|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 unique cultural features of each locality. Getting from one city to the other is also very convenient, with many transportation options available for travelers. In this article, we will explore the various options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to the most advanced and convenient modes.
Getting to Northern Thailand: Transportation Options and Tips
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is nestled in a northern basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, exuding an infinite charm that is hard to resist. The city is adorned with stunning ancient wats and chedis that date back to the 13th century, while forest monasteries are hidden in the mountains and hills. There are vibrant and colorful markets selling OTOP products, and the Northern Thai cuisine is bursting with unforgettable flavors, especially the renowned khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are endless choices to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers plenty to explore, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene that caters to party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
How to Get to Chiang Mai: A Step-by-Step Guide
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 ↑
How 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 convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for 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 providing daily departures throughout the day. 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 is advisable to book in advance. Prices vary based on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches having 24 seats and costing around 800 THB, providing ample space for both legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses (from 500 THB) offer comfortable travel and are suitable for sleeping during the journey.
The Mochit Bus Terminal may seem daunting due to its size, but there is plenty of staff available to assist passengers in finding their way. Upon arrival, passengers will be directed to the correct platform, providing a sense of ease and comfort.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train: How to Book Your Ticket
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 ↑
How to Navigate Your Private Taxi Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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 ↑
How to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane
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, 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 busiest airports in the country, offering daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. The airport is located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a convenient option that won’t cost you much time or money to reach your hotel.
While many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, it’s important to arrange this in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the city center. Although the cost of the ride may seem a bit high considering the distance, it’s still relatively inexpensive at around THB150.
A helpful tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers service to some of the most amazing destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for navigating the winding roads from Chiang Mai to these towns, it’s worth considering flying instead.
When it comes to getting around Chiang Mai, the majority of the city’s attractions are located within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are the easiest and most affordable way to explore the area and can be rented from most guesthouses for a cost of THB50 to THB100 per day. However, it’s important to check the bike’s brakes before setting off, as the quality of rental bikes can be hit or miss.
Renting a scooter or motorcycle (or even a car) is also a popular option, with rental shops available throughout the city. This gives you the freedom to explore and discover Chiang Mai at your own pace. Be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit, but it’s usually returned without any issues.
If you’re planning on riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, be extra cautious as the winding roads and stunning views can be challenging for inexperienced riders.
Songthaews, which are large trucks with benches in the back, are the cheapest mode of transportation for trips within the city (priced between THB20-40 per ride), while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring Northern provinces. Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews, so it’s recommended to only use them if you’re seeking a unique experience. Taxis are also readily available, but they do not use meters, so be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in.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 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 ↑
Best time to take a road trip to Chiang Mai
For those driving to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, there are two routes to choose from. The quicker and shorter route takes you through Nakhon Sawan and then onto highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang, where you can stop at the Riverside restaurant for pizza. However, we advise against visiting 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 is about 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but offers smaller roads through big forests. You’ll drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take the highway to Phitsanulok (117), then continue on highway 11 until you reach Lampang and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two more options: turn right towards Phetchaboon and visit the “Switzerland of Thailand,” an area with relaxing resorts, or turn left and visit the historical park in Sukhothai to explore the 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you decide to take the bus, it will take about 10 hours, while the train will take around 14 hours. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of a hotel room. While there are many airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, driving allows you to enjoy the scenery and take your time. We recommend taking a plane for the return journey, especially if you plan to travel down south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Where to find the best street food 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, a village near San Pathong, has been producing and painting paper umbrellas and parasols for over 200 years. The process is fascinating, and you can witness every step of production at the umbrella factory on the right side near the junction. Sa paper is made from the bark of the mulberry tree, and you can even have wonderful motifs painted on your mobile phone cover or clothes. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts that you want to make unique, bring them with you and avoid buying something there. Baan Tawai, a village near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang and offers loads of souvenirs and wooden furniture at cheaper prices than the night bazaar in the city, but we prefer Boo Sang.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, a big street market is held inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) takes place on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling a variety of items, but prices are negotiable. Don’t expect Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be genuine.
Many shops sell the same items, so you can ask for a price and then check 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, which usually offers the best exchange rates in town. If you walk to 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, 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 take some amazing or funny photos.
If you are an animal lover, don’t miss the chance to visit Care For Dogs in Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. The park may be pricey, but it’s worth it to see happy elephants living without hooks, chains or fences. You can even swim with them in the river and brush their backs. For an adrenaline rush, try white-water rafting or bamboo rafting down the river. If you’re looking for a relaxing swim, check out the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai, a hidden gem with clear water and few crowds.
For those who can drive a scooter or rent a car, try the scenic loop from Chiang Mai to Hang Dong, Samoeng, and Mae Rim, which offers stunning views, strawberry fields, a hidden cave, and various activities like bungee jumping and ATV rentals. And if you’re feeling adventurous, explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own by going up the mountain. Always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink and drive!back to menu ↑
Street food scene in Chiang Mai: A delicious adventure
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.
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 Antique Shops and Flea Markets: Treasure Hunting in the City
On the superhighway, you’ll find Central Festival, a massive new shopping mall. If you prefer convenience, Robinson Airport Plaza is also a great option. Maya tends to be packed with university students.
If you’re staying in the city for an extended period, it’s best to rent a place rather than opting for hotels or guesthouses. You can find air-conditioned studios for around 100 euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin areas are much pricier. Renting a house in a housing estate, which usually includes amenities like security, pool, gym, and clubhouse, is a better choice, as the rent for houses is typically less than that of apartments.
Be aware that the Zoo and the Night Safari charge tourists double the entrance fee. We advise against supporting such behavior and recommend avoiding such places.
Most areas of the city can be viewed on Google Streetview, allowing you to explore them from your computer.
If you have the time, consider visiting Chiang Rai, which is home to two beautiful temples: Wat Rong Khun (the white temple) and Baan Dam (the black house). Both are well worth seeing, but the drive takes about four hours by car. If you plan to spend the night in Chiang Rai, Le Meridien Hotel offers an excellent Sunday brunch.