|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. Traveling between these two cities is also very convenient, with many transportation options for tourists. In this article, we will explore the choices of how to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to advanced and most convenient options.
A Journey to Northern Thailand: How to Plan Your Transportation
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 ↑
Traveling to Chiang Mai: A Comprehensive Transportation Guide
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 ↑
The Cheapest Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus
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 many companies such as Bangkok Busline and Siam FirstNew Viriya providing 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. The bus prices vary depending on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches being the most comfortable option, offering 24 seats and 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. Mochit Bus Terminal may seem enormous, but there is plenty of staff to assist passengers in finding their way. You will be greeted at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.
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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train: Transportation Options and Tips
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience, but tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s best to book well in advance. The journey takes about 12 hours, which is longer than the bus journey, but it is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, with both fan and AC options available for the second-class sleepers. For a more luxurious experience, consider the first-class single sleeper, which offers more privacy but costs over 2000 THB per person. There are also second-class fan seats available for about 600-650 THB, but it’s recommended to choose a fan sleeper for an additional 100 THB or opt for AC for an additional 200 THB.
The train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai offers stunning views of mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, making a daytime journey a viable option for travelers who want to enjoy the scenery.
Note that food vendors frequently patrol the train carriages, so snacks and refreshments are readily available, but selling alcoholic beverages is illegal on the train.back to menu ↑
Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: Route and Time
Travelers can leave for Chiang Mai directly from their hotel at any time of the day by taking a private taxi. This option is particularly useful 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. Furthermore, the scenery is beautiful and adds to the overall experience.back to menu ↑
How to Plan Your Flight Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
If you’re looking to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it might be worth considering flying instead of taking an overnight overland journey. With many budget airlines selling tickets for as little as THB1000, you can reach your destination in just an hour and a half.
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 is located at Don Mueang International Airport in the north of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. A1 departs from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 starts at Victory Monument, stopping at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by A1. The travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic. 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 until 10:25 pm. The trains are a reliable option for transportation.
Chiang Mai International Airport is one of the busiest airports in Thailand and 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. Located just two kilometers from the city center, flying into Chiang Mai can be a cost-effective option as it won’t take much time or money to reach your hotel from the airport.
While some hotels offer complimentary airport transfers, you’ll need to arrange this in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit pricey considering the distance, but it is still affordable at around THB150.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that services some of the most stunning destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for a long and winding road trip from Chiang Mai, it’s worth considering flying to these towns instead.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions are located within the Old City walls. Bicycles are a popular way to get around and can be rented from almost any guesthouse for THB50 to THB100 per day. However, it’s important to check the bike’s brakes before setting off, as the quality can vary.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is another great option to explore the city and the surrounding areas. There are many shops that rent out these vehicles, but be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. However, inexperienced riders should take extra caution while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, due to the winding road and breathtaking views.
Songtaews, large trucks with benches in the back, are a cheap way to get around the city for THB20-40 per ride. The red and white ones are ideal for trips within the city, while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring northern provinces. Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews and not always the most reliable option due to noise, pollution, safety concerns, and higher prices. If you decide to use a tuk-tuk, negotiate the price beforehand.
Taxis are widely available in Chiang Mai, but they don’t use meters like those in Bangkok. Negotiate the price before starting 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 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 ↑
The advantages of driving to Chiang Mai
For those traveling by car, there are two routes to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The quicker and shorter route involves going to Nakhon Sawan, then turning left onto highway number 1 before entering the city. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a fan of pizza, make a stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, it’s best to avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai for elephant riding, as there are better places to interact with these majestic animals. The total distance of this route is approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but offers smaller roads through dense forests. Head up to Nakhon Sawan, then take highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on highway 11, and you’ll reach Lampang and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two options. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you’ll reach the “Switzerland of Thailand,” a beautiful area with relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can visit Khao Koh, a mountain that has a spot where your car will slowly roll up the hill. If you turn left, you can visit the city of Sukhothai and its well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins by renting a bicycle at the park entrance.
If you choose to travel by bus, it will take about 10 hours, while the train will take around 14 hours. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of one night’s accommodation. While there are many airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, taking a car offers a beautiful trip that you’ll miss if you fly. However, flying back is recommended, especially if you’re heading to the islands in the south.back to menu ↑
The top must-see attractions 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, a village near San Pathong, has been producing and painting paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. It’s a fascinating process, and at the umbrella factory near the junction, you can observe every step of the production. The Sa paper is made from the mulberry tree’s bark, and they can even paint fantastic designs on your mobile phone case, clothes, or any item you bring. The village of Baan Tawai, near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang, but it’s a great place to find souvenirs and wooden furniture at lower prices than the night bazaar in the city.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is located near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, there is a large street market inside the old city, which starts at 7 p.m. and closes at midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar is open every day in the early afternoon and closes at night. You can find a variety of items there, but be prepared to negotiate prices. Don’t expect the Louis-Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be authentic.
Many shops sell the same things, so you can ask for a price and then move on to 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 that usually offers 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 ‘Art in Paradise.’ Bring your camera and step into the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls, and ceiling to capture some amazing or funny pictures.
If you’re an animal lover and want to make a positive impact, visit Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. While the park can be pricey, you’ll witness elephants without hooks, chains, or fences. They’re free to run away, but choose to stay. In the afternoon, take a swim with the elephants in the river and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips or volunteer opportunities. It’s an unforgettable experience. Further down the same road, you’ll find shops offering white-water and bamboo rafting. While bamboo rafting is peaceful, white-water rafting is more thrilling. Keep in mind that the water isn’t that white unless there’s been heavy rain in the mountains.
For a hidden gem, head to the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai. Clear, clean water and few visitors during the weekdays make for an enjoyable swim. However, be cautious of jumping from the walls into the water. A coffee shop has recently opened at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, consider the CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM loop. With almost no traffic on weekdays, you’ll pass stunning viewpoints and discover hidden caves. There’s a great coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng and strawberry fields in Samoeng. Mae Rim offers a range of activities, including bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, paint-ball, parks, and restaurants. With a scooter or car, you can explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and don’t drink and drive.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai food markets: A vibrant display of local produce and delicacies
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 ↑
Uncovering the Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Temples in Chiang Mai
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 ↑
Eco-Friendly Shopping in Chiang Mai: Sustainable Souvenirs and Gifts
On the superhighway lies Central Festival, a large new shopping mall, while Robinson Airport Plaza is also a great option that’s easier to reach. Maya tends to be crowded with university students. If you’re staying in the city for a while, it’s better to rent a place than stay in hotels or guesthouses. You can find air-conditioned studios for around 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in one of the housing estates is a better option as they come with security, pool, gym, and clubhouse facilities, and are cheaper than apartments.
We advise against supporting places like the Zoo and Night Safari, which charge double entrance fees for tourists. Most of the city is mapped on Google Street View, which allows you to explore some areas before your visit.
If you have time, consider visiting Chiang Rai, which has two stunning temples: Wat Rong Khun, the white temple, and Baan Dam, the black house. Both are worth a visit, but it takes a 4-hour car ride to get there. If you plan to stay overnight in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel offers a wonderful Sunday brunch.