Chiang Mai, Thailand Review for ESL Teachers


Teaching English as a second language in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai City Review for ESL Teachers

Teaching English in Thailand as a way to travel the far-east has attracted more and more westerners over the years. Some teachers prefer to work in a province near the coast but there are some who choose to jump-start their ESL Teaching career in a more laid-back city like Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai province is located 685 kilometers north of Bangkok. It is the cultural core and capital of the Lanna Kingdom for over seven centuries. This northern capital has an estimated population of 1.8 million with more than half a million registered to be from the urban areas.

Weather in Chiang Mai city is mildly tropical given its elevation and mountainous terrain. It gets cooler from December to February with temperature ranging from 15-25°C. Summer is from March to May when temperature starts to heat up from 30-40°C. Most humid days are from June to October as it rains almost every day although sometimes for very short periods.

Chiang Mai city is best accessible by scooter as highways and “sois” (little streets) are well-maintained. It is the widely used and most convenient form of transportation after cars. Renting a scooter for 3,000-4,000 ThB on a monthly basis is a practical option but some ESL Teachers who plan to live in Chiang Mai longer purchase a second-hand/brand new scooter for 17,000-40,000 ThB instead. “Songthaews” (passenger trucks) are available as a transit alternative if you find two-wheel driving to be a risky option. These passenger trucks go around major city points and other nearby districts for an inexpensive fare ranging from 20-50 ThB. Regardless, it is easy to go around as street names and highway signs are in English.

Coming to and from Chiang Mai city is fairly easy with several options. You can fly in and out from Chiang Mai International Airport or book a classic train ride to and from any point of Thailand via . Since Chiang Mai is bordering two countries, going to Myanmar or Laos can be easily done via bus located at Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station terminals.

Opportunities for ESL Teachers

Learning English has becoming more of a necessity than a privilege in a developing city like Chiang Mai. There are numerous international schools, private schools, and even government schools which offer English programs thus there is a large demand to employ ESL Teachers in Chiang Mai.

Average salary in most private and government schools is normally between 20,000 ThB and 40,000 ThB per month. International schools offer a more premium salary between 40,000ThB and 60,000Thb but it could be higher depending on the teacher’s qualifications and experience. Major universities and a few colleges around the city also provide opportunities but mostly for ESL Teachers with additional mastery on a specific subject/course. Holding a passport from US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand is more advantageous and is given more preference.

One of the fastest and proven ways to score opportunities is through online teaching job portals like and Be reminded though that it is best if you are already in Thailand upon application. Personal submission of credentials to the schools are also being practiced. Hiring agencies like SEE TEFL, International House Bangkok, and NAVA School of English are another popular alternative in Chiang Mai as they provide TEFL teacher training programs leading to a full-time job afterwards.

Language centers in Chiang Mai are not prevalent compared to other South East Asian countries. Established centers include AUA (American University Alumni) Language Center, The British Council, London House of English, Wall Street English, NES Educational Group (New Zealand School of English), ECC Language Institute, King’s College Chiang Mai, I-Genius, and a few other small language/review centers for primary students. These centers mostly offer part-time opportunities to ESL Teachers who want to make extra 200-400ThB per hour on weeknights or weekends.

There is a high demand for English teaching in Chiang Mai but with high-preference towards native speakers. Other non-native but fluent English speakers are given equal opportunities but salaries are expected to be less.

Food and Lifestyle in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai city has one of the most eccentric and cheapest variety of food in Asia. From the street food around Old City to the edgy restaurants in Nimmanhaemin area, ESL Teachers have an abundance of choices for an affordable chow ranging from 50-200 ThB. There are “Farang” (foreigner) priced restaurants serving western food especially in malls that could amount to 300-500 ThB.

Wet and dry markets are scattered around town for cheaper and fresher items. Although it could be quite a challenge buying in local markets if you don’t know how to speak basic Thai. Nevertheless, big groceries like Rimping, Big-C, and Tesco Lotus have huge stock of both local and western supplies.

Nightlife is dynamic in Chiang Mai with different quirky bars. Alcohol can be consumed in a generally fair price of 60-150 ThB per bottle/glass. On an average teacher’s salary, going out for a party once a week won’t hurt especially if it’s spent in a quaint local resto-bar. However, the party caps at midnight as per Thai government ordinance. This also applies to convenience stores selling alcoholic drinks like 711 and Tesco Lotus.

The city has a growing Expat community from a combination of digital nomads and foreigners who live and work here either temporarily or long-term. Connecting with these people in Chiang Mai city is made easy through several Facebook Groups designed for specific interests like events, arts & crafts, sports, food, and buying & selling items, among others.


Living and working in Chiang Mai as a non-native ESL Teacher has its moments of satisfaction and challenges on competing with the natives. The salary may not be as high compared to Vietnam, Japan, or Korea, but if you are after the experience of teaching in a city with a relatively low cost of living, has a vibrant atmosphere, and has a cheerful set of learners, Chiang Mai is certainly a place to settle in.


TEFL Teacher Review Scores

  • ESL lifestyle affordability 85%
  • ESL Job availability 65%
  • ESL community 70%
  • Travel on an ESL budget 80%
  • Overall rating 75%