|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 options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to the most advanced and convenient ones.
Discovering Northern Thailand: How to Reach Its Most Beautiful Destinations
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is nestled in a northern basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, exuding an infinite charm that is hard to resist. The city is adorned with stunning ancient wats and chedis that date back to the 13th century, while forest monasteries are hidden in the mountains and hills. There are vibrant and colorful markets selling OTOP products, and the Northern Thai cuisine is bursting with unforgettable flavors, especially the renowned khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are endless choices to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers plenty to explore, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene that caters to party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
The Best Transportation Options to Reach Chiang Mai
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is both easy and convenient, with numerous buses linking the northern capital to major provincial centers across the country. If traveling from the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai will take 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. Additionally, the northern line of Thailand’s state railway stretches 751km long, from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai, with the journey taking anywhere between 9 to 14 hours, depending on the mode of transport you choose.back to menu ↑
How 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 an easy, affordable, and comfortable way to make the long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit) in Bangkok. With a variety of companies serving the route, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and others, you have plenty of options with departures throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8 pm and arrive early in the morning the following day.
During peak seasons, such as Thai festivals like Songkran in April or Khao/Ok Phansa in July/October, it is recommended to book in advance. Prices for buses vary depending on the level of comfort. For extra comfort, you can opt for VIP coaches with 24 seats (starting from 800 THB) which provide ample space for both your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (starting from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the whole journey. The Mochit Bus Terminal is enormous, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. You will be guided right from the entrance to the right platform, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train: Transportation Options and Tips
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 ↑
Why Taking a Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai Can be a Great Option
You can leave for Chiang Mai directly from your hotel at any time of the day, making it a convenient 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, with gas stations featuring clean restrooms and convenience stores along the way. Moreover, the scenery is breathtaking, making the journey a pleasant one.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 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 is located at Don Mueang International Airport in the north of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. A1 departs from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 starts at Victory Monument, stopping at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by A1. The travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic. 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 until 10:25 pm. The trains are a reliable option for transportation.
Chiang Mai International Airport is 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 Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. The airport is located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a convenient option that won’t cost you much time or money to reach your hotel.
While many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, it’s important to arrange this in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the city center. Although the cost of the ride may seem a bit high considering the distance, it’s still relatively inexpensive at around THB150.
A helpful tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers service to some of the most amazing destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for navigating the winding roads from Chiang Mai to these towns, it’s worth considering flying instead.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions are located within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are the most convenient way to travel, and you can rent them from almost every guesthouse. Before embarking on your journey, check the brakes on the bike, as the city fleet may not be up to standard. The rental price for a standard bike with a fixed gear usually ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent way to get around, and there are plenty of shops scattered around the city that offer rentals. Renting a vehicle gives you the freedom to explore and enjoy your holiday. Be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit, although you should have no trouble getting it back when you return the vehicle to the rental shop.
Tip: Take extra precautions while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak. The winding road and breathtaking views can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
Songthaews are big trucks with benches in the back. The red and white ones are good for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20 to THB40 per ride), while the yellow ones can take you to the neighboring Northern provinces. Songthaews are usually the cheapest way to travel, but some negotiation may be necessary.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews. If you’re looking for a new experience, chartering a tuk-tuk may be worth considering, but otherwise, stick to the songthaews. Tuk-tuks are not always the best option due to their high price, noise, pollution, and safety record.
Taxis are widely available throughout the city. If you’re accustomed to using metered taxis in Bangkok, you should be aware that none of the taxis in Chiang Mai use meters. Always negotiate the fare before starting 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 a great idea to try something new to add a little excitement to your trip. Of course, you’ll likely visit plenty of temples, do some hiking, trekking, or even rock climbing. But why not mix it up? Consider enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of traditional Thai massage, volunteering at one of the elephant camps (Elephant Nature Park is a great place to start), or watching how those beautiful Chiang Mai parasols are made. On Sunday evenings, take a stroll down Thanon Ratchadamnoen, which transforms into a bustling hub of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant festivals. Try to plan your visit around one of them if possible. During the first weekend of February, the Flower Festival takes place, transforming the city into a magnificent blossoming garden. Songkran, which falls on April 12-14, is a wet and wild celebration, with revelers pouring water on each other (and passers-by) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, is one of the most beautiful Thai festivals. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float through the night skies over the city, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
Must-try foods on a road trip to 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 ↑
Where to find the best street food in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city brimming with attractions that would take several months to explore fully. While there are many popular things to see and do in Chiang Mai, we want to share some insider tips that you may not find in your guidebook. Let’s start with the basics. Visitors are often told to do three things in Chiang Mai: try Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with various ingredients, visit Boo Sang to see the colorful handmade paper umbrellas, and go to Wat Doi Suthep temple on the mountain. It’s best to visit Wat Doi Suthep on weekdays to avoid the crowds. If the sun is shining, you can capture beautiful pictures of the golden chedi. When taking one of the red songtaew taxis, keep in mind that the fare is higher for the ride down the mountain.
Khao Soi is a soup-like specialty made from rice noodles in a thin, yellow curry similar to Massaman style. It is usually mixed with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, served with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. If you can’t handle the extreme spiciness, skip the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is added to soften the flavor and reduce the spice level. You can typically order Khao Soi with chicken, beef, or a vegetarian version.
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.
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 ↑
Traditional desserts in Chiang Mai: A sweet experience
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.
Uncovering the Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Temples in Chiang Mai
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai, including Wat Phra Sing located within the old city and Wat U-Mong with its caves and a vast fish pond near Chiang Mai University. Additionally, there is Wat Doi Kham situated near the night safari, which is often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the city from this temple. Beside Wat Doi Suthep, which is located on the mountain, these other temples are worth exploring.back to menu ↑
The Best Places to Buy Thai Silk in Chiang Mai
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.