Where to stay in Chiang Mai for first time: 5 Safe areas

I have traveled to many cities in Thailand, and Chiang Mai is one of my favorite destinations in the northern part of the country. In today’s article, I will help you to find the safest places to stay in Chiang Mai for first-time visitors.

I will share with you what I believe are the best and safest areas to stay in Chiang Mai for first-timers and tourists, along with a helpful map and areas to avoid. I’ll also share where I stayed in Chiang Mai and recommend some of the best hotels for all budgets.

Chiang Mai is a popular destination in northern Thailand that is known for its rich history, culture, and beautiful surroundings. The city has a long and fascinating history, with influences from various cultures, including Lanna Thai, Burmese, and Chinese.

In recent years, Chiang Mai has gained popularity as a hub for digital nomads due to its affordability, pleasant climate, and a growing community of remote workers and entrepreneurs.

Chiang Mai was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom, and its historical and cultural heritage is evident in the city’s architecture, temples, and traditions.

The city is home to numerous temples (Wat in Thai), each with its own unique architectural style and cultural significance. Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Phra That Doi Suthep are among the most famous temples in the city.

The Old City is surrounded by a moat and remnants of ancient walls, reflecting its historical significance. This area has narrow winding streets, traditional shops, and is a hub for activities.

Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is a vibrant and bustling market where you can shop for a variety of goods, including handicrafts, textiles, and local artwork.

The city hosts several festivals throughout the year, with the Yi Peng Lantern Festival being one of the most famous. During this festival, thousands of lanterns are released into the night sky.

It is surrounded by picturesque landscapes, including mountains, waterfalls, and lush green countryside. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, located near the city, offers opportunities for hiking and enjoying nature.

The local cuisine in Chiang Mai is diverse and flavorful. Northern Thai dishes, such as Khao Soi (a coconut curry noodle soup), are popular among locals and visitors alike.

Is Chiang Mai Safe to Visit?

Chiang Mai is generally a safe destination. It has a reputation for being one of the safer destinations in Southeast Asia. But like any popular tourist destination, petty theft can occur, so vigilance is key.

It’s advisable to exercise standard precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings and being aware of surroundings, especially in crowded areas and night markets. You should also familiarize yourself with local customs and cultural norms to avoid unintentional offenses.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai for the first time?

The best and safest areas to stay in Chiang Mai for first-timers and tourists are Old City, Night Bazaar, Riverside, Nimmanhemin, and Santitham. Remember that safety can vary from street to street, and it’s essential to stay vigilant regardless of the area you stay in.

Old City is the overall best area in Chiang Mai for first-time visitors to book their accommodations. It is the historic center of Chiang Mai, surrounded by ancient walls and a moat. It’s packed with temples, markets, and cultural attractions.

The Night Bazaar is a great base for travelers who want a central location with easy access to shopping and nightlife. It is a lively area known for its bustling night market, many restaurants, bars, and street food stalls.

The Riverside area offers a more relaxed atmosphere along the Ping River. There are some upscale hotels and restaurants along the riverbank, providing a serene environment.

Nimmanhaemin Road (Nimman) is known as the trendy and artsy district that is filled with boutique shops, art galleries, and trendy cafes. It’s popular among the younger crowd and has a vibrant nightlife.

Santitham is a great area for the local atmosphere. It is a quieter area compared to its neighbor Nimman.

During my first trip to Chiang Mai, I stayed for 6 nights in Old Town at the mid-range Pingviman Hotel. It was a pleasant stay with comfortable and clean rooms with a spa bath. Breakfast was lovely. Easy walking distance to many attractions. 10 minutes to the airport by taxi/grab.

Below is a map of the popular areas in Chiang Mai for first-time travelers. You can scroll down to view the live map.

Map of the safe areas to stay in Chiang Mai first time
Map of the safe areas to stay in Chiang Mai first time

Let’s get into the details of the recommended areas to stay in Chiang Mai, especially for first-time visitors. I’ll provide you with some suggestions for the best places to stay in each area, catering to every budget. 

All hotels in Chiang Mai have been carefully selected by me, with guest review scores of at least 8.0 or higher at the time I chose them. If you don’t like my suggestions (perhaps they don’t suit your budget or preferences), you can click the “MORE HOTEL DEALS” button where you can choose your own hotel.

5 Safe areas to stay in Chiang Mai for first-timers and tourists

1. Chiang Mai Old City 

The Old City, without a doubt, is the best area in Chiang Mai for first-timers who want to stay in the heart of the city. Staying in the Old City provides easy access to various cultural and historical sites, allowing you to explore the rich heritage of Chiang Mai.

The Old City’s central location makes it a convenient hub for exploring other parts of Chiang Mai. Taxis, tuk-tuks, and red trucks (songthaews) are readily available. 

One of the advantages of staying in the Old City is that many attractions are within walking distance, reducing the need for transportation.

The Old City is enclosed by a square-shaped wall and a moat. There are four main gates: Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai Gate, Suan Dok Gate, and Chiang Mai Gate. These gates have historical significance and add to the charm of the area.

Inside the walls, you’ll find the famous Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Chiang Man. They are the city’s most well-known temples that showcase beautiful architecture and religious artifacts.

This area is also home to numerous museums and cultural centers that offer insight into the history and culture of Chiang Mai and northern Thailand. The Three Kings Monument and the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center are popular attractions.

Tha Phae Road is one of the main streets in the Old City, running from Tha Phae Gate to the Ping River. It’s a bustling area with shops, restaurants, and street vendors. In the evening, the street comes alive with a vibrant night market.

Every Sunday evening, the Old City hosts a famous walking street market along Ratchadamnoen Road. It is a great place to experience local culture, shop for handicrafts, and sample delicious Thai street food.

The Old City has its own share of nightlife, with bars, restaurants, and occasional live music venues.

It’s also close to the Night Bazaar, where you can experience the lively evening market atmosphere.

The area offers a variety of local eateries and street food stalls, allowing you to savor authentic Thai cuisine. There are also plenty of charming cafés where you can relax and enjoy the atmosphere.

You’ll find a range of accommodation options in the Old City, including boutique guesthouses, budget hostels, and more upscale hotels.

While the Old City is generally considered safe for tourists, it’s always a good idea to exercise standard safety precautions. 

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai Old City for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Phra Singh Village, popular 5-star accommodation in the heart of Chiang Mai Old City, great base for sightseeing. It has free bikes, outdoor swimming pool, paid airport shuttle services, and 24h front desk. Easy distance to major sights such as Wat Phra Singh, Chedi Luang Temple and Three Kings Monument.
  • Mid-range ($$): Viangluang Resort, great 4-star accommodation centrally located in the Old Town, in the PhraSing district, close to Sunday night market and Chiang Mai Gate. It has a good breakfast, 24-hour front desk, a swimming pool, and an airport shuttle.
  • Budget ($): Somwang Boutique Hotel, 3-star lovely hotel conveniently located in the historic old town, close to Tha Pae Gate and Night Bazaar. It has Excellent Breakfast, a laundry service, luggage storage and free parking.

2. Chiang Mai Night Bazaar 

The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar area is an excellent choice for those who enjoy shopping, vibrant street life, and easy access to entertainment. It is a central area located between the Ping River and the Old Town.

The Night Bazaar is renowned for its extensive market stalls selling clothing, handicrafts, souvenirs, accessories, and more. It’s a great place to find unique items at reasonable prices.

The area around the Night Bazaar comes alive in the evening with various entertainment options, including street performers, live music, and cultural shows. There are also bars and restaurants where you can enjoy the nightlife.

The Night Bazaar is not just about shopping; it’s also a food lover’s paradise. You’ll find numerous street food stalls offering a variety of local and international cuisines.

In addition to the daily Night Bazaar, there’s also a larger and more extensive version called the Saturday Night Walking Street Market, which takes place on Wualai Road, south of the Old City.

Due to its popularity, the Night Bazaar can get crowded, especially in the peak tourist season. Like any busy area, it’s recommended to be aware of your surroundings and take standard safety precautions.

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai in Night Bazaar for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Chiang Mai Marriott Hotel, 5-star Lanna Thai style hotel located on Chang Klan Road, close to Tha Pae Gate and Warorot Market. The hotel offers Free airport shuttle, free parking, Very Good Breakfast, and an outdoor pool.
  • Mid-range ($$): dusitD2 Chiang Mai,  great 4-star hotel located just off Chang Klan Road, close to the night markets, Chinatown, and halal Hilal street. It boasts a beautiful décor, an outdoor pool and restaurant. Free Wi-Fi and parking are available.
  • Budget ($): Nap in chiangmai, great 3-star accommodation located just a mins away from Night Bazaar. The hotel provides key card entry to rooms, CCTV cameras, and 24-hour security. You will find many travel agencies, massage parlors and restaurants nearby.

3. Chiang Mai Riverside

Chiang Mai Riverside is a charming area along the banks of the Ping River. It is a great area for travelers who want a quieter environment while still within a reasonable distance from the Old City.

The Riverside area offers scenic views of the river and sometimes the surrounding mountains.

Some hotels and restaurants have terraces or balconies where you can enjoy the picturesque setting.

There are many restaurants and cafes along the riverbank, providing an opportunity to dine with a view.

It’s a great place to enjoy a leisurely meal or a drink while taking in the surroundings.

From Riverside, you can arrange boat tours on the Ping River, providing a different perspective of Chiang Mai. Some tours include visits to nearby villages and attractions.

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai Riverside for first-timers:

  • Luxury ($$$): Melia Chiang Mai, great 5-star hotel located between Night Bazaar and the Ping River. It has a kid’s club, outdoor swimming pool, free private parking, and a restaurant. You can enjoy Wonderful Breakfast at this hotel. You can easily get around by walking, using Tuk Tuks, and the GRAB app, which is the local Uber. 
  • Mid-range ($$): Hotel Ping Silhouette, 4-star hotel located in Charoenrat Road, Wat Ket, close to the river, 15 mins walk to the Night Bazaar. A short tuk tuk/ grab ride to Pae Gate and Chiang Mai Bus Station.
  • Budget ($): Rustic River Boutique, great 3-star bed and breakfast, located close to Chang Puak Gate and Chang Puak Market. 

4. Nimmanhaemin Road (Nimman)

Nimmanhaemin, often referred to as Nimman or Nimmanhemin Road, is a trendy and lively area in Chiang Mai. It is known for its modern and trendy atmosphere, with a plethora of stylish cafes, boutiques, art galleries, and co-working spaces.

The area attracts a younger crowd and is popular among expatriates, digital nomads, and those seeking a more contemporary lifestyle. Due to its modern amenities and abundance of co-working spaces, Nimman has become a popular hub for digital nomads and remote workers.

Nimmanhaemin Road is lined with shops offering a variety of goods, from fashion and accessories to home decor.

Nimman has a vibrant nightlife scene with numerous bars, pubs, and clubs catering to different tastes.

The nightlife here tends to be more modern and upscale compared to some other areas in Chiang Mai.

You’ll find art galleries and creative spaces showcasing the work of local artists, adding to the neighborhood’s artistic and cultural appeal.

Nimman is located near Chiang Mai University, contributing to the youthful and dynamic atmosphere of the neighborhood.

While Nimman is not located in the Old City, it’s still easily accessible by various means of transportation, including tuk-tuks and songthaews.

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai in Nimmanhemin for tourists:

  • Luxury ($$$): Art Mai Gallery Nimman Hotel Chiang Mai, 5-star boutique  hotel, situated on Nimmanhemin Road Soi 3, short tuk tuk/ taxi ride from Wat Suan Dok, and Sunday Walking Street on Thapae Road. You can find many shops, restaurants, massages and cafes nearby. One of Chiang Mai’s great cafes is right in front of the hotel.
  • Mid-range ($$): De Chai Oriental Nimman, great 4-star hotel located on Soi 11 Nimmanhaemin Rd, just a steps away from many trendy coffee shops, and art galleries.
  • Budget ($): NORN Nimman13 Boutique Hotel Chiang Mai, popular 3-star accommodation, conveniently located on Nimmanhaeminda Road Lane 13 in Suthep. It has a 24-hour front desk, free parking, and an outdoor pool. 

5. Santitham

Santitham provides a local and residential atmosphere, so staying here can give you a glimpse into the daily life of locals. Accommodations and living expenses in Santitham may be more affordable compared to some of the more tourist-centric areas in Chiang Mai.

Santitham is home to various street food stalls and local eateries where you can try authentic Thai dishes at reasonable prices.

There are local markets in Santitham where you can experience everyday shopping and get a sense of the local culture.

If you prefer a quieter environment away from the tourist hustle, Santitham might be a suitable choice. It’s a more laid-back area with a relaxed pace of life.

Santitham is situated not far from Nimmanhaemin and the Old City, making it relatively easy to access the more vibrant and touristy areas when desired.

While Santitham is primarily residential, there are guesthouses, budget hotels, and apartment options for visitors looking to stay in the area.

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai in Santitham for travelers:

  • Mid-range ($$): Seven Senses Guesthouse, great  boutique hotel located within walking distance from the Old Town, Central Kad Suan Keaw Shopping Center. It is also a short taxi/ grab ride from Chiang Mai International Airport and Night Bazaar. The hotel can help organize day trips at their tour desk. 
  • Budget ($): Ban Kong Rao Guesthouse, 2-star cozy accommodation, featuring comfortable family rooms, easy access to sights, shops, seven-eleven store, and restaurants.
  • Budget ($): Saeng Panya Home, 3-star guest house located 15 mins walk from Chang Puak Gate and market. It has free private parking, full-day security, and luggage storage.

In conclusion, Chiang Mai Old City, Night Bazaar, Riverside, Nimmanhemin, and Santitham are the best places to stay in Chiang Mai for first-timers and tourists. These are generally safe areas but it’s wise to take common-sense precautions like taking care of your belongings no matter where you stay.

You can continue reading about other destinations in Thailand in these articles:

There you have it, my recommendations for the most popular and safest neighborhoods that you can stay during your first trip to Chiang Mai. I hope you enjoyed my article and find it both informative and helpful.

If you have any questions or would like to share your thoughts, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. Your feedback is invaluable and helps me continue to create more quality content.

About Author: Ocean Cameron

I'm Ocean, founder and main editor of travelhotelexpert.com. I’m a passionate traveler who specializes in uncovering the best hotels and locations in every city, especially for first-timers, all without the need for a car.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. This means that, at absolutely no additional cost to you, I'll earn a small commission if you click through and purchase something I've recommended. I only recommend products that I use myself or firmly believe in. Thank you!

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