|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 1,215–13,049 1h 15m – 1d 2h 30m|
|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|
|Taxi Suvarnabhumi Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 8,800–24,024 9h – 10h|
|Flight Don Mueang Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 1,377–2,185 1h 10m – 1h 20m|
|Taxi Don Mueang Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 9,900–14,960 8h – 9h 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 of woodlands and mountains in northern Thailand. This charming city is adorned with ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are tucked away in the hills, while colourful markets burst with locally made OTOP products and delicious Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and the city offers endless choices to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has plenty to offer, including temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls, as well as quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene that caters to both party-goers and music enthusiasts.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai: The Best Ways to Travel
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is a breeze with numerous buses linking the northern capital to major provincial centers in the country. From the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai will take you as far as Lampang, where you’ll need to switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which will take you all the way to your destination. Alternatively, the northern line of Thailand’s state railway is a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your choice of transportation, the journey can last anywhere between 9 to 14 hours.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus: A Complete Guide
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, 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 ↑
What to Expect When Taking the Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling by overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a classic Thailand experience. Tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s important to book well in advance. Although the journey takes longer than the bus (roughly 12 hours), it is much more comfortable. The first and second class compartments are well-equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, although those with claustrophobia may prefer to avoid the top bunk. Second class sleepers are available with either fans or AC, so check when you book. For a luxurious experience, consider purchasing a first class single sleeper which offers complete privacy at a cost of over 2000 THB per person. Second class fan seats are also available (for around 600-650 THB), but it’s worth paying a bit more for a fan sleeper, or adding 200 THB for an AC sleeper.
If you prefer to travel during the day, the route is filled with stunning scenery as it passes through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that appear untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors frequently pass through the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are always available, but it’s worth noting that it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Private Taxi: Transportation Options and Tips
Travel directly from your hotel to Chiang Mai at any time of the day with the convenience of a private transfer. This option can be particularly beneficial for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter is available at a cost of THB 13,200 and takes approximately 9 hours to travel between the two capitals. The roads are generally smooth, with gas stations that have clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is breathtaking and adds to the overall experience of the journey.back to menu ↑
Exploring Your Options: How to Take a Flight to Chiang Mai
If you’re looking to save time and money, flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai may be your best bet. Low-cost carriers are offering tickets for as little as THB1000, and the flight takes only 1½ hours. This beats 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 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 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 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, 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 ↑
Where to stay during a road trip to Chiang Mai
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 ↑
The top must-see attractions in Chiang Mai
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 charming village located near San Pathong, where paper umbrellas/parasols have been produced and painted for over 200 years. It is fascinating to witness the production process, which can be observed at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. The paper used for the parasols is made from the bark of the mulberry tree. Additionally, they also offer painting services for mobile phone covers, clothes, bags, t-shirts, and shorts. If you have something unique you want to create, bring it along instead of buying something new there. Baan Tawai, a village near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang, with numerous souvenirs and wooden furniture. Although it is cheaper than the night bazaar in the city, Boo Sang remains our favorite.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is situated 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. to midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling a diverse range of items, but haggling is necessary.
Don’t expect original Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. Since many shops sell similar things, it’s best to inquire about prices and then compare them elsewhere. There is a Chinese money changer shop located about 50 meters from Tha Phae Road on the right side of the night bazaar street that 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 big hotel on the left side, you will see 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 unique and amusing pictures.
If you are an animal lover and want 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, the experience of seeing elephants without hooks, chains, or fences is priceless. You can even swim in the river with these majestic creatures and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips and volunteer opportunities that you won’t forget.
A short distance from the park, you’ll find white-water and bamboo rafting shops. While bamboo rafting is a relaxing activity, white-water rafting is more challenging, especially after heavy rainfalls in the mountains.
For a unique swimming experience, check out the hidden gem of Grand Canyon Chiang Mai. The water is clear and clean, and the area is almost empty during the weekdays. Be cautious when jumping from the walls into the water and don’t forget to visit the recently opened coffee shop at the entrance.
If you’re comfortable driving a scooter or renting a car, try the loop of CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM. On weekdays, the roads are virtually traffic-free, and you’ll pass by stunning viewpoints, a hidden cave, a large coffee shop, strawberry fields, and a plethora of activities like bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, and paintball. While on the loop, you can also drive up the mountain and explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Remember to wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink and drive!back to menu ↑
Best coffee shops in Chiang Mai: For caffeine lovers
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.
From Ancient Ruins to Lavish Monuments: Chiang Mai’s Diverse Temple Scene
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai besides Wat Doi Suthep on the mountain. Within the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, and near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong, which boasts caves and a large fish pond. Additionally, Wat Doi Kham, located near the night safari, is a lovely temple that many tourists are unaware of. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the city from this vantage point.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Antique Shops and Flea Markets: Treasure Hunting in the City
On the superhighway, you’ll find Central Festival – a vast new shopping mall. Robinson Airport Plaza is also a good option and easier to access. However, Maya tends to be crowded with students from the nearby university.
If you’re staying in the city for a longer period, it’s better to rent a place instead of staying in hotels or guest houses. Air-conditioned studios are available for around 100 Euro per month, but condos in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. It’s much more economical to rent a house in one of the housing estates which come with added benefits such as security, pool, gym, clubhouse, etc. as houses are cheaper to rent than apartments.
Please be aware that the Zoo and the Night Safari charge double entrance fees to tourists. We do not encourage supporting such behavior and suggest avoiding such places.
Most of the city is accessible on Google Street View, allowing you to explore some areas from your computer.
If you have some time, it’s worth visiting Chiang Rai to see its two beautiful temples – Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) and Baan Dam (the Black House). It’s a 4-hour drive from Chiang Mai, so you might want to plan an overnight stay. If you do decide to stay, the Le Meridien Hotel in Chiang Rai has a fantastic Sunday brunch.