When arriving in Chiang Mai the amount of tours the travel agencies offer can be overwhelming. There are plenty of tours to elephant sanctuaries, ziplining, cooking classes, etc. In case you just want to explore the city and its culture here are some recommendations which are free or super cheap.
The best way to see Chiang Mai is just to explore it by foot. It helps if you book an accommodation close to the old town and market area. Most of the popular temples are within the old town or just outside. All except two offer free entrance and the other charge about 1 USD entrance fee. You will also find amazing street food or nice restaurants by walking around, no need to book a culinary tour.
Market and Night Bazar
Chiang Mai is also really good for shopping. At the Warorot Market you can find almost anything you need. Whatever you don’t find there surely the Night Bazar will have what you are looking for. Unless you buy anything both are cheap and fun to walk around. Also at the Night Bazar, bands play in the evening and if you feel like it you can have a bite to eat and/or a drink, but you should know it’s a bit more expensive than regular street food.
Technically not entirely free, but included in the 1 USD entrance fee to the Wat Chedi Luang. Optionally you can make a donation. There are two groups of monks that offer free chats to practice their English. This is also a good chance to ask them questions about Buddhism and learn about their lifestyles.
The MCU Buddhist University offers a free, one-day meditation course every Friday from 8am to 5pm. The only requirement is that you wear a white shirt and long white pants. You can also purchase these directly at the meditation center. Donation is optional.
There are always promotions for Thai Boxing events. These normally take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 9pm to 12am. Normal tickets are 400 Baht, VIP tickets 600 Baht. If you are interested in this traditional sport, but don’t want to pay that amount of money you can watch a training for free. We found a Thai boxing center that lets you watch a practice every day from 4pm to 6pm at Sing Prasert on the main street south of Oldtown.