Chiang Mai on the Cheap: the Unbrave Girl’s Guide to (Reluctant) Budget Living

January 27, 2011

Last week, I left the lovely city of Chiang Mai, Thailand after living there for a grand total of three and a half months. As this is the longest time I had stayed in any one place for the past year, you’d think I would have managed to do and see a lot of things while I was there.

You’d really think that, wouldn’t you?

I actually thought that, too… until three and a half months rolled by and I realized the only sight I had managed to see the entire time I was there was the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders. (Should you ever visit Chiang Mai, by the way, I strongly recommend you check out this museum. Mind you, the term “museum” is used loosely here; as is the term “natural wonders”. Unless I’m mistaken and the term includes surrealist paintings of naked ladies cradling mosquitoes the size of Golden Retrievers in their laps — which is pretty much a wonder in my book; just maybe not a natural one.)

So, yeah, I didn’t see much or do much while I was in Chiang Mai.

But I have an excuse.

You see, I was on a budget.

It pains me to say this.

Like physically pains me.

Budget is such an ugly word, don’t you think? Maybe if it sounded more glamorous and fun, I could get behind it. I wouldn’t mind “being on a glitteret” or “sticking to a budjaraoo.”

But “budget”?

I feel frumpy just thinking that word.

Might as well just call it blah-get.

After being without a job for eleven months (you know, the kind that actually pays you in cash-money), I had to do a few things I don’t like to admit (or even say out loud). Budgeting was just one of them. Applying for a camp teaching position that would require me to wear a uniform and perform rap songs in front of three hundred Chinese elementary school children was another. (I didn’t get the job. Apparently my lack of enthusiasm for any job involving a uniform and screaming out modified versions of songs by Naughty By Nature is evident in my resume.)

Should you, too, need to watch your budjaroo (humor me, here) while traveling, I have compiled this fine list of tips for the most reluctant of frugalistas (Lordy. I can’t even believe I just used that word in a sentence. I know “frugalista” is supposed to make the word “frugal” sound fun, sexy and of potential Latin American origins, but it’s just not working. The Spanish language called; it would like Americans to stop using its suffixes for evil.)

1. Save Money, Settle Down

Staying in guesthouses, catching buses and trains everywhere and doing all kinds of fun touristy things like, ummm, leaving your room can get expensive!

The first step to cutting back on your travel expenses is to stop traveling.


I’m not saying you should do anything drastic like go home and find a job. (Please. That’s just crazy-talk!).

All you have to do is find a home! And, hey, it’s not as hard as it sounds. I did it, and I can barely manage to get myself out of bed before noon on a regular basis.

So how hard can it be?

Admittedly, Chiang Mai is a pretty easy place to settle down for a bit. Short-term apartment rentals are cheap and plentiful. I landed a furnished, studio apartment in the trendy Nimmanhaemin district after approximately two hours of hardcore apartment hunting. (Okay, maybe not that hardcore… a great portion of that time was spent sipping a smoothie and checking out the menu of the Mexican restaurant across the street — you know, it’s important to research the neighborhood!).

My rent, including furniture-rental, electricity and water, cost less than $200 a month. Compared to a guesthouse, which can easily cost $10 to $15 a night, this was a steal. Plus, I didn’t have to worry about any pesky housekeepers coming in to my room at the crack of dawn (err… anytime before noon) and waking me up just so they could clean my room. Instead, I got to sleep as late as I wanted in silence… and, admittedly, in squalor. (Hey, privacy has a price. And it’s paid for with dust bunnies.)

Once you have secured a place to live, you are officially no longer a tourist and, therefore, don’t have to feel inclined to do anything costly and remotely touristy.

After all, you live here!

Want to go to a museum? Ride an elephant? Take a cooking class? Go on a jungle trek? Pet a tiger? Plummet towards your death on a zip line?

Nope, you live here.

Want to go buy souvenirs at the night market?

Nope, you live here.

Want to leave your apartment?

Nope, you live here.

As you can imagine, you can save hundreds, possibly thousands, of baht each day simply by adopting the attitude of a shut-in… err, resident.

2. Feel Good for Free!

Boredom can make you do all kinds of crazy, pricey things – like weekend trips to Bangkok or night market shopping sprees or online poker.

In order to keep your spending in line, you’re going to need to keep yourself busy – but preferably a free kind of busy.

One great way to keep yourself off the streets (and off the online poker websites) is to volunteer your time.

While I was in Chiang Mai, I worked as a volunteer English teacher with an organization that assisted migrant workers. After my stint on the rice farm and the sailboat, I was happy to finally do a job I actually knew how to do – and one that didn’t put me into regular contact with snakes or sandpaper. Plus, the students were outgoing, eager and a pleasure to teach.

And I didn’t even have to pay a dime to do it!

Talk about win-win-win-win! (I added a couple extra wins in there to make up for the lack of snakes).

Maybe you’re like, “What do you mean, ‘didn’t have to pay a dime’ to volunteer? Isn’t volunteering supposed to be free? I mean, isn’t that the actual definition of volunteering: to offer your help willingly without any kind of payment?”

You’d really think, wouldn’t you?

In fact, I thought that, too, until I first started researching international volunteer opportunities a couple years ago before heading to Nepal to volunteer in an orphanage. It turns out that free volunteer opportunities are pretty hard to come by (unless you’re willing to weed rice paddies or sand sailboats – in that case, free is pretty easy to come by… but so are your chances of injury or death by snake-attack).

Feel-good volunteer opportunities, especially those offering you a chance to work with adorable orphans or some kind of endangered species, tend to cost money — lots and lots of money. The volunteer agency that I worked with in Nepal charged me about $600 for a month-long placement – and that was on the cheap end of the volunteering spectrum. Other agencies I researched charged well over $1,000 for a month. A sea turtle sanctuary in Malaysia that a friend told me about costs $300 a week, while a bear rescue shelter in Cambodia that I emailed charges volunteers over $400 a week.

The fee charged by volunteer agencies usually covers the cost of your room and board as well as administrative costs and, often, a donation to the institution. Sure, the money may be going to a good cause, but it can be pretty prohibitive for the budget traveler… especially if you haven’t really done a very good job of budgeting over the past eleven months. (And by “haven’t really done a very good job” I mean “blown money on hotel rooms that cost more than a new kidney.” So, yeah, you get the idea.)

Plus, to be honest, if I’m shelling out that much money to do work, I’d better go home with my very own sea turtle!

Luckily my Twitter pals from GotPassport were able to hook me up with my  volunteering gig. (If you want your own free volunteering gig in Chiang Mai, you should definitely contact them or check out their website. And then you can send me all the money you would have spent on a pricey volunteer program as a way of thanking me for helping you out. Fair enough, right? I’d also like a sea turtle, please.)

3. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun… Frugally

Just because you’re being thrifty doesn’t mean you can’t afford a little bit of fun. Two of my favorite cheap night out activities in Chiang Mai cost me less than $10 a night.

The first was Thursday night Trivia Night at the U.N. Irish Pub. For a mere $3, your team can sign up to participate; with drinks and food costing extra.

As for that feeling of uselessness you get after not being able to answer a single question since you never really paid much attention to geography… or world history… or sports… or, umm, general knowledge?

That comes absolutely free!

My other favorite cheap night out activity was karaoke.

Having spent three years in Japan, I have experienced karaoke in its many glorious forms — including “costume-play” karaoke which resulted in my wearing a hot pink pleather cop uniform for five hours… only to realize later that the costume I was wearing was actually intended for men… and that pleather doesn’t really breathe so well.

And, here, just to give you an idea of what transpired that night, I give you this (you’re welcome):

I thought I had seen it all. (And, now, I’m pretty sure you probably think you’ve seen it all, too, right? I mean, you’ve seen me in pink pleather… how much worse could it get? Oh, just you wait!).

And then I started doing karaoke in Thailand.

The first karaoke place we visited featured videos of lingerie-clad women frolicking on the top of pool tables while suggestively stroking pool balls… all to the tune of Lee Anne Rimes’ “How Do I Live?”

This is the mental image I will now carry in my mind every time I hear that song. (And now, thanks to the wonders of digital photography, it’s an image you can carry in your mind. You’re welcome… again.)

My favorite karaoke place in Chiang Mai was the Bully Sing-a-Long in Kad Suan Kaew Mall. Not only did I not need to worry about having to watch indecent acts performed on pool tables, the Bully Sing-a-Long has the added bonus of themed rooms!

Themes included:

the Submarine Room…

the Jazz Room…

The, surprisingly tasteful, Erotic Room…

And the not-so-tasteful, Sexy Room. (Yes, those are framed panties on the wall… and, yes, you are welcome for that image, too.).

A night out at the Bully Sing-a-Long, complete with a few bottles of Chang beer and all the karaoke you can handle, usually cost each person in our party about $5.

As for the embarrassing photos of you pretending to be Lady Gaga that keep popping up on Facebook?

Those are all free! Absolutely free! (And, yes… you’re welcome.)

4. Eat More = Spend Less = GENIUS!

Is it me or does all this talk of scrimping make you feel hungry? (Seriously, people, why must all words related to being on a budget sound so… so… gross. Scrimping? Blech, right? That sounds like something shrimp fishermen have to do in the off-season.)

Luckily, being thrifty doesn’t mean you have to go hungry!

Chiang Mai is rife with day markets, night markets and cheap roadside restaurants that serve up whole meals for less than a dollar a plate. One of my favorite places for cheap meals was Chiang Mai Gate, where food stalls are set up nightly and you could get a plate of pad see ew, a watermelon smoothie and a heaping pile of hot donuts for less than two dollars.

Should you be really hungry (like maybe you haven’t eaten in five to eight days) and you want to really splurge on dinner (like a whole $10 or so), I recommend checking out one of the popular moo kata places in town. Literally “pork skillet,” moo kata is a kind of barbecue cooked on a dome-shaped metal pan over a pot of hot coals at your table.

Moo kata restaurants are roughly the same size of an airplane hangar and feature a rustic barn-like atmosphere.

The food is served buffet-style in large vats that occupy the center of the restaurant. On offer is everything from piles of gooey, uncooked meats…

…to piles of… umm… these things.

I’m usually not into cooking my own food – especially when I’m at a restaurant where I should be paying someone to cook my meal. (It’s kind of like paying to volunteer. I’m sure the money is going to a good cause — like to buy more of whatever those things are up there in that picture. But I still don’t want to do it.)

After a couple times at the moo kata restaurant, I started to enjoy cooking my meal — maybe it was the element of danger — what with that big huge pot of hot coals right there at my table. Or maybe it was all the beer I drank.

I had a good time.

And I ate way too much.

But I had an excuse.

I was on a budget.

You see, if you leave any portion of your meal unfinished at a moo kata restaurant, you have to pay for the uneaten food on your table. So it’s actually cost-effective to shovel every bit of food into your face.

Hey, maybe this budgeting thing isn’t so bad after all!



I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On January 27, 2011 at 8:00 am Staffa said:

    Awesome article! You make a great pink man-cop!

    • On January 27, 2011 at 8:54 am Sally said:

      I did make a good pink man-cop, didn’t I? I loved that place. Now if only I could find a karaoke place that does costumes AND theme rooms, I’d be in heaven!

  2. On January 27, 2011 at 8:52 am Theodora said:

    This is a great list on how to economise. We’re sittting in Ubud, Bali, doing more of the same, while I top up our travel budget.

    And glad you enjoyed the UN Irish Pub. Did you ever do Hash House Harriers? We considered it, having been told we could walk it, but it looked a bit running-ish to us…

    We volunteered for free in Chiang Mai, at the orphanage, so I do think it’s possible to find free volunteering opportunities, and ethical ones too, pretty much everywhere you look in the world. As with the good accommmodation deals, it’s about asking around once you’re there, though, rather than looking online.
    Theodora recently posted..Confession- I’m a Rubbish Traveller

    • On January 27, 2011 at 8:56 am Sally said:

      I haven’t done Hash House Harriers — I have lots of friends who used to do it in Japan & recommend it as a great way for meeting people while traveling & living abroad. Frankly, I haven’t gone running in a loooong time, so I wasn’t really up for it — plus, I’m more of a solitary exerciser. If there’s a chance of my having to wear spandex or exert any kind of effort, it’s best I just do it on my own! Although I did enjoy doing races in Japan — I’m hoping to get back into it while in China. We will see!

  3. On January 27, 2011 at 9:41 am Bubba said:

    Sally, Sally, Sally – We at Team Chiang Mai miss you terribly! But reading your blog makes me feel like you’re still here… 555! So true, CM is awesome for living on the cheap, but it’s also quality living, not living on peanuts (but peanuts with your pad thai for 25 Baht). Maybe we’ll meet you again, in China!
    Bubba recently posted..Travelers- Be a Gracious Guest- Not a Pest

    • On January 27, 2011 at 2:15 pm Sally said:

      True that. I never really felt like I was living cheaply in Chiang Mai. Probably because I wasn’t doing a very good job of it… and because I was rich in friends! (Corny but true. Miss you, guys!)

  4. On January 27, 2011 at 10:47 am Lindsay said:

    Great one! Miss you!

  5. On January 27, 2011 at 10:52 am MaryAnne said:

    Maybe I just need to quit my cash-money paying job here in China and go eat/drink/sleep in CM… you did it with such flair and so many cookies! Admirable! I’ve kind of ceased to bud*et in any way in Shanghai. I should maybe try to pretend I’m being careful and saving for the future and stuff.
    MaryAnne recently posted..101 Things About Shanghai The Bund- reformatted

    • On January 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm Sally said:

      Yeah, me and the Word Formerly Known as Budget didn’t really see much of each other when I had a paying gig. I’m hoping I’ll be able to continue my new, slightly spendthrifty self while I’m in China so I can save up for my future travels… rather than just blow all my money on sparkly shoes. But I do so hate feeling cheap (Yet, another word I DESPISE) and depriving myself of stuff (like sparkly shoes!).

  6. On January 27, 2011 at 11:00 am Michelle said:

    No wonder so many Asian men like karaoke. LOL Like you, I find I have more fun and have better memories when trying to do things on the cheap when traveling. Great post! =)
    Michelle recently posted..Harold and Kumar Would Love This

    • On January 27, 2011 at 2:09 pm Sally said:

      Oh, see, I love a splurge and in Japan I got used to the good life. But it’s nice to know I can still cut back on expenses and have a good time. I am looking forward to finally being able to make money again, though — just hope I won’t spend it all as fast as I’m making it!

  7. On January 27, 2011 at 1:46 pm Laura said:

    Ooh pleather. Lurv it! Thanks for sharing all those classy photos 😉
    Laura recently posted..Memories of My First Safari- Masai Mara &amp Lake Nakuru Part 1

  8. On January 27, 2011 at 8:36 pm Lorna - the roamantics said:

    LOVE it!!! a how to with hoots & hollers 🙂 great tips here sally! have been to chiang mai but only stayed a couple of weeks there. would definitely consider longer-term and shocked (and happy) you can get an apt. so cheap! sure CM will miss you 🙂
    Lorna – the roamantics recently posted..And Then There Was One

    • On January 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm Sally said:

      My apartment was in the mid-range price level for my neighborhood, but I know you can get places for a lot cheaper. My neighborhood was also a bit of a trek from the Old Town, but very conveniently located to the CMU campus (nice for walks!) and my work. Plus, there was a pool in the complex and a Mexican restaurant across the street (Admittedly, I spent a lot more time drinking margaritas than I did swimming… but, you know, whatever you’re into).
      If you’re looking for more info on renting in CM check out the Got Passport’s post on accommodation suggestions:
      And I miss CM very much! Great people, great food, great weather, great karaoke!

  9. On January 27, 2011 at 9:10 pm Andrew said:

    Ahh yes the life of a foreign shut-in …err exotic expat. 🙂 Beer at home is cheaper than beer in the bars. And late at night TV gets far more interesting as the documentaries on dirt end and the odd stripper call-in shows start.

    I love the pictures of that restaurant. I honestly don’t mind cooking my own food. Then I know it is burned properly.
    Andrew recently posted..Peeing in Winter

    • On January 28, 2011 at 6:56 am Sally said:

      Truthfully, most of my late nights were spent on Twitter as the weird call-in shows in Thailand weren’t in English. But Twitter has plenty of wackos… err, really NICE people.

  10. On January 27, 2011 at 10:58 pm Heather said:

    Staying in the flat is pretty much how I spent all of my days off from work. I did have to leave to get groceries and take the occasional walk or jog to help make the macaron mission remotely possible. But I was *living* here so didn’t have to go out, stay constantly busy, and spend heaps, right?! My flat mate started to think my butt had become one with the couch after a while 😛 Back me up Sally!

    Hoping to be in CM for at least a few weeks between Oz and home — now I know where to go for karaoke!
    Heather recently posted..Sydney- The Inner West is Best

  11. On January 27, 2011 at 11:22 pm Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker said:

    I think I’ll move to CM for a few months later this year. My friends better not be gone by then. #TeamCM4Life
    Dustin Main – Skinny Backpacker recently posted..Photo Essay- Unreal Antarctica

  12. On January 28, 2011 at 2:32 am Cristine said:

    Love this post Sally! And the pics, too!

    Too bad I wasn’t able to join the Karaoke sessions. I have missed a lot of fun stuff!

  13. On January 28, 2011 at 11:50 am Erica said:

    If I can get some work to fun our trip a bit I think we’re going to end up in Chiang Mai sometime at the beginning of next year. *crosses fingers*

    But honestly, it doesn’t get much better than… shoveling meat into your face. *TWSS* HA!

    It is a shame that we won’t get a chance to karaoke together. I’m always down for some “Friends in Low Places” or “La Bamba” (sang that one in Tokyo!) if you are!
    Erica recently posted..Travel Photography – A Peek into Segovian Life

    • On January 28, 2011 at 1:24 pm Sally said:

      My go-to karaoke songs are (because I know you want to know):
      1. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (obviously)
      2. These Boots Are Made for Walking (complete with boots dance)
      3. Dancing Queen (a bit high for my voice range, but I do what I can)
      4. Love Shack (sadly not available at the Chiang Mai karaoke place)
      5. Bad Romance (as the photo can attest to).

      But I think I could manage a little “Friends in Low Places.”

  14. On January 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm Megan said:

    I’m happy you were able to stick to your budget. I had to get a job because a week after I moved to BKK I decided to get an apartment out of my price range. Still, every time I come home and see the unobstructed view from my 26th floor window, I feel happy, so it’s okay.

    By the way, what in the HELL is going on in that karaoke video? And did you ever see the 30 Rock where Jenna was in a Korean (or Japanese) karaoke video? Hilarious!
    Megan recently posted..Challenge- Toilet Paper

    • On January 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm Sally said:

      Well, overall, in the past 11 eleven months I did not keep to my travel budget at all. I justified a few swanky hotel stays in Malaysia because I “deserved it” (and I did! truly!). And I tend to like to eat… a lot… and not always at night markets and such. So by the time I hit Chiang Mai I was pretty low on funds and either needed to cut back my spending or start selling my organs. Luckily Chiang Mai was a great place to cut back on expenses in the only way I know how — staying in my room! (It helped that I had cable).

  15. On January 29, 2011 at 3:10 am Ali said:

    That pink pleather costume is HILARIOUS! Also, I can’t get that damn “how do I live” song out of my head now.
    Ali recently posted..My Twitter Love Story

    • On January 29, 2011 at 4:14 am Sally said:

      Remember: while singing the song in your head, you should also be visualizing pool tables with scantily clad women. It’s how LeeAnne Rimes would want it… I’m sure!

  16. On January 29, 2011 at 6:13 am Alouise said:

    Ha I love budjaroo. I think I’m gonna have to borrow it while I keep track of my finances. Nice tips though, I can see why people love Chiang Mai.
    Alouise recently posted..I Have Always Depended On The Kindness of Strangers

    • On January 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm Sally said:

      I would also suggest you replace the word “finances” with “unicorns.” That way you can tell all your friends you’re tracking unicorns! They’re going to be sooooo jealous!

  17. On January 29, 2011 at 1:54 pm FearfulGirl said:

    Your budjaroos, pleathers and win-win-win-wins had me ROFL like those little pink and white items pictured in that mystery food vat. Aren’t they just little ROFL emoticons? The ones on the left look like prawns in metamorphosis. They’ll emerge from their cocoons as … butterprawns! Oh jeez, somebody stop me.

    • On January 29, 2011 at 2:55 pm Sally said:

      Emoticon mystery meat? That must be what they were! But they tasted like fish paste. So weird… (Admittedly, it was kind of fun watching them wallow in boiling water. Okay, I probably shouldn’t have admitted that.)

  18. On January 30, 2011 at 6:06 am Randy said:

    Love it! We may be heading to Chiang Mai soon and, dare I say, on a budget so your tips are a big help.

  19. On January 30, 2011 at 9:50 pm Suzy said:

    You wonder what sort of factory makes pink pleather hats, or do I want to know. I like renting apartments too when I travel. It is definitely a great way to save money and be a travel shut-in ha!
    Suzy recently posted..Barra de Potosí- Mexico Wishes You Were Here

    • On January 30, 2011 at 11:06 pm Sally said:

      “Travel shut-in.” I love it. I think that’s what I’m going to call myself… no more traveler versus tourist debate. I’m a travel shut-in & proud of it, dangit!

  20. On January 31, 2011 at 7:35 pm Laurel said:

    This post takes me back to when I lived in Lampang and used to escape to Chiang Mai on the cheap for the weekends. The good thing about Thailand is that really good food is so cheap and so are the massages. It’s by far my favorite place to be broke! Glad to hear you’re enjoying it!
    Laurel recently posted..Best Way to Learn a Language – Besides Speaking It

  21. On February 2, 2011 at 1:03 am Michi said:

    I LOVED this!!! (And I love your site! I’ve been lurking around and have finally gotten around to commenting on your awesomeness).

    When I came back from Europe after two years away, my mom couldn’t believe how thin I’d gotten (and how brittle my nails were) and wanted to know WHAT was going on.

    Of course, a tiny budget and my love for traveling was what was going on!

    I honestly think that those of us that travel on a budget have the best (and maybe even the most authentic) experiences abroad. 🙂
    Michi recently posted..It Takes a Village…

    • On February 2, 2011 at 2:41 am Sally said:

      Hi Michi,
      I had a similar experience when I first lived in London — lost tons of weight from eating nothing but crackers and tomatoes for an entire summer. Unfortunately, the food in Chiang Mai was so cheap & delicious (and usually deep-fried), I ended up gaining weight. But I gained it all authentically, that’s for sure!
      Thanks for commenting & happy to hear you’re enjoying my blog!

  22. On February 2, 2011 at 5:33 pm Christy said:

    Hi Sally! I just discovered your blog from, I *believe*, Rolf Potts, and right away I couldn’t stop reading. In fact, reading your stuff is what kept me from my own blog all night, until I finally posted something of a cop-out entry. (Caveat: I’m completely new to blogging & don’t really have a clue what I’m doing)
    I can relate to what you and Michi were saying above- one of my favorite travel experiences was in Nicaragua last winter- and it’s a good thing there was free fruit and a lot of generous people living with me, because otherwise I would have lost a lot more weight than I actually did.
    Also- thank you for saying you only know a handful of thai words- makes me feel better about my inability to communicate in Italian even though it’s my third time here.
    Thank you! You’re my favorite new blog!

    • On February 3, 2011 at 4:25 pm Sally said:

      Hi Christy,
      Thanks for stopping by & glad you enjoyed my blog. Feel free to blame my blog for not getting work done on your own blog — I do that all the time. Stupid bloggers, keep on distracting me from my blog with their posts on stuff that’s much more exciting than my stuff!
      Yes, I was woefully ridiculous when it came to learning the Thai language — luckily it’s very easy to get by there without it. I’ve heard the opposite of China — like it’s impossible without Chinese… and I have a feeling I’m going to be impossible at learning Chinese. So this is going to be FUN!
      Good luck in Italy. Maybe I’ll come visit you there once I get kicked out of China for offending someone’s mom or something.

  23. On February 5, 2011 at 5:03 am 1Dad1Kid said:

    Great article as usual!
    1Dad1Kid recently posted..Temple of the Sun King

  24. On January 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm Ted said:

    Can it be true I have just returned from Chiang Mai after 56 days of living at the end of Soi 7 Moonmung Road next to the Wat and I missed you and the singing. A great place to eat is at the corner of Soi 9 Moonmung Rd a family place with meals at 50 or 60 bart a go. I lost 2 stone but I am a large guy. Returning to Chiang Mai early November 2012 I love the Old Town Walking Street on Sunday and people watching along Moonmung Road. I love your blog

  25. On July 5, 2012 at 3:36 am art williams said:

    Enjoyed your article…and love your logo too. Very nice.

    Two questions ‘por favor’:

    1: Any idea about English teaching opportunities there (assuming I would be on a teaching visa).

    2: As I recall, the Thai tourist visa is good for 3 months. Is that right? (but it can be renewed either in Vientiane or Mynmar, right?)

    • On July 6, 2012 at 1:06 pm Sally said:

      Glad you enjoyed the post!
      To answer your questions:
      1. I was volunteer teaching in Chiang Mai, so I’m not the best resource on paid teaching gigs. But I knew a lot of people who taught there and they seem to have the usual assortment of jobs — private language schools, international schools, public schools, universities, etc. I know a few people who did their TESOL training in Chiang Mai & after they finished the training they were given help in finding a job in the area.
      2. It depends on which visa you get & where you get it (and, of course, your nationality). If you’re just flying in, you can get a one-month tourist visa at the airport. If you come into the country by land, you can only get a 15-day visa (I think… not entirely sure about that one). If you apply beforehand, you can get longer visas, but, again, it all depends on where you’re applying from. The first time I went, I applied from Japan, and they would only give me a 60-day visa. Whereas, when I applied from Laos, I believe I got a 90-day visa.

  26. On July 21, 2012 at 8:52 am bob said:

    hope to meet up if any of u guys are still in chiang mia next april as il be retiring there to live, go ausiesssssss

  27. On January 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm Jen said:

    Hi Sally. Great blog! I am going to live in chaing Mai for 3months. Going to have to look for a 2bedroom house somewhere hopefully near or in the old city. Like you, we lived ,for a few months in koh phangnan pretty much ”in the house only’ lol and Wana get out of this boredom and do something useful that doesn’t cost. I see you did some free volunteering in chaing Mai. Where did you do this and do you think you could give me a contact for them? Hoping to move there in march 2013.

    Thanks Sally.

    • On January 15, 2013 at 9:02 pm Sally said:

      I worked with EPOP ( — teaching some English classes to migrants. You might also want to check out Burma Volunteer Program ( — despite the name they do have some volunteering opportunities in Thailand. And Free Bird Cafe, which is a cool local cafe in the Old City that has some volunteering opportunities or may be able to put you in touch with an opportunity. And I definitely suggest getting in touch with the family that runs the Got Passport blog ( — they helped me find my volunteer opportunity and they also know tons of great people and organizations in the city and arrange a lot of social events with local expats.
      Good luck! Have a fabulous time!

  28. On July 3, 2013 at 10:01 am Meghan said:

    Loved this! I was having a bit of a down day and this made me laugh out loud like an idiot through the whole read. 😀

  29. On May 20, 2014 at 12:40 pm Sab said:

    Hi Sally

    the place you stayed in Chiang Mai… was it Baan Thai? looks like on the image you posted here. I saw the place today and consider to sign a 6 month contract as the place seems great.
    Can you tell me anything bad or good about the place? Like how was the internet connection?
    Did you get your deposit back?
    Was the pool crowded? the pool is currently under construction, hope they will fix it asap (they change a lot of tiles) Anyway, I couldnt find much info online about Baan Thai, if you can tell me more I would appreciate. Seems so far the best place I’ve seen.

    Thanks a lot! Cheers from Chiang Mai 🙂

    • On May 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm Sally said:

      Hi Sab,
      Yes, I did live in Baan Thai. Overall, I had a good experience. Nothing bad at all to report. And I loved the little breakfast place on the corner. Their French toast was reason in itself to live nearby. As for the pool, I think I saw one person using it once, so I wouldn’t worry about it getting too busy! And, yes, I do believe I got my deposit back.

  30. On March 16, 2016 at 3:28 am audrey said:

    hi sally, can u please tell me where did you rent the place you were staying for less than $200/month with furniture ?
    i’m making trip to chiang mai soon.


    • On March 16, 2016 at 7:38 am Sally said:

      The place I rented was in a complex called Banh Thai in Nimmanhaemin District. Not sure what the price is these days, though — it was a few years ago when I was there.


  1. Tweets that mention Chiang Mai on the Cheap: the Unbrave Girl’s Guide to (Reluctant) Budget Living | unbrave girl --
  2. Weekly Travel Blog Links — A Husband and Wife Travel Around the World
  3. A Love Letter to China: 5 Reasons I Have a Crush On My New Home | unbrave girl
  4. Travel Accommodations: Is It Cheaper To Rent?
  5. The Cost of Living in Chiang Mai for Our Family of Three | Got Passport™
  6. Bloggers who have helped to inform and support my blog | LOOKING FOR MISCHIEF

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge