Traveling around Thailand? Since you are looking for your accommodation in the North, you are most likely also going to Bangkok and the Islands. Read here you guide to best hostels in Bangkok and the full list of all the best hostels in Thailand here.
Quick Introduction to Chiang Mai Hostels
Average price for a bed: Super cheap! Hostels in Chiang Mai are in general cheap.
A bed in a dorm can be as cheap as 5€ – 15€ per night. This is a rough average to give you an idea. Prices always depend on season and holidays.
Hostel Quality: If you have doubts about staying in hostels, then give it a try in this city for the first time.
Together with destinations like Bangkok, Lisbon, Porto and Tokyo, this city is a hostel-travelers paradise.
The quality is generally high here. Of course you can also find regular, even bad and crappy hostels.
Keep reading for separating the wheat from the chaff.
Thai Beds vs Western Beds: in Thailand you will find many hostels, hotels, guesthouses and resorts offering rooms with the so-called Thai-mattress. The Thai mattress is seriously hard and in the beginning it feels like sleeping on a rock.
If you prefer hostels with western-style mattresses, keep an eye out for that.
Leave your shoes outside: In Thai Culture shoes have to remain outside. This goes for accommodations as well as many shops and other places too.
We seriously enjoyed this, because it makes the place automatically cleaner, and it gives you a feeling of home. Just be aware that is a thing.
Check-In and Check Out: The average check-in time is from 15:00 (3pm), while the Check Out time is before 11:00 (11am). Hostels usually offer luggage storage in case you arrive earlier or leave later.
Make sure you check if luggage storage is free or if there is an extra cost. Usually in Thailand this is no problem.
Cool locations in Chiang Mai: The Saturday and Sunday Walking street is a great place to stay near. As the name suggests, it’s closed to traffic on Weekends from 16:00 til midnight and is a wonderful option for shopping.
The Old City encompasses many of the great sights and a lot of the coolest hostels in Chiang Mai Thailand are located near here.
Visiting Elephant Sanctuaries: There are many opportunities to get close and personal with elephants in Chiang Mai. Before visiting, do your research and make sure you support those that really want the best for their animals.
Many elephants are still mistreated – you have the power to help abused elephants enjoy a safe retirement by choosing a respectable sanctuary. Don’t ride them!
Featuring dorms with a semi-private sleeping loft with either air conditioning or a fan.
Beds are equipped with two power outlets
A personal reading light and
A private curtain
This Stamps Hostel in Chiang Mai, is a great choice for those backpackers interested in Old Town exploring plus the Buddhist temples such as Wat Chiang Man, also this place it is a 650 m away from the famous Tha Pae Gate.
Many visitors, us included, join an authentic cooking class. There is different tours. For instance, some tours are only about trying food around the city (like this Street Food Market Tour), others are actual cooking classes.
Just pick the one you would enjoy most. We certainly recommend the cooking class type.
The main reason why we urge you not to ride an elephant or visit any elephant shows is the process the elephant had to survive to get to that point. The so-called “crushing of the will”. The baby elephant will be mistreated until he gives up his spirit and just gives in to the human.
A painful process. There is brutal videos on Youtube (graphic content).
We do not embed this video here on purpose; it is seriously tough to watch.
Here is your solution: Elephant Sanctuary!
Fortunately, there is a solution to have your amazing (seriously amazing!) Elephant experience.
The Elephant Nature Park and a few more projects are actual sanctuaries. Here you can feed elephants, be close to them, and support a great cause of rescuing the animals.
Good to know: For visiting the elephants sanctuaries plan a whole day. The places are usually 1-2 hours outside the city center. Many sanctuaries actually pick you up at your hostel in Chiang Mai, and bring you back too.
Conclusion on this topic: Don’t support any business that exploits animals for human entertainment.
By visiting these shows or riding an elephant, you support this industry.
You can still have your experience with great foundations, so there’s no need to skip the whole activity. Please note that the actual sanctuaries may cost more.
We experienced this first hand.
6. How to get to Chiang Mai
There is basically three ways to get to Chiang Mai.
Flights to Chiang Mai:
You can simply fly to Chiang Mai. It is super easy and well-connected from Bangkok, especially. If you are planning to fly from the islands to Chiang Mai, you will need to take a connection flight most likely i Bangkok.
Check Kiwi.com to find flight combinations to Chiang Mai the easiest way.
However, if you are tight in time, go with the flights option.
Personally, we are not big fan of buses in general.
But of course, this is a solid option here too. The bus from Krabi in the South to the North takes you a whopping 24 hours.
With Rome2Rio you can get a better idea of the different options, including prices and duration.
Good to know: We heard from fellow travelers taking a night bus from Bangkok to Krabi, they got scammed. The bus driver stopped in the middle of nowhere and told them they have to pay $30 each more or he will leave them right there. Since they had no other option, they gave in. This is obviously not the regular case.
7. The Red Buses
When wandering around town, you will see those little red buses all over the city.
They are driving around randomly and bring people from A to B.
You can just stop them like a taxi. Tell the driver where you would like to go. If he goes in your direction, just hop in.
Good to know: Make sure you ask before how much the ride will be. The price always depends on the distance. The price is always something between 1€ and 2€.
8. Renting a Scooter
We are big fans of renting scooters.
And in Chiang Mai this is easy too. Your hostel will most likely have the rental service, or at least it working with someone.
Traffic is a big hectic here.
So stay calm and drive passively. Wait for your turn and do not assume you can apply European or Western traffic rules.
Important: Please do not the guy/ girl not wearing a helmet, because “it does not look cool”. The concrete floor in Thailand is as rigid as in your home country…….
Good to know: You need a special drivers license when riding a scooter in Thailand. There is regular controls by the police. If they stop you and you do not have an international driving license, you will pay a fine.
However, do not tell them you do not have this license. Rather tell them you forgot your license in your hotel or hostel.
Last but not least: Locals and travelers like to drink at night – and then still drive their vehicle.
It is common knowledge that driving a motorbike at night in Chiangmai is kind of dangerous and not recommended due to this issue. Be aware.
Temples and Chiang Mai, that goes hand in hand.
You will see hundreds of them. And one is more gorgeous than the next ones.
Here is a list of our favorite temples we discovered while backpacking Chiang Mai in and around:
Phra That Doi Suthep
Chedi LuangWat Suan Dok
Sri Suphan (Silver Temple)
Phra That Doi Kham
We included all temples in the map below (that is just easier, right?!).
10. Writing the cities name
When you did your research for coming here, you may have noticed the naming of the city.
No worries, it is the same city, there is no difference in this. Just so you know.
Map with all Hostels + Sights
Check out this handy map, listing all of the hostels in this article and much more!
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Your Smart Packing List
It is time to see what you should pack in your backpack or suitcase. Make sure you always pick a quality hostel, it totally reduces the things you need to pack. Here is our ultimate hostel packing list. It features 23 items you should really throw in your backpack.