|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 1,215–11,520 1h 15m – 21h|
|Bus Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 627–1,256 8h 55m – 12h 40m|
|Taxi Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 8,095–17,490 8h – 11h|
|Train Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 278–1,133 10h 10m – 13h 33m|
|Flight Don Mueang Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 649–1,470 1h 5m – 1h 25m|
Bangkok and Chiang Mai are two popular cities in Thailand, each with their own unique cultural features and numerous tourist attractions. Traveling between the two cities is also very convenient, with many transportation options available for tourists. In this article, we will explore the various options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to modern and convenient methods.
How to get to Northern Thailand
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is a city of endless charm, nestled in a basin of woodlands and mountains in northern Thailand. The city is adorned with stunning ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries can be found hidden in the mountains and hills, while colorful markets burst with OTOP products and Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are countless opportunities to have unforgettable experiences, whether you’re on a short two-day visit or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers a lot to take in, including temples, museums, galleries, waterfalls, quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene for party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling to Chiang Mai
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is both easy and convenient, with numerous buses linking the northern capital to major provincial centers across the country. If traveling from the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai will take you as far as Lampang, where you can switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which will take you all the way to your destination. Additionally, the northern line of Thailand’s state railway stretches 751km long, from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai, with the journey taking anywhere between 9 to 14 hours, depending on the mode of transport you choose.back to menu ↑
The Pros and Cons of Taking the Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for the long journey. Chiang Mai-bound buses depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies such as Bangkok Busline and Siam FirstNew Viriya providing departures throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8 pm and arrive early in the morning the next day.
However, during peak seasons such as Thai festivals like Songkran in April or Khao/Ok Phansa in July/October, it is advisable to book in advance. The bus prices vary depending on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches being the most comfortable option, offering 24 seats and ample space for both your legs and elbows, starting at 800 THB. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (starting at 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the journey. Mochit Bus Terminal may seem enormous, but there is plenty of staff to assist passengers in finding their way. You will be greeted at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a simple, cost-effective, and comfortable option for the long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), and there are many companies, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more, that offer departures throughout the day, giving you plenty of options. Most buses leave after 8 pm and arrive early in the morning the next day. During peak seasons, such as Thai festivals like Songkran in April or Khao/Ok Phansa in July/October, it’s advisable to book in advance. The prices vary depending on the level of comfort of the bus, with VIP coaches with 24 seats being the most expensive (starting from 800 THB) but ensuring enough space for both your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (starting from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the journey.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that Mochit Bus Terminal is quite large, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be greeted at the entrance and directed to the right platform, making your journey hassle-free.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train: A Complete Guide
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience. Tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s important to book well in advance. The journey takes approximately twelve hours, which is slightly longer than the bus journey, but is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well equipped for comfort, with seats that fold out into bunk beds. If you’re claustrophobic, it’s best to avoid the top bunk. There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so be sure to check when booking. For a luxurious experience, the 1st class single sleeper is available, which costs over 2000 THB per person but provides complete privacy.
There are also 2nd class fan seats available for around 600-650 THB, but they should only be considered as a last resort. For an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for an additional 200 THB, you can travel with AC.
Traveling by day is also an option, as the route is filled with beauty, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that often seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are readily available, but it’s illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi: A Complete Guide
Traveling from your hotel directly to Chiang Mai is a convenient option, especially for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter is available for THB 13,200 and takes about 9 hours to travel between the two cities. The roads are generally smooth, with gas stations featuring clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is breathtaking, making for a pleasant journey.back to menu ↑
How to Plan Your Flight Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Considering that several low-cost carriers offer tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as little as THB1000 and transport you to your destination in just 1½ hours, it might be worthwhile to fly between the two cities instead of spending the entire night traveling overland.
Thai Lion Air, an affiliate of Lion Air headquartered in Indonesia, operates up to 10 round-trip flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Depending on the date and time of your travel, airfare starts from THB1000 and can go up. The busiest periods usually sell out well in advance, but even a few days before your intended travel date, there are deals available for under THB2000. The ticket price includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of carry-on luggage. Flights depart from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport as early as 8:55 am and as late as 9:50 pm, with eight other departure times in between.
Lion Air’s base in Bangkok is located at Don Mueang International Airport, which is situated to the north of the city center. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. A1 departs from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 begins its route at the Victory Monument, stopping at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations before arriving at the airport (fare is THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by the A1 route. The travel time can vary depending on traffic and usually takes between 60 to 80 minutes. Commuter trains also operate between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, and this is generally a reliable option. The train journey takes approximately 50 minutes, and trains run from 4:20 am until 10:25 pm.
Chiang Mai International Airport is a significant gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the country’s busiest airports, with daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and more. The airport is conveniently located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a reasonable option as it won’t take much time or money to reach your hotel from the airport.
It’s worth noting that many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but you’ll need to book this service in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, a songthaew, or a tuk-tuk to get to the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit steep considering the short distance, but in absolute figures, it’s still quite affordable (around THB150).
Tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also used as a hub by Kan Air, a domestic airline that serves some of the most stunning destinations in Northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. It’s worth considering flying to these towns, especially if you’re not comfortable with the winding roads from Chiang Mai to Pai or from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions are located within the Old City walls. Bicycles are a popular way to get around and can be rented from almost any guesthouse for THB50 to THB100 per day. However, it’s important to check the bike’s brakes before setting off, as the quality can vary.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is another great option to explore the city and the surrounding areas. There are many shops that rent out these vehicles, but be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. However, inexperienced riders should take extra caution while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, due to the winding road and breathtaking views.
Songtaews, large trucks with benches in the back, are a cheap way to get around the city for THB20-40 per ride. The red and white ones are ideal for trips within the city, while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring northern provinces. Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews and not always the most reliable option due to noise, pollution, safety concerns, and higher prices. If you decide to use a tuk-tuk, negotiate the price beforehand.
Taxis are widely available in Chiang Mai, but they don’t use meters like those in Bangkok. Negotiate the price before starting the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
In recent years, accommodation prices in Chiang Mai have increased, making it nearly impossible to find a decent option for THB300. A budget room in a guesthouse within the walls now costs around THB1000, which is a more realistic figure. Staying within the walls of the Old City offers the convenience of being close to many attractions, but there are other excellent options available as well.
For example, you can find pleasant budget accommodations just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its plethora of bars and restaurants, is easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. Accommodations outside the city are perfect for those seeking a relaxed countryside atmosphere and are a great choice if you have your own transportation.back to menu ↑
While in Chiang Mai, it’s a great idea to mix things up and try something different. You’ll undoubtedly visit plenty of temples and do some hiking or trekking, and you may even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, you can add some excitement to your stay by enrolling in a massage class and learning the basics of Thai massage, volunteering at an elephant camp (start by asking at Elephant Nature Park), watching the production of the bright and colorful Chiang Mai parasols, and strolling along Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evenings, when it becomes the epicenter of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its colorful festivals. If possible, try to schedule your visit to coincide with some of these events. The Flower Festival is held during the first weekend of February, transforming the city into a blooming garden. Songkran, which falls on April 12-14, is a wet and wild event, with revelers drenching each other (and unsuspecting passersby) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, and thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night sky, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
Hidden gems to discover on a Chiang Mai road trip
For those traveling by car, there are two routes to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The shorter and faster route is to head towards Nakhon Sawan, then turn left before entering the city onto Highway 1. This route will take you through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make a stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. It’s advisable to avoid elephant parks between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding on the elephants, as there are better options for interacting with these magnificent animals. The total distance covered is approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by dense forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take Highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on Highway 11 to reach Lampang, and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, there are two more alternatives. Turn right towards Phetchaboon to visit the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ a beautiful area with relaxing resorts. Or turn left to visit the city of Sukhothai and its historical park, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you prefer to take the bus or train, the journey will take approximately 10 or 14 hours, respectively. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of one night’s accommodation. There are several airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, but you would miss out on a beautiful road trip. We recommend taking the plane back, especially if you’re heading down south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s surrounding countryside
Chiang Mai is a city with countless attractions that will keep you busy for months. While your guidebook will point you towards popular tourist spots, we want to highlight some hidden gems that are worth exploring. But before we delve into those, there are three things you absolutely must do in Chiang Mai: try Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with various ingredients; visit Boo Sang, where vibrant paper umbrellas are handcrafted; and make your way to Wat Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain. Visit on a weekday for fewer crowds and stunning photos of the golden chedi. If you take a red songtaew taxi, keep in mind that the fare down the mountain is higher than the ascent.
Khao Soi is a soup-like specialty made with thin, yellow curry and rice noodles, similar to Massaman style. It is typically served with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, along with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. Skip the oil-fried ground chilies if you can’t handle the extreme spiciness, and enjoy the dish with chicken, beef, or the vegetarian version. Coconut milk is added to soften the flavor and reduce spiciness.
Boo Sang is a charming village near San Pathong that has been producing paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. Witness the fascinating process of how they make Sa paper from the bark of the mulberry tree at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. You can also get your mobile phone cover or clothes painted with beautiful motifs. If you have your own bag, t-shirt or shorts, bring them along to make them unique. Baan Tawai, located near Hang Dong, is another village that sells souvenirs and wooden furniture, but we prefer Boo Sang for its charm and atmosphere.
Wororot Market, styled in the Chinese tradition, is located near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, there is a large street market inside the old city that operates from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) on Wualai Road is a popular destination. The night bazaar is open every day from the early afternoon until nightfall. You can find a variety of items there, but be prepared to negotiate prices.
Don’t expect to find authentic Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. As many shops sell similar items, you can ask for a price and then move on to the next shop. If you’re looking for the best exchange rates in town, visit the Chinese Money Changer shop located about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street. If you reach the end of the night bazaar, cross the junction at Phantip Plaza and continue for another 300 meters. Behind the big hotel on the left side, you’ll find the 3D street art museum ‘Art in Paradise.’ Bring your camera and step into the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls and ceiling to take some fantastic and amusing pictures.
If you’re an animal lover and want to make a positive impact, visit Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. While the park can be pricey, you’ll witness elephants without hooks, chains, or fences. They’re free to run away, but choose to stay. In the afternoon, take a swim with the elephants in the river and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips or volunteer opportunities. It’s an unforgettable experience. Further down the same road, you’ll find shops offering white-water and bamboo rafting. While bamboo rafting is peaceful, white-water rafting is more thrilling. Keep in mind that the water isn’t that white unless there’s been heavy rain in the mountains.
For a hidden gem, head to the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai. Clear, clean water and few visitors during the weekdays make for an enjoyable swim. However, be cautious of jumping from the walls into the water. A coffee shop has recently opened at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, consider the CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM loop. With almost no traffic on weekdays, you’ll pass stunning viewpoints and discover hidden caves. There’s a great coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng and strawberry fields in Samoeng. Mae Rim offers a range of activities, including bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, paint-ball, parks, and restaurants. With a scooter or car, you can explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and don’t drink and drive.back to menu ↑
Traditional desserts in Chiang Mai: A sweet experience
Chiang Mai is home to countless restaurants and pubs, so we’ve curated a list of some of our favorite spots worth checking out.
For an exceptional vegetarian experience, head to Taste from Heaven located within the Old City. They offer great cooking classes too!
If you’re in the mood for pizza and ribs, The Dukes is the perfect spot, serving the biggest pizza in town. It’s located on the other side of the river between Narawat bridge and the old iron bridge, with another branch at the night bazaar road.
The Mix Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 serves up some of the most beautifully presented dishes you’ll ever see.
For a delicious breakfast, Smoothie Blues on the corner of Soi 6 is a must-visit spot, but be careful not to get addicted to their mango smoothie.
Japanese food Thai-style can be found at Sumo Sushi on the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, while just a few meters away, the beer factory boasts an extensive selection of imported beers. For a unique dining experience, try the Japanese Yakiniku Grill on Soi 9, where you prepare your own food on the built-in table grill.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a bit outside of the city but definitely worth the trip, with delicious food and occasional live music. The owner of the restaurant is also knowledgeable about Muay Thai boxing.
For a unique and beautiful dining experience, check out the Khao-Mao Khao-Fang restaurant on Road 3044. Be sure to request a seat near the lake to enjoy the serene ambiance.back to menu ↑
A Guide to the Must-See Temples in Chiang Mai
In addition to Wat Doi Suthep located on the mountain, Chiang Mai boasts numerous other temples worth visiting. Within the old city, Wat Phra Sing is a notable temple, while Wat U-Mong, situated near Chiang Mai University, features fascinating caves and a large fish pond. Another hidden gem is Wat Doi Kham, which is located near the night safari and often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors to Wat Doi Kham can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city.back to menu ↑
Eco-Friendly Shopping in Chiang Mai: Sustainable Souvenirs and Gifts
On the superhighway, you’ll find the massive Central Festival shopping mall, while Robinson Airport Plaza is another good option that’s more accessible. Maya is usually teeming with university students.
For a longer stay in the city, it’s advisable to rent a place instead of a hotel or guesthouse. Air-conditioned studios can be rented for around 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in a housing estate with amenities like security, pool, gym, and clubhouse is a better option since they’re cheaper than apartments.
Be aware that the Zoo and Night Safari are charging double entrance fees to tourists, and it’s recommended not to support such behavior by avoiding such places.
Most of the city is mapped on Google Streetview, so you can explore some areas beforehand.
If you have time, consider visiting Chiang Rai, which is about 4 hours away by car. Chiang Rai boasts two exquisite temples, Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) and Baan Dam (the Black House), both worth visiting. If you stay overnight, the Le Meridien Hotel in CR has a fantastic Sunday brunch.