The ancient moated city of Chiang Mai is a major tourist hub where international visitors flock to drink in the compelling history, culture plus embark on trekking and other ‘soft adventure’ activities.
As the second biggest city in Thailand, there is a wealth of transport options here with direct flights arriving from several Southeast Asian hubs, long-distance VIP buses to all the main tourist areas and comfortable trains south to Bangkok.
Chiang Mai International Airport boasts several daily services from Bangkok plus regular flights to domestic destinations including Phuket, Koh Samui, Mae Hong Son, Pai, Chiang Rai and Udon Thani.
Internationally, the airport has non-stop connections to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Rangoon, Seoul, Taipei and Kunming, while long-haul passengers usually connect through the Thai capital before the one-hour hop north.
The airport terminal is only a 10-minute drive southwest of the Old City. The airport has a smattering of facilities including a Burger King, sandwich bars, Thai massage booths and a book shop, but as the operation is so small there is rarely any need to arrive here more than two hours before any departure. Getting from the airport to the city centre or hotel districts is simple with taxis– visit the taxi counter in Arrivals. More on flights to Chiang Mai.
One you arrive in the Lanna capital, getting around Chiang Mai is easy with a range of public transportation options including tuk-tuks, songthaew shared taxis and metered taxis. Exploring the moated Old City on foot is ideal, as getting lost amongst the cobbled streets and crumbling stupas is half the fun here. Hiring a motorbike (200 baht per day) is also a good way of getting around as long as you are not intimidated by the heavy traffic and poor driving. More on getting around Chiang Mai
Arriving in Chiang Mai by train from Bangkok is a popular option with backpackers, although the service takes longer than the bus and is more expensive as well. Several trains heading north from Bangkok’s Hua Lampong Station depart from around 06:00 to 22:00, with even the fastest services taking over 12 hours. Chiang Mai Train Station is found to the east of the Old City over the River Ping and there are numerous tuk-tuks and songthaews waiting outside for onward connections. More on Chiang Mai by train.
Buses to Chiang Mai depart from Bangkok’s northern Mo Chit Station leave every hour from 05:30 to 22:00 and take around 10 hours (around 500 baht, 800 for VIP). There are also cheaper tourist services (from 300 baht) direct from Bangkok’s backpacker district of the Khao San Road, although luggage theft is sometimes reported on these so take extra care. A similar reverse schedule operates from Chiang Mai’s eastern Arcade Bus Terminal, and there are also direct buses from Chiang Mai to Pattaya, Phuket, Udon Thani (for Laos), Mae Hong Son, Pai and Nan. More on buses from Chiang Mai.
Hiring a car is a decent option in Chiang Mai and enables visitors to tour the picturesque surrounding countryside. Roads are generally paved and in good condition with signs in English. Motorbikes are also great for getting out and around town, but always wear a helmet and never drive when drunk as accidents are common. More on Chiang Mai transportation.