|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 778–7,379 1h 10m – 1h 20m|
|Train Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 883–1,862 10h 17m – 14h 20m|
|Bus Bangkok - Chiang Mai 9h 30m – 13h|
|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 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 options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from traditional means of transportation to advanced and most convenient methods.
A Journey to Northern Thailand: How to Plan Your Transportation
Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom, is nestled in a basin surrounded by woodlands and mountains, creating an atmosphere of infinite charm. The city is adorned with ancient wats and chedis, some dating back to the 13th century. Forest monasteries can be found hidden in the mountains and hills, while colourful markets overflow with OTOP products and flavoursome Northern Thai cuisine, including the unforgettable khao soi.
The locals are welcoming and friendly, providing endless opportunities for unforgettable experiences, whether you are visiting for just two days or a month-long trip. Chiang Mai offers an array of attractions, 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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai
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 ↑
How to Plan Your Bus Trip 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 to Chiang Mai from Bangkok by bus is a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for a long journey. Buses bound for Chiang Mai depart from the Northern and Northeastern Bus Terminal (Mochit). There are many bus companies serving this route, such as Bangkok Busline, Siam FirstNew Viriya, and more, with departures available 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 is advisable to book in advance. Prices for buses vary depending on the level of comfort provided. If you can afford to spend a bit more, VIP coaches with 24 seats (from 800 THB) are a great option, as they provide ample space for both your legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses from Bangkok (from 500 THB) offer enough comfort for sleeping through the whole journey.
Note that Mochit Bus Terminal is huge, but there are plenty of staff members available to help passengers find their way. Upon arrival, staff members will greet you at the entrance and direct you to the correct platform, so there’s no need to worry about getting lost.back to menu ↑
The Scenic Route: Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Private Taxi: Transportation Options and Tips
You can leave for Chiang Mai directly from your hotel at any time of the day, making it a convenient 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, with gas stations featuring clean restrooms and convenience stores along the way. Moreover, the scenery is breathtaking, making the journey a pleasant one.back to menu ↑
The Ultimate Guide to Flying from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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, 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 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 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, 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 worth exploring some unique activities to spice up your visit. You may likely visit several temples, go hiking and trekking, or even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, you can add some extra flavor to your stay by enrolling in a massage class and learning the basics of Thai massage, volunteering at one of the elephant camps (beginning with Elephant Nature Park), observing the production of colorful Chiang Mai parasols, and taking a stroll down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evening when it becomes a hub of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is renowned for its colorful festivals. If possible, schedule your trip to participate in some of these festivals. During the first weekend of February, the Flower Festival is held, and the city transforms into a gorgeous blooming garden. Songkran falls on April 12-14, with revelers dousing each other (and passersby) with water along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of Thailand’s most beautiful festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float in the night skies over the city, creating an unforgettable sight.back to menu ↑
The most scenic drives 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 ↑
The top must-see attractions in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a city with countless attractions that will keep you busy for months. While your guidebook will point you towards popular tourist spots, we want to highlight some hidden gems that are worth exploring. But before we delve into those, there are three things you absolutely must do in Chiang Mai: try Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with various ingredients; visit Boo Sang, where vibrant paper umbrellas are handcrafted; and make your way to Wat Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain. Visit on a weekday for fewer crowds and stunning photos of the golden chedi. If you take a red songtaew taxi, keep in mind that the fare down the mountain is higher than the ascent.
Khao Soi is a soup-like specialty made with thin, yellow curry and rice noodles, similar to Massaman style. It is typically served with deep-fried crispy noodles and boiled egg noodles, along with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage on the side. Skip the oil-fried ground chilies if you can’t handle the extreme spiciness, and enjoy the dish with chicken, beef, or the vegetarian version. Coconut milk is added to soften the flavor and reduce spiciness.
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.
For animal lovers and those who want to make a positive impact, there are two options to consider in Chiang Mai: Care For Dogs in Hang Dong District or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng. While the park may be a bit pricey, you’ll witness elephants living happily without chains, hooks, or fences. You can even swim in the river with them and brush their backs with a big broom. Day trips are available or you can volunteer for a more immersive experience. On the same road further down, there are white-water and bamboo rafting shops, but note that bamboo rafting can be slow and relaxed, while white-water rafting can be more challenging after heavy rainfalls.
For a hidden gem in the north, try searching for “Grand Canyon Chiang Mai” for clear and clean water with almost no crowds during the weekdays. However, be cautious not to jump from the walls into the water. A new coffee shop is available at the entrance.
If you have a scooter or rent a car, a recommended loop is CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM. During the three-hour drive on weekdays, you’ll pass beautiful viewpoints, discover a hidden cave (though it may be a bit difficult to find), visit a large coffee shop 20 km before Samoeng, and see strawberry fields in Samoeng. In Mae Rim, there are activities like bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-karts, paintball, and parks, restaurants, and more. You can also drive up the mountain and explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own. Always wear a helmet, drive carefully, and never drink alcohol and drive.back to menu ↑
Street food scene in Chiang Mai: A delicious adventure
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.back to menu ↑
Finding Inner Peace in Chiang Mai’s Temples
There are numerous temples in Chiang Mai apart from Wat Doi Suthep, which is situated on the mountain. Inside the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, and near Chiang Mai University, there is Wat U-Mong, which features caves and a large fish pond. Another lovely temple is Wat Doi Kham, located close to the night safari, which not many tourists are aware of. On a clear day, this temple provides a stunning view of the city.back to menu ↑
Eco-Friendly Shopping in Chiang Mai: Sustainable Souvenirs and Gifts
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.