Living in Chiang Rai Thailand Like a Local

What's In This Guide?

The Slow Life in Chiang Rai Thailand

Want to live the country life in Thailand? Living in Chiang Rai in Thailand’s far north is a great alternative to Chaing Mai and Bangkok’s city life.

Life in Chiang Rai really is a breath of fresh air and a complete escape from traffic congestion. Even better, it’s cheap.

Read on and you’ll get some of my top tips on:

  • Why you should live in Chiang Rai,
  • What to do in Chiang Rai,
  • The cost of living in Chiang Rai


View from home in Chiang Rai
View from home in Chiang Rai

After a year of traveling Asia and working on my Thailand travel guide, I decided it was time find a place to call home again. Constant travel strains your energy, motivation, and money. I needed a temporary home to chill out and recharge. I wanted a place to make friends and build relationships but not yet worry about going back to work.

I was lucky enough to discover a small village on the outskirts of Chiang Rai called Ban Lan Thong. The village is located about 10 km south of the Chiang Rai town center.

Follow the main road south from Chiang Rai, pass the Esso petrol station and head down the end of a small dirt trail. Here in this quiet corner, I rented a private little bungalow for just 1500 THB (USD 50) per month.


Living in Chiang Rai bungalow
Simple living in simple bungalows


Yep, that’s right $50 per month!

The bungalow was surrounded by rice fields and hidden away from traffic. The local village community became like a family to me. I even had a stray dog which decided to live in my bungalow at the end of my bed.

Lazy days would be spent down the road at a friend’s house sipping cold beers. We’d lay in the hammocks, jamming on guitars and paint crazy paintings.

I’d frequently venture out of town making trips out to some of Chiang Rai’s amazing waterfalls, hot springs, ethnic villages and hiking trails.

I’d also explore the province on longer trips such as my 3 Day Chiang Rai Motorbike Itinerary up the mountains to Phu Chi Fa, Doi Patang, and Doi Mae Salong. With a bit more time off I also ventured past Chiang Mai and spent two weeks discovering the best things to do in Pai.


motorbike used in Chiang Rai
Motorbike used while living in Chiang Rai


Why live in Chiang Rai?

Why should you choose to live in Chiang Rai over a bigger city like Chiang Mai or a tourist town like Pai?

  • Chiang Rai offers plenty of genuine off the beaten track destinations.
  • The cost of living is cheap. Really cheap.
  • The lifestyle is slow paced.
  • The food is great.
  • The people are the friendliest in Thailand.
  • There are plenty of volunteering opportunities.


My main reason for living in Chaing Rai was the vast amount of travel opportunities available. Chiang Rai offers countless waterfalls, amazing hiking trails, ancient cities and hill tribe communities. Allow the right amount of time and you are sure to discover the most amazing province Thailand has to offer.

Be sure to check here for my full guide to the best things to do in Chiang Rai.


Cost of living in Chiang Rai

Answering how much it costs to live anywhere will always be difficult. It really depends on your lifestyle. What I can tell you is that the cost of living in Chiang Rai can be super cheap if done right.


Cost of living in chiang rai
Plates of food in the local village for as low as 25 THB


In Chiang Rai, I didn’t have plans to work. The plan was to chill out and to do that for a quite a while. This lifestyle means that I’d have to live quite cheap.


Here is a basic breakdown of my cost of living in Chiang Rai:

  • Long-term accommodation in Chiang Rai: 1500 THB per month. This is a private concrete bungalow without air conditioner or hot water for the shower. Western-style toilet with bucket flush system.
  • Electricity: 300 THB per month. With no air conditioner or hot water, this is pretty cheap.
  • Motorbike: 7000 THB. This is a motorbike without registration papers which depends on how legally correct you want to be. In Chiang Rai police will rarely if ever ask to see registration papers (blue slip) of a motorbike. In Bangkok, it is a completely different story.
  • Fuel: 150 THB per day. This really depends on how much you want to travel.
  • Food: 20 THB per plate in the village. Up to however much, you want to pay for it in the town.


Renting in Chiang Rai

If you are just moving to Chiang Rai for the first time then the easiest way to find a rental property is online. There are two best property rental websites in Thailand are Hipflat and DDProperty. Bear in mind that Chiang Rai is both the district and the province. To get a property in the town you need to look for “Muang Chiang Rai” which refers to the locality.

After spending some time in Chiang Rai you will likely meet locals, who have family that can offer you a better deal. That’s how I got my apartment for just 1,500 THB per month.


Working in Chiang Rai

Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge range of work opportunities for foreigners in Chiang Rai. Most expats in Chiang Rai are teachers either at one of the many local schools or one of the two international schools.

I taught private tutoring classes in Chiang Rai to a group of young students. I taught classes including; Maths, English, Physics, Cooking, and Art. I do not have any teaching qualifications, but a university degree, and an eagerness to try new things.

Friends who were living in Chiang Rai did all sorts of thing for work such as; playing professional online poker, running e-commerce stores, working in a hostel, and even long-term volunteering.



Chiang Rai Travel Guide




Explore Chiang Rai like a local.

Discover incredible landscapes and waterfalls.

Experience the true Northern Thai culture.

One HUGE guide to get you there!




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21 thoughts on “Living in Chiang Rai Thailand Like a Local”

  1. Hi Josh, thank You for this interesting and inspiring article. I will be on my way to Chiang Rai soon and these Bungalows at Ban Lan Thong would be just what I am looking for.

    I am traveling alone and look forward sharing daily life with local Thai people there.

    Would You mind sending me some contact informations, so that I can find out if these Bungalows still are available for rent?

    Thank You in advance!

      1. Hi Josh, thanks for Your quick reply. I am planning to stay there around 3 months. Thank You.

    1. Hi Lisa, I could live in Chiang Rai forever! You are close enough to Chiang Mai if you want to visit a big city, and the Chiang Rai airport reaches many other destinations around Asia.

  2. What about opportunities teaching English? I live in Saraburi in the main city. I teach ESL and enjoy it very much.

  3. Pingback: Life in Chiang Rai – Retire in Chiang Rai, Thailand

  4. How did you find that bungalow? Because I too am looking into moving to Chiang Rai but whenever I look for stuff on the internet only expensive tourist options come up. And I’m looking to staying here for a year, teaching voluntarily and chilling so I also have a low budget… Thanks already, Lotti

  5. Stephen Powers

    Thank you very much for your contribution to this expat’s knowledge of Chiangrai.It appears to be an attractive option for a more peaceful,& somewhat more affordable option than now heavily trafficked Chiangmai.While Thais may drive crazy ,no disrespect intended,at least they don’t beep their horns compulsively like our friends the Chinese,LOL.

  6. So happy we found this blog. Were moving out to Chiang Rai in August and this really confirms we have chosen then right place.

      1. Hey how can I get in touch with you? cause i left a comment asking for more info on the bungalow you lived in in chiang rai cause i’ll be moving there soon and wanted to check it out!

        1. Hi Charlotte, I will see if I can get a local contact to help you out. The locals there only speak Thai so it might be a bit difficult in the beginning, but totally worth a try!

  7. In CR and especially in the village, I would not expect anyone to speak English, correct ? Do you speak Thai ?
    If not, is it difficult to get things done ? Find a place to live ? Negotiate price ? Order food ? Thanks ! Scott

    1. There is a basic level of English spoken in the villages around Chiang Rai, more so with the younger people. If you learn enough Thai to count and to order food it will be a huge benefit. I speak about 50% Thai now, but only 10% when I was living in Chiang Rai.

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