|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 778–7,379 1h 10m – 1h 20m|
|Bus Bangkok - Chiang Mai 9h 30m – 13h|
|Train Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 883–1,862 10h 17m – 14h 20m|
|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.
Discovering Northern Thailand: How to Reach Its Most Beautiful Destinations
Nestled in a basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, Chiang Mai is a city full of charm and rich history as it was once the capital of the Lanna kingdom. The city is adorned with beautiful ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are nestled in the mountains and hills, providing a serene escape. Colorful markets showcase a plethora of OTOP products and the Northern Thai cuisine is filled with delicious flavors, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are friendly and welcoming, offering endless opportunities to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has something for everyone, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to cozy coffee shops, expansive shopping malls, and a unique nightlife scene for party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
Tips for Traveling to Chiang Mai: Getting There and Getting Around
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is a breeze, thanks to the numerous buses connecting the northern capital with major provincial centers of the country. If you’re coming from Bangkok, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai takes 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. Alternatively, you can take the northern line of the state railway of Thailand, a 751km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your choice of transportation, the entire journey can take anywhere between 9 and 14 hours.back to menu ↑
How to Navigate Your Bus Trip 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 convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for the long journey. Chiang Mai-bound buses depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with several companies (such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more) serving the route and offering 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. Bus prices vary depending on the level of comfort, but even the cheapest options (from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the whole journey. For added comfort, consider opting for VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB), which provide more space for your legs and elbows.
It’s worth noting that the Mochit Bus Terminal is enormous, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers navigate their way. Upon arrival, staff will greet you at the entrance and direct you to the correct platform, making the process easy and stress-free.back to menu ↑
How to Navigate Your Train Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience, but tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s best to book well in advance. The journey takes about 12 hours, which is longer than the bus journey, but it is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, with both fan and AC options available for the second-class sleepers. For a more luxurious experience, consider the first-class single sleeper, which offers more privacy but costs over 2000 THB per person. There are also second-class fan seats available for about 600-650 THB, but it’s recommended to choose a fan sleeper for an additional 100 THB or opt for AC for an additional 200 THB.
The train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai offers stunning views of mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, making a daytime journey a viable option for travelers who want to enjoy the scenery.
Note that food vendors frequently patrol the train carriages, so snacks and refreshments are readily available, but selling alcoholic beverages is illegal on the train.back to menu ↑
The Pros and Cons of Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi
Travelers can leave for Chiang Mai directly from their hotel at any time of the day by taking a private taxi. This option is particularly useful for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter costs THB 13,200 and takes approximately 9 hours to travel between the two cities. The roads are generally smooth, and there are gas stations with clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Furthermore, the scenery is beautiful and adds to the overall experience.back to menu ↑
The Pros and Cons of Taking a Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Considering the fact that multiple low-cost carriers offer tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as low as THB1000 and can get you to your destination in just 1.5 hours, flying between the two cities may be a more appealing option than spending an entire night traveling overland.
Thai Lion Air, a partner airline of Lion Air based in Indonesia, operates up to 10 round-trip flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Prices for airfare start at THB1000 and vary depending on the date and time of day you wish to travel. The busiest periods tend to sell out well in advance, but there are usually deals available for under THB2000 even a few days prior to your desired travel date. The ticket price already includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of carry-on luggage. The first flight departs from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport at 8:55 am and the last one at 9:50 pm, with eight other options available in between.
Lion Air’s Bangkok base is located at Don Mueang International Airport, which is situated to the north of the capital. You can reach the airport by using airport shuttle buses that operate two routes: A1 and A2. Route A1 starts from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 originates at Victory Monument and stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (fare is THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by the A1 route. The duration of the journey can vary depending on traffic, but it typically takes between 60 to 80 minutes. Additionally, there are commuter trains available between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport. These trains are a reliable option and take approximately 50 minutes to travel between the railway station and the airport. The operating hours for the train service are from 4:20 am to 10:25 pm
Chiang Mai International Airport is a major gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the busiest airports in the country, offering daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. The airport is located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a convenient option that won’t cost you much time or money to reach your hotel.
While many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, it’s important to arrange this in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the city center. Although the cost of the ride may seem a bit high considering the distance, it’s still relatively inexpensive at around THB150.
A helpful tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers service to some of the most amazing destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for navigating the winding roads from Chiang Mai to these towns, it’s worth considering flying instead.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions are located within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are a convenient mode of transportation and can be rented from almost every guesthouse. However, before embarking on your exploration, make sure to check the brakes, as the condition of the city fleet may leave something to be desired. The cost of renting a bike with a fixed gear ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent option for those seeking more freedom to explore. Rental shops are abundant throughout the city, and be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. However, when riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, inexperienced riders should exercise extra caution due to the winding road and breathtaking views.
Songthaews are big trucks with benches in the back that are ideal for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20 to THB40 per ride). The red and white ones are recommended for trips within the city, while the yellow ones will take you to neighboring Northern provinces. Songthaews are typically the cheapest way to get around, but it may require a bit of negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews, and their prices, noise, pollution, and safety record do not make them a practical option for every ride. Consider chartering one for a unique experience.
Taxis are available everywhere in the city, but unlike the meter taxis in Bangkok, none of them use meters. Be sure to negotiate the fare before beginning 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 ↑
Must-try foods on a road trip to Chiang Mai
If you’re traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two routes you can take from Bangkok. The quicker and shorter route is to drive to Nakhon Sawan and turn left before entering the city onto highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make sure to stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, we recommend skipping the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai, as there are better places to interact with these majestic animals. The total distance of this route is approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by big forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan, take the highway to Phitsanulok (117), and continue on highway 11 to Lampang and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two alternatives. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you’ll pass through the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ a picturesque area with relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can visit Khao Koh, a mountain with a spot where your car will slowly roll uphill when in neutral gear. If you turn left, you can visit the city of Sukhothai and its well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins by renting a bicycle at the park entrance.
If you decide to take a bus or train, expect travel times of around 10 and 14 hours, respectively. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of one night’s hotel stay. Many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, but we recommend driving there for a scenic trip and taking a plane back, especially if you’re heading down south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s hidden gems: Off-the-beaten-path destinations to explore
Chiang Mai is a city with countless attractions, and even if you stay for several months, you won’t be able to see them all. In this guide, we’ll highlight some lesser-known things to do in addition to the popular tourist activities. But first, let’s start with the must-do activities recommended by locals. It’s said that you must try three things in Chiang Mai: Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with a variety of ingredients, visit Boo Sang to see the colorful handmade umbrellas, and visit Wat Doi Suthep, a temple located on a mountain.
Wat Doi Suthep is less crowded on weekdays and offers stunning views of the golden chedi on sunny days. If you take one of the red songtaew taxis, be aware that the fare for the trip down the mountain is higher than the trip up.
Khao Soi is a noodle dish with thin yellow curry, similar to the Massaman style, and is a popular soup-like specialty. It’s mixed with crispy and boiled egg noodles and typically served with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage. Those who can’t handle spicy food should avoid the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is often used to balance the spiciness. Khao Soi can be ordered with chicken, beef, or even a vegetarian option.
Boo Sang is a village near San Pathong where they have been making paper umbrellas and parasols for over 200 years. You can witness the interesting production process at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. The Sa paper is made from mulberry tree bark and they also paint beautiful designs on mobile phone covers, clothes, bags, t-shirts, and shorts. If you have something you want to make unique, bring it along instead of buying something there. The village of Baan Tawai near Hang Dong is similar to Boo Sang with loads of souvenirs and wooden furniture, but we prefer Boo Sang for its charm and character.
The Wororot Market, styled after Chinese markets, is located near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, there’s a big street market inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight, while Saturdays offer the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling a variety of goods, but be prepared to negotiate prices. Don’t expect original Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans.
Many shops sell similar items, so shop around and compare prices. The Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae Road on the right side of the night bazaar street usually has the best exchange rates in town. If you reach the end of the night bazaar, cross the junction at Phantip Plaza and continue for another 300 meters. Behind the large hotel on the left side, you will 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 capture some fun and unique pictures.
If you’re an animal lover looking to make a positive impact, consider visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. Although the park can be pricey, it’s worth it to see the elephants happy and free from hooks, chains, or fences. You may even have the opportunity to swim in the river with them and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips or longer-term volunteer opportunities.
For a lesser-known swimming spot, check out the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai, a hidden gem with clear, clean water. It’s typically less crowded during weekdays when the sun is shining. But be careful and avoid jumping from the walls into the water. There’s a new coffee shop at the entrance to enjoy.
If you’re able to drive a scooter or rent a car, consider taking the CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM loop. This roughly three-hour trip offers breathtaking viewpoints, a hidden cave to explore, and strawberry fields in Samoeng. Along the way, there are plenty of activities to enjoy, including bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karting, paintball, and parks and restaurants near Mae Rim. You can also head up the mountain to explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own, but remember to always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and avoid drinking and driving.back to menu ↑
Cooking classes in Chiang Mai: Learn the art of Thai cooking
Chiang Mai is a foodie’s paradise with an abundance of restaurants and eateries to choose from. Here are some of our top picks for delicious and unique dining experiences:
Taste from Heaven is a must-visit for vegetarians and vegans. This restaurant inside the old city offers fantastic cooking classes and delectable meat-free dishes.
The Dukes is a popular spot for huge portions of mouth-watering pizza and spare ribs. There are two branches – one on the other side of the river and the other at the night bazaar road.
For the most beautiful food presentation, head to Mix Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1.
Start your day with the best breakfast in town at Smoothie Blues. This small shop located at the corner of Soi 6 serves up delicious smoothie bowls and other breakfast dishes.
For a unique twist on Japanese food, check out Sumo Sushi in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13. A few meters away is the beer factory with a huge selection of imported beers and a bit further down the street to Soi 9 is a Japanese Yakiniku Grill.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is worth the trip outside the city for its delicious food and occasional live music. Plus, the owner can give you insider tips on Muay Thai boxing.
For a stunning dining experience, visit Khao-Mao Khao-Fang on Road 3044. This former ‘Rainforest Restaurant’ offers breathtaking views of the lake and waterfall, and a range of mouth-watering dishes.
Finding Inner Peace in Chiang Mai’s Temples
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai, in addition to Wat Doi Suthep which is situated on the mountain. Within the old city, you can find Wat Phra Sing, while near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong which boasts caves and a vast fish pond. Another beautiful temple is Wat Doi Kham located near the night safari, which is often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the city from this temple.back to menu ↑
The Ultimate Guide to Shopping in Chiang Mai: Where to Go and What to Buy
Central Festival, a vast new shopping complex situated on the superhighway, is a notable landmark. In contrast, Robinson Airport Plaza is also pleasant and easily accessible. However, Maya tends to be overcrowded with pupils from the adjacent university.
If you intend to stay longer in the city, it’s better to rent a place instead of staying in hotels or guesthouses. You can find air-conditioned studios for about 100 Euros per month, but condos located inside the city or Nimman Hemmin district are significantly more expensive. Renting a house in one of the gated communities that usually provide security, pool, gym, and clubhouse, is a more economical choice as houses are cheaper to rent than apartments.
Note that the Zoo and Night Safari are imposing double entrance fees on tourists, and it’s not recommended to support such practices. Hence, it’s better to avoid such places.
Most of the city is mapped on Google Streetview, enabling you to explore some areas from your PC.
If you have the time, you might also consider visiting Chiang Rai, a city that has two exquisite temples – the white temple, Wat Rong Khun, and the black house, Baan Dam. Both are worth visiting, but it takes a four-hour car ride to reach there. If you plan to stay overnight in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel offers a fantastic Sunday brunch.