|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 distinctive cultural features 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 of how to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to advanced and most convenient options.
Exploring Northern Thailand: Transportation Options and Routes
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna kingdom, is a city of infinite charm nestled in a northern basin of woodlands and mountains. The city is adorned with gorgeous ancient wats and chedis, some of which date back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries are nestled in the hills and mountains, while colorful markets burst with OTOP products and flavorsome Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, and there are endless opportunities to have unforgettable experiences, whether you are on a short 2-day visit or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai has something for everyone, from temples, museums, galleries, and waterfalls to quaint coffee shops, epic clothing malls, and a unique nightlife scene for partygoers and music enthusiasts alike.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai Transportation: Everything You Need to Know
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 ↑
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 simple, affordable, and comfortable way to make the journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit), with many companies (such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, etc.) offering departures throughout the day. 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 is wise to book in advance. The cost of the bus ticket varies depending on the level of comfort, but even the cheapest buses (from 500 THB) provide enough comfort for a good night’s sleep. If you can afford to pay extra, VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB) provide even more space for your legs and elbows.
If you are concerned about navigating the enormous Mochit Bus Terminal, don’t worry. There are plenty of staff available to help passengers find their way. You will be greeted right at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.back to menu ↑
The Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
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 ↑
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 can be rented for 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 great, making for a picturesque journey.back to menu ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok: A Comprehensive Air Travel Guide
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, operates up to 10 round-trip flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Depending on the date and time of your travel, airfare starts from THB1000 and can go up. The busiest periods usually sell out well in advance, but even a few days before your intended travel date, there are deals available for under THB2000. The ticket price includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of carry-on luggage. Flights depart from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport as early as 8:55 am and as late as 9:50 pm, with eight other departure times in between.
Lion Air is located at Don Mueang International Airport in the north of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses A1 or A2. A1 departs from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 starts at Victory Monument, stopping at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by A1. The travel time can range from 60 to 80 minutes depending on traffic. Alternatively, there are commuter trains available between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport, which take approximately 50 minutes and operate from 4:20 am until 10:25 pm. The trains are a reliable option for transportation.
Chiang Mai International Airport is a major gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of 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, and Seoul, among others. Conveniently, Chiang Mai Airport is located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai a practical option that won’t require much time or money to get to your hotel.
Keep in mind that many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but these should be arranged in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to reach the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit high given the short distance, but it’s still relatively inexpensive (around THB150).
Tip: Chiang Mai Airport serves as a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that offers flights to some of the most stunning destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. It’s worth considering flying to these towns as not every traveler may be comfortable with the winding roads from Chiang Mai to Pai or Mae Hong Son.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions are located within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are the most convenient way to travel, and you can rent them from almost every guesthouse. Before embarking on your journey, check the brakes on the bike, as the city fleet may not be up to standard. The rental price for a standard bike with a fixed gear usually ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent way to get around, and there are plenty of shops scattered around the city that offer rentals. Renting a vehicle gives you the freedom to explore and enjoy your holiday. Be prepared to leave your passport as a security deposit, although you should have no trouble getting it back when you return the vehicle to the rental shop.
Tip: Take extra precautions while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s picturesque peak. The winding road and breathtaking views can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
Songthaews are big trucks with benches in the back. The red and white ones are good for trips within the city (fare ranges from THB20 to THB40 per ride), while the yellow ones can take you to the neighboring Northern provinces. Songthaews are usually the cheapest way to travel, but some negotiation may be necessary.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews. If you’re looking for a new experience, chartering a tuk-tuk may be worth considering, but otherwise, stick to the songthaews. Tuk-tuks are not always the best option due to their high price, noise, pollution, and safety record.
Taxis are widely available throughout the city. If you’re accustomed to using metered taxis in Bangkok, you should be aware that none of the taxis in Chiang Mai use meters. Always negotiate the fare before starting the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
In recent years, the cost of accommodations in Chiang Mai has increased significantly, and it is now challenging to find a decent option for THB300. A more realistic budget figure for a guesthouse room within the Old City walls is around THB1000. While staying in the Old City provides the convenience of being close to many attractions, there are other great options available. Consider looking for budget-friendly accommodation in Thanon Tha Phae, located just east of the Old City and close to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.
Additionally, Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its plethora of bars and restaurants, is easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. For those with their own transportation, lodgings outside of the city provide a more relaxed countryside feel and are an excellent option for experienced travelers or those looking for a more secluded experience.back to menu ↑
While in Chiang Mai, it’s a great idea to try something new to add a little excitement to your trip. Of course, you’ll likely visit plenty of temples, do some hiking, trekking, or even rock climbing. But why not mix it up? Consider enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of traditional Thai massage, volunteering at one of the elephant camps (Elephant Nature Park is a great place to start), or watching how those beautiful Chiang Mai parasols are made. On Sunday evenings, take a stroll down Thanon Ratchadamnoen, which transforms into a bustling hub of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant festivals. Try to plan your visit around one of them if possible. During the first weekend of February, the Flower Festival takes place, transforming the city into a magnificent blossoming garden. Songkran, which falls on April 12-14, is a wet and wild celebration, with revelers pouring water on each other (and passers-by) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, is one of the most beautiful Thai festivals. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float through the night skies over the city, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
Pros and cons of driving vs. flying to Chiang Mai
There are two routes to take by car from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The quicker and shorter route involves driving to Nakhon Sawan and turning left before entering the city onto highway number 1. This route takes you through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you enjoy pizza, be sure to stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. Avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai, as there are better places to interact with elephants. This route covers a total distance of approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer, but offers smaller roads through large forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take the highway to Phitsanulok (117). Continue on highway 11 to reach Lampang and then Chiang Mai. In Phisanulok, you have two options. Turning right towards Phetchaboon leads you to the “Switzerland of Thailand,” an area with relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, visit Khao Koh, a mountain with a spot where your car will slowly roll uphill. If you turn left, you can visit the city of Sukhothai and its historical park, where you can rent a bicycle to explore the 700-year-old temple ruins.
Traveling by bus takes about 10 hours, while the train takes about 14 hours. Overnight travel can save you the cost of a hotel room. Although many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, taking a car offers a beautiful trip. We recommend taking a plane back, especially if heading south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s hidden gems: Off-the-beaten-path destinations to explore
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, a village near San Pathong, has been producing and painting paper umbrellas and parasols for over 200 years. The process is fascinating, and you can witness every step of production at the umbrella factory on the right side near the junction. Sa paper is made from the bark of the mulberry tree, and you can even have wonderful motifs painted on your mobile phone cover or clothes. If you have a bag, t-shirt, or shorts that you want to make unique, bring them with you and avoid buying something there. Baan Tawai, a village near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang and offers loads of souvenirs and wooden furniture at cheaper prices than the night bazaar in the city, but we prefer Boo Sang.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, a big street market is held inside the old city from 7 p.m. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) takes place on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling a variety of items, but prices are negotiable. Don’t expect Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be genuine.
Many shops sell the same items, so you can ask for a price and then check another shop. There is a Chinese Money Changer shop about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street, which usually offers the best exchange rates in town. If you walk to 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, you’ll find the 3D street art museum ‘Art in Paradise’. Bring your camera and step into the 300+ paintings on the ground, walls, and ceiling to take some amazing or funny photos.
If you are an animal lover, don’t miss these activities in Chiang Mai
- Care for Dogs in Chiang Mai: Visit this shelter in Hang Dong District and make a difference in the lives of dogs. You can also adopt a furry friend.
- Elephant Nature Park: Spend a day or more at this sanctuary in Mae Taeng and get close to elephants without harming them. Swim with them and brush their backs.
- White-water and bamboo rafting: Head to the shops near the Elephant Nature Park and try these activities.
Other activities to consider in Chiang Mai
- Grand Canyon Chiang Mai: Swim in crystal-clear waters and relax at this hidden gem. Don’t forget to visit the coffee shop at the entrance.
- Samoeng Loop: Rent a car or scooter and explore this scenic route that takes about three hours to complete. You will pass by stunning viewpoints, strawberry fields, and many other activities. Remember to wear a helmet and drive safely.
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Traditional desserts in Chiang Mai: A sweet experience
Chiang Mai is home to countless restaurants and pubs, so we’ve curated a list of some of our favorite spots worth checking out.
For an exceptional vegetarian experience, head to Taste from Heaven located within the Old City. They offer great cooking classes too!
If you’re in the mood for pizza and ribs, The Dukes is the perfect spot, serving the biggest pizza in town. It’s located on the other side of the river between Narawat bridge and the old iron bridge, with another branch at the night bazaar road.
The Mix Bar and Restaurant located at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 serves up some of the most beautifully presented dishes you’ll ever see.
For a delicious breakfast, Smoothie Blues on the corner of Soi 6 is a must-visit spot, but be careful not to get addicted to their mango smoothie.
Japanese food Thai-style can be found at Sumo Sushi on the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13, while just a few meters away, the beer factory boasts an extensive selection of imported beers. For a unique dining experience, try the Japanese Yakiniku Grill on Soi 9, where you prepare your own food on the built-in table grill.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a bit outside of the city but definitely worth the trip, with delicious food and occasional live music. The owner of the restaurant is also knowledgeable about Muay Thai boxing.
For a unique and beautiful dining experience, check out the Khao-Mao Khao-Fang restaurant on Road 3044. Be sure to request a seat near the lake to enjoy the serene ambiance.
Finding Inner Peace in Chiang Mai’s Temples
In addition to Wat Doi Suthep located on the mountain, Chiang Mai boasts numerous other temples worth visiting. Within the old city, Wat Phra Sing is a notable temple, while Wat U-Mong, situated near Chiang Mai University, features fascinating caves and a large fish pond. Another hidden gem is Wat Doi Kham, which is located near the night safari and often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors to Wat Doi Kham can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Best Street Food Markets: Shop and Savor Local Delicacies
On the superhighway, you’ll find the massive Central Festival shopping mall, while Robinson Airport Plaza is another good option that’s more accessible. Maya is usually teeming with university students.
For a longer stay in the city, it’s advisable to rent a place instead of a hotel or guesthouse. Air-conditioned studios can be rented for around 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in a housing estate with amenities like security, pool, gym, and clubhouse is a better option since they’re cheaper than apartments.
Be aware that the Zoo and Night Safari are charging double entrance fees to tourists, and it’s recommended not to support such behavior by avoiding such places.
Most of the city is mapped on Google Streetview, so you can explore some areas beforehand.
If you have time, consider visiting Chiang Rai, which is about 4 hours away by car. Chiang Rai boasts two exquisite temples, Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple) and Baan Dam (the Black House), both worth visiting. If you stay overnight, the Le Meridien Hotel in CR has a fantastic Sunday brunch.