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How to Get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai [2023]

Chiang Mai is emerging as one of the top alternative destinations for tourists who visit Thailand. I’ve personally spent over 6 months living in Chiang Mai and love how livable this city is.

This city offers an abundance of options to choose from. Some of the must-see attractions in Chiang Mai include Wat Phra Singh, Doi Suthep, Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, and the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. Plus, of course, you can get some incredible massages for super cheap.

You’ll also find a different kind of experience from the hustle and bustle that you normally expect in Bangkok, a more laid back vibe and atmosphere.

READ ALSO: The Perfect 3 Days in Chiang Mai itinerary

Another reason why more and more tourists are choosing Chiang Mai, in the northern and mountainous region of Thailand, is that the weather here is much cooler than the hot and humid Bangkok. The higher altitude in Chiang Mai lets you experience cooler temperatures on average and it’s a great year-round destination with plenty of attractions to see and activities to enjoy throughout the year.

How far is Chiang Mai from Bangkok?

Chiang Mai is 700 kilometers north of Bangkok but, although it’s far, getting to Chiang Mai is easy because there are many public transport options available and you can choose the most convenient way to travel based on your budget and preference.

You can fly to Chiang Mai on one of the many daily flights and airlines servicing this route. You can also travel by train, bus, private van or taxi hire. You can learn more about each of these options plus some extra information on how much they cost and how long the travel time will be in this summary I put together for you. 

Fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

If you want to save time and eliminate the hassle of land travel, the best and most convenient way to travel to Chiang Mai from Bangkok is by plane. It’s also the quickest way of transportation available here. You can book a flight via the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok or the Don Mueang International Airport (also in Bangkok). Both of these airports have airlines that offer flights to Chiang Mai International Airport.

To get to Suvarnabhumi Airport, you can travel by train by any of the two train routes available. The cost of the train ride is 150 Baht (3 USD) and it takes approximately 15 minutes. To get to Don Mueang International Airport, you can travel by taxi (it’s 24 km from the center of town) and it takes approximately 30 minutes to an hour to reach the airport. The taxi fare will set you back at 350 Baht (12 USD).

There are low-cost carriers that offer flights several times a week to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, such as Thai AirAsia, Thai Lion Air, and Nok Air. You can also book other carriers such as Thai Vietjet Air, Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, and Thai Smile. You should make sure to plan your travel ahead of time if you choose the latter group to ensure that you can find a great deal.

When you book, make sure to compare the rates because some airlines will require you to pay more if you want some baggage allowance. It’s also important to time your flight well because weekends or holiday flights are going to be more expensive. Air fares will vary significantly from one carrier to another so I recommend you do your comparison beforehand.

For a budget flight, the cost per ticket starts at 1,000 THB (30 USD). The flight takes one hour and fifteen minutes to arrive at Chiang Mai International Airport. You’ll find that there are over 50 flights every day of the week.

Once you arrive at Chiang Mai International Airport, it’s only a short distance from the city center. There are tuk-tuks and songthaew readily available for a ride. They can take you from outside of the terminal building to the city. Of course, if you prefer a more comfortable ride, there are taxis available for hire, too. A taxi ride from the airport to the city will cost approximately 160-250 Baht, depending where you your hotel is located.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train

Traveling by train is a popular way of getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, despite the lengthy travel time. The cheap price of the train ticket is one of the reasons for its popularity, of course, but it’s also a unique opportunity to see the wonderful scenery of Thailand as you head up north.

The total travel time is significant but if you have several days to spend in Thailand, this is a good option, especially if you prefer slow travel. You can get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok in 12 to 14 hours, depending on the class of train you choose.

There is an average of 6 trains that travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on a daily basis so you’ll have plenty to choose from depending on availability and ticket prices. It’s worth mentioning that because of their popularity, these trains can get full easily so it’s best to book your tickets in advance.

A second class train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is ideal for budget travelers and backpackers. You can buy a ticket for as low as 800 Baht. However, this train doesn’t have air conditioning so you have to be aware of that when you book.

There are also second class train seats with AC, which will cost a bit more. If you want a truly comfortable ride, you can book the first-class sleeper train, which costs about 2,000 Baht.

There are overnight trains that would be a more ideal choice for a lot of travelers who prefer the night trains to save time and also to make the ride more bearable. Second class bunks cost 800 to 1,000 Baht (25-30 USD). There are also bunks available in air-conditioned trains, which will cost more, of course. The lower bunks will also cost more than the upper bunks as they tend to have more space available.

When you look for options, you’ll find that there is a variety of trains available from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. In fact, there are trains that are female-only, for example.  For those on a wheelchair, not all trains are wheelchair accessible, so it’s best to check beforehand.

The train tickets can be purchased at the train station on the day of your departure, or you can also book online and via travel agents. The latter would be my recommendation if you want to guarantee that you get the tickets you want.

The Chiang Mai train station is a few kilometers from the center of the city. You can rent a car or hire a taxi to reach the city which will take about 10 minutes. You can also choose to ride a tuk-tuk, that’s always an option!

Take the Bus Bangkok to Chiang Mai

The final option available for public transport from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is by bus. Like trains, buses are a good option for budget-conscious travelers but the travel time can be considerably long so choose this option only when you know you can spend that time on travel.

On average, the travel time from Bangkok to Chiang Mai via bus is 9 to 12 hours, although it can take longer if you get stuck in traffic. On time my friends were on the bus for 16 hours!

There are a few options available on the type of bus you can take from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, from public buses to VIP buses – the ticket prices and experience will certainly vary significantly. There are up to 12 second-class buses that travel this route daily, and they take about 10 to 11 hours to reach Chiang Mai. The ticket costs 450 Baht.

In first-class buses, you can enjoy a more comfortable experience during the ride, with AC, and more comfortable and spacious seats. There are also toilets available on the bus. You can choose from one of two bus sizes with the prices at 650 Baht and 860 Baht (for the larger buses).

There are also government-run buses that travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. You can choose from day or night buses based on your preference. Most buses leave via Bangkok’s Mo Chit Bus Station (also known as the Northern Bus Station). You’ll arrive in Chiang Mai at Arcade Bus Station.

Regardless of which bus service you choose, always be on the lookout for theft. There have been many reported incidents of theft on buses. You should avoid packing any valuables and important documents in your luggage, especially if you opt to leave it in the luggage area. And if you have any valuables, make sure to carry it with you at all times.

Book a Private Taxi/Van

In addition to the public transportation options listed above, you can also choose to hire a private taxi or van when you want to go to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. This is an expensive option but is recommended if you’re looking for this kind of convenience and privacy.

If you choose to travel via taxi or van, the total travel time is 9 to 10 hours. There are many reliable taxi companies that you can hire for this trip such as Team Holiday, Bangkok Taxi 24, and MCC Van. Most of these private taxi and van services can pick you up from your hotel, which makes it even more convenient.

The price for the trip can range from 270 to 390 USD (depending on whether you choose a private taxi or van). A minivan can usually accommodate up to 9 people per trip, so it could be a good alternative for groups.

Photo credit: Featured image by urf via DepositPhotos

  • Stefania Guglielmi

    Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents. She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.

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