|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.
Getting to Northern Thailand: Transportation Options and Tips
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is a city of endless charm, nestled in a basin of woodlands and mountains in northern Thailand. The city is adorned with stunning ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries can be found hidden in the mountains and hills, while colorful markets burst with OTOP products and Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are countless opportunities to have unforgettable experiences, whether you’re on a short two-day visit or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers a lot to take in, 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 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 ↑
How to Navigate Your Bus Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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 an easy, affordable, and comfortable way to make the long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit) in Bangkok. With a variety of companies serving the route, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and others, you have plenty of options with departures throughout the day. Most buses leave after 8 pm and arrive early in the morning the following day.
During peak seasons, such as Thai festivals like Songkran in April or Khao/Ok Phansa in July/October, it is recommended to book in advance. Prices for buses vary depending on the level of comfort. For extra comfort, you can opt for VIP coaches with 24 seats (starting from 800 THB) which provide ample 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 whole journey. The Mochit Bus Terminal is enormous, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. You will be guided right from the entrance to the right platform, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost.back to menu ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok: A Comprehensive Train Guide
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thai experience. Tickets, especially for lower berths, sell quickly, so it’s recommended to book well in advance. The journey takes approximately twelve hours, slightly longer than the bus journey, but is considerably more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped for comfort with seats that convert into bunk beds (avoid the top bunk if you’re claustrophobic). Both fan and air-conditioned 2nd class sleepers are available, so make sure to check when booking. For a luxurious experience, consider purchasing the 1st class single sleeper which costs over 2000 THB per person but offers complete privacy. There are also 2nd class fan seats (around 600-650 THB), but these should only be considered if there are no other options left, as for an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, or add 200 THB and travel with air conditioning.
Alternatively, you may choose to travel by day as the route takes you through stunning mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, offering scenic views from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors are constantly patrolling the carriages, ensuring that snacks and refreshments are never in short supply. However, it’s important to note that 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
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: Transportation Options and Tips
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, 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 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 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 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 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 advantages of driving to Chiang Mai
For those with a car, there are two routes to take from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The shorter and quicker route involves going to Nakhon Sawan and turning left before entering the city onto highway number 1. You will pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you are a fan of pizza, stop by the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, we recommend avoiding the elephant park between Lamphang and Chiang Mai for elephant riding, as there are better options for interacting with these majestic creatures. After a total distance of approximately 700 kilometers, you will arrive in Chiang Mai.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads that wind through vast forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on highway 11, and you will pass through Lampang and finally reach Chiang Mai. In Phisanulok, there are two additional alternatives. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you will come across the “Switzerland of Thailand,” a beautiful area with many relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can visit Khao Koh, the mountain that causes cars to slowly roll uphill. Turn left to visit the city of Sukhothai, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins.
Taking a bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes approximately 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Taking an overnight trip can save the cost of a hotel room. Although many airlines offer flights to Chiang Mai, we recommend driving to Chiang Mai and taking a plane back, especially if you are heading south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Discovering the cultural side of Chiang Mai
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 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.
For animal lovers and those who want to make a positive impact, there are two options to consider in Chiang Mai: Care For Dogs in Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. While the park may be a bit pricey, you’ll witness elephants living happily without chains, hooks, or fences. You can even swim in the river with them and brush their backs with a big broom. Day trips are available or you can volunteer for a more immersive experience. On the same road further down, there are white-water and bamboo rafting shops, but note that bamboo rafting can be slow and relaxed, while white-water rafting can be more challenging after heavy rainfalls.
For a hidden gem in the north, try searching for “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” for clear and clean water with almost no crowds during the weekdays. However, be cautious not to jump from the walls into the water. A new coffee shop is available at the entrance.
If you have a scooter or rent a car, a recommended loop is CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM. During the three-hour drive on weekdays, you’ll pass beautiful viewpoints, discover a hidden cave (though it may be a bit difficult to find), visit a large coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng, and see strawberry fields in Samoeng. In Mae Rim, there are activities like bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karts, paintball, and parks, restaurants, and more. You can also drive up the mountain and explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink alcohol and drive.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, in addition to Wat Doi Suthep which is situated on the mountain. Within the old city, you can find Wat Phra Sing, while near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong which boasts caves and a vast fish pond. Another beautiful temple is Wat Doi Kham located near the night safari, which is often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a stunning panoramic view of the city from this temple.back to menu ↑
Shopping in Chiang Mai
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.