Monthly Cost of Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Basket shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Basket shop in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

In November, my fiancé and I spent one month in Thailand. This was my third time going to Thailand (and his millionth). Knowing different money-saving tricks, both for budget traveling in general and in Thailand, was helpful in navigating this month abroad. This allowed us to keep our cost of living in Chiang Mai low. Here I lay out all of the money spent per person for the month, totaling $1170.57.

Disclosure: there are a few referral codes for credit cards here. Some of them I do earn commission on should you use them, at no cost to you.

International Flights – $35.70 there, $59.67 back

The flights are the only portion of the trip that was pure credit card/travel hacking. For flights out, we used 42,500 Delta miles per person, plus $35.70 in taxes for an economy ticket. The Delta Sky Miles were earned using the Delta Skymiles Gold Card from Amex. At the time, the card gave 70,000 Delta Skymiles from spending 2,000 in two months.

I opened the Delta Skymiles Gold Card in 2019, with the annual fee waived for the first year. I don’t use it the card much after the sign-up bonus. I’ve kept the card open because there is usually some offer for $10 dining credit every month, or $10 for buying at a small business. These credits offset the $99 annual fee, rendering it at $21 money maker. Although I earn the Skymiles in 2019, I actually did not touch them for two years because I could not find a deal that was worth it! I would find flights I needed to take on Delta that were 40,000 Skymiles for domestic travel, economy.

For this trip, I was determined to find a deal to use these miles with. I looked for any flight of the US in early November, that we could get for less than 50,000 Skymiles. I had 100,000. The lowest was a flight from Seattle for 48,000. This was in summer 2021. Then, our flight was canceled a few months before, and our plans changed. We had to go to a wedding in Denver right before, and the mileage deals had changed as well. This left a 42,500 mile flight out of Denver which we swapped for our original flight our of Seattle.

The return flight was booked for 37,500 American Airlines miles plus $59.67 in taxes for an Economy ticket. This was earned using the AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard from Barclays. This card, with a $99 fee gives you 60,000 American Airline miles buy making just one qualifying purchase. They waived my annual fee since I signed up for the card in-flight.

Throughout these flights, because I have the American Express Platinum Card, we had access to lounges at every airport we passed through. This gave us free food, snacks, and alcohol as we passed through each country on the way to Bangkok.

ASQ Hotel – $116.47 per person (including COVID test on arrival)

This cost was the price for one ASQ (Alternate State Quarentine)/SHA+ hotel under the test-and-go scheme. The hotel included two meals, and COVID tests. Our hotel did not offer 24 hour testing. Because we arrived late at night, we had to wait until the morning to take a test. Thus we had to stay two nights. This cost would have been less had we been able to just stay one night. And the included meals–not worth it but we did not have a choice. After we recieved our negative COVID results, we were able to leave the hotel and end quarantine.

Travel Insurance for $100,000 of COVID Related Cost – $81.20

Another contribution to the cost of living in Chiang Mai, Thailand for one month was insurance. Travel insurance is required to enter the country, and has to be from one of a few different specific Thai insurances. This made it difficult to find a deal. The insurance also had to cover $100,000 worth of COVID related costs, and even if you were asymptomatic, it would need to cover your quarantine. Shortly after we arrived, the requirement dropped to $50,000 of COVID related costs. This would require a presumably less expensive premium if you are planning to travel to Thailand.

AirBnB in Chiang Mai for One Month – $81.55 per person

The AirBnB situation kind of blew my mind. This Airbnb, which was a private room and bathroom for two people, cost $163.10. This place had access to a kitchen (which we never used), a lovely garden and sitting area to socialize with others, and a washer and dryer. The cost was lower because we rented it for a whole month. Originally, I tried booking it for a little more than 4 weeks, and the cost was over $200 because it was charging per night. If you book for a month on AirBnB, the you often get a certain percentage off.

Motorbike – $66.44 for Manual and $35.44 for Automatic Per Person, $101.88 Total

The motorbike was our primary form of day-to-day transportation. We shared between it us because we mostly went everywhere together. For the first couple weeks, we had a manual bike, and I was struggling with the clutch, so we switched to automatic. The manual bike cost more than the automatic, and had a higher deposit. We got the money back at the end of the rental. Unfortunately we had to do the deposit in cash because the rental place only accepted the “Thai QR” or cash. Using this form of transport contributing to a low cost of living in Chiang Mai, as we were not relying on cabs, tuk tuks, or songthaews to get around. Although we did a lot of walking too!

Car Rental – $40

We last minute decided to rent a car from the airport in Bangkok to drive down to the beach (the island of Ko Sichang) for the day. The total cost was $40 including gas. Probably could have been cheaper if we had planned ahead and reserved, or gotten a car from somewhere other than the airport, or taken a bus down there, but we were on a tight timeline.

Various Nights at Different AirBnB’s – $36.83

We kept our monthly AirBnB as a home base, but had nights in Chiang Rai, Bangkok, and even a night at a luxury condo in Chiang Mai so we could use their rooftop pool. Lol. The total was $36.83 per person for these nights.

PCR Test for Return to the US- $82.69

The $82.69 fee was for a PCR test taken in Chiang Mai, which gave same day results. I opted for the PCR test because it was unclear to me if the transit country (Japan) would require the PCR or accept antigen. I was also worried in case my fight got cancelled or something went wrong. Had I just gone for the antigen test, it would have been $26.58. Even though these was a significant portion of my budget, the peace of mind was worth it to me.

Cash Withdrawls – $657.27, Including Daily Food and Activities

This was the hardest portion to track, as a majority of our costs required cash. Yes, this is $600 worth of expenses that we could not earn credit card points earned on. However, we were spending this cash on necessities that contributed to a low cost of living in Chiang Mai.

For example, for breakfasts/lunches we typically $2-$3 per person, and tasted amazing because they were at small mom and pop shops and stands. But these types of places only except cash, and frequenting these kind of places contributed to our low cost of living in Chiang Mai.

These expenses also included various activities such as weekly massages, drinks, snicky snackies (roti, mango sticky rice), gas for the motorbike, and souvenirs (buying all of our families Christmas gifts), and tours. Unfortunately, it was too much to track these cash expenses as I didn’t have receipts for any of these things.

It is also worth mentioning, ATM fee’s were involved with each withdrawl, and my checking account (Navy Federal Credit Union), gives a $10 rebate per month on ATM withdrawls, which helped keep this cost lower.

Total Cost- $1273.26

So that’s just about it! Everything here totaled $1273.26 per person, or $2546.52 for two people. Granted, some of these expenses were lower because we had two people, such as the AirBnB’s and the motorbike. However, a majority of the costs (daily food and activities, insurance, flights, and ASQ hotel COVID tests) were per-person costs. Had I traveled by myself, on this same itinerary, it would have totaled $1513.52.

Are you traveling to Thailand? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or need any recommendations!

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