Finding a Short-Term Rental In Chiang Mai Thailand – The Search

When planning our year of nomadic life in Southeast Asia, we knew we would want a couple of locations to stop for a few months.  At least we know our limits and style of travel and realize that we don’t do well when we move fast or nonstop. We preselected 2 locations to spend 3-4 months each, Chiang Mai, Thailand and Penang, Malaysia.  We selected these locations based on loads of research as well as reading about the experiences of many other travelers.  Most of which weren’t family travelers, so that left a little to our imagination.  This should help the family travelers!

Rental in Chiang Mai Thailand

We have tested the family travel limits with 2 summer road trips, so we are speaking from experience.  The first was our 6 week European road trip, which we wrote all about.  The second was 7 weeks of Europe and Thailand, via car, planes, trains, buses and ferries.   We have shared some of that experience with you already.  We have come to the conclusion that we do well until about the 5th or 6th week.  That seems to be the point where the family begins to sound off and needs to take a breather.  So, 3 months in Chiang Mai, it is!

Is it easy to find a short term rental In Chiang Mai Thailand for a family? We did! We share all of our research and thoughts with you. Read more on WagonersAbroad.com

We arrived in Chiang Mai after experiencing the night train from Bangkok.  That was an experience to remember!  We didn’t pre-book accommodation, but had researched several guest houses.

Wagoners Abroad Train Bangkok to Chiang Mai

We ended up selecting Chiang Mai Thai House for a week, while we searched for a short-term apartment rental in Chiang Mai.  It was in a great location, with a pool and AC, all at a reasonable price. Now, the apartment hunt was on!

Chiang Mai Thai House - Tha Pae Gate Thailand (4) (2)

Chiang Mai Apartment Requirements For Our Family of 4:

  • Budget $800/month including utilities (this shouldn’t be a problem as many people are renting for $500-$600)
  • Family accommodations – prefer 3 bedrooms with AC and internet (kids are getting older and need privacy)
  • Near other expats (a bonus). We weren’t looking for full immersion like we were in Spain. We do want to meet others that speak English and get tips and tricks from them. We are here for a short time and want info at our fingertips.
  • Western kitchen and toilets (no squatting for Alan!)
  • Good, safe location to have a vehicle-free lifestyle
  • We weren’t sure if we wanted an apartment in the city, which we could only find 2 bedrooms or if we wanted a house in the suburbs with 3-4 bedrooms and space.  If we opted for the suburbs, we would also need to rent a car, so that would add to the costs.

Short-Term Family Apartment Search Tools

We did our research for rental apartments in several ways:

  1. Google searches – this provides a good overall view of your rental options to dig further.  Chiang Mai Neighborhoods described.
    Chiang Mai Area Map

    Chiang Mai Neighborhoods Map

    Map screen shot from Chiang Mai Lanna House

  2. Local Realtors – I found these to be the best with gaining info on neighborhoods and understanding how the city is organized.  They did have several rentals as well, but many were already rented, yet still listed.  We did see a few properties with Realtors.
    1. Chiang Mai Lanna House – great for interactive area map and neighborhoods
    2. Chiang Mai Properties
    3. Asia Property World
    4. Perfect Homes – Jade
  3. Facebook groups – These were the best for some “real” recommendations.  Travel blogger groups as well as I Heart Chiang Mai group.  All were valuable resources for general info or names of areas and buildings.  The only problem for us was many of these people were either single or couples.  Searching as a family of 4 adds an entirely different dimension and price bracket.
  4. Craigslist – We found a few this way.
  5. Direct on condo/apartment websites – Taking names from other resources and just looking the buildings up directly.  They too had listings.
  6. Classifieds
    1.  Thaivisa Classifieds
    2. (CCCC) Chiang Mai Christian Community Classifieds (mainly expats – forwarded to me by a friend).  Contact us if you would like the newsletter info.
  7. Pounding the pavement! – There is nothing like just walking around to get a feel for an area just stopping in to ask if they have any apartments available.  This really proved to be informative, beneficial and successful for us.
  8. Holiday rental sites  – We did find several homes in the suburbs, that looked like they could be in the US.  Not many owners had the full 3 months available.
  9. Of course AirBnB is an option as well.
    If you are new to Airbnb and are looking to either rent a room or the entire place,
    use this code to receive a $34 USD discount on your first booking.

Pricing Tips:

money saving tip #1

  • Remember when looking for short-term or long-term to check holiday rentals and see if they are willing to provide discount for monthly rentals.  Many times they will, especially if it is off-season.
  • When looking at long-term rentals a lower price is usually advertised. If you want it short-term it will cost more than advertised.  There doesn’t seem to be a standard percentage, but it would be slightly more to rent for 6 months rather than 1 year, and again, slightly more to rent for 3 months rather than 6 etc.
  • Ask for a deal!  Either in advance via email or in person.  Worst case they say no, but what if they say yes?   Our rental was a set price, in fact a little more because we were only renting for 3 months.  I asked for a 10% discount and they gave us 8% discount (almost the price of a 6 month rental).  I was expecting a no and instead we are saving $65 a month!

By doing all of this research, we not only had a better understanding of area and neighborhoods, but also the terminology.

Hunting for a family rental in Chiang Mai – The Terminology

I will fess up now, these are what we “learned” along the way. If you have a better definition, just let us know.

  • Mooban – Neighborhood
  • Soi – Side street.  Many areas will have a main street and then side streets that feather off with the same name only the addition of “soi” and a number are added.  Example: Nimman is the main street.  The side streets would be Nimman Soi 2 or Nimman Soi 13 or Thapae Soi 4, Thapae Soi 6, etc..  It seems the even Soi’s are on one side and the odds on the other.
  • Western Kitchen – Usually a stove and cupboards, perhaps more appliances.
  • Thai Kitchen – Usually a counter space and sink with a portable gas burner.
  • Serviced Apartment – Typically an apartment or condo with many amenities and services available (internet, pool, gym, cleaning, etc).  Meant for short-term rentals and they often come at a higher price.

Chiang Mai Apartments

The Actual Family Rental Hunt

Within a few hours we had a list of several apartments and houses we wanted to reach out to for more information.  We figured after seeing a few, we would “just know” what was right for us.  The next day we had 2 appointments to see houses in the San Sai suburb of Chiang Mai.  On the map, it appeared to be close enough to the city for us and it seemed like a good expat area.

It took us quite a while to get out to the suburbs via public transit.  It was much farther than it appeared.  Each of the owners agreed to pick us up near Meechok Plaza and take us to view their home.  Both homes were in typical Thai moobans.  The first house was a 4 bedroom, 2 bath for $300/month!  It was very basic, sparsely furnished and very Thai style.  Nothing wrong with that, it just wasn’t what we were looking for.

The second house was an expat family looking for someone to sublet from September – January.  Perfect dates for us with our triple entry visa and it was a 3 bedroom for only $400/month.  The house was nice and a beautiful kitchen and gorgeous yard.  The down side, we would have yard work and need to rent a car (an additional $550 a month).

After this full day affair, we quickly realized that we wanted to be in the city and not the suburbs.  We wanted to be able to have a “city” lifestyle and just get up and walk out our door for our daily needs.  We have lived the suburban life and the small town life with the kids, but they haven’t experienced that city life.

We focused our search on the city next and viewed a few rentals in Riverside Condos and almost selected a 2 bedroom for $500 a month.  It had many amenities and along the Ping River, but it was a bit out of the city.  We weren’t too sure about the neighborhood either. We would likely need to rent scooters to get around.  We viewed many properties around town and soon figured out that we really liked the Nimman neighborhood near the University.

Chiang Mai Apartments (2)

Again we began scouring the area on the web and by foot.  We viewed a few properties in this area with Realtors and some appointments directly with owners.  Based on our experience, we found that it was good to just walk up to a building that we liked and see if they had rentals.  We walked up and down every Nimman Soi and looked at a few places. We also asked in the lobbies of the buildings we viewed with Realtors.

Chiang Mai Apartments (1)

We realized the building managers usually took care of rentals too.  Ultimately, that is how we found our place.  We viewed an apartment in the building and later returned and asked the front desk if they had any rentals.  They said they only had one 2 bedroom, but when we entered it was really a 3 bedroom!  Score!  We were having a tough time just finding suitable 2 bedrooms, but 3 was great.

We spent 4 days (4-5 hours) straight looking at rentals.  We viewed close to 15 properties and all of them would have worked.  The prices ranged from $300 – $850 per month and surprisingly the 3-4 bedrooms were the cheaper options, but outside of the city. Like any place you would live, it is more expensive the closer you get to the city.  Go ahead, take a peek at our Chiang Mai Apartment.

A Peek Into Our Chiang Mai Apartment

In the end we are very pleased with our choice.  We have the space we need in a great location.  We are paying rent within our budget, but not as low-cost as I would have liked.  In the big scheme of things it is still inexpensive for US standards and we have 3 bedrooms!  Yes a family can find that rental for $200 – $500 for sure, but you will need to compromise on something (location, bedrooms, space, furnishings etc).  If you are interested in studio’s or 1 bedrooms, there are plenty!

For us, allowing the kids to have their own space turned out to be a very high priority.  This would help alleviate tension and future arguments between budding teen/tweens.

Tell us what you think and if you have rented in Chiang Mai, let us know the details (price, location, size etc).  This will help our readers compare.  Thanks!

If you have any questions for us, just ask!

Feel free to also check out our Family Friendly Guide to Chiang Mai

Family Friendly Chiang Mai Guide

16 thoughts on “Finding a Short-Term Rental In Chiang Mai Thailand – The Search

  1. I’m curious… when you rent in other countries (at least the countries you have stayed in), do you have to pay the “extras” also…such as cleaning deposits, etc.? When you stayed in Spain, did you have to put up a first and last month’s rent to rent in order to rent for 2 years?

    • Excellent question Judy. I can’t believe I didn’t cover that. That is the sting, when doing this life. You need cash at the ready, but to move into an apartment fully furnished with cooking supplies, sheets, the works, it’s worth it. Coincidentally our rent is about the same for Spain and Chiang Mai. In fact, we had a much better deal in Spain, because that included utilities. Of course we were in a small town there and in CM we are in the heart of the city. The apartments are about the same size.

      Yes, in Spain we had to pay the first months rent and then 2 months worth for the deposit. We did get our full deposit back when we left Spain. We just loved our landlord and would love to rent form him again.

      For this rental in Chiang Mai, we paid first, last and 1 month deposit. The initial out of pocket was the same, but for different purposes. Here in CM we are required to give a 2 month notice before leaving, so when we pay rent on Sept 15th, we will give our notice. Then on Oct 15 we will not need to pay rent. We will still have that one month worth of rent (deposit) floating out there and hope to get it back when we depart.

  2. This is so interesting!

    A couple of questions:

    * When renting an apartment for months at a time, do you need some sort of
    “residency” in the country (like a green card, in the U.S.)?

    * What kind of IDs do they ask for? Is a passport enough? Do they expect you to have some sort of income within the country?

    We love your adventures! 🙂

    • Love these questions Juan, Thanks. I can only share our experience, so I can’t promise this is standard practice. My gut feeling, is that it’s pretty standard.

      In Thailand, we only placed a deposit to hold the place and provided our name and email. That’s it! Once we arrived to move in, we provided a copy of our passport, signed a contract (in English), and moved in (walked away with our luggage). We are required to provide a 2 months notice and that was it.

      We just needed the cash to pay the rent and no questions asked about proof of income. No background or credit check, like they do in the US.

      When we rented long-term in Spain, it was very similar to Thailand. Just pay your rent and provide your ID and you’re good to go. I hope that helps.

  3. Hi Heidi,
    I want to move my family of 4 (Mom, Dad, kids ages 10, 13) to either Spain, Portugal or Thailand, so I’m so glad to have found your blog! I’m assuming you home school, but what are the options for English speaking schools. Is home schooling going well and do you use an online curriculum? Also, which country do you find easiest for new expat families? Thanks so very much, Christina; Denver, CO

    • Hey Christina! Well look at that. Your kids are about the same age as ours and we happen to know about all of your countries of choice! Do feel free to hit that contact us on the menu bar and ask us any questions you like. I will answer those above here:

      The kids attended public school in Spain for 2 years. We are homeschooling now in Thailand, as we are moving around SEA. We are using Time4Learning as well as Kahn, our blog, video (youtube) and of course travel. So far it is going well for us. As far as which country is easy? hmmmm All have been easy, excluding any language barrier. Depending on where you end up in each country, language may not even be a problem either. We have found many people speak English in Thailand, but we have been in the big cities. There is a large expat community (US) in Chiang Mai, but there were many in Spain too (UK). You really need to dig at what you are trying to accomplish with your move.

      Actually I just replied to this exact question 2 days ago via email. I will place it here for you too.

      How exciting for you and your family!

      I know this may sound silly, but it all depends.

      Spain:
      More of a family atmosphere. People love kids and families
      It can be inexpensive, depending on here you live and your lifestyle choices.
      Less expensive in small town away from cities, but then you give up activities like movies etc to be near to you. We didn’t miss any of that in our Spanish town. It was nice.
      The language is likely easier to pick up and understand.
      The weather would vary depending on region.
      Similarities to familiar things (Westernized)
      Thailand
      In Chiang Mai – city atmosphere and large expat community (usually in suburbs).
      Well traveled tourist route, so many western conveniences (in cities)
      Completely different culture and language
      Reading and speaking the language would take more time, though many people speak English
      Cost of living in Chiang Mai is a bit less than Spain. As it is a city, you can afford to visit more attractions available (movies $3) etc.
      More hustle and bustle and a little dirty. Depending on the neighborhood you select.
      You can get far more for you money in Thailand, depending on your choices.
      It really all comes down to your goal. What are you trying to experience or achieve by this move?

      close proximity for your husband to arrive/depart for his work?
      a completely new culture?
      inexpensive?
      language? more info on moving to Spain and school

      Only your family can figure that out.

      Education:

      We had the kids attend free public school in Spain. Within a few months they were speaking Spanish and after about 6 months nearly fluent. It was a tough road in the beginning, but they made friends immediately. Here is some info on Spain, there is info on schools etc or you can go to our Education category (drop box on the right side of the home page). There was an international school in our town with a UK curriculum and I believe it was about 10-15,000 euros a year. K-12. We have a video interview series YouTube as well.

      In Thailand, we are homeschooling as we are moving around for the school year. We aren’t going to settle in just one place or country. This is new to us. From what I have seen, there are many international schools in CM and can cost from $600 -$2000 a month for tuition. I just wrote a post about CM and there is a newsletter by expats that has more info on housing for rent, by expats. etc.
      Family Friendly Short-Term Rental In Chiang Mai Thailand – The Search

      I hope that helps and please feel free to ask more questions. Let us know what you decide.

      Good luck to you.

      Heidi

  4. Hedi, my family is hoping to take a year off and travel a lot next year. Short term rentals sound like a really good idea! The tip about just walking around and asking if there are apartments to rent seems like it worked for you guys! I will have to keep that in mind!

    • Thanks Emily. How exciting for you! A year off. Yipeee. Where are you from and are you planning a round the world or just hitting Southeast Asia?

      It did work for us, but do use all options available. We also worked with a realtor and contacted individual listings as well. It isn’t impossible, but it does take some work.

  5. Hello..!!
    My friend and his wife are going to visit Thailand next month. I guess this post would be a great help for them.
    I was looking forward to help them as much I can. Luckily I found your post. Thanks for posting buddy.

  6. Hey, great info thanks!

    Two questions…

    – You say you need to give them cash for each month rent? How did you withdraw that much cash from the banks?

    – How did paying rent each month work (and utilities)? Did they give you a bill and you go to the front desk to pay cash for the total? And then when you leave, you had them the keys and they give you cash back for your deposit?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hey Dan, good questions. We would withdraw the max amount from the ATM over several days time. In our building there was a building manager and each month we would receive a bill on our door for the rent and then another for the utilities. We usually had a few days to pay the bill, so it wasn’t a big rush. We would just go to the ATM and get cash for each of them and pay at the front desk. Other buildings may have a different policy. We used the Charles Schwab ATM card and account, as they cover all ATM fees and have a great exchange rate. This worked really well for us in SEA and we even do the same in Europe now. We no longer transfer money from our US to Spain account. We just go to the ATM, take out max of 600 Euros and then walk in our Spanish bank to deposit it. IF we need more, again we just take from ATM over a few days. I hope that helps, best of luck to you.

    • Hey Kim, ,

      It really depends on what is available to you at the time. We looked at a few AirBnB as well, most of which were out the outskirts or out of town. I wouldn’t rule out any options. Just make sure you have a location and price you like. How many people are you trying to house? that makes a difference as well. We really didn’t want to be out of the city and have to take tranport in every time. We really liked just being able to go out our door and have so much available to us on foot.

      If you are up for a studio, Bahn Thai off of Nimman on Soi 6 is great. no kitchen, but many people just buy a hot plate, kettle and a few other things like that. It is so cheap to eat out. We almost considered 2 studios, but in the end that wouldn’t work for 3 months. had it just been a few weeks or month, we would have. There is a nice pool, close to everything and only 1500 baht a month (well it used to be, not sure of current price). I hope that helps.

Come on and tell us what you think!