|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 options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to the most advanced and convenient ones.
How to Get Around Northern Thailand: A Traveler’s Guide
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is nestled in a northern basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, exuding an infinite charm that is hard to resist. The city is adorned with stunning ancient wats and chedis that date back to the 13th century, while forest monasteries are hidden in the mountains and hills. There are vibrant and colorful markets selling OTOP products, and the Northern Thai cuisine is bursting with unforgettable flavors, especially the renowned khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are endless choices to create unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers plenty to explore, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene that caters to 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 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 ↑
Exploring Your Options: How to Take the Bus 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 a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option to sustain you through 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 serving the route and offering departures 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’s wise to book in advance.
Prices vary depending on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches offering 24 seats (from 800 THB) providing enough space for your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the whole journey. At the enormous Mochit Bus Terminal, there is a lot of staff available to help passengers find their way, and you will be directed to the right platform upon arrival.back to menu ↑
How to Navigate Your Train Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience. It’s important to book well in advance as tickets, especially lower berths, tend to sell out quickly. The journey takes around twelve hours, slightly longer than the bus journey, but significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped for comfort, with seats that fold out into bunk beds (avoid the top bunk if you’re claustrophobic). There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so check when you book. For a luxurious experience, consider buying the 1st class single sleeper, which costs over 2000 THB per person and provides ultimate privacy.
If you prefer traveling by day, the route is filled with natural beauty as it takes you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, which often appear untouched by civilization when viewed from the windows of the moving train.
Tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are never in short supply. However, it is illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
How to Plan Your Private Taxi Trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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 ↑
How to Navigate Your Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
If you’re looking to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, it might be worth considering taking a flight instead of spending an entire night traveling by land. With various low-cost carriers selling tickets for as low as THB1000 and providing a quick 1½ hour journey to your destination, flying can be a convenient and affordable option.
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 at Don Mueang International Airport, which is situated to the north of the city center. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. A1 departs from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 begins its route at the Victory Monument, stopping at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations before arriving at the airport (fare is THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by the A1 route. The travel time can vary depending on traffic and usually takes between 60 to 80 minutes. Commuter trains also operate between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, and this is generally a reliable option. The train journey takes approximately 50 minutes, and trains run from 4:20 am until 10:25 pm.
Chiang Mai International Airport is a major entry point to Northern Thailand and is one of the four busiest airports in the country, operating 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 close to the city center, just around two kilometers away, which makes flying to Chiang Mai a practical option. You won’t need to spend much time or money getting to your hotel from the airport.
It’s worth noting that many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but it’s important to arrange this in advance. Otherwise, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the city center. Due to the short distance, the cost of the ride may seem a bit high, but it’s still relatively inexpensive (around THB150).
Travel tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also used as a hub by Kan Air, a domestic airline that serves some of the most breathtaking destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. Consider flying to these towns as the roads from Chiang Mai can be quite winding, and not all travelers may be able to handle the journey.
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 in Chiang Mai, it’s a great idea to mix things up and try something different. You’ll undoubtedly visit plenty of temples and do some hiking or trekking, and you may even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, you can add some excitement to your stay by enrolling in a massage class and learning the basics of Thai massage, volunteering at an elephant camp (start by asking at Elephant Nature Park), watching the production of the bright and colorful Chiang Mai parasols, and strolling along Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evenings, when it becomes the epicenter of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its colorful festivals. If possible, try to schedule your visit to coincide with some of these events. The Flower Festival is held during the first weekend of February, transforming the city into a blooming garden. Songkran, which falls on April 12-14, is a wet and wild event, with revelers drenching each other (and unsuspecting passersby) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, and thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night sky, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
What to expect when driving to Chiang Mai
If you’re traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two main routes to choose from. The first, faster and shorter route is to head to Nakhon Sawan and turn left before entering the city to take highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang, where you can stop at the Riverside restaurant for pizza. However, we recommend skipping the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai as there are better places to interact with elephants. After covering a total distance of about 700 kilometers, you’ll arrive in Chiang Mai.
The second route is slightly longer but offers smaller roads through large forests. After reaching Nakhon Sawan, take highway 117 to Phitsanulok, then continue on highway 11 to Lampang and finally Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you can choose to turn right towards Phetchaboon to visit the “Switzerland of Thailand,” a lovely area with very relaxing resorts. Alternatively, turn left to visit Sukhothai, where you can explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins by renting a bicycle at the park entrance. Don’t miss the Khao Koh mountain, where your car will slowly roll up the hill if you turn towards Phetchaboon.
While traveling by bus takes about 10 hours and the train takes around 14 hours, you’ll save the cost of a night’s hotel stay. While there are many airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, you’ll miss the beautiful scenery along the way. We recommend flying back, especially if you’re headed south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Tips for a perfect day trip in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city with an abundance of attractions, so much so that even a stay of several months might not be enough to see everything. While there are plenty of common things to do in Chiang Mai, we’ll focus on sharing some lesser-known gems. However, let’s start with the basics. Locals often recommend three must-do things in Chiang Mai: sampling Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with many ingredients; visiting the colorful handmade umbrella village of Boo Sang; and checking out the stunning Wat Doi Suthep temple on the mountain. Weekdays are less crowded at the temple, and if the sun is shining, it’s the perfect place to snap some stunning photos of the golden chedi. Keep in mind that the fare for a red songtaew taxi is typically more expensive on the way down than the way up.
Khao Soi is a soup-like dish made from rice noodles in a thin yellow curry similar to the Massaman style. It’s typically served with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, along with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. If you’re not a fan of extreme spiciness, avoid the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is used to tone down the heat and add creaminess. Khao Soi is often served with chicken or beef, but there’s also a vegetarian version available.
Boo Sang is a village near San Pathong that has been producing paper umbrellas and painting them for over 200 years. It’s a fascinating process, and at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction, you can witness every step of the production. The Sa paper used is made from the bark of the mulberry tree. They also paint beautiful designs on mobile phone covers and clothes. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts you want to make unique, bring them along so you don’t have to buy something there. The village of Baan Tawai near Hang Dong is similar to Boo Sang, with many souvenirs and wooden furniture. It’s cheaper than the night bazaar in the city, but we prefer Boo Sang.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is located near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, there is a large street market inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling various items that require negotiation on price.
Don’t expect original Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. Many shops sell the same things, so you can ask for a price and then check other stores. There’s a Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae road, which 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’ll find the 3D street art museum “Art in Paradise.” Bring your camera to capture the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls, and ceiling, and snap some amazing and funny pictures.
If you’re an animal lover looking for a meaningful experience, consider visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. While the latter can be expensive, it’s worth it to see elephants free from chains or hooks, and even go swimming with them in the river. Day trips and volunteer opportunities are available. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the white-water and bamboo rafting options available further down the same road.
For a hidden gem swimming spot, search for “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” – a clear and clean water spot with a new coffee shop nearby. If you have a scooter or car, consider taking the scenic loop from Chiang Mai to Hang Dong, Samoeng, Mae Rim, and back. Along the way, you’ll see stunning viewpoints, discover a hidden cave, pass strawberry fields, and find plenty of activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, and ATV rentals near Mae Rim. Remember to drive safely and responsibly.back to menu ↑
Cooking classes in Chiang Mai: Learn the art of Thai cooking
Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant culinary scene, boasting numerous restaurants and pubs to suit all tastes. If you’re looking for some exceptional dining experiences, here are a few recommendations:
- Taste from Heaven is an excellent vegetarian restaurant located within the old city. They offer cooking classes too.
- The Dukes, situated on the other side of the river, is famous for serving the biggest pizza in town and fantastic spare ribs. Their portions are huge, so no need for a starter.
- The Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 is renowned for its beautiful food presentation and exceptional taste.
- Smoothie Blues, situated at the corner of Soi 6, offers the best breakfast in town. Their mango “smoothie blues” is a must-try.
- Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, offers Japanese food with a Thai twist at an affordable price. Nearby, the Beer Factory offers an extensive selection of imported beers, while a Japanese Yakiniku Grill on Soi 9 allows you to grill your own food at the table.
- Yummy Pizza on Canal Road, although a bit outside the city, is worth a visit for their delicious food and occasional live music. The owner is also an excellent contact for Muay Thai boxing.
- Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is situated on road 3044 and offers one of the most picturesque dining experiences in Chiang Mai. It’s best to sit near the lake to avoid the noise from the waterfall on the other side. The air-conditioned coffee shop also serves food.
Exploring the Spiritual Side of Chiang Mai: Top Temples to Visit
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 ↑
Chiang Mai Shopping Spree: Best Deals and Discounts You Can’t Miss
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.