|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 1,215–13,049 1h 15m – 1d 2h 30m|
|Bus Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 627–1,256 8h 55m – 12h 40m|
|Train Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 278–1,133 10h 10m – 13h 33m|
|Taxi Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 8,095–17,490 8h – 11h|
|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 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.
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling to Northern Thailand
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 Around Chiang Mai: Transportation Options and Tips
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 Plan Your Bus Trip from Bangkok 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 convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for the long journey. Chiang Mai-bound buses depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with several companies (such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more) serving the route and offering 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. Bus prices vary depending on the level of comfort, but even the cheapest options (from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the whole journey. For added comfort, consider opting for VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB), which provide more space for your legs and elbows.
It’s worth noting that the Mochit Bus Terminal is enormous, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers navigate their way. Upon arrival, staff will greet you at the entrance and direct you to the correct platform, making the process easy and stress-free.back to menu ↑
What to Expect When Taking the Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling overnight by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a quintessential Thailand experience. As tickets, especially lower berths, tend to sell quickly, it is best to book in advance. The journey takes about twelve hours, slightly longer than the bus, but is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, although the top bunk may be cramped for those who are claustrophobic. Second-class sleepers are available in both fan and AC options, so it’s worth checking before booking. For those who want to travel in style, the 1st class single sleeper offers privacy, but costs over 2000 THB per person. If you opt for 2nd class fan seats (around 600-650 THB), be aware that it may not be the most comfortable option, as for an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for an additional 200 THB, an AC sleeper.
Alternatively, you may want to consider traveling by day, as the route is filled with scenic beauty, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
Pro tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, providing plenty of snacks and refreshments. However, 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
You can leave for Chiang Mai directly from your hotel at any time of the day, which may be a good 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. Plus, the scenery is stunning, making for a picturesque journey.back to menu ↑
The Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Air
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, an affiliate of Lion Air headquartered in Indonesia, operates up to 10 round-trip flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Depending on the date and time of your travel, airfare starts from THB1000 and can go up. The busiest periods usually sell out well in advance, but even a few days before your intended travel date, there are deals available for under THB2000. The ticket price includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of carry-on luggage. Flights depart from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport as early as 8:55 am and as late as 9:50 pm, with eight other departure times in between.
Lion Air’s base in Bangkok is located in Don Mueang International Airport, situated to the north of the city center. You can reach the airport by taking the airport shuttle buses, either route A1 from Morchit bus terminal or A2 from Victory Monument, with stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (fare of THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by A1. The travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic conditions. Alternatively, you can take the commuter trains that operate between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport. These trains are a reliable option, taking approximately 50 minutes to travel from the train station to the airport. The trains operate from 4:20 am until 10:25 pm.
Chiang Mai International Airport is a significant gateway to Northern Thailand, with daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. As the airport is situated only about two kilometers from the city center, flying to Chiang Mai is a convenient and affordable option as you won’t have to spend much time or money getting to your hotel from the airport.
Note that many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but it’s necessary to arrange this in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit high considering the distance, but it is still relatively inexpensive at around THB150.
Tip: Chiang Mai Airport serves as a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that provides flights to some of the most beautiful destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. It’s worth considering flying to these towns as the roads from Chiang Mai to Pai and Mae Hong Son can be quite treacherous for some travelers.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the attractions are located within the Old City walls. Bicycles are a convenient and widely available option, with rental services offered by many guesthouses. However, it’s essential to check the brakes beforehand as the quality of the bikes can vary. Expect to pay between THB50 to THB100 for a basic bike with a fixed gear.
Renting a motorcycle, scooter, or car is an excellent way to explore the city and its surroundings, with rental shops available throughout the area. Renting a vehicle provides the freedom to explore at your own pace, but be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. Take extra caution when riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, as the winding road and stunning views can be challenging for inexperienced riders.
Songtaews are large trucks with benches in the back, with red and white ones available for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20-40 per ride), while yellow ones can take you to neighboring Northern provinces. They are typically the cheapest transportation option but may require negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songtaews, and while they provide a unique experience, they may not be the best option for every trip due to their cost, noise, pollution, and safety record. Taxis are also widely available, but unlike in Bangkok, none of them use meters, so it’s essential to negotiate the price 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 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 ↑
The most scenic drives 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 ↑
Chiang Mai’s best waterfalls and natural wonders
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/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 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 ↑
Traditional desserts in Chiang Mai: A sweet experience
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 ↑
Finding Inner Peace in Chiang Mai’s Temples
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 ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s Night Markets: A Shopper’s Paradise
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.