|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 popular cities in Thailand, each with their own unique cultural features and numerous tourist attractions. Traveling between the two cities is also very convenient, with many transportation options available for tourists. In this article, we will explore the various options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional modes of transportation to modern and convenient methods.
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 ↑
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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok: A Comprehensive Bus Guide
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 ↑
The Ultimate Guide to Taking the Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai How to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thailand experience. It is recommended to book well in advance, as tickets sell quickly, especially for lower berths. The journey takes about 12 hours, which is longer than the bus journey, but it’s significantly more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds (avoid the top bunk if you are claustrophobic). There are both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers, so be sure to check when you book. For those who wish to travel like royalty, the 1st class single sleeper is an option, which costs over 2000 THB per person but offers complete privacy. There are also 2nd class fan seats (about 600-650 THB), which should only be considered if there are no other options left, as for an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, and for 200 THB more, you can travel with AC.
Alternatively, you may choose to travel by day as the route is filled with natural beauty, taking you through mountainous regions and sprawling countryside that often seem untouched by civilization when viewed from the windows of the moving train.
Tip: There are food vendors constantly patrolling the carriages, so snacks and refreshments are never in short supply, but it is illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
The Pros and Cons of Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi
Travel directly from your hotel to Chiang Mai at any time of the day with the convenience of a private transfer. This option can be particularly beneficial for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter is available at a cost of THB 13,200 and takes approximately 9 hours to travel between the two capitals. The roads are generally smooth, with gas stations that have clean toilets and convenience stores along the way. Additionally, the scenery is breathtaking and adds to the overall experience of the journey.back to menu ↑
How to Navigate Your Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Considering that several low-cost carriers offer tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as little as THB1000 and transport you to your destination in just 1½ hours, it might be worthwhile to fly between the two cities instead of spending the entire night traveling overland.
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 is a significant gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the country’s busiest airports, with daily domestic and international flights to and from 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 reasonable option as it won’t take much time or money to reach your hotel from the airport.
It’s worth noting that many hotels in the city offer free airport transfers, but you’ll need to book this service in advance. Alternatively, 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 steep considering the short distance, but in absolute figures, it’s still quite affordable (around THB150).
Tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also used as a hub by Kan Air, a domestic airline that serves some of the most stunning destinations in Northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. It’s worth considering flying to these towns, especially if you’re not comfortable with the winding roads from Chiang Mai to Pai or from Chiang Mai to 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 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, 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 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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai by car
For those traveling by car, there are two routes to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok. The shorter and faster route is to head towards Nakhon Sawan, then turn left before entering the city onto Highway 1. This route will take you through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make a stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. It’s advisable to avoid elephant parks between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding on the elephants, as there are better options for interacting with these magnificent animals. The total distance covered is approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by dense forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan and take Highway 117 to Phitsanulok. Continue on Highway 11 to reach Lampang, and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, there are two more alternatives. Turn right towards Phetchaboon to visit the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ a beautiful area with relaxing resorts. Or turn left to visit the city of Sukhothai and its historical park, where you can rent a bicycle and explore the 700-year-old temple ruins.
If you prefer to take the bus or train, the journey will take approximately 10 or 14 hours, respectively. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of one night’s accommodation. There are several airlines that fly to Chiang Mai, but you would miss out on a beautiful road trip. We recommend taking the plane back, especially if you’re heading down south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s art scene
Chiang Mai is a city brimming with attractions that would take several months to explore fully. While there are many popular things to see and do in Chiang Mai, we want to share some insider tips that you may not find in your guidebook. Let’s start with the basics. Visitors are often told to do three things in Chiang Mai: try Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with various ingredients, visit Boo Sang to see the colorful handmade paper umbrellas, and go to Wat Doi Suthep temple on the mountain. It’s best to visit Wat Doi Suthep on weekdays to avoid the crowds. If the sun is shining, you can capture beautiful pictures of the golden chedi. When taking one of the red songtaew taxis, keep in mind that the fare is higher for the ride down the mountain.
Khao Soi is a soup-like specialty made from rice noodles in a thin, yellow curry similar to Massaman style. It is usually mixed with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, served with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. If you can’t handle the extreme spiciness, skip the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is added to soften the flavor and reduce the spice level. You can typically order Khao Soi with chicken, beef, or a vegetarian version.
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.
If you’re an animal lover looking to make a positive impact, consider visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai’s Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. While the park may not be the cheapest option, it’s worth it to see elephants living happily without the use of hooks, chains, or fences. You may even have the opportunity to swim with the gentle giants in the river and brush their backs with a big broom. The park offers day trips or longer volunteering opportunities for a truly unforgettable experience. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the white-water and bamboo rafting available from shops further down the same road as the park. While bamboo rafting is a relaxing experience, white-water rafting offers a bit more of a thrill – just be aware that the water may not be very white unless there has been recent heavy rainfall in the mountains.
If swimming is more your style, consider looking up “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” for a hidden gem in the north. The water is clear and clean, and there are usually very few people there on weekdays when the sun is shining. Be sure to exercise caution when swimming and avoid jumping from the walls into the water. There’s even a recently opened coffee shop at the entrance for a nice pick-me-up after your swim.
For those who can drive a scooter or are interested in renting a car, a loop from CM to Hang Dong, Samoeng, Mae Rim, and back to CM is highly recommended. The drive takes about three hours with little traffic on weekdays and offers stunning viewpoints, hidden caves (which may be a bit difficult to find), a large and pleasant coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng, strawberry fields in Samoeng, and many other activities like bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karting, paint-ball, parks, and restaurants in the Mae Rim area. You can even venture up the mountain to explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Remember to always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink alcohol and drive.back to menu ↑
Vegetarian food in Chiang Mai: Options and recommendations
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 located in Chiang Mai besides Wat Doi Suthep, which sits atop a mountain. One such temple is Wat Phra Sing, situated within the old city. Another temple worth visiting is Wat U-Mong, which boasts beautiful caves and a vast fish pond in the vicinity of Chiang Mai University. Additionally, Wat Doi Kham, located near the night safari, is a charming temple that remains undiscovered by many tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from this vantage point.back to menu ↑
Shopping in Chiang Mai
Central Festival, a vast new shopping complex situated on the superhighway, is a notable landmark. In contrast, Robinson Airport Plaza is also pleasant and easily accessible. However, Maya tends to be overcrowded with pupils from the adjacent university.
If you intend to stay longer in the city, it’s better to rent a place instead of staying in hotels or guesthouses. You can find air-conditioned studios for about 100 Euros per month, but condos located inside the city or Nimman Hemmin district are significantly more expensive. Renting a house in one of the gated communities that usually provide security, pool, gym, and clubhouse, is a more economical choice as houses are cheaper to rent than apartments.
Note that the Zoo and Night Safari are imposing double entrance fees on tourists, and it’s not recommended to support such practices. Hence, it’s better to avoid such places.
Most of the city is mapped on Google Streetview, enabling you to explore some areas from your PC.
If you have the time, you might also consider visiting Chiang Rai, a city that has two exquisite temples – the white temple, Wat Rong Khun, and the black house, Baan Dam. Both are worth visiting, but it takes a four-hour car ride to reach there. If you plan to stay overnight in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel offers a fantastic Sunday brunch.