With high season fast approaching, I decided it was a great time to create a guide to getting set up in Chiang Mai in 24 hours. Hopefully this helps if you’re coming out here for a month or more.
Which Area of Town?
Most of the SEO/digital nomad community lives around the Nimmanhaemin Rd or Santitam areas, to the West of the moat as far out as Canal Rd and North West of the old town, inside the Super Highway. There’s a high number of bars, coffee shops and places to eat within these areas.
Mobile/Cell Phone Service
Make sure your phone is unlocked before you leave home. You can test this by buying a cheap prepaid SIM card from another network. If it connects to the network, you’re set. If not, contact your provider and ask for the unlock codes for your phone or buy an unlock code on eBay.
When you arrive in Thailand, you can get a SIM card from any 7 Eleven store. There’s also mobile phone stores in all of the malls as well. You’ll need your passport to buy a SIM card.
There are three networks here – dtac, TrueMove and AIS. Click those links to find details on their prepaid offers.
All three have plans with calls and “unlimited” data for a few hundred baht per month. This is based on a certain amount of data at full speed and then it slows down once you use that up.
You sign up to one of those plans by entering a code into your phone dialler, making sure you have enough credit. You can add credit at any 7 Eleven store.
Rent a Bike/Scooter
Important: Check your travel insurance – most will not cover you if you don’t have a motorbike license in your home country. Also, get an international driver’s permit before you leave to avoid getting fined at traffic stops.
There’s a number of bike rental places around the city, but two of the most popular ones are Mango Bikes and Bikky, and they’re both near the Nimmanhaemin Area.
A basic 125cc scooter should cost you about 2500-3000 baht per month.
Thailand drives on the left of the road.
Find an Apartment
If you’re staying short term, you might find it easier to book an apartment on Airbnb before you leave home. Join through my link above and save on your first booking.
Staying longer term, I would suggest booking a hotel on Agoda in the Nimmanhaemin area for a few nights and searching for a place to stay after you arrive. For monthly rentals, places like The Mirror and PT Residence, Green Hill Place, Prestige CM, The Opium, Baan Thai, Nimmana and Hillside (2, 3 or 4) are all popular.
You should avoid drinking tap water here in Thailand and stick to bottled drinking water. You can buy a big 6 litre bottle or smaller 1.5 litre bottles from 7 Eleven and then refill them at the reverse osmosis water vending machines for about 1 baht per litre.
These machines can generally be found in the foyer or laundry service rooms of your apartment building, or sometimes on the street as well.
I haven’t had any problems with using these machines myself and I’ve used them in two different apartment buildings in 2014, but some people have commented that they don’t think they’re well maintained and have gotten sick from them – so use your judgement as to whether the machine is maintained or not.
Some apartment buildings also get water delivery services – check with the front desk of your apartment building to see if they offer this service. Generally, deliveries happen 1-2 times per week, and it’s a lot easier than refilling your own bottles at the machines.
Generally, most bars and restaurants have manufactured ice which has holes in it which is safe for consumption.
Some apartment buildings have self service laundry machines that you can use for 10-30 baht per wash.
Otherwise, you can find a full service laundry service – there’s several of them around the Nimmanhaemin area, or you can use WashDrop which offers free pick up and delivery from your apartment.
Most of the short term rental apartments already have an internet connection, so this probably won’t apply to most people. However, if you need to get an internet connection, the two main providers are Sinet and 3BB. You can find kiosks for Sinet on the ground floor of Kad Suan Kaew or the 3rd floor of Maya and there’s a 3BB store in the basement of Kad Suan Kaew.
Any Other Questions?
If there’s anything else that you want to know, please feel free to tweet me (@_KevinGraham) and I’ll try to answer your questions and add it to this guide.