|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 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.
Exploring Northern Thailand: Transportation Options and Routes
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is a city that exudes endless charm, nestled in a northern basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains. Throughout the city, ancient wats and chedis from the XIII century can be found, adding to the city’s stunning beauty. Hidden in the mountains and hills are forest monasteries waiting to be explored.
With colorful markets overflowing with OTOP products, delicious Northern Thai cuisine featuring the unforgettable khao soi, and friendly locals, Chiang Mai offers an array of unforgettable experiences, whether you’re on a short 2-day visit or a month-long trip. There is so much to take in in Chiang Mai, 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 ↑
How to Get Around Chiang Mai: Transportation Options and Tips
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is both easy and convenient. The city is well-connected to major provincial centers of Thailand via numerous buses. If you are traveling from the capital city, you can take Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai, which will bring you as far as Lampang. From Lampang, you will need to switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which will take you all the way to your destination. Alternatively, you can take the northern line of the state railway of Thailand, which covers a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The duration of the journey depends on the mode of transport you choose, but typically takes between 9 and 14 hours.back to menu ↑
Tips for a Comfortable Bus Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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 to Chiang Mai from Bangkok by bus is a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for a long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit). There are many bus companies serving this route, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more, with departures available 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 is advisable to book in advance. Prices for buses vary depending on the level of comfort provided. If you can afford to spend a bit more, VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB) are a great option, as they provide ample space for both your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (from 500 THB) offer enough comfort for sleeping through the whole journey.
Note that Mochit Bus Terminal is huge, but there are plenty of staff members available to help passengers find their way. Upon arrival, staff members will greet you at the entrance and direct you to the correct platform, so there’s no need to worry about getting lost.back to menu ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok: A Comprehensive Train Guide
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience. It’s important to book well in advance as tickets, especially lower berths, tend to sell out quickly. The journey takes around twelve hours, slightly 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 (avoid the top bunk if you’re claustrophobic). There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so check when you book. For a luxurious experience, consider buying the 1st class single sleeper, which costs over 2000 THB per person and provides ultimate privacy.
If you prefer traveling by day, the route is filled with natural beauty as it takes you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, which often appear 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 is illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
The Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi
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 Cheapest and Fastest Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane
Considering the fact that multiple low-cost carriers offer tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as low as THB1000 and can get you to your destination in just 1.5 hours, flying between the two cities may be a more appealing option than spending an entire night traveling overland.
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 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 attractions are located within the Old City walls. Bicycles are a convenient and widely available option, with rental services offered by many guesthouses. However, it’s essential to check the brakes beforehand as the quality of the bikes can vary. Expect to pay between THB50 to THB100 for a basic bike with a fixed gear.
Renting a motorcycle, scooter, or car is an excellent way to explore the city and its surroundings, with rental shops available throughout the area. Renting a vehicle provides the freedom to explore at your own pace, but be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. Take extra caution when riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, as the winding road and stunning views can be challenging for inexperienced riders.
Songtaews are large trucks with benches in the back, with red and white ones available for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20-40 per ride), while yellow ones can take you to neighboring Northern provinces. They are typically the cheapest transportation option but may require negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songtaews, and while they provide a unique experience, they may not be the best option for every trip due to their cost, noise, pollution, and safety record. Taxis are also widely available, but unlike in Bangkok, none of them use meters, so it’s essential to negotiate the price before 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 ↑
Road trip to Chiang Mai: Tips for an unforgettable journey
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 shopping destinations
Chiang Mai is a city with countless attractions, and even if you stay for several months, you won’t be able to see them all. In this guide, we’ll highlight some lesser-known things to do in addition to the popular tourist activities. But first, let’s start with the must-do activities recommended by locals. It’s said that you must try three things in Chiang Mai: Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with a variety of ingredients, visit Boo Sang to see the colorful handmade umbrellas, and visit Wat Doi Suthep, a temple located on a mountain.
Wat Doi Suthep is less crowded on weekdays and offers stunning views of the golden chedi on sunny days. If you take one of the red songtaew taxis, be aware that the fare for the trip down the mountain is higher than the trip up.
Khao Soi is a noodle dish with thin yellow curry, similar to the Massaman style, and is a popular soup-like specialty. It’s mixed with crispy and boiled egg noodles and typically served with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage. Those who can’t handle spicy food should avoid the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is often used to balance the spiciness. Khao Soi can be ordered with chicken, beef, or even a vegetarian option.
Boo Sang is a charming village near San Pathong that has been producing paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. Witness the fascinating process of how they make Sa paper from the bark of the mulberry tree at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. You can also get your mobile phone cover or clothes painted with beautiful motifs. If you have your own bag, t-shirt or shorts, bring them along to make them unique. Baan Tawai, located near Hang Dong, is another village that sells souvenirs and wooden furniture, but we prefer Boo Sang for its charm and atmosphere.
Wororot Market, styled in the Chinese tradition, is located 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. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) on Wualai Road is a popular destination. The night bazaar is open every day from the early afternoon until nightfall. You can find a variety of items there, but be prepared to negotiate prices.
Don’t expect to find authentic Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. As many shops sell similar items, you can ask for a price and then move on to the next shop. If you’re looking for the best exchange rates in town, visit the Chinese Money Changer shop located about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street. 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 ‘Art in Paradise.’ Bring your camera and step into the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls and ceiling to take some fantastic and amusing pictures.
If you’re an animal lover and want 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. While the park may not be the cheapest option, you’ll be able to see happy elephants without the use of hooks, chains, or fences. These gentle giants could easily run away, but they choose to stay. If you visit in the afternoon, you might even get the opportunity to swim with them in the river and brush their backs with a big broom. The park offers day trips or you can stay and volunteer for a while. It’s an experience you’ll never forget. A few shops further down the same small road, you can find white-water and bamboo rafting opportunities. Bamboo rafting is relaxed, while white-water rafting is more challenging but still enjoyable, especially after heavy rainfall.
For those who love swimming, check out the “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai,” a hidden gem in the north that not many people know about. The water is clear and clean, and there are hardly any people there during weekdays when the sun is out. However, be careful not to jump from the walls into the water. There’s a newly opened coffee shop at the entrance where you can relax and enjoy the views.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, take the loop from CM to Hang Dong, Samoeng, Mae Rim, and back to CM. The drive takes about 3 hours on weekdays when there is hardly any traffic. Along the way, you’ll see stunning viewpoints, a hidden cave (which is a bit tricky to find), a large and pleasant coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng, strawberry fields in Samoeng, and plenty of activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, paint-ball, and parks and restaurants near Mae Rim. With a scooter or car, you can also drive up the mountain and explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Please always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and do not drink and drive!back to menu ↑
Street food scene in Chiang Mai: A delicious adventure
Chiang Mai boasts a plethora of dining options, with some claiming there are more pubs and restaurants than residents in the city. Here are a few noteworthy eateries we recommend:
Taste from Heaven, located inside the old city, is a vegetarian restaurant that many hail as the best in the north. The owner speaks excellent English and the restaurant also offers cooking classes.
The Dukes, on the other side of the river between Narawat bridge and the old iron bridge, serves up the biggest pizza in town along with fantastic spare ribs. The portions are huge and no starters are necessary. Another branch can be found on the night bazaar road next to McDonald’s.
Mix Bar and Restaurant, located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1, serves not only delicious food, but also boasts beautiful presentation.
For the best breakfast in town, head to Smoothie Blues, located on the corner of Soi 6 opposite Tesco Express. However, be warned that their mango “Smoothie Blues” may be addictive.
Japanese food Thai-style can be found at Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13. It is reasonably priced and a few meters away from the beer factory, which offers a huge selection of imported beers. Further down the street towards Soi 9 is a Japanese Yakiniku Grill where diners can prepare their own food on the built-in table grill.
Yummy Pizza, located on Canal Road, may be a bit outside the city, but it is well worth the trip for its tasty food and occasional live music. The owner is also a great resource for all things related to Muay Thai boxing.
Finally, Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chiang Mai, situated on road 3044. It’s recommended to sit near the lake for a tranquil dining experience, as the waterfall on the other side can be quite noisy after a while. The restaurant also offers food inside its air-conditioned coffee shop.back to menu ↑
Finding Inner Peace in Chiang Mai’s Temples
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 ↑
Experience Authentic Thai Shopping at Chiang Mai’s Local Markets
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.