|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 characteristics of each locality. Traveling between these two cities is also very convenient, with many transportation options for tourists. In this article, we will explore the choices for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to the most advanced and convenient ones.
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling 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 ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai: The Best Ways to Travel
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is hassle-free and convenient, with numerous buses connecting the northern capital to major provincial centers in the country. From the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai takes you as far as Lampang, where you can switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which leads you all the way to your destination. Alternatively, the northern line of the State Railway of Thailand is a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your preferred mode of transportation, the journey can take anywhere from 9 to 14 hours.back to menu ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok: A Comprehensive Bus 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 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 ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train
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 ↑
How to Navigate Your Private Taxi Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
You can leave directly from your hotel in Bangkok to Chiang Mai any time of the day by opting for a private taxi. This can be a great option for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter costs THB 13,200 and takes around 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. Additionally, the scenery is fantastic, providing an enjoyable ride.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane: A Complete Guide
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, an affiliate of Lion Air headquartered in Indonesia, offers up to 10 round-trip flights per day between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Depending on your travel date and time preference, airfare starts from THB1000 and can vary. While peak periods tend to sell out well in advance, there are usually deals under THB2000 available even a few days prior to your desired travel date. The ticket price already includes 15 kg of checked baggage and 7 kg of cabin baggage. With flights starting as early as 8:55 am from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport and the last one departing at 9:50 pm, there are eight other options to choose from 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 a major entry point to Northern Thailand and is one of the four busiest airports in the country, operating daily domestic and international flights to and from destinations such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and more. The airport is conveniently located close to the city center, just around two kilometers away, which makes flying to Chiang Mai a practical option. You won’t need to spend much time or money getting to your hotel from the airport.
It’s worth noting that many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but it’s important to arrange this in advance. Otherwise, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the city center. Due to the short distance, the cost of the ride may seem a bit high, but it’s still relatively inexpensive (around THB150).
Travel tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also used as a hub by Kan Air, a domestic airline that serves some of the most breathtaking destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. Consider flying to these towns as the roads from Chiang Mai can be quite winding, and not all travelers may be able to handle the journey.
To get around Chiang Mai, the majority of the city’s attractions are located within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are an easy and popular mode of transportation and can be rented from most guesthouses. However, it’s recommended to check the brakes before renting, as the city fleet may not be in the best condition. Expect to pay between THB50 to THB100 for a basic bike with a fixed gear.
Renting a scooter or motorcycle (or even a car) is also an excellent way to explore the city and its surroundings. Rental shops are readily available throughout the city, and leaving your passport as a security deposit is standard practice. However, inexperienced riders should exercise caution while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, as the winding roads and stunning views can be dangerous.
Songtaews are large trucks with benches in the back and are an affordable option for traveling within the city (THB20-40 per ride), while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring Northern provinces. Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews and should only be considered for a unique experience, as they are often noisy, polluting, and have a poor safety record. Taxis are also readily available, but unlike in Bangkok, metered taxis are not the norm. It’s best to negotiate the fare before the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
Over the years, accommodation prices in Chiang Mai have increased, making it difficult to find a decent option for THB300. A more realistic budget for a guesthouse room within the walls of the Old City is around THB1000. While staying within the walls of the Old City offers the convenience of being close to many attractions, there are other viable options available.
For example, there are pleasant budget accommodations located just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, which is known for its bars and restaurants, is easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. Lodgings outside the city are ideal for those looking for a relaxed countryside feel or city veterans who have their own transportation.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 ↑
What to expect when driving to 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 ↑
Chiang Mai’s best waterfalls and natural wonders
Chiang Mai is a city filled with so many attractions that it would be difficult to see everything, even with several months of exploration. In this guide, we aim to highlight some of the lesser-known things to do in the city. However, let’s start with the must-do activities that people commonly recommend: eating Khao Soi, visiting the handmade umbrella village of Bo Sang, and exploring the mountain temple, Wat Doi Suthep. We suggest visiting the temple on a weekday to avoid crowds, and if you take a red songtaew taxi, keep in mind that the fare for the return trip is usually higher.
Khao Soi is a must-try dish in Chiang Mai, consisting of rice noodles in a thin yellow curry similar to Massaman style. It is a soup-like dish mixed with crispy and boiled egg noodles, with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage served on the side. Be cautious with the oil-fried ground chilies if you don’t tolerate extreme spiciness. Coconut milk is used to soften the taste and reduce spiciness. You can order Khao Soi with chicken, beef, or even a vegetarian option.
Boo Sang is a village located near San Pathong, where they have been producing and painting paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. It’s fascinating to watch the production process at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. They make Sa paper from the bark of the mulberry tree and also paint beautiful designs on items such as mobile phone covers and clothing. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts that you want to make unique, bring them along and have them painted there. Another similar village is Baan Tawai near Hang Dong, which has loads of souvenirs and wooden furniture at cheaper prices than the night bazaar in the city. However, we prefer Boo Sang.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is situated near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, a large street market takes place inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (known as Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar is open every day from early afternoon until night, offering a variety of items, but it’s important to negotiate prices. Don’t expect items like Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be genuine.
Many shops sell the same products, so it’s best to compare prices and bargain. There’s a Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street, which typically 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’ll find the 3D street art museum called ‘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 ↑
Fusion food in Chiang Mai: A blend of flavors
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 ↑
Discover the Ancient Beauty of Chiang Mai Temples
There are numerous temples located in Chiang Mai besides Wat Doi Suthep, which sits atop a mountain. One such temple is Wat Phra Sing, situated within the old city. Another temple worth visiting is Wat U-Mong, which boasts beautiful caves and a vast fish pond in the vicinity of Chiang Mai University. Additionally, Wat Doi Kham, located near the night safari, is a charming temple that remains undiscovered by many tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from this vantage point.back to menu ↑
From Handmade Crafts to Designer Fashion: Chiang Mai’s Diverse Shopping Scene
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.