Moving to Thailand: Expats Journey to Living in Chiang Mai

Considering a Move to Thailand? Learn First Hand From Australian Ex-Pats Living in Chiang Mai!

Story Highlights

  • Why Moving To Thailand Made Sense
  • How Living in Thailand Can Be Different
  • Why Living In Chiang Mai Was Top Of The List

Alan and Ros of out of Austraillia have put together a great guest post for us about moving to Thailand and their lives living in Chiang Mai!

Our names are Ros and Alan, we’re an Australian couple in our 50’s who set off on an amazing adventure by moving to Thailand. Living in Chiang Mai, Thailand is colorful, exciting and cheap but we didn’t just wake up one morning saying “let’s move to Thailand”. Moving to Thailand was a gradual decision bought on by family illness, loss and the realization that the future you imagine isn’t guaranteed and that the time to live is now.

living in chiang mai elephants
When Living in Thailand You’ve Got To Get To Know The Locals

Moving to Thailand – The Decision

The seeds of moving to Thailand were sown in 2012 while on a trip to Bangkok in Thailand. We were having a drink in a local bar and got talking to a fellow Australian. His tales of life in Thailand were intriguing to us and from that moment on the seeds were firmly planted.

We made the decision to move to Thailand in 2015, it wasn’t an easy decision, friends thought we were crazy and family members were upset. We almost changed our minds on several occasions but I’m so glad we didn’t because we would have missed out on so many wonderful experiences.

Related: Climbing Thailand’s Tiger Cave Temple: a Must-Do!

Preparing for a move to Chiang Mai Thailand

We found that the hardest thing about moving to Thailand is preparing your life for Thailand.

We had to condense thirty years of our life into two suitcases and carry on. It took a lot of time and was an emotional roller coaster filled with emotion, sometimes we thought we would never be finished. I remember the feeling of relief when were finally sitting on the plane to Thailand, knowing that it was all worth it.

You will need a visa for living in Thailand, for peace of mind it is better if you apply for it in your home country before you leave. Contact the Thai Embassy in your home country and they will give the requirements for a Thai Visa and examples of the types of visa’s available.

Just make sure you leave plenty of time for the visa to be processed, sometimes it cant take 6-8 weeks!

Living in Chiang Mai Thailand

We decided to relocate to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand sight unseen, with the thought that if we didn’t like it we could try another city.

Fortunately, we fell in love with living in Chiang Mai and from the moment we stepped off the plane it felt like home. The locals are so friendly, it has a casual laid-back vibe, it is full of life and best of all its CHEAP! Not only is it cheap but Chiang Mai has some of the best food around. I’m a full blown meat eater but some of the vegan restaurants in Chiang Mai blew my mind.

Chiang Mai is home to thousands of expats from all over the globe. Here, and in Thailand generally, there are two types of expat, those who stay full time and seasonal expats who come to enjoy Chiang Mai’s cooler winter months between October to February.

Chiang Mai expats have a vibrant social life and it’s easy to make friends through the Chiang Mai Expats Club. The Chiang Mai Expats Club hold breakfast meetings at the River Market Restaurant every second Friday and welcome with open arms anyone thinking of relocating to Chiang Mai.

Accommodation in Chiang Mai

First thing you are going to need is a place to live, in Chiang Mai you have two choices, condominiums and houses. Overall you will find condominiums in the center of the city while houses are located further out of Chiang Mai.

Many condominiums have the advantage being within walking distance or a songthaew (red bus) ride to entertainment and amenities, this is convenient if you want to lead a city lifestyle.

In the suburbs you will find beautiful modern homes in gated communities called Moo Baan’s. Public transport doesn’t reach many of these areas, so you may need to buy a car or motorbike.

We enjoy the city life and have rented three different condominiums in the time we have lived in Chiang Mai. We have lived in two of the most popular areas of Chiang Mai, the Night Market area and the Nimmenhaemin area.

There are two styles of accommodation, modern and older style condo’s, both styles have different levels of comfort and budget. You can pay around $750 dollars per month for an ultra-modern one-bedroom apartment, with security, modern pool and gym.

You don’t have to sacrifice comfort in older style apartments, they are usually roomier than modern apartments and come with a pleasing price tag. We are currently living in an older one-bedroom condominium and pay $425 per month with pool and gym.

moving to thailand and living in chiang mai
When Moving To Thailand Consider Your Accommodation Options

Studio apartments are cheaper still and can be rented for as little as $300 per month.

Life in Chiang Mai Thailand

Chiang Mai is a city of contrasts; modern and traditional buildings are scattered throughout the city. You can indulge your love of modern shopping malls and coffee culture while exploring the tranquil Buddhist temples and tiny laneways of exotic shops and restaurants that are bursting with life.

Temples while living in chiang mai
Living in Chiang Mai You’ll Experience Tons of Culture!

Life in Chiang Mai is busy, we have made so many new friends and the main topic of discussion is always food. Eating out in Chiang Mai is cheap so most people meet at restaurants and coffee shops to socialize.

Chiang Mai has a multitude of cuisines and dining styles ranging from fine dining to market stalls. You will find that a lot of the time it is cheaper to eat out than cook at home.

Make sure to try Khao Soi, Chiang Mai’s signature dish which is simply delicious!

amazing food moving to thailand
Moving To Thailand You’ll Get To Eat Amazing Food On The Regular!

Internet and phone plans are readily available and much cheaper than western prices.

Transport options are cheap, Songthaew (red bus) and Tuk Tuk’s easy to find, just flag one down and negotiate a price. Grab taxis are cheap and easy to contact through their app.

Visit Chiang Mai Markets

For those who want to cook at home you have a choice of supermarkets or produce markets.

Luckily many supermarkets have familiar items from home, the only things we miss from Australia is lamb, beef, cheese and wine, not because we can’t get them but because they are expensive items in Thailand.

I love fresh produce markets, observing the hustle and bustle of daily life, discovering new and exotic fruits and vegetables, making friends with the stall holders and buying freshly picked produce make visiting the market the highlights of my day.

Living in Chiang Mai Markets
When Living in Chiang Mai Shopping at the Markets is a Way of Life

Walking through the market you will see huge pots bubbling with delicious Thai food, if you are feeling hungry choose the one you want, a meal at the market can cost as little as a dollar.

Moving to Thailand Can be a Shock, The Markets However are Amazing!
Moving to Thailand Can be a Shock, The Markets However are Amazing!

What To See Around Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has so much beauty on its doorstep.

On Doi Suthep mountain the golden Chedi of Wat Phra That Buddhist temple shines brightly in the sun, flowers and the scent of incense hang sweetly in the air as monks go about their daily chores.

Popular activities around Chiang Mai include learning Thai handicrafts crafts such as batik, silversmithing and hilltribe weaving.

Discovering the intricacies of Thai cuisine by taking a Thai cooking class. Hanging out with elephants to discover the steps being taken to protect these majestic animals.

Learning Batik While Living In Thailand
Learning The Art of Batik While Living In Thailand

Travel From Chiang Mai

Living in Chiang Mai works well as a base for further travels. A short flight from Chiang Mai will have you sipping drinks poolside or soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches of Phuket, Koh Samui or Koh Lipe or perhaps even enjoying Bangkok’s vibrant nightlife.

Read Also: 11 Epic Things to Do on Koh Samui

Chiang Mai has an International airport with direct flights to cities across south east Asia & China so it’s not unusual to find many of Chiang Mai’s residents & expat’s jetting off to adventure and explore in the nearby countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos or China.

Moving to Thailand and living in Chiang Mai is truly the perfect stepping stone to the delights of Thailand and Asia! Even if you’re not ready to move to Thailand you should definitely buy some cheap airfare, grab your travel backpack and go explore, it’s a country rich in culture, tradition and natural beauty that everyone should experience at least once!

Read Also: The Best Beaches in Krabi, Thailand

If you’re looking for even more reasons to visit or live in Chiang Mai these resources could help:

8 Great Reasons to Visit Chiang Mai – Kavey Eats

Frequent Traveller - Author Bio

Alan and Ros Cuthbertson are the creators behind Frequent Traveller. They enjoy writing about their travels and have also been published in various lifestyle magazines. Alan and Ros have always loved travel, and a series of life lessons helped them realize that life is short that they didn’t want to waste another moment, so they quit their jobs and took off to see the world!

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Guest Authors provide awesome content to the blog from all over the world!


  1. Such a great post <3 Hope that one day I could have a chance to visit Chiang Mai and others destination in northern Thailand. I love Thai food and their culture. I also have some Thai friends, they are very kind and friendly. I`m sure that my experience there will be one of the most memorable moments in my life. Thank you for the informative post about living in Chiang Mai & moving to thailand!

  2. Great article, thank you.
    If I may ask if you’re retired or have found employment in Chang Mai?

    1. Hello Roland, both Ros and Alan are retired and living in Chiang Mai. However, the city is vibrant and full of opportunities for expats. Most people I’ve spoken to have not had issues finding work in the area.

  3. Medical/Health/Dentsl insurance. I’m in remission for three years after stage 3 cancer. How do you address healthcare if you live there or do you keep in the US and fly back

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