|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 1,215–11,520 1h 15m – 21h|
|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|
|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.
How to get to Northern Thailand
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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai
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 Ultimate Guide to Taking the Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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 ↑
How to Navigate Your Train Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling by overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a classic Thai experience. However, tickets do sell out quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s important to book well in advance. The journey takes roughly 12 hours, slightly longer than the bus journey, but is significantly more comfortable. The first and second class compartments are well equipped 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 be sure to check when booking. For a luxurious experience, consider purchasing a 1st class single sleeper, which costs over 2000 THB per person but provides maximum privacy. Alternatively, there are also 2nd class fan seats (about 600-650 THB) to consider, but for an extra 100 THB, you can upgrade to a fan sleeper. Adding 200 THB more will allow you to travel with an AC.
Traveling by day is also an option, as the route takes you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that often seems untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
A tip for the journey: food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are never in short supply. However, it’s important to note that selling alcoholic beverages on the train is illegal.back to menu ↑
Why Taking a Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai Can be a Great Option
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 Pros and Cons of Taking a Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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, 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’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 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 city’s attractions can be found within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are an easy and popular option and can be rented from nearly every guesthouse. However, it’s recommended to check the brakes before renting, as the bikes may not be in the best condition. Expect to pay around THB50 to THB100 for a basic bike with a fixed gear.
Another option is to rent a scooter, motorcycle, or car from the many rental shops scattered throughout the city. This provides you with the freedom to explore the city and surrounding areas at your own pace. However, be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit, and take extra caution when riding to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, as the winding road and stunning views can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
For budget-friendly transportation, consider taking a songthaew, a large truck with benches in the back. The red and white ones are suitable for traveling within the city (THB20-40 per ride), while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring Northern provinces. However, negotiating the fare may be necessary. Tuk-tuks are also available, but they tend to be more expensive and less safe than songthaews.
Taxis are plentiful, but unlike metered taxis in Bangkok, they do not use meters. Be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in the cab.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
In recent years, the cost of accommodations in Chiang Mai has increased significantly, and it is now challenging to find a decent option for THB300. A more realistic budget figure for a guesthouse room within the Old City walls is around THB1000. While staying in the Old City provides the convenience of being close to many attractions, there are other great options available. Consider looking for budget-friendly accommodation in Thanon Tha Phae, located just east of the Old City and close to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.
Additionally, Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its plethora of bars and restaurants, is easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. For those with their own transportation, lodgings outside of the city provide a more relaxed countryside feel and are an excellent option for experienced travelers or those looking for a more secluded experience.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 ↑
Preparing your car for the journey to Chiang Mai
If you have a car, there are two routes to take to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The quicker and shorter route involves going to Nakhon Sawan, turning left before entering the city, and taking highway number 1. This route will take you through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you are a fan of pizza, stop in Lampang and visit the Riverside restaurant. However, it’s better to avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai if you want to interact with elephants in a more ethical manner. After covering a total distance of approximately 700 kilometers, you will arrive in Chiang Mai.
The second route is slightly longer but offers smaller roads that take you through vast forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan, then take highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on highway 11, passing through Lampang and eventually reaching Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two options. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you will pass through the “Switzerland of Thailand,” a picturesque area with many relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can visit Khao Koh, a mountain where your car will slowly roll uphill at one particular spot. Turn off the engine and enjoy the unique experience. If you turn left, you can visit Sukhothai, a city renowned for its historical park. Rent a bicycle at the park entrance and explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you decide to take the bus, it will take approximately 10 hours, while the train will take about 14 hours. Taking an overnight bus or train can help save the cost of one night’s hotel stay. While many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, you would miss out on a beautiful road trip if you opt for air travel. We recommend taking the plane back, particularly if you’re heading south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Where to find the best street food in Chiang Mai
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 near San Pathong that has been producing paper umbrellas and painting them for over 200 years. It’s a fascinating process, and at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction, you can witness every step of the production. The Sa paper used is made from the bark of the mulberry tree. They also paint beautiful designs on mobile phone covers and clothes. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts you want to make unique, bring them along so you don’t have to buy something there. The village of Baan Tawai near Hang Dong is similar to Boo Sang, with many souvenirs and wooden furniture. It’s cheaper than the night bazaar in the city, but we prefer Boo Sang.
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 from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling various items that require negotiation on price.
Don’t expect original Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. Many shops sell the same things, so you can ask for a price and then check other stores. There’s a Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae road, which 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’ll find the 3D street art museum “Art in Paradise.” Bring your camera to capture the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls, and ceiling, and snap some amazing and funny pictures.
If you are an animal lover, visit Care For Dogs or the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai to make a difference. At the Elephant Nature Park, you can see elephants living without hooks, chains, or fences, and even go swimming with them. You can also find white-water and bamboo rafting shops in the area. If you prefer swimming, head to the hidden gem, Grand Canyon Chiang Mai, which has clear and clean water.
If you’re up for a drive, try the CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM loop, which takes about 3 hours and has stunning viewpoints, hidden caves, and strawberry fields. There are also many activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, and ATV and buggy rentals near Mae Rim. Make sure to wear a helmet, drive safely, and avoid drinking and driving.back to menu ↑
Best coffee shops in Chiang Mai: For caffeine lovers
Chiang Mai is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, with an abundance of pubs and restaurants catering to every palate. Here are some of our personal favorites:
- Taste from Heaven, located within the old city, is an excellent vegetarian restaurant and one of the best in the north. They offer cooking classes as well.
- The Dukes, situated on the opposite side of the river between Narawat and the old iron bridge, serves the largest pizza in town along with mouthwatering spare ribs.
- For stunningly presented dishes, head to Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1.
- Smoothie Blues, on the corner of Soi 6 (opposite Tesco Express), is a small shop that serves the best breakfast in town. Be careful not to get addicted to their mango “smoothie blues.”
- Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, offers Japanese food with a Thai twist and is reasonably priced. The beer factory is just a few meters away and has a wide selection of imported beers. A Japanese Yakiniku Grill can also be found further down the street on Soi 9.
- Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a must-visit spot for its delicious food and live music performances. The owner is a great source of information about Muay Thai boxing.
- Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is situated on Road 3044 and is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chiang Mai. If you prefer a quieter environment, sit near the lake as the waterfall on the other side can be quite loud after a while. They also serve food inside the air-conditioned coffee shop.
Discover the Ancient Beauty of Chiang Mai Temples
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 Best Street Food Markets: Shop and Savor Local Delicacies
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.