If you hire a car or motorbike make sure it is insured. If you do not have an international driving license, check that your country's license is valid in Thailand. Remember that in Thailand people (usually) drive on the left side of the road. Road signs are surprisingly well posted and you will find Chiang Mai (province, not city) a pleasure to drive around. The city can be rather hectic with its mass of one-way systems.
Getting in and Out
By Car Take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road) and turn to Highway No. 32 (Asia Highway) passing Ayutthaya, Angthong, Nakhon Sawan, then by Highway No. 11, from Tak, Lampang, Lamphun to Chiang Mai: a distance of 696 kilometres or 9 - 10 hours.
By Rail The train is a good way to travel for those with more time, less budget or who are seeking an unusual travel experience. From Bangkok you can board the train to Chiang Mai from Hualamphong Station. There are various classes of coach, the cheapest will get you a wooden seat in a carriage. A more comfortable option would be to travel first class, which is not expensive, each passenger is provided with a bed hidden by a curtain or in a private cabin with a sink. Toilets, snacks and meals are sold on board. From Bangkok a train journey normally takes between 12 and 15 hours, most trips are overnight, though one day train is available. It is recommended to reserve seats in advance, especially for sleepers. For further information please contact Tel. 0 2220 4334 or call 1690 or visit www.railway.co.th Chiang Mai Railway Station Tel. 0 5324 2094
By Air Being the capital of the northern region Chiang Mai is an easily assessable destination and is also the main way of entry to other northern provinces. Chiang Mai International Airport has many daily flights to and from Bangkok and other main Thai cities, as well as international flights connecting Chiang Mai with other cities in the East Asian region and beyond destinations, e.g. Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur, run by Thai Airways International and other foreign airlines. Air Asia, Bangkok Airways and Thai Airways, Orient Thai and Nok Air provide relatively cheap domestic flights which can be booked online with a credit or debit card. The journey to and from Bangkok takes roughly one hour, to other parts of Thailand flights can last between 45 minutes to two hours.
Domestic airlines. Thai Airways International Tel. 0 2280 0060, 0 2628 2000 or call 1566 or visit www.thaiairways.com Chiang Mai Office Tel. 0 5392 0999 and 0 5392 0920 Bangkok Airways Tel. 0 265 5555 or call 1771 or visit www.bangkokair.com Chiang Mai Office Tel. 0 5327 6176, 0 5328 1519 Air Asia Tel. 0 2515 9999 www.airasia.com Chiang Mai Office Tel. 0 5390 4800-3, 0 5392 2170 Orient Thai Airlines Tel. 0 2267 3210-5 or call 1126 or visit www.fly12go.com or email to email@example.com Chiang Mai Office Tel. 0 5390 4606-9 Nok Air Tel. 0 2900 9955 or call 1318 or visit www.nokair.co.th Chiang Mai Office Tel. 0 5392 2183). All operate several daily flights between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. There are also regular domestic flights between Chiang Mai and other major cities in Thailand and international flights to and from some major Asian
By Bus Coaches and buses are a popular and inexpensive method of transport, services are usually regular and run each hour. It is advised to take a bus from public bus stations rather than from private companies such as those on Khao San Road, which can be dangerous and unorganised. Overnight coaches are popular and can be caught from Mo Chit bus station in Bangkok Tel. 0 2936 2841 -48 and 0 2936 2852- 66 ext. 442 or 311. There are also private buses which can be booked at the Bangkok Bus Terminal, the Bus Company or any licensed travel agent. For a reservation please contact Transport Co. Ltd. Tel. 0 2936 2852-66www.transport.co.th Chiang Mai Office Tel. 0 5324 1449 Tanjit Tour Tel. 0 2936 3210 Nakornchai Air Tel. 0 2936 3355 www.nca.co.th New Wiriyayanyontra Tour Tel. 0 2936 2207 Sombat Tour Tel. 0 2936 2495-99 Sahacharn Tour Tel. 0 2936 2762 Siam First Tel. 0 2954 3601-7 Chiang Mai Arcade Bus station Tel. 0 5324 2664.
The bus usually stops in the night for a meal and toilet break. There are different classes of bus and coach, luxury or VIP coach services provide more comfortable seating, food and blankets on board. Buses to other parts of Thailand can be caught from Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai. The journey by road from Bangkok usually takes around 10 hours.
Once you are in Chiang Mai you have three options for transportation: do it yourself, public transportation or taxi services. Do it yourself is great if you are a confident driver. An international drivers' license should see you on the road either on a bicycle, motorbike or rented car, all of which are easily found throughout the city. Hiring a car and going on a road trip up country is the best way to go - good sign posting, great scenery, resorts and hotels dotted throughout the north. Public transportation is sketchy at this point, but CLICK HERE to see the bus route, which is constantly being improved upon, but still leaves a lot to be desired as there are limited routes and numbers of buses. Still, this is a cheap, cheerful, safe way and sometimes air-conditioned way of getting around the city.
Red cars also know as rot daeng or song thae (meaning ‘two rows’), are van like vehicles with two parallel bench seats fixed inside. Red cars are the most common form of public transport in the city. The red cars do not follow any specific route. Use them by simply flagging them down on the street, tell the driver where you are going and agree on a price before you set off. Usually the flat rate fare is priced at 20 baht, though longer journeys can be 40 to 100 baht. It is also possible to hire the whole vehicle for a day of sightseeing. Other cars are coloured according to the routes they take; yellow = Mae Rim and Hang Dong, green = Mae Jo, white = Sangkampaeng, blue and purple = Sarapee and Lamphun. These regular service cars can be caught from Warorot market, most of them leave from outside the flower market next to the river and are priced according to distance.
Tuk tuks operate in a similar way to taxis, though make sure you agree on a price before setting off as there is no meter. Prices range from 50 baht upwards, you can bargain the price with the driver.
Cycling is a great way to independently get around the city. You can hire bicycles from many shops or guesthouses in the central moat area. Renting a bike and helmet starts from around 50 baht per day.
If you are already a competent motorcyclist renting a bike can give you the freedom to explore further areas of the city. You can rent a motorcycle from various guesthouses and companies in the city centre. Motorcycles are priced starting from 150 baht per day depending on the size of the vehicle. Simple automatic scooters to large motorbikes are available, the shop should also give you a helmet free of charge.
Cars and jeeps
Self-drive vehicles can be rented from the airport, international car hire agencies or from shops in the city centre.
Taxis can be found at the airport, where the basic charge into the city or to your accommodation is priced between 120 and 150 baht, buy a ticket first at the counter inside the airport. There are also taxi services which can be booked by phone, ask the management of your accommodation for a local number. Chiang Mai taxis do not use a meter and have a fixed rate of between 120 to 150 baht for journeys within the city. You can also hire a taxi and a driver for a day’s travel.
Just because you are on holiday don’t forget safety comes first, always use a helmet, seatbelt and other protection.
Ask to take the vehicle you are renting out for a quick text drive first.
Bargaining a little is expected when agreeing on a price with a driver, always agree on a price before setting off.
Try to have a map handy and as much information on the place you are going, to make it easier for your driver to get you there.
Be aware of motorcycles on the roads.
Take something warm to wear when travelling as they can often have cold air conditioning on coaches and flights.
Where to go next Chiang Rai - often referred to as the gateway to the Golden Triangle or as a smaller and more laid back version of Chiang Mai. Chiang Rai’s sights and activities include; temples –such as Wat Rong Khun (an unusual temple created by a modern Thai artist), trekking and museums as well as general exploring of the town, massage, restaurants and markets.
Chiang Saen – a charming sleepy river town, located on the Thai side of the Mekong River, across the river lies Laos. Cargo boats from China moor in Chiang Saen, from here it is also possible to catch a night ferry to China.
Golden Triangle - this a geographical location in which the borders of Thailand, Burma, and Laos meet. The area has a long history of opium production and continues to be a place where the trafficking of drugs is common. In the border area there is a note worthy museum about the opium trade and the renowned drugs and war lord Khun Sa.
Mae Sariang – can be reached by mini-bus, but also makes for a spectacular and enjoyable drive through the mountains and forests by car or motorbike. This area is inhabited by Karen hill tribe people, which you will probably spot by their brightly coloured woven clothing. This is a small town will a relaxed atmosphere, it neighbors the Salawin national park famous for the Salawin River and its teak, Asian redwood and cherrywood trees.
Pai – popular with young travellers and hippy types. Pai makes for a fun and peaceful break away from the city, especially if you stay in one of the quieter resorts outside the town. The area is surrounded with beautiful natural scenery including a mini-canyon and hot springs. Whilst being a small town there has been significant development for tourism and there are enough places for tourists to eat, drink, party and keep entertained on a short trip. Pai hosts music festivals throughout the year such as a reggae festival.
Nan - Nan has recently become a popular destination for Thai tourists and is famed for its natural beauty, history and slow pace and traditional way of life. There are few foreigners tourists to be found in the area. Local attractions include a salt mines and Doi Phukha national park
Prae - Prae is a great example of the beautiful rural north of Thailand. The main city is small and charming; unlike in other areas of the country where traditional homes have been destroyed for modern buildings, in this area you will spot many old wooden Thai style houses still in use. There are also many temples and local arts and crafts to keep you busy.