|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 1,215–11,520 1h 15m – 21h|
|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|
|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.
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling to Northern Thailand
Nestled amidst woodlands and mountains in the northern basin lies Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, a city with an infinite charm. The city is adorned with gorgeous ancient wats and chedis, some dating back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries can be found hidden in the mountains and hills.
The vibrant markets are bursting with OTOP products, and the Northern Thai cuisine is a flavor explosion, particularly the unforgettable khao soi. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the city offers endless choices to have unforgettable experiences, whether you are just on a short 2-day visit or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has plenty to offer, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls, to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene for party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai Transportation: Everything You Need to Know
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is a breeze, thanks to the numerous buses connecting the northern capital with major provincial centers of the country. If you’re coming from Bangkok, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai takes 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. Alternatively, you can take the northern line of the state railway of Thailand, a 751km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your choice of transportation, the entire journey can take anywhere between 9 and 14 hours.back to menu ↑
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus: Route and Time
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 ↑
Exploring Your Options: How to Take the Train to Chiang Mai
Traveling overnight by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a quintessential Thai experience. Tickets for lower berths sell out quickly, so it’s best to book well in advance. The journey takes roughly twelve hours, slightly longer than by bus, but significantly more comfortable. The first and second class compartments are well equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, although top bunks can feel claustrophobic. Both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers are available, so check when booking. For a luxurious journey, consider purchasing a 1st class single sleeper for over 2000 THB per person, offering complete privacy. 2nd class fan seats (about 600-650 THB) are an option only if no other choices remain, as an additional 100 THB offers a fan sleeper, or add 200 THB to travel with AC.
Alternatively, traveling during the day is also an option, as the route offers beautiful views of mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, seemingly untouched by civilization, from the train windows.
Tip: Food vendors patrol the carriages with snacks and refreshments, but it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
The Cost of Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi
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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok: A Comprehensive Air Travel Guide
You might want to consider flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai instead of spending the entire night traveling overland, given that several low-cost carriers are offering tickets for as little as THB1000 and can transport you to your destination in just 1½ hours.
Thai Lion Air, a partner airline of Lion Air based in Indonesia, operates up to 10 round-trip flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Prices for airfare start at THB1000 and vary depending on the date and time of day you wish to travel. The busiest periods tend to sell out well in advance, but there are usually deals available for under THB2000 even a few days prior to your desired travel date. The ticket price already includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of carry-on luggage. The first flight departs from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport at 8:55 am and the last one at 9:50 pm, with eight other options available 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 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, most of the attractions are located within the Old City walls. Bicycles are a convenient and widely available option, with rental services offered by many guesthouses. However, it’s essential to check the brakes beforehand as the quality of the bikes can vary. Expect to pay between THB50 to THB100 for a basic bike with a fixed gear.
Renting a motorcycle, scooter, or car is an excellent way to explore the city and its surroundings, with rental shops available throughout the area. Renting a vehicle provides the freedom to explore at your own pace, but be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. Take extra caution when riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, as the winding road and stunning views can be challenging for inexperienced riders.
Songtaews are large trucks with benches in the back, with red and white ones available for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20-40 per ride), while yellow ones can take you to neighboring Northern provinces. They are typically the cheapest transportation option but may require negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songtaews, and while they provide a unique experience, they may not be the best option for every trip due to their cost, noise, pollution, and safety record. Taxis are also widely available, but unlike in Bangkok, none of them use meters, so it’s essential to negotiate the price before the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
Over the past few years, the cost of accommodations in Chiang Mai has increased, making it almost impossible to find a decent option for THB300. Nowadays, a budget room in a guesthouse within the walls of the Old City typically costs around THB1000. However, there are other good options available as well.
For instance, you can search for pleasant budget accommodations located just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. If you have your own transportation, lodgings located outside the city may be a good choice for city veterans or those seeking a more relaxed countryside feel.back to menu ↑
While in Chiang Mai, it’s a great idea to mix things up and try something different. You’ll undoubtedly visit plenty of temples and do some hiking or trekking, and you may even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, you can add some excitement to your stay by enrolling in a massage class and learning the basics of Thai massage, volunteering at an elephant camp (start by asking at Elephant Nature Park), watching the production of the bright and colorful Chiang Mai parasols, and strolling along Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evenings, when it becomes the epicenter of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its colorful festivals. If possible, try to schedule your visit to coincide with some of these events. The Flower Festival is held during the first weekend of February, transforming the city into a blooming garden. Songkran, which falls on April 12-14, is a wet and wild event, with revelers drenching each other (and unsuspecting passersby) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, and thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night sky, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
Hidden gems to discover on a Chiang Mai road trip
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 ↑
Tips for a perfect day trip in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city brimming with attractions that would take several months to explore fully. While there are many popular things to see and do in Chiang Mai, we want to share some insider tips that you may not find in your guidebook. Let’s start with the basics. Visitors are often told to do three things in Chiang Mai: try Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with various ingredients, visit Boo Sang to see the colorful handmade paper umbrellas, and go to Wat Doi Suthep temple on the mountain. It’s best to visit Wat Doi Suthep on weekdays to avoid the crowds. If the sun is shining, you can capture beautiful pictures of the golden chedi. When taking one of the red songtaew taxis, keep in mind that the fare is higher for the ride down the mountain.
Khao Soi is a soup-like specialty made from rice noodles in a thin, yellow curry similar to Massaman style. It is usually mixed with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, served with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. If you can’t handle the extreme spiciness, skip the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is added to soften the flavor and reduce the spice level. You can typically order Khao Soi with chicken, beef, or a vegetarian version.
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.
For animal lovers who want to make a positive impact, visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai (Hang Dong District) or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng is a great option. Although the park is a bit pricey, you will get to see elephants happily roaming without hooks, chains or fences. They choose to stay there despite having the freedom to run away. You can even swim in the river with these magnificent creatures and brush their backs with a broom. The park offers day trips or volunteering opportunities. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Further down the same road behind the park, some shops offer white-water and bamboo rafting. Although bamboo rafting is slow and leisurely, white-water rafting is a bit more thrilling. However, it is not really that white unless you go after heavy rainfalls in the mountains.
If you want to go swimming, search for ‘Grand Canyon Chiang Mai’ on Google. This hidden gem in the north is not very popular, which makes it an ideal spot for a serene swim. The water is clear and clean, and there aren’t many people there during weekdays. However, be cautious and avoid jumping from the walls into the water. There is a newly opened coffee shop at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, the CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM loop is an excellent option. It takes around three hours, and there is usually no traffic on weekdays. You will encounter stunning viewpoints, a hidden cave (which can be tricky to find), a big coffee shop 20km before Samoeng, and strawberry fields in Samoeng. There are also plenty of activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, paint-ball, and some parks, restaurants, and more near Mae Rim. With a scooter or car, you can explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own by going up the mountain. But always remember to wear a helmet, drive carefully, and avoid drinking alcohol and driving.back to menu ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s cuisine: A gastronomic journey
Chiang Mai is home to countless pubs and restaurants, and we have some special recommendations for you to try.
Taste from Heaven, a vegetarian restaurant located inside the old city, is known to be the best vegetarian restaurant in the north. The owner speaks English well, and they offer excellent cooking classes too.
For the biggest pizza and fantastic spare ribs, head over to The Dukes. Their portions are huge, and you won’t need a starter. They have two locations, one between Narawat Bridge and the old iron bridge and the other on the night bazaar road next to McD.
If you’re looking for the most beautiful food presentation, check out Mix Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1.
For the best breakfast in town, go to Smoothie Blues, a small shop located at the corner of Soi 6 (opposite Tesco Express). However, watch out for their mango “Smoothie Blues” – it’s highly addictive.
Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, offers Japanese food Thai-style and is quite affordable. Just a few meters away is the Beer Factory, which has a vast selection of imported beers, and down the street on Soi 9 is a Japanese Yakiniku Grill where you get to cook your food on a built-in grill at your table.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a must-visit for tasty food and live music. Although it’s a bit outside of town, it’s worth the trip. The owner of the restaurant is also your go-to person for all things Muay Thai boxing.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a beautiful dining experience, visit Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, on Road 3044. It’s one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chiang Mai, and sitting near the lake is highly recommended to avoid the noise of the waterfall on the other side. They also serve food inside their air-conditioned coffee shop.back to menu ↑
A Cultural Journey Through Chiang Mai’s Temples
There are numerous temples located in Chiang Mai, apart from Wat Doi Suthep on the mountain. Within the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, while Wat U-Mong, featuring caves and a sizable fish pond, is located near Chiang Mai University. Another beautiful temple, Wat Doi Kham, situated near the night safari, is relatively unknown to most tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from this location.back to menu ↑
Shopping in Chiang Mai
Central Festival, a massive shopping mall located on the superhighway, is a prominent landmark. The Robinson Airport Plaza is also an attractive shopping destination and easier to access. Maya is a popular hangout spot for students from the nearby university.
For those planning an extended stay in the city, renting a place is preferable to staying in hotels or guesthouses. Air-conditioned studios are available for around 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are considerably more expensive. Renting a house in a housing estate with amenities such as security, a pool, gym, and clubhouse is more cost-effective than renting an apartment.
Tourists are being charged double entrance fees to visit the Zoo and the Night Safari, and it is not advisable to support such practices by visiting these places.
Most areas of the city are mapped on Google Streetview, providing a chance to explore some areas beforehand.
Chiang Rai is worth a visit if time permits, as it has two notable temples: the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the Black House (Baan Dam). However, it takes four hours by car to reach the destination. If you plan to stay overnight in Chiang Rai, consider the Le Meridien Hotel, which offers a delightful Sunday brunch.