|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 famous cities in Thailand, with many attractive tourist destinations and unique cultural features of each locality. Traveling between these two cities is also very convenient, with many transportation options available for tourists. In this article, we will explore the options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to advanced and most convenient ones.
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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai by Plane, Train, or Bus: Which One to Choose?
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is hassle-free and convenient, with numerous buses connecting the northern capital to major provincial centers in the country. From the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai takes you as far as Lampang, where you can switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which leads you all the way to your destination. Alternatively, the northern line of the State Railway of Thailand is a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your preferred mode of transportation, the journey can take anywhere from 9 to 14 hours.back to menu ↑
The Best Way to Travel 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 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 ↑
Why Taking a Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai Can be a Great Option
Leaving for Chiang Mai directly from your hotel at any time of the day is a convenient option, especially for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter can be hired for THB 13,200, taking 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. Moreover, the scenery along the route is breathtaking, making the journey even more enjoyable.back to menu ↑
The Ultimate Guide to Flying from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
If you want to avoid spending the entire night traveling overland, it might be worth considering flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Several low-cost carriers offer tickets for as low as THB1000, and the flight takes only 1.5 hours to reach your destination.
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’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 serves as a major gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the country’s four busiest airports, operating daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. The airport is conveniently located just about two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a cost-effective and time-saving option. Many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but it’s essential to book them in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to the city center. Although the fare may seem a bit high due to the distance, it is still relatively affordable (around THB150).
Pro tip: Kan Air, a domestic airline, uses Chiang Mai Airport as its hub and serves some of the most beautiful destinations in Northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. Consider taking a flight to these towns as the roads from Chiang Mai to Pai and from Chiang Mai to Mae Hong Son can be notoriously winding and difficult to navigate for some travelers.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions can be found within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are the easiest and most popular means of transportation, and they can be rented from almost every guesthouse. Before you set off on your adventure, make sure to check the brakes as the city’s bicycle fleet can be unreliable. The rental fee for an ordinary bike with a fixed gear ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent way to explore the city and there are rental shops scattered throughout Chiang Mai. This mode of transportation provides you with the freedom to create your own itinerary, and it’s a must-do while staying in Chiang Mai. To rent a vehicle, you’ll need to leave your passport as a security deposit, but it is typically returned to you upon returning the vehicle to the rental shop.
Tip: Be extra cautious while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s stunning peak. The winding roads and breathtaking views can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
Songtaews are large trucks with benches in the back and are good for short trips within the city (THB20-40 per ride). The red and white ones are typically used for this purpose, while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring provinces for a higher fare. Songtaews are usually the cheapest mode of transportation but may require some negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews, and they are typically used for special experiences rather than daily transportation. They are not a viable option due to their high price, noise, pollution, and safety record.
Taxis are widely available throughout the city, but none of them use meters like in Bangkok. Therefore, it’s best to negotiate the fare before starting the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
In recent years, accommodation prices in Chiang Mai have increased, making it nearly impossible to find a decent option for THB300. A budget room in a guesthouse within the walls now costs around THB1000, which is a more realistic figure. Staying within the walls of the Old City offers the convenience of being close to many attractions, but there are other excellent options available as well.
For example, you can find pleasant budget accommodations just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its plethora of bars and restaurants, is easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. Accommodations outside the city are perfect for those seeking a relaxed countryside atmosphere and are a great choice if you have your own transportation.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 ↑
Preparing your car for the journey 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 ↑
Chiang Mai’s best waterfalls and natural wonders
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 that has been producing paper umbrellas and painting them for over 200 years. It’s a fascinating process, and at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction, you can witness every step of the production. The Sa paper used is made from the bark of the mulberry tree. They also paint beautiful designs on mobile phone covers and clothes. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts you want to make unique, bring them along so you don’t have to buy something there. The village of Baan Tawai near Hang Dong is similar to Boo Sang, with many souvenirs and wooden furniture. It’s cheaper than the night bazaar in the city, but we prefer Boo Sang.
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 from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling various items that require negotiation on price.
Don’t expect original Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. Many shops sell the same things, so you can ask for a price and then check other stores. There’s a Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae road, which 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’ll find the 3D street art museum “Art in Paradise.” Bring your camera to capture the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls, and ceiling, and snap some amazing and funny pictures.
If you’re an animal lover looking to make a positive impact, consider visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. Although the park can be pricey, it’s worth it to see the elephants happy and free from hooks, chains, or fences. You may even have the opportunity to swim in the river with them and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips or longer-term volunteer opportunities.
For a lesser-known swimming spot, check out the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai, a hidden gem with clear, clean water. It’s typically less crowded during weekdays when the sun is shining. But be careful and avoid jumping from the walls into the water. There’s a new coffee shop at the entrance to enjoy.
If you’re able to drive a scooter or rent a car, consider taking the CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM loop. This roughly three-hour trip offers breathtaking viewpoints, a hidden cave to explore, and strawberry fields in Samoeng. Along the way, there are plenty of activities to enjoy, including bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karting, paintball, and parks and restaurants near Mae Rim. You can also head up the mountain to explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own, but remember to always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and avoid drinking and driving.back to menu ↑
Best coffee shops in Chiang Mai: For caffeine lovers
Chiang Mai is known for its abundance of restaurants and bars, and we have some unique recommendations to share with you.
Taste from Heaven is a vegetarian restaurant located inside the old city and is considered the best vegetarian restaurant in the north. They also offer cooking classes.
If you’re a fan of pizza and ribs, head to The Dukes. They serve the biggest pizza in town and fantastic spare ribs. You can find one branch on the other side of the river and another on the night bazaar road.
Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 offers not only delicious food but also a beautiful ambiance.
For the best breakfast in town, visit Smoothie Blues on the corner of Soi 6 (opposite Tesco Express), but beware of their mango ‘smoothie blues’, which may leave you addicted.
Sumo Sushi on the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13 serves Japanese food Thai-style at a reasonable price. Nearby is the beer factory with a vast selection of imported beers, and a Japanese Yakiniku Grill is located further down the street on Soi 9.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a must-visit spot that offers delicious food and sometimes live music. The owner is also knowledgeable about Muay Thai boxing.
If you’re looking for a beautiful restaurant, check out Khao-Mao Khao-Fang on road 3044. It’s situated near a lake and offers air-conditioned seating and delicious food.back to menu ↑
Uncovering the Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Temples in Chiang Mai
In addition to Wat Doi Suthep located on the mountain, Chiang Mai boasts numerous other temples worth visiting. Within the old city, Wat Phra Sing is a notable temple, while Wat U-Mong, situated near Chiang Mai University, features fascinating caves and a large fish pond. Another hidden gem is Wat Doi Kham, which is located near the night safari and often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors to Wat Doi Kham can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Top Shopping Malls: Where to Find Your Favorite Brands
On the superhighway, you’ll find the massive Central Festival shopping mall, while Robinson Airport Plaza is another good option that’s more accessible. Maya is usually teeming with university students.
For a longer stay in the city, it’s advisable to rent a place instead of a hotel or guesthouse. Air-conditioned studios can be rented for around 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in a housing estate with amenities like security, pool, gym, and clubhouse is a better option since they’re cheaper than apartments.
Be aware that the Zoo and Night Safari are charging double entrance fees to tourists, and it’s recommended not to support such behavior by avoiding such places.
Most of the city is mapped on Google Streetview, so you can explore some areas beforehand.
If you have time, consider visiting Chiang Rai, which is about 4 hours away by car. Chiang Rai boasts two exquisite temples, Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) and Baan Dam (the Black House), both worth visiting. If you stay overnight, the Le Meridien Hotel in CR has a fantastic Sunday brunch.