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Thailand is a diverse country with climatic variations by region and season. A trip to Thailand without visiting its northern highlands, located around Chiang Mai, is never a complete visit to this amazing country. Chiang Mai, which is outstanding compared with other cities in Thailand due to its colorful Lanna Kingdom history and breathtaking lantern festival, is best to visit between November and February.
There are several ways for you to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. In this article, we will list a few of the best options to help you make a considered decision.
Bangkok is located centrally in Thailand in terms of latitude with the city of Chiang Mai, being 440 miles (708 kilometers) directly north. There are several ways to reach Chiang Mai from Bangkok with the quickest being a direct domestic flight.
Overland, the choices are rail and bus – primarily traveling overnight – or hiring a car, which may be the choice of some but is the least recommended for strangers to Thailand.
The main advantage of flying between Bangkok and Chiang Mai is one of time although, ironically, the costs involved compare favorably with an overnight train. You will no sooner have taken off and had a coffee when the airplane’s descent begins as flights take little more than an hour.
In these days of budget airlines and competition, you can get one-way flights for just under 1,000 baht, which is approximately US$30, and they are even cheaper when booked well in advance. You need to factor in the time it takes to get to the airport if you have been based in the heart of Bangkok. That time can vary dramatically depending on the time of day. Remember that, depending on your carrier, you may fly from either the main international airport, Suvarnabhumi Airport, or Don Mueang International Airport, which is now used for budget airlines. Don’t head to the wrong one because they are an hour’s distance from each other.
Chiang Mai International Airport is only 3 km from central Chiang Mai.
Tip: You need to check your baggage allowance when flying because budget carriers are often stricter than full service airlines.
Most trains to Chiang Mai travel overnight, offering a sleeper ticket price of about 880 baht (US$25). New Chinese-built sleepers are genuinely comfortable, and it is a chance to meet locals as you travel, which is one of the genuine experiences to learn more about the country while you travel. There are departures from Hua Lamphong at 18:00, 19:30, and 22:00. Hua Lamphong is in central Bangkok with links to the MRT (underground).
It is even cheaper to travel by day (600 baht / US$18) with the added advantage of being able to see more of the countryside. However, you will see the sunrise and the final stretch of countryside in the later stages of the overnight trip.
The daytime journeys depart at 08:30, taking 11 hours so you will arrive in the dark, and 13:45, arriving in Chiang Mai at 04:00.
Tip: You can book your tickets in advance having checked the schedules so that you can have exactly what you want for your journey. Third class offers wooden seats while first class offers air-conditioned bunks overnight.
The overnight bus to Chiang Mai generally takes about 9 hours while a daytime alternative takes 3 hours longer with several breaks along the way. There are numerous carriers with prices ranging from just over 500 baht (US$15) to 820 baht (US$23) for VIP buses, which are detailed below.
As the cheapest way to travel to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, the buses tend to be crowded and the least comfortable alternative for the trip. There are numerous collection points depending upon which company you book with and there are regular departures 24/7.
You may be prone to scams and thefts on what are often described as tourist buses, even to the extent that someone will get into the luggage hold during the trip and steal from your luggage.
Tip: Keep your valuables with you at all times, such as your wallet, passport, tickets, camera, and smartphone. All luggage in the hold should be securely locked.
VIP buses leave from Mo Chit Station, which is a short distance from the MRT stop at Chatuchak Park. At about 800 baht (US$23), deluxe buses are good value with dinner and breakfast included as well as juices and water.
These buses, which depart at 21:00, are double-deckers with comfortable reclining seats and, because of the cost, are rarely more than half full. To that extent, they are more relaxing than the equivalent trip by train.
Tip: Book in advance at any agency within Bangkok but be certain that it is the VIP bus you are reserving rather than the standard tourist bus.
If you are really brave, then you can rent a car to give you complete independence but that is about the only advantage. It makes little sense to drive in such a crowded city as Bangkok. Although the traffic is far less hectic outside the capital, you would have to get out to the open roads first. In any event, drivers tend to be far less predictable than they are back home, and you do not want an accident and all the implications that follow while enjoying a holiday.
Tip: Think very seriously about any real benefits of traveling this way.
1. Bangkok is a huge city, which is sometimes overwhelming. Unless you are familiar with it, you may be more comfortable seeking the most convenient form of transport rather than worrying too much about the price.
2. Air travel gets you quickly from one place to another and reaching an airport from your hotel is a simple exercise, especially when assistance from your hotel’s tour desk is usually provided.
3. Tourist buses are popular because of their cost but have little else to recommend them other than they are heading to your next destination.
4. VIP/deluxe buses are much better because you are likely to have far more room and the chance to relax. Take care when booking, though, because travelers are offered VIP when, in fact, the bus is purely a tourist one.
5. Trains are generally comfortable although the food can be expensive and the beer can be warm.
If you book a tour, you can forget about any need to make your own travel arrangements. It will all be handled for you and you will get peace of mind when receiving confirmation from us that everything is in place before you leave home.
In addition to the transport, you will benefit from the services of a company that understands the best way to plan an itinerary and includes the highlights of each destination. Help and advice is given to you free without any obligation until you make a booking, which is the best decision of all to make.
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