14 things to know before traveling to Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a northern province of Thailand, famous for its pleasant weather, beautiful mountains, and delicious food. Nowadays, Chiang Mai has become a popular city among local and foreign travelers. In this post, we would like to share with you all the things I wish someone had told me before my Chiang Mai trip.
1. Where is Chiang Mai located?
Chiang Mai is located in the north of Thailand, about 800 kilometers from Bangkok. You can go to this city by air or by road because it has an international airport and is the last terminal of the railway from Bangkok. You can also drive to Chiang Mai but it will be really exhausting except if you prefer a road trip.
2. What is Chiang Mai known for?
Cool-weather, hill tribes, delicious food, ancient temples, and beautiful mountains are what Chiang Mai is famous for. Due to those features, Chiang Mai is an ideal place for travelers of all ages and digital nomads to come and settle for a while.
3. Is Chiang Mai worth visiting?
As it still keeps its pristine scene, nice weather, and picturesque mountain, Chiang Mai is worth visiting for anyone who wants to explore Thailand in a mountainous sense. If you have already enjoyed the great vibes of Thailand’s sea and island, it is worth a try to spend some days of your trip in Chiang Mai. Bear with us, you will never regret your choice.
4. How to get to Chiang Mai?
There are 3 most popular ways to get to Chiang Mai: by plane, train, and by bus.
If you go by plane, it takes you around 45 mins – 1 hour to fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. There are several airlines operating flights to Chiang Mai, but our favorite one is Airasia, and our cheap choice is VietJet. Our suggestion for you is to choose the night flight, it seems to take short time during the night. Also, a flight is a best and fastest way to travel to Chiang Mai and you can take it from most of the provinces in Thailand.
If you travel to Chiang Mai by train, it takes you around 11-15 hours. If you don’t care much about commuting time, going to Chiang Mai by train is also a good option. The trains are comfortable and modern with a good standard of safety. Moreover, it will provide you with a brand new experience of Asian train travel. You can book a train ticket on the Thailand Railway Website , but our suggestion is to book via a supplier as it provides us with clear information. Our favorite platform to book a train ticket can be found here.
Traveling by bus normally takes from 9 – 11 hours. This method is time-consuming, but it is very cheap with a price starting from 500 THB. Except for a long time, this option is convenient for those who want to get on a bus, take sleep, and wake up in Chiang Mai. If you decided to get on a bus to Chiang Mai, you can find a ticket with a reasonable price here.
5. Is Chiang Mai cheap?
Chiang Mai can be both cheap and expensive on how you want to explore it. You will save a lot of money if you choose local bars, markets, and restaurants and stay in the Old City area instead of hopping in fancy restaurants or luxury accommodations. Less than 50 US dollars is possible for a day in Chiang Mai including hotel, food, vehicle, and a ticket to some nearby places.
6. How many days is enough for Chiang Mai?
It’s hard to tell how many days is enough because Chiang Mai has a plethora of things to discover. However, 5 days and 4 nights can be ideal for this beautiful province. With this amount of time, you can discover most parts of Chiang Mai and its surroundings such as Doi Inthanon and Chiang Rai.
7. Where to stay in Chiang Mai?
There are 5 popular areas to stay in Chiang Mai which are Old City, Nimman, Night Bazaar, Riverside, and Santitham. Each area has its own characteristics and is suitable for specific types of travelers. For us, we highly recommend the Old City area.
Old City is the best match for first-time travelers, budget backpackers, foody travelers, and Sightseeing travelers as it offers a walk distance to the neighborhood, and is home to most of the ancient temples and historical sites.
Nimman is a favorite area among young travelers, ex-pats, and digital nomads due to plenty of trendy restaurants, rooftop bars, and boutique shops. This area is also loved due to its vibrant nightlife.
Night Bazaar is heaven for shopping and party lovers with hundreds of shops, beer bars, dance clubs, etc. It is also one of the popular areas due to the close distance to the Old City and walkable distances to the ancient temples.
In contrary to the above area, a riverside is a place for family travelers who love the tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. This area has many luxury resorts and hotels which is a perfect place for those who want to get a nice view of the Mae Ping river and various choices of luxury hotels.
The last area is Santithan which is famous for offering local experiences for travelers. This area has many cheap hotels, and less tourism, which is perfect to relax and get away from the busy life.
8. What are there to do in Chiang Mai?
With nice weather, hill tribes, and beautiful mountain, Chiang Mai offers visitors a hundred things to do. However, there are 15 activities you should definitely do in Chiang Mai: discover the Old City area, enjoy the local life in Mae Kampong, visit Wat Phra Doi Su Thep, discover Hmong village in Doi Pui, explore Doi Inthanon National Park, visit Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, try some North-Eastern Thai cuisine, join a cooking class, try some adventurous zipline game, enjoy the beauty of Mon Jam, spend a night glamping in Mae Rim, visit Ban Khun Chang Khian, and discover peculiar cafes.
9. What is the best time to visit Chiang Mai?
The best time to visit Chiang Mai is from October to April when the rainy season in Thailand ends and the weather is cooler. Visiting Chiang Mai during this time, you can enjoy the cool and light breeze.
The best months during this time could be November, December, and January when the Yi Peng Lantern Festival and New Year take place. However, if you visit the city at a different time, don’t worry, we believe you will get quite similar each experience, but just be prepared for sudden rain or a bit of hot temperature.
10. How to get around Chiang Mai?
There are 6 popular ways for your to get around Chiang Mai including Songthaew (truck taxi), tuk-tuk, rental motorbike, bicycle, rental car, and taxi/ridesharing.
Songthaew is the most popular ways of transportation in Chiang Mai for both local people. The trucks as 2 seat lines in the back, that’s why it is so-called Songthaew ( meaning 2 lines in Thai). Depending on where you want to go, the price can start from 40 THB onwards.
Bicycle is a common way to discover the old city and nearby areas. you can easily rent or get a free bike at your hotel. Moreover, there is the Any-wheel – a bike-sharing system for you to rent a bike with 10 THB/ time. you can easily find it on the street.
Tuktuk is a bit more expensive than Songthaew, but it will offer you really nice experience. Please make sure you have checked the distance to bargain the price. It is always good to have some tuk-tuk tips ( https://witvlogs.com/tuk-tuk-tips-in-thailand/) such as bargaining and checking the distance before you get in any tuk-tuk to avoid scams.
Rental motorbike is the most convenient way to get around Chiang Mai. There are many shops around your accommodations offering rental motorbikes for 300 THB/day. If you rent a motorbike weekly or monthly, the price is a bit cheaper. Riding a motorbike will offer you a very nice experience traveling on a smooth road through the jungle and forests in Chiang Mai.
Taxi/ ride sharing like Grab is a common way to get around Chiang Mai as well. you can easily grab a taxi on the street or download the Grab app and be ready for the ride.
Rental car is a bit expensive at the price of 800-1000 THB per day. You need to have a credit card or enough cash for the deposit. Unless you want to travel out of the city, we will not recommend this transportation method. For nearby areas such as Chiang Rai or Doi Inthanon, it is always better to take a day tour with pickup and dropoff.
11. How much should I budget for Chiang Mai?
We highly recommend you budget for Chiang Mai on average per day. Depending on the travel style you take, the butget for Chiang Mai will be various. However, we would like to suggest budgeting your trip as below.
For backpackers, staying in a dorm will help you save a lot of money. You should try local foods and use public transportation or get a bike to save on transportation costs. It is always good to reduce the budget on alcohol and spend your trip on cheap activities such as visiting temples and hanging around the local markets. Sometimes, you can also treat yourself to a good meal in a Michelin restaurant. Just one per a couple of weeks is not a big deal. The daily average cost is around 950 THB (~ 26 USD)
950 THB (~ 26 USD)
For Mid-rang travelers, renting a motorbike is the best way to save on transportation expenses. You can choose to stay in an affordable hotel or a private Airbnb, take a few drinks, and join some activities such as a day tour occasionally. An ideal average amount is 1900 THB (~ 51 USD)
1900 THB (~ 51 USD)
In case you are a high-budget traveler, you can eat anywhere you want and take a taxi on most of your trips. You can take some more excursions and entertainment such as massage or drinks.
3900 THB (~ 104 USD)
Kindly note that the budget table is for your reference and it is an average calculation only. Some days you may spend more, and some days you may spend less based on your need.
12. What should I wear in Chiang Mai?
Light clothes and some hoodies will be the best choice for Chiang Mai as it is a bit hot during the day and become cool to cold at night or when you go to a jungle or forest.
When you go to a temple, do wear the clothes covering your knees and shoulder. Strictly skip shorts when you visit a temple. You can check those temple manners to know what to do and what to skip when you visit a temple in Thailand.
13. What to pack for Chiang Mai?
On a trip to any place, personal documents such as a passport card and a credit card are what you have to pack with the first priority. Chiang Mai specifically, you need to make sure you pack the below items in your suitcase or backpack:
- Light, loose and breathable clothes
- Clothes covering your knees and shoulders
- Mosquito/ and Sun protection
- A hat
- A good shoes for walking and hiking
- Hoodies or Light jackets
- A tote bag in case you need to buy something from the local markets back home.
14, Does Chiang Mai have nightlife?
Known as the largest city in the north of Thailand, Chiang Mai is considered the hub of nightlife. you can either choose to merge in the vibrant shopping in the Night Bazaar or child in a bar or a beer bar. Kindly note that all bars in Chiang Mai will shut around midnight. If you wanna hang out after that, there are several restaurants that open overnight in the Old city area.