I often get questions about ‘where do you go for x’, or ‘who’s the best y’ in Chiang Mai, as I’ve lived here for nearly 4 years now. This, then, is my dynamic and evolving list of who I use for everything from the dentist to bikini waxing!
I’d love to hear your recommendations, so do email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have things you think I should include.
1. Doctor: Chiang Mai Ram (Map and directions here)
If you’re new to Chiang Mai, and you need any kind of Doctor or Consultant, then I’d go to Chiang Mai Ram. Just on the west side of the moat, it’s well known, they speak good English, and the quality of service is high.
I’ve been here many times, and have seen Consultants and Doctors – and it’s usually very quick to see someone, even if you need a specialist.
Enter through the front door and you will see on your right an ‘information’ desk, where they speak English, and can point you in the right direction/to the right floor. Give yourself a bit of time, because things can appear to move slowly, though you’ll still be seen faster than if you were somewhere like the UK…
2. Dentist: Elite Smile, Pantip Plaza
I’ve had a couple of treatments at Elite Smile. I first got a night guard made after my UK dentist told me I needed one, and I didn’t have enough time to get one whilst back there. A friend recommended this dentist to me as their English was good and the quality of treatment high, and they were right.
The process was straightforward and very well-priced, the staff friendly and kind, and there was little hassle or fuss involved. I then went back and got a check up and a clean done several months later when Dental Departures, an organisation who help people with Dental Tourism (apparently it’s a thing!), contacted me and asked if I would share their services. As you know if you read the blog, I’m only prepared to advertise or share things if I’ve tried them and am happy with them, so it was a happy coincidence that I’d already used one of their Dentists! If you’re looking for a Dentist in Chiang Mai, I’d recommend Elite Smile, and if you’re looking elsewhere, Dental Departures can find you one.
3. Spa: Peak Spa
My favourite ‘fancy’ massage place in Chiang Mai, where they pick you up and drop you back at your accommodation, and generally treat you like royalty. This is where I took my Mum when she visited, and have taken many other visitors to Chiang Mai. I also try and go there every now and then as a special treat for myself!
I’ve negotiated a special whereverthewindtakesme.com 15% discount on all their Spa Packages (check them out here) if you book online. Just mention ‘Ellen’ or ‘WhereverTheWindTakesMe.com and then book through the form here and to receive the discount.
There are a number of transport options in Chiang Mai. Uber has just arrived (to get your first Uber ride for free, enter my code ellenb937ue), or you can use ‘GrabTaxi‘ which is a local alternative. I’ve used it a handful of times, but it’s not 100% reliable – there need to be drivers out and about. I’ve also tried to use it for my 4am trips to the airport, when I was called by the driver and told it was extra for that trip, and so I ended up paying the same as a taxi.
For regular taxis, I call the pick up centre here. I’d recommend calling in advance if you can as they get busy, especially if it’s an odd hour of the day.
If you’re in a busy area, you can also step out onto the street and get either a song-taew (red bus), or a tuk-tuk. The latter are small three wheeled vehicles that have room for 2/3 in the back, and will take you directly to where you want to go. They don’t have a huge amount of space for luggage. Song-taew’s are the cheapest method (20-40 baht), but maybe involve picking up other people, and might go the long way round to reach your destination, so they’re less good if you’re in a hurry. Many of the drivers’ English isn’t great, and they don’t necessarily read maps, so I tend to pick a landmark close to where I’m going and then just ring the bell when we’re close. (Here’s the Lonely Planet with more detail.)
5. Long-term Accommodation
Where you want to live in Chiang Mai, whether it’s for a few months or longer, tends to depend on what you’re doing here, and also on whether you will drive a motorbike or not. The area most Nomads seem to congregate is Nimman (find out more in Jonny FD’s post a Nomad Guide to Chiang Mai), and there are plenty of good and well-priced places to live around that area. I have a lot of friends who live in the various Greenhill apartment complexes and speak highly of them, and Baan Thai is a cheaper option that a number of nomads also live in. The helpful Chiang Mai Buddy also provide a guide to long term apartments here, and can help you book.
6. Cell Phone
I have an AIS plan. One of the good things about this is that the data plan includes free wifi in a whole load of places (including the infamous CAMP co-working space, and the airports) and so it’s super useful in that sense. I think my data package is about 400baht a month, and then I pay for phone calls (which I never use) on top of that. There are plenty of shops, but I usually go to the one in Maya on the fourth floor as they speak great English there.
7. Messaging: Facebook, Line, Whatsapp
OK, so if you come out to Thailand, you’re probably going to use Facebook a whole lot. It’s the way that people communicate events and such like here, and there are a ton of Facebook groups from vegetarian Chiang Mai to digital nomad that have useful stuff in (see below). Facebook messenger is a very common way to communicate, but there are a couple of other ways too (and none of them are text message).
Whatsapp seems to be a more western way. I use it with friends from the Middle East and the West, but not so much with my Asia friends. With friends who are Thai, or friends out here, I tend to use the wonderful Line. This uses stickers, which are awesome ways to communicate. Try it, you’ll see. Anyway, both it, whatsapp and Facebook messenger also give you free calls so you can see why it’s so rare to use phone credit on talking. (Also, who calls people up these days??! 😮 )
Visas are a big topic among expats. I’ve had several types, but the one I have currently is through Aim to Kids, who have been very helpful and supportive with paperwork etc. I recommend them for this type of visa.
With visas, please do look up the most recent information from the Thai government as it changes rather frequently.
9. Concierge Service: Chiang Mai Buddy
I’ve used Chiang Mai Buddy for several things – they helped put me in touch with the Volunteer Visa (and they offer other organisations for Volunteer Visas, if, for example, you want to work with animals, or you can get a self-defence visa), and they helped me with my Thai driving licence, and they have helped me with other visa bits over time. I recommend them if you’re a bit unsure of what you’re doing – for a small fee, they can resolve some of even the most challenging (if you don’t speak Thai!) Thailand bureaucracy.
10. Waxing: Kung at Robin Beauty & Barber, Moonmuang, Soi 8
There is literally only one place in Chiang Mai I would get waxed, and that is here. Down a soi in the backpacker’s quarter, it looks a bit unprepossessing from the outside, and the gregarious Kung might be taking a nap when you arrive. But soldier on, because it’s probably the most fun you’ll ever have when getting a wax.
No need to be modest here, Kung’s seen it all – you’ll go into a small room at the back, take off your pants (British and American meanings!) and Kung will whip that hair off as quick as anything, and make you laugh in the meantime. You can also amuse yourself by reading all the messages on the wall from previous customers, who’re from all over the world.
11. Men’s Barber: The Cutler
There’s one place that the male expats I know go to have their beards’ sorted out, and it’s The Cutler. I haven’t been myself, but I hear great things about it, as a male barber. They’re popular and pretty busy, so it’s worth booking.
12. Hair Dresser: New York New York Hair Studio
New York New York Hair Studio seems to be the top choice from the women I know for hair cuts and having their hair dyed. You’ll find that a hair cut is relatively cheap (compared to the UK, anyway), but having your hair dyed is more expensive, because the dye itself costs a lot if it’s from a reputable company.
Top tip – I bring my hair dye over from the UK, and then I take the hair dye itself to one of the smaller, cheaper, Thai salons and ask them to put it in my hair. It’s a lot cheaper, I can rely on the dye, and although you might have to ask in a couple of places before you find one who will do it, it’s worth it.
13. Charity Shop / Second Hand Shop: Free Bird Cafe
There aren’t too many places to donate clothes or items in Chiang Mai, but Free Bird Cafe successfully runs a second hand shop and a cafe where you can leave with them anything that you don’t want to take home again after your visit here.
Most of the items go to the Burmese refugee camps, but anything that’s a Western size or not suitable is sold in the shop, and profits go to the language and arts community center for Indigenous Peoples and Burmese refugee families. It’s a great cause, and the cafe also sells tasty food
It’s not easy to find a dry cleaner in Chiang Mai. I was very happy to find out about Em’s Laundry, who will pick up your laundry or dry cleaning from within 3km of the old city. I had a suit dry cleaned there and the process and the clean was great. Their English is good and you can email them or call them.
15. Coffee Shops
There is *so much* coffee in Chiang Mai. It’s great. I’ve written about a few before, but rather than write a new up to date list, as things change frequently, I’m going to point you to a couple of great lists from other blogs.
Also see these huge lists:
There is plenty of yoga in Chiang Mai. Most popular seem to be:
Yoga Tree, with a range of classes, and other non-yoga activities.
For those who are experienced yogis: Wild Rose Yoga
For Tantric Yoga, try Mahasiddha Yoga in the south of the old city, including philosophy, lectures, asanas, frequent retreats, and a women and men’s circle.
Many of the apartment complexes have gyms in them, albeit small ones, so it’s worth checking if where you are staying has something. Some have swimming pools too. If you’re looking for something more, then I’m going to point you to someone with more experience than me:
18. Learning Thai
I’ve studied Thai in two places:
Individually, with the very lovely Lanwa Arunothayanun (contact her direct at 089-9277669)
In a group at Payap University Intensive Thai course.
I recommend both, depending on what style suits you best. I started with the intensive and then worked with Lanwa (the fact I am still very bad is not at all her fault!).
The best map of Chiang Mai that I have used – and keep coming back to – is the Nancy Chandler map. You can now get the full set of Chiang Mai maps digitally, and I strongly recommend this if you’re either living here or visiting for a short period, just for the amount of stuff on them. It even includes co-working spaces now! Buy here.
20. Useful Facebook and Meet-Up Groups
There are SO MANY:
Nomad Coffee Club – has a weekly (friday afternoon) presentation of some sort (usually at Healthy B on Nimman) and a social in the evening.
Chiang Mai Digital Nomads – currently the biggest Nomad FB group in town.
NB: Some of these are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small percentage if you choose to use my link. Please be sure I’ve tried them all and wouldn’t recommend them unless I was very happy with them 🙂