As one of the most-visited travel destinations in Thailand, Chiang Mai is well connected with plenty of transportation options, including flights via an international airport. Overnight buses and comfortable trains from Bangkok and other provincial capitals provide frequent services. An increasing number of budget airlines service Chiang Mai from Bangkok and other domestic and Asian destinations.
Chiang Mai International Airport
Most visitors arrive at Chiang Mai International Airport, which is a transportation hub for the area and receives flights from Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Rangoon, Luang Prabang, Kunming, Chittagong, Taiwan and a number of domestic destinations. The airport has recently expanded and is comfortable, offering a restaurant, coffee shops and limited shopping.
It is located just outside the Old City near a large shopping centre and easily reachable by taxi transportation or tuk-tuk. Car hire is also available. More on Chiang Mai International Airport.
Chiang Mai car transportation
A good highway system connects most major centres in the north, and Chiang Mai is linked to the capital by Highway 106 (connecting to Highway 1) which provides easy access for motorists and buses.
A typical journey from Bangkok will take around eight hours by road transportation, and overnight buses leave hourly from Mor Chit Bus Terminal and Khao San Road in Bangkok. Tickets can be arranged at any travel agent in the Thai capital. See our Chiang Mai bus timetable.
To the north, Chiang Rai is just a three-hour drive away, while Mae Hong Son in the northwest can be reached in around six hours.
The charming little town of Lamphun is just an hour’s drive to the south. But exercise extreme caution when driving in Thailand and be alert for reckless drivers.
Rail transportation to Chiang Mai
Regular and comfortable train services link Chiang Mai to the capital and other main towns on the way. Generally, there are seven trains a day in both directions. The sprinter train is more like taking the bus, while second-class sleeper trains are particularly popular and serve tasty meals from the dining car. See our Chiang Mai train timetable.
Public transportation in Chiang Mai
This can be pretty difficult and is still limited mainly to tuk-tuk and the ubiquitous songtaew, or red shared-taxi pickup trucks. The latter have no fixed route network and it helps to speak some Thai if going anywhere out of the way.
A public bus system was finally introduced in 2005, but is very underused and it’s not easy to find the bus stops. However, the network is quite extensive and a flat fare of 15 baht makes this an economical choice. These buses even go to the airport.
A fleet of metered, air-conditioned taxis ply the streets, but can be difficult to hail down. It’s best to get your hotel to order one by phone.
For many, walking is the most practical method of navigating the city centre. The traffic is manageable but the midday heat can get to you, while the pavements are in much better condition than Bangkok. Hiring a moped bike is also realistic among the docile traffic here. More on getting around Chiang Mai.
Bike and car hire in Chiang Mai
This is a good idea as there is so much to see in and around the city. Having a bike or car gives you the flexibility to travel from one lovely attraction to another without having to haggle with taxi drivers. The surroundings are worth exploring and can take a few days of touring.
Riding around gives you the freedom to experience more of what Chiang Mai has to offer and explore some of the lovely areas in the surrounding countryside. If you aren’t planning to do more than a single day trip out of Chiang Mai, a motorbike is far more practical for beating congestion, parking and navigating narrow old lanes.
Many visitors choose to rent a small motor scooter to get them around town. These can be had at economical daily or weekly rates and are a great way to get around the old city and even up to Doi Suthep. However, many inexperienced drivers end up being involved in accidents, as traffic is completely unpredictable and rules routinely flouted.
There are several private car hire companies locally, but quality is always an issue in Thailand and we recommend online booking in advance. Rental motorbikes, on the other hand, are found everywhere.