|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 778–7,379 1h 10m – 1h 20m|
|Train Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 883–1,862 10h 17m – 14h 20m|
|Bus Bangkok - Chiang Mai 9h 30m – 13h|
|Flight Don Mueang Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 649–1,470 1h 5m – 1h 25m|
Bangkok and Chiang Mai are two popular cities in Thailand, each with their own unique cultural features and numerous tourist attractions. Traveling between the two cities is also very convenient, with many transportation options available for tourists. In this article, we will explore the various options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to modern and convenient methods.
Tips for Traveling to Northern Thailand: Getting There and Getting Around
Nestled in a basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, Chiang Mai is a city full of charm and rich history as it was once the capital of the Lanna kingdom. The city is adorned with beautiful ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are nestled in the mountains and hills, providing a serene escape. Colorful markets showcase a plethora of OTOP products and the Northern Thai cuisine is filled with delicious flavors, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are friendly and welcoming, offering endless opportunities to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has something for everyone, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to cozy coffee shops, expansive shopping malls, and a unique nightlife scene for party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
How to Reach Chiang Mai: A Complete Guide
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 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 convenient, affordable, and comfortable option to sustain you through the long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies such as Bangkok Busline and Siam FirstNew Viriya serving the route and offering departures throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8pm 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 wise to book in advance.
Prices vary depending on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches offering 24 seats (from 800 THB) providing enough space for your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the whole journey. At the enormous Mochit Bus Terminal, there is a lot of staff available to help passengers find their way, and you will be directed to the right platform upon arrival.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 that should not be missed. However, tickets for lower berths sell out quickly, so it’s advisable to book well in advance. The journey takes roughly 12 hours, which is longer than the bus journey, but significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped for comfort, with seats that fold out into bunk beds. There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so make sure to check when booking. For a more luxurious experience, opt for the 1st class single sleeper, which costs over 2000 THB per person but offers complete privacy. There are also 2nd class fan seats (about 600-650 THB), but these are only recommended if no other options are available, as for an additional 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for an additional 200 THB, you can travel with AC.
You may also choose to travel by day, as the route is filled with breathtaking scenery, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that often seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the windows of the moving train.
Tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are never in short supply. However, it’s important to note that it’s illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
How to Navigate Your Private Taxi Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling from your hotel directly to Chiang Mai is a convenient option, especially for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter is available for THB 13,200 and takes about 9 hours to travel between the two cities. The roads are generally smooth, with gas stations featuring clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is breathtaking, making for a pleasant journey.back to menu ↑
What to Expect When Taking a Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Considering that several low-cost carriers offer tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as little as THB1000 and transport you to your destination in just 1½ hours, it might be worthwhile to fly between the two cities instead of 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’s Bangkok base is located at Don Mueang International Airport, which is situated to the north of the capital. You can reach the airport by using airport shuttle buses that operate two routes: A1 and A2. Route A1 starts from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 originates at Victory Monument and stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (fare is THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by the A1 route. The duration of the journey can vary depending on traffic, but it typically takes between 60 to 80 minutes. Additionally, there are commuter trains available between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport. These trains are a reliable option and take approximately 50 minutes to travel between the railway station and the airport. The operating hours for the train service are from 4:20 am to 10:25 pm
Chiang Mai International Airport is a major gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the four busiest airports in the country. The airport operates daily domestic and international flights to and from destinations such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Seoul, among others. Conveniently, Chiang Mai Airport is located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a practical option that won’t require much time or money to get to your hotel.
Keep in mind that many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but these should be arranged in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to reach the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit high given the short distance, but it’s still relatively inexpensive (around THB150).
Tip: Chiang Mai Airport serves as a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers flights to some of the most stunning destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. It’s worth considering flying to these towns as not every traveler may be comfortable with the winding roads from Chiang Mai to Pai or Mae Hong Son.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions are located within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are a convenient mode of transportation and can be rented from almost every guesthouse. However, before embarking on your exploration, make sure to check the brakes, as the condition of the city fleet may leave something to be desired. The cost of renting a bike with a fixed gear ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent option for those seeking more freedom to explore. Rental shops are abundant throughout the city, and be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. However, when riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, inexperienced riders should exercise extra caution due to the winding road and breathtaking views.
Songthaews are big trucks with benches in the back that are ideal for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20 to THB40 per ride). The red and white ones are recommended for trips within the city, while the yellow ones will take you to neighboring Northern provinces. Songthaews are typically the cheapest way to get around, but it may require a bit of negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews, and their prices, noise, pollution, and safety record do not make them a practical option for every ride. Consider chartering one for a unique experience.
Taxis are available everywhere in the city, but unlike the meter taxis in Bangkok, none of them use meters. Be sure to negotiate the fare before beginning the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
In recent years, accommodation prices in Chiang Mai have increased, and it is challenging 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 walls of the Old City is convenient for being in the midst of the action and close to many attractions, other excellent options are available.
Consider looking for pleasant budget accommodations just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, close to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with all its bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. Lodgings outside the city are perfect for city veterans or those seeking a relaxed countryside feel and are an excellent choice if you have your own vehicle.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 ↑
Where to stay during a road trip 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 ↑
Tips for a perfect day trip in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city with countless attractions that will keep you busy for months. While your guidebook will point you towards popular tourist spots, we want to highlight some hidden gems that are worth exploring. But before we delve into those, there are three things you absolutely must do in Chiang Mai: try Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with various ingredients; visit Boo Sang, where vibrant paper umbrellas are handcrafted; and make your way to Wat Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain. Visit on a weekday for fewer crowds and stunning photos of the golden chedi. If you take a red songtaew taxi, keep in mind that the fare down the mountain is higher than the ascent.
Khao Soi is a soup-like specialty made with thin, yellow curry and rice noodles, similar to Massaman style. It is typically served with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, along with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. Skip the oil-fried ground chilies if you can’t handle the extreme spiciness, and enjoy the dish with chicken, beef, or the vegetarian version. Coconut milk is added to soften the flavor and reduce spiciness.
Boo Sang is a village located near San Pathong, where they have been producing and painting paper umbrellas and parasols for over 200 years. Visitors can witness the fascinating production process at the umbrella factory located on the right side near the junction. Sa paper is made from the bark of the mulberry tree, and the artisans can paint beautiful designs on mobile phone covers or even on clothes. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts that you want to customize, bring them with you to Boo Sang. Baan Tawai, located near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang and offers a wide variety of souvenirs and wooden furniture at a lower price 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 big street market inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight. Saturdays offer the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) on Wualai Road. The night bazaar is open every day in the early afternoon and closes at night. You can find various items for sale, but be prepared to negotiate prices.
Don’t expect to find original Louis-Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. Many shops sell similar items, so don’t hesitate to ask for prices and compare them between shops. The Chinese Money Changer shop, located about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street, 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 large hotel on the left side, you will find the 3D street art museum ‘Art in Paradise’. Bring your camera to capture the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls, and ceiling and take some memorable and humorous photos.
If you are an animal lover, don’t miss these activities in Chiang Mai
- Care for Dogs in Chiang Mai: Visit this shelter in Hang Dong District and make a difference in the lives of dogs. You can also adopt a furry friend.
- Elephant Nature Park: Spend a day or more at this sanctuary in Mae Taeng and get close to elephants without harming them. Swim with them and brush their backs.
- White-water and bamboo rafting: Head to the shops near the Elephant Nature Park and try these activities.
Other activities to consider in Chiang Mai
- Grand Canyon Chiang Mai: Swim in crystal-clear waters and relax at this hidden gem. Don’t forget to visit the coffee shop at the entrance.
- Samoeng Loop: Rent a car or scooter and explore this scenic route that takes about three hours to complete. You will pass by stunning viewpoints, strawberry fields, and many other activities. Remember to wear a helmet and drive safely.
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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.
A Cultural Journey Through Chiang Mai’s Temples
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai, in addition to Wat Doi Suthep which is situated on the mountain. Within the old city, you can find Wat Phra Sing, while near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong which boasts caves and a vast fish pond. Another beautiful temple is Wat Doi Kham located near the night safari, which is often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the city from this temple.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Flower Markets: A Colorful Shopping Experience
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.