Traveling to Chiang Mai soon? Be prepared to enjoy this most livable city in Southeast Asia. Aside from its great Lanna culture, Chiang Mai’s delicious food and low cost of living make it a very good place to visit.
If you’re more into cultural celebrations, make sure to visit in October or November (check the date before going!) to observe Yi Peng, the floating lantern festival.
The cost of living in Chiang Mai is already cheap, but for those who want to cut costs further, here are some money-saving tips when you are traveling in this part of Thailand.
1. Walk around.
Chiang Mai is a medium-sized city; nowhere is too far away. Many of the main attractions, certainly the main temples, are really just a few minutes’ walk from each other. You don’t need to hire a tuk-tuk driver to drive you around, especially when you have a limited budget to explore Chiang Mai.
You can get on a songthaew, or those red vans which function as shared taxis going around the city, but the basic songthaew fee is 20 Baht. With the proximity of your destinations, 20 Baht is a little bit too much. Just walk around; the main part of the city, the Old Town, is much more pleasant to see on foot anyway.
2. Use the laundromat.
If you are traveling through Chiang Mai, chances are you are also traveling through the other stops in the Southeast Asia backpacker trail. At some point, you will need to do laundry. Hotel laundry costs a lot—anywhere from 30 to 40 Baht for the first kilo, while some even charge per piece of clothing. More than one kilo and your costs multiply to 50, 60, 90 Baht or more.
The best thing to do is to buy a 10-Baht powdered soap and then, head to any one of the outdoor laundromats scattered around the city. One whole batch, which can usually take up to three kilos, will only cost you 20 Baht. There’s one along Ratvithi Road, close to Ratvithi Soi 2.
3. Stay at a hotel close to a market for the best breakfast in town.
You can get up early in the morning and you can simply buy your ready-to-eat foods at the nearby market. This is especially true at Sompet Market found along Moon Muang Soi 6 where many cheap hostels, guesthouses, and hotels are found.
Visit early in the morning and you can purchase freshly cooked soup and noodles on plastic bags, deep-fried chicken, grilled pork skewers, sticky rice, fruit bowls, and fruit smoothies. You can eat a full, decent meal for only 30 Baht.
When you plan to stay in Chiang Mai for some time, don’t forget to talk to the hotel or guesthouse staff and haggle for a long-term rate. They are quite used to it because many people visit Chiang Mai and decide to stay longer. A room with a double bed and AC costing 350 Baht per night can be haggled down to around 250 for a week’s stay and around 170 Baht per night for a month’s stay. Put on your haggling skills and bargain away!
4. Have the best dinner at Chiang Mai Gate Food Market.
Every night, along Bumrung Buri Road right beside Chiang Mai Gate, is the best food market you will ever see in Chiang Mai. Locals actually buy their dinner, or even have their dinner, here. There are stalls which cook food right there in front of you to be eaten at the tables and chairs scattered around. However, that might still cost you 40 Baht, 60 Baht or higher.
To really make the most out of your money, head to where you see the big vats of curries and stir-fry dishes and get yourself a big bag of Penang Curry, or whatever dish looks best to you, for a mere 20 Baht. Purchase some cooked white rice, too, for 10 Baht. Head back to your hotel, borrow some eating utensils, and have yourself a feast.
5. Make use of water vending machines.
When you walk around exploring Chiang Mai, always bring a bottle of water because it can get really hot in the city. Once your bottle is empty, look for these water vending machines to have a refill. It’s only 1 Baht for one liter of water (yes, it’s that cheap!). Plus points if you find a vending machine which sells the water for 50 cents and if you have your own water bottle.
These are the tips I find useful on how you can save money when you’re in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’m sure there are a lot of other more ways to save money here, as Chiang Mai is one of the cheapest destinations in Southeast Asia.
Have you been to Chiang Mai? Do share your money saving tips there!
About the Author:
Paul Xymon Garcia is a Filipino international backpacker and travel photography enthusiast exploring Asia and beyond. He writes, translates, teaches, takes photos, and what have you, all to quench that insatiable thirst to see the world and all that’s in it. His work can be found at Walk Fly Pinoy: Travel, Photography Asia.