The complete guide for solo travel in Chiang Mai

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This complete guide for solo travel in Chiang Mai will be your perfect resource to prepare for the best trip of your life. Chiang Mai stole my heart a few years ago. What’s not to love about Chiang Mai? From Bangkok, I immediately flew into Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai was precisely the place I needed to be. Having been in Chiang Mai twice for two weeks, I know my way around.

Highlights of this post!

– If you can’t decide where to stay in Chiang Mai, stay in the Buri Siri Boutique Hotel in Nimmanhaemin.
– A tour to Doi Suthep is a must when in Chiang Mai.
– Want to learn to cook thai food? Check out this Organic Thai Farm Cooking Class.
– After a Muay Thai lesson, you’ll have to see a Muay Thai Boxing match yourself!
– Thailand is all about excellent and affordable massages! Treat yourself to a relaxing massage treatment.

– Find high-rated affordable accommodation in Chiang Mai quickly!
– Do you need tour inspiration? Check out all these tours in Chiang Mai!

Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai has many accommodations, from dorms to guesthouses to high-end hotels.

As a solo traveler, I prefer to stay in guesthouses with private air-conditioned rooms. Most guesthouses have a communal area to connect with other travelers while enjoying the comfort of a private room.

If I feel a little fancier and want to relax by a pool, I’ll check out the smaller mid-range boutique hotels, preferably hotels run by locals.

These are my recommendations for excellent accommodation in Chiang Mai that belongs in this solo travel guide for Chiang Mai.

Budget accommodation

Daizy House

I have stayed in Daizy House twice in the last few years and extended my stay both times. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back again. A brother and sister run this guesthouse, so you’ll support a local business!

The guesthouse has two buildings with private rooms and dorm rooms. They have a private room with a private bathroom or a private room with a balcony where you share the bathroom with another room.

I’ve stayed in both private rooms, and they’re both great! Even sharing the bathroom with another private room didn’t bother me because everything was super clean! 

These rooms are bright and spacious, with air-conditioning in the center of Nimman. They also serve a small basic breakfast, free-to-use bikes, washing machines, and super-duper-friendly staff!

Chiang Mai Walking Street Home

Another great affordable option is Chiang Mai Walking Street Home. This guesthouse is located near the famous Sunday Market. The rooms are airconditioned with a private bathroom and free bikes to use!

The guesthouse is in The Old Town, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and extraordinary temples to visit. The rooms are smaller as a budget option, but Chiang Mai Walking Street Home has much to offer!


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Mid-range accommodation

Buri Siri Boutique Hotel

The Buri Siri Boutique Hotel is my favourite mid-range accommodation in Chiang Mai. The hotel is gorgeous and located in Nimman. There is a fantastic pool where you can relax, a restaurant with delicious food and a bar. 

guide solo travel chiang mai

Even when I didn’t stay in this hotel, I still went there to use their pool. The pool area is open to non-guests for €5 for the entire day. There is a great Wi-Fi connection if you need to do some work on your trip. The hotel is also perfect for taking instagrammable pictures!😊

De Chai Colonial Hotel & Spa

De Chai Colonial Hotel & Spa is a beautiful mid-range hotel in The Old Town of Chaing Mai (the hotel also has another location in Nimmanhaemin; check out De Chai Oriental Nimman!), within five minutes walking distance from Sunday Market Street. The hotel has air conditioning, a pool, spacious rooms, and ensuite bathrooms.

Breakfast is included, and the hotel has a spa to book a relaxing massage. For what you’re paying, De Chai Colonial Hotel & Spa will get you a great deal for your bucks.

High-end accommodation

Rimping Village

The Rimping Village Hotel is just great. And even though I’m labeling it as high-end accommodation, it’s not that expensive if you see what you’re getting.

But as a budget traveler, this might not be up your alley. However, if you’re looking for a few days of pampering within a decent budget, Rimping Village might be worth checking out!

The hotel has many facilities, is located near the Night Bazaar, and has a beautiful pool, spacious rooms, and a fantastic restaurant. If you prefer to stay in a quieter area but still within walking distance of the bustling city, this is the place to be.

Chala Number6

Chala Number 6 is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a high-end place to stay—no need to stick to the big hotel chains. The hotel is in the middle of the Old Town, so everything is nearby. The hotel has a beautiful pool, a restaurant with fantastic food, and friendly staff, and you can rent bikes.

>> If none of these hotels is your cup of tea, check out the current hotel deals in Chiang Mai!

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Top 7 Things to Do in Chiang Mai

There are many incredible things to do and see in Chiang Mai and its surroundings. For the length of this complete guide to solo travel in Chiang Mai, I will stick to my top seven things to do in Chiang Mai.

1. Visit the Silver Temple Wat Sri Suphan

Within Chiang Mai’s city, you can visit magnificent temples for up to a day. I’m not very big on seeing many temples, but you can find plenty in the old town of Chiang Mai. The most beautiful ones are Wat Phra Singh and Wat Sri Suphan.

The complete guide to solo travel in Chiang Mai

I remember walking around the Old Town in the evening and seeing this bright white silver temple across the road. This is Wat Sri Suphan temple. They use lights to make the temple even more breathtaking than daylight in the evening.

2. Visit Doi Suthep National Park

Doi Suthep National Park is just outside of Chiang Mai. You can drive there yourself or negotiate with a songthaew. Don’t feel like going by yourself? There are great tours to book that will take you there, and it’s a perfect way to meet other travelers at the same time.

Doi Suthep means ‘angel mountain,’ and 309 steps will take you to the top where the temple Wat Phra is. This temple glitters in gold, making for stunning sights, especially during sunset.

The view from the mountain is also something not to forget. Don’t forget to bring something appropriate that covers your knees and shoulders, like a scarf. There is a small entrance fee when visiting the temple.

>> Feel like having everything arranged? Check out these fantastic tours to Doi Suthep!

3. Shop and eat at the Sunday Walking Market

There are no words for the Sunday Walking Market in Chiang Mai. My first time in Chiang Mai, I arrived on a Sunday. After a quick nap, I took a songthaew to the Sunday Walking Market.

Exploring every part of the market is impossible since you’re prone to get lost in the maze of streets. The streets are closed to cars, and the market is lively, busy, and fun. You will find a wide array of stuff when walking around the market. Whatever you want to buy for the crowd back home, you’ll find it here!

And when it comes to food, the options are truly endless. It’s a foodie’s paradise!

4. Take a Thai Cooking Class

As somebody who loves to cook, I’ve made it my mission to enjoy a cooking class in every country I visit. Thai food has always been a favorite. Taking a cooking class was one of the first things I arranged when I arrived in Chiang Mai.

A really cool Thai food cooking class experience is where you’ll visit an organic farm and cook with fresh organic vegetables! This Organic Farm Thai Cooking Class will teach you how to make the most popular Thai dishes in the surroundings of a lush village.

Book your Organic Farm Thai Cooking Class here!

the complete guide to solo travel in Chiang Mai

Another cooking school I recommend is Yummy Tasty Thai Cooking School. You will learn to cook five different dishes. I specifically wanted to cook the Chiang Mai local dish “Khao Soi” and the Thai national treasure “Mango Sticky Rice.”

The host is Noodle. She is funny, cheerful and explains everything well. After a visit to the market, you’ll start preparing the dishes and after you eat together. You can choose between morning classes or afternoon classes. The cooking school will also pick you up from your accommodation and drop you off.

5. Take a Muay Thai class and watch a Muay Thai fight

This complete guide for solo travel in Chiang Mai is incomplete without discussing Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport. If you want to be a little active while in Chiang Mai, I highly recommend taking Muay Thai lessons. There are many Muay Thai schools where you can get a private lesson or join a group lesson. 

Even if you never had a boxing class, like me, I loved it! It’s quite a workout with the heat, so don’t underestimate it. Every muscle in my body was sore the day after, but it was all worth it. No pain, no gain.

Check out Heavy Hit Boxing Gym from Coach Tuck, located near Nimman. Many other women take classes there, so you will not be the only girl surrounded by many men. 

Coach Tuck will guide you through everything if you’re a beginner. They have all the gear you need at the gym. You will start with a warming up and, afterward, five to six rounds of sparring with a coach. Between rounds, you’ll do five exercises like planking, push-ups, etc. 

You can reserve a spot via Facebook. A lesson costs €8 and usually takes about an hour to 90 minutes.

Muay Thai Boxing Match

After taking a muay thai lesson, going to a muay thai boxing match is a must, and it’s so much fun. There are fights held daily for different weight ranges. The biggest stadiums are Thapae Boxing Stadium and Chiang Mai Boxing Stadium.

Tickets can be purchased via their website, or you can book your Thapae Boxing Stadium ticket in advance as a tour and have everything arranged for you, including transport from your hotel!

6. Visit the Lantern Festival

Thailand has a great culture with lots of traditional festivals. If you’re lucky, there might be one when you’re in Chiang Mai, or plan your visit around this period.

Two of the most popular festivals are the Lantern Festival (Yee Peng) and the Flower Festival.

Yee Peng Festival (Lantern Festival)

As the locals call it “Yee Peng,” the lantern festival is one of the most gorgeous sights ever. This festival is celebrated in November for three days and around the same time as Loy Krathong. With Yee Peng, you will see lanterns in the sky, whereas Loy Krathong is floating lights on the water.

The Flower Festival

The flower festival is celebrated in Chiang Mai for three days, from Friday to Sunday. It usually takes place during the first whole weekend in February. Chiang Mai’s flower festival features ancient and modern floral art showing ancient Lanna Kingdom traditions.

7. Get pampered with a massage and pedicure

One of the best things in Thailand is the low prices of massages. You can fully relax while enjoying a massage and getting a pedicure. Make sure to ask for a relaxing oil massage! The traditional Thai massage includes a lot of stretching and pulling, which is far from relaxing to me.

There are massage places everywhere, from budget to high-end spas. Even at the night markets, you’ll find people giving foot massages on the side of a busy street. It sounds crazy, but it’s normal and part of the Thai experience.

Nothing feels better than a relaxing foot massage after a long day of walking around Chiang Mai! Expect to pay from €25 and up for a full one-hour body massage, depending on the place.

>> If you want a full pampering luxe spa day experience, check out this spa treatment!

8. Elephant Sanctuary and Bamboo Rafting

Visiting an elephant sanctuary is one of the most popular activities in Thailand. I’m always a little weary when it comes to animal activities. But this Chiang Mai Elephant Sanctuary and Bamboo Rafting tour are excellent and fun.

You’ll experience an incredible encounter with the elephants, see some waterfalls, have a great thai lunch, and go on a bamboo rafting trip on the Mae Wang River.

How many days in Chiang Mai

I loved Chiang Mai, so you could stay a few days and not get bored. If you’re tight on time, I suggest staying at least three days. This way, you can cover the highlights within Chiang Mai.

If you have more time, I highly suggest staying for five days. This way, you’ll get to experience all the highlights, plan a day of relaxing by the pool, and take your time on the Sunday Walking Market.

You’ll have time to see the Old Town and Nimmanhaemin, take a boxing class, and visit Chiang Mai in a far more relaxing way.

Chiang Mai areas

Chiang Mai exists in four main areas. My favorite places to stay in are the Old Town and Nimmanheamin. The latter gets overlooked, but it’s my favorite area to stay in. I’ll tell you later on why I love the Nimman area.

Old Town

The Old Town is the central area of Chiang Mai, where most tourists stay. This part is located inside the old city wall gates. You can see on the map that it’s a perfect square.

There are four entrances: The north gate (Chang Phuak Gate), the south gate (Chiang Mai Gate), the west gate (Pratu Suan Dok Gate), and the east gate (Thapae Gate). 

Nimmanheamin

Nimmanheamin, Nimman, or Nimman Road, is fifteen minutes from the Old Town’s west side. It’s part of Chiang Mai with trendy coffee bars, boutique hotels, shops, and restaurants. This part has grown immensely in the last few years.

black temple with forest background

Nimman is my favorite area to stay in Chiang Mai. Everything here is within walking distance. The Nimman area has a more trendy and peaceful vibe, while the Old Town has a more authentic and backpacker feeling. This area is also quieter, making it perfect if you’re looking for a quiet neighborhood while still being close to the busy party area.

Best Time to Visit Chiang Mai

The best time to visit Chiang Mai is between October and April. This is also the peak of the tourist season. I visited Chiang Mai twice in October. This month has excellent weather, while it’s not extremely busy yet.

The cool season is from November to February, when the temperatures are lower. During the day, it’s generally around twenty-five degrees Celsius, and at night, it can get to thirteen degrees Celsius. A great plus side to visiting Chiang Mai during the cold season is there isn’t much rain.

April is the month to avoid Chiang Mai. In April, the burning season starts, which causes heavy smoke and bad air. Most people, even locals, leave Chiang Mai this month. Keep this in mind when planning your trip!

Budget in Chiang Mai

Accommodation budget in Chiang Mai

One of the best things for budget travelers is that Chiang Mai is even cheaper than the rest of Thailand’s tourist areas. For budget travelers, Chiang Mai will be a paradise. Prices are significantly lower than in Bangkok or the islands.

There were days when I would only spend about €30 a day, including a private air-conditioned room with a private bathroom!

Guesthouses will start at €15 per night, and hotels will begin at €25 per night, depending on the season. The great thing about Chiang Mai is that even the mid-range and high-end hotels are still reasonably cheap compared to European prices.

Food budget in Chiang Mai

Getting enough to eat for a budget price will be the least of your worries in Chiang Mai: daily food markets, food trucks, and food stalls with fantastic food. You can get a full belly for around €5, filling up on satay, gyoza, sushi, fried chicken, and more. 

Most restaurant meals will cost around €8, and a local Chang beer will cost about €3. Alcohol will drive up your daily budget, as in most places. I don’t remember the exact price, but I believe a glass of wine was expensive, so it’s better to stick with beer.

You can comfortably get around with a budget of approximately €35 a day in Chiang Mai if you want to. Your budget will include basic private guesthouse accommodation, eating street food, taking the songthaew and sticking to one beer, or getting your booze fixed at 7-Eleven.

On a mid-range budget, expect to spend around €70 a day. You can stay in a three-star hotel, drink a beer at a bar, eat in a restaurant, and get a foot massage.

Where to eat in Chiang Mai

Street food in Chiang Mai, like in the rest of Thailand, is fantastic! Don’t be fooled by the looks of those food stalls because you’ll be missing out. More food stalls will appear along the main roads when the sun goes down. 

My days usually consist of pad thai, chicken satay, gyoza, mango sticky rice, Nutella banana roti, and Khao Soi. I love the street food culture in Asian countries and rarely eat out in restaurants.

If you like to sit down with a drink and watch the crowd, visiting one of the many food markets in Chiang Mai is best. Every gate in the Old Town has a small food market located nearby. Some have famous stalls like “The Cowboy Hat Lady” from Anthony Bourdain’s travel show.

On Sundays, there is the famous Sunday Walking Street Market in the Old Town. This Night Market is incredible, with loads of food everywhere. The streets are closed off to traffic, and the market is huge! There’s no way you will discover every street and every corner of this market. Come hungry!😋

What to eat in Chiang Mai

Northern Thai cuisine is known for its spicier versions of the Thai kitchen. My absolute favorite because I love spicy food! The most famous Chiang Mai dish is Khao Soi. It’s a chicken noodle soup made with spicy, creamy red curry and fried egg noodles on top.

You can’t leave Chiang Mai without indulging in Khao Soi! You’ve going to love it! Only thinking about it makes me want to go back!

solo female travel guide chiang mai

Travelling to Chiang Mai

Traveling to Chiang Mai can be done in four ways: plane, train, car, or bus. The train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is perfect for getting the complete traveler’s experience if you have the time. 

By plane

Many airlines are flying from different locations directly into Chiang Mai. I always use fromwhere.com to check routes to a specific destination. Available airlines that fly directly into Chiang Mai are:

  • Air Asia
  • Thai Smile
  • Bangkok Airways
  • Eva Air
  • Korean Airways
  • Qatar Airways

By train

There are five direct trains per day from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The night train takes about thirteen hours and arrives early in the morning. Tickets for the train can quickly be booked via 12go.coThere are tickets for the second class, or you can book a private cabin to share the compartment with another person.

How to get around in Chiang Mai

Take the Songthaew

The Songthaew is the cheapest form of transportation that locals and tourists use. Songthaews are red trucks that serve as shared taxis. They ride around town, and you stop one by raising your hand.

You tell the driver where to go, and he will tell you whether it’s on his route. There is no fixed route, and they might pick up other passengers. In Chiang Mai, the fixed price is 30 THB (80€ cents, 2019) per person, no matter where you’re going in Chiang Mai.

guide solo travel chiang mai

You’ll pay the driver as soon as you get out, preferably the exact amount. Some songthaew drivers use crowded places to ask for a higher price, which makes sense. However, I usually walk further to stop a songthaew, or I’ll negotiate the price.

Take a Grab

Grab is the Asian version of Uber and works precisely the same. Taxi prices are not very low compared to Bangkok because it’s used much less in Chiang Mai. I only used a Grab taxi when I needed a ride to the airport.

Scooter taxis are also available via Grab, and I often use this one. Whenever I can’t be bothered to stop a songthaew or when there’s too much traffic, I order a Grab Scooter taxi. They will pick you up, give you a helmet, and drop you off exactly where needed. It’s cheap, and they don’t drive like maniacs, luckily!

Rent a scooter

A scooter is the best way to get around Chiang Mai and its surroundings. This is the old-school way of getting from A to B in Asia. Scooters can be rented everywhere.

Rent a bike

Maybe I’m a little too Dutch, but I loved riding a bike in Chiang Mai. When you’re used to the Thai way of driving and can get past that point where you think you might die😜, it’s a fun way to explore Chiang Mai. 

Chiang Mai has no bike lanes, so you have to use the regular car lanes. I recommend skipping the busy roads, using your hands to signal if you’re taking a turn, or using the sidewalks wherever possible. Safety first!

>> Do you like riding a bike but prefer to do it with more safety? Check out this Chiang Mai Old City Bike Tour! It’s a great way to explore the city with a local guide!

How safe is Chiang Mai for solo travelers?

As this is the guide for solo travel in Chiang Mai, let’s talk about safety. As a solo female traveler, I have never felt unsafe in Chiang Mai. Thailand tends to be pretty safe for solo female travelers in general. Like in any other city, you need to have common sense. Be aware of pickpockets in crowded places, always lock your door correctly, never leave your drink unattended, and be careful who you trust.

The people in Chiang Mai are friendly, and I have never seen anything unusual happen. 

Where to meet other travelers in Chiang Mai

Like the rest of Thailand, Chiang Mai is a solo traveler’s paradise. Meeting other travelers should not be that difficult if you’re open to it.

Booking tours or group trips will definitely set you up to meet other travelers. I met others during my cooking classes and had a drink later during my travels.

The area near Thapae Gate, close to the Night Bazar, attracts a lot of backpackers. The area is full of bars and hostels. Although a less classy area, it does attract many solo travelers.

Popular places for drinks in Chiang Mai are Zoe in Yellow, Jazz Co-Up, and Nophaburi Bar.

Facebook has many groups dedicated to Chiang Mai. If you become a member, you can join any meet-ups or post a message asking if somebody is up for a drink. Check out:

From Chiang Mai to Pai

Most travelers combine their trip to Chiang Mai with a trip to Pai. Pai is a challenging three-hour drive from Chiang Mai, where you will pass through gorgeous sceneries while hassling around the infamous 792 curves.

You can drive up there by scooter or bus. It’s wise to take airsickness pills when taking the bus since the road is curvy and bumpy. You’re definitely not the first to throw up your breakfast, so I recommend eating something light before the trip😅

If you’re like me, who gets carsick quickly, I don’t recommend taking the bus trip to Pai. I highly recommend taking a private tour of Pai! This way, you’ll have your own driver, and the road to Pai is far more steady than a crowded bus.

Pai has excellent nightlife, and you can visit Wat Phra That Mae Yen during the day. You will also see impressive waterfalls with natural waterslides, such as the Pam Bok and the Mo Paeng.

The complete guide solo travel chiang mai

Chiang Mai has everything for every type of traveler. Lots of delicious food, incredible scenery, loads of markets, temples to see, and bars to drink until you drop. Chiang Mai feels like a cozy, lush Thai village with the vibe and benefits of a city.

I hope this gigantic, complete guide for solo travel in Chiang Mai is an excellent resource for planning your trip! Thailand is an amazingly diverse country and perfect for women traveling alone!

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Did you like what you read? Any support is very much appreciated! 🖤

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