Chiang Mai, Thailand Early 2020 Nomading Update

In my last post I briefly laid out some costs for my first excursion to Thailand commencing January 14, 2020.

Now I’ll add some precision, such that people have a decent idea of what the costs to do this might be—the aim being to definitely not live in squalor like the grunge hippies do, but to live frugally in a way that really enhances the experience.


Back this summer when I went to Warsaw to speak at a conference, then to Spain for a week of hiking, the schedule was tight, so I couldn’t afford flights with multiple stops and layovers. So, total cost was pricey. Not this time.

China Eastern Airlines – SFO –> TAO –> KMG –> CNX

That’s San Fran to Qingdao (no plane change) to Kunming (plane change and 9hr layover) to Chiang Mai. The total price: $344. Beyond the price, and in spite of the total trip time of about 31 hours, is that departure and arrival are very ideal. I leave San Fran at a nice noon:30 and Arrive in Chiang Mai at a perfect 10:00 am.

In terms of booking sites, I used to use Price Line a lot—not to negotiate offers but instant book. Now, I find I use Kayak a lot, where they check all the major booking sites for you (including Price Line). In this case the actual booking was done by FareScan.


Nomad Summit Chiang Mai 2020. This is the creation of a well-known Digital Nomad, JohnnyFD. I was impressed when referred to his nomadic blog a week or so ago. Every month he gives a meticulous and transparent report down to the penny of what he spent and what he made. One month I looked at, his total expenses were about $1,500, but he made $9-10K.

I believe this sort of lifestyle is exceptionally motivational to always be spending less to far less than what you build online in terms of income streams. You’re not depleting your bank, and every month you deposit more than you withdraw, you’re extending your staying power for a style of living you never want to stop.

I believe it will be a hefty advantage to begin this at a conference where I can take in a ton of useful, actionable information while meeting others in all stages of this way of living, from old hands to the newbies like me.

In terms of cost, the published fees are $300 for back of the room seating with no table, $400 for seating at a table in the front half, and a hefty price for front row seating. I was just going to go for the $300. When I went to purchase, I see I’m in the early bird window. So, that lowest level was $140 and the level with table seating, $180. So I went with that.


The Nomad Summit will be held at the Shangri-La property. Nice, but $121 per night is too much to withdraw. So, using a booking site called Agoda, I was able to book a room at the Maninarakorn Hotel for 5 nights at a total cost of $125, 1/5th the cost.

It’s a short walk to the Summit and has tons of 4 to 5-star reviews.


So, that only accounts for the first 5 days and I plan to spend about 2 months in Thailand (30-day entry Visa, 30-day renewal for a $60 fee). So, I’ve planned thusly.

I scoured AirBNB for rentals in Nimmanhaemin (Nimman for short), which is Chiang Mai central for expats and nomads. Initially, I want to network and learn as much as I can, like a job every day.

While there is lots of stuff available for around $300 per month, I chose a condo unit that came out to $580 for 31 days.

My musts are clean and relatively modern (unless it’s bungalow style), AC, WiFi included. Nice to have is refrigerator, mini kitchen, flat screen TV (for the Roku Stick I’ll be carrying), and swimming pool onsite.


$344 – Flight

$180 – Summit

$125 – Hotel for Summit

$580 – Condo for 31 nights

$60 – Visa renewal

$1,289 – TOTAL for the first 5 weeks, a monthly average of $1,030.

But consider that this includes the flight, the conference, and higher than normal lodging cost for the first 5 mights. The flight in is always going to increase first month’s expenses. I’ll be interested to see what month two comes to.


After that first 5 weeks in Chiang Mai, I plan to spend the three remaining weeks revisiting old stomping grounds from the late 1980s and early 90s.

That list includes Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, and Koh Samet.

From there, I’m probably going to spend another two months in Vietnam (Saigon, Phan Thiet), perhaps with an excursion to Laos and Cambodia.

Then, get out by mid-May when the weather becomes unbearable and head to Eastern Europe and Mediterranean. I was in Poland last July and the weather was fantastic. I plan to hang out in various places for six months. Lots of time to plan the next legs in a different region of the planet.

Updates to follow.

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  1. John on December 17, 2019 at 21:16

    I’m envious, and will be following you along, via your posts. Thanks Richard.

  2. Dave on December 21, 2019 at 15:19

    Looking forward to it.

  3. Matt on December 23, 2019 at 14:57

    Congratulations on getting to this point! I’m excited for you and I’ll be following along for sure, as this is something I’d like to spend some time doing in the future.

  4. Thomas Mann on December 27, 2019 at 17:23

    Have you made provision for medical and health issues: insurance, meds, supplements, etc. just wondered how you plan to handle these items. Best wishes for your journeys.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 27, 2019 at 18:10

      I am looking into such things and understand the concern.

      On the other hand, I’m in touch with aged nomads and expats around the world who haven’t had “health care” insurance for 30 years.

      They pay as they go, like everyone else.

      Medical card is still on the market in such places.

    • Richard Nikoley on December 27, 2019 at 18:12

      A bit deeper question.

      How much of your only life are you willing to trade away for “health care?”

    • G. M. on January 2, 2020 at 09:29

      Even before my Suvarnabhumi departure, I went through my carry-on with a fine-tooth comb 2X. Trust no one. Not even your Thai girlfriend. In particular, NEVER trust your Thai girlfriend. And mine was educated at Chulalongkorn, is fluent in English, and travels business class.

      Anyone determined to travel to Thailand in spite of everything I’ve told them, just keep at least this one warning in mind: always be alert and be careful out there. 

  5. G. Moore on December 28, 2019 at 10:47

    Med Evac is 100K. If you need an orthopod to save a leg, they won’t treat until you get out the cash. And they will hold on to your passport until the bill is handled. You can rack up tens of thousands with a catastrophic injury. Thailand’s roads are lethal — as I’m sure you know.

    I spent 6 months with a wealthy Thai woman one hour outside of Bangkok. Beautiful private estate.

    We traveled extensively in her BMW X3. Samet, Lao, Cambodia, Vientiane and Koh Chang to name a few. Some of the travel was certainly ‘white knuckle’

    I haven’t visited a physician since I was duped into a worthless measles shot at age 12, so I agree vis-à-vis so-called health insurance, i.e., the disease management industry.

    Koh Samet is busier these days, but it’s still a favorite. Just a 90 minute drive from Ann’s home.

  6. G. Moore on December 28, 2019 at 10:57

    BTW, grabbed a bottle of ‘duty free’ Jameson on the Cambodian side (Visa run near Pong Nam Rong), passed on the casino, and headed back to Thailand for a day on the beach at Koh Samet. The east coast of Samet is blessed with soft white sand beaches. Waves crashing in the afternoon. My favorite beach: Hat Sai Kaew.

  7. G. M. on January 2, 2020 at 08:40

    “An infamous scam long associated with the Manila airport now appears to be the newest scam at the Bangkok airport. Here’s how it works…

    You arrive at a security checkpoint, place your carry-on bag on the belt for the x-ray machine, and bolt through the metal detector. When the bag is out of your sight, one of the security personnel slips a single live bullet into it, then ‘discovers’ the bullet when the bag is x-rayed. The possession of a gun or any quantity of ammo, even a single bullet, by a foreigner is a very serious offense in Thailand (it’s mostly an offense for Thais, too, but authorities generally look the other way unless the Thai in question is on the government shit list). When the bullet is ‘discovered,’ the foreigner is offered the opportunity to make a modest payment to the security guards in order to keep the police from being summoned.”

    Michael Jones was held at the airport and was only allowed to go free after his parents sent thousands of dollars through their bank to a law firm in Thailand to pay for an attorney and bail.

    “If we did not do that, he can do 20 years for a single bullet in his duffel bag,” Durden-Jones, who said she and her husband consulted with the U.S. Embassy in Thailand, said. “So of course, that’s what we did, because they have our son.”

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