|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 characteristics 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 for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to the most advanced and convenient ones.
A Journey to Northern Thailand: How to Plan Your Transportation
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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai by Plane, Train, or Bus: Which One to Choose?
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 ↑
What to Expect When Taking the Bus 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 a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for the long journey. Chiang Mai-bound buses depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with several companies (such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more) serving the route and offering 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. Bus prices vary depending on the level of comfort, but even the cheapest options (from 500 THB) are comfortable enough to sleep through the whole journey. For added comfort, consider opting for VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB), which provide more space for your legs and elbows.
It’s worth noting that the Mochit Bus Terminal is enormous, but there is plenty of staff available to help passengers navigate their way. Upon arrival, staff will greet you at the entrance and direct you to the correct platform, making the process easy and stress-free.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train: Transportation Options and Tips
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience. Tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s important to book well in advance. The journey takes approximately twelve hours, which is slightly longer than the bus journey, but is significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well equipped for comfort, with seats that fold out into bunk beds. If you’re claustrophobic, it’s best to avoid the top bunk. There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so be sure to check when booking. For a luxurious experience, the 1st class single sleeper is available, which costs over 2000 THB per person but provides complete privacy.
There are also 2nd class fan seats available for around 600-650 THB, but they should only be considered as a last resort. For an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for an additional 200 THB, you can travel with AC.
Traveling by day is also an option, as the route is filled with beauty, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that often seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors constantly patrol the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are readily available, but 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
Traveling from your hotel directly to Chiang Mai is a convenient option, especially for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter is available for THB 13,200 and takes about 9 hours to travel between the two cities. The roads are generally smooth, with gas stations featuring clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is breathtaking, making for a pleasant journey.back to menu ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flights: How to Book Your Ticket
Considering the fact that multiple low-cost carriers offer tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as low as THB1000 and can get you to your destination in just 1.5 hours, flying between the two cities may be a more appealing option than spending an 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’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 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 walls of the Old City. Bicycles are a popular way to explore the city and can be rented from nearly every guesthouse. However, it’s important to check the brakes before setting off since the quality of the city fleet can be subpar. Expect to pay around THB50 to THB100 for an ordinary bike with a fixed gear.
Renting a scooter or motorcycle (or a car) is an excellent way to get around Chiang Mai, and rental shops are scattered throughout the city. This mode of transportation offers you the freedom to explore the city on your terms. However, be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit. Inexperienced riders should take extra 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 great for trips within the city (THB20-40 per ride). Yellow songtaews can also take you to neighboring Northern provinces. They are generally the most affordable way to get around, but you may need to negotiate the fare.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songtaews and should only be used for a new experience. Otherwise, it’s better to stick with the songtaews due to the higher cost, noise, pollution, and safety issues associated with tuk-tuks.
Taxis are also readily available, but unlike meter taxis in Bangkok, none of the cabs in Chiang Mai use meters. It’s best to negotiate the fare before the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
In recent years, accommodation prices in Chiang Mai have increased, and it is challenging to find a decent option for THB300. A more realistic figure for a budget room in a guesthouse within the walls is around THB1000. While staying within the walls of the Old City is convenient for being in the midst of the action and close to many attractions, other excellent options are available.
Consider looking for pleasant budget accommodations just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, close to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with all its bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. Lodgings outside the city are perfect for city veterans or those seeking a relaxed countryside feel and are an excellent choice if you have your own vehicle.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 ↑
Hidden gems to discover on a Chiang Mai road trip
There are two main routes for driving from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The first and shorter route involves driving to Nakhon Sawan, turning left before the city, and taking highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang, where you can stop for pizza at the Riverside restaurant. However, it’s better to avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding elephants, as there are more ethical ways to interact with them. This route covers a total distance of about 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer, but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by large forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan, take highway 117 to Phitsanulok, and continue on highway 11 to Lampang and Chiang Mai. Along the way, you can turn right towards Phetchaboon, known as the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ where you can relax at the resorts or visit Khao Koh mountain. Alternatively, turn left to visit the historical park in Sukhothai, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you prefer to travel by bus, it will take about 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Overnight travel can save you the cost of one night in a hotel. While many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, taking a road trip is a beautiful experience, and we recommend flying back, especially if you’re headed south to the islands.back to menu ↑
Tips for a perfect day trip 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 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 are an animal lover, visit Care For Dogs or the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai to make a difference. At the Elephant Nature Park, you can see elephants living without hooks, chains, or fences, and even go swimming with them. You can also find white-water and bamboo rafting shops in the area. If you prefer swimming, head to the hidden gem, Grand Canyon Chiang Mai, which has clear and clean water.
If you’re up for a drive, try the CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM loop, which takes about 3 hours and has stunning viewpoints, hidden caves, and strawberry fields. There are also many activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, and ATV and buggy rentals near Mae Rim. Make sure to wear a helmet, drive safely, and avoid drinking and driving.back to menu ↑
Best coffee shops in Chiang Mai: For caffeine lovers
Chiang Mai is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, with an abundance of pubs and restaurants catering to every palate. Here are some of our personal favorites:
- Taste from Heaven, located within the old city, is an excellent vegetarian restaurant and one of the best in the north. They offer cooking classes as well.
- The Dukes, situated on the opposite side of the river between Narawat and the old iron bridge, serves the largest pizza in town along with mouthwatering spare ribs.
- For stunningly presented dishes, head to Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1.
- Smoothie Blues, on the corner of Soi 6 (opposite Tesco Express), is a small shop that serves the best breakfast in town. Be careful not to get addicted to their mango “smoothie blues.”
- Sumo Sushi, located in the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, offers Japanese food with a Thai twist and is reasonably priced. The beer factory is just a few meters away and has a wide selection of imported beers. A Japanese Yakiniku Grill can also be found further down the street on Soi 9.
- Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a must-visit spot for its delicious food and live music performances. The owner is a great source of information about Muay Thai boxing.
- Khao-Mao Khao-Fang, formerly known as the Rainforest Restaurant, is situated on Road 3044 and is one of the most beautiful restaurants in Chiang Mai. If you prefer a quieter environment, sit near the lake as the waterfall on the other side can be quite loud after a while. They also serve food inside the air-conditioned coffee shop.
From Ancient Ruins to Lavish Monuments: Chiang Mai’s Diverse Temple Scene
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 ↑
Chiang Mai Shopping Spree: Best Deals and Discounts You Can’t Miss
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.