|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. 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.
The Best Ways to Travel to Northern Thailand
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is a city of limitless charm, nestled in a northern basin of woodlands and mountains. The city is adorned with breathtaking ancient wats and chedis, some dating back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are tucked away in the mountains and hills, while colorful markets overflow with OTOP products and unforgettable Northern Thai cuisine, including the iconic khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and the city offers endless possibilities for unforgettable experiences, whether you’re on a short 2-day visit or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has something for everyone, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to quaint coffee shops, trendy clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene that caters to 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 with numerous buses linking the northern capital to major provincial centers in the country. From the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai will take you as far as Lampang, where you’ll need to switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which will take you all the way to your destination. Alternatively, the northern line of Thailand’s state railway is a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your choice of transportation, the journey can last anywhere between 9 to 14 hours.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Bus: How to Book Your Ticket
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 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 ↑
The Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
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 ↑
Tips for a Comfortable Private Taxi Journey 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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flights: Transportation Options and Tips
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 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’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 is a significant gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the country’s busiest airports, with daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and more. The airport is conveniently located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a reasonable option as it won’t take much time or money to reach your hotel from the airport.
It’s worth noting that many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but you’ll need to book this service in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, a songthaew, or a tuk-tuk to get to the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit steep considering the short distance, but in absolute figures, it’s still quite affordable (around THB150).
Tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also used as a hub by Kan Air, a domestic airline that serves some of the most stunning destinations in Northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. It’s worth considering flying to these towns, especially if you’re not comfortable with the winding roads from Chiang Mai to Pai or from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son.
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
In recent years, the cost of accommodations in Chiang Mai has increased significantly, and it is now challenging to find a decent option for THB300. A more realistic budget figure for a guesthouse room within the Old City walls is around THB1000. While staying in the Old City provides the convenience of being close to many attractions, there are other great options available. Consider looking for budget-friendly accommodation in Thanon Tha Phae, located just east of the Old City and close to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.
Additionally, Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its plethora of bars and restaurants, is easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. For those with their own transportation, lodgings outside of the city provide a more relaxed countryside feel and are an excellent option for experienced travelers or those looking for a more secluded experience.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 best routes for driving to Chiang Mai
For those traveling by car, there are two routes to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The shorter and faster route is to head towards Nakhon Sawan, then turn left before entering the city onto Highway 1. This route will take you through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make a stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. It’s advisable to avoid elephant parks between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding on the elephants, as there are better options for interacting with these magnificent animals. The total distance covered is approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by dense forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take Highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on Highway 11 to reach Lampang, and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, there are two more alternatives. Turn right towards Phetchaboon to visit the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ a beautiful area with relaxing resorts. Or turn left to visit the city of Sukhothai and its historical park, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you prefer to take the bus or train, the journey will take approximately 10 or 14 hours, respectively. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of one night’s accommodation. There are several airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, but you would miss out on a beautiful road trip. We recommend taking the plane back, especially if you’re heading down south towards 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 near San Pathong where they have been making paper umbrellas and parasols for over 200 years. You can witness the interesting production process at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. The Sa paper is made from mulberry tree bark and they also paint beautiful designs on mobile phone covers, clothes, bags, t-shirts, and shorts. If you have something you want to make unique, bring it along instead of buying something there. The village of Baan Tawai near Hang Dong is similar to Boo Sang with loads of souvenirs and wooden furniture, but we prefer Boo Sang for its charm and character.
The Wororot Market, styled after Chinese markets, is located near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, there’s a big street market inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight, while Saturdays offer the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling a variety of goods, but be prepared to negotiate prices. Don’t expect original Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans.
Many shops sell similar items, so shop around and compare prices. The Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae Road on the right side of the night bazaar street usually 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 large hotel on the left side, you will 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 fun and unique 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 ↑
Cooking classes in Chiang Mai: Learn the art of Thai cooking
Chiang Mai is home to countless restaurants and pubs, so we’ve curated a list of some of our favorite spots worth checking out.
For an exceptional vegetarian experience, head to Taste from Heaven located within the Old City. They offer great cooking classes too!
If you’re in the mood for pizza and ribs, The Dukes is the perfect spot, serving the biggest pizza in town. It’s located on the other side of the river between Narawat bridge and the old iron bridge, with another branch at the night bazaar road.
The Mix Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 serves up some of the most beautifully presented dishes you’ll ever see.
For a delicious breakfast, Smoothie Blues on the corner of Soi 6 is a must-visit spot, but be careful not to get addicted to their mango smoothie.
Japanese food Thai-style can be found at Sumo Sushi on the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, while just a few meters away, the beer factory boasts an extensive selection of imported beers. For a unique dining experience, try the Japanese Yakiniku Grill on Soi 9, where you prepare your own food on the built-in table grill.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a bit outside of the city but definitely worth the trip, with delicious food and occasional live music. The owner of the restaurant is also knowledgeable about Muay Thai boxing.
For a unique and beautiful dining experience, check out the Khao-Mao Khao-Fang restaurant on Road 3044. Be sure to request a seat near the lake to enjoy the serene ambiance.back to menu ↑
The Ultimate Temple-Hopping Adventure in Chiang Mai
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai, including Wat Phra Sing located within the old city and Wat U-Mong with its caves and a vast fish pond near Chiang Mai University. Additionally, there is Wat Doi Kham situated near the night safari, which is often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the city from this temple. Beside Wat Doi Suthep, which is located on the mountain, these other temples are worth exploring.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Best Street Food Markets: Shop and Savor Local Delicacies
Central Festival, a vast new shopping complex situated on the superhighway, is a notable landmark. In contrast, Robinson Airport Plaza is also pleasant and easily accessible. However, Maya tends to be overcrowded with pupils from the adjacent university.
If you intend to stay longer in the city, it’s better to rent a place instead of staying in hotels or guesthouses. You can find air-conditioned studios for about 100 Euros per month, but condos located inside the city or Nimman Hemmin district are significantly more expensive. Renting a house in one of the gated communities that usually provide security, pool, gym, and clubhouse, is a more economical choice as houses are cheaper to rent than apartments.
Note that the Zoo and Night Safari are imposing double entrance fees on tourists, and it’s not recommended to support such practices. Hence, it’s better to avoid such places.
Most of the city is mapped on Google Streetview, enabling you to explore some areas from your PC.
If you have the time, you might also consider visiting Chiang Rai, a city that has two exquisite temples – the white temple, Wat Rong Khun, and the black house, Baan Dam. Both are worth visiting, but it takes a four-hour car ride to reach there. If you plan to stay overnight in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel offers a fantastic Sunday brunch.