If you are traveling to Thailand, the odds are that you will be spending some time in Chiang Mai. Located in Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is the calm and beautiful antidote to the wild, hustle and bustle of Bangkok.
Chiang Mai is located in a valley surrounded by mountains and forests which makes it much less humid, and more manageable for western travelers who may not be used to the sometimes unbearable temperatures of southern Thailand. Chiang Mai also has much better air quality than Bangkok as the population is much smaller. My husband and I actually preferred Chiang Mai over Bangkok tenfold. If you are interested in reading why, I posted an article comparing the two cities here. I really think it is worth the read. I feel like a lot of people think they have to go to Bangkok to truly experience Thailand and I think that is far from the truth.
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Assuming this is your first time visiting Chiang Mai you’re probably very interested in learning out more about the city so that you can determine where to stay. Hotel/ lodging location is very important when you are trying to explore a city, because you want to make sure you are staying in an area that is: safe, clean and near the activities that you would like to try. A lot of people have written really great posts that highlight all of the different neighborhoods of Chiang Mai. You should definitely check out these posts if you want to compare the different benefits of each neighborhood and make the decision that way. However I am going to answer this question with just one neighborhood suggestion and explain why.
So lets the answer the big question of….
Where should I stay in Chiang Mai?
Old Town Chiang Mai!!
Why Old Town Chiang Mai?
First of all, I am guessing that if you are on this page it’s because you are traveling to Chiang Mai and you want the authentic Thailand experience. You want access to street marketplaces, Buddhist temples, cheap beer and amazing street food. You want to get a traditional Thai massage and then go shopping for beautiful ceramics and maybe even take a Thai cooking class at some point. Perhaps you would like to go see a Maui Thai fight? You probably also want to enjoy all of these things for those cheap Thai price tags that you heard so much about. Then you 100% need to stay in Old Town. Everything I just mentioned is available in Old Town and available for a very, very inexpensive price tag!
Old Town has so much going on, it’s the heart of Chiang Mai and it’s so cheap- unlike some of the newer more hipster neighborhoods that are actually more comparable to the prices in The United States.
Old Town is a perfect square in the center of Chiang Mai that is surrounded by the old walls and moat that were once used to protect its citizens from foreign invaders. These days however, the residents of Chiang Mai welcome tourists by the thousands and very generously share their beautiful city with us.
Something I love about Old Town is that it is only about one square mile. This makes it very easy to navigate on foot and wander around. You could spend weeks exploring Old Town and still not see everything. There are lots of little alleys and footpaths that will lead you to beautiful, serene temples where you can listen to monks praying and chanting. Countless little eateries and shops to wander into and tons of places to grab a drink and people watch.
Even more reasons to stay in Old Town…
If you are thinking of doing any excursions such as a Thai cooking class, visiting an elephant sanctuary or going to the tea farm then you should stay in Old Town. A lot of these places will only provide transportation to you if you are within the city walls of Old Town. And I would recommend using their transportation as this way you are guaranteed to get to your activity when scheduled and not miss waste any precious time!
We wanted to see things outside of Old Town as well which was not a problem. You can still grab a TukTuk, a red truck or a taxi to get to the surrounding neighborhoods such as Nimman. And don’t get me wrong- there is a ton to do and see outside of the Old Town, I just strongly feel that Old Town is the best area to stay when you look at location, price and quality.
Any hotel recommendations in Old Town Chiang Mai?
Yes! We have stayed in a bunch of places in Chiang Mai. Here are some great suggestion on where to stay with different price points from least expensive listed first.
When we booked this hotel for only $40 a night I was a little hesitant. The rooms looked great online and the location was ideal. But the price seemed like it was a little low. It seemed almost too good to be true. However I was so excited when we got there and realized that it was in fact this adorable and clean in person.
The rooms are very modern and quite large. As is every hotel in Thailand, this hotel was very well maintained and had wonderful customer service. The rooms were immaculate and so cozy!
A very large and comfortable king bed room was more than large enough for my husband and myself to have room to spread out and unwind. I wouldn’t be surprised if the rate of this hotel goes up in the next few months as I think they are extremely under priced for how nice the hotel is. If you are staying in Chiang Mai on a budget, but don’t want to get too crazy with rolling the dice on hostels or shared rooms- Check out the hotel availablity here.
Another centrally located hotel in Old Town Chiang Mai. The Floral Hotel is a lovely place to stay. The facilities offer a pool, restaurant, bar and 24/7 room service.
A great pool is available for guests to use at their leisure and free towels are provided. There are several places to lay out and relax around the pool if you want to take a break from the excitement of sight-seeing around Chiang Mai.
And of course the beds are extremely comfortable, the rooms are immaculate and well maintained. A great place to stay on any budget!
I would say the best part about the hotel is the excellent service you will recieve. They honor any special request, will answer any questions and give suggestions on nearby places to check out. If you are interested in staying at The Floral Hotel click here to see availabilty and best rates.
The Jomkitti Boutique Hotel is very modern and efficient. There is a lovely garden onsite and the hotel just has a very calm and inviting vibe to it. The hotel has free bicycles for you to borrow which is very convenient for getting around Old Town Chiang Mai.
There is a gorgeous pool on site with towels provided for you to take a dip, relax and enjoy the beautiful Thai sunshine.
A lot of hotels in Thailand have a free mini bar in the room and the Jomkitti is no exception! Along with that, there is also a complimentary breakfast every morning which offers Thai food and western options for those who are not feeling adventurous.
All of the staff is extremely helpful and will do whatever they can to make sure your stay is perfect. A very great deal at only $81 a night! If you want to learn more about this hotel click here.
When my husband and I went to Chiang Mai, it was actually our honeymoon so we stayed in a variety of places. We wanted to stay in a higher-end hotel some of the vacation so we choose the Pingviman Hotel.
At only $105 a night in USD, I could not believe it. If this property was located in The USA it would easily rent for $250-$300 a night.
The rooms are sooo luxurious and posh it feels like it is fit for royalty. The rooms are all furnished with hand-carved, ornate wooden furniture. The bed was so comfortable and overall the room was just beautiful. The bathroom featured a HUGE walk-in shower and a giant soaking tub. I loved how large the bathroom was because it gave me plenty of room to spread out and forget I was living out of a suitcase for a few minutes.
The rooms all overlook a beautiful brand-new pool, that is perfect for taking a relaxing dip in after a day of sight seeing.
There is a restaurant that serves delicious authentic Thai food and a wide variety of cocktails. If you do stay here, you HAVE to try their papaya salad. It is the perfect level of spiciness!
I would say this hotel is perfect for a romantic vibe for a couple traveling together. It was perfect for our honeymoon! Click here if you are interested in booking a room at The Pingviman Hotel.
This hotel has a gorgeous monochrome interior design theme throughout and is absolutely beautiful. It has a very palatial and sophisticated feel to it.
There is a sparkling pool available for guests to use, which is so great to have in Thailand because it gets very warm exploring all day.
The location is amazing as it is directly across from one of the beautiful Buddhist temples in Old Town- Wat Phra Sigh and you can enjoy views of the temple from the verandas. A perfect combination of luxury and ideal location makes this hotel a great place to stay at. If you are interested in booking a room, click here.
What is there to do in Chiang Mai?
Now that you have a few ideas of where to stay in Chiang Mai, the next question needs to be answered. What is there to do in Chiang Mai?
Check out my in depth post about what we did in Chiang Mai and where we went! We had a ton of really memorable experiences and I’d love for someone to enjoy this information!
and where we went! We had a ton of really memorable experiences and I’d love for someone to enjoy this information!
There is so much to do in Chiang Mai you are going to wish that you could extend your trip or even move your life there! Chiang Mai just reminds me of the places you actually see in pictures (sans the beaches) when you are researching Thailand travel. The people that you will meet in Chiang Mai are so friendly and make the saying that Thailand is the land of smiles so true. The service and hospitality is some of the best customer service I have received in the world.
Like I had said earlier in the article it seems like every possible activity on your Thailand bucket list can be checked off in Chiang Mai. You can go see a Muay Thai fight, find delicious street food for cheap, go shopping, bar-hopping and so much more. I wrote an entire post about what to do in Chiang Mai and can still add more. When my husband and I went, we used The Lonely Planet’s Guide to Thailand. We feel that no matter what location we are traveling to the Lonely Planet is THE best source for realistic and up-to-date amenities. (We have used their guides for a bunch of other cities and honestly they are worth the $20). Between The Lonely Planet’s Guide, random blog posts we found on google and exploring the city on foot- we never ran out of sites to see and activities to try.
What are you most looking forward to for your Thailand trip? Do you have any questions or need help planning? Comment below and I will help you as best I can.