Where to Stay in Chiang Mai (for all types of travelers!)

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One of our favorite cities in Thailand, Chiang Mai makes a great place to visit or base yourself as a digital nomad. If you’re planning a trip and wondering where to stay in Chiang Mai, this guide will go over the different neighborhoods and what you can expect in each, plus recommended stays for every budget. 

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is one of our favorite cities in the world, and cumulatively over the years, we’ve spent more than a year living there. 

Not only is Chiang Mai a fun city to visit on a trip to Thailand, but it is also one of the best cities for digital nomads

With a strong sense of culture, an incredible food scene, vivid history and all the modern comforts you could ask for, Chiang Mai is a beautiful blend of old and new. 

And with mountains and jungle to explore, as well as cute, air-conditioned cafes to work from, Chiang Mai speaks to all different travelers and nomads. Whether you’re staying for a few days or a few months, we think you’ll love this city. 

In this guide to where to stay in Chiang Mai, we’re going to go over the different neighborhoods and what you can expect in each. 

We’ll share what each area is known for – from the bougie neighborhoods that are central to all the top attractions to neighborhoods that have an eclectic “hippy vibe” to those that have many co-working spaces and are popular with digital nomads, you’ll get a sense of which Chiang Mai neighborhood you’ll like best. 

Let’s dive in and explore the many areas of Chiang Mai!

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai for…

If you’re looking for quick answers, here are our suggestions on where to stay in Chiang Mai for different scenarios. If you want more info and the lowdown on each neighborhood, click on the links to jump to a specific ‘hood or just keep reading!

Other article contents


Overview of Chiang Mai Neighborhoods

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai Map

It’s no secret that Chiang Mai is the best hub for exploring northern Thailand. This city is surrounded by mountains and dotted with ancient temples giving it a rare combination of adventure, nature, culture, history, food, and modern comforts.

While the province of Chiang Mai is quite large, the downtown area of the city can easily be covered by motorbike or taxi in about 20 minutes from end to end. The main areas we recommend staying in Chiang Mai can be separated into 5 general neighborhoods as shown on the map above.

  • Nimmanhaemin: shown in yellow
  • Santitham: shown in blue
  • Old City: shown in red
  • Night Bazaar: shown in green
  • Riverside: shown in purple

You’ll notice a lot of uncolored space in between and around the neighborhoods on the map. This is not to say you cannot find accommodation in these areas and be well located. We’ve just roughly mapped out the main recommended areas for you.

Budget Tip: It is worth noting that if you are a backpacker looking for hostels, the area just south of the Old City walls is full of highly rated hostels that are within walking distance of the Old City.

Each of the neighborhoods are pretty walkable on their own, but if you want to explore in different areas, we recommend finding other modes of transportation which we’ve summed up below.

Getting Around Chiang Mai

Songthew Chiang Mai

Getting around Chiang Mai is very easy due to all the different options for transportation. Here are just a few of the most common ways to get around:

Songthaew (Red Truck)

These red trucks are everywhere in Thailand and super easy to use as a shared taxi system.

Flag down the driver, and tell them where you’d like to go (sometimes it’s best to use a general landmark instead of an exact address or show him directions on your Maps app). If they say yes, you can get in the back, and you’ll be dropped off in the order that works best with the other customers in the truck.

In general, a ride within the city limits should cost 30 baht per person, but it can increase the further your ride or depending on the time of day. 

Tuk Tuk

You can flag down a tuk tuk and negotiate the price. We’ve found these to be more expensive (and slower) than taking a Grab, so we wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking them regularly.

Grab

Southeast Asia’s version of Uber and Lyft, this ride sharing app is super handy when wanting to get to a specific place. Grab constantly has promotions going on and we have gotten across the city for 20 baht before! Typical rides around town vary from 50-100 baht.

Motorbike

We only recommend renting a motorbike if you have driven one before and are comfortable with driving in a busy city and on the left side of the road. Additionally, you should always respect the rules of the road and don’t ride like an idiot to try to impress people.

Now that I’ve gotten that warning over with: Renting a motorbike can be one of the cheapest ways to get around and explore the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Rentals start at around 250 – 300 baht per day. You’ll need to leave your passport at the rental shop for collateral.

And please, please, PLEASE… where a proper helmet (with wind-guard and facemask). It’s worth the extra 50 baht ($1.66 USD). We have seen/heard of too many travelers getting in accidents and we don’t want that to be you.

MoBike Rental

This bike-sharing program is relatively new to Chiang Mai. But you’ll be able to spot these orange bicycles (and some e-scooters too) around the city. Download the app, and you’ll be able to see the bikes free near you as well as rent them in 30-minute intervals ($1 USD for 30 minutes). 

Tip on transportation from the Chiang Mai Airport: When you arrive at the airport in Chiang Mai, there is a taxi queue, but it is overpriced. Instead, order a Grab, or wait in front of the departure doors for a songthaew to come by. From the airport to the city, it should cost around 50 baht per person.


Old City

Temple in Chiang Mai's Old City

The vibrant historical center of Chiang Mai is easy to locate on a map as its crumbling 700-year-old moat-lined fortress walls create a near-perfect square in the heart of the city. Home to ancient temples, bustling markets and a plethora of guesthouses, boutique shops, and restaurants, the Old City is where you’ll find all the action. 

With its central location, proximity to most cultural attractions, and plenty of affordable accommodation options, the Old City has also become the backpacker’s hub of Chiang Mai. 

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Lots to see and do, in the heart of the action
  • Very walkable neighborhood
  • Most of the cultural attractions are in this area
  • Large range of affordable accommodation, restaurants, and bars
  • Easy access to most of the city
  • Quieter at night

Cons:

  • Often congested traffic during rush hour as the roads around the moat are mostly one-ways
  • Most commercialized area of Chiang Mai
  • No resort-style accommodation or high-rise buildings in this neighborhood

Highlights of Old City

  • Ancient temples such as Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Sing, and Wat Chiang Man
  • Museums such as the Chiang Mai Historical Center, Chiang Mai Arts & Cultural Center, and the Lanna Folklife Museum
  • Tha Phae Gate and the fortress walls
  • Somboon Market

Best Budget/Backpacker Stays

Vida Guesthouse Chiang Mai

Vida Guesthouse – Basic, yet clean and comfortable rooms for a super affordable price makes this a decent stay if you’re looking for a private ensuite room on a tight budget. The rooftop terrace is lovely, the staff is helpful and not super pushy, and the location is top notch.

This tree-shaded neighborhood in the Old City is quiet and has an abundance of adorable cafes. It is close to a local market, street food, and isn’t too far from the major sites.

Neat Hostel Chiang Mai

Neat Hostel – This modern hostel is aptly located in the Old City within walking distance of plenty of attractions. The accommodation features mixed and all-female dorms with semi-private bunks as well as private rooms. A shared kitchen, bathrooms and lounge area are available as well and an American-style breakfast is served up every morning. This hostel is especially secure.

Best Mid-Range/Couple Stays

Vieng Mantra Hotel Chiang Mai Thailand

Vieng Mantra Hotel – Situated steps away from the Chiang Mai Tha Phae (East Gate), you and your hunny can have a great night out downtown or relax by the pool and bar at the hotel. 

Mango Tree Apartment Chiang Mai Thailand Airbnb

The Mango Tree apartment is a verified AirbnbPlus property that is perfect for a couple who prefer an apartment style home over a hotel stay. It is centrally located in the Old City but in a quiet neighborhood, providing a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle.

Amenities include a full kitchen, complete with dishwasher and coffee maker, air conditioning, wifi, a washer and drier, and even your own mango tree in the center of the apartment. The knowledgeable host is easy to communicate with and happy to answer your questions about the city and help you plan your trip.

New to Airbnb? Find out how we set our filters to choose the best Airbnb every time. Plus get a $55 discount code for first time users!

Old City Chiang Mai Townhouse Airbnb

The beautifully decorated Townhouse in Old City is a verified AirbnbPlus property that is perfect for a family traveling to Chiang Mai. With 2 bedrooms and 5 beds, this townhouse comfortably sleeps 5 people. Other amenities include a full kitchen, washer, wifi, and air conditioning. The self check-in makes staying here easy and convenient.

Best Luxury Stays

Bodhi Serene Chiang Mai Hotel

Bodhi Serene Chiang Mai Hotel – In the heart of the old city, but secluded on a small street that makes it the perfect combination. With nice outdoor pool and a business center, it’s great for families or business professionals.

Thai Akara Lanna Boutique Hotel Chiang Mai

Thai Akara Lanna Boutique Hotel – This beautiful oasis in the heart of the Old City is the perfect retreat after a long day of sight-seeing and temple hopping. Guest rooms include a seating area, air conditioning and flat screen TVs. The pool is refreshing and the in-house restaurant specializes in Thai cuisine.

Night Bazaar

Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai

Just east of the Old City, this area is aptly named for the city’s largest night market, which runs nightly, and happens to take up space in most of this neighborhood. As one of the must-do things in Chiang Mai, the convenience of staying near the Night Bazaar is reason enough for some travelers to book their accommodation here. 

The centrally located neighborhood is pretty average during the day, but comes alive around 6 p.m. each night when the stalls start setting up for the night market. It is the prime neighborhood for shopping and nightlife in Chiang Mai with beer bars and late-night dance clubs all around Loi Khroh Road. 

Accommodation here includes a range from budget guesthouses to luxury hotels, but you tend to see more on the pricier side than in Old City.

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

  • The night bazaar is a must-see in Chiang Mai
  • Centrally located between Riverside and Old City
  • Plenty of foreigner-friendly bars and clubs with a lively nightlife scene
  • The neighborhood is very walkable and easy to get to Old City

Cons:

  • This area can get crowded, especially during the evenings when the Night Bazaar is going
  • There aren’t many cultural attractions here

Highlights of the Night Bazaar Neighborhood

  • The Night Bazaar… duh
  • Nightlife highlights include: Bubbles Nightclub, Foxy Lady Go Go, O’Malleys, Boy Blues Bar
  • Art in Paradise: A 3D interactive art gallery
  • Anusarn Market
  • Kampangmuang Gallery and cocktail bar

Best Budget/Backpacker Stays

Na La Da Hostel Chiang Mai

Na La Da Hostel – Situated less than 1 km from the Night Bazaar, this hostel is in a great location for shopping and sight seeing. Offering a mix of dorm style beds and private single or double rooms, its a great budget option for those who prefer clean well-kept space.

Stamps Backpackers Hostel Chiang Mai

Stamps Backpackers Hostel – Located just outside of the Old City walls in Night Bazaar, this highly-rated hostel offers dorm rooms with semi-private sleeping bunks. The rooms either have air conditioning or a fan, and each bunk is equipped with 2 private outlets. Dorms start at just $8!

Best Mid-Range/Couple Stays

Kate and Hasu Boutique Hotel Chiang Mai

Kate & Hasu Boutique Hotel – A 5-minute walk from Tha Pae Gate in the Night Bazaar neighborhood, this modern boutique hotel is perfect for couples. Amenities include a dipping pool, rooftop sun lounge, snack bar, and small fitness center. Each air conditioned room has a seating area, mini fridge and ensuite bathroom.

Tha Phae Gate Cozy House Chiang Mai Airbnb

Tha Phae Gate Cozy House – This 3 bedroom Airbnb property has Superhost status and is perfect for a family or group traveling together to Chiang Mai. The house comfortably sleeps 7 people with 4 beds. Other amenities include a full kitchen, in-home laundry, wifi, and air conditioning.

Perfect Apartment Chiang Mai Airbnb

This Perfect Apartment is an Airbnb property with Superhost status that is perfect for a couple visit Chiang Mai who wants to be near the action of the Night Bazaar. The beautiful rooftop infinity pool overlooks the city, and the views from the fitness center aren’t too bad either!

Best Luxury Stays

Yaang Come Village Chiang Mai Hotel

Yaang Come Village – This 4 star boutique hotel is located at the south end of the Night Bazaar, between the Old City and the Ping River. Each of the uniquely decorated rooms feature air conditioning and elegant touches. There is a breakfast buffet served at the in-house restaurant and outdoor dining in the garden.

Shangri La Hotel Chiang Mai

Shangri La Hotel – This 5 star property is highly rated for families traveling together to Chiang Mai. The large swimming pool includes a water slide, there is also kids play areas throughout the property. Family-sized rooms are also available here. Plus there are plenty of amenities for adults to enjoy as well such as the signature spa and business center.

Le Meridian Chiang Mai Hotel

Le Meridian – The pinnacle of luxury in Chiang Mai, this 5 star hotel blends European design with the Lanna Thai charm. Perfect for business travelers, amenities include a swimming pool terrace, full fitness center, conference center and meeting rooms. Plus an onsite restaurant specializing in western cuisine.

Nimmanhaemin

Neimann Chiang Mai Thailand

Often times shorted to just “Nimman”, this neighborhood is the hip and modern area that attracts young people from the nearby University and ex-pats from all over the globe. There is a thriving avant-garde cafe culture here and you’ll find digital nomads parked in front of their laptops around every corner. 

You will also find trendy restaurants, shopping boutiques, and a more sophisticated nightlife scene here that includes some rooftop hotspots. Just be prepared to pay a premium for accommodation in such a trendy location… But remember it’s still Thailand, so luxury doesn’t come at as a high a price as other destinations such as Europe or the US. 

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Boutique shopping
  • Vibrant and sophisticated nightlife
  • Trendy restaurant and cafe scene
  • Conveniently located for the airport
  • Very walkable neighborhood

Cons:

  • With plenty of ex-pats and digital nomads, this area can be pretty touristy
  • Traffic can pile up during rush hour
  • Falling directly under the flight path from the airport, plane noise can be a factor
  • Fewer cultural attractions here as the neighborhood is more modern

Highlights of Nimman Neighborhood

  • Maya Mall Shopping Center
  • Lots of trendy cafes including favorites like: Rustic & Blue, Seascape, Free Bird Cafe, and Healthy B Cafe
  • One Nimman plaza and food market
  • Rooftop Bars

Best Budget/Backpacker Stays

ALEXA Neimann Hostel Chiang Mai

ALEXA Hostel – Just off the main Nimmanhaemin road, this hostel offers clean and modern rooms for travelers who don’t need all the frills (and the price tag) of a hotel stay, but still want some privacy. Great for digital nomads, they offer single, double and triple rooms with shared bathrooms, have a cafe and communal garden space with Wifi available throughout the property.

2 gals and the Pig Hostel Chiang Mai

2 Gals and the Pig Boutique Hostel – Matching the avant-garde theme of the neighborhood, this quirky hostel fits right in. The minimalist decor flows throughout the property which has a mix of single, double and triple rooms with shared bathroom facilities. An Asian style breakfast is available daily in the cafe for guests.

Best Mid-Range/Couple Stays

NORN Boutique Hotel Niemann Chiang Mai

NORN Boutique Hotel – Right in the heart of the Nimman neighborhood, this boutique hotel has top reviews for it’s location and value. A swimming pool and fabulous breakfast buffet make this a perfect Chiang Mai stay.

Modern Apartment Chiang Mai Airbnb

This modern luxury boutique condo is an Airbnb property with Superhost status, that is perfect for a couple who prefer an apartment style home over a hotel stay. The one bedroom apartment is on a quiet side street in the heart of Nimman neighborhood and includes an in-unit washer, fully equipped kitchen and air conditioning.

The property also features amenities like the beautiful pool and sun lounge, and a fitness center.

Luxury Condo Chiang Mai Airbnb

This brand new luxury condo is an Airbnb property with Superhost status. Located in the hip Nimman neighborhood, it’s within walking distances of plenty of cafes and restaurants. The one bedroom corner unit on the 7th floor has mountain views facing west (perfect for sunsets!).

The condo has a fully stocked kitchen, in-unit laundry and air conditioning. And the property features a pool and fitness center.

Best Luxury Stays

Hotel Yayee Chiang Mai Thailand

Hotel Yayee – Located in the ideal Nimman neighborhood, within walking distance to all kinds of restaurants, bars and things to do, is this beautiful boutique hotel. The trendy decor and rooftop restaurant/bar makes this the perfect stay for couples.

Akyra Manor Hotel Chiang Mai

Akyra Manor – This luxurious all-suite hotel is located right in the heart of the popular Nimman neighborhood. The rooftop pool and bar makes an excellent place for happy hour cocktails as you watch the sunset. Afterwards, all you have to do is step downstairs to the best Italian restaurant in Chiang Mai.

Riverside

Riverside Chiang Mai

Just east of the Mae Ping River, opposite the Night Bazaar area you’ll find the Riverside neighborhood. This area has a more laid back tranquil vibe, good for families and the older crowd looking for a more relaxed stay. Most hotels here are gear towards the luxury resort crowd. 

There are plenty of waterside restaurants, bars and cafes here, but the real action in the city center is about a 10-minute drive away. 

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Picturesque views of the River Ping
  • Lots of reasonably priced luxury resorts and hotels
  • Easy access to the highway 
  • Quiet at night 

Cons:

  • Farther away from the city’s main attractions
  • Shopping and nightlife is limited
  • Not many budget accommodation options

Highlights of Riverside Neighborhood

  • Ton Lamyai Flower Market
  • Spas & resorts
  • Higher-end shopping
  • Elephant Parade House: Learn about elephant conservation and paint a souvenir elephant to take home
  • Wat Ket Karam: An ancient temple from the 1400s

Best Mid-Range/Couple Stays

Maraya Hotel & Resort Chiang Mai

Maraya Hotel & Resort – Just a 5-minute drive from the Night Bazaar and 3 km from the Old City, this hotel is perfect for couples who want a relaxing stay in Chiang Mai.

Aruntara Riverside Boutique Hotel Chiang Mai

Aruntara Riverside Boutique Hotel & Spa – Located along the banks of the river, this hotel features an outdoor swimming pool, sundeck lounge and on-site restaurant and bar. Just a 15-minute drive from the airport and 7-minutes in a cab will take you to the Night Bazaar.

Best Luxury Stays

Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel And Spa Chiang Mai

Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel & Spa – Set in a beautifully restored colonial style building, this hotel features uniquely designed rooms full of elegance and comfort. Right on the river’s edge and just a 5 minute walk to the Night Bazaar, you are perfectly situated for both tranquility and shopping.

Anantara Chiang Mai Resort

Anatara Chiang Mai Resort – Situated along the bank of the river, this luxury resort features minimalist Asian design leaving you feeling like entire hotel is a spa. Relax by the infinity pool overlooking the river or treat yourself to a spa treatment after a day of sight-seeing.

Santitham

Santitham Chiang Mai Thailand motorbikes

Located northeast of the Maya Mall and Nimman neighborhood is the quaint Santitham neighborhood. A good compromise if you’re looking to be well located but want affordable accommodation, Santitham is an up-and-coming area filling with ex-pats and digital nomads as they spill outwards from Nimman. Here you’ll find a more local experience as day-to-day life isn’t yet overrun by tourism. 

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

  • More affordable than Nimman
  • Has more of a local “Thai feel” than other areas
  • Is becoming more popular with digital nomads and wifi cafes are popping up

Cons:

  • About a 20-minute walk from Nimman and Old City
  • You might need a bicycle or motorbike to get around
  • Also near the flight path so noise may be an issue

Highlights of Santitham Neighborhood

  • Khao Soy Maesai: One of the best local joints to get this Northern Thai staple
  • Passion Project the Cafe: A yummy western-style health food cafe where the digital nomads like to hang out

Best Budget/Backpacker Stays

BOX Hostel Chiang Mai

BOX Hostel – This highly rated hostel on the edge of Nimman and Santitham is made up entirely of shipping containers. The air conditioned rooms offer semi-private pod-style bunks and the staff is easy to communicate with in English.

Tangmo House Hostel Chiang Mai

Tangmo House Hostel – Offering up nightly rates starting as low as the cost of street food, this highly rated hostel is known is praised for being very clean. The shared dormitory-style rooms have air conditioning, a microwave, toaster, kettle and hair drier. The property also offer express check in and check out service.

Leaf Hostel Chiang Mai

Leaf Hostel – Decorated with nature, this hostel offers up affordable accommodations for travelers of all types on a budget. The dormitory shared rooms are basic, but clean and modern. A continental breakfast is served daily with free coffee and a shared lounge makes a great place for relaxing and meeting other travelers.

Best Mid-Range/Couple Stays

Book Hotel Chiang Mai

BOOK Design Hotel – Well located within the Santitham neighborhood, this chic 3-star hotel sits on a unique property with a gorgeous outdoor pool, bar/restaurant and garden area.

Best Luxury Stays

Luxury 4 bedroom apartment Chiang Mai Airbnb

This luxury 4 bedroom high-rise apartment is perfect for a family or group traveling to Chiang Mai together. The highly-rated modern condo comes with beautiful mountain views, a luxurious outdoor pool, TV lounge and large kitchen and dining area.

Chiang Mai Insider Tips

Streets of Chiang Mai Thailand

We’ve spent over a year (cumulatively) living in Chiang Mai and have picked up a lot of insider tips along the way. Here are some of our top tips for traveling there.

  • There are so many fun things to do in Chiang Mai, you can easily spend months exploring the city and never get bored.
  • We decided long ago that we will not knowingly contribute to attractions that exploit people or animals while traveling. So on that note, there are a few things we recommend NEVER doing in Chiang Mai: Tiger Kingdom, elephant trekking, visiting the long neck “Hill Tribes”. You can read more about why not, here.
  • Avoid visiting Chiang Mai during “Burning Season”. This falls during the months of February, March and April, and is a time when farmers in many parts of Southeast Asia burn their fields to prepare for the next season. The air quality in Chiang Mai plummets during this time and it makes it harder to enjoy a lot of the outdoor activities. We’d recommend visiting the Thai Islands instead if you plan to travel to Thailand during those months. Find out when is the best time to visit Thailand all around.

Our Opinion: Best Place to Stay in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Thailand

If you’re looking for the best place to stay during a short visit, we’d recommend finding accommodation near Tha Phae Gate in the east part of the Old City, or just outside in the Night Bazaar neighborhood. You will be right in the center of the action with all kinds of attractions within walking distance. There is a range of accommodation for every budget and plenty of agencies to help you set up tours in the surrounding region.

If you plan on living in Chiang Mai as a digital nomad, we’d recommend finding accommodation in the Nimman neighborhood. With tons of trendy cafes, modern apartment buildings and a convenient location, you’ll feel at home among the other ex-pats who land here.

Southeast Asia Packing List | Two Wandering Soles

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Where to Stay in Chiang Mai | Two Wandering Soles
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai | Two Wandering Soles

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