Asia Thailand

How To Travel From Bangkok To Chiang Mai

train from bangkok to chiang mai

How to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai! All Transport Options

Traveling between Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a common route for most backpackers in Thailand. The north of Thailand is completely different to the rest of the country and is a ‘must do’ when exploring this beautiful place.

Bangkok is the main departure point to traveling to Chiang Mai as it is the main travel hub throughout Thailand, catering to many international flights. It is also a common arrival point when traveling overland from the neighboring Myanmar, Cambodia and even Vietnam.

Though, getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai can take quite a lot of time unless you are willing to fork out a money for a flight; something which us backpackers often can’t afford. There’s also the popular overnight train journey and an overnight bus between these two cities, though these options can take along time. So let’s break these down these different transport types to figure out what is best for you.

khao san road by night in bangkok

Plane

So, taking a flight is probably the easiest and quickest option when traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. There are plenty of daily flights departing from both Don Mueang Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport. Though, unfortunately both these airports are quite far away from the popular backpacker hang out of Khao San Road, and when adding the cost to get to the airport, plus the cost for the flight itself, this can become a very expensive option. Saying that, if you are short on time flying between these two capitals is your best option.

Don Mueang Airport

You will first need to get from the city to Don Mueang Airport which is approximately 30 kilometers from backpackers paradise of Khao San Road. Luckily this is easy enough by taking the bus. Alternatively you can also get a taxi, or even use the Grab mobile app. I recommend checking RometoRio for the latest public transport schedules.

Don Mueang Airport is generally known as the budget airport in Bangkok. Therefore, as expected the budget airlines fly from here. This is perfect if you are traveling with minimal luggage and don’t mind a no frills service. Air Asia, Thai Lion Air and Nok Air are the main airline carriers which depart from Don Mueang Airport. Flights can be found starting at around $50.00 and Thai Lion Air make as many as 10 return flights each day between Bangkok and Chiang Mai alone!

Check the latest prices over on Skyscanner!

 Suvarnabhumi Airport

You will first need to get from where you are staying in Bangkok to Suvarnadhumi Airport which again is approximately 30 kilometers from Khao San Road, though in a different direction. Again, its easy enough to get either a taxi, the rail link or a grab car to the airport from Khao San Road to Suvarnabhumi Airport. I recommend checking RometoRio for the latest public transport schedules.

The well equipped Suvarnabhumi Airport is frankly the nicer out of the two. The national carrier Thai Airways, as well as Bangkok Air, which fly from here to Chiang Mai daily. It costs considerably more to fly from Suvarnadhumi Airport as the airlines here are a lot nicer, include snacks and baggage.

Prices for flights from Bangkok to Chiang Mai departing Suvarnabhumi Airport start at around $100.00. Check the latest prices over on Skyscanner!

Chiang Mai International Airport

Once you arrive at the main gateway to the beautiful Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai International Airport, you will need to get to your accommodation in the city center which is just 2 kilometers away.

Many accommodation providers in the city include a free hotel transfer. It is best to email them prior to confirm your collection. Alternatively it is extremely easy to get a tuk tuk from the airport to the center for about 150 thb.

busy airport in bangkok

Train

It seems like taking the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a right of passage when backpacking South East Asia. This notorious route will take somewhere between 13-14 hours, though they have been upgrading the services and getting new trains for this route (at the moment this seems to just be trains 9 & 10).

The trains depart from Hua Lamphong Station which is 4 kilometers from the popular Khao San Road. The easiest option here is to haggle for a quick tuk tuk ride which shouldn’t cost more than a couple dollars. Though, if you want to save the effort just download the Grab App for your phone and book a driver through that. Oftentimes using Grab can be the cheaper and easier option.

You will want to book your train tickets in advance, especially if you are booking first class. This is an extremely popular route and often times can be sold out. I recommend using 12.Go Asia to book your ticket for a hassle free and trust worthy experience. You can even check out the certain train reviews before deciding which to book!

The main options for the overnight train between Bangkok and Chiang Mai consist of either a first class ticket or a second class ticket. The difference being, first class sharing a two berth cabin (so you will be which a stranger if traveling alone) and the second class which is rows of bunks along the train carriage with privacy curtains. The later of the two is definitely the most popular for budget travelers. Also be aware that even though the top bunk is cheaper, it also means less space, which will be a problem if you’re tall. For second class there is the option of an air conditioned carriage or a fan carriage. Prices start from $25.00 when booked through 12.Go Asia,

Once in Chiang M the railway station is on Charoen Mueang Road, just across the river. It is cheap enough to hire a songthaew or tuk tuk here which will take you to your accommodation.

train going through market in bangkok

inside a sleeper train from bangkok to chiang mai

Bus

Another comfortable option is to take the bus when traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. There are essentially two different bus options, either the government bus or the ‘VIP’ or deluxe bus. Tickets will range from $15.00 -$25.00 / 500 – 800 baht depending on the type of bus booked and the travel agency it is booked through.

The government bus is the cheaper option, though will make stops in every township for passengers. It will also take longer with at least 12 hours for the journey.

The so called ‘VIP’ buses are a more comfortable journey often direct with a couple food/toilet breaks along the way. They may provide snacks and water for the journey, as well as being more spacious. Just be aware of the fake ‘VIP’ bus tickets sold on Khao San Road by many travel agencies. Book through a reliable website such as 12.Go Asia where you can check reviews and find out what is included.

I booked my bus ticket through 12.Go Asia and had a very comfortable journey. It was a well equipped bus with a toilet on board, we had a steward who gave everyone drinks and snacks. The ticket cost me $16.75 / 558 baht at the time.

These buses often depart from the Mo Chit Bus Terminal, otherwise known as the Northern Terminal. To get here from Khao San Road it is best to use a taxi which should cost around $8.00, though be aware that oftentimes traffic in Bangkok can be horrible. If you are wanting to get a more exact estimate on the fare or cannot be bother haggling with the driver I recommend using the Grab mobile app.

When you arrive in Chiang Mai at the Arcade Bus Station there will be plenty of public songthaews waiting near terminal 3. The fare should be 20 baht per person, though as a foreigner you will likely be charged more. For example I managed to barter them down to 50 baht for the journey to my hostel.

Important tip: Be careful with your luggage on night buses all over South East Asia. It is a area notorious with theft where the bus assistant climbs into the luggage area during the night and goes through all the bags. Just make sure to make all important items such as cash, electronics, passports etc in your carry on bag. Also it always help using a padlock just as a deterrent in such situation.

bus from bangkok to chiang mai

inside an oevrnight bus from bangkok

Taxi

If you are looking for a bit of freedom and have some cash to burn a private taxi might be the option for you. Allowing you to leave your hotel at any time of the day, taking a taxi from Bangkok to Chiang Mai will give you the chance to take in the gorgeous scenery and stop wherever you like. There are plenty of gas stations and convenience stores along the way with clean toilets.

The journey between the two cities generally takes about 9 hours. A 9 seater Toyota Commuter taxi will cost about $400.00 to hire with a driver whilst a 4 seater will set you back around $300.00.

lively streets of bangkok with taxi


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Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. So, if you click on it and purchase something, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you. As always all opinions are my own and your support is much appreciated.

Photo credit: VIP Coach, Bangkok, Thailand” (CC BY 2.0) by DavidMcKelvey . “VIP Bus” (CC BY 2.0) by Mynameisharsha. “Overnight Train” (CC BY 2.0) by Masterplaan . “SRT 4048” (CC BY 2.0) by  MyTrainPix . 

18 Comments

  • Reply
    Tracey Best
    August 14, 2018 at 3:04 am

    Heaps of options!!! I have been to Suvarnabhumi airport and I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to pronounce it haha. The buses look nice! Good tip about padlocks!!

  • Reply
    Natasha L
    August 13, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    Super comprehensive list! I have only taken the plane but thought the train would be nice to do one day to see more of the scenery. Taxi is something I wouldn’t have thought of! Thanks!

  • Reply
    Kathi
    August 12, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    I wish I had seen this last year, before our trip! We initially considered the night train for the experience, but I found the information about taking it so intransparent… We ended up splurging on a flight, which was super comfy and by far the quickest way to do it! We only had a short time in Thailand, so it was time over cost efficiency 😉

  • Reply
    Liz
    August 12, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    I just discussed a trip to Chiang Mai with some friends yesterday and this guide comes in really handy. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    Dina
    August 12, 2018 at 7:47 pm

    Great overview! I think that with trains, it can always be a gamble not knowing who you share a cabin with, maybe they’ll be your new friend or just plain creeps or no bother at all. I definitely prefer flying anywhere longer than 5 hours by car/bus. Can’t wait to visit Chiang Mai one day!

  • Reply
    Ellen
    August 12, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Good tip about the night thieves. We’ll be in SEA later this year.

  • Reply
    Leigh
    August 12, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    I wish I had taken a plane instead of the overnight train! I am not a budget traveler, but I thought sleeping on a train would be fun. (I should note I have a bug phobia) Before we even left the station, a cockroach came crawling into my cabin. I didn’t sleep a wink. On the bright side, I was traveling solo and had the whole sleeping cabin to myself. Although, I wanted to sleep in the top bunk, away from the cockroaches, haha, and the attendant wouldn’t make up the top bed for me, insisting that I use the bottom bunk. It was a loooong night!

  • Reply
    Taryn
    August 12, 2018 at 5:43 am

    I had no idea it was so easy to book buses, tuktuks etc. with an app now! It sounds like that would make your journey much less stressful

  • Reply
    Josy A
    August 12, 2018 at 4:10 am

    Your photos are always so beautiful Tasha! I love the way you can make the madness in front of the train, and the inside of a bus look so good! 🙂

    You have such skills.

  • Reply
    Erin
    August 12, 2018 at 4:07 am

    This type of post is so helpful! It’s what I look for every time I’m about to travel somewhere new, because I’m the type of person who likes to plan my entire route in advance (then I wing it once I arrive at my destination).Thank you for being so detailed! I love the idea of the train and would probably pick that as my option. 🙂

  • Reply
    Lauren
    August 11, 2018 at 11:19 pm

    SUCH a useful post – we’re currently in Australia but keen to backpack Asia next and find the info quite overwhelming but this is so factual yet not bombarding with info! Your photography is stunning, making me want to go to Thailand even more now!

  • Reply
    Ketki
    August 11, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    I did not know trains were that cheap! $25 for a sleeper coach is a great deal. I am certainly gonna look up this option the next time I am in Bangkok. Very informative post.

  • Reply
    Annemarie
    August 11, 2018 at 10:41 pm

    Wow, train prices can be just $25?! I had no idea though I wouldn’t want to spend 13-14 hours on a train. Thanks for doing the research on the various options for us.

  • Reply
    Anisa
    August 11, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    I did the flight but probably because I was lazy and didn’t research the other options. I think the bus and train both are doable and would have saved me money.

  • Reply
    Mo
    August 11, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    When I took the sleeper train just 6 years ago, we had to physically get to the station to buy tickets (first come first serve) – we didn’t have the luxury of buying tickets online! I’m glad it’s become more convenient these days 😉 Oh, the good ol’ days! I miss Thailand so much!!

  • Reply
    Emma Jane Explores
    August 11, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    So many options! Who knew?! Love this post and your site in general. I’m a big fan of a girl chasing her dreams.
    Thanks for all the transport tips – I’m now hungry to get back to Thailand! 🙂

  • Reply
    Cassie
    August 11, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    This was a fun read. In 1999 I tried to take a tuk-tuk from Khao San Road to the airport. That didn’t work well at all! I also took the train to Chiang Mai and back. Fun to remember my adventures.

  • Reply
    Nadia
    August 11, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I had no idea there were so many options! Lots of great tips and advice here.

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