Despite the relatively long distance between Bangkok and Chiang Mai (700 km) it's a very easy, affordable and comfortable journey to make. By plane is the fastest, bus and train are similar in terms of time to get there.
This page will show you all the options in getting to Chiang Mai, their cost, time and comfort levels from various destinations like Bangkok, Pai, Sukhothai or even Laos.
One thing to consider if you have the time is splitting up your land journey between Bangkok and Chiang Mai (or vice versa) with a night or two in great places like Sukhothai or Ayutthaya.
Did you know?
Chiang Mai has a cooler climate than southern or central Thailand. It's also a great place to base yourself for many cultural or outdoor activities with oodles of accommodation.
There are many airways offering flights to Chiang Mai both internationally and domestically.
Budget airlines like Air Asia flight out of Don Mueang airport but you should book at least a week or two in advance to get a good price. Similarly Bangkok Airways, Nok Air and Thai Lion Air all offer services from around Thailand into Chiang Mai. Some even running from the main BKK airport Suvarnabhumi.
Thai Air, leaving from the easier to reach Suvarnabhumi Airport often have promotions for as little as USD $55. If you stay near the Bangkok MRT it can work out cheaper than Don Mueang based airlines.
At Chiang Mai Airport take your time. There are new 2018 buses going to Chiang Mai's old city for about 20 bhat every 30 minutes. Taxis have set prices before you get in with the average cost of a taxi from Chiang Mai airport to Chiang Mai city being 150 baht.
You can use my flight search below to check out the latest prices or to book a ticket:
Chiang Mai has a great railway line. From Bangkok you can take one of several overnight sleeper trains or a day train. Likewise Chiang Mai is also connected via rail to Sukhothai and Ayutthaya for those who'd like to split their journey up.
Do take note that trains are often delayed by an hour or two. So if you have accommodation booked in Chiang Mai do let them know you might be an hour or two late.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai train timetable and prices
|Train Type||Day train||Day train||Sleeper||Sleeper||Sleeper||Sleeper||Sleeper||Sleeper||Sleeper|
* meals are served on all services and are included in ticket price (bring snacks though, especially for sleepers where breakfast is not always served for the early arrival trains.)
* Since August 2015 Thai State Railway require all those booking a train ticket in person to bring their passport with them when booking.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai train ticket prices:
- 1,453 baht - 1st class a/c sleeper
- 881 baht 2nd class a/c sleeper
- 641 baht day train 2nd class seat
Upper berth sleepers are about 100 baht less but are a little narrower and involve a short ladder to climb up.
* sleeper trains are the most popular and should be booked a week in advance during peak season.
Questions about train travel to Chiang Mai:
Train travel to Chiang Mai is easy. But there are always a few niggly questions! Here are some answers.
Is it better to take a day or night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?
There are benefits to both. With a day train you get a cheaper ticket, get to see some of the Thai countryside and arrive in the evening.
With a sleeper you might save money by saving on a nights accommodation just don't forget many hotels charge for early check in. You do save time by traveling at night as opposed to spending a whole day of your holiday on a train during the day.
What's the 2nd class sleeper train like?
It's clean and comfortable. The two person seat during the day turns into a single bed at night which is made by an attendant. Your luggage fits between the seat. It's advisable to bring your valuables with you to bed. A curtain gives you privacy at night. Some people say the air conditioning is too cold but in general it's just right.
What's the 2nd class day train like?
Again, it's clean and comfortable. They are padded with an armrest separating the two chairs. They recline (though ask the person behind you before reclining). There's plenty of space above your chair on a rack for all your luggage.
Where can I buy tickets?
Tickets can be bought directly at the Hua Lamphong railway station. There's an information booth which will tell you if there are ticket available. You can then buy directly from any of the ticket counters at the top of the station. Randomly the Thai railway company sells tickets online however it's not the most stable of services. Alternatively you could just buy from a travel agent though they will add a commission.
Why did you list times and stations that don't go to Chiang Mai on the timetable?
Because the trains that don't go all the way to Chiang Mai can be used for those that want to stop over at places like Ayutthaya or Sukhothai for a day or two before continuing on.
Where is car (carriage) number 1 located on the train?
To get ahead of the crowd and grab some luggage space close to your seat you can sit at Bangkok's Hua Lamphong station near to where your car or carriage will be. The train engine will be the last car away from the station itself. Car or carriage number 1 will be next to the engine with number 2 after that and so on. So sit and wait for the train to arrive at either end of the platform based on what your car or carriage number is (it's written on the ticket in English and Thai).
Can I charge my laptop or phone on a train?
Yes. There are a few outlets (two prong Thai) either at the junction of a carriage (day train) or in the middle up high on a sleeper. There are certainly not enough for everyone on board. So do ask to share or if you have a multi socket you'll make some people happy.
Is there internet available on the train?
No. However the Thai mobile networks are available throughout most of the journey apart from some instances between Denchai and Lampang.
Is there time to get off at any of the stations along the route to walk around?
No. With people getting on and off along with the delay's trains rarely stop for long.
How to I get from the train station to Chiang Mai city?
Chiang Mai Railway station is about 3km east of the old Chiang Mai city. It is walkable if you have light luggage. Otherwise there will be red Songthaew drivers waiting right in the arrivals area along with some tuk tuk drivers. Bargain with all of them. A tuk tuk should cost no more than 100 baht but they'll boost it up to 200 baht. It's easier to bargain with the drivers outside the main station gates. Just walk out of the main station building and take the first left. Tuk Tuk drivers will be waiting. If you want to walk do as above then take a right and walk to the next junction, then take the first left and go straight. It's about a 40 minute walk.
Which is the best train to take?
It's up to you! To avoid paying for an early check in at your hotel either train number 51 is the best. But you'll be leaving Bangkok quite late. There is however luggage storage at Hua Lamphong. Trains 1 and13 are also quite good as they leave earlier, you have dinner on board and if they are delayed you should arrive mid morning and won't have too long to wait at your hotel to check in.
Alternatively the day express number 7 leaves at a good time in the morning and arrives in the early to mid evening so there's no rush and little waiting around.
Do they announce stations on board?
Yes, but you will barely be able to hear it. If you are getting off at a station before Chiang Mai be sure to let the conductor on board know so they can tell you when to get off. If you are going all the way to Chiang Mai then don't worry as Chiang Mai will be the last station.
There is nearly a constant stream of 24/7 buses going from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Likewise there are plenty of bus companies linking from all over Thailand to Chiang Mai too.
They all arrive at the Arcade Bus Station at one of the two terminals (terminals 2 & 3) that stand opposite each other on Kaeo Narawat road.
If you are traveling within Chiang Mai province then buses arrive depart from terminal 1 off Chang Phuak road (north of the old city moat).
Types of buses going to Chiang Mai
There are several types of bus that you can take to Chiang Mai with the price changing accordingly:
VIP Buses: these are the most popular. They are large 24/32 seat buses with reclining seats, air conditioning, toilet. Some even claim to have WiFi but it rarely works. Many long distant buses will include a meal ticket too.
Premium/Premium VIP Buses: Leaving from Bangkok they have everything a VIP bus has but larger seats. They cost about 1200 baht.
1st Class Buses: Larger buses with up to 50 seats.
2nd Class Buses: Larger older buses with up to 50 seats.
Government buses: there are two types of government buses - old ones and shiny new ones. The price will tell you the difference. From Bangkok the new ones are generally used.
Private tour buses: there are many private buses run by tour companies. If you book with a company do make sure you see the bus before paying for your ticket. Avoid the Kao Shan road travel agents in Bangkok selling cheap bus tickets. You'll usually end up in an overcrowded mini-van or an old government bus.
*note: VIP buses are run by different companies. Some use slightly different names e.g., VIP Classic, VIP Platinum etc. A good guess is to judge the buses comfort level by the price the ticket is being sold for compared to others. WinTour is one of the most popular private bus companies.
Bus prices to Chiang Mai:
From Bangkok buses leave from the Northern Bus Terminal called Mo Chit. The MRT and BTS does not reach the terminal so you'll need a taxi to reach it. Buses run from 06.00 to 17.00
- Bangkok - Chiang Mai VIP Bus - 700-990 baht (9 hours)
- Bangkok - Chiang Mai 1st/2nd class bus - 500-600 baht (9 hours)
- Bangkok - Chiang Mai Government Bus - 500 baht (12+ hours)
- Bangkok - Chiang Mai Private company bus - 600-900 baht (9-10 hours)
- Sukhothai - Chiang Mai VIP Bus (different companies - Wintour) - 300+ baht (5 hours)
- Sukhothai - Chiang Mai second class - 250 baht (5 hours)
- Sukhothai - Chiang Mai government bus - 220+ baht (5 hours)
- Chiang Rai - Chiang Mai VIP bus - 300 baht (3 hours)
- Pai - Chiang Mai Mini bus - 150 baht+ (3 hours - do be careful if you suffer from motion sickness as the road is very windy. The government bus below is slower and better for motion sickness).
- Pai - Chiang Mai government bus - 90 baht (4+hours)
Questions about bus travel to Chiang Mai:
Bus travel to Chiang Mai is easy. But there are always a few niggly questions!
There are so many bus companies to choose from, which is best?
The problem is they differ depending on where you are departing from. Generally speaking Wintour is the post popular. After that choosing a VIP bus between companies is not that different. With 2nd class buses you are in for a game of roulette.
Is bus travel dangerous in Thailand?
There have been several bus crashes in Thailand. While roads are generally good weather plays a factor quite often. Heavy rains or flooding are often contributing factors along with night buses. For optimum safety keep an eye on the weather forecast, choose an established bus company with a VIP level bus and travel by day.
Where does my luggage go on a bus in Thailand?
Your main bag goes in the bus hold along the side of the bus. When you are queuing to enter the bus there will be an attendant who will help you. There are no additional charges or tickets given for baggage. Above your seat is a narrow shelf which can just about old a daypack.
Do we stop for lunch or meals along the way?
It depends on the type of bus you take but generally yes. VIP buses include snacks along the way and lunch at a stop - use your ticket to claim your meal.
How do you get from Chiang Mai Arcade bus terminal to the old city?
It's easy. There will be tuk tuk and songthaew touts everywhere. Take them if you want but settle on a price first. A cheaper option is to walk out of the terminal to the main road and wave down either a tuk tuk (100 baht) or songthaew (20 public/100 private) who will take you to the old city. Bargain with the driver, if you are going straight to a specific hotel the cost will be a little more and do settle on a price before heading off.
Prebooking value trips around Chiang Maican be done online at quite good rates compared to some local tour operators. Do check out this list of activites around Chiang Mai which I've selected.
Transport to Chiang Mai being a headache? Or do you want to let the experts plan your trip to Chiang Mai and beyond so you can relax and enjoy yourself.
Want to know more about Chiang Mai? Browsing my travel guides to Chiang Mai on the right hand sidebar or scroll down if on mobile.
Looking for the best hotels rates in Chiang Mai? Me too, so I use my own hotel search for Chiang Mai here.
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