Chiang Mai is one of the most popular places in Thailand for foreigners to visit. Most of them are traveling all the way from Bangkok as they either don’t have the time for several stops along the way or they just don’t know about the interesting places like Sukhothai, Phitsanulok or Kamphaeng Phet.
The Bangkok – Chiang Mai trip with its 593 km is probably the longest trip you are doing in Thailand so you might want to choose your means of transport very carefully. If you ride your own car or motorcycle it will take you around 9-10 hours. Below are the three common ways on how to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai via public transport and as always: The decision depends on how much time or money you want to spend.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus
The classic way and most people are still choosing this option, not just Thai people but also foreigners. You have two options: A day bus or overnight bus. Obviously traveling during the night saves you both time due to less traffic (around 1-2 hours) as well as money for one night accommodation.
Many hotels in Bangkok offer bus tickets especially on Khaosan Road, though they are usually overpriced as the hotel makes some commission out of it. It is much more easy and economical to just go to Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal also known as Mo Chit. To get there, take the MRT to Kamphaeng Phet station or BTS to Mo Chit station and from there hop on a motorcycle taxi to the bus terminal (40-60 Baht) or city bus no. 3 (8 Baht). A metered taxi from Khaosan will cost about 140 Baht, from Sukhumvit and Siam about 120 Baht.
Inside the bus terminal, there are dozens of ticket booths from the bus companies serving the Bangkok – Chiang Mai route. There are departures at least once an hour. Depending on the type of coach, the tickets are in the 600 to 800 Baht range (standard air con, VIP, first class). The trip to Chiang Mai takes about 10 to 12 hours, highly depending on the traffic situation.
The Chiang Mai Bus Terminal is conveniently located on Bumrung Buri Rd, at the southern entrance of the Old City (see the map below).
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
Traveling by train is your most time consuming option, however you get to see the beautiful landscape especially during the last 300 km when passing the green rice paddies with buffaloes grazing and then through the lush rain forest approaching Chiang Mai – definitely a memorable trip and recommended if you have the time to make “the journey to your reward”.
Trains to Chiang Mai leave from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway Station. There are five daily departures including three overnight trains:
Bankgkok to Chiang Mai
08:30 Bangkok 20:30 Chiang Mai Special Express
12:45 Bangkok 04:05 Chiang Mai Rapid
18:10 Bangkok 08:15 Chiang Mai Special Express
19:35 Bangkok 09:55 Chiang Mai Special Express
22:00 Bangkok 13:05 Chiang Mai Express
Chiang Mai to Bangkok
05:45 Chiang Mai 21:10 Bangkok Rapid
08:45 Chiang Mai 20:25 Bangkok Special Express
16:00 Chiang Mai 06:30 Bangkok Special Express
17:00 Chiang Mai 06:50 Bangkok Special Express
17:30 Chiang Mai 08:30 Bangkok Express
Depending on the type of coach, train tickets cost 270 to 620 Baht for seats and 880 to 1,460 Baht for sleepers. Only if you are traveling during the high season (November to February) and during national holidays it is advisable to pre-book your ticket, either directly at the railway station or you call the State Railway of Thailand’s free hotline: 1690.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Flight
As always, traveling on an airplane is not just your fastest but also most convenient option. Yes, it is also more expensive than traveling by bus or train but the difference is just a few hundred baht. Along with Bangkok – Phuket, the Bangkok – Chiang Mai route is the busiest in the country means lots of airlines offering dozens of daily flights and competing for the best fares.
AirAsia, NokAir and Bangkok Airways have the cheapest rates generally in the 1,000 to 2,000 Baht range but you can get promotional fares for as low as 700 Baht, especially during the shoulder seasons. That’s just as much as a bus ticket costs and your travel time is one hour instead of ten hours.
The airport transfer from Chiang Mai Airport to the city center is very well organised: There is taxi service available in front of the terminal building for a fixed rate of 120 Baht to any place in town.