The ultimate digital nomad hub, Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is probably the place people most associate with the nomad lifestyle because it’s really where it all began. Nomads have been coming to Chiang Mai in their droves since around 2010, and if you want to experience it by packing up your laptop and heading there yourself, this guide is for you.
1. What’s so great about Chiang Mai for digital nomads?
It’s a little in the middle of nowhere, and it’s not near a beach – so what’s so great about Chiang Mai? The secret to its popularity is its winning combination of a fantastic climate all year round, cheap living costs and plenty of interesting things to see and do.
Thanks to its tropical climate, you can expect temperatures of around 33 degrees Celsius all year round. The rainy season runs from May to September, but it doesn’t rain all the time – usually just for a few hours late afternoon and early evening.
In fact, the rainy season can be a pleasant time of year to be in Thailand because the vegetation is at its greenest and most vibrant. The coolest temperatures are from December to February and this is the most popular time to visit, while it’s hottest in March.
Pace of life
The pace of life is slower in Chiang Mai, which perhaps explains its appeal to nomads who come in search of a better work/life balance. It’s rich in culture, with numerous ornate, historic temples to be visited – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Chedi Luang get the top ratings on Google – and night markets to peruse.
Beyond the city, you can explore the area’s natural beauty in the Doi Suthep–Pui National Park and hillside villages such as Hmong, take a zip line through the jungle, and snap Insta-worthy photos of lush green rice paddies and tumbling waterfalls.
Easy to get around
Logistically speaking, it’s easy to get around the city thanks to cheap Songthaews – ‘red buses’ that are actually more like shared taxis – and tuk tuks (there’s even Uber here, which typically costs about the same as the red buses – around $1-2). When you’re in work mode, you have an enviable array of co-working spaces available to you, along with heaps of nomad-friendly cafes with fast wifi where you can settle in for a day’s work.
Cost of living
Nomad List estimates the overall cost of living as a digital nomad in Chiang Mai to be around $1,000 a month, and you can rent a decent apartment for much less than you’d pay in a European or US city (as little as $200-300 a month). Eating out at restaurants is incredibly cheap; you can get a great meal for as little as $1.82. You’ll also find an excellent choice of places to eat, including lots of vegetarian and vegan eateries.
One of the best things about Chiang Mai is that its popularity with nomads and expats means there’s a thriving digital nomad community that you can get involved with as soon as you arrive – perfect for keeping homesickness and loneliness at bay.
You’ll find hundreds of like-minded people to socialise with, and plenty of Facebook groups where you can find out about the latest meet-ups and events. Nomad Summit, the world’s top digital nomad conference, is held here each year, so one way or another you’ll find lots to inspire you.
2. Where to live in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai isn’t huge, so it doesn’t make too much of a difference where you live. The most popular areas with newcomers are the Old City, Nimman, Hang Dong and Chang Kang, but many choose to move around and experience living in different parts of the city. Each area has its own vibe, and you’ll soon discover the one you feel most at home in.
Here are some resources to help you find a place to live.
- Chiang Mai Thailand ( Buy, Sell, Travel & Accommodation) – Facebook group with plenty of accommodation advertised, along with items for sale that digital nomads may find useful.
- Nomad Rental – budget-friendly serviced apartments to rent in various areas of Chiang Mai.
- Nomad Rental condos – as above, but with condos.
- Chiang Mai Locals – a useful guide to your accommodation options and what to look for when renting in Chiang Mai.
3. Where to work in Chiang Mai?
Whether your preference is for co-working spaces or coffee shops, you’ll find plenty of choice in Chiang Mai – and high-speed internet wherever you go. Some cafes are even open 24 hours a day, so even if you’re a night owl you’ll still have somewhere to work that’s not your bedroom.
If you choose a cafe and stay a few hours at a time, it’s the done thing to tip or to order something each hour – but with the price of coffee $2.20, it’s still an incredibly affordable way to work.
- Chiang Mai’s Best Coworking Spaces for Digital Nomads – a useful list of some of the best co-working spaces to work from in Chiang Mai.
- HeartWork – popular co-working space with three hours of free WiFi when you buy a coffee.
- Punspace – considered by many to be the best co-working space in Chiang Mai, Punspace has three handy locations and it’s open 24/7. Monthly membership is priced at around $120.
- A.M.P. – another popular choice, this place in the Maya Mall describes itself as “Thailand’s first creative community venue for boosting your ideas and igniting your inspiration”.
- 9 Best Cafes to work as Digital Nomad in Chiang Mai – this guide includes handy information such as WiFi speeds and availability of plug sockets.
4. Where to network with other digital nomads in Chiang Mai?
As you’d expect, there’s a thriving nomad social scene in Chiang Mai, and you’ll never be short of events to go to and groups to get involved with when you want to meet other wandering entrepreneurs and remote workers.
Here are some handy resources for connecting with fellow nomads while you’re in Chiang Mai.
- Chiang Mai Digital Nomads – Facebook group with over 30,000 members, designed to enable nomads to support each other, seek help or advice and organise events.
- The Break Room, by Chiang Mai Digital Nomads – run by the same Facebook group, this group is for less business-related topics, such as accommodation, food and sport.
- Digital Nomad Coffee Club – Chiang Mai – a weekly meet-up and networking group for digital nomads in Chiang Mai, with guest speakers, Q&As and more.
- Chiang Mai Digital Nomads Entrepreneurs – if your nomad life has more of an entrepreneurial bent, this is a group where you can meet fellow entrepreneurs and startups.
- Chiang Mai Events – a great place to find what’s on in Chiang Mai.
- Nomad Summit – the number one conference for digital nomads, held in Chiang Mai in January and featuring talks from successful online entrepreneurs and lots more.
- Chiang Mai Expats Club – for a small membership fee, you’ll have access to meetings, a Friday Breakfast Club and a big list of other activities, from badminton to Scrabble club.
TL;DR: Which type of Digital Nomad is Chiang Mai for?
If you’re keen to experience life in a tropical country – the life everyone imagines when they think of the words ‘digital nomad’ – then Chiang Mai is for you. It’s a fantastic place to experience living and working in a totally different country and culture, and if you’re a sociable sort, you’ll have more than enough fellow nomads to spend your free time with. And if you’re taking the leap into the world of online entrepreneurship, it’s a city where you can easily keep your overheads nice and low while you get your new venture off the ground.