Northern Thailand offers tourists a welcome reprieve from the sweltering heat in other regions of the country and provides a more relaxing break away from the chaos and congestion in the capital and the throngs of tourists in places such as Phuket or Pattaya. Chiang Mai has its own international airport, however, international routes are limited and mainly serving Asian cities, therefore the vast majority of travelers will need to figure out how to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is relatively easy and you can get there by plane, train, bus, minibus and taxi. Each method of transport comes with their own pros and cons, however, with the proliferation of budget airlines and the intense competition which has ensued, for the vast majority of travelers, a budget flight will be the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to go. In other circumstances, such as if you have a lot of luggage or you find all the flights booked during a national holiday for example, there are many other ways to make the journey.
Taking a flight is undoubtedly the most convenient way to travel to Chiang Mai, however other methods of transport also have their advantages. Here we take a look at the different ways of how to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, look at the pros and cons and help you decide which way is the best for your trip. Let’s take a look in more detail about the options available and how to conveniently book tickets online.
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Take a Flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
With the introduction of VietJet Air in Thailand, there is fierce competition in the domestic flight market. What this means is that flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai are very cheap, and flight time is only around an hour and a quarter, plus flights can be booked online for under 500 baht ($16), which is astonishingly good value. There are a number of airlines to choose from including Air Asia, VietJet, Lion Air, Nok Air, Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways.
You’ll need to factor in the cost of public transport at each end of the journey, but you’ll easily be able to get from your hotel in Bangkok to your hotel in Chiang Mai for under 1000 baht ($33). Be warned, however, with the budget airlines almost everything is charged as an added extra, sometimes even putting a bag in the hold as opposed to taking it in the cabin will cost you extra. Despite this, travelling by plane should be everyone’s preferred option, being much more hassle-free than any other mode of transport.
You can catch flights to Chiang Mai from Bangkok’s main airport, Suvarnabhumi, or from the city’s older airport, Don Mueang, both are easily accessible from Bangkok city centre via taxi or the airport rail link (for Suvarnabhumi). The budget Airlines of Air Asia, Lion Air and Nok Air all depart from Don Mueng International Airport and Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways and VietJet depart from Suvarnabhumi International Airport. For more information about Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport checkout out our travelers guide.
One important point to note is that if you need any extras, such as excess luggage, insurance or suchlike, make sure you buy it when you buy your ticket online; if you forgot to add your baggage when buying your ticket and then want to pay for it when you arrive at the airport, it will be much more expensive.
Chiang Mai Airport itself in only around 3-4km south-west of the Old City, meaning that you can get to your hotel quickly and cheaply using one of the many transport options on offer. You will find tuk-tuks, taxis, songtaews and an airport shuttle buses waiting for you when you arrive, and there is also a car hire kiosk inside the airport. The taxis at Chiang Mai charge a flat rate of 150 baht ($4.80) to all destinations in the city, and this fare including the airport surcharge so don’t pay any more if pressed.
Live Flight Timetable
|Flight Bangkok - Chiang Mai ฿ 778–7,379 1h 10m – 1h 20m|
|Flight Don Mueang Airport - Chiang Mai ฿ 649–1,470 1h 5m – 1h 25m|
Ride the Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Traveling by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is also a popular choice, it’s easy, very affordable and comfortable enough. There are several bus services going to Chiang Mai, mostly departing from Bangkok’s northern bus terminal (Mo Chit) or near Khao San Road. Buses offer a budget alternative, but the journey will take 9-12 hours although if you’re really on a tight budget getting an overnight bus will save you having to pay for a night in a hotel (just don’t expect to get a great night’s sleep).
There are large double-decker tourist buses (known as VIP buses, although there’s really nothing VIP about them at all) which depart from near Khao San Road, with prices varying wildly depending on where you bought your ticket. These buses often allow you to bring food and drinks on board and they often show Hollywood movies on screens inside the bus. Be warned, however, that theft is rife on these buses, anything with any value must be kept on your person and not stowed in the hold. Expect to pay around 800 baht ($25) for the journey.
There are also a number of VIP, Express and Public Bus services which depart from Bangkok’s Mo Chit bus station, which is the biggest and busiest bus station in Bangkok.
Again, be mindful of your bags when travelling by public bus, and prepare for the journey to take a very long time. Tickets can be bought for as little as 400 baht ($13). Public buses can often become dangerously overcrowded, with seemingly no limit to the amount of travelers that they can pack into the bus. Also, the public buses are almost never air-conditioned, and for many western tourists the heat and the overcrowding will make the journey uncomfortable at best.
The Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) connects the city to the Northern, Central, North East and Eastern provinces of Thailand as well as neighbouring countries such as Laos and Cambodia. The Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) is absolutely huge, luckily there are plenty of helpful staff in the station to direct you if you need assistance getting to the correct platform.
The Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) is located at 2 Kamphaeng Phet Road, Lat Yao, Khet Chatuchak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10900, Bangkok. Getting to Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) is quite easy, the cheapest and quickest way is to take either the MRT (Metro) to Chutachak Station or take the BTS (Skytrain) to Mo Chit Station. From either station you can take a short taxi ride to the Mo Chit Bus terminal for around 60 baht.
From the Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit) in Bangkok you can take the Bangkok Busline Service, Budsarakham Tour Service, Transport Co Service and Nakhonchai Air Service. Here below are the departure and arrival times for each and ticket information.
Live Bus Timetable
|Bus Bangkok - Chiang Mai 9h 30m – 13h|
Share a Minibus to Chiang Mai from Bangkok
There are several kinds of minibus available with hundreds of different operators. Some travel agencies have their own minivans which you can book at the agency, and if you are in a group of 4-8 people then you can hire the vehicle to yourself. Also, many hotels will be able to arrange a minibus for you, but usually you will be expected to hire the whole minibus so is only really a good option if at least 4 people are travelling together. Alternatively, there is an excellent company called NakhonChai Air, which operates very modern and comfortable minibuses around the country for very reasonable fares. Their minibuses often have large and very comfortable reclining leather seats with television screens and are air-conditioned. The NakhonChai Air station is found in Chatuchak and can be reached easily by taxi from the city centre. Expect to pay around 800 baht ($25) for a one-way ticket.
Many of the travel agencies in the Khao San Road area offer minibus transport to many destinations around the country, including Chiang Mai. Prices vary and are often negotiable, especially if you are travelling as a group. Be cautious if you book your transport at Khao San Road, of course most operators are perfectly decent but there have been many reports in the past of people being overcharged for their ticket and items going missing during the journey. Be especially cautious if when the driver stops, everyone gets out so that only the driver is left alone with the luggage, it’s unlikely that anything will happen but it has happened in the past.
Take a Taxi to Chiang Mai from Bangkok
By far the most expensive way to travel, the 700km journey will take 8-9 hours depending on how many stops you make, and how fast your driver likes to drive. The benefits are that you’ll be able to tell the driver to stop as and when you need to to buy food or for a toilet break, and you can take heavy luggage usually without an issue. There are dozens of places to stop with many familiar fast-food restaurants as well as Thai-style service stations. You will need to book in advance, your hotel should be able to assist you and you can expect it to cost around 9000 baht ($288). It will be a more comfortable journey than going by train, however, the cost is many times higher.
If you are sharing the ride with a few other people, then the cost becomes a bit more sensible, and bearing in mind that you will be able to go door to door without any extra hassle might make it worth considering for some travelers.
Take the Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Trains in Thailand are generally old and slow, with the journey to Chiang Mai taking as long as 12-14 hours. That being said, getting a sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is an awesome experience in itself as it takes you through beautiful Thai countryside and spectacular mountainous regions.
Thai trains frequently have delays and often just sit motionless for long periods without an explanation. However, the fares are low and vary from 231 baht ($7.50) for a third-class seat (which is little more than a wooden bench) to 1653 baht ($53) for a first-class sleeper cabin. Don’t be tempted into buying the third-class tickets, you would find it extremely uncomfortable and you almost certainly wouldn’t be able to sleep. The second class sleeper tickets are probably the best value at around 1000 baht ($33) as the seats are reasonably comfortable and are converted into beds in the evening.
Taking a sleeper train is quite a popular way of transport for Thai’s, travelers and backpackers so it’s a good idea to book your ticket in advance. You will also be able to buy Thai meals on board, but don’t expect anything exceptional (although the food is much better than the disgusting pre-packaged sandwiches served on British trains). Realistically, it’s a better idea to buy some snacks or sandwiches and a large bottle of water at the 7-Eleven just outside the train station and take them onboard.
Chiang Mai train station is in a fairly convenient location on the east side of the Ping river, about 3km east of the Tha Phae Gate, so you should be able to grab a taxi from there to your hotel and easily get get change from 100 baht ($3.20). Chiang Mai is also well served by the red songtaews which charge a reasonable fare of 20-40 baht per person depending on your destination.
From Hua Lamphong Train Station to Chiang Mai
#7 Departs at 08.30 – Arrives at 19.30 (11h) 2nd Class AC seats only – 891 THB
#109 Departs at 13.40 – Arrives at 04.05 (14h 20m) 2nd Class Sleeper AC – 1011 THB
#9 Departs at 18.10 – Arrives at 07.15 (13h 5m) 2nd Class Sleeper AC – 1291 THB
#9 Departs at 18.10 – Arrives at 07.15 (13h 5m) 1st Class Sleeper – 1903 THB
#9 Departs at 18.10 – Arrives at 07.15 (13h 5m) Class II Ladies Only – 1291 THB
#13 Departs at 19.35 – Arrives at 08.40 (13h 5m) 2nd Class Sleeper AC – 1091 THB
#13 Departs at 19.35 – Arrives at 08.40 (13h 5m) 1st Class Sleeper – 1091 THB
#51 Departs at 22.00 – Arrives at 12.10 (14h 10m) 2nd Class Sleeper AC – 1071 THB
#51 Departs at 22.00 – Arrives at 12.10 (14h 10m) 2nd Class Sleeper Fan – 831 THB
Want to learn more about traveling around Chiang Mai? Checkout our Chiang Mai Travel Guide to find out more about the best places to go, things to do, up to date travel information, travel tips and advice.
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