Photo: Poolside at Vieng Mantra.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Out pick of the crop

Where to stay in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a large city and popular with visitors so as you’d expect, it comes with a huge range of accommodation options and a large choice of highly commendable ones too.



You’ll find literally thousands of hotels in Chiang Mai listed on the OTAs like Agoda, Booking and AirBnb, so if you don’t find anything to your liking amongst our selection, do browse their collections, though be sure to check, in particular, location, as properties are often far-flung and you’ll end up spending a significant amount of time (and money) getting into the downtown area.

Ma Guesthouse: our top budget pick.

Ma Guesthouse: our top budget pick. Photo: Mark Ord

For convenience’s sake and allowing perhaps for just a short stay in town, we’ve concentrated our options mainly in the downtown and Old City areas of Chiang Mai. Whereas in former times you could designate two or three areas of Chiang Mai as “hotel” or “guesthouse” areas they’ve now spread right across town albeit with a large concentration within the old city walls and the area between the moat and Ping River. As well as holding many of the town’s tourist sites, these leafy quiet lanes are attractive settings for smaller size hotels and lodge or inn style establishments.

The large, generic four-star, and smattering of five-star, hotels are still mainly to be found in the Night Bazaar quarter and upper end of Loi Kroh and spreading south along the river. Many more of the newer three-star to four-star generic hotel style choices are sited around the ring road or Superhighway. These are not a comfortable walking distance to downtown.

Now that is a gecko... At Diva Guesthouse.

Now that is a gecko... At Diva Guesthouse. Photo: Mark Ord

The old style cheap and (if lucky) cheerful variety, where basic rooms at knock down rates were offered in exchange for, often insistent, “buy a trek here” pressure are firmly on their way out. The old-style three-day trek; ride an elephant, raft down a river, smoke some opium with colourful villagers type thing peaked many years ago and today a lot of visitors are just coming to hang out in Chiang Mai; browse the lively markets, take a few photos of the old temples, test the myriad coffee shops, perhaps do a cookery course or for the better healed try out some spa treatment. At worst it’s a stop-over on the way to Pai or the Lao border crossing at Chiang Khong.

Consequently these days there’s at least as much emphasis by hotel and guesthouse owners on making money on rooms and board as from selling tours and treks so room rates have increased and with more competition, pools and fancy Lanna style, (north Thai), decor have become important selling points even in the lower budget and flashpacker ranges.

Ban Narai River Guesthouse: What more do you need?

Ban Narai River Guesthouse: What more do you need? Photo: Mark Ord

While prices remain competitive compared to those on the Thai islands, they can be relatively high compared those of smaller, less popular, northern towns such as Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son and Nan. Though decent low budget choices are increasingly limited, flashpacker and mid-range, boutique style, options proliferate and new ones open almost daily. In certain parts of town such as Nimmanhemin—popular with the recent and massive influx of Chinese tourists—every soi now has two or three fancy boutique guesthouses where only a few years ago you’d be hard pushed to find any at all.

When it comes to budget accommodation we’ll stick to the centre of town and Old City or else your backpacker rate will soon become a flashpacker rate by the time you’ve added a return tuk tuk fare or two. For friendly, homely atmosphere, facilities and overall value for money Ma Guesthouse takes a lot of beating though, with only a handful of rooms, if none were available we’d walk around the corner to the also excellent Diva. Both have convenient, central locations. A bit further flung and nudging into the flashpacker bracket, Ban Narai River Guesthouse is an excellent affordable riverside hangout. There are many, many other backpacker-style guesthouses, especially in the southeast corner of the old city.

Plenty of foliage at Awana.

Plenty of foliage at Awana. Photo: Mark Ord

With another couple of hundred baht to splash out Awana House, falling between upper budget and lower flashpacker price categories would be our clear first choice. Moving up the range a bit it is difficult to choose from a host of flashpacker to mid-range choices with perhaps tranquil Galare and its riverside location topping the lower rungs of the flashpacker ladder and Raming Lodge more towards the upper end. The latter is certainly a good option for night owls; has plenty of rooms so a decent chance of obtaining one during busy periods and some good on-line booking discounts are available.

Again the wealth of options in the mid-range are hard to separate though if we were after a quiet, relaxed stay we’d maybe plump for Twenty Lodge’s delightful garden setting and conversely Vieng Mantra’s good value for money and central location next to bars and restaurants if we were more in more of a party mood.

We think we could settle in at The Rim.

We think we could settle in at The Rim. Photo: Mark Ord

Four star and up hotels covers a very wide spread of room rates so in this upper end our main criteria would boil down to how much dosh we wanted to spend on accommodation. Even if we’d won the national lottery we’d still be a bit loath to spend $1,000 a night on a room and four-star comfort, services and decor along the lines of The Rim would suffice for us. If you do want to splurge then 137 Pillars in town or the 4 Seasons Resort out in the hills are both seriously luxurious.

With a family in tow, Amora Hotel’s large pool and wide food and drink selection would work well and Ayantana represents a good deal.

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Last updated on 15th July, 2017.


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