The cost of living like a digital nomad for 6 months in Chiang Mai depends on a number of factors; quality of living, food costs, emergency funds, or how much work you already have lined up, etc.
Everyone has a different opinion on this; after all, how long is a piece of string?
There is no accounting for personal taste: I came on a one-way ticket with $2,000 in my pocket and small ongoing projects totaling around $1,000 to $2,000 per month. 4 years later, I’d rather eat Balut than ever do that again.
Being thrifty is one thing –being broke and wearing it like a badge of honor is another.
A Very Safe Estimate
This post will prepare you for the long-game and suggest a proper budget for a safe transition into the digital nomad life.
Airfare (round trip) + Insurance + Startup Expenses + Monthly Expenses + Emergency fund
“Startup expenses” and “emergency fund” are more of a failsafe than anything. Startup costs mean paying deposits for a motorbike or an apartment, or to buy a motorbike outright. I suggest having $2,000 for startup costs.
Emergency funds are for any random medical treatment you may need outside of insurance coverage (i.e. a lot of insurance doesn’t actually cover you riding a motorized vehicle), if you break something that doesn’t belong to you, wake up in a bar bathroom with a 15,000-baht bill, whatever. I suggest $1,500 in emergency funds.
Insurance for 6 months through WorldNomads.com cost me $500 CAD, rates may vary.
In addition to this, if you’re living like there’s no tomorrow, you will still find it quite difficult to spend over $1,200 per month. I personally live on $3,000 per month with my wife and it’s quite comfortable.
If you have an apartment in Thailand, then leave the country to do a visa run, and don’t have 20,000 baht if asked –what do you think is going to happen to your possessions in that apartment if you can’t return to it?
So now that 6-month equation looks a little more like:
Airfare (round trip) + $500 Insurance + $2000 Startup + $6,000 for 6 Months + $1,500 Emergency
That’s an incredibly generous and safe estimate that is going to put you somewhere between $10,000 USD and $12,000 USD to live 6 months in Thailand (like royalty).
Total estimate: $10,000 – $12,000 USD
I’ve done it for much less, and most have. That number also includes what you have coming down the pipe with your online income.
When I was struggling I was able to live on $600 per month after startup expenses. If you come with a nice number like the one above in your pocket, you’ve earned yourself a lot more security than most arrive to Thailand with.
Exclusive Chiang Mai Guide for Digital NomadsChiang Mai, Thailand is the "digital nomad capital of the world", and Hobo with a Laptop readers can get an inside look at this popular destination with Digital Nomad Escape Plan; a 200-page ebook written by nomads, for nomads.
Updated annually, and now completely free.