Bali vs. Chiang Mai for digital nomads?

My girlfriend and I started our DN life this March and went straight to Chiang Mai because of it’s ease of living. We love it. CM is great – we got a scooter for 2700 THB, a nice apartment for 8000 THB all in, we get our laundry done for 50 THB, eat out at nice places every day for less than 100 THB etc. Arriving here needed nearly no preparation – it just worked out all by itself.

We are still on tight budget and don’t want to give up much of CM’s quality of life but we want to see other places and we are now thinking about what could be our next destination. We are not really willing and able to spend more than what we spend now. Bali seems to be a good place according to what you all wrote.

How does it compare to Chiang Mai or Thailand in general?
CM can get very hot and we often acknowledge that we should have chosen an apartment with a pool here. Can I rent something in Bali for a few months with a pool for less than 250 USD?

Are there any Nomad-houses or similar projects at the moment that make it easy to connect to other people?

We don’t really hang out in co-working spaces, more in cafés. We source products in China and sell them to customers in Europe through e-commerce.

Any tips or experiences are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

I’ve spent a few months in both Bali and CM and love them both. I agree with you on the ease of living aspect of CM as well as the quality of life. Bali is generally less developed than CM and since you were in CM in March-(dry and hot), Bali will feel quite a bit more tropical and lush but still very hot. The cost of living was very similar for me with Bali being a bit cheaper overall. The internet speed was quite a bit slower in Bali and I relied on both a 4g sim and my apartments wifi which was so-so(~5mbps but it fluctuated a lot). There are plenty of restaurants/cafes/bars with wifi but again the connection was somewhat unstable so I tended to use my sim card most of the time. There are a lot of great beaches as well in Bali so you can escape the heat to some extent. Driving is a bit crazier in Bali than in CM but more so around Kuta or Denpasar than in UBUD or less populated areas.

Overall I think Bali would be a great choice for you to check out without breaking the bank and still providing a similar quality of life.

Bali is cheaper overall (came to CM straight from there) but the internet is worse. Most of the easy setup you mention is as easy in bali except the +1mth apt setup which I am not sure on as I moved around a bit. I prefer the weather in bali. I will say that ubud is a proper foodies paradise, even western food is excellent and while most of bali isn’t great for food ubud is better than CM I feel.

Interesting the opinion that Bali is cheaper than Chiang Mai.

I lived in Chiang Mai for many years but did a month in Bali at the tail end of 2015. Prices were nowhere near but we were staying in Seminyak.

Were you staying in Ubud?

I find it fascinating that such a small place has become so popular. It’s almost like a miniature Chiang Mai, right? Personally I wouldn’t be keen on living in Bali if I wasn’t pretty close to the beach (i.e. 10-15 mins by bike max).

I wrote up a pretty comprehensive guide for Canggu in Bali (which in the end, it comes down to Ubud versus Canggu - I lived in both, both are great, but I prefer the ocean for surfing).
I included lots of reasons why Bali is awesome for digital nomads and also reasons why you won’t like it. I also compare Canggu to Ubud.
Here you go:

In terms of living expenses: I don’t think Bali is cheaper than CM. HOWEVER, the quality of living is better I find. Internet has improved massively, especially in the coworking spaces (Dojo and Hubud) and 4G around the island.

In the end, you have to go and find out for yourself. I love Bali as a digital nomad waaaay more than CM, but that’s just preference.

Good luck!


I actually read that shortly after posting my question. Helped tomget a basic idea about the place. We’ll head to Canggu and decided with the help of your blog. Thanks.

Around 200 EUR (240 USD), 3 M IDR is our budget for housing. If we dont manage to find a nice place with pool for that money we’d want to be no more than 20 scooter minjtes awaz from the beach. Can I ask you, is there just that black beach in Canggu? Is it swimmable? How clean is it?

I too find it hard to find at least an apartment with comparable specs for acomparable price. Maybe we are alittle over price savvy as we are living from savings at the moment.

If you don’t mind sharing numbers that would be a great reference point for me.

I still use a scratchless iPhone 4 that doesn’t even connect to 4G. So my expextations are low.In my experience WiFi in CM never really works in cafes. I think I am fine with just ok internet. Thanks!

I spent about $24/day per person for a couple sharing ($48 total) in CM, and $30/day ($60 for a couple) in Bali, but had very different lifestyle… Have been living clean in CM :wink: IN CM that was a 1 mth apt rental/ cooking 80% meals. In Bali I was eating out every single meal, drinking more (had Uk friends on 1 week holiday there who cared little about budget and loved their Bintangs) and stayed in guesthouses. To be fair it’s a great quality of living in both - Bali 9/10, CHiang Mai 8/10, but the food in Ubud and the level of luxury you get for the cost puts it over for me.

I highly doubt that you will find a place with pool for 200 Euros a month, not in Canggu and not for short-term.
It’s dark sand in Canggu, yes, mostly surf beaches, but ok for swimming if you don’t mind jumping into the waves. Dry season is coming up, so beaches and water will be clean again soon.
You will find more paradise-style beaches on the east side and down in the Bukit in the very south, like Bingin Beach etc.
I feel like maybe Koh Phangan or Koh Lanta might be better for you guys maybe?

Hi Snu6ew

I would definitely say that Bali is more expensive than Chiang Mai. Everything in Bali is marked up due to tourism.

I keep a tally of all my expenses for each location and provide a breakdown on my website. Bali was definitely more expensive for us than Chiang Mai.

I also wrote a pretty comprehensive report of my time in Bali if you’re interested

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Wow. Just checked out Conni’s article and I must say mine is nowhere near as comprehensive. Hopefully you still get something out of it.

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While travelling last year, I had planned to head to CM , but opted to head to Bali instead. Like Conni (who was at the Dojo around the same time as me, hi), I stayed in Canggu due to the surfing (didn’t even bother checking Ubud :expressionless:. If that’s something you want to pick up, then Bali is the place. If you just want a nice beach, you should probably stay in Thailand and head to Koh Lanta or some other island. Tourist visas in Indonesia only last 2 months, so you’ll have to do some frequent visa runs or change the status if your plan is to stay there long term.

I was able to find a crappy room in Canggu for 150usd/month, 600 meters from the beach (and 300 meters from the Dojo). It’ll be very hard to find a room in a villa w/pool for 250usd, but I don’t think it’s impossible. I’d say that you’ll have to share the villa with other people though.

I was spending around 600-700 usd/month in Bali, between the room, coworking, food (always ate out), board rental, bike (you can bring the price down a lot if you negotiate a long term rental, don’t be surprised by the initial asking prices). I wasn’t partying though (but it definitely looked like a great place to be single…)

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Climate-wise, Bali is your best bet between June and October.

Be careful though, we rescued someone once that was taken off the shore by a wave (unnoticed by anyone except his 2 passive friends who did not know what to do and never called for help and myself). I also had been in a bad situation previously (big waves, strong currents and stupid course of action). And I heard about much worse stories…

Personally I wouldn’t want to live in Seminyak/Legian/Kuta in Bali. So let’s just take Canggu as an example.

Yes the beaches have dark sand, stray dogs and depending on the amount of rain the night before; quite some garbage.
Still the atmosphere is nice and the surfing is good.

I think food prices are on par with CM, scooter rental is cheaper, but alcohol is more expensive.
CM is cleaner and safer though.

Housing it really depends what you want, but if you want a pool it can get quite expensive (assuming you want to be sort of close to the beach). My 2br western villa with a pool about a 5min ride to the beach was about $1200/month (excl. electricity, cleaning, internet).

There are sometimes rooms available in a shared villa with a pool for as low as 3.5m/month ($225). But they are rare, your best bet is to keep an eye on the canggu community facebook group.

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Hard to compare a city with an island. I am in Bali now and its way more expensive than it ever was, but I guess thats true of everywhere.

I’d say Ubud/Kuta area was more on a par with CM whereas Seminyak, Canggu is way more expensive. I do not ride motos in Bali as the traffic and accident rate is shocking, so have not really stayed in Canggu as it’s hard to get around and too spread out for my liking.

I think Bali has a better year round climate. It’s dry from May thru Nov, but even in Jan/Feb it’s not too wet, indeed it’s very dry on the east coast. No need for air con in Ubud and even on the coast now I do not have air con on.

There is no burning season in Bali either.

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