Johnny's Guide to Chiang Mai, Thailand for Digital Nomads

I've been living in Chiang Mai for over 5 years now and have figured out the best places to live, neighborhoods to hang out in, places to eat, visas to get, cell phone providers to use, things to do, coffee shops to work out of and little tips and tricks that would make life easier for someone moving out here. This beautiful ancient city is surrounded by mountains, jungle and nature, and is filled with Thai locals, university students, expats, yogi's and digital nomads from around the world, all calling it home.  So here it is, my ultimate guide to relocating to Chiang Mai. This post has been updated for 2018 to reflect the new visa run changes, and motorbike license crack downs.

In this post I'm going to share what I would do if I had to do it all over again. Where I'd stay, how I'd find an apartment, what visa I'd get, what you should do before you come, and the quickest way to get plugged into the digital nomad scene, make friends and start enjoying the good life. Get your notepad ready, book your plane ticket, and get ready to never want to leave once you arrive. Or at the very least, get ready to make Chiang Mai your new go to home base to come to every year for a couple months at a time.

When to Come to Chiang Mai:

The best months are November - February as the weather is perfect, the skies are clear and there is plenty to do. However, aside from burning season, I love Chiang Mai year around. Even during rainy season which is May - November I love it here as the rain cools down the air, makes the surrounding mountain and jungles lush and green, and brings all of the tropical fruits you'd expect from Thailand.

Plus it only rains an hour or two a day, and usually during the night, so it's still possible to get a tan laying by the pool from 2-4 in the afternoon while you sit in a coworking space and watch the rain pour for a few hours.

The only time you should NOT come to Chiang Mai is between March 1st - April 12th as the air quality is horrible during the burning season. Unfortunately sometimes the burning season starts mid to late February as well. (check out Koh Lanta or Koh Phangan those months instead)

Regardless of what month it is, just book your trip and come sooner than later. If you read my book "12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap" you'll see you're not alone when it comes to responsibilities, lack of money, or other excuses. In the book I go through my first four years living in Thailand on a $600 a month budget and how I was able to sell my car, move to Thailand, and get local work as a dive guide and at a Muay Thai gym to allow me to live, eat, and train for free all of those years. If you want to read about how I became a digital nomad and started working online successfully, read my second good, Life Changes Quick.

What Visa Do You Need?

I go into detail about visas in the 12 Weeks Book so definitely give it a read before you make the move out here, as one of the topics I cover is how often people think they want to come for just 1-2 months but then have to do a bunch of complicated border and visa runs to try to get more time here. My universal suggestion is to get a multiple entry tourist visa if you're coming for more than 2 months. Almost everyone, incuding Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and Australians gets 30 days automatically at the border in what they call a 30 day exemption. You can extend this "visa" (technically it's not a visa, just a waiver) at any immigration office whether it be Koh Samui, Bangkok, or Chiang Mai, to get an additional 30 days, making your trip up to 60 days total. The only issue is that it generally takes half or even your entire day of going to and waiting around and you have to pay around 1,900 baht which is $60.

While you can still technically go in-and-out of the country on a cheap flight or by even taking a bus to the border of Myanmar and walking back the same day, don't do it. Thai immigration, rightfully hates seeing border run stamps and as of 2018 has been sometimes refusing people who are abusing the system by flying in without a visa, getting the courtesy 30 day visa exemption, extending it at immigration, then flying out, or even worse, taking a bus to the border 60 days later to do it again. Don't do this, get a proper visa before you come and if you're going to make a border or visa run, go somewhere where there is a Thai consulate and apply for a proper visa before returning. That way you can save your courtesy 30 day stamps for when you really need it. There's no technical limit on how many you can have, but in general, if immigration sees you have more than 2 or 3 in a row, they may either, detain you until you buy a plane ticket back to your home country, or worse, not let you in at all.

Best Visa for Thailand

First, we need to clarify the language as it's confusing. A lot of people say "tourist visa" when they really mean 30 day exemption, study the photo above, as it's important to know the difference. Also, a lot of people say visa run, when they really mean border run. A visa run is going to a different country to apply for an actual tourist visa, a border run is hopping borders either by plane or bus, just to re-enter Thailand again hoping to get another 30 day exemption. Don't do border runs, immigration hates them. Instead, go on vacation somewhere for a minimum of 1-2 weeks, apply for an actual Thai visa while you're there, and you'll have no problems coming back in. I've been doing this for 10 years without issue.

As of a few years ago, Thailand no longer offers the double entry tourist visa, which is a shame as you were able to get them easily in neighboring countries. So your options are either to get a single entry which is valid for 60 days. Or my suggestion, regardless of how long you are coming for is to get a 6 Month Multiple Entry Tourist Visa in your home country before you come, as it's the most flexible. Double check with your local consulate to see their turn around times, some are faster than others. In Los Angeles you can get one the same day, but places like Washington DC take a lot longer,

Each entry is valid for 60 days and you're able to extend it for another 30 days without leaving the country, giving you three months at a time. After 60 or 90 days you have the option to check out a neighboring country like Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, Bali, Maldives, Macau or Borneo, then come back and you'll automatically get another stamp. The only downside is even though you could technically come in again at the end of month 5, which gives you 60 days plus an option to extend for another 30 giving you a total of 9 months, of 2019 Thai immigration is starting to crack down on people staying longer than 6 months a year on any type of tourist visas or exemptions. 

If you want to live in Thailand year round, either get an education visa, but they are annoying as you need to report into immigration, and apply for re-entry permits if you want to travel somewhere. These are not digital nomad visas, these are expat visas, which are fine for people who just want to live in Thailand year round. But often it's for people who are too broke to actually travel. These will be cracked down on soon as well, don't do unless you are actually here to learn Thai or Muay Thai. Focus instead of building your business so you can earn enough money to visit home once a year and get another METV, and go on a real vacation every 3 months during the meantime. You can also look into the retirement visa if you are over 50 and can show 3 Million THB ($91,000) or 100,000thb ($3,026usd) a month in income.

The best visa by far, although also the most expensive is the Thailand Elite Visa which gives is a one year no hassle multiple entry visa that can be renewed every year. It's not cheap at half a million Thai baht, but works out to be around $250 a month with a minimum of 5 years and is great if you have the money, and want to stay in Thailand for the next 5 years or longer without any hassles. It also gives a ton of other benefits like airport pick up, golf resort access, and priority. You can inquire more about the Thai Elite visa by contacting and telling them Johnny FD referred you. I have a few friends who have gotten the visa including Sam Marks and my buddy Ben and his wife who all love the convenience of it.

Tip: Just get a 6 Month Tourist visa at home before you come to Thailand if it's your first time. 

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai:

The most common question I get is where to stay and how to find an apartment in Chiang Mai. The good news is, it's actually a lot easier than you think it's going to be. My universal advice I give to all of my friends that move out here is to get a hotel room for 3 nights to settle in, check out the neighborhood and then find a place in person regardless of the season.

Here are some tips on finding an apartment in chiang mai that I wrote a few years ago but still applies today. But to sum it up, explore the area on foot, look around for nearby construction, and pick up a local sim card as the best deals are places without fancy reception desks.

If you want to book online, the best resource I've found is Nomad Rental. Just don't actually book through them as I've heard some stories of bad customer service and lost reservations. I used to recomend their service until I started hearing reports of them leaving customers stranded without a room and providing terrible customer service. However they have a very transparent site that shows the exact address, price and name of the condo which means you can use it as a reference to look at places where you can book direct. However if you read my apartments blog post above or below, you'll know that it's cheaper to find places in person, not listed online.

I hope you like dogs, as Chiang Mai has a ton of friendly pups.

Chiang Mai Neighborhoods:

I made a map with the neighborhoods that most digital nomads would find important which is broken down to these main areas:

Nimmanhaemin Road: 

For most digital nomads I'd stay near PunSpace Nimman, the coworking space, as it's where all of the coffee shops, restaurants, and things to do are. The Nimmanhaemin area is equivalent to the East Village in New York or SOMA in San Francisco. The only people I wouldn't recommend it for is for for people under 22 that want to be closer to the backpacker scene. If you're more into dreadlocks and buckets than coffee and craft beer, then check out the area near Thapae Gate.

There are two malls, three gyms, a cinema, and around 50 restaurants and 40 coffee shops in the Nimman area as well as three co-working spaces, so it's the ideal idea for digital nomads.

My favorite hotels near Nimman are Nimman Boutique Resort then Baiyoke Ciao both available on Agoda which is where I book my hotels. As of 2018 with the scooter license crack down, it's even more important to stay in a walkable area such as Nimman.

Airport Area:

There's not much to do around the Airport aside from a decent mall called Airport Plaza, and a few Muay Thai and MMA Gyms including KC and Team Quest. Further south down that airport main road (Hangdong Road) is a suburb with cheap houses for rent and a few schools that English teachers work at, but almost nothing to do.

Old City District: 

This is the main tourist area/backpacker area. It's easy to locate as it's surrounded by a moat and has 4 entrances/exits known as North/South/East/West gates. There's a ton of good food around the South Gate and a great Saturday night market, but aside from that, if you're going to live in the old city, try to stay around the East Gate, also know as Thapae Gate as they have a great Sunday walking street market, and most of the restaurants and bars you'll frequently including the one everyone ends up at sooner or later, Zoe in Yellow Bar.

Santiam District: 

Nothing particular to do in this area, but it's close to both Nimman and the Old city, while being a bit cheaper. I honestly wouldn't stay here unless you've been in Chiang Mai for a while and are familiar with the city.

Central Festival Area: 

It's super far out, on the super highway and on the over side of the river so we never go there. However I think it's going to be a good neighborhood in the next 2-3 years as more and more expats are moving out there, houses are super cheap, and Central Festival is a really cool mall with everything you need including a movie theater, supermarket, and even an ice skating rink.  It's also close to the bus station, StarWork co-working, and if you don't mind driving, in reality it's only 20-35 minutes away.

Choosing an Area:

My best Tip: If you're moving to Chiang Mai, simply book 3-4 nights at a place like Nimman Boutique Resort using Agoda and walk around the neighborhood you want once you get here.

Read more about finding an apartment online and my 2018 Apartment Guide to Chiang Mai here.

How to Get Around in Chiang Mai:

The reason why most digital nomads choose to live in the Nimmanhaemin area is because of it's walkability. At almost exactly 1km square (half a mile) you can walk anywhere in the Nimman area within 10 minutes and it's a nice walk without too much traffic, and a ton of wanderbility as there are things to eat, see and drink everywhere down the side streets that run parallel from Nimmanheimin road to Sirimangkalajarn which are the two main roads where most of the restaurants, coffee shops and coworking spaces are. The only other walkable area in Chiang Mai is the old city, but being more spread out at 2km squared (1 mile x 1 mile) most people don't walk it more than a few times and will choose instead one of the other transport options.

Songthaews - Known as Red Trucks, they actually come in different colors including yellow, white, and blue. However, since each color indicates a specific area, in the city center, we typically only see and take the red ones. These are cheap, convenient and decently fast as they drive around and pick people up along the way. The downside is that the older trucks spew out black smoke and pollute the air which is why most locals and conscious nomads boycott them whenever possible. Prices range from 20-40 baht (approx $1) per person within the city including Nimmanhemin. In order not to get ripped off, the best thing to do is simply don't ask the price and they'll assume

Tuk-Tuks - These are the three wheeled taxis that you often see in movies about Thailand. The older ones are extremely polluting and should never be taken as transport. They charge at 100-150 baht  ($4 per taxi) and you'll never see any Thai locals riding them because of the rip off price and the air pollution they emit, so try to avoid them at all costs.

Scooter - One of my favorite things about getting around in Thailand is how cheap, easy, quick, and convenient it is to ride a scooter everywhere. Within the city center they are relatively safe, especially if you wear a helmet since you're usually not going that fast. But I don't recomend riding them on the highway or while you are drunk as accidents happen everyday and it's not worth losing your life over. Just take an uber. Scooter rentals range from 2,500-3,000 baht($90us) a month but if you're here for 2 months or longer, just buy one second hand and sell it when you leave for almost the same price.

Police Check Points: Bad news is as of this year, there the police have been frequently setting up roadblocks and pulling over foreigners and asking for 500 baht cash bribe for not having an international motorcycle driver's license.  The solution is to get one in your home country before coming, and if you don't want to carry around the paper booklet, you can take it or your state's motorcycle license to the Thai DMV to get a Thai Motorbike license relatively quickly and easily. Getting a Thai motorcycle license is time consuming as it takes multiple trips to prove you have 31+ days left on your visa, a TM30 form, a Thai residence form, take the written test, driver's test, and a few other things. I've had a few friends do it, and they said it's faster and easier if you apply for both a Thai Car and Motorbike license at the same time, but will still take a few trips and days to do. Most of us for now are just asking for the ticket and paying the police station directly so we don't contribute to the corruption and hoping it'll stop or slow down.

Bicycle Rental - As of 2018 I'm really excited that there are now Mobike rental bikes which are easy, cheap, and a super fun way to get around town. At only 10 baht (30 cents) a ride, I've been using it to get around Nimman quickly instead of walking, and instead of taking a scooter or taxi into the old city, I've been enjoying my 20 minute rides into town. Best of all, you can pick them them and park them anywhere! Get your first 5 rides free by using this Mobike Coupon Invitation Link. This is a good alternative to having to drive a scooter if you live and work in Nimman or another walkable area.

Uber- As of 2017 Uber and Grab have both become popular and available in Chiang Mai and it's been a blessing. Not only does it make it more convenient for us to get around the city and go to restaurants and buy things that we'd normally not want to drive to, it also lessens the car pollution of Songtaews and Tuk-Tuks. Get your first ride on Uber free using this coupon.

Taxi/Grab - Metered Taxi's in Chiang Mai are actually really good, especially compared to Bangkok where you have to haggle with the driver. The only downside is the fact that you can usually only find taxi's at the airport. Good news is as of 2017 Grab Taxi is now widely used in Chiang Mai and is a good alternative to Uber ever since the two companies merged here in SE Asia. You can try to find a Grab coupon code here.

Riding Mobike's in Chiang Mai

Costs of Living in Chiang Mai:

On average you will spend between $600 - $1,500 a month living in Chiang Mai. If you're here for 1 month or less, expect to spend at least $1,000, but it gets cheaper the longer you're here as you'll figure out how to budget. Alcohol also triples your food costs so be aware of going out if you're on a budget.  In general most studio apartments, which are more like hotel rooms with a private bathroom but no kitchen will cost you between 5,000-6,500baht a month for something decent.

I've lived in places as cheap as 3,500 baht a month ($110US) but wouldn't recommend it for most people unless you are trying to live as cheap as possible like I did as described in my first book.

1 Bedroom apartments with a small kitchen, living room and private bathroom will usually cost between 13,000-18,000 baht ($400-$600US). You can also rent an entire house for that price but you'll usually be further out of town and won't have amenities like a cleaner, swimming pool, etc. Think of it as living in serviced apartment in Manhattan verses living in a family house in New Jersey.

If you want to know what my current lifestyle is like as a digital nomad living in Chiang Mai and traveling around check out my latest book Life Changes Quick.

My current monthly expenses is as follows:

Rent: 12,000 baht ($375US)
Utilities/Internet/Phone: 2,000 baht ($60US)
Food: 12,000 baht ($375US)
Gym: 1,200 baht ($37US)
CoWorking Space: 3,499 baht ($110US)
Transport: 800 baht ($25US)
Other/Random: 6,000 baht ($200US)
Alcohol: $0

Total Monthly Expenses: $1,182US

Tip: If you sell your car and sublet your apartment back home, you'll have enough to live out here for at least 6 months while you get your business profitable.

My new book available on Amazon as a paperback, PDF or Kindle

Where to Cowork:

As a digital nomad, you'll need a comfortable desk, chair and fast reliable wifi. If you're here for less than a month and just want to sightsee as well as work for a few hours here and there, I'd either go to CAMP which is the coworking/coffee shop on the top floor of Maya Mall or one of the 40+ coffee shops on and around the Nimman area. You can also drive out to Coffee Monster (now closed) but it's a bit out of town.

If you're serious about building your business and want a quiet, comfortable office to work out of, I'd sign up for PunSpace Nimman which is where I spend my days.  There's also a new branch at Thapae gate and a bunch of new competitors popping up everywhere but I'm quite happy at the original. It's also the best place to get plugged in and meet other digital nomads. Everyone here is quite friendly and it's normal for everyone to go to lunch together everyday, just show up, introduce yourself to whoever's sitting next to you and ask if they want to grab lunch later and you'll be surprised how quickly you'll meet other nomads.

Once you get to Chiang Mai, apply to join the Nomad Coffee Club which is a weekly coffee meetup I started that meets every friday to network, hang out over coffee and learn from the each other.

A group of digital nomads here in Chiang Mai getting burgers

What about Internet Speeds?

In most cases you won't want to work out of your hotel or apartment unless you pay for dedicated internet. Most coffee shops have decent usable internet and it's almost always free but can be unreliable and a bit slow.

The internet at PunSpace Nimman is reliable as they have 3 different providers/routers you can switch back and forth from has always been reliably fast and it's perfectly fine for running my dropshipping stores, uploading 1080p videos, but if you need to upload large video files or download anything crazy you can get an AIS Super Wifi package and and get the most insane speeds I've seen anywhere in the world.

The internet speeds in Chiang Mai have always been great, but as of 2018 and with SiNet becoming more popular, it's not uncommon to have incredible up and down speeds even in coffee shops.

Tip: If you at CAMP or if your apartment has signal to @AIS_Wifi you can get unlimited super fast wifi for less than 100 baht ($3US) a month by subscribing to them. 

Internet Speeds in Chiang Mai, even at Coffee Shops are Fast!

What Cell Phone Service to Use:

The nice thing about Thailand is you can get prepaid cell phone plans really easily. Try to unlock your phone before you come so you can just pop in a sim card at the airport and be set. If you're planning on going to CAMP or want free wifi at coffee shops, then you should get AIS. If you don't have an unlocked phone, (stop buying phones on contract!) you can buy a cheap $60 android phone at 711 or any cell phone shop that works decently well.

If you plan on working out of coworking spaces or traveling down to the islands and want the fastest, most reliable speeds, sign up with TRUE as that's the company I use as I get service and 3G in places other people don't.

Where to Work Out:

The nice thing about Chiang Mai is that it's a big enough city where there is a ton to do including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Yoga, Cycling and gym. Here's a blog post I wrote about finding the best gym in Chiang Mai.

If you're doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I'd recommend checking out Pure Grappling which is where I train or Team Quest Thailand if you're staying by the airport.

Here's more info on finding the best BJJ gym in Chiang Mai.

What to Bring from Home?

There is pretty much everyday here in Chiang Mai including international groceries, american sized clothes, etc. but there's still some things are better brought from home including, speciality shoes or clothes (northface, luna sandals, size 10.5+ shoes) Also bring a tube of Neosporin as it's the only thing not available in Thailand and it works 100x better than cut healing creams here.

I'd also bring things that you can easily buy here but are expensive such as sunblock, condoms, deodorant, almond butter, electric shaver, etc) But for normal things like toothpaste, shampoo, face wash, clothes, food, etc you can just buy it here.

I have a full list of what I brought to thailand in my guide 12 Weeks in Thailand or watch the video below.

What about Insurance?

A lot of people come to Thailand for Medical Tourism because it's cheaper for a lot of medical and dental care than even with insurance back home. But it would be a good idea to have some type of emergency

Personally, I have diving and travel insurance through the Diver's Alert Network which I started using when I was working as a divemaster. They are a non-profit and if you're a scuba diver I'd definitely go through them but even if you're not, they have an annual travel insurance that seems to be 1/3 of the price of World Nomads which is the company recommended by Lonely Planet, Intrepid and Rough Guides.

Read my 2018 update to travel and health insurance as a digital nomad below.

Where do I rent a bike?

In general when people refer to bikes or motorbikes in Chiang Mai, they are talking about a 100-125cc scooter which is the primary form of transport here as they are fun and easy to drive. If you're staying for 3 months or more, just buy a bike for around 12,000 baht ($400US) and resell it when you leave. The easiest place to find bikes for sale is on various facebook groups like Chiang Mai Motorbikes or 2nd Hand Chiang Mai.

If you're staying for 2 months or less, you can just rent one at Bikky for 2,500 baht ($75US) a month which is where I've rented in the past without problems.

Here's my updated post on how to register your motorbike in Thailand. 

Where to go on Visa Runs?

Most people go to Laos or Kuala Lumpur on visa runs. But I would personally make it a mission not to ever go to the same place twice, that way you make sure you get the most out of your time and get to see a new place whenever you have to leave every 2-3 months.

  1. A visa run to Taiwan (3.5 hour flight direct flights)
  2. An incredible trip to Borneo (5 hour flight)
  3. Trekking Nepal (4.5 hour flight direct from BKK)
  4. Casinos in Macau (2.5 direct flights from CNX)
  5. Bali and Ubud or Canggu (direct flights from BKK)
  6. Vietnam and Saigon (direct from BKK)
  7. Everywhere Else I've Been for Visa Runs or Vacations

Some places are further than others, but even if you want to go to Ukraine for the summer, there are direct flights from Bangkok to Kiev! 

Visa Run/Vacation to the jungles of Borneo

Where Else to Go?

My favorite thing about living in Chiang Mai is being able to take short trips down to the islands or into the mountains whenever I get bored of being in the city and working. Here are my favorite places to go for a short vacation.

Here are my top 10 places to visit from Chiang Mai:

  1. Weekend trip to Chiang Dao (2.5 hour drive)
  2. Couples weekend in Pai (4 hour drive)
  3. Partying and Diving on Koh Phi Phi (2 hour flight)
  4. Scuba Diving at the Similan Islands (2 hour flight)
  5. Rock Climbing on Railay Beach, Krabi (2 hour flight)
  6. White Sand Beaches of Koh Lanta (2 hour flight + 2 hour taxi)
  7. The old capital of Thailand: Sukhothai (6 hour bus)
  8. Other Islands: Koh Tao, Koh Rong, Koh Phangan (6 hour flight/ferry)

Rock Climbing in Krabi, Thailand

Best Guide Book?

I know I've given you guys a ton of information about traveling to and living in Chiang Mai in this blog post, but that's just a start. If you want the 400 page ultimate guide book to Chiang Mai check out Michael Hughes' Nomad Guide: Chiang Mai. It's a Lonely Planet style guide written specifically for digital nomads and focuses just on Chiang Mai as there's a ton to cover. 

Included is everything you'd ever want to know about getting bank accounts, transportation, law, language, culture, accommodation, health, safety, and getting around. It even comes with access to an updated map on where everything is in Chiang Mai. 

Save yourself tons of time, money and headache trying to figure these things out yourself, and pick up a digital copy of the the book.

Table of contents of Nomad Guide: Chiang Mai

Nomad Guide's Super detailed Map of Chiang Mai

How to Learn Thai:

You can live in Thailand for years and just learn the basics of ordering food and being polite, but if you really want to immerse yourself in their culture and make local friends, I would suggest taking a course through Learn Thai from a White Guy as I've heard great things about his system.

Note his courses are all intended for people who are actually trying to learn to speak He puts a lot of much-needed emphasis on the written script and sound system of Thai, which is good for actually speaking and understanding the language, but it's not a good fit for someone on a short vacation. 

How to Make Money?

As a digital nomad in Chiang Mai, your goal is to make enough money so you don't have to go home. My suggestion is if you already have something that is working for you, keep doing it and use your newfound time, new ideas from networking with other nomads and freedom to scale up your business so you can make more.

The goal for digital nomads shouldn't be to just get by, our goals should be to make enough so we can also save, travel wherever we want and not just to the closest, cheapest countries. If you don't know where to get started, you can either freelance on places like, elance, convince your old employer to let you work remotely, or start your own business.

I began my location independent business starting a dropshipping store which is still today my main source of income. You can also learn how to start a blog and make money from affiliate marketing.

Whatever you end up choosing, treat it as a real business and realize that your time is valuable. Make the most of your time in Chiang Mai, it's probably my favorite city in the world and has so much to offer. It's the best place in the world to bootstrap your location independent business, save money, meet other digital nomads, and take a year or two off to figure out what makes you happy, healthy, and where you want your life to take you.

At the Sticky Waterfalls here in Chiang Mai

I've been living in Chiang Mai for a little over two years now and it's been really good to me. I've started my online business from here, met the love of my life, some amazing lifelong friends, and have managed to go from $200 to over $100k in my savings account while living out here by taking advantage of geo arbitrage and the low cost of living.

It was here in Chiang Mai that I met my mentor Anton Kraly, wrote both of my books, started my dropshipping store, learned how to monetize my youtube videos, blog, and websites, and how to eventually start my own training course. I sincerely hope that Chiang Mai treats you just as well, it's truly a magical place and a digital nomads dream come true.

Read Next: How to Make Money Even if You're Broke!

How to Start an Online Business from Nothing!

For 25 MUST DO Things to do in Chiang Mai Read:

25 Things to do in Chiang Mai

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

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Post a Comment

  1. Nice one! Just curious: transport only 800 baht? No scooter rental?

    1. Hey Valentino, glad you liked the post! I bought my scooter 2nd hand for 12,000 baht almost two years ago, and will probably sell it for the same price if I ever leave so the 800 baht is mostly taxis, a bit for gas, new tires, etc.

    2. and how will people buy a scooter on a tourist visa?

    3. Hey El Divino, it's easy, just buy a 2nd hand scooter off of another tourist, keep the green book registration at home so it's proof of ownership and simply don't transfer it into your name. As long as you're buying a >$500 or less scooter, it's not a big deal not to have it under your name, and I've never had a problem with it.

    4. The motorbike does need to be in your name, and having a tourist visa is not a problem with transferring it into your name. I bought a motorbike off of a guy I was renting it from 7 years ago and it is still going strong. 49,000 km (had 18,000 when I bought it). Never a problem with registration, insurance, smog check, and I have a great mechanic for things like tires, oil change, brakes, new battery (once), new chain (once). For sure, register the bike in your name, and keep the registration up to date (yearly).

    5. Hey Jeff, I'm curious what benefits there are of having the motorbike under your name? In my experience it's a complete waste of time to do it for a $450 or less. Most digital nomads will sell the bike within a year or two max anyways. Even keeping up with registration is mostly a waste of time as the fine is so small it's not even worth your time going to the DMV.

    6. I dont know about benefits but I keep mine in my name so there's no issues. Hey Johnny, where is your friday morning coffee meetup?

  2. Amazing content once again and in total alignment with where I am at currently in the process of relocating to Chiang Mai from the US. November is the goal and I am busting tail to get over there by that time! Look forward to meeting you when I get there bro!!

    1. Perfect Will! Feel free to ask any questions here in the comments and I'm happy to share the knowledge.

    2. Thank you Johnny! A couple questions and I am sure I'll have more:

      - Health, dental, travel insurance etc - Do you have any/all of these and what type of coverage's to you suggest getting for digital nomads?

      - Is there a specific reasoning behind getting a hotel for 3 days.. and not any longer or shorter upon first arrival? I was thinking maybe a week or even a month in a hotel(depending on the rate) just so I can get a really good feel of the areas I like and get a place after evaluating everything.


    3. Hey Will, I just added a section about insurance, thanks for the suggestion.

      As for the hotel, I've found that most people including myself look for a permanent place straight away to feel settled and usually find a place by the 2nd day on average. So 3 days is good as you don't end up wasting money if you move into a place on your 2nd day here, and if you decide to stay longer it's easier to extend for a few more nights.

      The reason why I never recommend booking 1 month somewhere before you come is that most of the good places don't have online booking so you'll end up with something far out of town or overpriced if you book ahead.

    4. Just looking back through this comment and I stated coming in Nov and actually stuck to it.. Whoomp whoomp! Went a looked at a couple places (actually 7 today lol) and hope to make a decision soon. Apartment is first, then gym and then coworking space... it's all coming together *thumbs up*

    5. Hey Will great running into you on the street yesterday on Nimman. I didn't realize who you were until just now. Big congrats on committing to Nov and making it out here! I'll be in Pai for the next few days but drop by PunSpace nimman sometime next week and lets grab lunch.

  3. Great post, very useful info. Thanks Johnny!

  4. Hey Johnny,

    great post. I have to finally show up in Chiang Mai. I spent last 4 months in Bali and now I am in Koh Lanta.

    I just want to ask you, what is the name of the apartments, where you stay now?

    1. Hey David, glad you liked the post. How is Koh Lanta treating you compared to Bali?

      I'm staying at The Siri Condo now near Nimman, but they require 6-12 month leases.

    2. It's not my first visit of Koh Lanta, last time I left the same day when you arrived with Larisa, so we didn't have a chance to meet up :-(

      Koh Lanta is a laidback island, so I can focus on my work, because there is not much to do. James is now in Berlin for DMX, but when he will be back, we will do some party. Its green season now, so there are only few nomads in KoHub now, some of the restaurants are closed etc.

      When you stay in the north of Bali, you are fine, but you can not surf there and there isn't nomad community. I didn't try Ubud, because when I am on the island, I want to be close to the sea.

      And the internet in hotels or restaurants in Bali is a shit!

    3. Hey David, I agree about Koh Lanta, I think it's a great place to live during high season from December - March especially since the scuba diving is good then.

      Bali to me is a great place to visit but not work from just yet, but Ubud has potential in the future.

  5. I'm coming out! I commented on your post about Macau on the 20th... just bought my ticket, will be there on the 13th, probably going to get a hotel for a few days to find the best condo, will probably try out punspace and need to find the best gym for my needs. Thanks again for the insight, it really helps!

    1. Hey awesome Ethan, glad you've make the move! Come say hello when you're at PunSpace and good luck with the move =)

  6. Hey Johnny!

    We're booked for August 20th, landing in Chang Mai at 9am on the 22nd! (My girlfriend and I.)

    Quick question... We don't have a return flight or onward flighr. Will that be an issue?

    Hoping to stay until December, but want to keep it flexible!

    Also, we should meet up!


    1. Awesome Taylor! Hope to meet you and your girlfriend when you arrive! I've never had a return flight ticket so you should be fine. If they ask, just say you're taking a bus or train to Laos or Vietnam from Thailand.

  7. Hi Johnny,
    Thank you for sharing so much information with your readers. I was wondering, since you are sharing quite good knowledge and encouraging people to come to Thailand, don't you think that will create an influx of people. I mean, the government is not too fond of having all these aliens working "illegally" in the country so isn't that a concern they might get tighter with visa regulations, etc.? Just wanted to get your take. Keep up the good work and I hope I can meet you if ever I go to Chiang Mai (I work and live in Bangkok).

    1. You have always inspired me ever since your days of ABC haha

    2. Already happening. Since Digital Nomads started blogging about staying in Thailand and working things have changed A LOT! You used to be able to do border runs forever basically but the last maybe 4/5 years everything has been cracked down on. Many nomads are stupid, they post on FB groups about not going to school or ways to work and how to stay long term and cheat the system etc. but don't realise the Thai immigration watches all these groups. Before everyone started talking about working online and loopholes so much it was easy, now not so much. :(

    3. Hey Len, sorry for the late reply, I somehow missed this comment. It's actually good to reply 3+ years later so you'll see that even then, people online were already freaking out and worried about things changing too much and government crackdowns. The truth is, the government doesn't actually care that much about digital nomads.

      As long as we're spending money, flying home once or twice a year to our home country, and are adding more value than we take, they're fine with us. My advice even 3-5 years ago when they allowed visa runs to the border, was to not do them. It's not beneficial to anyone to sit in a van for 8 hours, go to the border, and come back. Instead, make enough money online so you can fly to different countries, spend a few weeks, or months, then come back. Never spending more than 6 or so months in Thailand a year.

  8. Hi Johnny,
    This is great reading and thanks so much for what you're sharing. I see you're talking about 6 /12 month leases on accommodation. When it comes to getting your visa stamped, and doing the border runs, are you just crossing the border and coming straight back, or are you spending time in, say KL / Laos / wherever for a longer period? Just wondering if you're having to double up on accommodation, and equally, are you running any risks of getting denied re-entry?

    Thanks again, and apologies if you've discussed this elsewhere. I'm reading so much and trying to get my head around this and other VISA requirements. I'm keen on your 12 Weeks in Thailand - but I see it's 2013... Just hoping too much hasn't change.

    Cheers, Steve

    1. Hey Dr. Knew, glad you've been enjoying my posts and the blog. I usually just keep my apartment even if I'm traveling to another country for 2-3 weeks at a time.

      It's just easier to do and by having an apartment that is less than $350 a month, it's not outrageous to keep it empty, but if it was more than that I'd either AirBnB it out while i'm gone or give it up and move into a new one when I got back.

      Definitely read the book 12 Weeks in Thailand to have an idea of what life is like out here and how to save money.

      Also check out my Visa blog post:

      Don't go to the border and come straight back, it's an easy way to get flagged. You might get away with it, but it's not worth the risk. I always stay for 1-2 weeks and take a vacation every 3 months.

  9. Hey Johnny,

    I've got to say, your blog is pretty much my bible in figuring out how to get around Thailand. I've been planning my trip for a about a month now and I'll be in Thailand for about a month (late Jan to mid Feb). Bangkok to Chiang Mai to the south.

    Just wanted to thank you for what you do. Also, glad to hear there is some jiu jitsu there as I'll be traveling alone.


    1. Hey Tony, really glad to be able to share my knowledge about the country. I love it here. Have a great trip! Maybe see you in Chiang Mai!

  10. My wife and I just arrived in Chiang Mai and she's one of your fans as she's gettin interested into the whole dropshipping business. Do you have time to grab breakfast/lunch? I'll invite!

  11. Hey Justin, I'd be happy to grab lunch with you and your wife. Message me at and we'll figure out the details.

    1. Sounds good, I'll message you and set something up. One quick question. Have you found a reliable way to upload content (i.e. pictures and video) to an international server here in Chiang Mai? My connection is being seriously throttled no matter what I try. Getting upload speeds of 150 kbs, even using the AIS Super Wifi at CAMP. I've tried using VPN connections to bypass the local ISP with no luck also. Very frustrating. I have about 50 GB of pictures and video I need to get backed up to my server at home. Any help is appreciated!

    2. Hey Justin, the Super AIS Wifi at Camp would be the fastest there is. What I do is compress my videos using handbrake before uploading.

      Also try using syncing with dropbox or google drive instead of uploading direct.

  12. Wonderful post! Informative, comprehensive, accurate :)
    One tip for all us smokers : if you prefer rolling tobacco to normal cigarettes bring some with you. The Thai brands tend to be rubbish.
    And also Jhonny, I fully relate to the booze costs issue, but 0$?

    1. Hey Eyal, glad you enjoyed the write up! The reason why don't drink (or very seldomly do) in Chiang Mai is because there's nothing extraordinary there that is worth having a hangover or gaining weight to enjoy.

      I try to save my drinking for when I'm in places like Prague or Germany and want to have a nice beer, or when i'm in South Africa and want to have wine.

      But I don't blame people for wanting to drink, it's just not my priority when I'm in Chiang Mai.

  13. I just want to say thank you 1000 times for what you wrote here.

    How do you get share plugins via blogger? As I know, it does not accept plugins like wordpress

    1. Hey Mr. Econ, really glad to be able to help! You can share the article if you like it =)

      To setup the share buttons follow the instructions here:

  14. Hi Jonny,
    do you know where to find a map or something for "where @AIS_Wifi is available"? Because 100THB for goot Internet a month is amazingly cheap! I used it at CAMP, goog think!
    Kind Regards,
    (nice overview about Chiangmai btw.)
    Ingo Baab

    1. Hey Ingo, glad you've enjoyed the post! I don't know if they have a map but i'm sure they have a Wifi hotspot location on their site somewhere, maybe:

  15. Hi Johnny, Nice thorough coverage of setting up in CM. Do you have any idea how many digital nomads there are in CM? A rough guess is fine. Many thanks. Roy Stevenson (

    1. Hey Roy, I would estimate there are at least 300 nomads in Chiang Mai at any time and sometimes up to 1,000 in busy months such as Dec-Feb

    Hi Johnny,
    Your posts are incredibly helpful; great information! I am planning to arrive in Chinag Mai in November on a 6 month Visa as you described on your incredibly informative post a few months ago. I wanted to see if you can provide some feedback to Education Visa option I just became aware of regarding a self-defense school in Chain Mai.

    "Hand To Hand Combat" ( It is run by members of the Royal Thai Army Military Police so it sounds very credible. Basically they can facilitate a one year ED Visa if you enroll. The "tuition" for one year of training is ฿33000, and they accompany you to immigration to make everything go smoothly. It also allows for multiple entries, helps with 90-day reporting and extensions included (30-minute appointment arranged by school includes transport), and is actually renewable 4 times.

    I know a 6 month visa is cheaper but this ED Visa means (if I'm not mistaken) no trips out of the country every 60 days, and no need to return to the USA for a year instead of 9 months, so.... it sounds like an interesting alternative to the 6 month Tourist Visa AND I think there might be some other advantages to having a ED Visa compared to a Tourist visa, like being able to open bank accounts.

    Since you are into Muay Tai, I am guessing you probably know of the headmaster of this school, Jongjet Pungsai “Jet” and the school itself. Would really like to hear your thoughts on this.

    Stay Awesome! Your posts are great!
    Sammy Gray

    1. Hey Sammy, glad you enjoy the blog posts and that they have helped. As far as the Hand2Hand Combat Visa, I have a few friends who have gotten it successfully and had good experiences with it as a visa. The main benefit is what you stated about not needing to leave the country every 2-3 months to make a visa run. It's great for people who just want to live in Thailand year round without traveling. You may be able to leave and come back, but double check first as even if you can, you'll have to go to immigration (on your own) and apply and pay for a re-entry permit. (1,000 baht)

      The METV is much better for actual digital nomads who want to and can afford to travel.

      The Hand2Hand combat visa is good for people who just want to live in Thailand year round and not travel.

      As for the actual training, it's not Muay Thai, it's more like Krav Maga than anything which isn't a real sport as there's no actual sparring. (the better Krav Maga schools might do boxing, BJJ or muay thai sparring)

      That being said, I'm glad that that the H2H combat visa is currently an option as it's suitable for some people. But it's not my recommendation for most people.

    2. Thanks Johnny; I appreciate your feedback. FYI, I think their website said that they can set it up as a Multiple Entry visa but I'm not 100% sure on that. I'm leaning towards the 6 month METV but just wanted to explore this option.

      Again, Thanks! I hope I get a chance to meet you once I'm in Chiang Mai. I am planning to attend the Nomad Summit in January so, if not before, I'll probably see you there.

  17. great post, imformative an also impressive post. who you dont know about anything Chiang Mai . so this article help you.great stuff .thanks for sharing this wonderfull post.

  18. Good idea for buy 2hand motorbike and sell after 2-3 year. Save money, all right!

  19. wow best info I have read for anywhere, I have been to Chaing Mai twice and love it want to go for 2 or 3 months this winter looking for an apt close to old town so I can walk. Thank you for the great info


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