How to Get in and around Chiang Mai

How to Get in and around Chiang Mai

By Chris QuanUpdated Oct. 19, 2021

Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand and the fifth largest city in all of Thailand. Getting into Chiang Mai reminds one of the expression, “All roads lead to Rome”, meaning there are plenty of ways to get to the city.

The two options that are most popular with tourists are traveling by car from Chiang Rai and by plane from Bangkok. Getting around in the city itself is relatively easy. You can travel by tuk-tuk, taxi, Uber, or even on foot.

This article will help you understand the transport options to and around Chiang Mai.

Highlights

  • The two most popular ways to get to Chiang Mai are by car from Chiang Rai and take a flight from Bangkok.
  • It takes around 25 minutes to drive to the city from Chiang Mai International Airport (IATA: CNX).
  • There are more than 50 flights daily from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
  • Chiang Mai International Airport is the major gateway to Northern Thailand.
  • Many choices of transportation are available in Chiang Mai, but the best way to get around in this city is with a guided tour.
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How to get to Chiang Mai

The easiest and the most popular way to get into the city is by plane from Bangkok, which takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. There are more than 50 flights per day from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The second most popular option is to drive from Chiang Rai, which takes around 3 hours.

Getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

You essentially have four options for getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: tourist bus, deluxe/VIP bus, train, and flight. Flying to Chiang Mai is the obvious choice if time is a priority, and cheap deals on budget airlines can be found. Direct flights only require a little more than an hour in the air, as opposed to spending the night on a bus or train.

There are two airports in Bangkok: the main airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), which serves all major airlines, and Don Mueang International Airport (DMK), which now serves all of Asia’s budget airlines. Most flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai depart from the "old" Don Mueang Airport (DMK) rather than the newer, larger Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK). The distance between Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) is 29.5 miles (47.5 km).

In order to move between airports, you can ride in a tuk-tuk or a taxi. However, taxi and tuk-tuk rides between airports can be costly, and visitors frequently fall prey to con artists when traveling this way in Bangkok. Fortunately, there are alternative ways to travel between BKK and DMK airports.

For example, there is a free shuttle bus that runs both ways between BKK and DMK. This shuttle has a transfer time of anywhere between 50 minutes and two hours, depending on the time of day and the traffic conditions. If you use Asia Highlights service, we will arrange the transfer between airports, so you can sit back and enjoy your holiday!

After arriving at Chiang Mai International Airport, you are quite close to the city of Chiang Mai. For example, Tha Phae Gate is located four miles northeast of the airport, and getting there takes around 25 minutes, depending on traffic. Chiang Mai International Airport is open from 5 a.m. until midnight, with many daily flights back to Bangkok.

Learn more about detail instruction of getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok.

Getting from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

There are many options to get to Chiang Mai from Chiang Rai. The distance is 114 miles (183 kilometers) and requires between three to four hours drive along the highway through mountainous terrain. The highway between the two northern cities is perpetually busy.

There is a bus service running from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai. Buses leave at least every hour, sometimes even more frequently, depending on the kind of bus you pick. Buses are air conditioned and fairly comfortable, with narrow overhead storage and room beneath the bus for larger luggage. Seats are assigned at booking; book together if traveling with someone.

The most recommended way to transfer between cities is with a guided tour, as most travel agencies will provide a private comfortable car or minivan with a driver if you sign for private service. Asia Highlights are happy to help you move between cities and guide you along the trip.

Getting to Chiang Rai from Southeast Asian Cities

To get to Chiang Rai, there are some direct international flights from southeast Asian Cities like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City. More than 20 flights are available a day from these cities, with airlines like Scoot, Thai AirAsia, Jetstar Asia.

Airplane ticket prices vary, depending on the season, during high season the price will be higher, starting from US$350 return with Thai AirAsia. But if you are flying during low season, airplane tickets will cost less, starting from US$250 return with Thai AirAsia.

Chiang Rai airport is located 8 km away from the city, or around 30-minute drive, depending on traffic and weather conditions. Taxis will cost about US$7 to get into the city from the airport, or if you use our service, we will pick you up at the airport with a private car and take you to your next destination.

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The best way to get around in Chiang Mai

Getting around Chiang Mai is considerably safer than Bangkok, but the lack of public transport can be frustrating. However, there are plenty of other means of transport to bring you to your destination. Traditional transportation like songthaew or tuk tuk will help you get around, taxis and Uber are also available in Chiang Mai. Renting a car or motorcycle is also possible, or you can even walk to get around.

Depending on your budget and the places you would like to go to, the following information provides the latestguide to get around Chiang Mai so that your visit to this beautiful city will be hassle-free and without any trouble.

Private car

Exploring the city or countryside with a private car is a better option than using the traditional transportation system. Due to Chiang Mai’s mountainous roads, some traditional transport may not be able to reach some attractions. Asia Highlights will provide a comfortable private car with a driver if you are using our service, so you don’t have to worry about how to get around.

Songthaew

Songthaews or "red trucks" operate as shared taxis, and they roam the streets, picking up passengers who are heading in the direction they are travelling. There are no fixed routes, so the easiest thing to do is to ask if the driver will take you where you want to go.

Journeys start from 20Baht for a short trip of a few blocks and 40Baht for a longer trip (e.g. from the old city to Nimmanhaemin). Drivers are also happy to hire out the whole vehicle for charter trips for a higher price, including day trips out into the countryside.

Tuk-Tuk

Tuk tuks are a second option for traveling around Chiang Mai. These colorful, three wheeled vehicles are an unofficial symbol of Thailand. If you are traveling somewhere outside the main city area, or are in a hurry, then a tuk tuk is a better option than the slower songthaews. Tuk tuks can be found near all the major hotels and tourist areas such as the night bazaar and markets. Make sure to negotiate the fare before you climb in.

Taxi

A taxi might be one of the easiest ways to get around in the city or even the countryside, however, taxis usually cost more than other means of transportation. Remember to ask the driver to use the meter or he may rip you off.

Bicycle

Riding a bicycle is a must if you are planning to go to the countryside. You can enjoy the fresh air and see the amazing scenery while riding. Explore the true beauty of the town and meet with locals along the way. Cycling for one hour or two should be on your itinerary.

Walking

There are many interesting things you can see or do while walking around the city; from meeting or interacting with the locals, to going to a local market that is only reachable by foot, to get some souvenirs and try the traditional food.

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