There is a good chance that you will want to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai as part of your Thailand itinerary. These contrasting cities are two of the key tourist hotspots in Thailand and are well worth a visit.
Bangkok is huge, vibrant, tall and maybe a bit dirty. Chiang Mai is like its smaller, more relaxed northern cousin, where temples fill the streets and mountains rise up beyond the city limits.
They are certainly both interesting places, but since they are 680 kilometres (422 miles) apart, you might be wondering how to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Fear not, this blog has all the answers and will show you all the best ways to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok.
How to Get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
There are three common ways to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. By plane, train and bus. In this post, we will show you the pros and cons of each of the methods and show you how to book tickets for the best prices.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane
Cost: From $15-100 (prices vary so book early)
Journey Time: 1.5 hours (it is around 3.5 hours altogether with transfers etc)
Flying is by far the quickest way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
There are around 50 flights a day that link the two cities and they fly from both Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK) in Bangkok, and land at Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX).
Most low-cost carriers, including Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, and Thai Lion Air use Don Mueang Airport whilst the likes of Thai Smile, Bangkok Airways, Thai Airways, and Thai Vietjet Air, fly from Suvarnabhumi Airport.
It is possible to get some great prices if you book in advance that can actually make this the cheapest way to get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, as well as the quickest.
Anything around 1000 THB (approx. 30 USD) is a good price and around the same cost as taking the train.
>>> Click here to check flight prices
The flight takes around an hour and a quarter. Of course, you will need to factor in the time it takes to get to the airport, through security and then to your hotel in Chiang Mai. All in all, you should complete your journey in under 4 hours.
Top tip: Be sure to check the baggage allowances when comparing flight prices. Sometimes a higher ticket price can work out better if there are no charges to take your luggage on the plane.
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train
Price: From $28-41 depending seat class/sleeper cabin
Journey Time: 12-15 hours (delays are common)
The train journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a classic traveller’s journey that has retained its popularity despite the lower cost of flying in recent years.
Every day, there are several trains between Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station and Chiang Mai Station. But as it is such a long journey, between 12 and 15 hours, that most people like to take the overnight sleeper train.
The sleeper carriages offer a decent level of comfort and you can choose between 2nd class bunks in a fan carriage (800-1000 BHT) or pay a bit more for first-class and air-conditioning. Lower bunks are a bit more expensive as you get a bit more room and don’t have as far to fall if you roll out!
For more privacy and comfort, go for a bed in a first-class room. Rooms sleep four and are lockable. This is a great option if you are a family of four.
One of the benefits of taking the overnight train is that you will save the cost of a night’s accommodation.
We think that this makes it better value than the day train (which can also get a bit boring).
If you don’t want a sleeper carriage (or it is sold out), you have a few other options.
You can choose third-class tickets on a hard wooden bench in a stuffy, crowded carriage. Only do this if you really want to save money or want to punish yourself (it is 12-15 hours remember, and seats aren’t allocated).
For a little bit more (around 500 BHT) you can get a padded seat that reclines in a fan carriage. For air-con, it is slightly more but worth it for most people.
Top Tip: To save you time, you can check train schedules and book tickets ahead of time through 12go. Use the search widget below to find availability for your dates.
Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Bus
Your third option to travel between Bangkok and Chiang Mai is to take the bus. The journey takes around 8-9 hours and there are options to travel by day or overnight.
Overnight is the preferred choice for most people. It saves you the cost of a night in a hotel and you don’t spend a whole day of your holiday travelling.
The level of comfort does vary widely between different buses. You can choose from regular government-run buses or opt for a more expensive VIP bus.
Government bus services start at around 450THB for a second class bus or 550THB for first class. First-class is worth the extra for the air conditioning and on-board toilet.
There are loads of different VIP bus operators and prices and quality do vary, some of the main ones are Sombat Tour, Green Bus Thailand, and Siam First Tour (they have really fancy buses with p[ersonal TV’s and massage chairs).
A luxury bus with reclining seats, on-board toilet, pillow, blanket, water and a snack will be less than 900 BHT.
Most buses to Chiang Mai leave from Mo Chit Bus Station (the Northern Bus Station) and arrive at the Arcade Bus Station which is 10-15 minutes from the city (100-200 baht in a tuk-tuk).
Remember to keep your valuables close if you are taking the bus and don’t put anything important in the luggage hold (it is highly likely that your luggage will be fine but it’s best not to risk it or spend the whole journey worrying about your bag).
If you want to compare the prices of both flights, trains and buses, we recommend checking on 12go to get a full comparison. We use this site to book transport all over Asia.
We love that they have full reviews for each bus company so you can get a good idea of what standard to expect before booking your ticket.
Lots of agents around Khao San Road will upsell you deluxe or VIP tickets but just put you on a standard government bus, so be careful where you book!
Final Thoughts on the Best Way to Travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
We hope that you have enjoyed reading our guide on how to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
It is really easy to travel to Chiang Mai from Bangkok with loads of buses, trains and planes leaving every day.
If you want to get the sleeper train or a good deal on your flights then it is a good idea to book well in advance. If you like to leave things to the last minute you may find that the bus is your best option.
It is not a bad bus journey if you go overnight on a decent bus but we much prefer to take the train for the extra space to move around and it feels like more of an adventure.
Flying, as ever, is fast but not particularly fun (in my opinion), but is a good choice for people on short itineraries.