Hey fellow travelers! Just arrived in Chiang Mai today. First impressions are I will love this place. Left Bangkok on the sleeper train which was a pleasant journey aswell. We are just finding out feet as we have never been backpacking before. We found out the hard way in Bangkok being naive and over charged for stuff (1000thb for boat) which is only 40thb !! Took us a couple of days to get wise. In hoping to avoid this in Chiang Mai and wonder if you have any tips on saving money how much should we be paying for excursions etc should we book through tour operators or they out to rip you off? Any money saving tips or safety tips would be much appreciated !
Tour operators are fine, just do some searching around before committing to anything. Get a feel for the price by asking at least 3 places how much for one ticket. Then once you've found the operator you like the best you know you can probably bargain down the price from the 1 ticket price if you have 2+ pax.
Based on personal experience, the Living Place hostel (2/2 Thapae Rd, Soi 2 Muang, Chiang Mai) sells tours, and Ari the owner is so so lovely. Go have a chat with her and she'll help you out!
Scam pricing is nowhere near as common in CM compared to Bangkok, but there are always a few sharks out there. Competition is very tight among tour operators especially in the tourist zone and as recommended above if you check a couple agents you'll get a good idea on fair pricing. The top day tours (Golden Triangle, Doi Inthanon, Elephant Safari, etc.) are group-based trips via minivan and generally go for about 900b per person. Multi-day treks are also mostly group-based with 6-12 pax per group with 2-day and 3-day treks around 1200/1500b per person. More specialised activities like Elephant "training" (care, feeding, bathing, etc) go for around 2000b+ for a day, bungy jump 1500-1800b (depends if you want the photo CD/tshirt), ziplines (there are many now) about 1700-3000b based on program, etc. etc. just shop around a bit. Tuk tuk anywhere in town 50-100b, songthaew (red truck) 20-30b. Tip: Your guesthouse can almost certainly book any of the above for you and it can be wise. Cheap places rely on their guests booking tours (and eating in their restaurant) or else sometimes the room becomes "unavailable" ;-)