If you have just landed at Chiang Mai Airport then you probably want to get to the town center as quickly as possible, to check into your hotel and go for a nice massage right away or take it easy first and explore some of the nicest temples in town.
- The airport in Chiang Mai is just about 5km away from the town center within the old city walls.
Unfortunately it’s all a bit chaotic in the arrival hall of Chiang Mai airport. You might think you can just ask the friendly-looking ladyboy at the tourist information counter.
That’s what I did when I first got here: I asked them if they knew where the minivans leave and they told me I have to go all the way to Exit number 2 at the other end of the arrival hall. Once I got there I was told that they haven’t started operating yet and I would have to wait until 5pm (another 45 minutes) to catch their first service.
Lesson learned: Don’t ask the guys at the tourist information for reliable information, but rather read a reliable and up-to-date guide, like this one.
I don’t want to blow up this post with unnecessary information, so I’ll get right into the 5 different ways on how to get from Chiang Mai Airport to the town center (that is Old Town within the old city walls).
By Airport Bus
The new blue airport bus takes you straight from the arrival hall to many different places in the city center, such as Nimman Road, Chang Phuak Gate, Three Kings Monument, Tha Phae Gate and the Night Bazar.
The fare is only 30 Baht, no matter where you want to get off. The service hours of the airport bus is from 6am to 10:30pm.
Just go to one of the taxi booths in the arrival hall (photo) and tell them your hotel name (or wherever else you want to go, maybe the first thing you want to do is have a cool beer in the girly bars?).
There are 2 types of taxis available: Chiang Mai Airport Taxi and Taxi Meter. The airport taxi charges a flat fee of 150 Baht to all destinations in the city. The taxi meter will come down to about 100-120 Baht, but there is an additional airport service charge of 50 Baht, so it doesn’t really make a big difference which one of the two taxis you take.
Just tell the lady at the taxi booth where you want to go – they will give you a receipt and tell you which direction you have to go for the taxi.
By Tuk Tuk
That’s how I like to travel from the airport to Chiang Mai Old Town: To save a little bit money compared to the taxi and to avoid waiting for the bus or songthaew. It’s a good deal as you can easily find a Tuk Tuk that takes you to your hotel for 100-120 Baht (they will usually ask for 150 Baht, but it’s easy to bargain that price).
By Shared Taxi (Songthaew)
A very popular way to get from Chiang Mai airport to the town center: Just leave the arrival hall at any of the many exit doors and you will find the red songthaews (shared pick-up taxis) waiting for passengers.
The fare is just 40 Baht to any destination in the Old City, but beware: A lot of these drivers try to sell you “private taxi service” for 200 Baht or more. So don’t let them fool you and only get in such vehicles with other (preferably Thai) travelers.
If your hotel is a bit outside of the city center then the minivans would be a good option. You can find them in the southern end of the terminal building. They charge 60 Baht but their service is very infrequent – they usually start operating at around 5pm and only leave when full.
These are the 5 recommended ways to get from Chiang Mai Airport to the town center.
Sure, you can also try to catch a local bus out on the main road for 20 Baht (but why doing that when you can get a songthaew much more easily for 40 Baht) or you can ask your hotel to arrange a private transfer – not every hotel offers that, but if they do then it will cost you 400 Baht or more (but why doing that when you can get a taxi for 150 Baht).
- See also: How to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai