Living Expenses for a retired expat in chiang mai

When factoring in the low cost of living and high-quality lifestyle, Chiang Mai is arguably the greatest value place to live on Earth. Many Westerners retire in Chiang Mai for the low cost of housing, food, health-care, and recreational activities that provide a superb lifestyle. The favorable exchange rate allows foreigners to enjoy the same comforts of the West for half the price.

Living in Thailand means living a life of luxury - a one hour Thai massage is only $6! A relaxing retirement is guaranteed in Chiang Mai

To get a realistic idea of your costs and options, we have listed a retired expats anticipated costs and an example monthly budget so you can get a sense of what your costs may be, and how to adjust according to the lifestyle you want to live. Check out our guide to learn how you can live a life of luxury off a minimal pension.

Housing and Rent

Housing rentals range from as low as $100 for a basic hotel style room in the center of the city to $1,000 for a 4 bedroom, 4 bath house in a private neighborhood 10 minutes from the center. Most retirees are looking for a centrally-located one bedroom apartment, ranging between $200-400. Many apartment buildings include wifi and water in the rent, and charge per unit for electricity, averaging $20 per month. Some apartments are available for rent month to month, while others require a minimum 6 month lease. Here are some examples of apartments in Chiang Mai:

Once you have settled into Chiang Mai and know your favorite neighborhoods, our real estate agent Anna will help you find a more permanent home. Check out our housing guide, including examples of homes and recommended considerations.

Phone and Entertainment

Mobile phone plans are very affordable compared to the US and Europe. A phone plan including 200 minutes and 5 GB of data is about $12. If you want unlimited minutes and data, the most you will pay is $30 (including data in Asia, Australia, and the US). 

If you are a sports addict and worry about access to watching American/European sports, have no fear! Although Thai TV does not broadcast American sports, you can still keep up with your favorite sports teams and watch NFL football, MLB baseball, and Premier League football in Chiang Mai. Many expats like to watch for with other expats at local bars and pubs, but you can also watch from your own home with a member subscription. We can help you set these up if you’d prefer to have access on your own TV.

The cost for a Grab taxi from Nimman to the Tha Phae Gate (in the Old City) is $2 to ride as a passenger on a scooter, $3 for a private car, or $4 for an Electric TukTuk


Transportation is very inexpensive with many options for getting around the city. Compared to the weekly budget of $50 for a tank of gas in the US, the $3 it takes to fill up a motorbike is reason enough to move to Chiang Mai! Local songthaews are less than $1 one way, and Grab, the taxi-app, is very affordable. Without the burden of expensive insurance coverage and car upkeep, the cost of transportation is a minimal amount of your overall monthly budget. Learn more about the different transportation options available in Chiang Mai.

Food and Drinks

There is an abundance of Thai and Western food available in Chiang Mai. Local Thai dishes are between $1-2, with many night markets that offer dishes for less than $1! And as an expat-haven, many foreigners have opened restaurants with food from around the world - Italian, Indian, Mediterranean, Burmese, American, European, Russian, Mexican, Vegan - You name it, Chiang Mai’s got it!

Eating international food ranges from $4-8, which is “expensive” in Chiang Mai. This same meal would be 3x as much elsewear. Living in Chiang Mai allows you to eat what you want rather than looking at meals based on price.

Checkout some of our favorite places to eat in Chiang Mai.


Thailand has excellent health care that is incredibly affordable. Without insurance, a check up at a local hospital can be as low as $6, and reach prices as high as $30 at luxurious private hospitals. Although the health care is very affordable, many retired expats prefer to have health insurance. Just like other countries, the annual premium is dependent on your desired coverage. For a healthy 55 year old expat, you can expect to pay an annual premium of approximately $1,000. Learn more about the quality and care at the hospitals in Thailand.

As part of our relocation package, we connect you with English-speaking insurance brokers so you can find the coverage right for you. We also recommend Chiang Mai's most reputable health centers and escort you to your first check-up so you can feel confident and reassured with the health care available. 

Personal Care

Another thing you will want to include in your budget is personal care. There are many convenience stores with a wide range of health care and body products to choose from. The average Thai product is more inexpensive than western countries, but imported upscale products are also available. 

In most countries, a weekly massage is unheard of. But in Thailand, the ancient practice and inexpensive cost of massages make it accessible as part of your weekly routine. A typical Thai massage costs $6 for one hour.

Many shops offer haircuts and beauty services, with a basic haircut for a man or woman at a local salon around $5, and a more deluxe service (like highlights or hair dying) as high as $60 at a luxury salon. Compared to the same service in the US for $200, this is very affordable.

Sports, leisure, and activities


Example Monthly Budget for a Single Retired Expat

Here is an example monthly budget for a single retired expat living in the center of the city off Nimmanhaeiman Rd, a convenient location for food, shopping, and public transportation. Along with anticipated monthly bills (rent, utilities, insurance) and necessities (food, transportation), we have factored in a budget for social events, sports, and travel. You can modify your expected budget based off the accommodation, diet, and lifestyle you prefer.

Housing: $400

1 bedroom 1 bath apartment in Nimman


Water + Electricity (25¢/unit)



Bills: $30

Phone (200 minutes + 5 GB of data)

Home Entertainment (Wifi + Cable TV)

Transportation: $32


Gas: 3 liters/week ($1/liter of gas) 

Repairs, registration, upkeep 

Public transportation (bus or songthaew)

Grab (taxi app)







Food and Drinks: $364

Food $10/day

Breakfast at home ($2)

1 local Thai dish ($2)

1 Western meal ($6)

Drinks $3/day

Coffee or smoothie ($1-2)

Beer (12 fl oz can $2) + Glass of wine ($4)







Healthcare: $100

Insurance for a 55 year old with no pre-existing conditions with an annual premium of $1,000

Dental care (check up and cleaning $30)





Personal care: $50

Weekly massage

Hair and nail care






Leisure: $160


2 rounds of golf (green fee 18 holes: $10)

Gym 1x/week ($3 drop in)

Fitness classes 2x/week ($6 drop in)


Watch sports games (free at bars)

Go to the movies ($4 ticket)

Workshops and classes ($6/class)

Weekend getaways and trips