|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 various options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to the most advanced and convenient modes.
The Best Ways to Travel 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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai
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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Bus: How to Book Your Ticket
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 to Chiang Mai from Bangkok by bus is a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for a long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit). There are many bus companies serving this route, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more, with departures available throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8pm 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 for buses vary depending on the level of comfort provided. If you can afford to spend a bit more, VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB) are a great option, as they provide ample space for both your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (from 500 THB) offer enough comfort for sleeping through the whole journey.
Note that Mochit Bus Terminal is huge, but there are plenty of staff members available to help passengers find their way. Upon arrival, staff members will greet you at the entrance and direct you to the correct platform, so there’s no need to worry about getting lost.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train: Transportation Options and Tips
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 ↑
The Pros and Cons of Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi
Travel directly from your hotel to Chiang Mai at any time of the day with the convenience of a private transfer. This option can be particularly beneficial for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter is available at a cost of THB 13,200 and takes approximately 9 hours to travel between the two capitals. The roads are generally smooth, with gas stations that have clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is breathtaking and adds to the overall experience of the journey.back to menu ↑
What to Expect When Taking a Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
If you’re looking to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it might be worth considering flying instead of taking an overnight overland journey. With many budget airlines selling tickets for as little as THB1000, you can reach your destination in just an hour and a half.
Thai Lion Air, an affiliate of Lion Air headquartered in Indonesia, offers up to 10 round-trip flights per day between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Depending on your travel date and time preference, airfare starts from THB1000 and can vary. While peak periods tend to sell out well in advance, there are usually deals under THB2000 available even a few days prior to your desired travel date. The ticket price already includes 15 kg of checked baggage and 7 kg of cabin baggage. With flights starting as early as 8:55 am from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport and the last one departing at 9:50 pm, there are eight other options to choose from 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 major entry point to Northern Thailand and is among the four busiest airports in the country. The airport operates daily domestic and international flights to and from destinations such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and more. Being located just two kilometers from the city center, flying into Chiang Mai is a convenient option that doesn’t require much time or money to get to your hotel.
It’s worth noting that many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but you’ll need to arrange this in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to reach the city center. Although the fare may seem a bit high given the short distance, it’s still quite affordable at around THB150.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai Airport serves as a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers flights to some of the most breathtaking destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for a long and winding road trip from Chiang Mai, flying to these towns is definitely worth considering.
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
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 advantages of driving to Chiang Mai
For those traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two routes from Bangkok. The first and quicker option is to head to Nakhon Sawan, then turn left before entering the city onto highway number 1. Along the way, you’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make a stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, we recommend avoiding the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding on elephants, as there are better places to get in touch with these gentle giants. The total distance of this route is around 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but offers beautiful scenery, with smaller roads cutting through vast forests. After reaching Nakhon Sawan, take the highway to Phitsanulok (117) and continue on highway 11 until you reach Lampang and Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two options: turn right towards Phetchaboon to explore the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ an area with relaxing resorts. Or turn left to visit Sukhothai, a city with a well-preserved historical park featuring 700-year-old temple ruins. Rent a bicycle at the park entrance to soak up the atmosphere.
For those traveling by bus, the journey will take around 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Overnight travel saves the cost of one night’s accommodation. Although many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, we recommend taking the plane back, especially if heading to the southern islands.back to menu ↑
The most picturesque temples in 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/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 looking 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. Although the park can be pricey, it’s worth it to see the elephants happy and free from hooks, chains, or fences. You may even have the opportunity to swim in the river with them and brush their backs with a large broom. The park offers day trips or longer-term volunteer opportunities.
For a lesser-known swimming spot, check out the Grand Canyon Chiang Mai, a hidden gem with clear, clean water. It’s typically less crowded during weekdays when the sun is shining. But be careful and avoid jumping from the walls into the water. There’s a new coffee shop at the entrance to enjoy.
If you’re able to drive a scooter or rent a car, consider taking the CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM loop. This roughly three-hour trip offers breathtaking viewpoints, a hidden cave to explore, and strawberry fields in Samoeng. Along the way, there are plenty of activities to enjoy, including bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karting, paintball, and parks and restaurants near Mae Rim. You can also head up the mountain to explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own, but remember to always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and avoid drinking and driving.back to menu ↑
Northern Thai cuisine: The unique flavors of Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai boasts a plethora of dining options, with some claiming there are more pubs and restaurants than residents in the city. Here are a few noteworthy eateries we recommend:
Taste from Heaven, located inside the old city, is a vegetarian restaurant that many hail as the best in the north. The owner speaks excellent English and the restaurant also offers cooking classes.
The Dukes, on the other side of the river between Narawat bridge and the old iron bridge, serves up the biggest pizza in town along with fantastic spare ribs. The portions are huge and no starters are necessary. Another branch can be found on the night bazaar road next to McDonald’s.
Mix Bar and Restaurant, located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1, serves not only delicious food, but also boasts beautiful presentation.
For the best breakfast in town, head to Smoothie Blues, located on the corner of Soi 6 opposite Tesco Express. However, be warned that their mango “Smoothie Blues” may be addictive.
Japanese food Thai-style can be found at Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13. It is reasonably priced and a few meters away from the beer factory, which offers a huge selection of imported beers. Further down the street towards Soi 9 is a Japanese Yakiniku Grill where diners can prepare their own food on the built-in table grill.
Yummy Pizza, located on Canal Road, may be a bit outside the city, but it is well worth the trip for its tasty food and occasional live music. The owner is also a great resource for all things related to Muay Thai boxing.
Finally, Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chiang Mai, situated on road 3044. It’s recommended to sit near the lake for a tranquil dining experience, as the waterfall on the other side can be quite noisy after a while. The restaurant also offers food inside its air-conditioned coffee shop.back to menu ↑
Uncovering the Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Temples in Chiang Mai
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai apart from Wat Doi Suthep, which is situated on the mountain. Inside the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, and near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong, which features caves and a large fish pond. Another lovely temple is Wat Doi Kham, located close to the night safari, which not many tourists are aware of. On a clear day, this temple provides a stunning view of the city.back to menu ↑
From Handmade Crafts to Designer Fashion: Chiang Mai’s Diverse Shopping Scene
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.