Living on $0 a day in Chiang Mai

Nicholas Barang
5 min readDec 12, 2016


Life is better in Chiang Mai.

I lived in London for nearly 30 years and it was hard to make ends meet. However, by the time I’d moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand a year ago, I’d become cannier than a can full of foxes and quickly managed to master how to live on $0 a day.

$0 a day? 100%. This includes amazing food, a place to stay, keeping warm, transport and more. You just need to learn yourself how to hustle, like I do.

1 — Booking Your Flight

I saw somebody who recommended flying to Thailand the other day but flying costs money. It’s better to swim. It’s healthier. You can learn to speak shark. You’ll end up looking like a tanned dynamo and most importantly, swimming is free.

Why waste several hundred dollars on a plane ticket, when you could be here for nothing by just flapping your arms and legs around a bit in the water? Losers book flights. Winners make like a seal. Seals are cool too. If you tell people you act like a seal — they’ll assume you save hostages in embassies and possibly even buy you a few drinks. Free drinks is also a “kerching!” moment for the frugal nomad.

2 — Sleeping in a Hotel

You can’t sleep in a hotel when you’ve got no money. You might be able to sleep in a car park of a hotel but that’s no fun.

The best way to get free room and board for the night is actually to loiter in residential areas and look for housebound people. Knock on their door and just let yourself in. It’s not like an agoraphobic is going to go running to the police is it? Gently move their emergency alarms and smartphones out of reach and then curl up in their bed for the night.

Thai people really love it when you break into their homes anyway. Seriously, as long as you’re respectful — they absolutely love it. It’s the only commodity you have to spend in Thailand but just keep slapping that respect down and you could probably eventually have enough credit in the bank to murder a farang hobo without being prosecuted for it.

3 — Getting Around Town

Chiang Mai is seriously flat and Thai people are seriously cool. If you want to travel around the city for free — the way to do it is this. Get in one of those little red vans, tell the driver where you want to go and when you come up to an intersection nearby and the driver has to wait until the lights change and then just quietly nip out of the back and run away.

It’s important to remember to do this respectfully. So please don’t blow raspberries or show your middle finger before you run away. Just be quiet and leg it. The driver will then have a fine story to tell his children (and obviously it will need to be because that’s all his children will have to eat after you don’t pay the fare) and you will have gotten to your destination in exchange for a quick healthy sprint. As I’ve already said; respect is the only currency you need in Thailand.

4 — Drinking — Recycle Your Own Urine

Some idiots drink filtered water from a machine. That’s because they failed to follow the pretend to be a seal rule in the first step of this process. When you pretend to be a seal, people buy you drinks. Those drinks have alcohol in them. Alcohol makes things sterile. So when you’re not getting free drinks, you can drink your own urine.

It’s best not to drink straight from the tap in this instance. You can use your shoe as a cup, so that you don’t have to waste money on drinking utensils.

5 — Where to Eat

I find sometimes my seal stories will persuade people to buy me food but other times I have to rely on my own ingenuity for this. The best place to eat tasty, authentic and free Thai food is 7–11.

Just stroll in and help yourself to food. Then walk out, leaving a healthy dollop of respect on the counter. A cheery “sawatdee kraap” on the way in and a “khap khun kraap” on the way out should do.

If that doesn’t work — you can always go dumpster diving in the market. The food there is the most authentic in Thailand; just head down after the market has closed. Don’t forget to wipe that authentic Thai mould from the bread either.

If you want to eat that food somewhere nicer than the market; just walk into any Thai restaurant and drink that urine from your shoe (respectfully of course) and nobody will say a word when you sit down and eat your leftovers without buying anything.

6 — Getting a SIM Card

If you’re still reading this and thinking about going through with this lifestyle; you probably don’t have any friends but just in case… here’s a dope tip for keeping in contact with people back home.

Just walk up to random Thai people, respect them and then borrow their smartphone. Thai people will be so pleased with that respect that they’ll encourage you to phone America for hours on end.

If you don’t care about calls but you do need data — a great way to pay respect to local cafes and restaurants is to visit them and look for the password details on the menu. Once you have those, you can safely leave without wasting any money on food and drink. Just stand outside and respect their Wi-Fi connection with your phone.

7 — Things To Do

There are many things you can do in Chiang Mai for free. For example, you could go to a mall and by keeping a careful eye on the exits in the cinema — you can often watch a movie for free. Just be sure to be respectful before seeing how much popcorn people leave behind.

I also like to make sure people’s swimming pools are given a thorough workout when they’re at work. If you swim in your clothes — you can cut your laundry bills down to zero.

8- Save Money on Prostitutes

You probably know that one of the ugly sides of Thai life involves prostitution and many people are tempted to spend their hard earned money on having sex.

If you follow all my tips on living on $0 a day, all that respect will pay off big time. The Thai police will arrange for you to have a free room, board, and as much water as you can drink. They will also make it near certain that you will get free rough sex in the showers. So don’t pay for prostitutes, just live on $0 a day. It might take a little longer, but you’ll be getting laid before you know it.

P.S. Don’t get your knickers in a twist; this is a little play on this…



Nicholas Barang

Writes for a living, writes on Medium for giggles. Mocking the emerging cult of digital nomad lifestyles and offering an alternative. No sacred cows.