From what I read online, apartment hunting in Chiang Mai, Thailand seemed quite easy.
Just book a few nights at a hotel, walk around town and venture into apartment buildings to ask if they have any rooms for rent.
Simple and straight-forward, right? That wasn’t exactly my experience…
- I was looking for value – the biggest bang for my buckIn my mind, it’s just a place where I’d sleep and shower.
Most of the time I’ll be at the gym or working out of a coffee shop or coworking place. So, I had a ‘why pay more?’ mentality.
- I wanted a studio for 7000 baht (=$233 USD) max per monthFor utilities (water + electricity), people have told me to expect an extra 1000 baht (=$33 USD) a month. This, of course, depends on how much (usually, AC) you use.
- I won’t be driving, so things had to be within walking distanceIt needed to be within 15-minute walking distance to Nimman and the gym I choose to go to daily
- I had to like it!I mean, I will be living there for 3 months after all…
- Sept 2019 Update
- The 6 Things I Learned
- Dec 5, 2018 - 20 Apartments in Nimman
- Dec 6, 2018 - 16 Apartments in Santitham
- My Shortlist of Five
- My Top Choice
- Check Out Process & Utilities Cost
- Final Thoughts After 3 Months
Sept 2019 Update
Back in town again, and this time I didn’t visit any apartments at all. I looked through this article (See? I knew it would come in handy!) and contacted a few places I wanted to try before.
I settled on Mata Apartment, above Akha Ama Coffee. So far – I’m loving it:
- Im is the super generous landlord here and she’s amazing!
- My studio comes with bedding & cutlery, fridge & microwave
- I get cleaning once a month as part of my rental (6000 baht = $200)
- I have no neighbours beside me – just how my suite is positioned
- I don’t hear any noisy bars or karaoke (unlike at Anchan 2), but I do hear roosters crowing and dogs howling =.=”
- Secure – I need to use my fob twice before I can get in or out of the building
- Cappucino stops by for a visit every other day
The 6 Things I Learned
Over the course of 2 days, I visited a total of 35 apartments (yes, that’s a lot but most of them were full and I wanted to find a place ASAP), shortlisted to 5, then picked my top two!
How did I come up with my crazy list of 35?
The majority was from online research – Google, other blogs & FB groups. The rest was literally from just walking by it.
Here is what I learned:
- If you have money, anything is possible.
Apartment hunting is not hard; just a bit laborious. It depends on your budget and location preferences. If you’re budgetless, then you can get a place anytime, anywhere!
- Geographically expand your options
If you’re not too stuck on staying in Nimman (I admit, It IS convenient, but WAY too many Chinese tourists for me), consider these surrounding areas:
- Santitham – Quiet, more local, 1/3 of the price of Nimman
- Old Town – Kind of touristy
- Tha Pae Gate – Touristy, but not like Nimman
- Central Festival – Quiet, newer buildings, big mall
- Jed Yod – Quiet, local, you can rent a whole house for the price of an apartment in Nimman! It’s beyond the superhighway (a bit far for me), but if you have a scooter, you’re fine.
Keep in mind that Chiang Mai is small enough that if you drive 15 min in any direction, you can get to your destination, especially on a scooter.
Of course, there are more neighbours to consider, but I’m not that familiar with areas south of Tha Pae Gate…hence the big question mark.
- A saltwater pool and gym in your building will cost you
I had these amenities back home and I almost never used them…
- Location is important, especially if you don’t have a vehicle or live close to a transportation hub.
There is basically no public transit in Chiang Mai. I see buses some times…but I have no idea where they go, and Grab Bike is so convenient and cheap ($1-2 USD) that I probably would never take the city bus…
- It’s important to like the place you stay at
Even if you think you’d only just be using it to sleep and shower. I realized that I don’t like dark colour schemes, it makes the whole room look like a horror movie set to me.
- Next time, I will COME HERE IN SEPTEMBER before high season.
There should have way more options available and maybe a bit discounted too (-1000 baht per month).
Dec 5, 2018 - 20 Apartments in Nimman
My first stop.
Also called Suandok Manion or “Queen Bakery” on Google (I don’t know why). Address and contact details in photo below.
Beginner’s luck – it was still available! For a duration of 1-3 months, you can rent a studio apartment starting from 6800 baht (=$272) per month.
It includes free wifi for 1 user, bedding and room cleaning/bedding change once a week.
Deposit is 10,000 baht (=$400), water is 26 baht/unit (=$1) and electricity is 7 baht/unit (=$0.25), which you’ll pay at the end of each month to the Building Manager.
I liked that it was bright and spacious. The bed was firm, but most beds in Asia are like that and I don’t mind.
Shortlisted for further consideration!
It’s a nice place, I had a few friends that stay there. It’s sister building with The Mirror, so we asked about both at the same time.
From what I researched online, both places are quite nice and have amenities (gym and/or) pool. However, both were full and outside of my price range.
PT starts at 7500 baht (=$250) for their ‘budget’ studio, whereas Mirror starts at 16,000 baht (=$533). That’s not including monthly utilities like water and electricity.
Some buildings may also charge you for the internet, a monthly service fee to maintain the amenities, a key fob charge, check out fee…etc. All these costs add up, so remember to ask before you commit.
Call me cheap, but I didn’t come all the way to Asia to pay North American prices!
Super nice! Too fancy for me. It was full so I didn’t have a chance to go up and take a look, but the lobby itself looked great!
For a small room, it starts from 20,200 baht (= $673). The longer you stay, the lower the rate is. For example, if you stay for 12 months, then the price drops to 16,500 baht (=$550).
For such a nice place, they could have produced a better pamphlet than just a folded up piece of paper to show potential customers…just saying.
There were a few places that I went to ask about the pricing, and walked right back out. A signal to me that that was not my neighbour.
OMG – SOOOOO nice, but I just couldn’t justify spending that much money on a place in Thailand, when I knew there were other places that were more minimalist and aligned with my budget. It’s somewhere in the north of 20,000 baht a month.
Really nice as well, but full – starting from 20,000 baht.
Sister buildings with Quality Condo – they’re both nice! Urban was all full 🙁
Quality had 1 studio left, starting at 14,000 baht.
And then, I stumbled on a lot that was fully booked until the new year…
It looked really old from the outside, didn’t seem to cater to foreigners and the building manager just didn’t give a sh!t. My interaction with the manager was so poor that I didn’t even take pictures and forgot what the price tag was – <10k though.
I quickly learned that Hillside is one of the more popular properties, so they’re usually all booked out.
I couldn’t find the original Hillside and the front desk told me there are 9 Hillside. Besides the convenient location, I really don’t understand why people like living there…they all look so dilapidated and they’re mid to high range.
Hillside 3 was available but I wouldn’t stay there. The front desk clerk just gave me keys to a room on the 3rd floor and told me to take a look myself. How trusting…or is it laziness? The room was way too dark for me. Price was OK though – around 6000 baht (=$200), but I’m sure you’d end up paying closer to 8000+ with all the extra fees.
Update – Oct 2019: This is where my current gym – Hillside Gym & Fitness – with my current trainer (Shout out to Boss!) is. Opens at 6am (I believe it’s the earliest in town) and closes at midnight!
If it wasn’t full, I’d totally consider staying here. The lobby looked like a resort, staff were friendly (and spoke English!) & the cost was within budget! 6000 baht (=$200) and up
The building manager wasn’t nice (and looked scary), but an Austrian guy I randomly met at a smoothie place is staying there and told me that it was 3500 baht (=$116) a month!
Not to be confused with Huay Kaew Residence!
Looked old from the outside and staff had poor attitudes.
They’re full right now, I can’t buy their product/service right now, so they can’t be bothered to answer a few questions. Is good old customer service really lost in this modern world?! 5700 baht (=$190) and up.
I’d also consider staying here if it wasn’t full! Lobby looked nice, staff were English-speaking and friendly, comes with a pool but within budget! 5700 baht (=$190) and up
It was available and the cheapest one I’ve seen in person – 4500 baht (=$150).
I didn’t like the tiny spiral stairs going up to the room. I can see myself tripping and falling on those stairs very easily! I would recommend for someone who is very budget-conscious, wants to stay close to Nimman and DOESN’T drink.
Spiral stairs and alcohol do not mix well.
Not bad – it was available, spacious and bright. No pool and tiny gym, but I’m OK with that. Starts at 5200 baht (=$173)
Shortlisted for Further Consideration!
Available, but poor customer service from the Building Manager and the room was too dark for me. It felt like it was such a chore for her to show me the room. I can only imagine how unhelpful she’d be if I were a tenant and came to her with an issue with my room. Starting at 5000 baht (=$167)
Available, within budget, staff were friendly but the room looked old and dark. Starting 6000 baht (=$200)
First day’s outcome looked grim.
Only 2 /20 apartments (10%) were shortlisted for further consideration. Not to mention that I was doing this all on foot under the blazing sun and had a mini heat stroke…always wear a hat and bring a water bottle!
Dec 6, 2018 - 16 Apartments in Santitham
I was really hoping that my second day of apartment hunting would yield better results, so I decided to look in the closest neighbourhood to Nimman – Santitham.
It’s more local, minimalist-style and reasonably priced.
Looks really neat from the outside, but I’ve been there twice during the day on a weekday and NO ONE IS EVER AT THE OFFICE.
I even called them to tell them that I’m outside, but they always needed an hour to get there so I gave up. Reasonably priced though at 5000 baht ($167). If anyone has been here, let me know how it is!
BALLA pool at the front entrance but no one was at the reception and over my budget. Starts at 9000 baht ($300)
BALLA-er, but expensive (from 12,000 baht – $400) and the building manager doesn’t handle the rental. There’s a bulletin board where owners post their unit up for rent or sale, and you contact the owners directly. Too much work for me!
Full 🙁 but good reviews online and affordable starting at 4500 baht ($150)
I would stay here if they weren’t full. Nice lobby and the Building Manager let me use the washroom lol Starts from 7500 baht ($250).
The pricier sister building to Doi View Mansion, but also full!
BALLA-er-er! It’s a resorty-feel but all full and more than what I want to pay. 14000 baht ($467)
I found the building but couldn’t find the entrance…total fail, I know! I read online that this place is reasonable, starting at 4500 baht ($150)
Available! As I was trying to find Mai Mansion, I stumbled on this guesthouse. Owned by a pair of sisters, one speaks English well and they have a cute, black dog named Lego. 7000 baht for a studio for one month but 6000 baht ($200) for 3 months.
Available! Not to be confused with Huay Kaew Place – they are not related. It has a gym (pay per use), a free pool and is within budget (starts from 3500 baht = $117 for a bare-boned studio). It’s just a bit older but within the Nimman area and close to the Old City.
Shortlisted for further consideration!
Only one studio available! Nice, clean and simple, within range but no gym or pool. 5000 baht ($167). Bright and spacious room!
Shortlisted for further consideration!
Available! Nice and bright room, within range but no gym or pool. Looks like a new building! 5500 baht ($183)
Shortlisted for further consideration!
7200 baht ($240) – didn’t end up going because it was a bit too far (technically, they’re in Jed Yod, not Santitham) but spoke to them on the phone.
The British guy that I helped find his way back to his apartment recommended this one to me. Starting at 5000 baht ($167) but too pink and too jail-like (to me) with the fence outside the terrace.
Full and outside of my range (10,000 baht+ = $333). This place is so fancy that it has a Japanese onsen built into the building. Open to the public for 350 baht for a full day of soaking.
Happy with the results from the second day, I decided to pick one of the many that I’ve been to.
If I wasn’t happy with the results, I’d probably contact a local rental agent and get them to set up appointments for me.
My Shortlist of Five
It wasn’t hard to narrow down to top 5…mainly because many places were unavailable or out of my price range.
Then, I sat down, let me inner nerd out and made a spreadsheet to compare them.
For electricity, there is something called a government rate which is 5 baht per unit, buildings will usually charge a little bit higher than this to cover their service charge (AKA so they can make some money off you).
I’m told that on average for a single person water is 150 baht and 300 (if you almost never turn on the AC) to 1000+ (if you use AC every night) baht monthly. So, just to be safe, I tacked on an extra 1000 baht for utilities for the estimated monthly total.
Other Expenses to Look Out For
- Another thing you need to look out for. I was surprised to see a monthly “maintenance fee” or “service charge.”
WTH, I didn’t come here to pay strata fees.
- There is usually a check-OUT cleaning fee (average is 200 baht) that can be deducted from your deposit, but check-IN cleaning fee is just double-dipping.
I mean, the person who checked out already paid 200 baht for the room to be cleaned up, so why do you have to also pay for a clean room when you check in?!
- Some buildings charge for a room key card or fob.
- If you want someone to clean your place for you once a week, that’s an additional fee. Often, for daily or weekly rentals, bedding (pillows, blanket and bedsheets) and housekeeping services will be included, but for monthly that’s an extra cost.
I opted to buy my own bedding and clean my own damn room.
My Top Choice
Based on all the metrics, this is how I would rank those five:
Anchan 2 seemed like the biggest bang for the buck, even though the deposit is quite hefty and I’d have to buy my own bedding.
I did more online research on this building by reading reviews on multiple platforms like YouTube, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia…etc. There weren’t too many but they were all positive, plus I had a good interaction with the building manager myself.
I went back a second time to see the room and asked the manager any outstanding questions. Once I was good with everything, we sat down and she took a copy of my visa and passport, then drafted up a contract for me to sign.
Later that night, I e-transferred my deposit and first month’s rent to her via Transferwise. Not every building accepts this so ask beforehand!
Sidenote: Make sure that your landlord gives you your TM30 confirmation print out – you’ll need this to extend your visa at the immigration office.
Update: Hm, the immigration officer did not ask to see this confirmation when I went to extend my tourist visa!
Finally, the search is over and I moved in the next day!
Update (Dec 20, 2018)
I still like Anchan. It’s actually very conveniently located, but…
I realized only after that there are KARAOKE BARS on the main road in front of the building…oh dear, good thing I have earplugs and they supposedly shut down at midnight!
Check Out Process & Utilities Cost
My flight was early the next morning at 7 am, so I asked if I could get my deposit back the night before.
Being the generous building manager/landlord that Nannie is, she said yes 🙂
It was quick and painless.
The staff checked the meters for water and electricity, then returned my deposit (in cash) minus any charges in 10 minutes!
My deposit was 10,000 baht ($333 USD) and I got back 9,410 baht ($314).
That’s including the 200 baht room cleaning/check-out charge AND 390 baht for utilities in the last TWO MONTHS. (That’s 195 baht= $6.50 each month!)
My utility bill in the first month (Dec 2018) was 700 baht (= $23) and I didn’t ONCE turn on the AC! That’s a 72% saving…
How to Cut Your Electric Bill by 72%
So what did I do to cut my bill in half for twice the length of time?
I copied my wise friend, Mike!
He told me he’d kill the switch when he knew he wouldn’t be home for the day.
Because even if you don’t turn on the appliances, they’ll still suck electricity while on standby.
Boy, was he right!
I shut off the power every time I left my room for a long period of time (so pretty much every day). On top of that, I took cold showers for a month.
It was way too hot to even take hot showers, plus cold showers are better for you anyway!
Final Thoughts After 3 Months
Staying at Anchan 2 was very easy.
The location was close to everything I needed – cheap massages, good food, the best facials, Nimman area, my gym – and Nannie was SO accommodating.
It’s probably really rare to have such an easy-going, flexible and understanding landlord.
Sidenote: I “negotiated” with her so that I wasn’t paying utilities every month.
(I didn’t want to have to take out more baht…actually, I didn’t once go to the bank or ATM while I was here!)
Instead, I asked to pay her my last 2 months’ rent in upfront through Transferwise and have the utility bills deducted from my security deposit when I check out.
As much as I like Anchan 2 and would love to come back to stay. I think I should try out another place so I have something to compare with.