What to Know Before You Go to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Going to a new continent and country, like Thailand, is exhilarating! Everything is new and exciting and different and…. oh my goodness what is that smell?! 

Don’t get us wrong, Thailand is AMAZING. A country rich in culture, beautiful landscape, friendly people (they don’t call it the land of smiles for no reason!), great weather and tasty cuisine. It’s uniqueness makes it charming, wondrous and like a whole new world for many people from Western cultures.

Our team has spent the  last 5 years circling the globe hunting for the best cities, apartments, workspaces, fitness studios, restaurants and coffee shops so they know a thing or two about traveling and dealing with new environments and customs.

That’s why we’ve put together this list of things to know before you go to Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai, to make your experience even more amazing and better prepare you! Read on for some tidbits and goodies about all you’re going to experience in CM…

Culture & Traditions

  • It’s very important to note – you’re a guest in Thailand. Please respect the local culture and traditions like the below…
  • Feet are considered dirty, keep them on the ground, not on chairs, when in public or vehicles.
  • Thailand has a King, respect him and the Royal Family (there will be pictures of them around).
  • Anytime you go to temples or religious buildings cover your shoulders and knees.

Food & Drink

  • The food is different (you’re probably super excited about the delicious Thai food and eateries, like those in this post). That said, there is street food that will smell funky, and look weird. It’s part of the experience (although, you definitely don’t need to eat it).

  • There is international food though! Plus a great international grocery store (in the basement of Maya Mall that has most things you’ll want if you’re craving home).
  • Maya Mall is a modern mall with western shopping, a movie theatre that plays English speaking movies, and 2 food courts (the basement one has amaaazing burritos).
  • Iced coffee’s are a yes, tap water is a no (the ice comes from ice companies). Also, these are some of our fav coffee shops.
  • Buckets (yes literally sand castle buckets) are a popular drink in Thailand. Be careful if you have one by always pouring your own drinks into it, and watching it carefully.

Wildlife & Critters

  • Yes, you will see some roaches and creepy crawly’s. They come with the territory (yes they’re gross but not nearly as bad as subway rats, right?!).
  • Don’t ride the elephants (it’s cruel). Instead opt to visit a elephant sanctuaries, like this one. There you can feed and wash the elephants in a natural swimming hole.


  • Don’t take pictures with or go pet the tigers (it’s cruel).
  • Don’t feed the monkeys! You’re unlikely to see monkeys in Chiang Mai but they hang out around some of the temples. Do not feed or try to touch them – we’ve warned you!

Getting Around

  • You can rent a scooter (this is how many locals get around) but be mindful there can be a lot of traffic. Western driving rules don’t apply here so exercise caution.
  • If you don’t feel confident scooting – walk, take a Songthaew (a red pickup truck with a cover over the back that you sit in) or take a Grab (like Uber).


  • It will be smoggy. Chiang Mai is a city so there are lots of people, cars, scooters, and pollution.
  • (Side note: Towards the end of February until early April is Burning Season. We advise our community to skip Chiang Mai in March and early April because of the smoke/smog).
  • It will be hot! Don’t forget sunscreen (or bug spray!) and keep hydrated (7-11 has plenty of cheap, cold water and is open 24/7). Also note that Chiang Mai is in Northern Thailand so not near any beaches but there are plenty of pools to visit.
  • Most importantly… have fun!

Ready to experience Chiang Mai, Thailand?! Get started planning your trip below!