|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 to Chiang Mai is a popular travel route in Thailand, attracting both locals and tourists from around the world. Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a vibrant city known for its rich history, cultural landmarks, and stunning natural scenery. Whether you are interested in exploring ancient temples, indulging in local cuisine, or trekking through the mountains, Chiang Mai offers something for everyone. In this article, we will discuss various transportation options available for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, as well as tips for planning your journey.
Tips for Traveling to Northern Thailand: Getting There and Getting Around
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 ↑
How to Get Around Chiang Mai: Transportation Options and Tips
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is both easy and convenient, with numerous buses linking the northern capital to major provincial centers across the country. If traveling from the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai will take 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. Additionally, the northern line of Thailand’s state railway stretches 751km long, from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai, with the journey taking anywhere between 9 to 14 hours, depending on the mode of transport you choose.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by bus
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 ↑
What to Expect When Taking a Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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
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 from Don Mueang International Airport in the northern part of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses, either route A1 from Morchit bus terminal or route A2 from the Victory Monument. Route A2 also stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations, and the fare is THB30. The travel time may vary depending on the traffic, typically taking between 60 to 80 minutes. 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 to 10:25 pm. Taking the train is a reliable option.
Chiang Mai International Airport serves as a major gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the busiest airports in the country, offering 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 just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a practical option, as you won’t need to spend much time or money getting to your hotel.
Many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but it’s important to arrange this in advance. If you haven’t pre-booked transportation, 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 high considering the distance, but it is still relatively inexpensive (around THB150).
Pro tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers service to some of the most spectacular destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for a challenging drive on winding roads from Chiang Mai to these towns, it’s worth considering flying there instead.
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
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 worth trying something unique to add some excitement to your trip. While you’re sure to visit a fair share of temples and do some hiking, trekking, white-water rafting, or rock climbing, consider enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of Thai massage. You can also volunteer at one of the elephant camps, such as the Elephant Nature Park, to support animal welfare efforts. Additionally, take a tour to see how the colorful Chiang Mai parasols are made or stroll down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evenings to experience the local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant festivals. If possible, schedule your visit to witness and participate in some of them. The Flower Festival is held during the first weekend of February, and the city transforms into a stunning blooming garden. Songkran, which takes place from April 12-14, is a water festival where revelers pour water on each other (and passers-by) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, is one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night skies over the city, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
How to navigate Chiang Mai’s roads and traffic
If you’re traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two main routes to choose from. The first, faster and shorter route 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, where you can stop at the Riverside restaurant for pizza. However, we recommend skipping the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai as there are better places to interact with elephants. After covering a total distance of about 700 kilometers, you’ll arrive in Chiang Mai.
The second route is slightly longer but offers smaller roads through large forests. After reaching Nakhon Sawan, take highway 117 to Phitsanulok, then continue on highway 11 to Lampang and finally Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you can choose to turn right towards Phetchaboon to visit the “Switzerland of Thailand,” a lovely area with very relaxing resorts. Alternatively, turn left to visit Sukhothai, where you can explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins by renting a bicycle at the park entrance. Don’t miss the Khao Koh mountain, where your car will slowly roll up the hill if you turn towards Phetchaboon.
While traveling by bus takes about 10 hours and the train takes around 14 hours, you’ll save the cost of a night’s hotel stay. While there are many airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, you’ll miss the beautiful scenery along the way. We recommend flying back, especially if you’re headed south towards the islands.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 is a charming village located near San Pathong, where paper umbrellas/parasols have been produced and painted for over 200 years. It is fascinating to witness the production process, which can be observed at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. The paper used for the parasols is made from the bark of the mulberry tree. Additionally, they also offer painting services for mobile phone covers, clothes, bags, t-shirts, and shorts. If you have something unique you want to create, bring it along instead of buying something new there. Baan Tawai, a village near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang, with numerous souvenirs and wooden furniture. Although it is cheaper than the night bazaar in the city, Boo Sang remains our favorite.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is situated 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. to midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling a diverse range of items, but haggling is necessary.
Don’t expect original Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. Since many shops sell similar things, it’s best to inquire about prices and then compare them elsewhere. There is a Chinese money changer shop located about 50 meters from Tha Phae Road on the right side of the night bazaar street that 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 big hotel on the left side, you will see 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 unique and amusing pictures.
If you’re an animal lover looking for a meaningful experience, consider visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. While the latter can be expensive, it’s worth it to see elephants free from chains or hooks, and even go swimming with them in the river. Day trips and volunteer opportunities are available. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the white-water and bamboo rafting options available further down the same road.
For a hidden gem swimming spot, search for “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” – a clear and clean water spot with a new coffee shop nearby. If you have a scooter or car, consider taking the scenic loop from Chiang Mai to Hang Dong, Samoeng, Mae Rim, and back. Along the way, you’ll see stunning viewpoints, discover a hidden cave, pass strawberry fields, and find plenty of activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, and ATV rentals near Mae Rim. Remember to drive safely and responsibly.back to menu ↑
Best coffee shops in Chiang Mai: For caffeine lovers
Chiang Mai is a foodie’s paradise with an abundance of restaurants and eateries to choose from. Here are some of our top picks for delicious and unique dining experiences:
Taste from Heaven is a must-visit for vegetarians and vegans. This restaurant inside the old city offers fantastic cooking classes and delectable meat-free dishes.
The Dukes is a popular spot for huge portions of mouth-watering pizza and spare ribs. There are two branches – one on the other side of the river and the other at the night bazaar road.
For the most beautiful food presentation, head to Mix Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1.
Start your day with the best breakfast in town at Smoothie Blues. This small shop located at the corner of Soi 6 serves up delicious smoothie bowls and other breakfast dishes.
For a unique twist on Japanese food, check out Sumo Sushi in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13. A few meters away is the beer factory with a huge selection of imported beers and a bit further down the street to Soi 9 is a Japanese Yakiniku Grill.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is worth the trip outside the city for its delicious food and occasional live music. Plus, the owner can give you insider tips on Muay Thai boxing.
For a stunning dining experience, visit Khao-Mao Khao-Fang on Road 3044. This former ‘Rainforest Restaurant’ offers breathtaking views of the lake and waterfall, and a range of mouth-watering dishes.
Exploring the Spiritual Side of Chiang Mai: Top Temples to Visit
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai apart from Wat Doi Suthep, which is situated on the mountain. Inside the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, and near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong, which features caves and a large fish pond. Another lovely temple is Wat Doi Kham, located close to the night safari, which not many tourists are aware of. On a clear day, this temple provides a stunning view of the city.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Flower Markets: A Colorful Shopping Experience
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.