November 3rd, 2017
Prices accurate at the time of writing and should be considered a rough guide only.
Digital nomads are looking for the perfect mix of modern amenities and low living costs. Except for a lucky few, most will struggle to make upwards of a grand a month. Despite this, a digital nomad makes all of her money online and needs a decent work environment. This means a high quality apartment with fast internet. So where in the world can you find a place that offers the luxury needed with none of the high costs? Digital nomads, by their nature, won't spend long in any one place. However, there seems to be a trend to gravitate towards the Thai city of Chiang Mai. Let's run down why this could be the perfect environment for a digital nomad.
Low Cost of Living
Thailand is popular among tourists and expats due to its low cost of living, but Chiang Mai is more affordable than Samui, Phuket and Bangkok. You can live comfortably on just £300 ($392) a month. This will cover the basics such as housing, bills and food, while leaving some extra spending money. £250 (£327) will get you a comfortable and stylish one bed apartment in the city centre, but there are many cheaper options. Westerners will spend a lot on Thai food, but in Chiang Mai, a good meal can be purchased for under £2 ($2.60). A pint of beer is likely to be around a pound ($1.30). This allows for two different styles of living: you can either work less, relax more and live comfortably or work hard and live like a king.
Availability of Housing
Chiang Mai is constantly growing, with the supply of housing surpassing demand. Many of these are available for short term lets of around 6 months, but even shorter lets are increasingly common. Due to the number of expats and tourists who come and go, there is often housing available for part of the year. Accommodation is diverse, from wooden huts in the jungle, to inner city flats. You can get around the bureaucracy of private renting by using tourist sites such as Air BnB, which have discounts for stays over a month. With bills included in the price, this offers the convenience of a hotel with the privacy of having a place to yourself. Tourist visas last three months, so it is possible to spend a quarter of your year here with no complicated entry requirements.
When travelling the world, a digital nomad is going to have to deal with the problem of bad internet. In Chiang Mai, however, they can feel confident that WiFi is fast and consistent. Most coffee shops will offer free WiFi, hoping to entice digital nomads into their store. This will usually be faster than your home internet if you are sharing. However, you can get your own internet set up for around £12 ($16) a month. You can also get a phone plan for £8 ($10) a month, which will give you unlimited access to WiFi throughout the city. As long as you stay near the city centre, internet access shouldn't be a problem.
Community and Culture
Like many other parts of Asia (and unlike others) Chiang Mai has a relatively low crime rate and welcoming population. Its three universities mean that the population is young, educated and financially secure. Its popularity among expats and tourists means that English is widely spoken and you won't feel out of place. However, its not a Western town. It still holds the same ancient Asian charm with inredible temples and sacred sites.
The digital nomad community has led to a general environment centred around productivity. The year round sun will naturally boost mood, so that you feel more motivated to work. The atmosphere of Chiang Mai is also more spiritual and laid back that cities such as Bangkok. You will find a lot of yogis and fruitarians who promote healthy living to make it easier to work. This is especially true if you are doing something creative that you can get excited about. A number of cowork spaces exist throughout the city, providing a place for digital nomads to meet and collaborate. It also avoids the sex-tourist culture of other Thai cities, with a more grown up focus on work, even if the pace is slow and bars are still plentiful.
I could go on to mention the scenery, the weather and architecture, but above are the main reasons that so many digital nomads are spending some of their year in Chiang Mai. It offers an easy, relaxed lifestyle and luxury living at a small price. The digital community is strong and is there to offer motivation and support rather than competition. So if you're a writer, designer or tech developer and running a business online, find time to visit Chiang Mai and experience these benefits for yourself.
Add The Wanderer to your subscriptions feedThe Wanderer