Finding a rental in Chiang Mai is easy once you know where to start, but getting a good deal can be challenging for the uninformed.

Chiang Mai is a small city known for its rich history, mouth-watering food, and slower pace of life. 

The quality of life is possibly the highest of anywhere in the world relative to its cost of living.

If you follow this advice, you should be able to find a great new home for an even greater price.

Why should you rent in Chiang Mai?  

Chiang Mai is an affordable city with an excellent quality of life and plenty of things to do.

Committing to a monthly contract will save you lots of money; monthly discounts are usually as high as 70%. 

Take the budget apartment building Mali’s Room as an example, at the time of writing this, the nightly rate for a studio apartment is ฿500 and the monthly rate is ฿4000 (plus utilities) for the same room.

Renting is also much less drawn-out and bureaucratic than in the west. 

Usually, you can visit an apartment building, view the room, and move in that day. Payment is required upfront and includes a bond of around two months’ worth of rent, depending on the duration of your contract.

Read here for some other cheap places to live in Thailand.

Apartments in Nimmanhaemin, Chiang Mai
Apartments in Nimmanhaemin, Chiang Mai

What to rent in Chiang Mai

As a small but sprawled city, Chiang Mai has almost any type of accommodation you could want in every neighborhood.

Condos and serviced apartments

Legally speaking, a condo in Thailand is a unit within a high-rise building that the owners have legal rights over as well as part owner of the shared facilities. However, in practice, serviced apartment buildings will often market their rooms as condos and vice-versa.

If you want to buy a condo, give this a read or reach out to us.

For short-term rentals, serviced apartments tend to be cheaper and operate on a simple monthly rate. However, depending on the development, condos can offer monthly rentals too.

As for Chiang Mai, the more upscale apartments are mainly around Nimman, Chiang Mai’s most westernized and expensive neighborhood. 

Many of these developments are large and easily found online or on the ground.

Condos are found for around ฿7000 and up. If you venture out of Nimmanhaemin (which we recommend) to areas like Tha Phae or Central Festival your money will go further.

Apartments and hotels

These are probably your most common choices, especially for those on a budget. We included the two together because many properties operate as both simultaneously.

From personal experience, we don’t recommend staying in a touristy hotel for long periods of time. Having an apartment-style place instead tends to be more quiet, homely, and suited to longer stays.

It may seem silly to mention, but a place with a minifridge, friendly staff, and some neighbors you know by name goes a long way as far as making you feel at home. 

Bungalows and houses

You can find bungalows and houses all over Chaing Mai, even in the middle of the old city. In the more central areas, these can come with a premium, but as you move out the prices are similar to apartments.

If you are moving with your family or want more space, consider looking at areas just out of the city. Jed Yod and Suthep are affordable and leafy neighborhoods.

If you want peace and quiet, Mae Rim and Hang Dong are outlying towns to the North and South respectively that are growing in popularity with ex-pats.

Look for Lanna (pronounced lan-NAH) style houses. These raised teak homes are unique to Northern Thailand and are usually surrounded by lush tropical gardens.

Best neighborhoods in Chiang Mai

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai – The Best Areas

The Old City

The old city, or Sri Phum by its Thai name, is located within the ancient city’s moat. Despite being the center of the city, the old city is relatively affordable and quiet.

The limited number of bridges over the moat keeps most of the transient traffic out and all the buildings are four stories or lower due to building regulations.

The area has a well-rounded mix of retirees, digital nomads, Thai students, and tourists. The only downside is that it can get busy during the high season.

Tha Phae

Tha Phae is similarly well-rounded to the Old City. 

Accommodation is fairly affordable here, as well as the nightlife. The area is more developed and busy than the old city.

The wider area includes Worowat Market, Loi Kroh (Chiang Mai’s small red light area), and several Thai boxing stadiums.

We’d recommend Tha Phae to those who want an urban feel without the trendy bars and prices of Nimman.

Jed Yod

Jed Yod and Suthep are great suburbs for those who want to be close to the city but be around nature.

Set at the base of Doi Suthep, the areas boast stunning mountain views (even more so than the rest of Chiang Mai) and walks and waterfalls.

The mix of local students and foreign retirees has driven the demand for great international food options, low-key cafes, and affordable housing.

Nimmanhaemin (Nimman)

Nimman is the most modern and westernized area of Chiang Mai. It is the most expensive and least Thai neighborhood.

Accommodation is generally more expensive here, but if you look around you’ll find plenty of places that are similarly priced to the rest of the city.

Nimman is great for anyone looking for a more western place with all the comforts and cafes of home.

Santitham

Santitham is just over the road from Nimman. Arguably the most well-rounded neighborhood, Santitham boasts copious amounts of affordable food options, both Thai and International. 

The neighborhood is sprawled out, with every type of accommodation and bar you could want. 

This is a more local area and is well-connected. You will find all types of people here, including quite a few long-term expats.

Have a read of our Northern Thailand guide if you’re looking for more great towns in Northern Thailand.

How to find a rental in Chiang Mai

How to find a rental

There’s no right way to find a place, but as long-term residents of Chiang Mai, we’d do this:

Arrive and book a few nights at a hotel or guesthouse.

Start searching online, Google Maps is the best, but booking.com, Renthub, and Airbnb are great. If you already know someone in Chiang Mai, have a talk with them and see if they can recommend a place.

Once you find a few places, get in touch with the owners via email or Facebook and get a quote. Feel free to ask in person as well.

Visit and personally inspect the places you have shortlisted. Pictures are often misleading.

Ask the landlord about Wi-Fi connectivity, neighbors and if they can give you a TM30. A TM30 form that registers your address with the government is both a legal requirement and essential for obtaining things like bank accounts and driver’s licenses.

If the place is next to a temple, you can expect to hear a little noise in the early morning. Of the two places I’ve stayed next to temples, it was never much of an issue.

If you like a place, get the contract in writing. Don’t pay much more than ฿5 per unit of electricity, water should usually be free or a fixed rate of about ฿100 a month.

We suggest opening a Thai bank account and using it to make the transaction. Although we’ve never had anything but great experiences with our landlords, handing over bundles of cash with no proof of the transaction is a bit discomforting.

The other option is to get a real estate agent to show you around some properties, this should be free of charge as the agent takes a commission on any contracts you may sign.

What’s Next?

Now that you know what to do, it’s just a matter of starting. We suggest getting a bank account and a driver’s/motorcycle license so you can view the different areas of Chiang Mai safely and in your own time.

We’ll help you get sorted and point you in the right direction. We even know a few nice apartments that we think you’d like. Reach out and we’ll jump on a call to make a start. 

Want to move to Thailand?

If you’re interested in moving to Thailand but are unsure about a few things – visas, banking, safety, scams, dating, accommodation and more.

Check out our premium Thailand guide: The Need to Know of Moving to Thailand

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