How to live in Chiang Mai on $10 a day
At the current exchange rate 300 baht is approx $10 and less than $300 a month and $3600 per year. If you include airfare your looking at around $3600 to come to live in Thailand for the entire year learn thai language and have an ok time. Being on a budget doesn't mean your missing out on much either, but be prepared to change a lot. The local thai salary standard of 6000 baht per month is stifflingly cheap. If you really want to live like a thai person lets see how it's done.
Before you can think of spending any money in thailand you need to get there and the all important visa requirements. The cheapest visa to Thailand you can get is a Business Visa. The Business visa is only $50 and allows you to be in Thailand for 1 year. You'll have to cross the border every 90 days but that's just an inconvenience. Find a cheap flight to thailand.
When you arrive to bangkok it's going to be expensive, just go to the taxi area and start asking people if you can get a lift when them to mochit bus station, only go with the bust station because otherwise it's going to be a pain. It won't be more than 2 hours until you find someone. I do this to go to Pattaya all the time for a free taxi ride, many people travel by themselves here especially to Pattaya mainly couples to chiang mai.
At the bust station you'll be able to get a bus that goes to Chiang Mai for 250 baht, the days budget gone but we'll just include that into the traveling budget which you've just saved on buying airfares cheap.
Once you get to Chiang Mai after the long 12 hour bus journey to hell! You'll be glad you won't have to do that again for another year. First thing for you to do is to find some accomodation, forget about backpacker hotels and cheap guest houses, your going to be living here so you need your own place. To get accomadation your going to need to hire a motorbike, the places you can afford to stay are not inside the city therefore you'll need some wheels. For me i would stay at a local guest house inside the city for 2 nights. Rent a motorbike for a year contract (this will cost you 80-90 baht a day) the cost of the motorbike is a huge burdoen on your budget but it is necessary for living in Chiang Mai.
Start driving towards the outskirts of the city and make sure you go inside alley ways, cheap accomodation is not on the side of the road they are inside alley ways, stop university students they may speak english and ask them where you can get cheap accomodation, you should be able to find a place for 1200 baht per month which is only 40 baht per day bringing now your total to 120-130 baht per day for bike and accomodation, add to that about 40 baht for electric and gas for your bike so your total now is 170 baht per day.
Really now your only expense is finding cheap food. Forget about any ideas you may have about eating western food, one latte at Starbucks near Tapae Gate and you'll have no more money left for the day, so your going to have to stick with thai food. Fruit is cheap here but to get a better deal you'll want to buy whole fruits and cut it yourself costing 30 baht you can have fruit for 3 days. At the market you can get bags of food for 10 baht and rice for 5 typically you will need about 2 bags to fill you up so your 3 meals a day can cost you as little as 75 baht.
Your daily budget now stands at 250 baht. leaving roughly 50 baht in your pocket, you've eaten got wheels and a place to stay for less than $10 a day. Your going to have to save some of that money up to pay for your bus trip to the border every 3 months but that only costs 300 baht round trip. You'll find though that you won't save any because you'll want to go out sometimes with friends you've made, suggestion here is to go with thai people, you can even save on meals if you eat in a group and share meals, thais do this all the time and can eat a meal for 15baht then spend 30 on some local whisky.
Your budget is stretched but you can still have a good time. Thai people are really generous when you have no money and you'll find that you can get free meals of thai people as well as free alcohol, there is always someone in a group who buys the alcohol and you'll get wasted for nothing. Don't be too stingy to keep bludging off others though.
You'll need to learn the language to be able to survive on $10 a day in Thailand. My suggestion is as soon as you've got settled go to the local university library, there will be a book there that can teach you Thai. Have someone photocopy the entire book (yes you can here) won't cost $150 baht, cheaper than any book you'll find elsewhere. Use this book to study thai yourself. No you do not need a teacher, Thai people are all around you and are very proud about your language, you can ask anyone basically and they will help you out with pronounciation. You must start with the alphabet, get a 10 baht kindergarden book that shows you how to write each letter, practice this for about 40 days and you'll learn the entire alphabet and know over 200 words by the end of it. This is your foundation something schools don't teach and i believe is the best way to learn the language, if you can say the alphabet properly you can now pronounce any word in Thai which is somehting people who go to language schools can't do after 40 days they may know more words than you but people can't understand them because they don't say it correctly. Within 3 months you'll be able to talk to anyone easily and order anything off the menu. Continue learning the book by yourself only asking for help from thai's on pronounciation. Sometimes it's good to have a helping hand with the language i suggest you get this elearning course for learning thai before you go so you save yourself a lot of aggrevation before you go.
Finding a partner or Thai girlfriend/boyfriend can really help you with your language as well as be your "free Thai teacher", they will both offer you companionship as well as be invaluable in saving money, if he/she moves in with you can even help you further as they can pay half the bills both for the bike and for the rent. Most Thai people do not live alone, it's just too expensive, lets say you had a thai girlfriend/boyfriend live with you and share expenses for rent and the bike you will now have over 15o baht in your pocket every day!
Living in Chiang Mai and Thailand for that matter can be expensive or it can be really cheap, on the cheaper side you can't go out and party every night can't hang out with too many westerners because it's too expensive but it can really help you learn thai and learn what it's like being a Thai person, most Thai's only make 6000 baht per month and your on a budget of 9000 baht per month so it can be done. Sharing a room and motorbike is the best way to make your money go as far as you can so bring a friend here or make new ones.
If you are not up for living on $10 a day you might be more interested in living on $30 a day giving you much more freedom as well, the easiest and cheapest way to do this would be to get a teaching job. Teach English overseas is the easiest way to make money in thailand.