|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 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.
How to Get Around Northern Thailand: A Traveler’s Guide
Nestled amidst woodlands and mountains in the northern basin lies Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, a city with an infinite charm. The city is adorned with gorgeous ancient wats and chedis, some dating back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries can be found hidden in the mountains and hills.
The vibrant markets are bursting with OTOP products, and the Northern Thai cuisine is a flavor explosion, particularly the unforgettable khao soi. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the city offers endless choices to have unforgettable experiences, whether you are just on a short 2-day visit or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has plenty to offer, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls, to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene for party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
Navigating Your Way to Chiang Mai: A Complete Transportation 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 ↑
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus: Route and Time
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 simple, cost-effective, and comfortable option for the long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), and there are many companies, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more, that offer departures throughout the day, giving you plenty of options. 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’s advisable to book in advance. The prices vary depending on the level of comfort of the bus, with VIP coaches with 24 seats being the most expensive (starting from 800 THB) but ensuring enough space for both your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (starting from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the journey.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that Mochit Bus Terminal is quite large, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be greeted at the entrance and directed to the right platform, making your journey hassle-free.back to menu ↑
How to Plan Your Train Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling overnight by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a quintessential Thailand experience. As tickets, especially lower berths, tend to sell quickly, it is best to book in advance. The journey takes about twelve hours, slightly longer than the bus, but is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, although the top bunk may be cramped for those who are claustrophobic. Second-class sleepers are available in both fan and AC options, so it’s worth checking before booking. For those who want to travel in style, the 1st class single sleeper offers privacy, but costs over 2000 THB per person. If you opt for 2nd class fan seats (around 600-650 THB), be aware that it may not be the most comfortable option, as for an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for an additional 200 THB, an AC sleeper.
Alternatively, you may want to consider traveling by day, as the route is filled with scenic beauty, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
Pro tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, providing plenty of snacks and refreshments. However, selling alcoholic beverages on the train is illegal.back to menu ↑
Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: Route and Time
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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flights: Route and Time
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, which is affiliated with Lion Air based in Indonesia, offers up to 10 round-trip flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai daily. Prices for airfare start at THB1000 and vary based on the date and time of day you choose to fly. The busiest periods tend to sell out well in advance, but even a few days prior to your desired travel date, there are usually deals available for under THB2000. Each ticket includes 15 kg of checked baggage and 7 kg of cabin baggage at no extra cost. The first flight departs from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport at 8:55 am, with the last flight departing at 9:50 pm, and eight additional flight options in between.
Lion Air operates out of Don Mueang International Airport, located to the north of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can use the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. The A1 route starts from Morchit bus terminal, while the A2 route originates at the Victory Monument and stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (costs THB30). The Morchit BTS station is also serviced by the A1 route. Travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic. Commuter trains also operate between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, which is a reliable option. The trains take approximately 50 minutes to travel between the two locations, with service operating from 4:20 am until 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 the most convenient way to travel, and you can rent them from almost every guesthouse. Before embarking on your journey, check the brakes on the bike, as the city fleet may not be up to standard. The rental price for a standard bike with a fixed gear usually ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent way to get around, and there are plenty of shops scattered around the city that offer rentals. Renting a vehicle gives you the freedom to explore and enjoy your holiday. Be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit, although you should have no trouble getting it back when you return the vehicle to the rental shop.
Tip: Take extra precautions while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak. The winding road and breathtaking views can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
Songthaews are big trucks with benches in the back. The red and white ones are good for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20 to THB40 per ride), while the yellow ones can take you to the neighboring Northern provinces. Songthaews are usually the cheapest way to travel, but some negotiation may be necessary.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews. If you’re looking for a new experience, chartering a tuk-tuk may be worth considering, but otherwise, stick to the songthaews. Tuk-tuks are not always the best option due to their high price, noise, pollution, and safety record.
Taxis are widely available throughout the city. If you’re accustomed to using metered taxis in Bangkok, you should be aware that none of the taxis in Chiang Mai use meters. Always negotiate the fare before starting the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
In recent years, the cost of accommodation in Chiang Mai has increased, and it’s become difficult 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 Old City offers convenience and proximity to many attractions, there are other good options available.
If you’re on a tight budget, consider looking for affordable accommodation just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its numerous bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. For those with their own transportation, lodging outside the city center is a great choice, offering a more relaxed countryside feel and catering to the needs of city veterans.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
For those traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two routes from Bangkok. The first and quicker option is to head to Nakhon Sawan, then turn left before entering the city onto highway number 1. Along the way, you’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make a stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, we recommend avoiding the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding on elephants, as there are better places to get in touch with these gentle giants. The total distance of this route is around 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but offers beautiful scenery, with smaller roads cutting through vast forests. After reaching Nakhon Sawan, take the highway to Phitsanulok (117) and continue on highway 11 until you reach Lampang and Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two options: turn right towards Phetchaboon to explore the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ an area with relaxing resorts. Or turn left to visit Sukhothai, a city with a well-preserved historical park featuring 700-year-old temple ruins. Rent a bicycle at the park entrance to soak up the atmosphere.
For those traveling by bus, the journey will take around 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Overnight travel saves the cost of one night’s accommodation. Although many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, we recommend taking the plane back, especially if heading to the southern islands.back to menu ↑
Tips for a perfect day trip 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 village located near San Pathong, where they have been producing and painting paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. It’s fascinating to watch the production process at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. They make Sa paper from the bark of the mulberry tree and also paint beautiful designs on items such as mobile phone covers and clothing. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts that you want to make unique, bring them along and have them painted there. Another similar village is Baan Tawai near Hang Dong, which has loads of souvenirs and wooden furniture at cheaper prices than the night bazaar in the city. However, we prefer Boo Sang.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is situated near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, a large street market takes place inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (known as Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar is open every day from early afternoon until night, offering a variety of items, but it’s important to negotiate prices. Don’t expect items like Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be genuine.
Many shops sell the same products, so it’s best to compare prices and bargain. There’s a Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street, which typically 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’ll find the 3D street art museum called ‘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 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 ↑
Traditional desserts in Chiang Mai: A sweet experience
Chiang Mai is home to countless pubs and restaurants, and we have some special recommendations for you to try.
Taste from Heaven, a vegetarian restaurant located inside the old city, is known to be the best vegetarian restaurant in the north. The owner speaks English well, and they offer excellent cooking classes too.
For the biggest pizza and fantastic spare ribs, head over to The Dukes. Their portions are huge, and you won’t need a starter. They have two locations, one between Narawat Bridge and the old iron bridge and the other on the night bazaar road next to McD.
If you’re looking for the most beautiful food presentation, check out Mix Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1.
For the best breakfast in town, go to Smoothie Blues, a small shop located at the corner of Soi 6 (opposite Tesco Express). However, watch out for their mango “Smoothie Blues” – it’s highly addictive.
Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, offers Japanese food Thai-style and is quite affordable. Just a few meters away is the Beer Factory, which has a vast selection of imported beers, and down the street on Soi 9 is a Japanese Yakiniku Grill where you get to cook your food on a built-in grill at your table.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a must-visit for tasty food and live music. Although it’s a bit outside of town, it’s worth the trip. The owner of the restaurant is also your go-to person for all things Muay Thai boxing.
Lastly, if you’re looking for a beautiful dining experience, visit Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, on Road 3044. It’s one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chiang Mai, and sitting near the lake is highly recommended to avoid the noise of the waterfall on the other side. They also serve food inside their air-conditioned coffee shop.back to menu ↑
Exploring the Spiritual Side of Chiang Mai: Top Temples to Visit
There are numerous temples located in Chiang Mai besides Wat Doi Suthep, which sits atop a mountain. One such temple is Wat Phra Sing, situated within the old city. Another temple worth visiting is Wat U-Mong, which boasts beautiful caves and a vast fish pond in the vicinity of Chiang Mai University. Additionally, Wat Doi Kham, located near the night safari, is a charming temple that remains undiscovered by many tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from this vantage point.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Flower Markets: A Colorful Shopping Experience
On the superhighway, you’ll find Central Festival, a massive new shopping mall. The Robinson Airport Plaza is also quite nice and more accessible. Nearby university students frequent Maya, which is often crowded.
If you plan on staying in the city for an extended period of time, it’s better to rent a place instead of staying in hotels or guesthouses. Air-conditioned studios are available for about 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or the Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in one of the housing estates, which typically include security, a pool, a gym, a clubhouse, and more, is a much better option, as houses are less expensive to rent than apartments.
Please be aware that the Zoo and Night Safari charge double admission fees for tourists. We suggest avoiding these places and not supporting such behavior.
Most of the city is viewable on Google Streetview, so you can explore certain areas beforehand.
If you have the time, consider visiting Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai boasts two incredible temples: the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the Black House (Baan Dam). Both are well worth the visit, but it takes about four hours by car to reach. If you plan on spending a night in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel has a fantastic Sunday brunch.