Chiang Mai

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Travel Guide Asia Thailand North Thailand Chiang Mai Province Chiang Mai



Spirit Bells

Spirit Bells

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Chiang Mai (Thai เชียงใหม่) is the largest city in the North Thailand region. It is roughly 700 kilometres north of Bangkok and is a great place to spend some days, or even more if you want to explore the region around the city and do some of the activities mentioned below.






Sights and Activities


You have to visit the Elephant Nature Park and spend at least one night there. It's highly rated by CNN, BBC, National Geographic and Time Magazine and the King of Thailand.

In Thailand there are so called elephant "camps" which are brutally treated elephants that have bleeding backs from the ropes that strap the chairs to them so toursits can ride them. The Elephant Nature park is a charity institution and rescues these, so the elephants are free and you can ride them naturally. You also go on trips organised by the park to vaccinate elephants kept elsewhere. Other activities at the park include bathing the elephants in the river, playing with the other animals and taking trips to the markets (day and night).


The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is where vendors hawk various goods such as statues, t-shirts, DVDs, and Thai food. The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is open every night but is more expensive than the Sunday Night Markets which take place in the Ta Pae Gate area and stretches into the middle of the old city. You can find more traditional Thai clothing and goods at this market and it's a good experience to simply check out the different local food available here.

Wararot Market is the largest local market in Chiang Mai and is also well worth a visit. It is where the locals come to shop so is less geared toward the tourist but is an absolute experience with all the sights and smells.

Muang Mai Market is a must visit for any food lover. It is the fresh food wholesale market for Chiang Mai located on the west side of the river near the US Consulate. There is an amazing variety of fresh food on sale, some of it straight off the back of farmers' pick up trucks.

Doi Suthep

To the north of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep, a large mountain adorned with the temple of Wat Phrathet Doi Suthep. Anyone catching a song-thaew up the slopes (a tuk-tuk can't drive up the mountain) will be rewarded with fantastic views of Chiang Mai and the sights of a traditional Thai temple. There are also many waterfalls along the way to the temple where the sweaty traveller can stop to cool off. Some of the waterfalls do charge an admission fee to foreigners though.

PhuPhing Palace

Past Wat Doi Suthep is PhuPhing Palace which offers yet another cultural experience for the keen tourist. Be sure to get there before 3:00pm though as the palace closes then.

Moat and Library

Walk the fantastic moat and take in the ruins that created it then visit the library to learn about how Thai's learn about western culture.



Events and Festivals

Songkran (Thai New Year)

ChangMai Lanterns

ChangMai Lanterns

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Songkran is the biggest party of the year, held during the hot month of April. In the past, people would throw water among themselves in nice way to bless each other. These days, the festival has evolved into an all-out water fight that takes a whole week. Chiang Mai is the spot in Thailand where Songkran is celebrated for the longest period. The rest of Thailand limits the Songkran festival to some few days. The reason for this is that the festival originated from Chiang Mai in the past and so the city feels more strongly attached to it than anywhere else in Thailand.

Loy Krathong

Loy Krathong is a major festival celebrated in the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar (usually around November). Although it's celebrated throughout Thailand, the festivities in Chiang Mai are renowned for being the best. During Loy Krathong, people release traditional hot air balloons (Kome Loy) into the sky, set off traditional fireworks and place Krathong (little rafts) on water.




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Rain Days0.712.26.414.61618.420.617.



Getting There

Most budget travellers coming from within Thailand will probably arrive by either bus or train, though there is an international airport serving Chiang Mai.

By Plane

Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) is found to the west of the old city. Low-cost Airline Air Asia flies to Bangkok, Hat Yai, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur. Many other airlines serve destinations like Yangon, Koh Samui, Taipei, Singapore, Seoul and Luang Prabang.

By Train

Chiang Mai Train Station is located near the Ping River. Many travellers take the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. A total distance of about 700 kilometres, the trip generally takes about 12 hours to complete. Many backpackers choose to take the overnight sleeper as this saves them a night's accommodation, although the day train does allow you to take in the scenery. While 12 hours can seem like a long time, it actually flies by as the scenery is quite interesting to look at. Don't expect to get any great photos, however, as it doesn't take long for the train windows to get dirty. Your only option here is to stand between carriages along with the smokers. You might also like to take your own food as the food served on the train is very basic and not to everyone's taste.

Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, the train station actually has several large sign boards listing several hotels and guest houses, their amenities and room prices. If you haven't pre-arranged your accommodation, this makes it less of a gamble than just listening to some tuk-tuk driver who probably gets a commission by enticing you to a particular hotel.

By Car

Highway 118 goes north from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai and Highway 11 goes south to Lamphun, Lampang, Phrae and around to Nan. Highway 1 connects with Highway 11 and goes all the way to Bangkok.

By Bus

Travellers coming to Chiang Mai by bus will arrive at the Arcade Bus Station, which is near the train station on the east side of the Ping River. Chiang Mai has bus services to most main Thai cities. Buses leave frequently to Bangkok, Chiang Rai, Mae Sai, Nan, and other cities. Green Bus Thailand covers most routes in the northern regions and tickets can be booked on their website.



Getting Around

Chiang Mai is an easy city to get around for those with no transport of their own.

There are several landmarks that the traveller can use to get around. The most obvious thing you will notice when you arrive is the square moat that still stands in the city centre from days long gone by. The gates and some of the walls are still standing as well and it is easy to use this landmark as a good way to gain your bearings. The road around the inside and outside of the moat is one way however, and it can be confusing for the first-timer as you are often required to over-shoot your destination and then do a u-turn to double back. As long as you remember that the inside road goes anti-clockwise and the outside road goes clockwise you should have no problems.

By Motorcycle

For the brave, motorcycles are can be rented for about 150 Baht a day for a manual 100cc bike, or slightly more for an automatic version. Make sure you ask for a helmet when renting a motorbike as the police around Chiang Mai have been known to pull foreigners over for not wearing a helmet even though there are a lot of Thais who do the same thing! You usually have to leave your passport with the owner when you rent the bike. Some places accept other forms of ID like drivers licenses.

By Public Transport

Local public transport is provided by tuktuks, songthaews, rickshaws and the infrequent Chiang Mai Bus service.

By Tuk-Tuk and Song-Thaew

If you prefer to be safer, then tuk-tuks (three-wheeled motorized pedicabs) and song-thaews (red pickup trucks with two rows of seating at the back) offer easy alternatives for those who want to move about. Song-thaews are a lot cheaper than tuk-tuks and a cross city-fare will cost you about 40 Baht. The Song-Thaews in Chiang Mai, are driving along several routes, which you figure out, by the colour of the Song-Thaew. (e.g. Red ones are driving between the city and Doi Suthep.) Most drivers don't speak English well, so it might be more convenient for the newcomer to hop on a tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuks are more expensive but faster than song-thaews. They will also drop you right at the front door of wherever you are wanting to go. A basic rule with both song-thaews and tuk-tuks is to negotiate the prices before you get into the vehicle. You avoid nasty arguments this way and both parties usually end up happier.

The usual line for tuk-tuk drivers in Chiang Mai is that fuel is expensive and hence their prices are so expensive. With a little haggling and perseverance, you can usually bargain the price down a bit. Another tip for bargaining with song-thaew drivers is to haggle in a group. They usually give a group discount for more than one traveller. Watch out for the song-thaew and tuk-tuk drivers around the Arcade Bus Station though. They are well-known to increase the price for the new tourist in Thailand. You can easily get around this by being in a group.

By Car

Chiang Mai has metered taxis, although not as many as tuk-tuks and songthaews. The "flag fall" is 50 baht for the first 2 km. Then 10 baht per kilometre after that. Journeys longer than 12 km can be negotiated. This fare structure applies to all metered taxis in Chiang Mai Province.

You cannot generally hail taxis in the street. To book a taxi, call +66 53-279291, state your destination and the call centre will give you a quote. Or contact individual drivers via the mobile phone numbers displayed on their vehicles.

On Foot

When sticking to the center of Chiang Mai, you can easily make it around on foot. A walk to the evening market, would take you about 30 minutes, but that is about the longest distance. You can consider taking a ride from the busstation, if you are carrying a heavy pack. For daytrips outside of Chiang Mai, you need to organize some transportation.

By Bike

Traffic inside the old city walls is subdued enough to make biking a safe and quick way to get around. Bike rentals are plentiful; rental costs 30-250 baht/day depending on the bike quality.




If you go east past the Night Bazaar from Ta Pae Gate you'll eventually end up at the Ping River which boasts a series of riverside restaurants. These are more expensive than your typical local restaurant but the atmosphere is more modern, they have live bands, and you'll be able to find English speaking staff.

  • Riverside Restaurant is one of the most popular serving both Thai and international food and featuring live music throughout the evening.
  • For a really local experience try Antique House or for excellent live Blues see legendary local guitarist Took at The Brasserie
  • Another great local eating experience is at Anusarn Market near the Night Bazaar. There are a number of Hawker style restaurants the pick of the bunch of which is Best Taste Kitchen.
  • At lunchtime try Huen Phen on Ratchamankha Road. This restaurant serves authentic northern style food at very reasonable prices. It is packed daily with locals.
  • Eat at the cafe opposite Gecko book store.




  • Tuskers Bar and Grill is one of Chiang Mai's best bars. Just off the Moat Road they have a large bar area and beer garden with great food and drink. It is very popular with local expatriates, locals and tourists and holds regular party nights.
  • Guitarman is a great venue for live music with big names playing there regularly.
  • For a late night drink the most popular spot is Jackies Van located around the corner from Tuskers and next to the legendary nightclub Spicy.





On the eastern side of the Moat Road is Chiang Mai's main backpacker area, Ta Pae Gate. This is the area where the cheapest guest houses, most cheap foreign restaurants, and backpacker pubs and clubs are found. It is also close to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.


View our map of accommodation in Chiang Mai or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)









Keep Connected


There are countless internet bars across the country in big and small towns. Internet cafés are widespread and most are inexpensive. Prices as low as 15 baht/hour are commonplace, and speed of connection is generally reasonable, but many cafes close at midnight. Higher prices prevail in major package-tourist destinations (60 baht/hour is typical, 120 baht/hour is not unusual). Keyloggers are all too often installed on the computers in cheap cafes, so be on your guard if using online banking, stock broking or even PayPal. Remember that in the smaller towns and more traditional areas the owners and staff of internet bars prefer if customers take off their shoes at the entrance and leave them outside. This might seem strange although this gesture goes a far way to make friends and give a positive image of foreigners to Thai people.

Outside the most competitive tourist areas, free Wi-Fi is not as common as in neighbouring countries in many budget hotels and guesthouses and they may charge small fee for Internet by LAN or Wi-Fi even if you bring your own laptop. Wi-Fi is commonly available in cafes and restaurants serving Westerners.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The international code for Thailand is 66. 999 connects to all emergency services. Standard GSM emergency number 112 is supported in mobile networks. 911 for Tourist Police Department, English available.

For mobile phone users, Thailand has three GSM mobile service providers - AIS, DTAC and Truemove - which may be useful if you have a mobile phone that will work on either one or both of the GSM 900 or 1800 frequency bands (consult your phone's technical specifications). If you have one, you can buy a prepaid SIM card for any of the Thai carriers in any convenience store for as little as 50-200 baht and charge it up as you go. Using your own mobile phone while on holiday with a Thai pre-paid SIM card can save a lot of money and lets you give your number to family back home, so they can have an emergency contact number.


Thailand Post is the Thai postal service that deals with all local and international mail in Thailand. The business is operated from local post offices. Post offices are easy to recognise with their red white and blue motifs and the words 'Thailand Post' in English and Thai above the entrance. They are open from Monday to Saturday, usually 8:30am to 4:30pm (main ones until around 8:00pm), though keeping shorter hours on Saturdays (usually until 1:00pm). They are generally closed on Sundays and Public Holidays. Each post office offers a comprehensive service which includes an Express Mail Service (EMS) and parcel post. They also have a price calculator for letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. They also have a track and trace system and money transfer services. If you want to send packages, it might be a good idea to check with private courier companies like DHL, TNT or UPS, as they are fast, reliable and generally quite competitively priced.


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 18.823009
  • Longitude: 99.027359

Accommodation in Chiang Mai

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Chiang Mai searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Chiang Mai and areas nearby.


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