If you’re new to Chiang Mai, rest assured, because there are numerous ways to get around., though you may find it all a tad confusing as the options are truly diverse, each carrying its own benefits and drawbacks. Whether it be a tuk tuk or a red taxi, traversing the city couldn’t be any easier.
Red taxi aka Songtaew Dang
Red taxis are by far the most common form of transportation in Chiang Mai. They are easily accessible and quite cheap because they are a shared ride. You simply wave one down, tell them where you want to go and if they are heading in that general direction, they will tell you to hop on. This is not a good option if you are in a rush as they may pick up and drop off all sorts of people on the way. Expect to pay about 30 baht for the ride. The one caveat though is that they only operate in the city centre. The price also goes up if it is night time.
- Occasionally the driver will pass your destination. If this happens, simply push the red button on the roof. This will tell the driver to pull over.
- Pay after arriving at your destination, not beforehand.
The yellow taxis take people from Chiang Mai to other towns outside of the city. Unlike the red taxis, they don’t just drive around the central part of the city. Yellow taxis sit at the bus terminal, where they can be boarded to go to other locations. There are numerous towns that these taxis travel to, which include Chom Thong, Wiang Kalong, Wiang Pa Pao, Mae Rim, Doi Saket, Mae Wang and San Pa Tong. The taxis traveling to Chom Thong, Wiang Kalong, Wiang Pa Pao and Mae Rim all depart from the Chang Phueak Bus Terminal. The taxis traveling to Doi Saket depart from Warorot Market. The taxis that go to Mae Wang and San Pa Tong depart from opposite of the Chiang Mai Gate Market. Expect to consistently pay around 20-30 baht for each ride.
The orange taxis travels to the Fang District. The magnificent Doi Ang Khang National Park is located in this district. The orange taxis leave from the Chang Phueak Bus Terminal. Expect to pay slightly more for this taxi ride, which is around 40-80 baht.
The blue taxi travels to the Lamphun Province. These taxis leave from Warorot Market in Chiang Mai. Expect to pay 15 baht for this ride.
White taxis travel to the Mae Taeng district. They also go to Doi Saket and San Kamphaeng. White taxis going to Mae Tang depart from the Chang Phueak Bus Terminal, and cost 25 baht. Taxis traveling to Doi Saket and San Kam Phaeng leave from Warorot Market, and cost 15 baht.
The green taxis go to the Mae Jo district, and make stops along the way. These taxis leave from Warorot Market, and cost 15-25 baht.
Tuk tuks are very common in Chiang Mai. Just like red taxis, they can be found throughout the city. Getting a tuk tuk ride is quite simple. The cost often varies though, depending on the driver and the destination and because it is a preferred mode of travel for tourists, it could cost quite a lot more than other modes of trasnport. Expect to pay around 60 baht for a short trip, and 100 to 150 baht for longer distances. Tuk tuks are quite a fun way to traverse the city.
- When riding a tuk tuk, keep your bag straps close. Make sure that they aren’t hanging off the seat. Motorcycle thieves have been known to steal bags, though you are more likely to drop it and lose it than have it snatched.
- Agree on the price before arriving at your destination, it you don’t want to get ripped off, then be sure to do this.
Grab taxi (ride-sharing app)
Grab Taxi is Southeast Asia’s version of Uber. Through the Grab Taxi app you can easily see the closest available rides. Just like Uber, you book the taxi on the app, and then pay online. Grab Taxi usually costs more than a red taxi though can be on a par or even cheaper than tuk tuks. The cost does vary though, depending on how far the ride is. If you’re looking to get around quickly and in air-conditioned splendour, Grab Taxi is the way to go.
- Never share a Grab Taxi with other people. Sometimes other individuals will be travelling to a similar destination.
- The driver may suggest that you ride with them. For the sake of safety, be sure not to do this.
Never share a Grab Taxi with other people. Sometimes other individuals will be travelling to a similar destination.
Buses are a great way to get around Chiang Mai. They take multiple routes all over the city, and are quite cheap. The buses cost 20 baht regardless of the distance. The public buses run from around 6 am to 6 pm Mondays through Fridays. On the weekends the times are slightly different. The blue buses travel all over Chiang Mai.
- You can check the arrival of a blue bus on the mobile app CM Transit by RTC.
- See the bus routes at Chiang Mai Bus Routes in English
Rent a Motorcycle
Easily the most dangerous option, motorcycles are all over Chiang Mai. They can be rented at shops throughout the city, and are considerably cheap. At some locations you can rent one for a mere 99 baht per day. If you go with this option, beware of the intense traffic, which can be quite chaotic.
- Driving a motorcycle in Chiang Mai can be very dangerous. Be extremely careful, and constantly watch your surroundings. At stoplights, double check to make sure no one is running the stoplight.
- Drive a similar speed as the vehicles in front of you. Many drivers may unexpectedly switch lanes.
- Avoid narrow side streets. If you meet an oncoming driver, you may not be able to move over in time.
- Don’t drive on the left side of tuk tuks or red taxis. They are very likely to switch lanes without a signal. They may also abruptly stop to pick up a customer.
Chiang Mai is very easy to get around by foot. Walking is the best way to avoid traffic jams, and quickly get around the city. By foot you can easily explore numerous sights all across Chiang Mai. Walk along the old city wall, or through the intricate winding markets. But beware of traffic, as the roads can be considerably more dangerous.
- Try to walk mainly on sidewalks, and avoid busy streets. The roads can be quite chaotic.
- If you’re walking down a narrow street, get completely out of the way for oncoming traffic. Cars don’t always slow down, even on the side roads.
- In crowded areas be sure to keep your phone and wallet in a backpack. This eliminates any chance of them getting stolen.
- Keep your backpack fully strapped on when walking next to busy roads. Motorcycle thieves have been known to grab people’s bags.
- Don’t walk around late at night.
Bikes can be rented at multiple shops and guesthouses throughout Chiang Mai. They are very accessible and quite cheap. At most places they can be rented for around 50 baht a day. Biking is a fun way to tour the city, and see varying sights. But just like riding a motorcycle, biking can be quite dangerous on busy streets.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. The traffic in Chiang Mai is often hectic and rather crazy.
Samlors, or three-wheeled bikes, are another great way to enjoy Thailand. In Chiang Mai they are a dying trade though, and aren’t as commonplace as they used to be. Be sure to hop on one when you’re in the city. Samlors are quite a fun way to get around and the men who ride them need the business, so it is great to support this classic form of transport.
- Pay for the ride beforehand, and negotiate a price, so you don’t get ripped off.
- They are found mainly at Warorot Market.
- Since many of these men are getting old, they won’t go any great distance, so keep your journey short.