From the balcony of my 14th-floor home I can gaze upon a fertile landscape. The northern Thai city of Chiang Mai sits surrounded by views of lush, forested hills. The icing on the cake is the golden Buddhist temple on Doi Suthep mountain. During the day, it sparkles in the sunshine and at night local monks illuminate it, making it shine gold in a pitch black sky. The effect is stunning—the temple looks as if it’s floating in the darkness by magic.
Most people who visit Chiang Mai for long stays or those retired here full-time, rent in the city to start with. You’ll find it packed with easy-to-rent units—known as condos by the locals—at seriously affordable prices. In fact, right now the rental market is saturated with properties.
For anyone new to Chiang Mai, it’s ideal to rent a place in the city and discover all it has to offer. In Thailand, units come furnished and include kitchen items like kettles, cutlery and microwaves. Those with outside space may include a swimming pool, a welcome addition on hot days, but make sure you check it out and find out who’s responsible for maintaining it—and who foots the bill.
The upscale area of Nimmanhaemin Road is very popular for newly arrived farang (foreigners). It’s surrounded by boutique shops and a great range of restaurants offering local and international dishes. Here, you can rent a studio apartment for $385 per month. Studios have basic kitchenettes— not all have stovetops, fewer still have ovens—but with so many low cost options for eating out in the neighbourhood, you probably won’t make much use of it anyway.
For even more budget friendly options look in and around the ‘Old City’, the epicentre of Chiang Mai. It’s abuzz with backpackers and colourful night life. For $250 per month it’s possible to rent a small room with kitchenette, bathroom and a bed. It’ll be basic and won’t have a view, but you’ll be right at the heart of the action and adventures on foot will lead you to ancient temples, fascinating shops offering unique curiosities and plenty of cheap food stalls and restaurants.
And if luxury is what you want, it’s easy to find. There are large, two bedroom apartments with fully-fitted kitchens to be had for $700 to $850 per month. Chang Klan, the road that houses all of the top hotels and night bazaar—one of the city’s main attractions—is the place to look. These rentals will typically include comfortable contemporary furniture, stylish design, 24-hour security and a swimming pool.
One important thing to note is that leases are not standardised, so be sure to read them carefully. Water and electricity is also a cost which, combined, will run to about $90 a month. The landlord is also, by law, required to ask foreign tenants to fill out a form called a TM.30, which must be approved by Immigration. This is a very recent law but if they forget, you will be responsible, so make sure you investigate this as soon as you sign the lease.
Look, sign, settle…and discover just how wonderful the laidback life in Chiang Mai really is.
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