enterance gate into Old City Chiang Mai in the as the sun is shining onto the clouds / Is Chiang Mai Expensive

Is Chiang Mai Expensive to Visit? Cost Guide

Chiang Mai is one of the most visited places in Thailand every year, but is Chiang Mai expensive to visit?

No, Chiang Mai isn’t expensive to visit; in fact, Chiang Mai is the cheapest place to visit in Thailand!

But just how cheap is Chiang Mai to visit? The average cost for a seven-day trip for one person to Chiang Mai is $322 US per traveler.

In this article, I’ll cover budget-friendlymid-range, and luxurious ways to enjoy Chiang Mai. All figures are averages; costs can be even cheaper or higher depending on your spending.

Average daily costs include hotel, eating out, and activities/day tour costs. Have a look, and see which daily cost best suits your travel style and budget!

Visitor TypeHotelsFoodTransportationActivitiesAverage Day Cost
Budget$11$6$0$5$22 US
Mid-Range$22$11$4$9$46 US
Luxury$170$50$17$14$254+ US
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the main river that goes around Old City Chiang Mai at sunset / scams in Chiang Mai

How to Get to Chiang Mai

The best way to get to Chiang Mai is by flying into its airport, Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX).

For many travelers, you will need to connect somewhere. Not all destinations fly into Chiang Mai International Airport.

Alternatively, you may already be in Thailand, and you’d like to come visit Chiang Mai. No matter where you may be in Thailand, all domestic airports have flights into CNX.

If you’re coming from Bangkok, you have the option of taking a flight, the sleeper train, or a coach bus.

To buy tickets and see which works best for you, use 12GO for all your transportation needs to Chiang Mai!

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai

Being the large city it is, Chiang Mai is full of hotels to choose from scattered all over the city.

In Chiang Mai, you’ll find plenty of mid-range hotels and several hostels to choose from. There are a few 5-star luxury accommodations as well, but not nearly as many as the other two accommodation categories.

Budget Hotel Prices: $7 – $14 US

Mid-Range Hotel Average Prices: $20 – $50 US

Luxury Hotel Average Prices: $150 – $240 US

Below, I’ve compiled the best hotels in Chiang Mai by budget type for you. Keep in mind Chiang Mai is affordable to visit, so spending a little more on your hotel usually comes with quite an upgrade!

small charming side street with palm trees, shops and restaurants in Chiang Mai

Cheap Hotels in Chiang Mai

Hidden Garden Hostel  Top-ranked hostel offering exceptional clean and beautiful decor, with a pool, working space and located right by a night market

Revolution Hostel Known for its vibrant communal space, offering both private and dorm-style rooms. Located a minute’s walk from many night markets and Old City Chiang Mai

Mid Range Hotels in Chiang Mai

Pingviman Hotel A stunning relaxing boutique hotel near Nong Buak Park in the Old City, it’s also near the Old City River and many restaurants/shops

Phor Liang Meun Well-decorated hotel with a modern and old-school look, located on the edge of the Old City in an excellent location

Luxury Hotels in Chiang Mai

Shangri-La Chiang Mai Swanky hotel with excellent amenities in a fantastic area; a few minutes walk away from many restaurants and the city’s vibrant night markets

InterContential  A contemporary, luxurious modern hotel located in the Old City of Chiang Mai, with nearby shops, restaurants, and massage parlors

views of the Chiang Mai river, surrounded by trees and floral flowers

Eating Out in Chiang Mai

One of the best aspects of Chiang Mai is its outstanding northern Thai cuisine and many dining options throughout the city.

The cost to eat out in Chiang Mai is quite affordable; walking around the city, it’s easy to find meals throughout the city for around 80 – 120 Baht, which is $2.27 – $3.40 US.

From humble local eateries to fast food options and fine dining worldly cuisine, you can find it all in Chiang Mai!

Below, I’ve shared some of my favorite restaurants in Chiang Mai marked by category cost.

Breakfast is $2-6 US

Lunch is $2-7 US

Dinner is $3-9+ US

red curry Khao Soi served with three side toppings at Khao Soi Doi Nang

Cheap Restaurants in Chiang Mai

Khao Soy Maesai: Known as the top Khao Soy spot in the city, last three year Michelin Guide winners; get ready to wait in line; it’s worth it

Ancient Beef Cuisine: Near the Ping River, Ancient Beef is a halal restaurant serving many various beef dishes with rich flavors; their complimentary soup is delicious (free refills, too)

Khao Soi Doi Nang: Specializing only in Khao Soi, Chiang Mai’s most famous dish in four different meat options

TIP: Local cuisine is always far cheaper than any other food you may consider

Mid Range Restaurants in Chiang Mai

Tong Tem Toh: Famous amongst tourists/locals, Tong Tem dishes out great Nothern Thai food and is located in the popular Nimmanhaemin neighborhood

Ekachan The Wisdom: Representing both North and Southern Thai cuisine, known for their TomYum soup, spicy beef salad, and prawns over curry

Fine Dining Restaurants in Chiang Mai

Rasik Local Kitchen: Dishing out contemporary Thai food with only seasonal ingredients; expect various meats and seafood, with a variety of wine

Kiti Panit: Located in an old renovated mansion, Kiti Panit focuses on a small but well-executed menu representing Nothern cuisine; recently, Michelin Guide awarded.

a beef based dish with rice and thai chili peppers at Kiti Panit in Chiang Mai
Kiti Panit

Night Markets

Don’t forget about the many night markets in Chiang Mai all over the city, which are always the best place to get an evening snack or affordable evening meal!

All night markets open at 5:00 PM till around 10 – 11:00 PM.

  • Anusarn Market
  • Kalare Night Bazaar
  • Ploen Rudee Night Market
  • Phae Gate Sunday Night Market (the most famous night market, only on Sundays)

Tipping in Chiang Mai

In Thailand, it’s not a norm to tip, but it’s greatly appreciated when done so. In Chiang Mai, tipping is slowly becoming more accepted but isn’t expected.

If you’re at a fine-dining restaurant or massage parlor, you can leave a 10-15% tip if you enjoyed the service.

As for taxis, bars, and other scenarios, rounding up the bill as a tip makes the most sense!

several locals and tourists sitting eating at a popular night market in Chiang MAi

Chiang Mai Day Tours & Activities

There are plenty of unique and fun day trips in Chiang Mai to attend. From day trips to national parks like Doi Inthanon, many elephant sanctuaries, jungle trekking, cooking classes, and more!

For those visiting Chiang Mai for more than five days, consider a day trip to Chiang Rai or a weekend trip to Pai!

The average cost for tours in Chiang Mai ranges from 1200-2800 Baht per person for each tour, which is $34 to $80 US.

If you’re visiting Chiang Mai on a budget, there are plenty of free things to do in Chiang Mai. Explore the many Buddhist temples, check out the Old City, and take on one of the many famous hiking trails in Chiang Mai.

Another excellent option for a quiet evening is checking out Nong Buak Haad Public Park.

Elephant Sanctuaries

Chiang Mai is most famous for its many elephant sanctuaries, and there are more elephants in Chiang Mai than anywhere else in Thailand.

This is because of Chiang Mai’s countryside and the city’s commitment to both sustainable and ethical tourism.

Activities you can participate in at the elephant sanctuaries are feeding the elephants, getting down and dirty in the mud with the elephants, and then bathing in the river with them.

There aren’t any elephant sanctuaries in Chiang Mai that offer to ride, and this is for ethical reasons; you should never ride an elephant.

Some tours then offer hikes to waterfalls, followed by a group lunch or dinner.

two elephants at a sanctuary in the countryside of Chiang Mai, Thailand

Doi Inthanon National Park

One of the most popular attractions in Chiang Mai is Doi Inthanon National Park, a stunning park full of many things to explore, including waterfalls, tribal villages, hiking trails, and breathtaking viewpoints.

But what Doi Inthanon National Park is most famous for is the highest peak point in all of Thailand, also referred to as the “Roof of Thailand“.

On a hot sunny day in Chiang Mai, this park makes for the perfect escape due to its cooler climate because of the elevation.

Cooking Class / Farm Visit

Chiang Mai is one of the best places in Thailand to experience a cooking class due to its vibrant culinary scene. After all, Chiang Mai is home to Nothern Thai cuisine and some of the most famous Thai dishes.

On this cooking tour featuring a farm visit, you will first visit a local farm in a small group to source the ingredients to make the various dishes.

Then, an instructor will guide you on how to make three different popular Thai dishes, Tom Yum Koong, Pad Thai, Pad Kra Prao, and then a dessert!

a plate of seafood Pad Thai made to perfection at Only Noodles in Phi Phi islands

Chiang Rai Day Trip

Visiting Chiang Rai when in Chiang Mai is one of the top attractions to do when visiting; the city is home to the famous White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), an iconic landmark.

Other notable attractions in Chiang Rai are the Blue Temple, the famous Golden Triangle, the Clock Tower, and more. On this full day tour you will experience everything Chaing Rai has to offer!

A unique experience some may enjoy is visiting some of the local hill tribes that live amongst small villages on the way to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai.

Pai Weekend Trip

Located in the north of Chiang Mai in the charming countryside of Northern Thailand is Pai, a small charming town with plenty of things to do and lively nightlife.

Pai is a popular place to disconnect, come relax, and meet other travelers. There are many yoga retreats here and other spiritual events taking place every weekend.

Part of Pai’s attraction is the unique accommodations found here, from huts along the rice fields to hotels by the Pai River and more!

To get to Pai from Chiang Mai, you must take a white minibus for three hours north.

food vendors, lantern lights during the start of a lively night in Pai, Thailand

Getting Around Chiang Mai

There are a few different ways to get around Chiang Mai, but there’s only one public transportation option, and that’s the Songthaew (shared taxi red pick up trucks).

The average cost for a trip around Chiang Mai using Grab/Taxi/TukTuk tends to range around 80 – 120 Baht / $2.27 – $3.50 US per trip.

Chiang Mai Songthaew: These are shared red pickup truck taxis that drive around Chiang Mai, picking up passengers along the way.

They’re the cheapest way to get around from around 30-70 baht per ride. But understand your 15-minute trip may take 40 minutes due to other passengers’ destinations.

Use Grab/Bolt: Both Grab and Bolt are similar to Uber; both are popular apps for ride-sharing in SE Asia. It’s usually cheaper to use both apps than to take a taxi.

Rent a Scooter: There are several scooter rental shops around the city where you can rent a scooter per day to get around Chiang Mai.

Taxi or TukTuk: Walking around Chiang Mai, you’ll notice several taxis and tuk-tuks ready to take you around the city. Both are great ways to get around but avoid any scams that may occur.

Walking: Many areas in Chiang Mai are perfect for walking around; if you stay in one of the main areas around the city, you can walk everywhere. Unless you’re looking to explore other parts of the city, then you’ll be looking at a 20+ minute walk.

scooters and cars driving by near the ancient old City walls in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Around Town Coffee

Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai

There’s a limited window of time when the weather conditions are ideal in Chiang Mai; the best time to visit Chiang Mai is from November to March. Here’s a breakdown of the different weather periods in the year for Chiang Mai.

November – January: At this time of year, you can expect many dry days, with lots of sunshine and low humidity. This is by far the best time of the year to visit Chiang Mai.

February – April: These three months in Northern Thailand are the burning season. A time when farmers burn crops, and the air quality index becomes some of the worst in the world in Chiang Mai. It’s best to avoid visiting during this time.

May – October: Considered the off-season in Chiang Mai, during this time, you can get lucky with sunshine some days, but heavy rainfall some days and high humidity levels are to be expected.

several stunning palm trees around a bond and a picturesque bridge at the Nong Buak Haad Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Is Chiang Mai Expensive to Live?

Many are first persuaded to visit Chiang Mai for the idea of possibly relocating for a few months or permanently moving to Chiang Mai.

It’s easy to see why: there are plenty of things to do here, a thriving nomad community, high internet speeds, and the cost of living is low!

The average monthly spend for a single person in Chiang Mai ranges between $670 – $890 USD/month; this includes an apartment, food, utilities, and transportation.

Average Housing Costs: Expect to spend $300+ US/month for an apartment. Short-term rentals will cost slightly more.

When eating out and buying groceries, expect to spend $200+ US/month, and this figure could easily be lower, depending on how often you eat out and your diet.

Regarding transportation, the average price for a monthly scooter rental is 3000 Baht/$84 US/month.

If you choose to live in one of the many walkable areas in Chiang Mai, you may not even need to rent a scooter since you’ll walk to most places you need to go to and when you need to get somewhere further in the city, you can always use one of the many ways to get around Chiang Mai.

Monthly costs were calculated with the help of Numbeo and GlobalPrice.

Ancient walls at the corner of Old City Chiang Mai, separated between a river

Is Chiang Mai Expensive to Visit? — Final Thoughts

So, what do you think? Is Chiang Mai expensive to visit? Chiang Mai is cheap to visit, not only on a global scale but also in Thailand.

Especially compared to other popular beach destinations in Thailand, like Phuket, Koh Samui and others!

Chiang Mai is an ideal destination for many, besides the fact it’s so cost-effective to visit; it’s not like you’re visiting some remote small town. Chiang Mai is one of the largest cities in Thailand, with plenty to do, great accommodations, and everything one may need when visiting/living here.

Large cities in most countries in the world tend to be one of the more expensive places to visit in said country. Luckily, this isn’t the case for Chiang Mai, which is another reason why Chiang Mai is a must-visit!

a vibrant sky at the Khlong Mae Kha Bridge in Chiang Mai

How much is a meal in Chiang Mai?

The average meal from a local restaurant in Chiang Mai costs 100 Baht, which is about $2.90 US.

Is Chaing Mai cheaper than Bangkok?

Chiang Mai is slightly cheaper than Bangkok in regards to visiting, but for living, Chiang Mai is fairly cheaper than Bangkok.

Do I need cash in Chaing Mai?

Yes, Chiang Mai is a city that heavily operates on cash. There are restaurants and large grocery stores that accept cards, but for the most part, most places only accept cash.

Is Chiang Mai cheaper than Phuket?

Chiang Mai is far cheaper than Phuket. The average daily expenditure in Chiang Mai for tourists is $47 US/day, compared to Phuket, where it’s $120 US/day. There’s quite a difference in cost for Chiang Mai vs Phuket.

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2 Comments

  1. PLEASE give map links to the suggested restaurants etc …

    1. Thanks for your comment Tom, I’ve added all mentioned restaurants location links. Enjoy 🙂

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