I have heard a lot about Chiang Mai, the land known as the Northern rose of Thailand has long been on the travel bucket list of any tourist for its peace, freshness and nature. Unlike the noisy, bustle inherent to the Bangkok, Chiang Mai is completely the opposite, here motorbikes are many, the MRT are of course not there, simply the rays of the sun are passing through the tree-lined roads, sidewalk shops or small cafes to escape the noise and frustration. It remind me of the familiar highlands in Vietnam, such as Dalat or Sapa. Yes, I went to Chiang Mai to look for such simple things.
- Chiang Mai blog — The super Chiang Mai travel guide for first-timers
- Top cafes in Chiang Mai — 8+ best coffee shop & best cafes in Chiang Mai
- Best cafes in Chiang Mai — Top 9 unique & best coffee shops in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Best nightlife in Chiang Mai — 8+ cool & best bars in Chiang Mai
- Where to stay in Chiang Mai? — Top 3 best places to stay in Chiang Mai for first timers
So, is Chiang Mai worth visiting, how to visit Chiang Mai, what to do in Chiang Mai and how to plan a budget trip to Chiang Mai for the first-time perfectly? Let’s check out our Chiang Mai travel blog (Chiang Mai blog) with the fullest Chiang Mai travel guide (guide to Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai tourist guide, Chiang Mai city guide, Chiang Mai guide) from how to get to Chiang Mai, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat as well as top things to do in Chiang Mai to help you maximize your trip as follows!
Chiang Mai local guide: When is the best time to visit Chiang Mai?
Surely many of you have seen the pictures of sky lanterns in Chiang Mai? That is the occasion that the people of this land will celebrate the biggest festival of the year called Loy Krathong. During the festive season, the city looks like is changed a new clothing, a lot of lanterns, souvenirs, goods are sold everywhere. Hundreds of sky lanterns are dropped in the sky at the night of the full moon creating a magnificent scene that is nowhere to be found. Usually the festival is held in November every year, but to know exactly you access here to see the details schedule.
In addition, traveling to Chiang Mai is the most beautiful from November to April next year, at this time the weather is pleasant, cool, the hotels are also crowded with tourists and the price is higher than usual. Note that avoiding going in the months of August and September, because this is the peak of the rainy season in Northern Thailand, it is easy to encounter floods in some areas adjacent to Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai travel blog: How to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai?
If you depart from Vietnam, currently, to getting from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to Chiang Mai, all flights must transit in Bangkok. So you need to getting to Bangkok first and then can fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai or take the bus, train.
There are many domestic Thai airlines flying Bangkok – Chiang Mai route such as AirAsia, Nok Air, Lion Air,.. the cheapest price from 800 Baht ($26.21). Traveling by Nok Air is still the most preferred because of its cheap price and also free 15 kg of checked baggage.
Getting from aiport to city center: When arrival at Chiang Mai airport, to getting to the city center is quite easy because the distance is quite short, only about 3 km. A taxi ride costs 150 Baht ($4.91) if you register right at the counter of the airport, but if you are traveling in groups of 4 people or more and have bulky luggage you will need to travel by Songthaew to carry more. Prices for Songthaew range from 75 Baht ($2.46) to 100 Baht ($3.28) per person.
You should remember to book online in advance at https://12go.asia/en or http://www.busonlineticket.co.th/ and pay with your international bank cards (VISA, Master..) / Paypal. Ticket prices range from 520 – 800 Baht ($17.04 – $26.21), the quality of the car is high-class, with air conditioning, warm blankets, snacks and an extra meal because of the long travel time (about 10 hours). You should choose to go in the evening to Chiang Mai in the early next morning and save a night at the hotel, a day with a lot of trips on this route.
If you traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai from Don Mueang Airport, you take the A1 bus with priced at 30 Baht ($0.98) right in front of the airport gate and go to the Mochit bus stop. This bus station is located near Chatuchak market and not too far from the airport because it is at the edge of the city. The last bus trip to Chiang Mai is at 9:40PM daily. After get off at Chiang Mai bus station and you catch songthaew (red truck taxi) to getting to your hotel. The general price for the songthaew from the bus station – the city center is around 60 Baht ($1.97) / person.
If you want to go from Chiang Mai to Bangkok, you take tuk tuk / songthaew to Chiang Mai bus station, and catch the bus to Bangkok. The tuk tuk here is like many other places in Thailand that always say charge high price and quite arrogant. If you traveling in a group, you can pay fixed price for one, but if you traveling alone you should find people with the same needs like you to share money for cheap. The price for groups of 4-5 people is 30-40 Baht ($0.98 – $1.31) per person depending on the location you will depart.
By train (#chiang mai travel blog)
Traveling by train in Thailand is quite convenient, but slower than taking the bus. The journey between Bangkok – Chiang Mai by train will take about 12-14 hours, you can book tickets in advance at the two websites I mentioned above, or directly via http://www.thailandtrainticket.com, if going on the peak season festival, you should book early to avoid running out of tickets.
The train station to Chiang Mai is Hualamphong, you catch Skytrain to Hualamphong and you will see the train station close to the Skytrain station. Train tickets are more expensive than buses, ranging from 600-1.100 Baht ($19.66 – $36.04), but taking the train will be more comfortable than the bus because there is no restraint, more space on the cabin to moving.
Chiang Mai city guide: Getting around Chiang Mai
Central Chiang Mai, also known as the Old Town, if you look on the map you will see it is a giant square, a square literally. You can easily go around the city by taxi, tuk tuk or songthaew, motorbike. Taxi prices are the most expensive, then tuk-tuk and songthaew. Songthaew here can considered as bus, can wave anywhere, jump up and go at almost fixed prices for each trip. In addition, you can rent a bike to getting around the center, but the most convenient is to rent a motorbike to fill fuel up and self-drive.
The condition for renting motorbike at many shops is that you have to driver’s license, they may require a deposit or a passport. The price of renting a motorbike in Chiang Mai is 200-300 Baht ($6.55-$9.28) / day depending on the type of motorbike, if you rent for several days you can deal with better prices. You just leave the passport for them to hold, very safe, don’t worry. Ride in Thailand to the left of the road, so you need to pay attention if you are not familiar, and one extremely careful thing when traveling by motorbike in Chiang Mai is to pay attention to the police. My trip encountered Thai police twice, once because of using the phone on the way and once they stopped suddenly to check the license. Those who do not have an international driver’s license will be fined, it seems the common penalty for violations here is 400 Baht ($13.10) / time, of course you have to go to the police station to pay a fine, not on the spot.
Chiang Mai blog: Where to stay in Chiang Mai?
In Chiang Mai, the most popular area to stay is Old Town, almost all hotels, hostels, guesthouses are concentrated there, and also a place full of essential services, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues. This area is similar to the old quarter in Hanoi, bustling and focused on attractions, recognizable very easily because it is located in a prominent square in the center of the city. In the middle of the eastern wall is Thapae Gate, another name of Old Town. Th hotel room rates in the Old Town are also among the highest in Chiang Mai, the price of a bed in a dorminity room in a hostel is around 250-400 Baht ($8.19-$13.10), a private room has an average price of 600 Baht ($19.65) or more.
In addition, you can refer to other areas such as:
Nimman Haemin: This is the northwestern neighborhood of the city, modern with many high-rise buildings as well as large shopping malls. There are also many apartments for rent here, but if you want to stay long for a month or more, the price is even better.
Riverside: The Ping River runs along North-South like the backbone of the city, creating a beautiful river view. This area is mainly luxury hotels or resorts, sometimes you can also find some resorts at affordable prices.
The area near the Night Bazaar: This area is located between the Ping River and the Old Town area, the price is a little better than the Old Town area and convenient for traveling because you can go to the old town as well as wander the walking street and go to the night market within 10 minutes.
I stayed at the @Box Hostel, it is very good .This is a hostel I have considered quite carefully to ensure an affordable price, the location is close to the central area, but the space is spacious and airy. There is a small swimming pool, quite a lot of trees so the fresh air as well as the design and decoration of the rooms, offices, and kitchen are very stylish. Box Hostel staffs are extremely friendly, available 24 hours a day and are always ready to help you, if you need to rent a motorbike, ask for a taxi, songthaew to the airport, the pier you just ask them without hesitation. A top rated hostel with room rates from $6/night (You can check rates, reviews and book on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
If your finances are good, you definitely have to stay at The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai hotel, one of the most luxurious hotels and bearing the signature Thai style. This hotel is located quite far from the center but should not missed, the design is both modern and classic, spacious campus and services are always ready to serve all your needs. A 5-star top rated hotel with room rates from $227/night (You can check rates, reviews and book on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
Also for those who love fancy style, unique, you should consider the Kaomai Lanna Resort, designed in a direction closer to nature with rustic wooden houses surrounded by climbing plants. The whole resort is a lush green garden, fresh air very suitable for high mountains areas like Chiang Mai. A 3-star top rated hotel with room rates from $33/night (You can check rates, reviews and book on Agoda.com or Booking.com).
We also reviewed the best areas to stay in Chiang Mai and the best hostels and homestays in Chiang Mai. You can refer to the following two articles:
- Top hostels in Chiang Mai — 9 best hostels in Chiang Mai & cheap homestay in Chiang Mai.
- Where to stay in Chiang Mai? — Top 3 best places to stay in Chiang Mai for first timers.
Below we recommend more best cheap, budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews from $7 you can refer to.
Chiang Mai Thailand blog: What and where to eat in Chiang Mai?
The most famous dish not to be missed in Chiang Mai is Khao Soi (Thai Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Soup), the most famous restaurant specializing in this dish is Khao Soi Khun Yai (Address: Sri Poom 8 Alley, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand / Hours: 9AM–2PM; Sunday: Closed) located in the middle of the upper edge of the square shape of Old Town. I came to this shop on a sunny morning, the shop is pretty and rustic, with only a main chef and a waitress. The shop opens from 9AM to early early afternoon, heard that if you do not come early, the shop may run out of food.
The price for a Khao Soi part is about 40-60 Baht ($1.31-$1.97) depending on whether you buy additional food or not. In my opinion, this dish is also good, not too excellent, like rice noodles, dried noodles of Vietnam, with the choice of eating with chicken or beef. Eating at Khao Soi Khun Yai is quite simple, if you eat in luxurious restaurants you will have more choices of side dishes, the dish also looks more eye-catching. Other places you can refer to eating Khao Soi such as Khao Soi Mae Sai (Address: 29/1 Ratchaphuek Alley, Tambon Chang Phueak, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand / Hours: 8AM–4PM; Sunday: Closed / Phone: +66 53 213 284), Kao Soy Nimman (Address: 22 Nimmana Haeminda Rd Lane 7, Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai , Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand / Hours: 11AM–8PM / Phone: +66 53 894 881).
In addition, the food in Chiang Mai also is similar to Bangkok, with Pad Thai, Tom Yum or noodles. You can easily find them at the night markets such as Night Bazaar, or right outside the @Box Hostel where I stayed, there is also an evening food court with many Thai dishes, quite bustling. The photo below is a Thai style of seafood stir-fried vermicelli plate with the general characteristics along of other Thai dishes is bold, spicy and sweet, I eat in the food court near my hotel. The noodle bowl of roasted duck below I ate in a Chinese restaurant, this area is in the center of Old Town, including a row of restaurants selling breakfast food.
In addition to food, Chiang Mai is also famous for its gentle and peaceful cafes in street corners, where you can live slowly in this land of Northern Thailand. Imagine bringing a book, sipping a cup of tea or coffee in a small cafe with lots of trees, outside is light sunny and warm, nothing more wonderful. If you bring a film camera or a compact camera, then it is perfect, nowhere to enjoy the peaceful space more wonderful than this place. You can go to the street in front of Wat Chedi Luang temple where there are quite a lot of delicious cafes or smoothies, and there is also a delicious mango sticky rice stall in front of the gate of the temple.
We have a list of cafes you have to visit here: Best cafes in Chiang Mai — Top 9 unique & best coffee shops in Chiang Mai, Thailand.