So you’ll be coming to Chiang Mai! If you want to conspire and coordinate with others, let me know and I will add you to our private Facebook group filled with OG’s.
Chiang Mai is the bomb. I’ve been in and out of here for the last 4 years or so… now I live here with my family, so a lot of people ask me for advice about where to stay. So I put together this page with some recommendations:
For those who still need to arrange flights to Thailand, I recommend searching through Skyscanner for the best options:
Hotels/Accommodation for Bangkok:
Here’s a few places I’d recommend if you’re stopping in BKK on your way to Chiang Mai:
- Somerset Park Suanplu
- Aloft Hotel Sukhumvit
- Citadines Sukhumvit 11
- Lub d Hostel
- Sawasdee Hotels
- Diamond House
- Khao San Road has many cheap backpacker hostels
- Or search here to book accommodation all across Thailand & Asia
Or search for other options on these aggregator sites:
Recommended Accommodation in Chiang Mai:
My personal favorite areas in town are Santitham on the northern-ish side of the Old City, and Nimman area on the west side. Santitham is a bit quieter, more local style, cheaper, home to my favorite expat bar in CM (Small House Kafe, but don’t give away this great secret to too many people!); Nimman is a trendy up-and-coming area that’s as popular with the young Thais as it is with foreigners – lots of restaurants, bars, nightlife, cafes, and home to CM’s original coworking office Punspace if you’re here to get work done…
Some of my top-recommended stays in Santitham area are:
Sakulchai Place – close to the main road Huay Kaew, walking distance to lots, good pool, decent restaurant
Plern Plern Bed and Bike – really nice little boutique spot, good for long term if you can snatch one, offers free bicycles
Chiang Mai P Place – also great for long-term stay – I recommend booking a couple nights online and then negotiate a good monthly rate with them in-person if you like the room
The Dome Residence – this is where I stay with my family. Competitive monthly rates if you like the place
The Opium – serviced apartment, good for long-term, deeper in Santitham, you’re going to want to rent a car or motorbike if you stay here
Chiang Mai Lodge – good location, close to lots of good restaurants & my favorite bar
B2 Green – these guys have a whole chain of “B2” hotels all around CM, always acceptable
Some recommended stays in Nimman area:
Mayflower Grande – the first place I stayed in CM, right in the heart of the action
The Bliss hotel – decent for long-term stay if you want to be near Nimman road
The Empire Residence Nimman – very nice views, good location, but maybe ask for a room overlooking Soi 6, not Nimman road, so you don’t get too much nightlife noise
The Siri Condo – very nice place for long-term stay
Prestige Chiang Mai Residence – nice spot for long-term, just a little further up Huay Kaew main road toward the canal road
Kantary Hills – almost 5-stars, has an amazing gym, pool, and lots of great restaurants
Motorbike & Car rentals:
If you’re looking to rent a motorbike (vespa style usually) I recommend you look up Mango Bikes in Santitham area for the best deals, or find one of the Bikky shops on Huay Kaew Road (if you’re staying in Nimman area).
To rent a car at the best rates, if you can make it into the Old City, try Smile Motorbike & Car Rental – Bob (the woman that runs the shop) will sometimes rent out Toyotas for 1100 or 1200 baht a day.
Important information about Visas!
MOST travelers will receive a 30-day visa exemption stamp on arrival at the Bangkok or Chiang Mai international airports. This can *currently* be extended for another 30 days within the country at any Immigration Office for 1900 baht (there is one on the outskirts of Chiang Mai about 30 minutes drive from the city center). If you want or need more time in the country, then it is recommended to apply for a proper Tourist Visa in your home country or Thai Consulate outside the Kingdom prior to your arrival.
Safety / Local Customs Tips:
Thai law technically requires all foreigners to carry their passport at all times, wherever they are. This means when you are at the beach, night club, anywhere. Make your own decision whether to do so or not, but be VERY mindful of your passport & other belongings so they do not go missing while swimming or drunk in some bar.
Additionally, NEVER hand over your passport as a deposit on a motorbike rental (or at a hotel/guesthouse). You can sometimes leave your home driving license with them instead (though, again technically you should have this on you when driving if you want to be legal), or you may be able to leave a cash deposit or negotiate some other form of deposit.
Be smart if you are going to get on a motorbike, practice in an empty parking lot, and take advantage of helmets. Look out for sand or debris the roadway – it has taken many an experienced rider down.
Violent crime and outright aggression are fairly uncommon in Thailand, but they do happen. Always keep your wits about you, be mindful of your surroundings, and do what you can to stay smart and responsible. Pickpocketing and mild tourist scams are much more common, so just keep track of your valuables at all times, and be street smart when it comes to who you trust, talk to, and hire to transport you around, for example. If something sounds too good to be true, chances are it is.
Break ins and non-violent robbery does happen a fair amount – lock your doors at night and be protective of your valuables anywhere outside of the absolute nicest hotels (i.e. use the room safe), and even be cautious if you invite people into your hotel/home/whatever.
AVOID initiating (or even participating in) arguments or conflict with locals in ANY fashion. Thailand is a very non-confrontational culture, and locals have a preoccupation with “saving face” and being treated with respect. The general rule is – if you are always respectful and polite you can generally expect people to treat you similarly – but when you violate Thais’ social rules, situations can sometimes get out of hand or escalate quickly – especially if alcohol, drugs, or sex are added to the mix in any way whatsoever (you know these things are common throughout the country).
There are times when you may just have to face the fact that you are (by default) in the wrong, and have to walk away from a situation. I.e., never argue overtly with anyone who has a badge or a gun, anyone who owns the bar or joint you’re in, anyone with a posse, or anyone who seems like they might potentially be on some sort of substance.
Sometimes simply prostrating yourself to the other, and/or money, can solve a lot of problems.
Don’t touch anyone on the top of the head, especially elder people. For Thais, the top of the head is a sacred place.
Don’t point at anything with your feet or put your feet on top of a chair, desk, etc. The feet are considered the dirtiest part of the body, so definitely keep them away from monks, Buddha statues, and images of the King.
Women are not allowed to touch monks at all. So no reaching out to shake hands, and don’t sit next to them on the BTS skytrain.
Learn what a ‘wai’ is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCgJx4j9Sow
Learn a few basic phrases:
- “Sawadee kup”(male)/”Sawadee ka” (female) – “Hello”
- “Sabai dee mai kup/ka” – “How are you?”
- “Korp khun kup/ka” – “Thank you”
- “Tao rai kup/ka” – “How much is it?”
- “Mai pen lai kup/ka” – “No worries” or “It doesn’t matter” — that’s the attitude out here. Don’t take anything too seriously.
Have patience. Remain flexible. Don’t lose your temper. Don’t let anyone take outright advantage of you, but also be understanding and don’t be accusatory. Smile, be friendly with people, be respectful and curious of Thai culture, be gracious for help, good food, and quality service – and almost anyone can be your friend.
Thailand is largely about having fun and being easygoing – but don’t treat the place as your playground or the people as your servants. At the end of the day Thailand belongs to the Thai people, and we are guests in their world.
for more info I definitely recommend reading through my Thailand travel guide here 😉
Some good CM-related Facebook groups for networking and local events:
- I HIGHLY recommend you read my comprehensive Thailand Travel Guide here
- Chris Mitchell’s thorough guide 55 Tips To Help You The First Time You Travel To Thailand
- Migration Mark’s exceptional Eating Thai Food Guide, with a complete directory to traditional Thai food & street food, and recommended restaurants
- Another gem from Greg Jorgensen on CNNGo: World’s Greatest City: 50 reasons why Bangkok is No. 1
- From Matador: 10 Thai Customs To Know Before Visiting Thailand
CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU IN CHIANG MAI SOON! 🙂