Despite the fact Chiang Mai only has a few bus routes and no urban train system, getting from A to B is rarely a problem. The reason for this is that the standard tuk-tuk and songtheaw Thai-style taxis are found almost everywhere and can be hired for even the shortest journey. In recent years, regular air-conditioned taxis have added to the choices.
Hiring a bicycle, motorcycle or car is another popular option for tourists wishing to savour the delights of Chiang Mai and its surroundings at their own pace. Rentals are available from the numerous shops in the area around Thapae Gate. Chiang Mai hotels and guesthouses can usually arrange rentals if asked. More details about the different choices for getting around Chiang Mai are shown below.
Although not as common as tuk-tuks and songtheaws, taxis are an option for travelling around Chiang Mai. Taxi drivers do not cruise the streets of Chiang Mai looking for passengers. Taxis wait at the airport and other locations such as the Arcade Bus Station and the higher-end hotels. Several companies provide taxi service. One of these, Taxi Meter Chiang Mai, is recommended and offers 24/7 service at fares set according to destinations.
Taxi Meter Chiang Mai: [Chiang Mai Bus Station 2] #165, Soi 5, Kaew Nawarat Rd., T. Wat Gate, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50000 | Open: 24 Hours (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 241 955, +66 53 244 268 | Website | Map
Tuk-tuks are found in all the key tourist locations and transport stations in Chiang Mai. The only place where they are not allowed to pick up passengers is from the city airport. There are no fixed fares for tuk-tuk journeys and bargaining to get the best price is the order of the day. A ride in a tuk-tuk is a must when visiting Chiang Mai and Thailand.
A popular form of public transport in Thailand, songtheaws are converted pick-up trucks equipped with two bench seats and a roof. They function as shared taxis. Red songtheaws are a cheap option for travel in Chiang Mai’s city districts. Apart from the route from Chiang Mai Zoo to Doi Suthep Temple, red songtheaws do not follow fixed routes. Passengers wave down the songtheaw driver, state their destination and the driver then decides if this is close enough to where the other passengers on board are going. Blue, green, yellow and white songtheaws operate on fixed routes with set fares to nearby destinations such as Lamphun, Sanpathong and Maerim.
Chiang Mai currently has two public bus routes. Chiangmaibus B1 and B2 routes both begin at the Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station. B1 buses depart every 30 minutes and follow a route covering the railway station and Phra Singh Temple in the Old City to Chiang Mai Zoo. The B2 stops at locations including Thapae Gate and Chiang Mai Gate on its route to Chiang Mai Airport. These operate at 40 minute intervals. Service times for B1 and B2 buses are 06:00 to 18:00 daily.
Car rental services are available for passengers arriving at Chiang Mai Airport as well as at hire shops near Thapae Gate. Most hotels have standing arrangements with car rental companies too. Avis and Sixt are among the global car rental companies represented at the airport while National Cars and North Wheels are among recommended local suppliers in the city. The range of vehicles covers everything from Honda Jazz to Toyota Camry and Toyota Fortuner. Mini-vans with drivers for up to 10 passengers are an option too.
Motorbike Rental has long been the preferred transport for adventurous tourists who want the complete freedom to explore Chiang Mai and to reach local attractions not on public transport routes. Pop Rider, Mango Bikes and Tony’s Bikes are among the motorbike hire shops spread out along Moonmuang Road and the streets close to the east side of the Old City moat.
Hiring a bike provides a comfortable means of getting around Chiang Mai’s inner districts. The Old City’s temples, malls such as the Airport Plaza and even Chiang Mai Zoo are within easy cycling range. There are more than a few shops in the Moonmuang area which provide bicycle hire. Quite a few guesthouses have bicycles for hire. Plern Plern Bed and Bike Guesthouse offers guests free use of its bicycles. The choice of models ranges from standard road bikes with no gears to high end mountain bikes.