Chiang Mai, Thailand’s fourth-biggest city, is arguably South-east Asia’s most desirable digital nomad location. Just as tourists find that the city covers most (if not all) bases, nomads have been similarly delighted: Cheap rents, great food, fantastic nightlife, rich culture, plenty of sunshine and, naturally, fast Wi-Fi – are among the top draws.
First up, if you need fast, reliable internet, Chiang Mai has you covered. Plus, if you prefer not to work in the same place as you live, there are lots of co-working spaces and Internet cafés where you can put in those long hours. Indeed, you’ll feel as if they’ve been expecting you!
Chiang Mai has hostels, guest houses and hotels in abundance, ranging from £5-a-night dorm beds, to £10-a-night basic rooms, to £100-a-night top-end hotels. You can rent a room for as little as £80 a month, or your own small out-of-town house or condominium for £150-£200. If you want luxuries like swimming pool and gym access, you’ll of course pay more. You could also rent a large, modern house for £600-£800 a month and find a few fellow nomads to share the rent.
While many people come to Chiang Mai to enjoy Thai culture and the laid-back ‘sabai sabai’ way of life, you’ll doubtless meet plenty of other entrepreneurial Westerners while living here (many Brits among them). Locals, tourists and ex-pats mingle ardently of an evening, with a wide choice of bars and nightclubs to enjoy.
Thailand offers excellent private healthcare and decent public hospitals. Reputable private organisations such as the Bangkok Hospital operate locations across the country, including Chiang Mai. Much cheaper than say, Singapore, but with similarly high standards, it’s no wonder people from across South-East Asia come to Thailand to have their healthcare needs met. Many medicines which require prescriptions in the UK can be bought over the counter.
While tuk-tuks and songthaews (modified pick-up trucks with covered seating) are great when you first arrive, you may soon want the freedom of your own wheels. You can rent a scooter for £40-£60 a month. Just make sure you have an up-to-date International Driving Licence and never be tempted to leave your helmet at home (as many locals do). Also be aware that Thais like to merge with traffic without even a glance at their mirrors, and love nothing more than to get out of their cars without checking for approaching traffic!
From low-cost, tasty street food to excellent Western dishes – your tummy will always be happy in Chiang Mai. Vegetarians and vegans are well catered for, but meat lovers won’t be disappointed either. You could cut your food bills by cooking for yourself, but eating like a local – i.e. in the street – will keep you comfortably on-budget.
You’ll probably explore the main temples in your first few weeks, but there’s plenty more to see. Enjoy a swim in the ‘Grand Canyon’ – a flooded former limestone quarry – just out of town, or, further afield you might explore the hippy-hangout of Pai, with its numerous hot springs, or take a motorcycle trip up to Mai Hong Son. And if you ever feel the need for a weekend in the Big Smoke, you can jet down to Bangkok in 75 minutes – before deciding that life in laid-back Chiang Mai will do you just fine, thank you very much!
As a UK citizen, you can apply for a two month tourist visa (£25) in the UK, and extend it for another month (about £45) in Thailand. You could then apply for another tourist visa in a neighbouring country. Most nomads can repeat this process several times before Immigration officials start asking questions.
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