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Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Train, Bus, Fly?

A favourite part of any trip to Thailand, the Bangkok to Chiang Mai journey, is to be enjoyed not endured. Chiang Mai is a fantastic destination, it is cheap, relaxed, and very different from Bangkok. We highly recommend a trip to this part of northern Thailand and exploring further into the mountains if possible.

There are multiple ways of getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, including sleeper train, bus, car, and flying, we take a look at the options and how to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai here. Want to know what the Chiang Mai sleeper trains are like? Read on.

Chiang Mai to Bangkok train Chiang Mai station old style train
An old-style train waiting to depart Chiang Mai railway station. The Bangkok to ChiangMai sleeper trains are good and a fun experience.

This information was correct last time we made this trip but it’s here to give you a guide only. Please do your own research and double check, things change all the time.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Best Ways to Get From Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Best ways to get from beautiful Bangkok to equally beautiful Chiang Mai

There are multiple ways to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. Our favourite by far, if you have time, is the sleeper train. If you’re on a short vacation, you can fly but it’s also possible to take a bus or even a taxi.

Distance from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Bangkok to Chiang Mai is 688.4 Km by road, 450 miles

Bangkok to Chiang Mai Train

New train Bangkokto Chiang Mai. New sleeper trains in Thailand
The new sleeper trains in Thailand, this one on the Chiang Mai to Bangkok route are super sparkly, but inside, thankfully, not much has been changed. In 1st class you’ll see the biggest upgrades, including free wi-fi.

It’s possible to catch a train from Don Muang airport or from the central train station, Hua Lamphong. These 2 stops are about an hour apart and will be the routes most used by foreigners.  The Bangkok to Chiang Mai route is called the Northern Line and there are currently 6 trains per day, 2 of which are day trains. Train number leaves Bangkok at 6.10 pm ( arrives 7.15 am) . Train number 13 leaves t 7.35 pm ( arrives 8.40 am). A 10 pm train, Train number 51 arrives at midday the next day. All of these trains stop at Don Muang airport. These times were correct at time of writing, please check they haven’t changed ( same for all information).

The train system is in flux at the moment as new trains take over from the old. The old trains are the same as those I remember 20 years ago, they are good, comfortable sleepers. The new trains seem little different but are of course brand new.

Cost of Trains to Chiang Mai from Bangkok.

Approx 850 Baht bottom birth

Approx 750 Baht top birth.

Children to age of 12 must book a bottom birth, the bottom bunk is bigger than the top, both are comfortable. Check child regulations haven’t changed.

Booking Train Tickets to Chiang Mai

You can book tickets online for the Chiang Mai trains but the cost will be fractionally higher than going to the station in person. You cannot book tickets direct with Thai trains, you need to use an agency, 12Go.Asia . This is the only way to book your own tickets other than going to the station in person.

We’ve taken these trains many times and always had good experiences. Watch out for the food prices, they’re steep, but the food is good and we’ve found it totally safe to eat. Cost per head for dinner, approx 170 Baht.

Alcoholic drinks, including beer are now banned on trains in Thailand.

Toilets are absolutely fine by train standards.

Arrival and Chiang Mai Railway Station

Chiang Mai songtaw fixed price Thailand
A Chiang Mai red songtaw or songtaew, they are fixed price and should cost 20Baht/person around town.

Red songtaew drivers wanting custom mob new arrivals. The fixed rate on these vehicles is 20 Baht/person. I doubt you will be able to get this from the train station. We paid 150 Baht for 4 people from the train station to our booked accommodation in the old town. (2016 prices). They like to charge per person and these vehicles are designed to be shared. Maybe you’ll do better than us, maybe worse, but once settled in town 20 Baht is the standard fare. The Chiang Mai songtaws will also take private tours, bargain hard. Tuk tuks can be cheaper than songtaws in Chiang Mai, tuk tuk drivers are far more reasonable here than in Bangkok.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai Bus Options

The bus is slightly cheaper than the train, at around 400-650 Baht.

The majority of public buses depart from Mor Chit bus station, others from the Khao San Rd area.

The bus takes roughly 10 hours departing every hour between 5.30am and 10.00pm.

Some buses are sleepers, some arent, cost varies.

Either book your ticket direct at the bus station, or through an agent ( commission will be added).

Hiring a Car in Thailand (Car Rental for our US readers)

Hiring a car in Thailand is extremely cheap. I doubt many people will want to do this in Bangkok’s crazy traffic congestion, but for other parts of Thailand car rental is a brilliant idea. We have paid between $20- $30 US per day for car hire in Thailand. This is with insurance to cut excess to zero.

Getting to Chiang Mai from Bangkok by Air

You can fly to Chiang Mai from Bangkok for 1000 to 1500 Baht.

This is the most expensive option, but will save you time.

It’s a good idea o book this flight in advance to find a good price, you can check daily prices and book tickets online via Skyscanner

Airlines that fly this route include, Nok Air, Bangkok Airlines, Lion Air, Thai and Air Asia.

Where to stay in Chiang Mai on Arrival

Chiang Mai East Gate Tha Pae Gate
Chiang Mai East Gate Tha Pae Gate is a great place to stay in Chiang Mai although anywhere within the Old City or nearby is absolutely fine.

Chiang Mai has abundant accommodation options and prices are good. It’s probably best to stay in the Old City, from here it’s easy to walk to most of the Wats and markets and the red songtaews circle the outer perimeter, picking up passengers for fixed-rate 20 Baht/person trips.

We stayed at Central Guest House right on Tha Pae Gate, above. We would recommend their large, 2 room, family suite.

In addition, we used Kamala’s Guest House on the other side of the moat from Tha Pae gate in a quiet back road. This one had a vast family room that may even sleep 6 with private 2 toilet cubicles in the room. That’s omething we’ve never seen before.

Ping River Chiang Mai
The Ping River is to the East of Chiang Mai Old Town, close to the train station. Staying in this area you will find micro-breweries and at cafes on one bank, Chinatown and local markets on the other. This is a good base when visiting for Loi Krathong as this is where krathong and lantern release is focused.

We’ve also stayed on the Ping River, a 15-20 minute walk from the Old Town. This was a very different experience as this area has an abundance of micro-breweries, art cafés and boutique shops on the east bank, on the west bank is China town and some of Chiang Mai’s best markets.

We stayed at Ping River House where we took two twin rooms at a bargain price during the bust Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festivals. Book ahead during this period, the city fills up.

Make sure you get up to Chiang Mai, we really can’t recommend it highly enough, it’s totally different to Bangkok or to the southern beaches. We rented a car up here to explore nearby Pai, Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai, this is a great option and one we’ll talk about in our next post, but if that’s not your scene, there is enough to keep you and your family busy in and around Chiang Mai for weeks on end. We cover things to do in Chiang Mai along with the nitty-gritty of staying a-while in our Living in Chiang Mai page.

Enjoy Thailand!

We hope you found our information on getting from Bangkok to Chiang Mai useful, remember that options, timetables and prices change regularly so always do your own current research too. All thoughts on this page and on our website reflect our personal opinions. Now you can go back to our Living in Chiang Mai and Things to do in Chiang Mai page or visit our main Thailand Travel Page.

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Sankar Roy

Thursday 21st of March 2019

Hi, Alyson Long It's fabulous, i dn't think to visit Thailand after reading your full blog on Thailand. on April I will visit to Thailand, basically I was planned Phuket - Bangkok, but after reading you blog on Northern Thailand I planned to extend my tour. I will be with my family. What's i planned is from Bangkok to Chang Mi i will go by train, then return if rent car to hault in Sukhothai, next day to Bangkok. So total in 3 days i can cover Northern part of Thailand. can you please suggest from where I can start(Itineary), I will come from Kolkata, India. My iteineary Kolkata - Phuket(3 days) - Bangkok(2 days)- Next day morning train to Chang Mi( full next day) - then back by car(en route visiy Sukhotai, Ayutthaya, kanchanburi).

Alyson Long

Thursday 21st of March 2019

Hi Sankar. Your itinerary sounds great to me already ! Be sure you know the distances involved and look into how busy those roads are. We've only gone north of Chiang Mai by hire car, up there the roads are quiet, it's the countryside, but you're driving back almost to Bangkok so it's a long way in a short time and you may have to use motorways. Just stay safe ! I think you need more time really, 1 day in Chiang May is very short, but 1 day in Sukhothai, Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi may be enough although 2 days in each would be better. You'll need 2-3 days in Bangkok unless maybe you book a tour and see as much as possible in 1 day. But it will be exhausting !


Monday 21st of November 2016

Train travel is always an experience ... I believe trains are my favourite means of locomotion!


Monday 21st of November 2016

Me too Talitha, and boats. Both force you to relax and just enjoy the scenery. A full-service airline is always nice too:)