For "digital nomads", Chiang Mai is one of the best places in the world to move to. It's tempting to try to lock down an apartment before coming here, as I initially tried to do, but it's actually much better to find something after you get in.
What I tried to do before coming to Chiang Mai
- I tried to use a website called Thailand Property to find an apartment.
- While I didn't find any apartment that I liked, I reached out to a number of agencies displayed on this website directly (I told them I was looking to rent for 3-6 months with a budget of around 15,000 baht, or roughly 500 USD).
- I didn't hear back from half of them, and the ones I did hear back either wanted ridiculously high budget (40,000 baht), or 6-month minimum rental period.
What I ended up doing
- I booked a hostel for 7 nights while I hunted for an apartment
- After I landed, I talked to a friend of a friend who lived in Chiang Mai for 6 months to get a sense of which neighbourhoods I should try to get an apartment in
- After I landed, I spent 2 days walking around different neighbourhoods looking for buildings. After a while, it becomes pretty easy to spot the buildings that may have rooms. They are typically pretty modern-looking buildings with an office on the ground floor. Some of them have signs that let you know that monthly rental is available.
- We also got some leads from a Facebook nomad group. The apartment I ended up taking was suggested by someone from the Facebook group. There are a number of Facebook groups, including Chiang Mai Digital Nomads and Chiang Mai Nomad Girls
- After spotting a building, I just approached the office in the building and asked if they had any monthly rentals available. They usually asked how many months I'd be renting and gave me a quote based on that. Many of them provided a printed price list as well.
- Note that they typically give you the rate for a "standard" room, which means a studio without a separate living room. Make sure you get the room type right
- At this point I would ask the staff to show me the rooms, and they were very happy to do so
- Once you find the apartment you like, the move-in can be done within 24 or 48 hours.
- The amount of deposit varies by building. The one I ended up taking only took a 10,000-baht deposit, but I know some buildings that asked for 2 months of rent PLUS a fixed deposit.
- Some of the buildings also accept rent payment by credit card, but they may charge a 3% processing fee.
Neighbourhoods I saw buildings in
Based on the recommendations of a friend of a friend who has lived here for 6 months, we walked around a couple of areas
In the map above:
- This area is lush and mostly residential, and has a nice balance of local and modern vibe. The roads are small and winding, meaning traffic noise is fairly limited. You'll see lots of guesthouses in this area.
- A lot of higher-rent modern condos here, especially in the areas closer to the Maya mall. It's pretty close to many modern amenities you're going to need.
- This is a lush, commercial area with a lot of cafes and restaurants. But it's also very touristy with a lot of Chinese and Western tourists. This is pretty much is the Nimmanhemin area that people refer to.
- This is a very local area, and visibly much less "upscale" than areas 1-3 above. Parts of it feels almost rural. Rent is cheaper here than areas 1-3.
- These prices below are mainly based on what I saw in the area east of Nimmanhemin (north west of the old city). I also saw one apartment south east of the old city, and I'd say those prices are probably 20-30% less than these prices below.
- For "standard" rooms (studios), the rent I saw were typically between 5,000 and 8,000 baht per month.
- For 1-bedroom, rent ranged from 12,000 to 18,000 per month.
- For 2-bedroom, rent is around 25,000-30,000 per month.
- On top of the rent, most of the apartments also charge separately for water and electricity. Internet is a mixed-bag.
- Electricity is almost always quoted "per unit" of measure (I'm not sure what a unit is, maybe Watt-Hour?), ranging from 5 to 8 baht per unit. I was told that at 8 baht per unit worked out to about 1,200 baht per month, for moderate usage (i.e. not blasting AC on 24-7).
- Water can be quoted either per unit, or per month. Per unit prices I saw ranged from 25-40 baht per unit. Per month prices I saw ranged from 100-250 baht per month per apartment.
- For internet, I've seen apartments that provide free public wifi and apartments that charge for wifi. I'm sure there are also apartments that require you to set up your own wifi (I can't remember if I've seen these or not). The wifi speed of the public wifi is usually pretty mediocre (4-6 Mbps), but the apartment I ended up taking has a blazing fast free public wifi (28 Mbps).
- In the low season (March-October), you will have a lot of success negotiating discounts of 1,000-2,000 per month off the quoted price. Just straight up ask for discounts. In the peak season, you'll probably find it hard to get discounts.
- Most of the apartments I saw were furnished (including air conditioning)
- Some buildings are "serviced", meaning they provide weekly cleaning, fresh towels and sheets
- Some buildings provide en suite washing machine, but I'd say 70% do not. Dryer is almost never provided
- Most newer buildings have gym and pool on the building grounds. Older buildings most likely won't. The gyms are usually very small though, just a few treadmills and ellipticals.
The apartment I ended up taking
Name: P.T. Residence
Location: 10-minute walk to the Maya mall (Rimping supermarket, movie theatre, optical store, etc.); 10-minute walk to Central Kad Suan Keaw (another mall with a bigger supermarket)
Rent: 15,000 baht per month for a 4-month commitment starting in June. Landlord willing to maintain the same rent for 5th and 6th month if I wanted, despite those months being busy season.