Option in Chiang Mai, Thailand
As the transportation hub for the north, Chiang Mai can be reached via car, bus, train, or plane. Once there, it is possible to rent a car or motorbike, or get around via local transportation including songtaew, bus, samlor, and tuk tuk.
Express and rapid trains operated by the State Railways of Thailand leave for Chiang Mai from Bangkok’s Hua Lumphong Station six times a day from 8.00 a.m. to 10.00 p.m. The trip takes about 11-12 hours on an express train. For more information, contact tel. 1690, or 02 223 7010, 02 223 7020. Chiang Mai Railway Station, tel. (053) 24 2094, 244 795, .247 462 245 363-4
Driving from Bangkok takes approximately 8 hours and is best by one of the following routes:
Route 1: Drive on Highway No.1 (Phahonyothin Road) and turn left to Highway No.32 (Asian Highway) which passes Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ang Thong, and Nakhon Sawan; then take Highway No. 117 to Phitsanulok and Highway No. 11 through Lampang and Lamphun to Chiang Mai. The total distance is 695 kilometers.
Route 2: Follow route 1 to Nakhon Sawan and then take Highway No. 1 through Kamphaeng Phet, Tak, and Lampang until you arrive in Chiang Mai. The total distance is 696 kilometers.
From Bangkok there are ordinary, 2nd class, and 1st class air-conditioned busses leaving throughout the day from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) for Chiang Mai (8.00 a.m. to 09.00 p.m.) Call 02 936 3600, 02 936 2852, and 02 937 8055 for an updated bus timetable.
Private buses, which can be conveniently booked in tourist centers in Bangkok, are also available. However, the public busses from the Northern Bus Terminal are generally more reliable. The journey takes approximately 10-12 hours, depending on traffic.
From other provinces, including Mae Sai, Chiang Saen, Chiang Rai, Nan, Phayao, Phrae, Lampang, Lamphun, Phitsanulok, Sukhothai, Mae Hong Son, Mae Sot, Mae Sariang, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat), and Udon Thani, there are direct busses that service the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station. Contact tel: 0 5324 2664 for an updated bus timetable.
Domestic airlines, including Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, and Nok Air, operate several flights daily between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Depending on where you are flying from, one of these airlines can also fly you directly to Chiang Mai from Mae Hong Son, Pai, Chiang Rai, and Koh Samui.
From international destinations, visitors can fly directly to Chiang Mai on a number of domestic and international air carriers. While these routes are subject to their economic viability for individual airlines, it is usually possible to fly directly to Chiang Mai from Kuala Lumpur, Luang Prabang, Singapore, Vientiane, and Yangon. International airlines servicing Chiang Mai from those destinations include Silk Air, Lao Airlines, and Mandalay Air.
To/From the Airport:
There is a licensed airport taxi service available at the taxi kiosk outside the baggage-claim area. Purchase a ticket and present it to the drivers waiting by the arrivals exit area (on your left as you leave baggage claim). The trip will cost approximately 100 baht for a sedan car that seats 4-5 people (with luggage).
From the airport, train station and bus terminal, you can easily get a ride in share songtaew (red mini-bus). To charter a minibus or car, please check the correct fare at the TAT counter first.
Normally, first-class hotels provide complimentary transportation between the airport, railway station, or bus terminals and the hotel for guests who have made advance reservations.
By Samlor or Tuk-Tuk:
For relative short distances you can take a samlor or tuk-tuk, three-wheel cabs that are respectively pedal or motor powered. Fares must be bargained in advance. Short rides within the city cost between 20 and 30 baht. Longer rides may cost as much as 50 baht.
Meter taxis, nearly identical to those running around Bangkok, are now available in Chiang Mai, where fares likewise begin at 35 baht.
Songtaews (red pickup trucks with benches in the covered flatbed portion of the truck) are the most common means of transportation in Chiang Mai. Passengers can hop in and out as they wish. Simply tell the driver the destination and negotiate the price before boarding. Fares range from 10-20 baht depending on the distance, considerably more for long rides up to Doi Suthep, where the songtaew will wait for you to explore and then return you to town, stopping at various sights, such as the zoo, along the way if you wish.
Some travelers prefer to ride bicycles around the city as most of the roads and alleys are accessible by bicycle. Bicycles can be rented from bicycle shops and certain guesthouses.
Around the Province:
If you travel to any districts in Chiang Mai, use the Chang Phuak Bus Terminal located on Chotana Road, tel. 053 211 586. Destinations include those located along the northern route (Highway No. 107) which passes through Mae Rim, Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, Chaiprakan, Fang and Mae Ai. Some buses continue to Tha Ton, the northern-most district of Chiang Mai.
By Rental Car:
All major international car rental companies, such as AVIS, Budget, and Hertz, as well as Thai car rental companies, have various vehicles for rent and are ready to provide suggestions on travel itineraries. The easiest way to locate a car rental company is to ask at the airport or a major hotel, as those are the places where most rental agency offices are located.
While most Chiang Mai roads are in good condition with signs posted in English, be aware that only Commercial First Class Insurance provides full coverage on rental cars (as opposed to limited personal or third party only insurance). Most international car rental agencies will offer this insurance (some only for those with a valid international driver’s license) while local companies may or may not. You may wish to request a copy of their insurance policy and ensure that it states "For Commercial Use". Regardless, inspect rental vehicles prior to rental and drive with caution, particularly as traffic in Thailand can be quite confusing, especially the habit of Thai motorcycles drivers to drive on the wrong side of the road.
For anywhere from 150 to 1,000 baht per day you can hire your own motorbike, which will typically require you to leave your passport as a deposit. Be sure to inspect bikes prior to rental and drive with extreme caution as rental motorbikes are not normally insured and accidents are frequent. Helmets are required by Thai law and foreign visitors unfamiliar with either driving motorbikes or driving in Thailand should drive carefully and obey all local traffic rules (there are numerous one way streets in Chiang Mai city).