|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.
Getting to Northern Thailand: Transportation Options and Tips
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 ↑
Navigating Your Way to Chiang Mai: A Complete Transportation Guide
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 ↑
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 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 ↑
The Scenic Route: Traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
Traveling overnight by train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a quintessential Thai experience. Tickets for lower berths sell out quickly, so it’s best to book well in advance. The journey takes roughly twelve hours, slightly longer than by bus, but significantly more comfortable. The first and second class compartments are well equipped with seats that fold out into bunk beds, although top bunks can feel claustrophobic. Both fan and AC 2nd class sleepers are available, so check when booking. For a luxurious journey, consider purchasing a 1st class single sleeper for over 2000 THB per person, offering complete privacy. 2nd class fan seats (about 600-650 THB) are an option only if no other choices remain, as an additional 100 THB offers a fan sleeper, or add 200 THB to travel with AC.
Alternatively, traveling during the day is also an option, as the route offers beautiful views of mountainous regions and sprawling countryside, seemingly untouched by civilization, from the train windows.
Tip: Food vendors patrol the carriages with snacks and refreshments, but it is illegal to sell alcoholic beverages on the train.back to menu ↑
Why Taking a Private Taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai Can be a Great Option
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 ↑
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Flights: Transportation Options and Tips
If you’re looking to save time and money, flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai may be your best bet. Low-cost carriers are offering tickets for as little as THB1000, and the flight takes only 1½ hours. This beats spending the entire night traveling overland.
Thai Lion Air, a subsidiary of Lion Air based in Indonesia, offers up to 10 round-trip flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai each day. Depending on the date and time of your preferred flight, airfares start from THB1000 and can go up. Popular travel periods tend to sell out quickly, but even a few days before your intended travel date, you can still find deals for under THB2000. The ticket price includes 15 kg of checked luggage and 7 kg of cabin luggage. Flights depart from Bangkok Don Mueang Airport as early as 8:55 am and as late as 9:50 pm, with eight other options available throughout the day.
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 one of the busiest airports in Thailand and 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. Located just two kilometers from the city center, flying into Chiang Mai can be a cost-effective option as it won’t take much time or money to reach your hotel from the airport.
While some hotels offer complimentary airport transfers, you’ll need to arrange this in advance. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, songthaew, or tuk-tuk to the city center. The cost of the ride may seem a bit pricey considering the distance, but it is still affordable at around THB150.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai Airport is also a hub for Kan Air, a domestic airline that services some of the most stunning destinations in northern Thailand, including Pai and Mae Hong Son. If you’re not up for a long and winding road trip from Chiang Mai, it’s worth considering flying to these towns 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 visiting Chiang Mai, it’s a good idea to step out of your comfort zone and try something new. You will undoubtedly visit plenty of temples, go hiking or trekking, and perhaps even try white-water rafting or rock climbing. However, consider adding some zest to your stay by enrolling in a massage class to learn the basics of Thai massage. Volunteering at one of the elephant camps, such as Elephant Nature Park, is also a fantastic opportunity. Additionally, seeing how the colorful Chiang Mai parasols are made and strolling down Thanon Ratchadamnoen on Sunday evening, when it transforms into the epicenter of local commerce, culture, cuisine, and people-watching, are other unique experiences to consider.
Pro tip: Chiang Mai is famous for its vibrant festivals, and it’s worth planning your trip to participate in some of them. The Flower Festival, held during the first weekend of February, transforms the city into a blossoming garden. Songkran, which takes place on April 12-14, is a wet and wild water festival where revelers splash water on each other (and passersby) along the city moat. Loi Krathong, one of the most stunning Thai festivals, is known as Yi Peng in Chiang Mai. Thousands of illuminated lanterns float into the night sky over the city, creating an unforgettable scene.back to menu ↑
Preparing your car for the journey to Chiang Mai
If you’re traveling to Chiang Mai by car, there are two routes you can take from Bangkok. The quicker and shorter route is to drive to Nakhon Sawan and turn left before entering the city onto highway number 1. You’ll pass through Khamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang. If you’re a pizza lover, make sure to stop at the Riverside restaurant in Lampang. However, we recommend skipping the elephant park between Lampang and Chiang Mai, as there are better places to interact with these majestic animals. The total distance of this route is approximately 700 kilometers.
The second route is slightly longer but takes you through smaller roads surrounded by big forests. Drive up to Nakhon Sawan, take the highway to Phitsanulok (117), and continue on highway 11 to Lampang and then Chiang Mai. In Phitsanulok, you have two alternatives. If you turn right towards Phetchaboon, you’ll pass through the ‘Switzerland of Thailand,’ a picturesque area with relaxing resorts. In Phetchaboon, you can visit Khao Koh, a mountain with a spot where your car will slowly roll uphill when in neutral gear. If you turn left, you can visit the city of Sukhothai and its well-preserved 700-year-old temple ruins by renting a bicycle at the park entrance.
If you decide to take a bus or train, expect travel times of around 10 and 14 hours, respectively. Traveling overnight can save you the cost of one night’s hotel stay. Many airlines fly to Chiang Mai, but we recommend driving there for a scenic trip and taking a plane back, especially if you’re heading down south towards the islands.back to menu ↑
Getting to know Chiang Mai’s hill tribe cultures
Chiang Mai is a city with countless attractions, and even if you stay for several months, you won’t be able to see them all. In this guide, we’ll highlight some lesser-known things to do in addition to the popular tourist activities. But first, let’s start with the must-do activities recommended by locals. It’s said that you must try three things in Chiang Mai: Khao Soi, a delicious rice noodle dish with a variety of ingredients, visit Boo Sang to see the colorful handmade umbrellas, and visit Wat Doi Suthep, a temple located on a mountain.
Wat Doi Suthep is less crowded on weekdays and offers stunning views of the golden chedi on sunny days. If you take one of the red songtaew taxis, be aware that the fare for the trip down the mountain is higher than the trip up.
Khao Soi is a noodle dish with thin yellow curry, similar to the Massaman style, and is a popular soup-like specialty. It’s mixed with crispy and boiled egg noodles and typically served with shallots, banana, lime, and pickled cabbage. Those who can’t handle spicy food should avoid the oil-fried ground chilies. Coconut milk is often used to balance the spiciness. Khao Soi can be ordered with chicken, beef, or even a vegetarian option.
Boo Sang is a charming village near San Pathong that has been producing paper umbrellas/parasols for over 200 years. Witness the fascinating process of how they make Sa paper from the bark of the mulberry tree at the umbrella factory on the right side of the junction. You can also get your mobile phone cover or clothes painted with beautiful motifs. If you have your own bag, t-shirt or shorts, bring them along to make them unique. Baan Tawai, located near Hang Dong, is another village that sells souvenirs and wooden furniture, but we prefer Boo Sang for its charm and atmosphere.
Wororot Market, styled in the Chinese tradition, is located 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. until midnight. On Saturdays, the walking street market (called Thanon Khon Doen) on Wualai Road is a popular destination. The night bazaar is open every day from the early afternoon until nightfall. You can find a variety of items there, but be prepared to negotiate prices.
Don’t expect to find authentic Louis Vuitton handbags or Versace jeans. As many shops sell similar items, you can ask for a price and then move on to the next shop. If you’re looking for the best exchange rates in town, visit the Chinese Money Changer shop located about 50 meters from Tha Phae road on the right side of the night bazaar street. 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 take some fantastic and amusing pictures.
If you are an animal lover, visit Care For Dogs or the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai to make a difference. At the Elephant Nature Park, you can see elephants living without hooks, chains, or fences, and even go swimming with them. You can also find white-water and bamboo rafting shops in the area. If you prefer swimming, head to the hidden gem, Grand Canyon Chiang Mai, which has clear and clean water.
If you’re up for a drive, try the CM – Hang Dong – Samoeng – Mae Rim – CM loop, which takes about 3 hours and has stunning viewpoints, hidden caves, and strawberry fields. There are also many activities such as bungee jumping, shooting ranges, and ATV and buggy rentals near Mae Rim. Make sure to wear a helmet, drive safely, and avoid drinking and driving.back to menu ↑
Exploring Chiang Mai’s cuisine: A gastronomic journey
Chiang Mai is known for its abundance of restaurants and bars, and we have some unique recommendations to share with you.
Taste from Heaven is a vegetarian restaurant located inside the old city and is considered the best vegetarian restaurant in the north. They also offer cooking classes.
If you’re a fan of pizza and ribs, head to The Dukes. They serve the biggest pizza in town and fantastic spare ribs. You can find one branch on the other side of the river and another on the night bazaar road.
Mix Bar and Restaurant at the end of Nimman Hemmin Soi 1 offers not only delicious food but also a beautiful ambiance.
For the best breakfast in town, visit Smoothie Blues on the corner of Soi 6 (opposite Tesco Express), but beware of their mango ‘smoothie blues’, which may leave you addicted.
Sumo Sushi on the small soi between Nimman Hemmin Soi 11 and 13 serves Japanese food Thai-style at a reasonable price. Nearby is the beer factory with a vast selection of imported beers, and a Japanese Yakiniku Grill is located further down the street on Soi 9.
Yummy Pizza on Canal Road is a must-visit spot that offers delicious food and sometimes live music. The owner is also knowledgeable about Muay Thai boxing.
If you’re looking for a beautiful restaurant, check out Khao-Mao Khao-Fang on road 3044. It’s situated near a lake and offers air-conditioned seating and delicious food.back to menu ↑
Finding Inner Peace in Chiang Mai’s Temples
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 Shopping Spree: Best Deals and Discounts You Can’t Miss
On the superhighway lies Central Festival, a large new shopping mall, while Robinson Airport Plaza is also a great option that’s easier to reach. Maya tends to be crowded with university students. If you’re staying in the city for a while, it’s better to rent a place than stay in hotels or guesthouses. You can find air-conditioned studios for around 100 Euros per month, but condominiums in the city or Nimman Hemmin area are much more expensive. Renting a house in one of the housing estates is a better option as they come with security, pool, gym, and clubhouse facilities, and are cheaper than apartments.
We advise against supporting places like the Zoo and Night Safari, which charge double entrance fees for tourists. Most of the city is mapped on Google Street View, which allows you to explore some areas before your visit.
If you have time, consider visiting Chiang Rai, which has two stunning temples: Wat Rong Khun, the white temple, and Baan Dam, the black house. Both are worth a visit, but it takes a 4-hour car ride to get there. If you plan to stay overnight in Chiang Rai, the Le Meridien Hotel offers a wonderful Sunday brunch.