Chiang Mai, Thailand: The Best Travel Cheap to Paradise Home Base at $16 Per Day

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Thailand might be the best overall travel cheap to paradise country in the world.  And, if you come to that conclusion, you may also determine that the Nimmana area of Chiang Mai is the best place to live in Thailand starting at $16 per day.

After leaving China, I spent a few days in Bangkok with friends from India.  Then I headed north to cool off in the mountains of Thailand, at Chiang Mai.  Bangkok was a bit too warm for my taste, and I hadn’t been to Chiang Mai in a decade.  

While in Chiang Mai, I first stayed at Nimman Boutique Resort ($17/night).  It is right in the middle of my favorite neighborhood called Nimmana.   After a few nights there, I found a furnished 1 bedroom condo on for $18/night.  That is the condo in the pics.  Next door, there was a vegan restaurant (Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant) with pumpkin tofu curry $4–out of this world.  


Thailand might be the best overall travel cheap to paradise country in the world. And, if you come to that conclusion, you may also determine that Chaing Mai is the best place to live in Thailand.  

Here is why:

  1. Great Food:  The Nimmana area of Chiang Mai has an amazing assortment of food from all over the world.  And the great news is that the Nimmana neighborhood is walkable.  So if you stay in that area, you can walk, ride a bike, rent a scooter and try all the great restaurants.  It is so developed that you can use the Internet to find interesting new dinner options or you can just walk around and read menus.  It has that chic feel of an unpolished neighborhood like the east village in NY or Brooklyn.  The following restaurants are more expensive ($4/meal) than the average Thai restaurants ($2-3/meal) in the area because they are more focused on the foreign market.  Just look for your budget.   Lunch/Dinner: Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant, The Salad Concept, Blue Diamond, Dada Kafe, Bodhi Tree Cafe, Taste From Heaven.  Breakfast: The Larder Cafe and Bar, Birds Nest
  2. Great Nightlife:  Again, a walk around Nimmana is going to be a great start to your nightlife in Chiang Mai.  You will hear live and DJ music, acoustic and electronic.  Just let your ears guide you.  When you hear your sound, stop in and order a drink and listen.  Continue your walk when as soon as the music strays away from your taste.  The walk won’t be long before you hear something else you like.  
  3. Great Medical and Dental.
  4. Great Weather:  The weather is amazing year round.  You may want to head to the beach for burn season.  The burn season is when local farmers burn the brush off their land to prepare for planting crops.  The air is too smokey then so don’t go.  It starts around February and ends in April. That is also the hot season, it is better not to be there in February, March, and April.  Honestly, you need to explore other parts of SE Asia then anyway, so no harm no foul.  This not a bad time to visit Hanoi?  
  5. Running Path with Workout Stations:  Princess Mother’s Health Garden    
  6. Still Relatively Cheap:  You can get a decent hotel room for about $17/night, a neighborhood restaurant is about $2/meal, and a high-end restaurant is about $9/meal.  Beer is less than $1 in the store and less than $2 on most restaurants.  A hostel dormitory is about $9/night.  A furnished 1 bedroom condo including an equipped kitchen is about $20.00 per night.    
  7. Ancient Temples:  There are many guided temple tours available around the city and surrounding areas.  Just google the pictures of the various temples in the area.  Select the temples you find most attractive and get a guide or tour to explain the amazing history of this place as you take pictures of each temple.   
  8. Night Market:  Grab a tuk-tuk to the night market and enjoy great food, live music, and souvenir shopping.  
  9. Travel Hub: flies in and out of Chiang Mai International Airport and even has direct international flights to destinations outside of Thailand.  So it makes a great base to explore other parts of SE Asia and the world.   

There is something very magical about Thailand and that is why I keep returning.  But Nimmana has that something extra that makes it feel like a place I could call home.  I think it is at least partially because there are so many western expats living in a small area.  A culture of locals chasing a premium western palate has sprung up in Nimmana.  These western foreigners are willing to pay extra to get exactly what they want.  This has created enough consistent year round demand to remain focused on western foods.  There are also many western chiefs that have fallen in love with Nimmana and have brought their craft to the area.  This concentration of a very specific demand in a relatively defined area has made Nimmana unique.   

Whereas, in places like Bangkok, or the beaches of Thailand, the international tourism is more diverse and less western focused, so the restaurants are chasing a more diversified palate.  

After a month in Chiang Mai, I headed off to Malaysia.  I left the USA 9 years ago and Malaysia will be the 60th country I have visited.  Stay tuned. 

Monthly Multiplier: Chiang Mai
Expense Cost Each Low Medium High
Airbnb (1 Bedroom Apt) $18.00 0 14 30
Moderate Hotel $17.00 0 12 0
Backpacker Hostel $9.00 30 4 0
High End Restaurant $9.00 1 4 8
Neighborhood Restaurant $3.00 30 44 48
Food Cart $2.00 30 12 4
Subway/Train/Metro $0.00 20 26 8
Bus $0.60 20 10 0
Taxi $3.00 6 10 20
Total Per Month $459.00 $720.00 $824.00
Total Per Day $15.30 $24.00 $27.47

To learn more about the monthly multiplier, visit The Best Travel Cheap To Paradise Locations in the world.

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