Chiang Mai has plenty of wallet-friendly activities to enjoy, with natural features and historical sites that are completely free to access. It's easy to get a lot out of your holiday to this destination without spending much given the sheer volume of free things to do.

    Budget-friendly trips to this city typically consist of a lot of outdoor activities, so adventurers will especially enjoy themselves. There's also lot of history and art to explore, making it a great spot for the budget-conscious traveller. Check out some of the best things to do in Chiang Mai on a small budget.

    1

    Chiang Mai Old City

    Visit the centre of town

    • Budget
    • History

    Chiang Mai Old City is packed full of fun, budget-friendly things to see and do. Given the historical value of this part of town, you'll find several monuments that are free to access, such as the Three Kings Monument.

    Throughout the district, you'll come across quite a few restaurants and shops in addition to historical buildings. If you want to see it all, consider exploring it on a bike. It's an easy and cheap way to get around, and this part of town is particularly bike-friendly. It's located within a square waterway in the centre of the city.

    Location: Thailand

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    2

    Chiang Mai temples

    See the historic temples

    • Budget
    • History

    Chiang Mai's temples are major attractions for travellers from all over the world. Even better, they're free to access. There are more than 300 temples within this city, and most of them are centuries old and remarkably well-maintained.

    When you visit these temples, you'll be met with impressive architecture, vibrant colours and intricate carvings that make the decor truly shine. The ancient Lanna Kingdom seemingly comes to life when you immerse yourself in the atmosphere here. The temples are located all throughout town.

    Location: Thailand

    3

    Namtok Bua Tong (Sticky Waterfalls)

    See a unique kind of waterfall

    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Namtok Bua Tong (Sticky Waterfalls) is one of the more fascinating natural features in town, as it's a waterfall you can climb. Instead of rendering the rocky falls slick, the cascading water here actually interacts with the minerals in a way that makes them have a natural grip.

    The rocks have a consistency much like that of a dried sponge, so you can easily climb up with some pretty basic footwear or even barefoot if you can handle the rough surface. Access is completely free. It's located about an hour north of town.

    Location: Mae Ho Phra, Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai 50150, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +66 93 139 3556

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    4

    Tha Phae Gate

    Find a gate to the past

    • Budget
    • History

    Tha Phae Gate is one of the historic gates of Chiang Mai's Old City, and offers a shining example of how the ancient and modern meld together here. While there were several gates to the old city, this one in particular was most often used by traders, diplomats and monks.

    Today, you'll find a variety of restaurants and cafes near the gate along with a bazaar that's open at night. The gate is entirely free to see as a monument of history connecting the outer city to its historic centre. It's located on the east side of Old City by the old moat.

    Location: Thapae Rd, Chang Khlan Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: 24/7

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    5

    Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre

    Dive into local history

    • Budget
    • History

    The Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre allows you to explore the city's history through a fascinating collection of artefacts and exhibits. In the centre, you'll find a museum packed full of items including an entire recreation of a Lanna village on the upper floor.

    While the permanent collection here is certainly impressive, you'll also find special exhibits held throughout the year, so be sure to check the local calendar before your visit. You'll find this museum included in several different tours, but you can always stretch your budget by visiting the museum on your own. It's located near the centre of Old Town.

    Location: Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm (closed Monday–Tuesday)

    Phone: +66 53 217 793

    Map
    6

    San Kamphaeng Hot Springs

    Relax in warm waters

    • Budget
    • Unusual

    The San Kamphaeng Hot Springs allow you to relax in a natural bath that's surrounded by breathtaking natural features like towering trees and verdant hills. The mineral bath here uses natural warmth to keep the water heated, so it's always available no matter what time of year you visit.

    Keep in mind that the bath is different from the springs themselves. The actual hot spring geysers can shoot water more than 20 metres into the air with the water being around boiling temperatures only to lose heat when it meets the wind. See it about 22 miles east of town.

    Location: Ban Sa Ha Khon, Mae On District, Chiang Mai 50130, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +66 53 037 101

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    7

    Chiang Dao Cave

    Explore underground

    • Budget
    • Adventure
    • Unusual

    Chiang Dao Cave is a massive cave complex where you can explore fascinating geological formations underground that are illuminated and easy to traverse. The entire complex has more than 100 different caves, but you can only check out the 5 main caves as a visitor.

    Fortunately, the 5 open caves offer plenty to enjoy including stalactites and stalagmites. Be wary that some of the caves require you to do some crawling, though you can easily stay in the walkable areas. Additionally, while admittance to the caves is cheap, it's not free. It's located about 47 miles north of town.

    Location: Chiang Dao, Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai 50170, Thailand

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    8

    Huay Tung Tao Reservoir

    Enjoy a beautiful body of water

    • Budget
    • Adventure

    Huay Tung Tao Reservoir is a fun destination for all travellers interested in some outdoor fun on a budget with plenty of free things to do on the water. At this reservoir, you can take in stunning sights surrounded by vibrant nature and a sandy coast.

    The activities here are quite varied. You'll find plenty of activities that cost a bit of money, like paintball, parachute jumping and game zones, but you won't have to pay anything to go for a swim or cast out for a bit of fishing. The boat hires are also relatively cheap here. You'll find it just north of the town centre.

    Location: 283 Chiang Mai 50180, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +66 53 121 119

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    9

    Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

    Try a bustling nighttime marketplace

    The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is an iconic marketplace in the centre of town, where you can bag a bargain after the sun goes down. This bazaar is one of the most famous in all of Thailand, and that's largely because of its one-of-a-kind bargains in addition to its age.

    When you visit this market, you'll find a wide variety of items available whether you're looking for clothes, art, handicrafts, jewellery or just about anything else you can imagine. You'll find it across several blocks on the east side of town in Miang Kham Village.

    Location: Chang Moi Sub-district, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 5 pm to midnight

    Map
    10

    Anusarn Market

    Taste wonders at a food market

    Anusarn Market is a nighttime food market where you'll find a wide variety of local food and ingredients along with restaurants offering ready-made foods. You'll find a vast array of stalls to explore, offering both domestic and international foods to try.

    This is one of the best places to try the signature local dishes of the city, as the vendors here know how to make them better than pretty much anyone else. A lot of the items here are available at bargain prices, so it's fairly easy to stay within your budget. The market is located in Miang Kham Village on the east side of town.

    Location: 149, Anusarn market 14-15 Changklan Rd, Tambon Chang Khlan, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 5 pm to midnight

    Map

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