Getting set up in Chiang Mai is relatively simple and most basic services are quite affordable, keeping in line with the general standard of living. Here are the basic costs involved along with some useful tips for arranging the basics.
Excellent mobile coverage (both 2G and 3G) and affordable rates make installing a land line largely unnecessary. A local card SIM card can be purchased at numerous locations including all 7-Eleven convenience stores for about 300THB. Prepaid rates run about 2-3 THB/minute for calls and 2 THB/MB for data. A monthly mobile plan with unlimited 3G data and 500 minutes of talk time costs about 900 THB per month.
Providers’ retail locations can be found at every mall; the key ones are True Move, AIS and DTAC. All seem to provide similar quality of service and plans.
Wifi is widely available throughout town at many restaurants, coffee shops and hotspots. Most apartment buildings also feature wifi service, however it can slow and unreliable. For longer stays, installing personal internet service makes the most sense.
The procedure is fairly straightforward: just visit one of the abundant provider kiosks and bring along your address and passport. Non-residents are required to sign up for a 1-year contract and pay a deposit equal to 6 months of service.
This is a sample of monthly ADSL packages available in Chiang Mai at time of writing (note: prices do not include VAT of 7%):
- 10Mps download /512Kps upload for 590 THB (this basic package seems to be ok for most users but can be slow at times, especially for uploads)
- 13 Mps/1 Mps for 900 THB
- 16 Mbps/1 Mps for 1490 THB
- 20 Mbps/ 1 Mbps for 2290 THB
The main broadband providers in Chiang Mai are True, 3BB and TOT – certain areas are only serviced by one company, in others there is choice between providers. Prices are roughly the same, however the service quality can differ between providers depending on the area, so it’s best to get a recommendation from neighbours. For users that require serious speed and bandwidth, there are also dedicated fibber optic and VDSL services (with speeds as high as 50Mps/20Mps), however those are not available in all areas and are substantially more expensive.
Most condominium and apartment buildings have cable TV in place which may or may not be included in the rental price. Installing your own involves more or less the same steps as with internet installation. Packages start at about 300 THB per month, however, most basic packages tend to be Thai channel heavy, making them hardly worth the trouble. More expensive packages featuring larger selection of western channels are available for 1,500-2,000 THB per month. True Visions and WeTV are popular providers.
Utilities are generally not included in the rental price. When renting short-term or in an apartment building utility bills are paid to the landlord so there is no need to deal with the companies (on the negative side rates are considerably higher).
When renting a condo or a house, however utility bills are usually paid to the providing company directly, so you will need to set up accounts with the providers. Bills can be easily paid at any bank branch and some even at 7-Elevens. Important note: if a bill is even a day past due, it can only be paid only in person at the company’s office which can be more of a hassle.
These are some guideline figures for the average utility costs in Chiang Mai:
Water costs 100-200 THB / month on average. It could run higher for families or for people with gardens that require irrigation.
Electricity bills generally run between 800 THB and 2,000 THB per month depending on the size of the dwelling and mostly on A/C usage.
Gas for cooking (where available) can reach 250 THB per month provided that you cook a mostly at home – rarely the case for most expats in the city.
Condo fees: if not included in the rental price condo fees (covering maintenance, gardening, garbage removal, security, etc) are usually in the 500-700 THB range. Note: similar fees might apply when renting a house.
You are never far from a bank or an ATM in Chiang Mai. All major Thai banks have branches throughout the city.
Opening a Thai bank account is usually simple enough provided you are the holder of long-term stay visa (such as Non-Immigrant Student visa) or you have a work permit. Holders of tourist visas (even 180 day visas) are usually not considered as eligible.
Whether you are planing to stay in Chiang Mai for a short, medium or long term, most western comforts can be arranged for fairly easily and at very reasonable prices. Of course, as anywhere, doing some preliminary research will save you both time and money.