|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 distinctive cultural features of each locality. It is very convenient to travel between these two cities, with many transportation options available for tourists. In this article, we will explore the options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to modern and most convenient ones.
How to get to Northern Thailand
Nestled in a basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, Chiang Mai is a city full of charm and rich history as it was once the capital of the Lanna kingdom. The city is adorned with beautiful ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are nestled in the mountains and hills, providing a serene escape. Colorful markets showcase a plethora of OTOP products and the Northern Thai cuisine is filled with delicious flavors, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are friendly and welcoming, offering endless opportunities to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has something for everyone, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to cozy coffee shops, expansive shopping malls, and a unique nightlife scene for party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
Getting to 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 ↑
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 simple, affordable, and comfortable way to make the journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies (such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, etc.) offering 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 wise to book in advance. The cost of the bus ticket varies depending on the level of comfort, but even the cheapest buses (from 500 THB) provide enough comfort for a good night’s sleep. If you can afford to pay extra, VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB) provide even more space for your legs and elbows.
If you are concerned about navigating the enormous Mochit Bus Terminal, don’t worry. There are plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. You will be greeted right at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.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 Thai experience. Tickets, especially for lower berths, sell quickly, so it’s recommended to book well in advance. The journey takes approximately twelve hours, slightly longer than the bus journey, but is considerably more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped for comfort with seats that convert into bunk beds (avoid the top bunk if you’re claustrophobic). Both fan and air-conditioned 2nd class sleepers are available, so make sure to check when booking. For a luxurious experience, consider purchasing the 1st class single sleeper which costs over 2000 THB per person but offers complete privacy. There are also 2nd class fan seats (around 600-650 THB), but these should only be considered if there are no other options left, as for an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, or add 200 THB and travel with air conditioning.
Alternatively, you may choose to travel by day as the route takes you through stunning mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, offering scenic views from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors are constantly patrolling the carriages, ensuring that 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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Private Taxi: Transportation Options and Tips
You can leave for Chiang Mai directly from your hotel at any time of day, which may be a great 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 toilets and convenience stores along the way. The scenery is also great, making for a scenic journey.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flights: How to Book Your Ticket
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 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 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 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 exploring some unique activities to spice up your visit. You may likely visit several temples, go hiking and trekking, or even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, you can add some extra flavor to your stay by enrolling in a massage class and learning the basics of Thai massage, volunteering at one of the elephant camps (beginning with Elephant Nature Park), observing the production of colorful Chiang Mai parasols, and taking a stroll down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evening when it becomes a hub of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its colorful festivals. If possible, schedule your trip to participate in some of these festivals. During the first weekend of February, the Flower Festival is held, and the city transforms into a gorgeous blooming garden. Songkran falls on April 12-14, with revelers dousing each other (and passersby) with water along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night skies over the city, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
The most scenic drives to Chiang Mai
For those with a car, there are two routes to take from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The shorter and quicker route involves going to Nakhon Sawan and turning left before entering the city onto highway number 1. You will pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you are a fan of pizza, stop by the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, we recommend avoiding the elephant park between Lamphang and Chiang Mai for elephant riding, as there are better options for interacting with these majestic creatures. After a total distance of approximately 700 kilometers, you will arrive in Chiang Mai.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads that wind through vast forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on highway 11, and you will pass through Lampang and finally reach Chiang Mai. In Phisanulok, there are two additional alternatives. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you will come across the “Switzerland of Thailand,” a beautiful area with many relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can visit Khao Koh, the mountain that causes cars to slowly roll uphill. Turn left to visit the city of Sukhothai, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins.
Taking a bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes approximately 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Taking an overnight trip can save the cost of a hotel room. Although many airlines offer flights to Chiang Mai, we recommend driving to Chiang Mai and taking a plane back, especially if you are heading south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s coffee culture
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/parasols for over 200 years. It’s a fascinating process, and at the umbrella factory near the junction, you can observe every step of the production. The Sa paper is made from the mulberry tree’s bark, and they can even paint fantastic designs on your mobile phone case, clothes, or any item you bring. The village of Baan Tawai, near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang, but it’s a great place to find souvenirs and wooden furniture at lower prices than the night bazaar in the city.
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, which starts at 7 p.m. and closes at midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar is open every day in the early afternoon and closes at night. You can find a variety of items there, but be prepared to negotiate prices. Don’t expect the Louis-Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be authentic.
Many shops sell the same things, so you can ask for a price and then move on to 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 that 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 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 capture some amazing or funny pictures.
If you are 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. Although the park can be pricey, the experience of seeing elephants without hooks, chains, or fences is priceless. You can even swim in the river with these majestic creatures and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips and volunteer opportunities that you won’t forget.
A short distance from the park, you’ll find white-water and bamboo rafting shops. While bamboo rafting is a relaxing activity, white-water rafting is more challenging, especially after heavy rainfalls in the mountains.
For a unique swimming experience, check out the hidden gem of Grand Canyon Chiang Mai. The water is clear and clean, and the area is almost empty during the weekdays. Be cautious when jumping from the walls into the water and don’t forget to visit the recently opened coffee shop at the entrance.
If you’re comfortable driving a scooter or renting a car, try the loop of CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM. On weekdays, the roads are virtually traffic-free, and you’ll pass by stunning viewpoints, a hidden cave, a large coffee shop, strawberry fields, and a plethora of activities like bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, and paintball. While on the loop, you can also drive up the mountain and explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Remember to wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink and drive!back to menu ↑
Traditional desserts in Chiang Mai: A sweet experience
Chiang Mai is home to countless restaurants and pubs, so we’ve curated a list of some of our favorite spots worth checking out.
For an exceptional vegetarian experience, head to Taste from Heaven located within the Old City. They offer great cooking classes too!
If you’re in the mood for pizza and ribs, The Dukes is the perfect spot, serving the biggest pizza in town. It’s located on the other side of the river between Narawat bridge and the old iron bridge, with another branch at the night bazaar road.
The Mix Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 serves up some of the most beautifully presented dishes you’ll ever see.
For a delicious breakfast, Smoothie Blues on the corner of Soi 6 is a must-visit spot, but be careful not to get addicted to their mango smoothie.
Japanese food Thai-style can be found at Sumo Sushi on the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, while just a few meters away, the beer factory boasts an extensive selection of imported beers. For a unique dining experience, try the Japanese Yakiniku Grill on Soi 9, where you prepare your own food on the built-in table grill.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a bit outside of the city but definitely worth the trip, with delicious food and occasional live music. The owner of the restaurant is also knowledgeable about Muay Thai boxing.
For a unique and beautiful dining experience, check out the Khao-Mao Khao-Fang restaurant on Road 3044. Be sure to request a seat near the lake to enjoy the serene ambiance.back to menu ↑
Exploring the Spiritual Side of Chiang Mai: Top Temples to Visit
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.