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Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai: A City With Much To Offer...

Many foreigners choose to make central or southern Thailand their home and a majority of them end up settling around Thailand’s third “country,” Chiang Mai. Since the 1800s, the Thai city of Chiang Mai has been luring expats from the West, some come for the weather, and others are attracted to the low cost of living. It’s an area rich in history with a culture distinctly different than central and southern Thailand.

About 435 miles north of Bangkok, Chiang Mai is nestled in a fertile river valley surrounded by mountains and enjoys a more temperate climate than other parts of Thailand. It’s an area rich in history with a culture distinctly different than central and southern Thailand. Many people who first experience Northern Thailand on vacation end up staying for years.

The heart of Chiang Mai lies within its old city walls. Here, dozens of ancient and modern Buddhist temples coexist with public and international schools, residential and commercial neighborhoods. Street markets and festivals occur almost nightly, and a huge array of restaurants catering to all tastes can be found within walking distance of almost anywhere in the Old City.

Chiang Mai has grown beyond the ancient walls, though, and extends for several miles in every direction. Large shopping complexes are located along the superhighway, a multi-laned, controlled-access ring road that circles the outskirts of the city. Several “mega-malls” and huge multi-national grocery and department stores line the access roads to the superhighway.

Between the Old City and superhighway are the condominiums that so many foreigners purchase, freestanding houses, terrace homes, and hundreds of independently-owned neighborhood stores. One thing that Chiang Mai definitely has going for it is its weather.

While the weather in Bangkok is hot and steamy year round, Chiang Mai has a cool season From December until the end of February, mid-day temperatures are generally in the low or mid-80s.

Cost Of Living In Chiang Mai

Thailand is one place in the world where you can still enjoy aspects of first-class living at economy-class prices. It is possible to stretch your retirement nest egg to enjoy a better lifestyle in Southeast Asia than you could afford anywhere else in the world.

In Chiang Mai, where a retired couple could on less than US$1,100 per month, with housing prices so low, it’s no wonder so many expats have chosen to make Thailand their permanent home. Buying real estate in Thailand is presents several difficulties. Of course, some retirees—particularly those intending to spend a long time in the country—may feel more comfortable buying their own property, regardless of difficulties or depreciation.

Anyone residing in Thailand is responsible for paying taxes when buying or selling property, but there are no annual property taxes. All taxes and fees are paid upon the transfer of the property.

Luxury condominiums start at around US$49,500, and for around US$115,500, you could have an upscale and spacious place with a full Western-style kitchen, teak floors, installed phone lines, hot tubs, spectacular views and amenities such as swimming pools and golf courses.

Across Thailand, the standard of medical care is very high and costs are extremely reasonable. This has helped to make the country a popular destination for medical tourists, who find it much less expensive to fly to Thailand and receive treatment there, than it would be to have the same procedure done in their home country.

Over 1.2 million foreigners sought medical care in Thailand in 2006. Seeing an English-speaking doctor for a simple visit, for example, costs around US$20. Several hospitals in the city offer an international standard of medical care. Major surgical procedures are significantly less expensive than in the U.S. and positive outcomes are high.

A heart bypass, for example, that would cost over US$100,000 in the United States will only cost around US$10,000 in Thailand. A total hip replacement in Thailand costs around US$11,000, yet the same procedure in the States is more than US$70,000. A simple MRI costs less than US$300, a saving of around US$700 compared to having the same procedure in the United States.

Monthly Budget For A Couple Living In Chiang Mai, Thailand

ExpenseMonthly CostNotes
RentTHB 25,000 Unfurnished, two-bedroom apartment.
GasTHB 300 For cooking.
TransportationTHB 800 Bus/metro pass for two, occasional taxi.
ElectricityTHB 2,000 A/C usage.
WaterTHB 200 
TelephoneTHB 600 
InternetTHB 1,000 
Cable TVTHB 1,100 
GroceriesTHB 9,000 Basic items for couple. 
EntertainmentTHB 2,560 Social outing, 150-700 baht p/person
TotalTHB 42,560 US$1,206

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