Chiang Mai is the second-largest city of Thailand and is rich in culture, temples and delicious food. It is likely the city where your visit to Northern Thailand begins as it connects to popular destinations like Pai and Chiang Rai.
When travelling the 695km from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, you have 3 options; you can catch a plane which takes just over 1 hour ($28), take the train for approximately 12 hours ($42), or ride the bus which takes about 10-11 hours ($19).
While the flight is by far the quickest way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, we think the night train offers a great alternative as you can sleep through the longest part of the journey. Taking the bus is the cheapest alternative and is another good option if you prefer to travel during the night.
Another advantage of travelling by bus or train, is that the journey produces fewer carbon emissions than flying. Saving both your wallet and the environment!
PRO-TIP: Instead of travelling straight to Chiang Mai, consider to make a stopover in Sukhothai. This ancient city is located half way to Chiang Mai and is well known for its historical park, which houses numerous historical sites and ruins.
Taking the train may be the slowest and sometimes the most expensive option. However, the trains offer sleeping berths, which make the journey a lot more comfortable.
You will be rested and ready to explore the city as soon as you arrive!
Another plus: it’s much better for the environment than flying!
To go from Bangkok to Chiang Mai via train, you need to go to Hua Lamphong Train Station. You can either hop on the MRT, hail a taxi or a tuk-tuk to reach this train station from downtown Bangkok.
If you choose to book a night train, we suggest you reserve your sleeping berth on train #9 or train #13 as they have the most convenient departure and arrival times. But if you want to travel during daytime to enjoy the scenery, you can also take train #7. Just note that this is a seater train and it might be uncomfortable for a 12-hour journey.
Chiang Mai’s Railway Station is located just 3km east of the old city. You will need to arrange for transportation from the train station to your hotel upon arrival.
Tip: Train tickets are sold up to 90 days prior to departure. Book your ticket in advance as train tickets tend to sell out fast!
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus
Duration: 10-11 hours Cost: 580 THB ($19)
All government-regulated buses running along this route depart from Mochit Bus Terminal. The terminal is accessible from Bangkok city center via BTS, MRT, public vans, taxis or tuk-tuks.
Travelling by bus can take up to 11 hours, depending on the number of stops the driver makes for bathroom and meal breaks. We recommend an evening departure if you choose to travel by bus. This allows you to catch up on some much needed rest and be ready for the sights of Chiang Mai when you arrive in the morning.
As this is a very popular route for locals and tourists, you have plenty of bus companies to choose from. The table below shows an overview of the different bus companies.
For Bangkok Busline and Sombat Tour, you can book your bus tickets through 12go.asia. You can contact Nakhonchai Air via their website as they are also a well-known operator for this route.
It’s important to keep in mind that the conditions of the VIP buses vary from company to company. But all buses are in generally good condition and are fairly comfortable for travelling this journey.
Thai Sriram buses depart from their office along Chakrabongse Road near Khao San Road and arrive at the Sunny Hostel. Bangkok Busline, Lignite Tours and Budsarakham Tour buses depart from Mochit Bus Terminal, located 11km north of downtown Bangkok and arrive at the Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai, located 5km northeast of the Old City.
This bus company has received good feedback from travellers. They have friendly staff and comfortable buses.
Lignite buses provide plenty of legroom and the majority of their buses appear to arrive on time or earlier than expected.
Thai Sriram offers comfortable buses with a lot of legroom. However, there have been instances of delayed arrival.
Tara Tour and Travel
Khao San Tara provides clean buses, but not the most comfortable. Passengers have complained of delayed departure and arrival.
They have clean buses and provide good service.
The common complaints about this bus company include a strong-smelling on-board toilet and a leaking roof when it rains.
Nakhonchai Air is known for providing quality service to its passengers. They are also one of the top-rated bus companies in the country.
Buses Booked Through Guesthouses and Travel Agencies
Booking your bus trip with your hotel or with a travel agency in the Khao San Road area is also an option. You will see countless travel agencies in this area so there’s no need to search online to find one.
Tickets can be more expensive, however, they often include direct pick-up from your hotel.
Be aware that some of the companies’7 drop-off areas can be unofficial bus stops outside the city center (example: on the side of a highway or main road). This means you may need to take another taxi or tuk-tuk to reach your destination. Make sure to ask where the bus drops off passengers prior to booking your ticket.