Apartment Hunting in Chiang Mai | Guest Post by Bea Wander
So you’re all packed and excited to come to Chiang Mai. You even booked your flights and a few days at a hotel.
The next step is to find long(er)-term accommodation.
No idea where to start? Worried about finding a place to stay during high season?
Even though it wasn’t as easy as some Facebook posts might suggest, I was able to lock down an apartment in three days.
This was my timeline:
- December 4 - Arrived in town
- December 5 & 6 - Looked at 35 places in the Nimman and Santitham area
- December 7 - Put down my deposit and first month’s rent
- December 8 - Moved in!
Thirty-five. You read that right!
Some people might say I’m crazy, but it was my first time looking for a rental in Chiang Mai and I wanted to do it right. Also, it was during the high season - which is around September to March.
Most of them were not available, so I was able to get through 16+ buildings in a day.
Curious about how I conducted my search or want to see pictures and pricing on the apartments I scoped out? Read about my experience here!
This is what I learned over two laborious days to help you with your selection process:
1. Know What You Want
Here are some basic questions for you to start thinking about. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it should help you find more clarity on what you’re looking for.
What’s Your Budget?
What you get for 5000 baht/month is QUITE different than 15,000 baht/month. The bigger your budget, the more options you’ll have.
Are you looking for a studio, 1-bedroom or 2-bedroom? Or, did you want to rent a whole house? The bigger the place, the higher the cost, usually.
Sometimes, renting a detached home can be comparable to renting an apartment. The difference would be location. A house is probably on the outskirts of town and you’ll need access to a vehicle or Grab/taxi/bike everywhere.
Mobike is the popular rent-a-bike program in town. I haven’t tried it yet, but I see other people using it.
From my research, 10,000 baht a month seems to be the average rental price in the trendy Nimman area. Once you’re 5 to 10-minute walk away from Nimman, the price is instantly reduced by 20-50%.
My budget was 7000 baht for a studio and I had no problem finding suitable places in Santitham. It was a little bit more challenging in Nimman, though not impossible.
5000 baht vs 14000 baht room
How Long Will You Stay?
2 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year or forever?
The longer the duration, the more favourable the pricing. It’s not uncommon to see discounts if you stay for 3 months or longer.
Below is the price list for Serene Teak. If you stay for longer than 3 months, it’s 500-1000 baht less each month.
They have an AWESOME swimming pool in the front yard, by the way.
I also feel that Building Managers would want to rent to you more, too. Every time I told them I was looking for a place for 3 months, they seemed a lot more agreeable…
If you’re only here for 3 weeks or less, I’d suggest you stay at a hostel or hotel. Reason being that you may not get your deposit back if you don’t stay until the end of the one month contract.
Good news for those coming in January! Many of the places I visited that were full said they will become available in the new year, so you might be in luck!
Where Do You Want To Live?
This is where making friends with Google Maps is mandatory! Chiang Mai isn’t huge, so you should be able to research the town and pinpoint a few areas you like.
Most digital nomads will opt to stay in Nimman. It’s convenient - everything you need is within walking distance, western and pricey.
I decided to stay in Santitham - a neighbouring area to Nimman that’s only a quick 10-20 minute walk away. Last year, I was here on vacation and stayed near Tha Pae Gate - the home of the popular Sunday Market. It’s a bit touristy, but I liked it!
What Can You Compromise On?
Start thinking about things like…
Are you OK without a saltwater swimming pool and/or gym in your building?
Do you value a central location so you can walk everywhere?
Or, you don’t mind staying further away and scooter everywhere?
Is having a kitchen so you can cook a must?
Do you prefer a quieter setting or want to be where the action is?
Would you want to pay more money for nicer furniture and decor, or that’s not as important to you?
Only you can answer these questions since it’s based on personal preferences.
I had a strict budget to stick to and preferred a quieter place. I don’t have a scooter but didn’t mind being away from the center as long as it was still within walking distance. I didn’t care about the size of my apartment because I knew I wouldn’t be spending too much time anyway.
2. Visit Your List of Places
You can generate this list in many different ways, including:
- Research on accommodation-booking platforms like RentHub, Perfect Homes & Nomad Rental
- Do a quick google search to see what pops up
- Search up old posts on Facebook groups to see what others say. Join Chiang Mai Digital Nomads or Chiang Mai Nomad Girls
- Contact local rental agencies* so they can set up appointments for you. Try Expat Homes, Perfect Homes & Chiang Mai House. You don’t pay them directly. A portion of your monthly rent goes to them as commission, which is all handled by your landlord.
*Disclaimer: Personally, I have not used rental agents so I can’t vouch for these companies. If I had little to zero success in apartment hunting on my own, I wouldn’t hesitate to reach out to them.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, go on foot to explore the different areas.
When you see a building you like, go in and ask if there are any rooms available for you to see.
3. Shortlist and Compare
After you’ve seen some apartments that you like, you can shortlist your favorites. I’d suggest to narrow down to your top 3-5 and compare them against each other.
Some basic rating factors are:
- Monthly Base Rent Price
- Cost of Utilities: Water & Electricity Per Unit (I’m told to expect around 1000 baht/month)
- Other Expenses*
- Total Estimated Monthly Rent Price
- Walking Time to [insert place you’ll frequent]
*Internet, check-in/check-out cleaning, room fob key, monthly maintenance and other fees. These costs can add up quickly!
You may still have to pay out-of-pocket for certain things. For example, bedding - bed sheets, pillow and blanket, weekly housekeeping or a fee to get your TM30 form. They shouldn’t charge you for just a piece of paper, but some do and you need the TM30 to extend your visa at the Immigration Office.
Here is my very scientific and thorough comparison spreadsheet.
Don’t be scared to visit the apartment again or call the Building Manager to ask all your questions.
Before I signed my contract, I confirmed that
- there were no other expenses except for utilities,
- I could e-transfer my deposit and first month’s rent instead of cash payment, and
- the date/time I can move in.
4. Make a Decision
At this point, you should feel pretty good about your final decision.
Don’t drag it out longer than you need to. Nothing is perfect and it’ll just get in the way of you settling down and enjoying what Chiang Mai has to offer!
Remember, it’s not a life or death decision. It’s a decision that can affect your comfort on a temporary basis.
So, go ahead.
Sign the contract, pay the deposit and move in. We’re all waiting for you here to join the fun!
Wonder which apartments made my shortlist? Read about how I found my apartment during high season in Chiang Mai here!
Bea is a former corporate slave and recently broke free to start her nomadic journey. She loves food, fitness, sleep and saying hi to fellow Canadians.
You can follow her wanderings at https://beawander.com 🙂