|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 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.
A Journey to Northern Thailand: How to Plan Your Transportation
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is a city of infinite charm nestled in a northern basin of woodlands and mountains. The city is adorned with gorgeous ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are nestled in the hills and mountains, while colorful markets burst with OTOP products and flavorsome Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are endless opportunities to have unforgettable experiences, whether you are on a short 2-day visit or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has something for everyone, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene for partygoers and music enthusiasts alike.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 ↑
Exploring Your Options: How to Take the Bus to Chiang Mai
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for the long journey. Chiang Mai-bound buses depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies such as Bangkok Busline and Siam FirstNew Viriya providing departures throughout the day. 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. The bus prices vary depending on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches being the most comfortable option, offering 24 seats and 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. Mochit Bus Terminal may seem enormous, but there is plenty of staff to assist passengers in finding their way. You will be greeted at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a simple, cost-effective, and comfortable option for the long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), and there are many companies, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more, that offer departures throughout the day, giving you plenty of options. 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’s advisable to book in advance. The prices vary depending on the level of comfort of the bus, with VIP coaches with 24 seats being the most expensive (starting from 800 THB) but ensuring enough 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 journey.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that Mochit Bus Terminal is quite large, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be greeted at the entrance and directed to the right platform, making your journey hassle-free.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train: A Complete Guide
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience. Tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s important to book well in advance. The journey takes approximately twelve hours, which is slightly longer than the bus journey, but is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well equipped for comfort, with seats that fold out into bunk beds. If you’re claustrophobic, it’s best to avoid the top bunk. There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so be sure to check when booking. For a luxurious experience, the 1st class single sleeper is available, which costs over 2000 THB per person but provides complete privacy.
There are also 2nd class fan seats available for around 600-650 THB, but they should only be considered as a last resort. For an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for an additional 200 THB, you can travel with AC.
Traveling by day is also an option, as the route is filled with beauty, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that often seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are readily available, but it’s illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
Exploring Your Options: How to Take a Private Taxi to Chiang Mai
Traveling from your hotel directly to Chiang Mai is a convenient option, especially for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter is available for THB 13,200 and takes about 9 hours to travel between the two cities. The roads are generally smooth, with gas stations featuring clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is breathtaking, making for a pleasant journey.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane: A Complete Guide
You might want to consider flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai instead of spending the entire night traveling overland, given that several low-cost carriers are offering tickets for as little as THB1000 and can transport you to your destination in just 1½ hours.
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 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 serves as 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 destinations such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and more. The airport is conveniently located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a practical option, as you won’t need to spend much time or money getting to your hotel.
Many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but it’s important to arrange this in advance. If you haven’t pre-booked transportation, you can take a taxi, a songthaew, or a tuk-tuk to get to the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit high considering the distance, but it is still relatively inexpensive (around THB150).
Pro tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers service to some of the most spectacular destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for a challenging drive on winding roads from Chiang Mai to these towns, it’s worth considering flying there instead.
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 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 ↑
The most scenic drives to Chiang Mai
There are two main routes for driving from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The first and shorter route involves driving to Nakhon Sawan, turning left before the city, and taking highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang, where you can stop for pizza at the Riverside restaurant. However, it’s better to avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding elephants, as there are more ethical ways to interact with them. This route covers a total distance of about 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer, but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by large forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan, take highway 117 to Phitsanulok, and continue on highway 11 to Lampang and Chiang Mai. Along the way, you can turn right towards Phetchaboon, known as the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ where you can relax at the resorts or visit Khao Koh mountain. Alternatively, turn left to visit the historical park in Sukhothai, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you prefer to travel by bus, it will take about 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Overnight travel can save you the cost of one night in a hotel. While many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, taking a road trip is a beautiful experience, and we recommend flying back, especially if you’re headed south to the islands.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s best waterfalls and natural wonders
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 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 have a soft spot for animals and want to make a difference, consider visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. The latter is a bit pricey, but you’ll witness the majestic elephants living happily without hooks, chains, or barriers. You might even get to swim with these gentle giants and scrub their backs with a giant brush. The park offers day trips or volunteer programs, and the experience is sure to be unforgettable. If you’re looking for a bit of excitement, there are white-water rafting and bamboo rafting options available near the park.
For a secret swimming spot, look up “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” on Google. It’s a hidden gem in the north with crystal-clear water and fewer crowds on weekdays. Be cautious and avoid jumping from the walls into the water, and stop by the newly opened coffee shop at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, take the CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM loop. The scenic drive takes around three hours, and the traffic is minimal on weekdays. You’ll come across breathtaking viewpoints, a hidden cave (which might require some searching), a fantastic coffee shop about 20 km before Samoeng, strawberry fields in Samoeng, and plenty of activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karting, paintball, and parks, restaurants, and more in Mae Rim. With your own vehicle, you can even venture up the mountain and explore Wat Doi Suthep at your own pace. Please prioritize safety by wearing a helmet, driving carefully, and avoiding drinking and driving.back to menu ↑
Street food scene in Chiang Mai: A delicious adventure
Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant culinary scene, boasting numerous restaurants and pubs to suit all tastes. If you’re looking for some exceptional dining experiences, here are a few recommendations:
- Taste from Heaven is an excellent vegetarian restaurant located within the old city. They offer cooking classes too.
- The Dukes, situated on the other side of the river, is famous for serving the biggest pizza in town and fantastic spare ribs. Their portions are huge, so no need for a starter.
- The Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 is renowned for its beautiful food presentation and exceptional taste.
- Smoothie Blues, situated at the corner of Soi 6, offers the best breakfast in town. Their mango “smoothie blues” is a must-try.
- Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, offers Japanese food with a Thai twist at an affordable price. Nearby, the Beer Factory offers an extensive selection of imported beers, while a Japanese Yakiniku Grill on Soi 9 allows you to grill your own food at the table.
- Yummy Pizza on Canal Road, although a bit outside the city, is worth a visit for their delicious food and occasional live music. The owner is also an excellent contact for Muay Thai boxing.
- Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is situated on road 3044 and offers one of the most picturesque dining experiences in Chiang Mai. It’s best to sit near the lake to avoid the noise from the waterfall on the other side. The air-conditioned coffee shop also serves food.
Finding Inner Peace in Chiang Mai’s Temples
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 ↑
Shopping in Chiang Mai
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.