|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 1,215–13,049 1h 15m – 1d 2h 30m|
|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|
|Taxi Suvarnabhumi Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 8,800–24,024 9h – 10h|
|Flight Don Mueang Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 1,377–2,185 1h 10m – 1h 20m|
|Taxi Don Mueang Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 9,900–14,960 8h – 9h 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.
A Journey to Northern Thailand: How to Plan Your Transportation
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom, is nestled in a basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, creating an atmosphere of infinite charm. The city is adorned with ancient wats and chedis, some dating back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries can be found hidden in the mountains and hills, while colourful markets overflow with OTOP products and flavoursome Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, providing endless opportunities for unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers an array of attractions, including temples, museums, galleries, waterfalls, quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene for 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 a breeze, thanks to the numerous buses connecting the northern capital with major provincial centers of the country. If you’re coming from Bangkok, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai takes 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. Alternatively, you can take the northern line of the state railway of Thailand, a 751km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your choice of transportation, the entire journey can take anywhere between 9 and 14 hours.back to menu ↑
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 ↑
What to Expect When Taking the Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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 ↑
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 ↑
How to Navigate Your Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
If you’re looking to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it might be worth considering taking a flight instead of spending an entire night traveling by land. With various low-cost carriers selling tickets for as low as THB1000 and providing a quick 1½ hour journey to your destination, flying can be a convenient and affordable option.
Thai Lion Air, a partner airline of Lion Air based in Indonesia, operates up to 10 round-trip flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Prices for airfare start at THB1000 and vary depending on the date and time of day you wish to travel. The busiest periods tend to sell out well in advance, but there are usually deals available for under THB2000 even a few days prior to your desired travel date. The ticket price already includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of carry-on luggage. The first flight departs from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport at 8:55 am and the last one at 9:50 pm, with eight other options available in between.
Lion Air operates from Don Mueang International Airport in the northern part of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses, either route A1 from Morchit bus terminal or route A2 from the Victory Monument. Route A2 also stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations, and the fare is THB30. The travel time may vary depending on the traffic, typically taking between 60 to 80 minutes. Alternatively, there are commuter trains available between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, which take approximately 50 minutes and operate from 4:20 am to 10:25 pm. Taking the train is a reliable option.
Chiang Mai International Airport is a major entry point to Northern Thailand and is among 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, Seoul, and more. Being located just two kilometers from the city center, flying into Chiang Mai is a convenient option that doesn’t require much time or money to get to your hotel.
It’s worth noting that many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but you’ll need to arrange this in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to reach the city center. Although the fare may seem a bit high given the short distance, it’s still quite affordable at around THB150.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai Airport serves as a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers flights to some of the most breathtaking destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for a long and winding road trip from Chiang Mai, flying to these towns is definitely worth considering.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions are located within the Old City walls, and bicycles are the most convenient mode of transportation, available for rent at nearly every guesthouse. However, it’s best to check the brakes before renting, as the bikes in the city are not always well-maintained. The cost for an ordinary bike with a fixed gear is usually between THB50 to THB100.
Renting a motorcycle, car or scooter is another popular option, providing a great deal of freedom to explore the city and surrounding areas. Rental shops are available throughout the city, and you will need to leave your passport as a security deposit. However, take extra care when riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, as the combination of winding roads and beautiful views can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
Songtaews, large trucks with benches in the back, are an affordable option for getting around the city (THB20-40 per ride). Red and white ones are best for short trips within the city, while yellow ones can take you to neighboring provinces. Negotiation may be required for the fare.
Tuk-tuks are another option, but they are generally more expensive than songtaews and are not always a practical choice due to their prices, noise, pollution, and safety record. If you want a unique experience, chartering a tuk-tuk may be worthwhile.
Taxis are readily available, but none of them use meters like those in Bangkok. Negotiation is necessary before the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
Over the years, accommodation prices in Chiang Mai have increased, making it difficult to find a decent option for THB300. A more realistic budget for a guesthouse room within the walls of the Old City is around THB1000. While staying within the walls of the Old City offers the convenience of being close to many attractions, there are other viable options available.
For example, there are pleasant budget accommodations located just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, which is known for its bars and restaurants, is easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. Lodgings outside the city are ideal for those looking for a relaxed countryside feel or city veterans who have their own transportation.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 ↑
A guide to renting a car in Chiang Mai
If you’re traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two routes you can take from Bangkok. The quicker and shorter route is to drive to Nakhon Sawan and turn left before entering the city onto highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make sure to stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, we recommend skipping the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai, as there are better places to interact with these majestic animals. The total distance of this route is approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by big forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan, take the highway to Phitsanulok (117), and continue on highway 11 to Lampang and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two alternatives. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you’ll pass through the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ a picturesque area with relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can visit Khao Koh, a mountain with a spot where your car will slowly roll uphill when in neutral gear. If you turn left, you can visit the city of Sukhothai and its well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins by renting a bicycle at the park entrance.
If you decide to take a bus or train, expect travel times of around 10 and 14 hours, respectively. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of one night’s hotel stay. Many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, but we recommend driving there for a scenic trip and taking a plane back, especially if you’re heading down south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
The best night markets 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 and parasols for over 200 years. Visitors can witness the fascinating production process at the umbrella factory located on the right side near the junction. Sa paper is made from the bark of the mulberry tree, and the artisans can paint beautiful designs on mobile phone covers or even on clothes. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts that you want to customize, bring them with you to Boo Sang. Baan Tawai, located near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang and offers a wide variety of souvenirs and wooden furniture at a lower price 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 big street market inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight. Saturdays offer the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) on Wualai Road. The night bazaar is open every day in the early afternoon and closes at night. You can find various items for sale, but be prepared to negotiate prices.
Don’t expect to find original Louis-Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. Many shops sell similar items, so don’t hesitate to ask for prices and compare them between shops. The Chinese Money Changer shop, located about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street, 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 will find the 3D street art museum ‘Art in Paradise’. Bring your camera to capture the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls, and ceiling and take some memorable and humorous photos.
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. While the park may not be the cheapest option, it’s worth it to see elephants living happily without the use of hooks, chains, or fences. You may even have the opportunity to swim with the gentle giants in the river and brush their backs with a big broom. The park offers day trips or longer volunteering opportunities for a truly unforgettable experience. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the white-water and bamboo rafting available from shops further down the same road as the park. While bamboo rafting is a relaxing experience, white-water rafting offers a bit more of a thrill – just be aware that the water may not be very white unless there has been recent heavy rainfall in the mountains.
If swimming is more your style, consider looking up “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” for a hidden gem in the north. The water is clear and clean, and there are usually very few people there on weekdays when the sun is shining. Be sure to exercise caution when swimming and avoid jumping from the walls into the water. There’s even a recently opened coffee shop at the entrance for a nice pick-me-up after your swim.
For those who can drive a scooter or are interested in renting a car, a loop from CM to Hang Dong, Samoeng, Mae Rim, and back to CM is highly recommended. The drive takes about three hours with little traffic on weekdays and offers stunning viewpoints, hidden caves (which may be a bit difficult to find), a large and pleasant coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng, strawberry fields in Samoeng, and many other activities like bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karting, paint-ball, parks, and restaurants in the Mae Rim area. You can even venture up the mountain to explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Remember to always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink alcohol and drive.back to menu ↑
Vegetarian food in Chiang Mai: Options and recommendations
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 ↑
Chiang Mai’s Golden Temples: A Feast for the Eyes
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai besides Wat Doi Suthep on the mountain. Within the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, and near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong, which boasts caves and a large fish pond. Additionally, Wat Doi Kham, located near the night safari, is a lovely temple that many tourists are unaware of. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a spectacular view of the city from this vantage point.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Jewelry District: Finding the Perfect Sparkle for Your Collection
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.