|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.
How to Reach Northern Thailand: A Comprehensive Guide From Bangkok to Chiang Mai: Getting to Northern Thailand Made Easy
Nestled in a basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, Chiang Mai is a city full of charm and rich history as it was once the capital of the Lanna kingdom. The city is adorned with beautiful ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are nestled in the mountains and hills, providing a serene escape. Colorful markets showcase a plethora of OTOP products and the Northern Thai cuisine is filled with delicious flavors, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are friendly and welcoming, offering endless opportunities to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has something for everyone, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to cozy coffee shops, expansive shopping malls, and a unique nightlife scene for party-goers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
Exploring the Best Ways to Travel to Chiang Mai
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is a breeze, thanks to the numerous buses connecting the northern capital with major provincial centers of the country. If you’re coming from Bangkok, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai takes 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. Alternatively, you can take the northern line of the state railway of Thailand, a 751km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your choice of transportation, the entire journey can take anywhere between 9 and 14 hours.back to menu ↑
From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus: A Complete Guide
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, 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 ↑
Tips for a Comfortable Train Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling overnight by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a quintessential Thai experience. Tickets for lower berths sell out quickly, so it’s best to book well in advance. The journey takes roughly twelve hours, slightly longer than by bus, but significantly more comfortable. The first and second class compartments are well equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, although top bunks can feel claustrophobic. Both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers are available, so check when booking. For a luxurious journey, consider purchasing a 1st class single sleeper for over 2000 THB per person, offering complete privacy. 2nd class fan seats (about 600-650 THB) are an option only if no other choices remain, as an additional 100 THB offers a fan sleeper, or add 200 THB to travel with AC.
Alternatively, traveling during the day is also an option, as the route offers beautiful views of mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, seemingly untouched by civilization, from the train windows.
Tip: Food vendors patrol the carriages with snacks and refreshments, but it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: Route and Time
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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flights: Route and Time
If you want to avoid spending the entire night traveling overland, it might be worth considering flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Several low-cost carriers offer tickets for as low as THB1000, and the flight takes only 1.5 hours to reach your destination.
Thai Lion Air, a subsidiary of Lion Air based in Indonesia, offers up to 10 round-trip flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai each day. Depending on the date and time of your preferred flight, airfares start from THB1000 and can go up. Popular travel periods tend to sell out quickly, but even a few days before your intended travel date, you can still find deals for under THB2000. The ticket price includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of cabin luggage. Flights depart from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport as early as 8:55 am and as late as 9:50 pm, with eight other options available throughout the day.
Lion Air operates out of Don Mueang International Airport, located to the north of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can use the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. The A1 route starts from Morchit bus terminal, while the A2 route originates at the Victory Monument and stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (costs THB30). The Morchit BTS station is also serviced by the A1 route. Travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic. Commuter trains also operate between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, which is a reliable option. The trains take approximately 50 minutes to travel between the two locations, with service operating 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. Renting a bicycle is a popular and easy option and can be arranged at most guesthouses for around THB50 to THB100 per day. However, check the brakes first as some bikes may be in less than ideal condition.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is another excellent way to explore the city, and rental shops are widely available. This option provides greater flexibility and freedom to explore Chiang Mai and its surroundings. Note that you will need to leave your passport as a security deposit, but it’s usually returned without issue when you return the vehicle.
When traveling by songtaews, which are large trucks with benches in the back, the red and white ones are suitable for trips within the city, while the yellow ones can take you to nearby Northern provinces. They are generally the cheapest way to get around, but some negotiation may be required.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songtaews and not always the most viable option due to their prices, noise, pollution, and safety record. However, they can be a fun experience if you’re looking for something new.
Taxis are abundant, but unlike in Bangkok, they don’t use meters, so it’s important to negotiate the fare before 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 visiting Chiang Mai, it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You will undoubtedly visit plenty of temples, go hiking or trekking, and perhaps even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, consider adding some zest to your stay by enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of Thai massage. Volunteering at one of the elephant camps, such as Elephant Nature Park, is also a fantastic opportunity. Additionally, seeing how the colorful Chiang Mai parasols are made and strolling down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evening, when it transforms into the epicenter of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching, are other unique experiences to consider.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is famous for its vibrant festivals, and it’s worth planning your trip to participate in some of them. The Flower Festival, held during the first weekend of February, transforms the city into a blossoming garden. Songkran, which takes place on April 12-14, is a wet and wild water festival where revelers splash water on each other (and passersby) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of the most stunning Thai festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float into the night sky over the city, creating an unforgettable scene.back to menu ↑
The best routes for driving 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 ↑
The best spots for panoramic views of Chiang Mai
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 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’re an animal lover and want to make a positive impact, visit Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. While the park can be pricey, you’ll witness elephants without hooks, chains, or fences. They’re free to run away, but choose to stay. In the afternoon, take a swim with the elephants in the river and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips or volunteer opportunities. It’s an unforgettable experience. Further down the same road, you’ll find shops offering white-water and bamboo rafting. While bamboo rafting is peaceful, white-water rafting is more thrilling. Keep in mind that the water isn’t that white unless there’s been heavy rain in the mountains.
For a hidden gem, head to the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai. Clear, clean water and few visitors during the weekdays make for an enjoyable swim. However, be cautious of jumping from the walls into the water. A coffee shop has recently opened at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, consider the CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM loop. With almost no traffic on weekdays, you’ll pass stunning viewpoints and discover hidden caves. There’s a great coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng and strawberry fields in Samoeng. Mae Rim offers a range of activities, including bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, paint-ball, parks, and restaurants. With a scooter or car, you can explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and don’t drink and drive.back to menu ↑
Traditional desserts in Chiang Mai: A sweet experience
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 ↑
Uncovering the Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Temples in Chiang Mai
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, you’ll find Central Festival – a vast new shopping mall. Robinson Airport Plaza is also a good option and easier to access. However, Maya tends to be crowded with students from the nearby university.
If you’re staying in the city for a longer period, it’s better to rent a place instead of staying in hotels or guest houses. Air-conditioned studios are available for around 100 Euro per month, but condos in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. It’s much more economical to rent a house in one of the housing estates which come with added benefits such as security, pool, gym, clubhouse, etc. as houses are cheaper to rent than apartments.
Please be aware that the Zoo and the Night Safari charge double entrance fees to tourists. We do not encourage supporting such behavior and suggest avoiding such places.
Most of the city is accessible on Google Street View, allowing you to explore some areas from your computer.
If you have some time, it’s worth visiting Chiang Rai to see its two beautiful temples – Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) and Baan Dam (the Black House). It’s a 4-hour drive from Chiang Mai, so you might want to plan an overnight stay. If you do decide to stay, the Le Meridien Hotel in Chiang Rai has a fantastic Sunday brunch.