|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 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.
Tips for Traveling to Northern Thailand: Getting There and Getting Around
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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai by Plane, Train, or Bus: Which One to Choose?
Traveling overland to Chiang Mai is both easy and convenient, with numerous buses linking the northern capital to major provincial centers across the country. If traveling from the capital, Route #1 Bangkok-Chiang Rai will take 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. Additionally, the northern line of Thailand’s state railway stretches 751km long, from Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok to Chiang Mai, with the journey taking anywhere between 9 to 14 hours, depending on the mode of transport you choose.back to menu ↑
The Ultimate Guide to Taking the Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
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 many companies such as Bangkok Busline and Siam FirstNew Viriya providing 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. The bus prices vary depending on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches being the most comfortable option, offering 24 seats and 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. Mochit Bus Terminal may seem enormous, but there is plenty of staff to assist passengers in finding their way. You will be greeted at the entrance and directed to the appropriate platform.
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a convenient, affordable, and comfortable option for 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 providing daily 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 advisable to book in advance. Prices vary based on the level of comfort, with VIP coaches having 24 seats and costing around 800 THB, providing ample space for both legs and elbows. However, even the cheapest buses (from 500 THB) offer comfortable travel and are suitable for sleeping during the journey.
The Mochit Bus Terminal may seem daunting due to its size, but there is plenty of staff available to assist passengers in finding their way. Upon arrival, passengers will be directed to the correct platform, providing a sense of ease and comfort.back to menu ↑
Tips for a Comfortable Train Journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by overnight train is a classic Thai experience. Tickets, especially for lower berths, sell quickly, so it’s recommended to book well in advance. The journey takes approximately twelve hours, slightly longer than the bus journey, but is considerably more comfortable. The first and second-class compartments are well-equipped for comfort with seats that convert into bunk beds (avoid the top bunk if you’re claustrophobic). Both fan and air-conditioned 2nd class sleepers are available, so make sure to check when booking. For a luxurious experience, consider purchasing the 1st class single sleeper which costs over 2000 THB per person but offers complete privacy. There are also 2nd class fan seats (around 600-650 THB), but these should only be considered if there are no other options left, as for an extra 100 THB, you can get a fan sleeper, or add 200 THB and travel with air conditioning.
Alternatively, you may choose to travel by day as the route takes you through stunning mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, offering scenic views from the train’s windows.
Tip: Food vendors are constantly patrolling the carriages, ensuring that snacks and refreshments are never in short supply. However, it’s important to note that it’s illegal to sell any alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
The Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Private Taxi
You can leave directly from your hotel in Bangkok to Chiang Mai any time of the day by opting for a private taxi. This can be a great option for those traveling in a group of friends. A 9-seater Toyota Commuter costs THB 13,200 and takes around 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. Additionally, the scenery is fantastic, providing an enjoyable ride.back to menu ↑
The Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Air
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, 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 Bangkok base is located at Don Mueang International Airport, which is situated to the north of the capital. You can reach the airport by using airport shuttle buses that operate two routes: A1 and A2. Route A1 starts from Morchit bus terminal, while A2 originates at Victory Monument and stops at Sanam Pao, Ari, Saphan Kwai, and Morchit BTS stations (fare is THB30). Morchit BTS station is also served by the A1 route. The duration of the journey can vary depending on traffic, but it typically takes between 60 to 80 minutes. Additionally, there are commuter trains available between Hua Lamphong train station and Don Mueang airport. These trains are a reliable option and take approximately 50 minutes to travel between the railway station and the airport. The operating hours for the train service are from 4:20 am to 10:25 pm
Chiang Mai International Airport serves as a major gateway to Northern Thailand and is one of the country’s four busiest airports, providing daily domestic and international flights to and from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and other destinations. The airport is located just about two kilometers from the city center, making it a convenient option for travelers.
Many hotels in the city offer free transfers from the airport, but it’s necessary to arrange this service in advance. Otherwise, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to get to the city center. Although the cost of the ride may seem a bit high given the distance, the fare is still relatively cheap (approximately THB150).
Tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also used as a hub by Kan Air, a domestic airline that serves some of the most beautiful destinations in Northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. It’s worth considering flying to these towns as the roads from Chiang Mai to Pai and Mae Hong Son can be quite winding and challenging for some travelers.
To get around Chiang Mai, most of the city’s attractions can be found within the walls of the Old City. Renting a bicycle is a popular and easy option and can be arranged at most guesthouses for around THB50 to THB100 per day. However, check the brakes first as some bikes may be in less than ideal condition.
Renting a scooter, motorcycle, or car is another excellent way to explore the city, and rental shops are widely available. This option provides greater flexibility and freedom to explore Chiang Mai and its surroundings. Note that you will need to leave your passport as a security deposit, but it’s usually returned without issue when you return the vehicle.
When traveling by songtaews, which are large trucks with benches in the back, the red and white ones are suitable for trips within the city, while the yellow ones can take you to nearby Northern provinces. They are generally the cheapest way to get around, but some negotiation may be required.
Tuk-tuks are more expensive than songtaews and not always the most viable option due to their prices, noise, pollution, and safety record. However, they can be a fun experience if you’re looking for something new.
Taxis are abundant, but unlike in Bangkok, they don’t use meters, so it’s important to negotiate the fare before the ride.back to menu ↑
Where to stay
Over the past few years, the cost of accommodations in Chiang Mai has increased, making it almost impossible to find a decent option for THB300. Nowadays, a budget room in a guesthouse within the walls of the Old City typically costs around THB1000. However, there are other good options available as well.
For instance, you can search for pleasant budget accommodations located just east of the Old City in Thanon Tha Phae, near the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Thanon Nimmanhaemin, with its bars and restaurants, is also easily accessible from the western part of the Old City. If you have your own transportation, lodgings located outside the city may be a good choice for city veterans or those seeking a more relaxed countryside feel.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 ↑
Getting to Chiang Mai by car
For those traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two routes from Bangkok. The first and quicker option is to head to Nakhon Sawan, then turn left before entering the city onto highway number 1. Along the way, you’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make a stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, we recommend avoiding the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai for riding on elephants, as there are better places to get in touch with these gentle giants. The total distance of this route is around 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but offers beautiful scenery, with smaller roads cutting through vast forests. After reaching Nakhon Sawan, take the highway to Phitsanulok (117) and continue on highway 11 until you reach Lampang and Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two options: turn right towards Phetchaboon to explore the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ an area with relaxing resorts. Or turn left to visit Sukhothai, a city with a well-preserved historical park featuring 700-year-old temple ruins. Rent a bicycle at the park entrance to soak up the atmosphere.
For those traveling by bus, the journey will take around 10 hours, while the train takes around 14 hours. Overnight travel saves the cost of one night’s accommodation. Although many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, we recommend taking the plane back, especially if heading to the southern 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 is a charming village located near San Pathong, where paper umbrellas/parasols have been produced and painted for over 200 years. It is fascinating to witness the production process, which can be observed at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. The paper used for the parasols is made from the bark of the mulberry tree. Additionally, they also offer painting services for mobile phone covers, clothes, bags, t-shirts, and shorts. If you have something unique you want to create, bring it along instead of buying something new there. Baan Tawai, a village near Hang Dong, is similar to Boo Sang, with numerous souvenirs and wooden furniture. Although it is cheaper than the night bazaar in the city, Boo Sang remains our favorite.
The Chinese-style Wororot Market is situated near the Narawat Bridge over the River Ping. On Sundays, there is a large street market inside the old city that operates from 7 p.m. to midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) is held on Wualai Road. The night bazaar opens every day in the early afternoon and closes at night, selling a diverse range of items, but haggling is necessary.
Don’t expect original Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. Since many shops sell similar things, it’s best to inquire about prices and then compare them elsewhere. There is a Chinese money changer shop located about 50 meters from Tha Phae Road on the right side of the night bazaar street that usually has 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 will see 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 unique and amusing pictures.
For animal lovers who want to make a positive impact, visiting Care For Dogs in Chiang Mai (Hang Dong District) or the Elephant Nature Park in Mae Taeng is a great option. Although the park is a bit pricey, you will get to see elephants happily roaming without hooks, chains or fences. They choose to stay there despite having the freedom to run away. You can even swim in the river with these magnificent creatures and brush their backs with a broom. The park offers day trips or volunteering opportunities. It will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Further down the same road behind the park, some shops offer white-water and bamboo rafting. Although bamboo rafting is slow and leisurely, white-water rafting is a bit more thrilling. However, it is not really that white unless you go after heavy rainfalls in the mountains.
If you want to go swimming, search for ‘Grand Canyon Chiang Mai’ on Google. This hidden gem in the north is not very popular, which makes it an ideal spot for a serene swim. The water is clear and clean, and there aren’t many people there during weekdays. However, be cautious and avoid jumping from the walls into the water. There is a newly opened coffee shop at the entrance.
If you can drive a scooter or rent a car, the CM-Hang Dong-Samoeng-Mae Rim-CM loop is an excellent option. It takes around three hours, and there is usually no traffic on weekdays. You will encounter stunning viewpoints, a hidden cave (which can be tricky to find), a big coffee shop 20km before Samoeng, and strawberry fields in Samoeng. There are also plenty of activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, ATV and buggy rentals, go-carriage, paint-ball, and some parks, restaurants, and more near Mae Rim. With a scooter or car, you can explore Wat Doi Suthep on your own by going up the mountain. But always remember to wear a helmet, drive carefully, and avoid drinking alcohol and driving.back to menu ↑
Street food scene in Chiang Mai: A delicious adventure
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 ↑
Discover the Ancient Beauty of Chiang Mai Temples
There are numerous temples located in Chiang Mai, apart from Wat Doi Suthep on the mountain. Within the old city, there is Wat Phra Sing, while Wat U-Mong, featuring caves and a sizable fish pond, is located near Chiang Mai University. Another beautiful temple, Wat Doi Kham, situated near the night safari, is relatively unknown to most tourists. On a clear day, visitors can enjoy a breathtaking view of the city from this location.back to menu ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s Night Markets: A Shopper’s Paradise
Central Festival, a massive shopping mall located on the superhighway, is a prominent landmark. The Robinson Airport Plaza is also an attractive shopping destination and easier to access. Maya is a popular hangout spot for students from the nearby university.
For those planning an extended stay in the city, renting a place is preferable to staying in hotels or guesthouses. Air-conditioned studios are available for around 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are considerably more expensive. Renting a house in a housing estate with amenities such as security, a pool, gym, and clubhouse is more cost-effective than renting an apartment.
Tourists are being charged double entrance fees to visit the Zoo and the Night Safari, and it is not advisable to support such practices by visiting these places.
Most areas of the city are mapped on Google Streetview, providing a chance to explore some areas beforehand.
Chiang Rai is worth a visit if time permits, as it has two notable temples: the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) and the Black House (Baan Dam). However, it takes four hours by car to reach the destination. If you plan to stay overnight in Chiang Rai, consider the Le Meridien Hotel, which offers a delightful Sunday brunch.