The What’s Up Guide to How to Get Around Chiang Mai – Transport Options

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 and GrabTaxi 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. More details about the different choices for getting around Chiang Mai are shown below.

Last Updated: June 2019

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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.

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.

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 Arcade Bus Station #165, Soi 5, T. Wat Gate, Chiang Mai 50000 | Open: 24 Hours (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 241 955, +66 53 244 268 | Website | Map

GrabTaxi was the only online Thai national taxi service left in business after Uber pulled the plug on its Southeast Asian operations in April 2018. GrabTaxi has a significant presence in Chiang Mai and reserving a taxi is a simple process. All travellers need is an internet connection and the downloaded app on their mobile telephones. As Grab’s advertising says, users pinpoint their current locations, where they want to go and then just chill out and wait for their taxis to arrive. Live GPS tracking shows the driver’s route and estimated arrival time. The link for the Grab app is provided here.

 City Buses 
Chiang Mai now has several different bus routes to choose from. The introduction of airport link buses in 2018, has provided passengers with a cheap means of getting to and from central Chiang Mai. Other routes connect Chiang Mai Arcade Bus station with key locations including Chang Phuak Bus Terminal, the Old City and Chiang Mai Zoo. Fares in 2019 are no more than THB20, but the downside is that buses do not run all that frequently. Additional details about the operators provide bus services in Chiang Mai follow.

RTC Airport City Link Buses
RTC’s Airport City Link Route 3 buses connect the airport to the Nimmanhaemin area, the Old City and the Night Bazaar. The buses run on a circular route, in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions, and call at locations such as Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Centre, the Three Kings‘ Statue and Anusarn Market. The fare for R3 buses is THB20, no matter the number of stops travelled. The service is available from 06:00 to 23:30 every day with departures every 20 to 30 minutes depending on the time of day. The bus stop is on the north side of the airport terminal.

RTC City Buses
RTC also operates two other routes, the R1 and the R2. R1 services run between the Central Festival Mall and Chiang Mai Zoo. Westbound services call at Thapae Gate while eastbound ones call at Chang Phuak Bus Station. R2 service buses link Thapae Gate, the Night Bazaar and call at stops in Nong Hoi District before going to the Promenada Mall. The first bus on each route is 06:00. Departures are every 30 minutes until early evening. Fares are THB20 per journey.

Chiang Mai Municipality Buses
This company has three bus routes which all depart from and terminate at Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (the older building at the Arcade complex). Fares on each route are a standard THB15 per passenger. B1 buses follow a route via the railway station and Phra Singh Temple in the Old City and terminate at Chiang Mai Zoo. B2 buses stop at locations including Thapae Gate and Chiang Mai Gate on their route to Chiang Mai Airport. B3 buses go to City Hall, Sala Klang, to the north of the city and stop at locations like Chang Phuak Bus Station and the 700th Anniversary Stadium en route. All three routes operate between 06:00 and 18:00 daily. On weekdays, B1 buses depart every 30 minutes, B2 buses every 20 minutes, and B3 buses every 40 minutes. Service frequencies on the three routes are reduced to once an hour on weekends.

Khwan Wiang Village Route 10 Minibuses
A private operator runs passenger vans on a route between central Chiang Mai and Khwan Wiang, a village 10kms south of Chiang Mai. Stops for Route 10 services include Chiang Mai Airport, Suandok Hospital, Chang Phuak Gate, the Three Kings’ Monument, the Night Bazaar and Chiang Mai Gate. The service utilises distinctive pink passenger vans and these operate at half-hourly intervals between 06:00 and 19:00 daily. Fares are THB20.


 Car Rental 
Car rental services are available for passengers arriving at Chiang Mai Airport as well as at hire shops around the city. 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. 

 Motorbike Rental 
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.

 Bicycle Rental 
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.