Where to live in Chiang Mai map included
If you're moving to Chiang Mai for at least 6months you need to make sure you are staying in the right place. Everyone has different budgets for those on a budget I recommend Jed Yord, for something a bit better I'd say go behind Chiang Mai uni and for those with some coin definately move to Nimmanheiman! No matter where you live in Chiang Mai you'll love how easy going life is here.
What I do recommend is that you stay at the Nomad Crashpad when first arriving in Chiang Mai. This place has everything you need in the middle of the city. The owner and the guy behind the idea has over 25 years as an expat in Chiang Mai. If you want an easy transistion and the best location in the city to stay at when you first arrive I recommend staying at one of the nomad crashpad's.
View Places to live in Chiang Mai in a larger map
The old City
New guys to Chiang Mai often stay in the Old City this is because it's easy to get around you can pretty much walk or take a red bus anywhere you like with relative ease and it's easy to get to the Farang oriented Chiang Mai nightlife. People don't live in the old city long though and for newcomers to Chiang Mai I would say spend a month in the old city make sure you know where everything is then move out as fast as you can. Food is expensive and there are only a few good Thai eats in the old city, there are cheap places to live but for what you get it's not worth it.
Chang Puak Area
Chang Puak and Santitam area is a very cheap place to live, there are new apartments there with large rooms that you can pay 4000 baht a month plus utilities. There are no farang places to eat but if you're in this area it's because your on a budget and you would be better off eating at Thai only places for 30 baht meals. I know places around here you can rent for as little as 1200 baht a month, but don't expect much a bed and four walls and shared bathroom! Bonus part about this area is there are about 10,000 uni students living in the area and if you enjoy a street pickup this is the place to do it.
This is the HiSo part of town, if you like Thai women who drive cars dress well and do nothing but chat using their Iphone then this is the place you want to stay. I love the Nimman area it's clean great places to eat but it's also expensive. The Nimman area is where the best looking women in Chiang Mai hang out. Don't expect to be able to pick up any of these kind of girls easily though you'll need a lot of game and some well spoken Thai to pick up the mostly Chiang Mai uni girls. 3 out of the 5 most popular nightclubs are located in this area so if your a party guy and want to be close to the action day and night have the coin to live in this area (rents start around 10,000 baht a month) then this is where you want to live.
Hang Dong has a good mix of Thai's and Farangs and is the biggest area for those who want to live in a house, most people living here have bought their property and intend to live here long time. Mostly retirees and young and old Thai families. If you live in this area you'll need a car!
This is a mostly Thai family area those who dont' like to live in the city again this is not really the kind of place Farang live in more farang live in Hang Dong than live in San Kamphaeng but if you're looking for a cheaper house you're better off looking at this area than you are in the Hang Dong area.
The Maejo university is a big university of Chiang Mai and it's just far enough outside of the city that you don't get all the farang hanging around but because the university is there it's still young enough that if you were looking for a bachelor house this is the place to rent one. Again you'll need a car to really enjoy this area.
San Sai is the second rate Hang Dong area a lot good facilities in this area and it's close to Chiang Mai than Hang Dong is. A good mixture of Thai and long term Farang guys live here. Because of it's location if I personally was going to buy somewhere I'd buy out here instead of Hang Dong because of it's location. Actually Hollywood are building studios out there so they can produce movies in Chiang Mai which can be cheaper than in the states (inside information!).
This place always floods when the big floods come, it's super cheap but also very seedy with dozens of Karaoke houses lining the street, If you live here don't advertise it!
Mae Hia is close to Central Airport currently Chiang Mai's biggest shopping mall there is also Bic C and lotus close by it's not a bad place to stay though traffic is a killer after 5pm till after 7pm. Only problem with this place is the planes fly so low into the airport that it really ruins the place. I'm not saying they do it but it's possible of course that at some point a plane will dump fuel over your house.
If you like getting robbed held up on your bike or raped in a back alley then find a place in a back soi of Nong Hoy! I wouldn't recommend anyone stay in this area unless you live by the river, when the floods come this whole place gets flooded!
Behind Chiang Mai University
This is where I live, I live here because every day I walk outside my place and see the beautiful Chiang Mai university girls walking around doing their thing. It's always busy day and night and I can get something to eat at any time of the day and the food is super cheap. Average price for an apartment here is about 4500 baht a month but there are a few places like Punna where you can get a 15,000 baht + apartment. It's only 4 minutes to the Nimman Area and 5 minutes to the freeway to get you around to the other side of the city.
In Front of Chiang Mai University
In front of Chiang Mai University is super quiet during the day, the markets that side of the Uni don't open until after 6 so getting something to eat around this area can be problematic during the day and you'll find your driving around to get something to eat in the morning. At night however this place lights up at night. I still recommend living behind the uni than in front of it but if you like things a little more quiet then choose the front of the Uni.
If you like being close to the curtain hotels then Jet Yord is where you want to be, there are as many as 30 (well so I can count) short time hotels in this area with currently 3 being built as I write this. For whatever reason this part of town is known as being the place to take your Gik. Living here is actually good because it's so close to everything and it's easy to get to the freeway. It's still cheap in this area apartments from 3000 baht a month.