Chiang Mai is 429 miles from Bangkok by road. There are three viable options for traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I haven’t included a taxi or van option. Given the distance, a taxi is a cost-prohibitive option and there aren’t regularly scheduled vans available on this route.
Take A Flight From Bangkok To Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has an international airport (CNX) and there are frequent flights from Bangkok via both Don Mueang (DMK) and Suvarnabhumi (BKK) airports in Bangkok. The flights take a little over an hour to an hour and twenty minutes to complete. Airfares start at just over twenty dollars one way. Make sure to check the baggage allowance before you leave. A lot of the budget airlines only include a carry on in their base fare.
Take A Train From Bangkok To Chiang Mai
Trains to Chiang Mai depart from the Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok. You wouldn’t think taking a 13-hour train ride would be a good use of your vacation time when you can fly there in a little over an hour. That assumption is wrong because of the availability of the night trains. Traveling while you sleep on one of these night trains keeps you from burning valuable vacation time. Plus, traveling across Thailand by rail is a unique experience that I highly recommend.
There are two night-trains available the #9 departing at 8:10 PM and the #13 train departing at 9:35 PM. The #9 arrives in Chiang Mai at 7:15 AM and the #13 at 8:40 AM. That being said, keep in mind trains often don’t depart and arrive on time in Thailand.
Overnight fares start at about $42 a night per person oneway for a second-class sleeper and $61 a night per person oneway for a first-class sleeper. (Day train 2nd class fares start at around $30) You are probably thinking that it is more than a cheap flight, but you have to keep in mind you are saving the cost of accommodations for one night. For a lot of you, this savings will pay for your train ticket.
So which train should you take #9 or #13? Most people prefer #9 because it is a newer train and the #13 could use a refurbishment at this point. If you want a first-class sleeper, it is very important to book well in advance usually 3 months or more as they sell out quickly. If you don’t see the first-class option when you check 12Go Asia, it means they are sold out. Note, the first-class option is only private if you buy tickets for two passengers as the first-class cabins hold two people.
Tip: Make sure you dress warmly or layer your clothing as the air conditioning on the trains makes them feel downright frigid at times.
Take A Bus
Buses take 12 to 15 hours to reach Chiang Mai depending on where in Bangkok you depart from and how many stops the bus makes on the way. Bus tickets start at around $25.
Most people find that the plane or train option works best when traveling from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
The prices I quoted were accurate at the time I wrote this. However, the costs of these transportation options are ever-changing.