|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 778–7,379 1h 10m – 1h 20m|
|Train Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 883–1,862 10h 17m – 14h 20m|
|Bus Bangkok - Chiang Mai 9h 30m – 13h|
|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 distinctive cultural features of each locality. It is very convenient to travel between these two cities, with many transportation options available for tourists. In this article, we will explore the options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to modern and most convenient ones.
A Journey to Northern Thailand: How to Plan Your Transportation
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom, is nestled in a basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, creating an atmosphere of infinite charm. The city is adorned with ancient wats and chedis, some dating back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries can be found hidden in the mountains and hills, while colourful markets overflow with OTOP products and flavoursome Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, providing endless opportunities for unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers an array of attractions, 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 Best Transportation Options to Reach Chiang Mai
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is both easy and convenient. The city is well-connected to major provincial centers of Thailand via numerous buses. If you are traveling from the capital city, you can take Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai, which will bring you as far as Lampang. From Lampang, you will need to 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, which covers a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The duration of the journey depends on the mode of transport you choose, but typically takes between 9 and 14 hours.back to menu ↑
How to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is an easy, affordable, and comfortable option for your journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai originate from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more, serving the route with departures throughout the day, giving you plenty of options to choose from. 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. Prices vary based on the level of comfort of the bus. If you can afford to pay extra baht, opt for VIP coaches with 24 seats, which provide 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.
It’s worth noting that the Mochit Bus Terminal is enormous, but there are plenty of staff available to help passengers navigate their way. Upon arrival, you will be greeted at the entrance and directed to the correct platform, providing you with peace of mind throughout your journey.
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a simple, affordable, and comfortable way to make the journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies (such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, etc.) offering departures throughout the day. 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 is wise to book in advance. The cost of the bus ticket varies depending on the level of comfort, but even the cheapest buses (from 500 THB) provide enough comfort for a good night’s sleep. If you can afford to pay extra, VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB) provide even more space for your legs and elbows.
If you are concerned about navigating the enormous Mochit Bus Terminal, don’t worry. There are plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. You will be greeted right at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.back to menu ↑
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train: Route and Time
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience. It’s important to book well in advance as tickets, especially lower berths, tend to sell out quickly. The journey takes around twelve hours, slightly 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 (avoid the top bunk if you’re claustrophobic). There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so check when you book. For a luxurious experience, consider buying the 1st class single sleeper, which costs over 2000 THB per person and provides ultimate privacy.
If you prefer traveling by day, the route is filled with natural beauty as it takes you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, which often appear 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 is illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
The Pros and Cons of Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi
You can leave for Chiang Mai directly from your hotel at any time of day, which may be a great 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, and there are gas stations with clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. The scenery is also great, making for a scenic journey.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flights: Route and Time
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, 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 from Don Mueang International Airport in the northern part of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses, either route A1 from Morchit bus terminal or route A2 from the Victory Monument. Route A2 also stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations, and the fare is THB30. The travel time may vary depending on the traffic, typically taking between 60 to 80 minutes. Alternatively, there are commuter trains available between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, which take approximately 50 minutes and operate from 4:20 am to 10:25 pm. Taking the train is a reliable option.
Chiang Mai International Airport is one of the busiest airports in Thailand, serving as a major gateway to Northern Thailand with daily domestic and international flights to and from destinations such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Seoul. The airport is conveniently located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai an affordable and time-saving option for travelers.
It’s important to note that many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but it’s necessary to arrange this service in advance. If you don’t have a hotel transfer, you can catch a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit expensive considering the distance, but it’s still relatively inexpensive (around THB150).
Pro tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that provides flights to some of the most stunning destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for a seriously winding road trip from Chiang Mai to these towns, it’s worth considering flying to them 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, the cost of accommodation in Chiang Mai has increased, and it’s become difficult 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 Old City offers convenience and proximity to many attractions, there are other good options available.
If you’re on a tight budget, consider looking for affordable accommodation just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its numerous bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. For those with their own transportation, lodging outside the city center is a great choice, offering a more relaxed countryside feel and catering to the needs of city veterans.back to menu ↑
While in Chiang Mai, it’s worth exploring some unique activities to spice up your visit. You may likely visit several temples, go hiking and trekking, or even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, you can add some extra flavor to your stay by enrolling in a massage class and learning the basics of Thai massage, volunteering at one of the elephant camps (beginning with Elephant Nature Park), observing the production of colorful Chiang Mai parasols, and taking a stroll down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evening when it becomes a hub of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its colorful festivals. If possible, schedule your trip to participate in some of these festivals. During the first weekend of February, the Flower Festival is held, and the city transforms into a gorgeous blooming garden. Songkran falls on April 12-14, with revelers dousing each other (and passersby) with water along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night skies over the city, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
A guide to renting a car in Chiang Mai
If you’re traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two routes to choose from. The first and shorter option is to head to Nakhon Sawan and turn left before entering the city to take highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, be sure to stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai if you want to interact with elephants in a more ethical way. After driving a total distance of around 700 kilometers, you’ll arrive in Chiang Mai.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by vast forests. Head up to Nakhon Sawan and take highway 117 to Phitsanulok, then continue on highway 11 to Lampang and Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two additional options. Turn right towards Phetchaboon to visit the “Switzerland of Thailand,” an area with serene resorts, and see Khao Koh, a mountain where your car will slowly roll up the hill in neutral gear. Alternatively, turn left to visit the city of Sukhothai with its well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins, and rent a bike at the park entrance to explore the historical park.
If you opt for a bus, the journey will take approximately 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Overnight travel will save you a night’s accommodation cost. Although many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, taking a car trip will offer you a beautiful journey. We recommend taking the plane for the return trip, especially if you plan to travel down south to the islands.back to menu ↑
Getting to know Chiang Mai’s hill tribe cultures
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, a village near San Pathong, has been producing and painting paper umbrellas and parasols for over 200 years. The process is fascinating, and you can witness every step of production at the umbrella factory on the right side near the junction. Sa paper is made from the bark of the mulberry tree, and you can even have wonderful motifs painted on your mobile phone cover or clothes. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts that you want to make unique, bring them with you and avoid buying something there. Baan Tawai, a village near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang and offers loads of souvenirs and wooden furniture at cheaper prices than the night bazaar in the city, but we prefer Boo Sang.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, a big street market is held inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) takes place on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling a variety of items, but prices are negotiable. Don’t expect Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be genuine.
Many shops sell the same items, so you can ask for a price and then check another shop. There is a Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street, which usually offers the best exchange rates in town. If you walk to 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, 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 amazing or funny photos.
If you have a soft spot for animals and want to make a difference, consider visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. The latter is a bit pricey, but you’ll witness the majestic elephants living happily without hooks, chains, or barriers. You might even get to swim with these gentle giants and scrub their backs with a giant brush. The park offers day trips or volunteer programs, and the experience is sure to be unforgettable. If you’re looking for a bit of excitement, there are white-water rafting and bamboo rafting options available near the park.
For a secret swimming spot, look up “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” on Google. It’s a hidden gem in the north with crystal-clear water and fewer crowds on weekdays. Be cautious and avoid jumping from the walls into the water, and stop by the newly opened coffee shop at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, take the CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM loop. The scenic drive takes around three hours, and the traffic is minimal on weekdays. You’ll come across breathtaking viewpoints, a hidden cave (which might require some searching), a fantastic coffee shop about 20 km before Samoeng, strawberry fields in Samoeng, and plenty of activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karting, paintball, and parks, restaurants, and more in Mae Rim. With your own vehicle, you can even venture up the mountain and explore Wat Doi Suthep at your own pace. Please prioritize safety by wearing a helmet, driving carefully, and avoiding drinking and driving.back to menu ↑
Must-try dishes in Chiang Mai: From Khao Soi to Sai Oua
Chiang Mai boasts a plethora of dining options, with some claiming there are more pubs and restaurants than residents in the city. Here are a few noteworthy eateries we recommend:
Taste from Heaven, located inside the old city, is a vegetarian restaurant that many hail as the best in the north. The owner speaks excellent English and the restaurant also offers cooking classes.
The Dukes, on the other side of the river between Narawat bridge and the old iron bridge, serves up the biggest pizza in town along with fantastic spare ribs. The portions are huge and no starters are necessary. Another branch can be found on the night bazaar road next to McDonald’s.
Mix Bar and Restaurant, located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1, serves not only delicious food, but also boasts beautiful presentation.
For the best breakfast in town, head to Smoothie Blues, located on the corner of Soi 6 opposite Tesco Express. However, be warned that their mango “Smoothie Blues” may be addictive.
Japanese food Thai-style can be found at Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13. It is reasonably priced and a few meters away from the beer factory, which offers a huge selection of imported beers. Further down the street towards Soi 9 is a Japanese Yakiniku Grill where diners can prepare their own food on the built-in table grill.
Yummy Pizza, located on Canal Road, may be a bit outside the city, but it is well worth the trip for its tasty food and occasional live music. The owner is also a great resource for all things related to Muay Thai boxing.
Finally, Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chiang Mai, situated on road 3044. It’s recommended to sit near the lake for a tranquil dining experience, as the waterfall on the other side can be quite noisy after a while. The restaurant also offers food inside its air-conditioned coffee shop.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 ↑
The Best Places to Buy Thai Silk in Chiang Mai
On the superhighway, you’ll find Central Festival, a massive new shopping mall. The Robinson Airport Plaza is also quite nice and more accessible. Nearby university students frequent Maya, which is often crowded.
If you plan on staying in the city for an extended period of time, it’s better to rent a place instead of staying in hotels or guesthouses. Air-conditioned studios are available for about 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or the Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in one of the housing estates, which typically include security, a pool, a gym, a clubhouse, and more, is a much better option, as houses are less expensive to rent than apartments.
Please be aware that the Zoo and Night Safari charge double admission fees for tourists. We suggest avoiding these places and not supporting such behavior.
Most of the city is viewable on Google Streetview, so you can explore certain areas beforehand.
If you have the time, consider visiting Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai boasts two incredible temples: the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the Black House (Baan Dam). Both are well worth the visit, but it takes about four hours by car to reach. If you plan on spending a night in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel has a fantastic Sunday brunch.