Honestly, I thought finding a place to live would be a lot easier in Chiang Mai given all the digital nomads and long-term expats who live here. Not so much. Unlike Koh Tao where there’s a generous supply of furnished serviced apartments to meet the demand of dive professionals coming through for a few months or year at a time, Chiang Mai’s rental situation is more like that of, well, a regular city.
So I’ve done a lot of research and seen a lot of apartments. Like, a lot. I realize this post is specific (being about Santitham and all) but I wrote the blog post I wish existed during my apartment hunt.
Let’s get into it, shall we?
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Why live in Santitham?
Let’s talk Chiang Mai neighborhoods.
Here are the factors I based my housing search on (they are of course specific to me and my situation and preferences; yours might be very different):
- Ease of transport: I can’t drive a motorbike so I need somewhere fairly close to the coworking space I go to on the north side of the Old City (shout out to In the City Coworking and Coliving Space!)
- Airplane noise: I am more sensitive than most people to sound and can’t bloody stand the sound of airplanes passing overhead at all hours of the day and night. Chiang Mai Airport is ludicrously close to the center of the city so I am not exaggerating about the airplane noise. Santitham still gets the airplane noise but not as loud or as often (from what I can tell) as in Nimman or the area near Chiang Mai University.
- Value: Honestly living in the Old City would be ideal but the vast majority of living spaces are hotels and guesthouses that a) don’t have anything in the way of a kitchenette, and b) charge by the day or week and are simply outside my budget. You can get a bigger apartment with a kitchenette in Santitham for the same price as a smaller one without a kitchenette in the Old City. AKA better value.
- Atmosphere: Santitham is pretty charming with lots of restaurants, bars, cafes, a big fresh & prepared food market (Siri Wattana/Tanin Market), a supermarket (Tops), and a big outdoor recreational center (Muang Chiang Mai Stadium) all nearby. There are few-to-no tourists and it feels more Thai than the Old City or Nimman.
Let’s talk Chiang Mai apartment budgets
I wanted a bigger (more than 30 sq meters) place with
- A kitchenette: a fridge, sink, and either a burner or at least enough space to get a burner
- A balcony
- Hot water and aircon, duh
- A desk
- A lease for 6 months or less
My frame of reference for establishing a budget came from my experiences living in Bangkok and Koh Tao. In Bangkok, I paid 5,000 baht/month for a mid-sized studio apartment in the Pinklao neighborhood with a balcony, fridge, and aircon but nothing in the way of a kitchenette or really any space for one. That 5k included all utilities. Note: I didn’t have hot water.
In Koh Tao, I paid 12,000 for a small (probably 30 sq m) studio room with hot water, aircon, an excellent balcony, a small kitchenette (sink, fridge, burner) inclusive of utilities. The location was perfect for me: I could walk everywhere in Sairee easily but wasn’t near any loud bars or anything.
So! Given those experiences, I felt like I could find what I was looking for in Chiang Mai for 9,000, including utilities. I’ve learned you really need to consider the monthly electric costs. They can get up to 2-3,000 a month if you’re not careful, even in a small studio. This meant I was looking for a room with the features above at a base rate between 6-7,000 baht/month.
Not suuuper easy to find but I think it’s possible.
How to find even cheaper apartments in Chiang Mai
If you can drive…
Dude if you are comfortable driving a motorbike and plan to have one while in Chiang Mai, you shouldn’t even be reading this post. You can live anywhere! It’s easy! Go look at places farther away from the center of town and you can get better bang for your baht.
If you don’t want a kitchenette…
Most of the cheaper rooms have a small fridge and possibly a kitchen sink (a sink in addition to the bathroom sink) but no hob, no microwave, and not really enough space to cook if you wanted to. These rooms are easy to find for 6,000 and under.
If you don’t use aircon…
Congratulations, you can massively save on your electric bill!
If you can sign a longer lease…
If you are prepared to sign a yearlong lease, you can definitely find and negotiate lower rent prices.
On the other hand, if you have a higher budget…
If you have a higher budget — let’s say 12-14k/month before utilities — you can find something really cushy.
Luxury apartments in Santitham:
- D Vieng Santitham
- The Grand Wipanan Residence
- The Odyssey Chiang Mai
- The Opium Chiang Mai
- Vanilla Residence Chiang Mai
A note about airplane noise
Maybe you’re like me and you’re very sensitive to sound. (Maybe you’re not, in which case you can skip this section altogether.)
The Chiang Mai Airport is located southwest of the Old City. It seems airplanes take off headed north and south (…?)
Here’s where I’ve stayed and what I’ve experienced of the airplane noise:
- Near Chang Phuak gate – minimal/no airplane noise
- Nimman – very loud eardrum shattering, building shaking airplane noise, even in late night and early morning
- Santitham – airplane noise but not as loud as in Nimman
- Wat Ket (off the highway near Big C) – no airplane noise from what I remember
So if you want to avoid airplane noise, your best bet is to stay away from the areas north and south of the airport. If you end up in a place like Santitham, you can look for a room on a lower floor in a building with many floors. I have found this makes a big difference.
A note about bar noise in Santitham
Again if you DGAF about loud sounds where you live, just skip this section.
If you do, know there are some pretty loud bars and karaoke spots in Santitham. They play music every night of the week, but maximum until midnight (unless there’s a holiday or special occasion, I think).
If you want to avoid this, stay far away from Oxide Pub/TBar and Wiang Bua Court.
Apartments to check out in Santitham for digital nomads
Okay okay this is probably the part you really clicked for.
Most blogs and vlogs about finding a place to live in Chiang Mai will tell you to just hoof it around the area you’re interested in living in and ask if places have rooms available. I can confirm: walking around and asking to see rooms in apartment buildings is 100% the best way to find an apartment.
I’ve hoofed it and here’s a little taste of what’s out there:
- Anchan 2 Apartment – I’ve stayed here and it would honestly be perfect if not for the loud bars and karaoke next door. They have rooms starting at a base rate of 5,000 baht but do note if you don’t have your own bedding, they charge a hefty monthly 1,500 baht fee for bedding and weekly cleaning. They have different sized rooms to choose from. The rooms at the back get less noise at night.
- D Vieng Santitham – One of those luxury apartment complexes with a pool and gym. I don’t think you’ll find anything here for less than 10k but the rooms look really nice in pictures! Go to their lobby and you’ll see a board with flyers for available apartments. These also regularly come up in the Facebook groups below.
- Danaya Home – I found this place on Airbnb and contacted the landlord (click here for $40 off your first Airbnb booking!) It’s a great room actually and I’m very much considering it!
- Thanasiri Place Apartment – They had rooms as low as 4,600 THB. It’s a big complex so I think the type and value of the room would really depend on which one you get.
- This place at the northeast corner of the Old City – It’s not in Santitham but still really well-located. The building is older but the apartments are spacious and have built-in burners for cooking. There is a beautiful rooftop garden area as well.
Online resources to look for apartments in Chiang Mai:
In the Facebook housing groups, you have to sift through a lot of posts of places for sale or that are really far out from the city to find monthly rentals. The digital nomad Facebook groups occasionally have posts about subleases or neighbors moving out or something similar.
Farang Chiang Mai Real Estate – Of the Chiang Mai housing Facebook groups, I’ve found this one is the best for finding digital nomad accommodation
House for Rent & Sale in Chiang Mai Area
Rent Buy House Apartment Condo Chiang Mai
Perfect Homes agency – I’ve worked with them to view some condos in the city. You don’t pay extra to have an agency help you – the landlord absorbs the cost.
Airbnb (click to get $40 off your first Airbnb booking!)
This YouTube video of The Lost Lemurian apartment hunting in Santitham
This incredibly comprehensive guide to finding a place to live in Chiang Mai from Jet Set Citizen