|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 characteristics of each locality. Traveling between these two cities is also very convenient, with many transportation options for tourists. In this article, we will explore the options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to advanced and most convenient methods.
Exploring Northern Thailand: Transportation Options and Routes
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is nestled in a basin of woodlands and mountains in northern Thailand. This charming city is adorned with ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are tucked away in the hills, while colourful markets burst with locally made OTOP products and delicious Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and the city offers endless choices to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has plenty to offer, including temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls, as well as quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene that caters to both party-goers and music enthusiasts.back to menu ↑
The Best Transportation Options to Reach Chiang Mai
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: A Complete Guide
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 ↑
The Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
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
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
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, 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’s base in Bangkok is located at Don Mueang International Airport, which is situated to the north of the city center. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. A1 departs from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 begins its route at the Victory Monument, stopping at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations before arriving at the airport (fare is THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by the A1 route. The travel time can vary depending on traffic and usually takes between 60 to 80 minutes. Commuter trains also operate between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, and this is generally a reliable option. The train journey takes approximately 50 minutes, and trains run 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, the majority of the city’s attractions are located within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are an easy and popular mode of transportation and can be rented from most guesthouses. However, it’s recommended to check the brakes before renting, as the city fleet may not be in the best condition. Expect to pay between THB50 to THB100 for a basic bike with a fixed gear.
Renting a scooter or motorcycle (or even a car) is also an excellent way to explore the city and its surroundings. Rental shops are readily available throughout the city, and leaving your passport as a security deposit is standard practice. However, inexperienced riders should exercise caution while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, as the winding roads and stunning views can be dangerous.
Songtaews are large trucks with benches in the back and are an affordable option for traveling within the city (THB20-40 per ride), while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring Northern provinces. Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews and should only be considered for a unique experience, as they are often noisy, polluting, and have a poor safety record. Taxis are also readily available, but unlike in Bangkok, metered taxis are not the norm. It’s best to negotiate the fare before 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 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 ↑
A guide to renting a car in Chiang Mai
f you’re driving to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, there are two main routes to choose from. The quicker and shorter route involves going to Nakhon Sawan and turning left onto Highway 1 before entering the city. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, stop in Lampang and visit the Riverside restaurant. However, it’s best to avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai if you’re interested in interacting with elephants. After driving about 700 kilometers, you’ll reach Chiang Mai.
The second route is slightly longer, but offers smaller roads through large forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take Highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on Highway 11, and you’ll pass through Lampang before reaching Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two additional options. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you’ll come across a lovely area known as the “Switzerland of Thailand,” with relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can also visit Khao Koh, a mountain where your car will slowly roll up the hill in neutral gear.
If you turn left in Phitsanulok, you can visit the city of Sukhothai with its well-preserved, 700-year-old temple ruins. Renting a bicycle at the park entrance is a great way to enjoy the atmosphere of this historical site.
If you choose to travel by bus, it will take approximately 10 hours, while the train will take around 14 hours. Traveling overnight will save you the cost of one night’s hotel stay. Although there are several airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, taking a plane means missing out on a beautiful road trip. We recommend flying back, especially if you’re heading down south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s coffee culture
Chiang Mai is a city with an abundance of attractions, so much so that even a stay of several months might not be enough to see everything. While there are plenty of common things to do in Chiang Mai, we’ll focus on sharing some lesser-known gems. However, let’s start with the basics. Locals often recommend three must-do things in Chiang Mai: sampling Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with many ingredients; visiting the colorful handmade umbrella village of Boo Sang; and checking out the stunning Wat Doi Suthep temple on the mountain. Weekdays are less crowded at the temple, and if the sun is shining, it’s the perfect place to snap some stunning photos of the golden chedi. Keep in mind that the fare for a red songtaew taxi is typically more expensive on the way down than the way up.
Khao Soi is a soup-like dish made from rice noodles in a thin yellow curry similar to the Massaman style. It’s typically served with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, along with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. If you’re not a fan of extreme spiciness, avoid the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is used to tone down the heat and add creaminess. Khao Soi is often served with chicken or beef, but there’s also a vegetarian version available.
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.
For animal lovers and those who want to make a positive impact, Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng are great options. Although the park can be pricey, seeing elephants living happily without chains or fences is worth it. You can even swim in the river with the elephants in the afternoon and brush their backs with a broom. The park offers day trips or volunteer opportunities that are unforgettable. Further down the same road behind the park, there are shops that offer white-water and bamboo rafting. Bamboo rafting is relaxed, while white-water rafting is more exciting. It is not very white unless there has been heavy rainfall in the mountains.
If you enjoy swimming, try searching for “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” on Google. This hidden gem in the north has clear water and is almost deserted during weekdays when the sun is out. Be careful not to jump from the walls into the water, and a new coffee shop can be found at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, the CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM loop is a great option. There is little traffic on weekdays, and you will pass stunning viewpoints, discover a hidden cave (although it may be difficult to find), and encounter a large and lovely coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng. Strawberry fields can be found in Samoeng, and there are plenty of activities like bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carting, paintball, and parks, restaurants, and more near Mae Rim. With a scooter or car, you can explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own by going up the mountain. 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 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 ↑
The Ultimate Temple-Hopping Adventure in Chiang Mai
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 ↑
Chiang Mai’s Hidden Gems: Unique Boutiques and Artisanal Shops
On the superhighway lies Central Festival, a large new shopping mall, while Robinson Airport Plaza is also a great option that’s easier to reach. Maya tends to be crowded with university students. If you’re staying in the city for a while, it’s better to rent a place than stay in hotels or guesthouses. You can find air-conditioned studios for around 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in one of the housing estates is a better option as they come with security, pool, gym, and clubhouse facilities, and are cheaper than apartments.
We advise against supporting places like the Zoo and Night Safari, which charge double entrance fees for tourists. Most of the city is mapped on Google Street View, which allows you to explore some areas before your visit.
If you have time, consider visiting Chiang Rai, which has two stunning temples: Wat Rong Khun, the white temple, and Baan Dam, the black house. Both are worth a visit, but it takes a 4-hour car ride to get there. If you plan to stay overnight in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel offers a wonderful Sunday brunch.