet you! We´ll be back in Chiang Mai in December, hope to meet you there 🙂
If you search on Facebook you´ll find many groups of digital nomads in Chiang Mai, and they have weekly activities.
All the best,
Great post and well timed for my wife and I. We’ve been traveling for two years now, mostly housesitting in Latin America. We’ve decided we want to get back to SE Asia but can’t afford to pay too much for rent so we are planning on Chang Mai. This post just help solidify our plan.
If you want to save some money Chiang Mai is the place! Life is very easy here and the expat community great! Every time we need to focus on work and save Chiang Mai is the place we go! So, when are you planning to arrive in Thailand? We´ll be in Chiang Mai till end of February, would be nice to meet you two.
All the best and safe journey!
This is really nice!! I’m even considering the possibility to spend some time there.
Which one the best time frame for you guys?
I’m been to Thailand but just BKK and south.
We LOVE Chiang Mai!
Our favourite time here is from October to February. The weather is great!
Hi my name is Beverly, I want to come and live in Chaing mai but don’t know how visa work. does any one know how long I have to go back to US for extension of visa?
Here is all the info about visa for American passport, you don’t need to fly to US to get an extension, you can apply at the Embassy in Chiang Mai. Or do a visa run to some of the neighbour countries.