|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 features 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 choices of how to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to advanced and most convenient options.
Exploring Northern Thailand: Transportation Options and Routes
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 ↑
Discovering Chiang Mai: How to Reach Its Best Attractions
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is a breeze with numerous buses linking the northern capital to major provincial centers in the country. From the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai will take you as far as Lampang, where you’ll need to switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which will take you all the way to your destination. Alternatively, the northern line of Thailand’s state railway is a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your choice of transportation, the journey can last anywhere between 9 to 14 hours.back to menu ↑
How to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus
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. 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 providing daily 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 advisable to book in advance. Prices vary based on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches having 24 seats and costing around 800 THB, providing ample space for both legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses (from 500 THB) offer comfortable travel and are suitable for sleeping during the journey.
The Mochit Bus Terminal may seem daunting due to its size, but there is plenty of staff available to assist passengers in finding their way. Upon arrival, passengers will be directed to the correct platform, providing a sense of ease and comfort.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train: How to Book Your Ticket
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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Private Taxi: Transportation Options and Tips
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 Pros and Cons of Taking a Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
If you’re looking to save time and money, flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai may be your best bet. Low-cost carriers are offering tickets for as little as THB1000, and the flight takes only 1½ hours. This beats spending the 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 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, most of the city’s attractions are located within the Old City walls. Bicycles are a popular way to get around and can be rented from almost any guesthouse for THB50 to THB100 per day. However, it’s important to check the bike’s brakes before setting off, as the quality can vary.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is another great option to explore the city and the surrounding areas. There are many shops that rent out these vehicles, but be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. However, inexperienced riders should take extra caution while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak, due to the winding road and breathtaking views.
Songtaews, large trucks with benches in the back, are a cheap way to get around the city for THB20-40 per ride. The red and white ones are ideal for trips within the city, while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring northern provinces. Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews and not always the most reliable option due to noise, pollution, safety concerns, and higher prices. If you decide to use a tuk-tuk, negotiate the price beforehand.
Taxis are widely available in Chiang Mai, but they don’t use meters like those in Bangkok. Negotiate the price before starting the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
Over the past few years, the cost of accommodations in Chiang Mai has increased, making it almost impossible to find a decent option for THB300. Nowadays, a budget room in a guesthouse within the walls of the Old City typically costs around THB1000. However, there are other good options available as well.
For instance, you can search for pleasant budget accommodations located just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. If you have your own transportation, lodgings located outside the city may be a good choice for city veterans or those seeking a more relaxed countryside feel.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 ↑
What to expect when driving to Chiang Mai
For those traveling by car, there are two routes to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The shorter and faster route is to head towards Nakhon Sawan, then turn left before entering the city onto Highway 1. This route will take you through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make a stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. It’s advisable to avoid elephant parks between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding on the elephants, as there are better options for interacting with these magnificent animals. The total distance covered is approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by dense forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take Highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on Highway 11 to reach Lampang, and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, there are two more alternatives. Turn right towards Phetchaboon to visit the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ a beautiful area with relaxing resorts. Or turn left to visit the city of Sukhothai and its historical park, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you prefer to take the bus or train, the journey will take approximately 10 or 14 hours, respectively. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of one night’s accommodation. There are several airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, but you would miss out on a beautiful road trip. We recommend taking the plane 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 countless attractions that will keep you busy for months. While your guidebook will point you towards popular tourist spots, we want to highlight some hidden gems that are worth exploring. But before we delve into those, there are three things you absolutely must do in Chiang Mai: try Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with various ingredients; visit Boo Sang, where vibrant paper umbrellas are handcrafted; and make your way to Wat Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain. Visit on a weekday for fewer crowds and stunning photos of the golden chedi. If you take a red songtaew taxi, keep in mind that the fare down the mountain is higher than the ascent.
Khao Soi is a soup-like specialty made with thin, yellow curry and rice noodles, similar to Massaman style. It is typically served with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, along with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. Skip the oil-fried ground chilies if you can’t handle the extreme spiciness, and enjoy the dish with chicken, beef, or the vegetarian version. Coconut milk is added to soften the flavor and reduce spiciness.
Boo Sang is a charming village near San Pathong that has been producing paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. Witness the fascinating process of how they make Sa paper from the bark of the mulberry tree at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. You can also get your mobile phone cover or clothes painted with beautiful motifs. If you have your own bag, t-shirt or shorts, bring them along to make them unique. Baan Tawai, located near Hang Dong, is another village that sells souvenirs and wooden furniture, but we prefer Boo Sang for its charm and atmosphere.
Wororot Market, styled in the Chinese tradition, is located near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, there is a large street market inside the old city that operates from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) on Wualai Road is a popular destination. The night bazaar is open every day from the early afternoon until nightfall. You can find a variety of items there, but be prepared to negotiate prices.
Don’t expect to find authentic Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. As many shops sell similar items, you can ask for a price and then move on to the next shop. If you’re looking for the best exchange rates in town, visit the Chinese Money Changer shop located about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street. 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 ‘Art in Paradise.’ Bring your camera and step into the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls and ceiling to take some fantastic and amusing pictures.
For animal lovers who want to make a positive impact, visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai (Hang Dong District) or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng is a great option. Although the park is a bit pricey, you will get to see elephants happily roaming without hooks, chains or fences. They choose to stay there despite having the freedom to run away. You can even swim in the river with these magnificent creatures and brush their backs with a broom. The park offers day trips or volunteering opportunities. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Further down the same road behind the park, some shops offer white-water and bamboo rafting. Although bamboo rafting is slow and leisurely, white-water rafting is a bit more thrilling. However, it is not really that white unless you go after heavy rainfalls in the mountains.
If you want to go swimming, search for ‘Grand Canyon Chiang Mai’ on Google. This hidden gem in the north is not very popular, which makes it an ideal spot for a serene swim. The water is clear and clean, and there aren’t many people there during weekdays. However, be cautious and avoid jumping from the walls into the water. There is a newly opened coffee shop at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, the CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM loop is an excellent option. It takes around three hours, and there is usually no traffic on weekdays. You will encounter stunning viewpoints, a hidden cave (which can be tricky to find), a big coffee shop 20km before Samoeng, and strawberry fields in Samoeng. There are also plenty of activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, paint-ball, and some 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. But always remember to wear a helmet, drive carefully, and avoid drinking alcohol and driving.back to menu ↑
Vegetarian food in Chiang Mai: Options and recommendations
Chiang Mai is known for its abundance of restaurants and bars, and we have some unique recommendations to share with you.
Taste from Heaven is a vegetarian restaurant located inside the old city and is considered the best vegetarian restaurant in the north. They also offer cooking classes.
If you’re a fan of pizza and ribs, head to The Dukes. They serve the biggest pizza in town and fantastic spare ribs. You can find one branch on the other side of the river and another on the night bazaar road.
Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 offers not only delicious food but also a beautiful ambiance.
For the best breakfast in town, visit Smoothie Blues on the corner of Soi 6 (opposite Tesco Express), but beware of their mango ‘smoothie blues’, which may leave you addicted.
Sumo Sushi on the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13 serves Japanese food Thai-style at a reasonable price. Nearby is the beer factory with a vast selection of imported beers, and a Japanese Yakiniku Grill is located further down the street on Soi 9.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a must-visit spot that offers delicious food and sometimes live music. The owner is also knowledgeable about Muay Thai boxing.
If you’re looking for a beautiful restaurant, check out Khao-Mao Khao-Fang on road 3044. It’s situated near a lake and offers air-conditioned seating and delicious food.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Golden Temples: A Feast for the Eyes
There are numerous temples located in Chiang Mai besides Wat Doi Suthep, which sits atop a mountain. One such temple is Wat Phra Sing, situated within the old city. Another temple worth visiting is Wat U-Mong, which boasts beautiful caves and a vast fish pond in the vicinity of Chiang Mai University. Additionally, Wat Doi Kham, located near the night safari, is a charming temple that remains undiscovered by many tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from this vantage point.back to menu ↑
Shopping in Chiang Mai
On the superhighway, you’ll find Central Festival, a massive new shopping mall. The Robinson Airport Plaza is also quite nice and more accessible. Nearby university students frequent Maya, which is often crowded.
If you plan on staying in the city for an extended period of time, it’s better to rent a place instead of staying in hotels or guesthouses. Air-conditioned studios are available for about 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or the Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in one of the housing estates, which typically include security, a pool, a gym, a clubhouse, and more, is a much better option, as houses are less expensive to rent than apartments.
Please be aware that the Zoo and Night Safari charge double admission fees for tourists. We suggest avoiding these places and not supporting such behavior.
Most of the city is viewable on Google Streetview, so you can explore certain areas beforehand.
If you have the time, consider visiting Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai boasts two incredible temples: the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the Black House (Baan Dam). Both are well worth the visit, but it takes about four hours by car to reach. If you plan on spending a night in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel has a fantastic Sunday brunch.