One of the best things about Thailand is that the dollar goes much further than at home, allowing us to experience all sorts of things that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Such experiences such as elephant camps, cooking classes, shopping and spa days are all major to-dos in the Rose of the North. So when planning my trip to Chiang Mai, I was a little concerned I may not be able to afford all these highlights. However, I was pleasantly surprised that with some planning, I was able to do it all and then some. So I’m sure you all may be asking, how much does it really cost to experience Chiang Mai? Allow me to break down the top things to do in Chiang Mai, how much it costs and how you can afford it too for three nights (perfect amount of time) with budget accommodations.
What Does It Cost To Experience Chiang Mai?
Cost of Chiang Mai Accommodation:
Hostel: The Brick House Hostel is a great option due to it’s central location, friendly staff, and since it’s brand new, it feels more like a hotel than a grungy hostel. The hostel includes a pool, a full bar, restaurant with great food, and a helpful staff who will help book local tours.
Costs for 3 nights:
Private ensuite: 4200 Thai Baht/$119 USD
Mixed 12 Bed Dorm: 900 Thai Baht/$25 USD
10 Bed Same Sex Dorm: 990 Thai Baht/$28 USD
Cost of Chiang Mai Tours & Experiences:
A wonderful experience that shouldn’t be missed when visiting the Rose of the North. Be sure to go through an ethical reserve and participate in elephant nature camps: feeding, bathing and playing.
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: Full Day: 2400 Thai Baht/$68USD or Half Day: 1700 Thai Baht/$48 USD – includes pick up, nature camp experience, meal, and drop off
Ran-Tong Rescue & Care Camps: Full Day: 2500 Thai Baht/$71 USD or Half Day: 1800 Thai Baht/$51 USD – same as above, pick up, camp, meal, and drop off
Elephant Nature Camp: Full Day: 2500 Thai Baht/$71 USD – same as above with also time to play and interact with other rescued animals like dogs, cats, & buffalos.
Cooking classes are a great way to get insight into local cuisine that you can take home with you to cook for your loved ones. I highly recommend taking a course while in Chiang Mai as food in this region is similar to Thai food in the states: spicy, delicious, and amazing. Mama Noi’s is great because instructors are patient, focused on their students understanding the cuisines & techniques. Instructors are hysterical and extremely warm. Not to mention, the classes are held at a farm with baby puppies!
Mama Noi Thai Cookery: Full Day: 1000 Thai Baht/$28 USD or Half Day: 800 Thai Baht/$22 USD – includes pick up, local market trip, instruction, food & drop off.
Free! The great thing about Thailand, in particular Chiang Mai, is that the beautiful & elaborate temples are everywhere! Considering the most popular temples, like Wat Chedi Luang & Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, are within the old city walls, it makes it very easy to cover by foot.
Monk Chats: Also free! Experience sitting down with a monk to talk about Buddhism! An incredible eye opening experience that I recommend to all travelers curious about the religion.
Massages start at 180 Thai Baht/5 USD for an hour and can be found at that price all over the city. You can even treat yourself to a full spa day for a 1000 Thai Baht/$28 USD – which includes two and a half hours of a classic Thai massage, aromatherapy, and a head & shoulders deep tissue. You may as well go all out considering a massage in the States starts at around $50 for an hour!
Walking Street Shopping & Eating:
I highly recommend hitting this up, especially the Sunday night market. The prices of the items here are much cheaper than that of the islands, something to consider if you go to the islands first. I scored a cute colorful backpack for 150 Thai Baht/$4 USD, two elephant tank tops for 100 Thai Baht each/$2.85 USD each, and snacked on local street food for dinner for a 100 Baht/$2.85 USD. Making the whole evening a whopping 450 Thai Baht/$12 USD. Where else can you buy cute stuff and eat for that little?
Popular street food & drinks to try:
Fresh Coconuts: 25 Baht/ .70 cents USD
Crepes: 40 Baht/$1.15 USD
Mango Sticky Rice: 50 Baht/$1.40 USD
Roasted Corn: 50 Baht/$1.40 USD
Chicken Kebab: 50 Baht/$1.40 USD
SPLURGE: Nice dinner at DK David’s Kitchen 909
A wonderful dining experience at the hippest restaurant in town, be sure to make a reservation at this exquisite eatery. David’s restaurant focuses on fusing French & traditional Thai together to make incredible dishes. Highly recommend trying the French Onion Soup & Braised Beef Cheeks. It is a splurge, with the bill coming in at 1400 Thai Baht/$40 USD, for an appetizer, entree and sharing a bottle of wine.
Stay healthy and spiritually intact on your vacation by taking a drop in yoga class at The Yoga Tree for 250 Thai Baht/$7 USD. The Yoga Tree is within the old city walls and even has directions on their website in Thai that you can provide your Taxi driver.
Break Down of the Costs: Budget (with upgrade options)
Costs are for a three night trip in Chiang Mai with additional add-ons
Budget Complete Experience for Three Nights in Chiang Mai, Thailand = $198 USD – $66 Per Day
Accommodation: 3 nights at Brick House Hostel in 10 Bed Female Dorm: 990 Thai Baht/$28 USD (or Private Ensuite for additional 3210 Thai Baht/$91 USD)
Elephant Sanctuary: Half Day Nature Camp at Elephant Jungle Sanctuary: 1700 Thai Baht/$48 USD (or Full Day Tour for additional 700 Thai Baht/$20 USD)
Cooking Class: Half Day at Mama Noi Thai Cookery: 800 Thai Baht/$22 USD (or Full Day Session for additional 200 Thai Baht/$6 USD)
Exploring temples & attending Monk Chat at Wat Chedi Luang: Free!
Spa Day: 1 Hour Thai Massage: Usually 300 Thai Baht/$8 USD (or Spa Day – two and a half hours for additional 700 Thai Baht/$20 USD)
Night Market Shopping: 400 Thai Baht/$11 USD (or as much as your little heart desires)
Street Food, Meals, Water & Alcohol Per Day: 700 Thai Baht/$20 USD x 3 Days = $60 food allowance for 3 days (or Splurge at DK Davids Kitchen 909 meal for an additional $40 USD)
Yoga Class: 1 Drop in at The Yoga Tree: 250 Thai Baht/$7 USD
Transportation: 500 Thai Baht/$14 USD
As you can see, you can really go all out in Chiang Mai and experience everything you dream of. It’s possible to do this for less on a backpackers budget by cutting out something here or there, cutting down on food allowance and shopping. However, if you plan for it, Chiang Mai really is a magical place and if planned correctly, it is possible to do it all on the cheap. As always, these are my recommendations for an incredible stay and experience in the Rose of the North. If you have any additional tips, please send them my way to be featured and sign up for my email list for the latest tips and tricks. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day!