Unfortunately, there are no great Craigslist-level sites for Chiang Mai’ers to search for apartments or houses to rent. Fortunately, with the current huge influx of expats to CM, there are budding resources to aid you in the process. Here is my aggregation of top resources when you’re looking to rent/buy:
Driving Around: Explore different neighborhoods and seek out “For Rent” signs, especially if you want to live in a house.
Specific Apartments, which I’ve found to be better than the typical Expat dorm-style rooms:
Puri Pimman, North Moat 4500-8000/mth
HiSo Resident, Chang Phuak, 3500/mth
ST Apartment, Nimmanhaemin, 3600/mth
This following post is for those young and/or poor Expats making a minimal/local salary in a job they love (or don’t) because if you have dreams of moving to Thailand and living in a swankified 2br loft overlooking Doi Suthep, sippin on patron while out on your balcony, then you better have a rich uncle tied around your little finger.
While that could be a reality for wealthy/retired expats, you are more likely to relate to the below story: Huffin and puffin and glistening like a crystal after 4 hours powering through the streets of Chiang Mai in blistering heat searching for that perfect apartment, I body slammed my way into a beautifully air-conditioned cafe in the Nimman area. I deliriously ordered some cold coffee slushy drink and plopped down on the cushioned sofa-chair. This isn’t working, I concluded. How the hell does one find an apartment in CM without knowing anyone?
On first arrival to CM, I found residence at the RCN guest house in Old City. It’s Lonely Planet recommended and I enjoyed the stay. It’s a basic room (fan or AC), clean, TV, good view, great location, hot water, nice people. Only 200THB/night.
Then began my apartment hunt. First, I browsed the online sites, expat blogs, and ran many a Google search. Unfortunately, most of these sites are geared towards middle-age couples or retired expats who have money to blow. I realized this wasn’t going to turn up any fruitful results as only the expensive places can afford internet postings. Next step, I tried word-of-mouth. I asked some Expat English-Teachers for good recos and found out they all lived in the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood. A posh, expat-filled and pricey area, I decided to look elsewhere. While Nimman is an artsy, young area, I craved more of the local experience – living amongst Thais, driving by local markets and being surrounded by the Thai language.
Though I tried to avoid this next step, I found it inevitable. My search-by-foot adventure had commenced! (In retrospect, I should have learned how to drive a motorbike – I could have covered way more ground.) Smack dab in the middle of the hottest season of the year, I set out to uncover the place of my dreams! Chang Phuak was the neighborhood I decided upon and because most apartments double as hotels, it is easy to just walk into the lobby and ask to check out rooms. The aggravating part was not yet knowing how to speak any Thai and therefore, being denied residence at “no-foreigner” complexes or simply, not understanding apt. details.
Spending hours trekking to various buildings that looked nice enough, I could not help but feel unsatisfied and disappointed. All the rooms were either pint-sized cubby holes, dirty, wifi-lacking or in terrible locations – for costly prices. I wasn’t about to pay 5000THB for one of these rooms and have to live amongst party-animal University students.
Finally, I discovered the Pacific Mansion across from Wat Santitham. The rooms, though expensive (over 6000THB), were huge and had epic views of Doi Suthep and the surrounding city. Despite being dirty and a bit run-down, I took a leap of faith and signed with Pacific. What an awful move! I am now in a legal battle with them over money issues, which apparently, has occurred before according to the Tourist Police. First of all, Pacific will tell you they don’t have contracts in English, so verbally explain the details to you. The girls seemed genuine and pleasant, so my god-be-damned trusting nature accepted (mostly because I didn’t know English contracts even existed in CM). This and many other illegal/shady handlings of my contract was infuriating to say the least. Plus, there were mice in the rooms and rats run-a-muck outside. That’s all I’ll go into about that.
A couple months into my new job, I decided to move-in with a couple co-workers and other friends. By driving around appealing neighborhoods, we were able to find a beautiful old house for 10,000THB/month. Split between 5 people, it is a deal! A bit of a fixer-upper, all of us spent a month cleaning,cutting down trees, clearing the yard and installing new fixtures. This 4br/5ba house is now so homey! We have a gigantic yard, expansive wrap-around patio, 3-floors, huge kitchen, en-suite bathrooms and my room even has a cute balcony. AND I live with awesome house mates! The neighborhood is Patan along Chotana Rd. leading up to Mae Rim, across from the 33rd Military Base. So happy now!