|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 famous cities in Thailand, with many attractive tourist destinations and unique cultural features of each locality. Getting from one city to the other is also very convenient, with many transportation options available for travelers. In this article, we will explore the various options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to the most advanced and convenient modes.
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling to Northern Thailand
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is nestled in a northern basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, exuding an infinite charm that is hard to resist. The city is adorned with stunning ancient wats and chedis that date back to the 13th century, while forest monasteries are hidden in the mountains and hills. There are vibrant and colorful markets selling OTOP products, and the Northern Thai cuisine is bursting with unforgettable flavors, especially the renowned khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are endless choices to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers plenty to explore, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene that caters to party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
How to Get Around Chiang Mai: Transportation Options and Tips
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 convenient, affordable, and comfortable option to sustain you through the long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies such as Bangkok Busline and Siam FirstNew Viriya serving the route and offering departures throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8pm 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 wise to book in advance.
Prices vary depending on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches offering 24 seats (from 800 THB) providing enough space for your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the whole journey. At the enormous Mochit Bus Terminal, there is a lot of staff available to help passengers find their way, and you will be directed to the right platform upon arrival.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train: How to Book Your Ticket
Traveling by overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a classic Thailand experience that should not be missed. However, tickets for lower berths sell out quickly, so it’s advisable to book well in advance. The journey takes roughly 12 hours, which is longer than the bus journey, but significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped for comfort, with seats that fold out into bunk beds. There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so make sure to check when booking. For a more luxurious experience, opt for the 1st class single sleeper, which costs over 2000 THB per person but offers complete privacy. There are also 2nd class fan seats (about 600-650 THB), but these are only recommended if no other options are available, as for an additional 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for an additional 200 THB, you can travel with AC.
You may also choose to travel by day, as the route is filled with breathtaking scenery, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that often seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the windows of the moving train.
Tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are never in short supply. However, it’s important to note that it’s illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
Why Taking a Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai Can be a Great Option
You can leave for Chiang Mai directly from your hotel at any time of the day, making it a convenient option 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, with gas stations featuring clean restrooms and convenience stores along the way. Moreover, the scenery is breathtaking, making the journey a pleasant one.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flights: Transportation Options and Tips
If you want to avoid spending the entire night traveling overland, it might be worth considering flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Several low-cost carriers offer tickets for as low as THB1000, and the flight takes only 1.5 hours to reach your destination.
Thai Lion Air, which is affiliated with Lion Air based in Indonesia, offers up to 10 round-trip flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai daily. Prices for airfare start at THB1000 and vary based on the date and time of day you choose to fly. The busiest periods tend to sell out well in advance, but even a few days prior to your desired travel date, there are usually deals available for under THB2000. Each ticket includes 15 kg of checked baggage and 7 kg of cabin baggage at no extra cost. The first flight departs from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport at 8:55 am, with the last flight departing at 9:50 pm, and eight additional flight options in between.
Lion Air operates out of Don Mueang International Airport, located to the north of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can use the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. The A1 route starts from Morchit bus terminal, while the A2 route originates at the Victory Monument and stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (costs THB30). The Morchit BTS station is also serviced by the A1 route. Travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic. Commuter trains also operate between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, which is a reliable option. The trains take approximately 50 minutes to travel between the two locations, with service operating from 4:20 am until 10:25 pm.
Chiang Mai International Airport serves as a major gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the country’s four busiest airports, operating daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. The airport is conveniently located just about two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a cost-effective and time-saving option. Many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but it’s essential to book them in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to the city center. Although the fare may seem a bit high due to the distance, it is still relatively affordable (around THB150).
Pro tip: Kan Air, a domestic airline, uses Chiang Mai Airport as its hub and serves some of the most beautiful destinations in Northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. Consider taking a flight to these towns as the roads from Chiang Mai to Pai and from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son can be notoriously winding and difficult to navigate for some travelers.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions can be found within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are the easiest and most popular means of transportation, and they can be rented from almost every guesthouse. Before you set off on your adventure, make sure to check the brakes as the city’s bicycle fleet can be unreliable. The rental fee for an ordinary bike with a fixed gear ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent way to explore the city and there are rental shops scattered throughout Chiang Mai. This mode of transportation provides you with the freedom to create your own itinerary, and it’s a must-do while staying in Chiang Mai. To rent a vehicle, you’ll need to leave your passport as a security deposit, but it is typically returned to you upon returning the vehicle to the rental shop.
Tip: Be extra cautious while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s stunning peak. The winding roads and breathtaking views can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
Songtaews are large trucks with benches in the back and are good for short trips within the city (THB20-40 per ride). The red and white ones are typically used for this purpose, while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring provinces for a higher fare. Songtaews are usually the cheapest mode of transportation but may require some negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews, and they are typically used for special experiences rather than daily transportation. They are not a viable option due to their high price, noise, pollution, and safety record.
Taxis are widely available throughout the city, but none of them use meters like in Bangkok. Therefore, it’s best to negotiate the fare before starting the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
In recent years, accommodation prices in Chiang Mai have increased, and it is challenging to find a decent option for THB300. A more realistic figure for a budget room in a guesthouse within the walls is around THB1000. While staying within the walls of the Old City is convenient for being in the midst of the action and close to many attractions, other excellent options are available.
Consider looking for pleasant budget accommodations just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, close to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with all its bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. Lodgings outside the city are perfect for city veterans or those seeking a relaxed countryside feel and are an excellent choice if you have your own vehicle.back to menu ↑
While in Chiang Mai, it’s worth trying something unique to add some excitement to your trip. While you’re sure to visit a fair share of temples and do some hiking, trekking, white-water rafting, or rock climbing, consider enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of Thai massage. You can also volunteer at one of the elephant camps, such as the Elephant Nature Park, to support animal welfare efforts. Additionally, take a tour to see how the colorful Chiang Mai parasols are made or stroll down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evenings to experience the local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant festivals. If possible, schedule your visit to witness and participate in some of them. The Flower Festival is held during the first weekend of February, and the city transforms into a stunning blooming garden. Songkran, which takes place from April 12-14, is a water festival where revelers pour water on each other (and passers-by) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, is one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night skies over the city, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
Preparing your car for the journey to Chiang Mai
There are two routes to take by car from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The quicker and shorter route involves driving to Nakhon Sawan and turning left before entering the city onto highway number 1. This route takes you through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you enjoy pizza, be sure to stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. Avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai, as there are better places to interact with elephants. This route covers a total distance of approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer, but offers smaller roads through large forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take the highway to Phitsanulok (117). Continue on highway 11 to reach Lampang and then Chiang Mai. In Phisanulok, you have two options. Turning right towards Phetchaboon leads you to the “Switzerland of Thailand,” an area with relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, visit Khao Koh, a mountain with a spot where your car will slowly roll uphill. If you turn left, you can visit the city of Sukhothai and its historical park, where you can rent a bicycle to explore the 700-year-old temple ruins.
Traveling by bus takes about 10 hours, while the train takes about 14 hours. Overnight travel can save you the cost of a hotel room. Although many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, taking a car offers a beautiful trip. We recommend taking a plane back, especially if heading 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 an abundance of attractions, so much so that even a stay of several months might not be enough to see everything. While there are plenty of common things to do in Chiang Mai, we’ll focus on sharing some lesser-known gems. However, let’s start with the basics. Locals often recommend three must-do things in Chiang Mai: sampling Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with many ingredients; visiting the colorful handmade umbrella village of Boo Sang; and checking out the stunning Wat Doi Suthep temple on the mountain. Weekdays are less crowded at the temple, and if the sun is shining, it’s the perfect place to snap some stunning photos of the golden chedi. Keep in mind that the fare for a red songtaew taxi is typically more expensive on the way down than the way up.
Khao Soi is a soup-like dish made from rice noodles in a thin yellow curry similar to the Massaman style. It’s typically served with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, along with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. If you’re not a fan of extreme spiciness, avoid the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is used to tone down the heat and add creaminess. Khao Soi is often served with chicken or beef, but there’s also a vegetarian version available.
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 are an animal lover, don’t miss the chance to visit Care For Dogs in Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. The park may be pricey, but it’s worth it to see happy elephants living without hooks, chains or fences. You can even swim with them in the river and brush their backs. For an adrenaline rush, try white-water rafting or bamboo rafting down the river. If you’re looking for a relaxing swim, check out the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai, a hidden gem with clear water and few crowds.
For those who can drive a scooter or rent a car, try the scenic loop from Chiang Mai to Hang Dong, Samoeng, and Mae Rim, which offers stunning views, strawberry fields, a hidden cave, and various activities like bungee jumping and ATV rentals. And if you’re feeling adventurous, explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own by going up the mountain. Always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink and drive!back to menu ↑
Vegetarian food in Chiang Mai: Options and recommendations
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 Cultural Journey Through Chiang Mai’s Temples
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai apart from Wat Doi Suthep, which is situated on the mountain. Inside the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, and near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong, which features caves and a large fish pond. Another lovely temple is Wat Doi Kham, located close to the night safari, which not many tourists are aware of. On a clear day, this temple provides a stunning view of the city.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai Shopping Spree: Best Deals and Discounts You Can’t Miss
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.