Renting an apartment in Chiang Mai has been one of the easiest things we've done in the past 6 months. If you've ever rented an apartment before in any other country, you know the drill: endless stacks of bureaucratic paperwork, numerous appointments to check the apartments out, waiting lists, and even just having to wait for an apartment to be vacant and ready for you to move in.
Chiang Mai? None of that.
You walk into a nearby place that appeals to you, ask for a tour, and repeat – until you find one that you like. Then, withdraw the necessary cash for the deposit and first month (this could vary), and you move in. All on the same day. It's that simple. Sounds good, right?
If you're planning on spending at least a month in Chiang Mai, renting an apartment is going to be your best bet – it's cheaper overall, more comfortable, and provides more privacy.
What's the best area to stay at?
Most digital nomads and expatriates living in Chiang Mai on a long- or short-term basis are found in the Nimman neighborhood, an area just outside of the old city. This area is full of cafes, restaurants, coworking spaces, and of course, apartments. It's one of the most recommended places to stay as a digital nomad – and we can definitely attest to this.
Where do you start?
First things first, make a list of the apartments that interest you before getting to Chiang Mai. Search Youtube for a few videos on what the apartments look like and what features they do (or don't) have, their typical price ranges, and then plan according to your budget and needs. If you take an afternoon to do this search, you'll find tons of apartments that fit your criteria with short- and long-term leases that are available for you to move into.
Preparing beforehand isn't absolutely necessary, by the way. But, this way you don't waste money staying at a hostel or guesthouse for several days while walking around aimlessly in Chiang Mai until you find something. A little organization and planning in this case goes a long way!
Finding an Apartment in Chiang Mai – The Process
I suggest spending a night in a hostel or guesthouse close to the area where you want to live so that you can start your in-person research of these apartments first thing in the morning. Leave your things behind while you visit the potential apartments; once you make your pick, go and get your belongings, fill out the minimal paperwork, get the keys to your new apartment, and walk into your new home!
List of Apartments we Visited in the Nimman Area
Given our budget requirements and list of preferences, we narrowed down our search to the following apartments:
- Pansook Condo – from 10,000 baht (USD $300)
- Chiang Mai Lodge – from 7,500 baht (USD $225)
- Huay Kaew – from 3,500 baht (USD $105)
- PT Residence – from 9,000 baht (USD $270)
- Baan Thai – 5,700 baht (USD $172)
- The Bliss – from 7,500 baht (USD $225)
- Phinyoping Mansion – from 7,000 baht (USD $210)
- One Plus Huaey Kaew – 11,000 baht (USD $330)
We visited these apartments in September of 2017. Chiang Mai is in constant development, so please keep in mind that anything can change by the time you visit these properties!
The Details You Need to Know!
Although the process is incredibly easy, there are still details to consider.
For example, the price of the utilities is just as important as the price of the rent. How much do they charge for electricity? And water? All of these are measured in "units" and vary based on the apartment complex. As a local property owner here informed us, this is one of the areas where complexes will try to profit off of tenants, so it's important to compare the costs of utilities!
We'll start with what was most important to us: Wi-fi. Is it included, and is it any good?
All of the apartments we visited included internet in the asking price, although some of them limited the amount of devices you were allowed to use. Depending on what your goal in Chiang Mai is, you may also want to ask about the speed, and even test it from the vicinity of where you would be staying (i.e. not just the lobby). When you're checking the apartments out in person, make sure to ask about this before signing any dotted lines.
Like I mentioned earlier, electricity is charged by the unit. In our searches, we found that the typical cost of a single unit is 5–10 baht (USD $0.15 – $0.30). This doesn't sound like much, but it's actually enough of a gap that could end up costing an extra 1,000 baht a month!
We asked for an approximation of the costs per month: "If you stay out of your apartment during the day and only use air conditioning at night, you'll spend around 1,000 baht per month."
This might have been an underestimation, but it's probably close enough. In our case, our first bill came out to be 2,400 baht (USD $72) for the month – more than double of what we expected to pay. Why? Because we decided to turn our apartment into an office, so to speak. We realized that going to a cafe to work would have been just as expensive, if not more, than staying in everyday to work.
We were assured water was going to be cheap – and it was. They also typically charge per unit, but occasionally you'll find apartment complexes that charge a fixed price. We paid about 100 baht per month (USD $3).
Consider what other amenities the apartment offers. Some of these amenities include free garage parking, a gym, pool, or common areas where you can work and hang out. Also, make sure to check out the bed, as some Thai beds are hard as bricks and you may not like that.
Don't forget to consider the deposit! We found that apartments generally ask for the first month of rent and the deposit, but some require more – ask them and compare before making any decisions.
Everything is negotiable. Before verbally confirming your pick, ask for a discount on the deposit or monthly rent – we tried it and it worked for us!
Tip! When you move in, make sure to note any existing imperfections so that you're not charged for something that isn't your fault on the way out.
Our Pick – PT Residence
Ultimately, we chose PT Residence for five main reasons:
Great internet connection
Large studio with enough space to sleep, work, and hang out
Toilet separate from shower (you'd be surprised how uncommon this is in Southeast Asia)
Bedding change and weekly cleaning included
We paid 8,500 baht monthly (they originally asked for 9,000 baht). Our prices were also slightly higher prices because we were staying for less than 3 months. So, similar to what you'll find in other places, short-term rentals are more expensive than long-term ones. Also, you can find apartments in Chiang Mai with nice pools and gyms, but you will most likely either end up paying more or renouncing other amenities.
We'd recommend PT Residence to anyone! The apartment itself is great, the staff is friendly, the price is fair, and the internet is surprisingly fast and stable.
Have you ever considered leaving home and moving abroad? Where would you move to?