|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 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.
How to Get Around Northern Thailand: A Traveler’s Guide
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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai: Transportation Options and Tips
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 ↑
Tips for a Comfortable Bus Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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 an easy, affordable, and comfortable way to make the long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit) in Bangkok. With a variety of companies serving the route, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and others, you have plenty of options with departures throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8 pm and arrive early in the morning the following day.
During peak seasons, such as Thai festivals like Songkran in April or Khao/Ok Phansa in July/October, it is recommended to book in advance. Prices for buses vary depending on the level of comfort. For extra comfort, you can opt for VIP coaches with 24 seats (starting from 800 THB) which provide ample 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 whole journey. The Mochit Bus Terminal is enormous, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. You will be guided right from the entrance to the right platform, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by train
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience. Tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s important to book well in advance. The journey takes approximately twelve hours, which is slightly longer than the bus journey, but is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well equipped for comfort, with seats that fold out into bunk beds. If you’re claustrophobic, it’s best to avoid the top bunk. There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so be sure to check when booking. For a luxurious experience, the 1st class single sleeper is available, which costs over 2000 THB per person but provides complete privacy.
There are also 2nd class fan seats available for around 600-650 THB, but they should only be considered as a last resort. For an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for an additional 200 THB, you can travel with AC.
Traveling by day is also an option, as the route is filled with beauty, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that often seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are readily available, but it’s illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi: A Complete Guide
Traveling from your hotel in Bangkok directly to Chiang Mai is possible any time of the day and may be a good 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 restrooms and convenience stores along the way. The scenery is also great, making for an enjoyable and comfortable ride.back to menu ↑
Exploring Your Options: How to Take a Flight to Chiang Mai
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, a subsidiary of Lion Air based in Indonesia, offers up to 10 round-trip flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai each day. Depending on the date and time of your preferred flight, airfares start from THB1000 and can go up. Popular travel periods tend to sell out quickly, but even a few days before your intended travel date, you can still find deals for under THB2000. The ticket price includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of cabin luggage. Flights depart from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport as early as 8:55 am and as late as 9:50 pm, with eight other options available throughout the day.
Lion Air’s base in Bangkok is located in Don Mueang International Airport, situated to the north of the city center. You can reach the airport by taking the airport shuttle buses, either route A1 from Morchit bus terminal or A2 from Victory Monument, with stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (fare of THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by A1. The travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic conditions. Alternatively, you can take the commuter trains that operate between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport. These trains are a reliable option, taking approximately 50 minutes to travel from the train station to the airport. The trains operate 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, providing daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. The airport is located just about two kilometers from the city center, making it a convenient option for travelers.
Many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but it’s necessary to arrange this service in advance. Otherwise, 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 given the distance, the fare is still relatively cheap (approximately THB150).
Tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also used as a hub by Kan Air, a domestic airline that serves some of the most beautiful destinations in Northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. It’s worth considering flying to these towns as the roads from Chiang Mai to Pai and Mae Hong Son can be quite winding and challenging 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, 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 visiting Chiang Mai, it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You will undoubtedly visit plenty of temples, go hiking or trekking, and perhaps even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, consider adding some zest to your stay by enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of Thai massage. Volunteering at one of the elephant camps, such as Elephant Nature Park, is also a fantastic opportunity. Additionally, seeing how the colorful Chiang Mai parasols are made and strolling down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evening, when it transforms into the epicenter of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching, are other unique experiences to consider.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is famous for its vibrant festivals, and it’s worth planning your trip to participate in some of them. The Flower Festival, held during the first weekend of February, transforms the city into a blossoming garden. Songkran, which takes place on April 12-14, is a wet and wild water festival where revelers splash water on each other (and passersby) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of the most stunning Thai festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float into the night sky over the city, creating an unforgettable scene.back to menu ↑
Pros and cons of driving vs. flying 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 ↑
Tips for a perfect day trip in Chiang Mai
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 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 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 ↑
Chiang Mai food markets: A vibrant display of local produce and delicacies
Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant culinary scene, boasting numerous restaurants and pubs to suit all tastes. If you’re looking for some exceptional dining experiences, here are a few recommendations:
- Taste from Heaven is an excellent vegetarian restaurant located within the old city. They offer cooking classes too.
- The Dukes, situated on the other side of the river, is famous for serving the biggest pizza in town and fantastic spare ribs. Their portions are huge, so no need for a starter.
- The Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 is renowned for its beautiful food presentation and exceptional taste.
- Smoothie Blues, situated at the corner of Soi 6, offers the best breakfast in town. Their mango “smoothie blues” is a must-try.
- Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, offers Japanese food with a Thai twist at an affordable price. Nearby, the Beer Factory offers an extensive selection of imported beers, while a Japanese Yakiniku Grill on Soi 9 allows you to grill your own food at the table.
- Yummy Pizza on Canal Road, although a bit outside the city, is worth a visit for their delicious food and occasional live music. The owner is also an excellent contact for Muay Thai boxing.
- Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is situated on road 3044 and offers one of the most picturesque dining experiences in Chiang Mai. It’s best to sit near the lake to avoid the noise from the waterfall on the other side. The air-conditioned coffee shop also serves food.
Exploring the Spiritual Side of Chiang Mai: Top Temples to Visit
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 ↑
Chiang Mai’s Jewelry District: Finding the Perfect Sparkle for Your Collection
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.