|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. It is very convenient to travel between these two cities, with many transportation options available for tourists. In this article, we will explore the options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to modern and most convenient ones.
Exploring Northern Thailand: Transportation Options and Routes
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 ↑
Chiang Mai Transportation: Everything You Need to Know
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is hassle-free and convenient, with numerous buses connecting the northern capital to major provincial centers in the country. From the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai takes you as far as Lampang, where you can switch to Route 11 Lampang-Chiang Mai, which leads you all the way to your destination. Alternatively, the northern line of the State Railway of Thailand is a 751 km long stretch from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Depending on your preferred mode of transportation, the journey can take anywhere from 9 to 14 hours.back to menu ↑
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus: Route and Time
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 ↑
The Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
Traveling by overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a classic Thailand experience. Tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths, so it’s important to book well in advance. Although the journey takes longer than the bus (roughly 12 hours), it is much more comfortable. The first and second class compartments are well-equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, although those with claustrophobia may prefer to avoid the top bunk. Second class sleepers are available with either fans or AC, so check when you book. For a luxurious experience, consider purchasing a first class single sleeper which offers complete privacy at a cost of over 2000 THB per person. Second class fan seats are also available (for around 600-650 THB), but it’s worth paying a bit more for a fan sleeper, or adding 200 THB for an AC sleeper.
If you prefer to travel during the day, the route is filled with stunning scenery as it passes through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that appear untouched by civilization when viewed from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors frequently pass through the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are always available, but it’s worth noting that it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
Tips for a Comfortable Private Taxi Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling directly from your hotel to Chiang Mai at any time of the day can be a great option, particularly 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 restrooms and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is stunning, providing a delightful backdrop for the journey.back to menu ↑
The Cheapest and Fastest Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane
You might want to consider flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai instead of spending the entire night traveling overland, given that several low-cost carriers are offering tickets for as little as THB1000 and can transport you to your destination in just 1½ hours.
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 operates from Don Mueang International Airport in the northern part of Bangkok. To reach the airport, you can take the airport shuttle buses, either route A1 from Morchit bus terminal or route A2 from the Victory Monument. Route A2 also stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations, and the fare is THB30. The travel time may vary depending on the traffic, typically taking between 60 to 80 minutes. 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 to 10:25 pm. Taking the train is a reliable option.
Chiang Mai International Airport is one of the busiest airports in Thailand, serving as a major gateway to Northern Thailand with daily domestic and international flights to and from destinations such as Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Seoul. The airport is conveniently located just two kilometers from the city center, making flying to Chiang Mai an affordable and time-saving option for travelers.
It’s important to note that many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but it’s necessary to arrange this service in advance. If you don’t have a hotel transfer, you can catch a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit expensive considering the distance, but it’s still relatively inexpensive (around THB150).
Pro tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that provides flights to some of the most stunning destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for a seriously winding road trip from Chiang Mai to these towns, it’s worth considering flying to them instead.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions can be found within the walls of the Old City. Bicycles are the easiest and most popular means of transportation, and they can be rented from almost every guesthouse. Before you set off on your adventure, make sure to check the brakes as the city’s bicycle fleet can be unreliable. The rental fee for an ordinary bike with a fixed gear ranges from THB50 to THB100.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is an excellent way to explore the city and there are rental shops scattered throughout Chiang Mai. This mode of transportation provides you with the freedom to create your own itinerary, and it’s a must-do while staying in Chiang Mai. To rent a vehicle, you’ll need to leave your passport as a security deposit, but it is typically returned to you upon returning the vehicle to the rental shop.
Tip: Be extra cautious while riding a motorcycle or scooter to Doi Suthep, the city’s stunning peak. The winding roads and breathtaking views can be dangerous for inexperienced riders.
Songtaews are large trucks with benches in the back and are good for short trips within the city (THB20-40 per ride). The red and white ones are typically used for this purpose, while the yellow ones can take you to neighboring provinces for a higher fare. Songtaews are usually the cheapest mode of transportation but may require some negotiation.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songthaews, and they are typically used for special experiences rather than daily transportation. They are not a viable option due to their high price, noise, pollution, and safety record.
Taxis are widely available throughout the city, but none of them use meters like in Bangkok. Therefore, it’s best to negotiate the fare before starting 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 trying something unique to add some excitement to your trip. While you’re sure to visit a fair share of temples and do some hiking, trekking, white-water rafting, or rock climbing, consider enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of Thai massage. You can also volunteer at one of the elephant camps, such as the Elephant Nature Park, to support animal welfare efforts. Additionally, take a tour to see how the colorful Chiang Mai parasols are made or stroll down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evenings to experience the local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its vibrant festivals. If possible, schedule your visit to witness and participate in some of them. The Flower Festival is held during the first weekend of February, and the city transforms into a stunning blooming garden. Songkran, which takes place from April 12-14, is a water festival where revelers pour water on each other (and passers-by) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai, is one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night skies over the city, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
Hidden gems to discover on a Chiang Mai road trip
If you have a car, there are two routes to take to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The quicker and shorter route involves going to Nakhon Sawan, turning left before entering the city, and taking highway number 1. This route will take you through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you are a fan of pizza, stop in Lampang and visit the Riverside restaurant. However, it’s better to avoid the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai if you want to interact with elephants in a more ethical manner. After covering a total distance of approximately 700 kilometers, you will arrive in Chiang Mai.
The second route is slightly longer but offers smaller roads that take you through vast forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan, then take highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on highway 11, passing through Lampang and eventually reaching Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two options. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you will pass through the “Switzerland of Thailand,” a picturesque area with many relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can visit Khao Koh, a mountain where your car will slowly roll uphill at one particular spot. Turn off the engine and enjoy the unique experience. If you turn left, you can visit Sukhothai, a city renowned for its historical park. Rent a bicycle at the park entrance and explore the well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you decide to take the bus, it will take approximately 10 hours, while the train will take about 14 hours. Taking an overnight bus or train can help save the cost of one night’s hotel stay. While many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, you would miss out on a beautiful road trip if you opt for air travel. We recommend taking the plane back, particularly if you’re heading south towards 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, a village near San Pathong, has been producing and painting paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. It’s a fascinating process, and at the umbrella factory near the junction, you can observe every step of the production. The Sa paper is made from the mulberry tree’s bark, and they can even paint fantastic designs on your mobile phone case, clothes, or any item you bring. The village of Baan Tawai, near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang, but it’s a great place to find souvenirs and wooden furniture at lower prices 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 large street market inside the old city, which starts at 7 p.m. and closes at midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar is open every day in the early afternoon and closes at night. You can find a variety of items there, but be prepared to negotiate prices. Don’t expect the Louis-Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans to be authentic.
Many shops sell the same things, so you can ask for a price and then move on to 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 that 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 big hotel on the left side, 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 capture some amazing or funny pictures.
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.
back to menu ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s cuisine: A gastronomic journey
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.
Uncovering the Hidden Gems: Lesser-Known Temples in Chiang Mai
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai, including Wat Phra Sing located within the old city and Wat U-Mong with its caves and a vast fish pond near Chiang Mai University. Additionally, there is Wat Doi Kham situated near the night safari, which is often overlooked by tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of the city from this temple. Beside Wat Doi Suthep, which is located on the mountain, these other temples are worth exploring.back to menu ↑
Chiang Mai’s Flower Markets: A Colorful Shopping Experience
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.