How to Find and Rent an Apartment in Chiang Mai, Thailand (The Easy and Cheap Way)
A few hours ago, I was having lunch with my buddy Anton - Mr. eCommerce and Ben the editor of the Lifestyle Business Podcast, and I casually mentioned to them that I needed to move out of my apartment by tomorrow morning. With a mouth full of salad, Anton looks up and questions -
"What the hell am I doing here? Shouldn't you be looking for a new place?"
I wanted to move to the Nimmanheim st. my favorite area of Chiang Mai. For those who haven't been here yet, the Nimmanhaemin area of Chiang Mai is equivalent to cool neighborhoods such as the East Village in Manhattan or SOMA in San Francisco. It is a small walking distance neighborhood of coffee shops, book stores, cafes, restaurants and the best bars in Thailand. It's also where I spend all of my time as my CrossFit gym is close as well as my co-working office, the Pun Space.
|Nimmanheim Street, Chiang Mai|
The place I was going to move into fell through this morning but instead of panicking I went to have a nice lunch with my buddies. I figured it would be easy to find another place, and I was right. The way I find apartments is simple but extremely effective. First I figure out what my priorities are and where I'll be spending most of my time, then I park there and walk around until I find a place. I did that with KC Muay Thai when I was concentrating on training for a fight, then again for CrossFit when I first got into it and wanted to make sure I would go everyday. But now that my priority is building my online e-commerce store, I parked my bike at Pun Space and decided to find the closest place to my office.
Two minutes later, I found a boutique apartment building right behind my office, literally twenty steps away. It's a nice building built just a few years ago with a cool coffee shop in the lobby. I was looking for a pretty basic, but clean and brightly lit room and found it spot on. It has a king sized bed, LCD flat screen TV, wardrobe, small leather couch, key card access, cable, wifi, air conditioning, hot showers, a private bathroom and a small outdoor kitchen area on the private balcony.
The total cost including Wifi, linen service and house cleaning, 6,300 baht per month ($210US)
You can't see it in the photo but there is also a decent sized balcony, and a small sitting area with a leather love seat. Within a few blocks away I found two other similar buildings for around 500-1000 baht less as well. But I asked myself what it was worth to not have to jump on my motorbike, even if it was only a two minute drive away and it was definitely worth an extra $20US a month.
The main reason why I chose this place and not some of the others is that everything was included in the price and there wasn't a huge deposit or a bunch of extra fees. No contracts, only a 2,000 baht ($66US) deposit and free wifi, I paid for the month on the spot and move in tomorrow morning.
Tips to Finding a Great Apartment in Chiang Mai:
1. Don't drive.
Start on foot where you want to spend most of your time and walk in an expanding square. You'll see tons of great apartments that you would have normally zipped right past.
Check the small streets and sois, the best places and quietest are often hidden away.
Look for the boutique apartments, they have better service and are generally friendlier than large buildings.
2. Bring a local cell phone with you.
Often there won't be anyone in the office, but will have a number to call. I called mine and she came downstairs to meet me.
3. Look around for construction nearby.
The main reason why I'm moving out of my current neighborhood is from the loud construction that just started a few weeks ago. I value my sleep.
Never sign a long contract. Some places force you to sign a 6 month contract or charge you 20% more per month if you don't. Look around, there are plenty of places that will let you rent month to month.
4. Freedom is priceless,
Don't get locked into an apartment or city that you have to stay at even if you later become bored or unhappy with it.
"Never have anything in your life you can't walk away from in 30 seconds flat." -Heat
5. Negotiate within reason
Updated for 2016: Most of the time the prices quoted are set especially if you're just renting month to month. But a huge way to save big money is to offer to sign a 6 or even 12 month contract if you know you're going to be in town for a while. For the place above they wanted 7,000 for a month when my friend came to see it in 2016, but as soon as he said he was going to stay for 3 months they dropped the price down.
For my current condo which is a 1-bedroom in a very nice complex with a pool, gym, rooftop garden and sauna, most people are quoted 22,000 baht a month ($635US) but if you sign a 6 month lease it can drop down to 18,000 and by signing a 1 year lease it may drop down by another 1-2 thousand so always check if you plan on staying here for a bit. You can even sublease it or AirBnB your place out if you travel.
Good luck with your apartment hunt. If you are new to Chiang Mai, I would recommend booking a random hotel for the first night or two so and looking around once you get here. There are places to book online but it'll always be more expensive and it's always better to see the place and the neighborhood in person.
If you have any questions or apartment suggestions in Chiang Mai, feel free to leave a comment below or read my book 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap for more money saving tips and tricks in Thailand.