Bangkok to Chiang Mai: 4 Easy Ways to Get There
For travelers visiting Thailand, going 700km from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a very common route. Chiang Mai is my favorite city in Thailand (I ended up living there for a while!).
Chiang Mai is a great jumping-off point for exploring Northern Thailand, like Chiang Rai and Pai. Many adventurous travelers rent a car or motorbike in Chiang Mai and spend days roaming the beautiful countryside.
As a backpacker, I have taken the overnight sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and highly recommend it to the cost-conscious traveler. It’s a fun way to see the Thai countryside while getting some rest during the journey.
Having lived in Chiang Mai, I have also flown between Bangkok and Chiang Mai multiple times. Flying is faster—the flight usually takes about an hour and fifteen minutes —but of course more expensive, and you have to deal with the airport.
No matter which route you choose – plane, train, bus, or private transfer – getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (or vice versa) is an adventure all its own!
Bangkok to Chiang Mai Overview
|Mode of Transport||Time||Cost (USD)||Pros/Cons|
|Plane||1 hr 15 min||$50+||Pros: Fast, comfortableCons: More expensive, baggage fees, have to deal with airport|
|Train||12-14 hrs||$25||Pros: Fun, Cheap, Pretty ViewsCons: Long, Less Comfortable than Flying|
|Bus||12 hrs||$15-25||Pros: Cheap, Pretty ViewsCons: Long, Less Comfortable than Flying/Bus|
|Private Transfer||9 hrs||$300+||Pros: Flexible, Good for Groups, PrivateCons: Expensive|
Flying from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Best For: Travelers Who Want to Get There Fast!
Flying is the fastest way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Prices start at around $50 depending on the airline and time of year, with the flight taking just over an hour.
There are many airlines to choose from such as Air Asia, Nok Air, Thai Vietjet, Thai Lion Air, Thai Airways, Thai Smile, and Bangkok Airways. It’s important to bear in mind that each airline has different rules for luggage allowance (many allow just 7kg carry-on) so you must factor in the cost of checked bags if necessary.
There are two airports in Bangkok: Don Mueang Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport; budget airlines fly from Don Mueang Airport while Suvarnabhumi Airport offers nicer airlines and can be accessed by the rail link.
In Chiang Mai, there is just one airport – Chiang Mai International Airport – which is conveniently located close to town.
Travelers should factor in both the time and cost of getting to their chosen airport as well as the time to get through security.
Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Time: 13-14 hours
Best For: Backpackers, Adventurers, Budget Travelers
The overnight sleeper train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is considered to be a backpacker right-of-passage and a very popular way to get to Chiang Mai! It costs about $25, and you save on accommodation for the night.
You can also take a day train, but it won’t be as comfortable as having a bed on the night train.
Not only do you get to take in the sights of Thailand, but also travel in style. You’re going to want to book either the first-class or second-class beds, and you’ll probably want air-conditioning (fan-only options are also available). These tickets, especially first-class, sell out several days in advance, so you’ll want to book ahead. The bottom bunk has more space than the top!
I tried to book the first-class cabin when I was solo backpacking in Thailand, but it was already booked, so I went with second-class.
What’s the difference between first and second-class cabins? The first-class cabins are private cabins with two berths. They have better toilets and a shower. On the downside, you’ll be with a stranger if you’re solo, and you’ll sleep sideways across the train, which isn’t as comfortable as your feet facing the direction the train is going.
The second-class cars are filled with bunk beds that have a privacy curtain. In hindsight, I was happy to be in the second-class car because I made friends with other backpackers!
If you want to visit Ayutthaya first, the historical capital of Thailand, you can take a train from Bangkok. It’s about an hour and a half journey, but it’s worth it to see the ancient ruins. Then you can hop on the overnight sleeper train right from there.
Make sure to bring some snacks, hand sanitizer, an eye mask, earplugs, and a sweater as temperatures are kept low on board. The rocking of the train rocked me right to sleep! But many travelers complain that they don’t sleep well on the train.
The train ride offers amazing views of Thailand’s landscape that you won’t get any other way – making it one of the best ways to experience traveling through the country!
Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Time: 12 hours
Best For: Backpackers, Budget Travelers
For those travelers looking for a cheaper option than the train to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, buses are the answer.
There are two different bus types to choose from: Government or VIP.
Government buses are cheaper, cost around $15, and can take longer than VIP buses because they make numerous stops in towns along the way, with people getting on and off the bus at each stop.
For travelers who would like more comfort and fewer stops, VIP/deluxe buses are available. These buses will make bathroom and food breaks periodically during the journey, and usually have a bathroom on board too (I hate using bus bathrooms because they’re usually dirty, but it’s nice to have the option in a pinch).
Be sure to purchase tickets from reputable companies like 12.Go Asia and avoid buying fake VIP tickets off of Khao San Road – I’ve heard of backpackers getting scammed with tickets they thought were for the deluxe bus but ended up being for the government bus.
Buses from Bangkok to Chiang Mai leave from Mo Chit Bus Terminal (Northern Terminal) and arrive at Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station.
Keep all valuables with you on the bus since some people have had items go missing from their big bags stored in the bus’s luggage compartment. Always lock your bag too.
Private Transfer from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Time: 9 hours
Cost: $300+ for Transfer
Best For: Groups, Travelers Who Prefer Flexibility
Private transfer or taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a great option for those who are traveling in a group, have a little more money to spend, or want the flexibility to make stops along the way. Taxis are safe in Thailand. You can hire a sedan or a 9-seater van, depending on how many passengers are traveling.
The journey usually takes around 9 hours, and is more expensive than other options – expect to pay anywhere between $300-$400 and up for a private transfer from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai FAQs
How do I get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?
There are several popular options for getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai: plane, train, bus, and private transfer. If you’re strapped for time, flying is the best option but costs more. Taking the overnight sleeper train is comfortable and affordable, and a very popular route for backpackers.
Is it worth taking the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?
Yes! Taking the train is a great option for those wanting to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The journey is more comfortable than a bus, and you can relax in your sleeper berth and get some rest while you travel. Plus, it’s an affordable option compared to flying. You’ll also get the chance to enjoy the beautiful Thai countryside views on your way up North.
How long is the train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?
The train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes around 13-14 hours, depending on the type of train you take. The overnight sleeper train is a great option as it saves on accommodation costs for one night and you can get some rest during the journey.
How much is the cheapest transport from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?
The cheapest transport from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is either the bus or the overnight sleeper train. Tickets for the bus and sleeper train cost around $15-$25 baht depending on the type of ticket and seat you choose. It’s a great option for those wanting to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Getting around Chiang Mai
Getting around Chiang Mai is relatively easy, as the city offers a variety of transportation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Here are some ways to navigate Chiang Mai from public transport to walking:
Tuk-Tuks: These three-wheeled, motorized vehicles are a common mode of transportation in Chiang Mai. Tuk-tuks are great for short distances and can be found throughout the city. However, it’s important to negotiate the fare before you start the ride, as they often don’t have meters.
Red Songthaews: These shared red trucks with covered back compartments operate as shared taxis along specific routes. You can flag them down and hop in. They are a cost-effective way to get around, but you might need to wait until the truck fills up with passengers before it departs.
Motorbike Taxis: If you’re traveling alone or in pairs, motorbike taxis can be a convenient and quick way to move around the city. Make sure to negotiate the fare before getting on the motorbike.
Renting a Motorbike: Many visitors choose to rent motorbikes to explore Chiang Mai at their own pace. Make sure you’re comfortable with riding a motorbike and familiarize yourself with local traffic rules and regulations. Always wear a helmet and exercise caution.
Bicycles: Chiang Mai is relatively bike-friendly, with bike lanes and rental options available. Cycling can be a pleasant way to explore the city, especially in areas with less traffic.
Grab (Ride-Hailing App): The Grab app operates in Chiang Mai, allowing you to book rides in cars or on motorbikes. This can be a convenient and often more affordable option compared to negotiating with tuk-tuks or taxis.
Public Buses: Chiang Mai has a limited public bus system. While buses might not be as popular among tourists due to language barriers, they can still be an option for getting around if you’re comfortable with using public transportation.
Renting a Car: If you prefer the flexibility of having your own vehicle, you can rent a car. This is a good option if you plan to explore areas outside of the city as well. However, keep in mind that traffic and parking can be challenging in the city center.
Walking: Chiang Mai’s Old City is relatively compact, and many of the attractions are within walking distance of each other. Exploring on foot can be a great way to soak in the atmosphere and discover hidden gems.
Check out these other posts to visiting Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand
Conclusion: How to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
When planning a trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you have four options for getting there: plane, train, bus, or car.
Taking a plane is the fastest option, while the overnight sleeper train is an unforgettable experience, especially for backpackers. I’ve traveled between Bangkok and Chiang Mai with both of these options and can personally recommend both! And I know travelers who have taken the overnight bus and had a good experience.
The bus and sleeper train are both great budget-friendly options that still get travelers to Chiang Mai from Bangkok in comfort. And flying from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is great when you just want to get there fast.