The Cost of Living in Chiang Mai for Our Family of Three

Update: As of October 2011, we found a 4br/2b house for 10k baht/mo. = ~$333 rent per month.   As of October 2012, we moved into studio apartments and rented out two studios combined we  were paying 6000b per month because we thought we may return to the US on a long term basis.  We are not returning to the US on a permanent basis, in fact, Chiang Mai will be our base in Asia indefinitely. As of August 2013, we moved to a new place further from the city for 5000b/mo = $167/mo for  approx 55sqm = 592sqft.  We will be paying .28cent/sq ft.  For about six months we lived above a coffee shop and we had a latte factor going for us on  a daily basis. Our fridge also went out in April 2013 (very long story) and well, I’ve not cooked in over a month since we came back from the US in June 2013. So the latte factors are everywhere. We need to refocus on ourselves in our new place, strip away the latte factors and make the new place feel like a “HOME” in Thailand.

Now that we’ve lived in Chiang Mai since July 2010, we feel we can share solid information about the living expenses for our family of three. Perhaps this could be helpful for those families interested in coming to Chiang Mai and making it a home-base as well

We are estimating about $1200 per month of living expenses for the three of us.


Here’s the break-down of our monthly expenses 2010:

Rent (one bedroom apartment) –   $300 (12 month contract).

Electricity –  $32 (avg)

Water –   $6.67 (fixed)

TV- $1.67 (basic cable, fixed, only 2 English language channel)

Internet – $11 (In our current home as of August 2013, this is included in Rent)

Cell Phone – $6 (Will your phone work overseas  Sim cards)

Petrol (That’s gasoline for you Americans) – $25 (estimate)  Yes, that’s for one month! 

Motorbike Maintenance – $59 Total, from Sept 2010 to April 2011 (included 1 oil change, 3 flat tire repairs, replaced 2 tires & front brakes)

Food – $300 (generous estimate – includes groceries, cooking at home, dining at street markets/stalls, mom/pop shops – no 5 star dining on a regular basis).

Leisure/Entertainment/Fun/Misc–  Your Miles May Vary here, depending on your budget, tastes and lifestyle.  As a frugal family, it was typically dining out with friends (see Food exp.), day trips in town (parks, street markets, festivals), short and extended trips within Thailand. We also do our own laundry and pay for cleaning services occasionally.

Above picture was taken during Songkran (Thingyan in Burmese) aka Water Festival aka New Year which is in April.

Service Related Contributions/Temple Visits and Donations Assisting with fundraising for and donations to Community Based Orgs within CM. We also sponsor purchase of raw rice bags enough for 25+ monks for at a local temple.  We will resume this when we return later this year.

We admit some months are lower than $1200. We’ve come under $1000 during months we don’t venture too far out of Chiang Mai!


Not included in monthly expenses above:

School Expenses for M – $645/mo (tuition only) for an international school, paid upfront each term. Considered on lower end in Chiang Mai’s handful of international schools.  Not including first year, one time enrollment fees.  We saved by passing on school food (we pack M’s lunch, which we have always done even in the US ) and bus fees (no bus, Daddy’s motorbike).  (This is a dream compared to what we paid for M’s Montessori school in Texas),

Uniforms$30 (M’s White shirt are no longer white.  We’ll be buying new shirts in the new year!)

Costume rental and misc. purchases for school activities – $50

Travel  Visas and TransportationWill vary depending on your visa needs.  Here is our expenses: Since J needed to renew his visa we made an excursion out of each trip to Laos.  J now has a shiny-new one year non-immigrant O visa with multiple entries for the coming year!

$210   Laos ($35 Laos Visa entry fee per American. Total is for 2 trips)

$20    Myanmar for J (Visa entry fee by land)

$800  Air, bus, boat, tuk-tuk, red bus and lodging

Motorbik$916.67 to own. (We bought a used motorbike, Honda Click, because we knew we’d be in Thailand long-term!)

Above picture was taken outside of Luang Prabang, Laos at the beautiful Kwan Si Waterfalls.

Happy Planning!

Other posts you might enjoy or find helpful! 

Where to stay in Chiang Mai.

What to do in Chiang Mai.

Be a Gracious Guest, Not a Pest.

Do’s and Dont’s in Buddhist Temples

How we got itchy feet to Travel and see the World

Why Chiang Mai is Our Home

Colorful Markets and delicious food in Chiang Mai


Related posts on Chiang Mai living expenses from friends:

How Much to Live in Chiang Mai from Shannon of A Little Adrift

Living in Chiang Mai from Christine of Almost Fearless

Chiang Mai on the Cheap from Sally of Unbrave Girl





We Say NO to Status Quo.

Live Green. Live Small. Give Large. Take Little.

Take Notice. Take Action.




58 thoughts on “The Cost of Living in Chiang Mai for Our Family of Three

  1. Hi! Love reading oversea living blogs! Thanks for writing! I can fully agree life in Chiang Mai can be done cheap! We are a family of four, and have lived off 1,100$ US dollars a month for 3 years! (Living in Chiang Mai since 1999) the hidden reality of this is that all the 1x expenses add up! So for someone wanting to move, I would advise a bigger budget! You mentioned added expenses like:
    school (for children or language)
    VISA/travel to home country family vacation
    Car insurance
    Health insurance/medical
    Personal items (clothes,gifts,ect)

    Lots of these expenses we normally pay 1x for or 1x a year for or even I do “personal shopping for my family” 1x a year when we travel to our country of origin

    These things don’t need to go into the “monthly budget” but one sure needs lots more money then 1,000+ to actually live over the year/s they wish to stay!

    This is just a little bit of the “hidden expenses” I feel really add up! Wouldn’t want people to go in blind!

  2. I’m a disabled vet planning on moving to Chiang Mai, would like to hear from any vets or meet them when I get there, thanks

    1. Hi Randy,
      Sorry for the late reply, I hope your move will be a smooth one. As for locating expats of similar interest, I’m pretty sure you will find them via Facebook groups or related forums. Good luck!

  3. On the other end of the scale. My family of 3 living in Hang Dong, Chiang Mai. (15 min. from Downtown CNX)

    Rent: 3 bedroom home nice area, 1000 sq ft+ w/yard & parking. $500 PM

    Elect. avg through the year. $100 PM with and without AC

    LPG $10 PM

    Water $5 PM

    Gardener $20 PM (2 days PM)

    Maid $40 PM (4 days PM)

    Transportation, 2 motorcycles, 1 Pick up truck. Fuel, maintenance, insurance. $150 PM

    Int. School $3000 per year preschool-kindergarden. Regular Int. School $6000+ per year.

    Our home cooked food bill varies as I like to cook. Avg $700 PM

    Our average dining out meals will run $50 per meal for 3, 10 times PM

    Annual visa $50+$50 Consulate fees.

    Massages for 2 $160 PM

    Medical & Dental $300 PM

    Your prices will vary. Yes you can scrape by on $1000 per month, but then you get what you pay for. One medical emergency can run you well over that budget, prepare for the worst.

    I’m lucky as I’m retired but still average between $3500-4500 a month to live what I would consider the same normal life I used to live in the States at half the price or less. I also take the family back to the States once a year that usually ends up costing me about $10,000 for a month.

    Please take in consideration the life styles and budget accordingly. Also figure on spending a month on finding the right schools, living areas and transportation.

  4. Are there any less expensive international or private school options in CM. Or homeschool group that is not faith based. We have a daughter entering 1st grade in August and clearly this would be the biggest expense. We currently live in Bali but have spent quite a lot of time in CM

  5. When budgeting one should keep in mind medical and dental costs in Chiang Mai, Bangkok Hospital is about to open a facility in Chiang Mai (on the Super Highway) and there is Chiang Mai Ram that has become internationally certified. For a closer look at Chiang Mai dental clinic prices there is for examples of costs from cleaning to dental implants. A cleaning will not break the budget but an implant might, but still much more affordable in Thailand. Visa holders can usually find affordable medical insurance in Chaing Mai, dental will be out of pocket tho.

  6. We are an American family with two boys thinking of moving to Chiang Mai. Everything looks wonderful except the brutally hot weather. None of us are “hot” weather people so we are naturally wondering if we could tolerate it. Could you share your experience and how you deal with the heat?
    Thanks. Sherry

  7. This is great information. My husband will be losing his job of 18 years in a a few weeks. We are quiet fed up with the high cost of living here in the states. We both were born in Laos and are thinking about moving to Chiang Mai. We have 4 kids and have concerns about school but you’ve answered the questions there. I’m sure our living expenses will double yours since we have a large family. This year we are taking a serious visit to Chiang Mai and make a final decision. Thank you for your insights.

  8. Great post! We’re planning on moving to Chiang Mai in early April and with a 14 month old daughter, I’m curious about the logistics of bringing a stroller/bike trailer with us. We love cycling and go everywhere on our bikes with our little one in tow. How bike friendly is Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside? Also, is the city set up in a way where a stroller wouldn’t be too much of a burden?mI just worry about it being too big and bulky to navigate. Thanks!

  9. Great site – Good Info !

    I am sponsoring the studies at CMU for the daughter of a friend and
    wonder how much do you think are the Living Costs for a student per month for food, transportation, and personal expenses in Chiangmai.
    That is exclusive of Tuition fees and and shared apartment cost on campus.

    Kind regards

    1. Hi, one’s expenses really are quite flexible and can range depending on one’s lifestyle and personal preferences; it can be very inexpensive to the very expensive so depends on the person. On the low-end meal can cost about 30 THB one ride on a red truck each direction could be around 20 THB, so that could be a starting point and apartment could be around 4000 to 6000 THB per month.

      1. This is not so much about Lifestyle.
        My question was “Living Costs for a STUDENT per month for food, transportation, and personal expenses” – only.
        Apart from apartment cost; as I wrote she is staying on campus.

  10. Hi guys, I’am Thai/American, my wife is American we lived in Columbus, Ohio, we both planning to retire in Thailand within 3 years, and we have visited ChiangMai in 2011. we both love CNX due to the culture and the weather, too the cost of living! I came across your site on visa run to Laos, and my wife came across the TV show “House Hunter International” where three of you were looking for a place to live. We enjoyed the show, but most importantly about your goal of living in CNX, and simplify your life by having less. Three years is not too far off and we have been simplify our life for the move. Enjoy the show and the info on visa run.
    A & B Woolman

  11. Hi Avrill, Thank you for posting all this info for all of us to have an idea of costs. I’m moving with my husband and my 4 year old in end of september to chiang mai, I have a non immigrant b visa, and some savings, and my plan is to live for a year there to star with and see how life is. I have been enquiring a lot and I found many houses (san sai, or Muang) with 2 or 3 bedrooms, security and communal pool… for around 12 to 15 thousand baht, is it right, or this prices is with hidden fees behind? Are the bills expensive there, if I have 2 to 3 air con at home, and cable tv? Can you give me more info if is that ok for you. Thank you

    1. Hi Camila,
      J here, and I can help with your questions. Sounds like a good idea to spend time here before the big move. You’re right, many houses with range in price, and having a local Thai friend or realtor can really help you find affordable housing, not only the houses/apt’s that are designed for foreigners (hence a higher price).
      As for bills, they can be very low, but it’s going to depend on daily habits. Dining can be very cheap (incredibly cheap), or range to five star prices, depending on the establishment. Electric costs can range as well, depending on how many a/c units you have, and how often/long they are turned on during the warmer months. Again, lifestyle will determine your monthly costs, so you will have to prioritize what you really want/need and estimate from there.
      As for hidden fees, in your question, rental contracts work like those elsewhere, and any monthly association related fees should be disclosed prior to signing it. Chances are a place with security and community pool with come with it a fee of some kind.

      Good luck to you!!

  12. Very interesting article. My family of six are currently living in Perth, Australia (we’re Irish). My husband works as a fly in fly out worker in the mining industry. We are trying to save for a house back in Ireland but are finding the cost of living very high here in Perth, and therefore, saving is very hard. We have friends who have retired to Chiang Mai and they tell us that I could live there quite cheaply with the children. I would be interested to know your thoughts on a mother with four children living there. (My husband would fly over on his weeks off). How much is it to rent a modest 3 bedroomed house? Are westerners welcome?, and is it safe in Chiang Mai?
    I home school my children and would hope to continue that in Chiang Mai. Are there any laws regarding home schooling? Sorry for bombarding you with so many questions. Thank you for taking the time to read my comments.


      1. Hi Avril, I am planning to move to CM this year. I am from India. Could you please tell me the expenses for a family of three(PM), I have a daughter of 19months?I would be utterly happy to get your advice on rent also for a 3Bed apartment.Thanks in advance.

  13. Hey Avril,

    I really enjoyed your article on monthly expenses in CM, since I am planning to move there this year. Even though CM wasn’t my first choice, I figured it would suit my budget (which is $1000 / month) much better than other cities in the land of smiles.

    I totally agree with you on your “less is MORE” point, as I feel the same way.

    Thanks again!

  14. Seeing your costs was very enlightening. It helps to know what people in other countries are spending to live there. We are traveling in an RV for the year which is not really cheap. Recently we have settled down in an apartment in Fethiye, Turkey for 2-3 months and have seen our living expenses plunge dramatically by not moving around. On our next trip, I think we will do what you are doing and rent an apartment for a while. Maybe even in Chiang Mai… we love it there. Thanks for sharing the info.

    1. Nice to meet you, Mark.
      The thing with posting cost of living stats is that they can vary so much depending on one’s preferences. We tend to be quite frugal (unless we’re hosting family!) on a day to day basis, and have modest needs when it comes to creature comforts. At this point, we still don’t have a TV, have basic furnishings, and am careful not the get in the consumer mode of filling up our house with unnecessary things.
      Yes, we’re enjoying the cultural immersion by living here long term, as opposed to jaunting across the globe in a rush.


    1. That’s a loaded question. Maybe we should start with specific questions you might have. Please email us directly with your questions, and we can start there. thanks.

  15. Nice blog, love the quality photos. Sounds pretty close to my costs when living in Chiang Mai for three years until 2009. Although the £/€ have taken a hit since then. I spent more on travel as I didn’t risk death by motorcycle and stuck to tuk-tuks… that said they’re not that much safer! Internet was costlier, otherwise the service from bottom rate offers is pretty flaky. Paid more for a tv package that had a few more English language channels.

    Sticking to Thai food, avoiding the foreign eating-places, makes a big difference. International schools are not cheap, taking into account the overall cost of living in Thailand, but it’s money well spent.

    It’ll be 2013 before we’re back in Thailand on a permanent basis, can’t wait. In the meantime, looking forward to a four month stay this winter. Will probably drop by ‘home’ (Chiang Mai) sometime, although we’re looking to spend a fair while in other regions of LOS.

  16. I remember paying for Montessori Academy in Florida for my son and it was pretty expensive. I’m not sure if I would really one a one bedroom though are you planning getting a one bedroom again (is it that big of a price difference versus a two?). $1200 sounds like a cake walk compared to what I pay here in the US.

    1. Hey Kirk!
      We’re house hunting this fall, and will reveal what we find later on… 😉
      We have a higher priced, large 1 bed room (not a studio), but we can find similar larger homes in that price range, too.

    2. Kirk,

      Part of our philosophy in moving is to live with LESS THINGS, and LESS can be more. And just because we live in smaller space does not mean we live poorly (quality wise). We were in a two bedroom, actually cost less, in the same building! We needed more living space and the one br had the living space we wanted. It was a personal choice we made also to stay in this building because we didn’t want to take our daughter away from her friend (neighbor) soon after we moved here. We used to live in the US as well. We still have a 3 br/3baths home in the US that we realized had way too much space filled with useless “things!” We too had our daughter in a small Montessori school in the US since she was 2. We made a choice to live small for the past year. And we don’t regret it.

    1. Hey Nomadic Samuel,
      Thanks for coming by, and yes, it’s not just low cost of living, but relatively high standard of living, too. I don’t mean creature comforts (which can be had), but the accessibility of fresh food everywhere…

  17. I read Shannon’s post on this topic a month or so back – and reading this one, I will say again…wow.

    Yep. I can afford to live there on my projected writing earnings. I need a little work to push them higher, but when I do…

    I might be saying hello, one of these days. 😉

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mike. If you already have an stable income stream (work from anywhere set-up), you’re already one step in the game! You could probably get a teaching job, to supplement, much quicker than we could in CM if needed. Good luck. Give us a shout when you are ready to make the move!

  18. This is really cool to see.

    I actually have a similar expense report coming out on my site in a few weeks about my cost of living (solo) in Bangkok. It will be cool to compare both of our budgets.

    1. Mate, I would love to see your report the cost of living in Australia is enormous and we are over governed and over policed, cant even have a beer on the beach now

  19. Avril,
    I have recently returned from Chiang Mai and really loved my experiance there to the point that i’m considering a permanent venture there I am a 52 yo aussie male not into the bar/sex scene and was wondering if my 24000 baht weekly income (derived from property investments) would support me there. I am also extremely interested in some form of volunteer work if it is available there for brain stimulation and help being that I feel to young to retire. Your post on CM are extremely well detailed well done

    1. Phil, thanks for your comment. I don’t see a problem living in CM on 24,000 baht weekly income for ONE person. Then again it depends on your lifestyle and how you manage your money. You do mean 24,000b a week, yes? That’s a jumbo budget. You’ll be able to live quite luxuriously. As for the volunteer work, please go to the Volunteer tab above, third from the left, take a look at the positions and shoot us an email with one you are interested in. Good luck!

  20. I soooo want to go and visit Thailand, and this shows it really is affordable. I may have to see about putting Thailand on our stop after Peru and before….Japan/Ireland/Somewhere else

  21. Hi- I found your site on marriedwithluggage. we are a family of four living in Guangzhou China. I recently did a post on cost of living in Guangzhou. I love your post and look forward to reading more. Cheers to family living abroad.

    1. Hello Paz, Great to find you here. Thanks for stopping by. I made my way to your blog… full of great information and stories. Yay.. to families living abroad and making travel education and experience a priority over material things.

  22. What a great resource. Thanks so much, Avril.
    My husband will find this very helpful. It’s getting closer to the date we nominated to leave Singapore and he’s got cold feet. He’s worried about money and wants to defer our dropout for a while. We won’t need to pay school fees for a while and we’ll probably hire a motorbike, so I think we could easily live comfortably for $1,000/month.
    I hope this post means we’ll see you in Chiang Mai sooner rather than later!

    1. Barbara, I’m so glad to hear that my post will help you make the leap, perhaps a little faster. Truth is my husband was the same way. Until I brought him to CM in 2009 on our summer trip. That’s when he decided that it was doable. 🙂 If you have additional questions, shoot me an email or post a question on Team CM FB page. Hope to see you soon! Also, we anticipate our move in October will cost a bit more in rent, but we’ll see! (We’ll update it when we get to that point).

      1. Thanks Avril. One of the problems is that we may very well be screwed by Singapore’s tenancy laws. If we lose the deposit on our place here, I will have to work for a few more months. Sigh.

      2. Barbara, hang in there. It will happen! A few months from now, we may be sitting across from each other reflecting on this in Chang Mai!

    1. Hi Maggie,

      Thanks for stopping by. Actually we used to pay close to $1000 a month to a small Montessori school in Texas so we feel this is pretty good. It is an International school (British) and English is spoken at the school.

      1. Hi Avril

        Thanks to you i have a better idea of the costs in Thailand. I live in South Africa my wife is studying to be a teacher at the foundation phase and is now in her second year. I have two lovely kids one is 2 and the other 3 i am planning to move to thailand for a few years. My monthly income whould be about 41000bht. I whould just like to ask you if you think that this would be enough for us. And where in thailand is the best place for me and our my kids to settle. I would also like to know if i am allowed to run a small business over there, example a bar or renting out some jet ski’s or someting. I feel like i am not living over here i feel like i am just existing. My wife would love to stay in phuket but i know nothing about the area. If my wife does get a teaching job over there what would she urn +-. Also do you know about a website where i could look for propertys to rent. And also how fast is the internet over there.



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