Although Chiang Mai has almost 2 million residents, the old core of the city is quite compact and easy to navigate. Conveniently the airport is close to Old Town, but the taxi options are way different than the United States. Expect to be in the back of a pick up truck or a motorized TukTuk. Sound scary? It’s not! Follow our tips below and getting around town will be easy.
Getting To & From Chiang Mai’s Airport:
Getting to and from Chiang Mai’s airport is super easy as it is only about 1 mile Southwest of the cities core Old Town. The train station is about the same distance to the East of Old Town. A small car taxi will cost you about 300 Baht total, but can only take 2-3 people with luggage. If you have 4 or more people you’ll need to take the larger van taxis that can hold more luggage which run about 100-125 Baht a person. The Red Songthaew pickup truck taxis are even cheaper to the airport at about 75-100 Baht a person for a group of 4. We have used the truck taxis before and it was really easy with our luggage and we probably could have fit 5 maybe even 6 people with our bags.
Getting Around Chiang Mai:
Chiang Mai’s Old Town is only 1 square mil so walking anywhere is super easy. TukTuks are by far the most popular mode of transport whether you are going to the sights like the Night Market are just too tired to walk around Old Town. The TukTuk carts in Chiang Mai are a lot safer than in Bangkok as the speeds are lot slower and there is little to no highway driving. Expects to pay as little as 40-50 Baht to go between sights within the main part of Chiang Mai and 200 Baht for sights further out.
Another popular mode are the Red Songthaew pickup truck taxis. They look pretty scarey and often have a bunch of people piled in the back, but they are surprisingly safe. In the mornings you will see some of the truck taxis carrying up to 12 monks in the back which is probably a little over board.
Should I Go To Chiang Mai By Plane or Train?
While most backpackers while take either a long bus or over night train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for as little as $20, we suggest sucking it up and buying a plane ticket. If you buy your plane ticket ahead of time it will only cost you $75 each way from Bangkok or $120 from Phuket.
Bangkok Airlines is by far the best way to go from Bangkok as it goes right from the main airport Suvarnabhumi (BKK) which is East of town right to Chiang Mai. Alternatively AirAsia also flies to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, but they leave from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport (DMK) which is North of Bangkok and a bit run down. AirAsia is, however, the best way to get to Chiang Mai from Phuket as it is the only airline with a not-stop route between the two cities. Other routes have anywhere from a 1-4 hour layover in Bangkok.