Chiang Mai - how to get there, where to stay, what to see

This article has been translated from Russian language using an artificial intelligence-based translation algorithm. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the quality of the translation. You can read the original of this article in Russian here, and ask questions on the topic of our travel forum in English here.

General information about Chiang Mai

Temple of the Golden Chedi Wat Phan On

Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai, also spelled Chiang Mai, Cheng-Mai, Chang-Mai) is the largest city in northern Thailand, the capital of the province of the same name. The population of the city is small (170,000 people), but it is the fifth most populous city in Thailand and the second most important after Bangkok. At the same time, Chiang Mai is almost three times older than Bangkok. It is also the second and cultural capital of Thailand. Russian tourists often compare Chiang Mai with St. Petersburg.

Changmai is located 700 kilometers from Bangkok and 200 kilometers from the "Golden Triangle", in the north of the country, among the highest mountains of Thailand. 90 kilometers from the city is the highest mountain peak of Thailand - Doi Inthanon.

Chiang Mai has been the capital of the Lanna Kingdom since its foundation in 1296. In 1558, the kingdom was invaded by Burma and was a Burmese territory for more than 200 years. In 1774, as a result of the Siam-Burma War, the territory was transferred to the protectorate of Siam and subordinated to the King of Siam. It was not until 1939 that Chiang Mai and its territories officially became part of the Kingdom of Thailand.

In addition to the city in Chiang Mai province, there are several other resort places worth visiting:

  • The city of Chiang Dao is a quiet, peaceful town with hot springs, famous caves, Doi Luang Chiang Dao Mountain, elephant farm, unique temple of hell Wat Mae Ead, etc.
  • Thaton or Thaton (Tha Ton) - river cruises to Chiang Rai depart from here and there is a very interesting but little-known Wat Thaton temple complex.
  • Fang (Fang) - it is a small provincial town, interesting for several temples and a national park with a hot spring.

Chiang Mai is a very interesting tourist destination, but, unfortunately, Russian tourists very rarely visit here, preferring Thai beaches to sightseeing holidays. Well, there are no beaches here at all.

The city and province are considered the center of hiking in Thailand. It will be very interesting for those who are interested in the history, culture, and way of life of the local people. If you are ready to wander around the city and its surroundings for hours, looking at cultural and architectural monuments – this is the place for you. It is generally recognized that Chiang Mai is one of the most beautiful cities in the country, and experienced travelers say that only here, in the north, you will get to know the real Thailand.

Wax Monks in Pra Singh

Simultaneously with the preservation of traditions and cultures, Chiang Mai does not stand still and is developing. This is a modern city in which all the sights are carefully preserved. At the same time, there is a developed infrastructure that will make your trip comfortable and easy. The city is often used as a stopover on the way to "Golden Triangle", in Laos or Burma.

They also stop here to get acquainted with the northern territories of Thailand, because in addition to the city itself, the surroundings of the city and the Chiang Mai province as a whole are of great interest. The surrounding natural landscapes are very picturesque. A large number of excursions depart from the city to see the many temples, green rice terraces, rich orchards, Thai villages, tropical jungles and waterfalls, caves and mountains.

In the vicinity of Chiang Mai there are many original peoples who have preserved their traditions since ancient times. It is home to the world-famous Karen tribe, who honor women with long necks and large ears for the ideal of female beauty. Yes, yes, these are the ones who, with the help of rings, lengthen their necks to incredible sizes.

So, if you are an active traveler who wants something more interesting than just basking on the beach, then you will not be bored here, and there will be enough impressions from visiting northern Thailand for a lifetime.

Karen tribe

Infrastructure in Chiang Mai

The urban infrastructure in Chiang Mai is well developed, because it is one of the largest cities in Thailand, and it is not for nothing that it is called the northern capital. We have heard the erroneous opinion from travelers that Chiang Mai is almost a village and there is nothing there. But in fact, you need to understand that the city is not limited to the tourist area or the old town, where tourists and travelers spend most of their time together. It is much larger, and outside the old city in Chiang Mai there are high-rise buildings, modern roads with complex transport interchanges, modern shopping malls and hypermarkets.

As for the tourist infrastructure, it is mainly concentrated in the old town, and here, too, there is everything you need for recreation and travel: a lot of hotels, rental of transport, tourist transfers, travel agencies selling excursions, currency exchange, many cafes and restaurants. In general, whatever you need to travel around the city, province or even in the north of Thailand, you will find everything here.

On the street of Chiang Mai

Where to change money in Chiang Mai

In most shops and in many restaurants in Chiang Mai, you can pay with a bank card, but you can't do without cash. Cash will be needed at least when renting a motorcycle or bicycle, when checking into cheap hotels and guest houses, when buying at markets and eating at food courts and from stalls, paying for transport and entrance to attractions, for excursions and transfers.

To get cash, you can withdraw money from ATMs, there are a lot of them here. But for each withdrawal operation, an ATM commission of 220 baht and your bank's commission for withdrawing money abroad are withheld, plus there will be losses on commissions when converting between currencies. Therefore, according to our experience and calculations, it is a little more profitable to carry cash and change it to baht. You need to bring dollars or euros to Thailand, rubles are changed here at an extremely unfavorable rate. You can also exchange rubles in Chiang Mai, we have seen their exchange in several places on the main street Rachadamnoen Road, but the exchange rate there is simply extortionate, you can't call it anything else. For example, at the same time in Bangkok, the ruble exchange rate was 0.35 baht per ruble (which is also very unprofitable), and here it is generally 0.205 baht.

There are many exchange offices in Chiang Mai. You can find them while walking around the old town or you can find them in advance on the Google map by requesting Money Exchange. The exchange rate is quite different, in different exchange offices, within one day we made a difference of up to 5 percent between the exchangers on the main street, so it's better to compare the rates first, and not change in the first one. We can recommend the Super Rich Chiangmai exchanger, we changed there ourselves and the exchange rate was one of the best in the city. This exchange is located outside the old town at 34/4 Loi Kroh Rd, it is a 5-minute walk from the gate and Tha Phae Square.

There is an exchange at Chiang Mai Airport. In the terminal of arrivals of international and domestic flights there are exchange offices from banks, and the exchange rate in them also varies. And it is much lower than in the city, so change only the minimum amount there if necessary, for example by taxi.

If you are flying to Chiang Mai with a transfer at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport, we advise you to change the currency there. On the lower floor of the Suvarnabhumi terminal, next to the station of the airport metro, there are several exchangers with a very good exchange rate, which is higher than we managed to find in Chiang Mai itself. So you can safely exchange money there at least for the first time of your trip.

Everything you need to know about currency and money in Thailand you can read here...

Currency exchange in Chiang Mai

Where and what to eat in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is a tourist city, and accordingly, there will be no problems finding a place where you can have a tasty meal. There are many cafes and restaurants of Thai cuisine and any world cuisines, night markets with food courts, there are fast food restaurants Burgerking and McDonald's. According to our feelings, food prices here are lower than in central Thailand, and they are definitely and very noticeably lower than on the islands of the south, for example, Phuket, Koh Samui, Phangan, Phi Phi, etc.

Many hotels offer breakfasts included in the price or available for ordering additionally as an option costing from 100 baht per person (approximately 2.75 rubles). Breakfasts are usually simple in the form of scrambled eggs, toast, coffee and tea, a buffet is not common here.

If you are traveling on a budget, then instead of breakfast and lunch at the hotel, you can eat from street stalls or buy ready meals at 7-eleven, where they will warm them up for you and you can use them right there, for this there are equipped places with tables and chairs in supermarkets. It will cost you from 40 baht (approximately 1.1 rubles), however, to be honest, you can't call such a delicious breakfast.

But the real culinary delights of the north of Thailand will be fully revealed to you during dinner, because in the evening numerous tourist cafes and restaurants begin to work. Eating in an inexpensive cafe with a soft drink will cost from 200 baht per person (approximately 5.5 rubles), a bottle of beer will cost an additional 80-100 baht (from 2.2 rubles).

But if you want to try the real Thai cuisine of northern Thailand, we advise you not to limit yourself to visiting tourist places, but be sure to go to one of the evening markets. You can eat there at the food courts, but, in our opinion, today the food courts in Chiang Mai have become too tourist and expensive. But there are also very authentic places where food is cooked in front of your eyes and sold from stalls. You can use it right there at plastic tables or eat it on the go. Moreover, all this is very cheap by Thai standards. For example, a bag of rice costs 5 baht, a skewer on a bamboo skewer costs 10 baht, rice with chicken costs 50 baht. We ourselves love such street Thai food, and we packed 150 baht for dinner for two with drinks from the supermarket (approximately 4.13 rubles).

People's food court at one of Chiang Mai's night markets
Local "goodies" from the trays
Local "goodies" from the trays
Delicacy
This all cost us about 150 baht

Here are the night markets of Chiang Mai, where you can eat inexpensively:

  • Chiang Mai Night Market (Night Bazaar). This is Chiang Mai's most famous and largest night market, open daily. There are several food courts and a lot of cafes, but in our estimation everything is quite expensive here. Located near the river on the east side of the old town (night market on the map), learn more about it Here.
  • Sunday Market (Sunday Night Market). This market is open only on Sundays, food is sold from stalls and you can eat in temporary street food courts, but the prices are a little high. It will earn money right on the main street Ratchadamnoen Road (market on the map), we told you more about it Here.
  • Saturday Night Market. This market is open only on Saturdays and is not as well-known and popular as Sunday, but food prices are lower here, and everything is the same. located outside the fortress gate south of the center along the entire Wua Lai Street (market on the map), we told you more about it Here.
  • Evening market Somphet Market. A daily non-tourist market with food from stalls and very low prices from 40 baht per dish. Located inside the old town near the old Tah Pae gate (market on the map)
  • ChangPuak Market Evening Market. A daily non-tourist market with food from stalls and very low prices from 40 baht per dish. Located outside the fortress walls next to the northern gate of Chang Phuak (market on the map)
  • Chang Mai Gate Market Evening Market. A daily non-tourist market with food from stalls and very low prices from 40 baht per dish. Located near the south gate (market on the map)

Hotels in Chiang Mai and where to stay

Hotel in Chiang Mai for 500 baht

Accommodation in Chiang Mai is inexpensive by Thai standards, it is much cheaper than in the beach resorts of Thailand. For example, the cost of a double room with a fan starts from 300 baht for two (approximately 8.26 rubles, see the currency of Thailand, the exchange rate), and the room is a decent clean room with air conditioning and a private bathroom, such as in the photo above, costs a little more than 500 baht for two when booking in advance (approximately 13.76 rubles). Single accommodation in the Chang-mai hostel can generally be obtained for 100 baht (approximately 2.75 rubles). Moreover, the low price here does not mean the disgusting quality of the hotels themselves. For a small fee, you can rent a pretty good clean room here, although there will be no additional service and additional services, such as a swimming pool, restaurant, meals. The cheapest rooms are not equipped with air conditioning (it has been replaced by a fan), which is not such a big problem, since Chiang Mai, firstly, is located in the north of the country and, secondly, at an altitude of 316 meters above sea level. Evenings and nights here are not so hot, so if you really need it, you can safely refuse the air conditioner in favor of saving.

Most of the hotels in Chang Mai are densely concentrated within the city center, it is also the tourist district or the old town. But there are also a small number of hotels located on the outskirts of the city and beyond in the suburbs of Chiang Mai. If you are aiming to get to know the city and its sights better, then it is best to choose a hotel closer to the center, preferably within the old town. If you have other goals, for example, to relax in nature, then you can consider other areas for accommodation. In detail about the districts of Chiang Mai and where it is better to choose a hotel, we tell you here...

You can find and book accommodation in Chiang Mai on these reliable, trusted sites or through the search form. All sites have a Russian interface and Russian-language support for travelers, reviews of real guests.

Chiang Mai weather, tourist seasons

The city of Chiang Mai is located in the north of Thailand at an altitude of 316 meters above sea level. And if we talk about the whole province, then there are places much higher. For example, the Doi Suthep temple is located at an altitude of 1073 meters, and the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, has a height of 2559 meters. Therefore, the weather is considered cold by Thai standards here, and more pleasant and comfortable by Russian standards than in other parts of the country.

The tourist season here lasts all year round, and the best time to visit is the cold season from December to February, because at this time comfortable not hot weather is established, and there is almost no rain.

There are three seasons in Changmai during the year:

Cold season. From November to February. The temperature during the day is very comfortable, but at night it may be cool and you will need warm clothes. Almost no precipitation falls. This is the most recommended and ideal time to visit the city and province.

Hot season. From March to June. The hottest time of the year with daytime temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees. There is little precipitation, but the air humidity is very high. What's bad, during this period there are often forest fires in the jungle and, as a result, a lot of smoke, the inability to admire the scenery and hike in the jungle. This period is even called the "fire season" and is not recommended for visiting.

Rainy season. From July to October. The temperature is quite comfortable, but at this time there is a lot of precipitation. Fortunately, the rains, as a rule, are short-lived, though abundant. This is generally quite a good season to get acquainted with the sights in the city and the surrounding area, but not the best choice for trekking trips to the mountains and villages of exotic tribes.

Seasons in Chiang Mai by month, when is the best time to go

Jan Feb March Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
                       

* the best time to visit;
acceptable time to visit;
not recommended time to visit

Current Chiang Mai weather and forecast

Time in Chang Mai

The time difference between Chiang Mai and Moscow is +4 hours in winter and summer.

Current time in Chiang Mai*
Разница по времени с городами:
Москва: +4 Самара: +3
Казань: +4 Нижний Новгород: +4
Екатеринбург: +2 Новосибирск: 0
Иркутск: -1 Владивосток: -3
* - если время неверно, обновите страницу Ctrl+F5:

How and how to get to Chiang Mai

A plane over Chiang Mai Province

Chiang Mai is located 800 kilometers from Bangkok in the north of the country near the border with Myanmar (Chiang Mai on the map). There is an international airport in Chiang Mai, where many domestic flights are operated, as well as flights from neighboring Asian countries, but it is impossible to fly here directly from Russia, you will have to change in Bangkok or in other Asian countries. And if you are already in Thailand, then you can visit this province and the city by bus, train or buy ready-made multi-day tours at popular resorts and in large cities, for example in Pattaya, Hua Hin, Bangkok.

Here, for starters, are brief instructions on how to get to Chiang Mai:

  • From Bangkok – planes from Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports; buses from Mo Chit station every hour in the afternoon; five train flights per day from the new Krung Thep Aphiwat railway station.
  • From Pattaya – with a transfer by train or bus in Bangkok, or by a passing bus from Rayong (2 times a day).
  • From Phuket – there are direct flights and one bus flight (a day on the way), or with a transfer in Bangkok by train (from Surat Thani), bus, plane.
  • From Chiang Rai – direct buses run every hour during the day, 4-5 hours on the way, cost from 300 baht. You can also take a taxi, which will cost about 2000 baht.
  • From Kanchanaburi – there are direct buses 2-3 times a day.
  • From Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Phitsanulok – trains at least 5 times a day.
  • From Sukhothai there are direct buses several times a day, or take a bus to Phitsanulok and change trains there.
  • From Hua Hin, Surat Thani, from Koh Samui, Phangan Island, Tao Island – by plane, train (from Surat Thani or Chumphon), or bus with a transfer in Bangkok.

Detailed instructions about all the ways to get to Chiang Mai here...

Transport and what to use to get around

Public transport in Chiang Mai is poorly developed. There are no city buses here, although they have been tried to launch them at least twice already. Therefore, you will have to travel by songteo fixed-route taxis, by car taxi or tuk-tuks, or rent a transport.

The tourist center or old town, bounded by the old fortress walls, has a size of only one and a half by one and a half kilometers. And it is on this territory that most of the city's attractions, hotels, night markets and other tourist infrastructure are located. It's easy to move on foot here, it's not difficult to navigate either. In some places there are no sidewalks and you have to go out on the road, but the traffic in this part of the city is calm and not dense. So arm yourself with a map or download points from our map to the navigator on your smartphone, and you can go on a walking tour of the historical center of Chiang Mai.

Transportation in Chiang Mai

A myriad of Songthaew fixed-route taxis, sometimes called Red Bus here, constantly run around Chiang Mai, and this is the main form of public transport. The cost of a trip around the city is fixed and amounts to 30 baht. You can go out of town for 60 baht. But if you try to tell the driver a specific destination, such as a hotel or a shopping mall, for example, he will enthusiastically perceive it as that you are trying to hire him as a taxi and will gladly take you to the place at an inflated price.

Songteo minibus or red bass in Chiang Mai

To be honest, using minibuses as public transport is not very convenient, especially if you are in the city for a short time, as you will spend a lot of time mastering them. And therefore it is more convenient and easier to use taxis or tuk-tuks, especially since they cost a little more than minibuses.

Three-wheeled tuk-tuks like Bangkok ones travel around Chiang Mai. The cost of the trip must be agreed in advance and haggled. The minimum cost of a short trip around the city is from 50 baht (per trip, not per person). And sometimes tuk-tukers refuse to drive even a couple of meters for a cost below 50 baht. A trip out of town will cost up to 150 baht. A trip to the airport, bus or railway station should cost no more than 100 baht, but they usually ask for more, you need to bargain. Prices are twice as high at night.

Classic tuk-tuk in Chiang Mai

To travel by car or motorcycle taxi in Chiang Mai, it is more convenient and more profitable to use the order through the Grab, Bolt or taxi-Maxim applications, but Uber does not work here. A trip within the city limits will cost from 60 baht (approximately 1.65 rubles), you can get to the airport or to the railway station for 120-150 baht. There is also a motorcycle taxi, it is almost twice as cheap. Which is convenient, in the application you will see the price of the trip immediately before the final confirmation of the order. You can pay for a trip with a card linked in the app (Russian cards don't work) or in cash at the end of the trip. For a trip from the airport, you can use a taxi order at the counter in the flight terminal, the price there is fixed – 150 baht (approximately 4.13 rubles) to any hotel in the old town.

Taxi stand at Chiang Mai Bus Station

Traffic on the roads in Chiang Mai is calm, you can safely rent a car or motorbike. But if you decide to ride further from the city in the province of Chiang Mai and neighboring provinces, be prepared for difficult mountain roads with serpentines. Be especially careful when driving on two-wheeled vehicles. Believe me, there are a lot of tourists who took a little ride on a flat road in the city and felt like "schumachers", then they fall or even fly off the track on steep turns. So be very careful!

There are a lot of motorcycle rentals in Chiang Mai, at least several dozen. There are separate specialized rentals, as well as many hotels and guest houses rent two-wheeled vehicles. Most of the rentals are in the old town. The rental price between rentals in the old town and beyond is no different, we checked everything. However, between different rentals, the price even a dozen meters from each other may differ by 50-100 baht, you will have to walk, ask prices and negotiate, bargaining is possible.

Motorcycle rental in Chiang Mai

The real rental price as of 2024: from 250 baht per day a simple old Honda Click 125 automatic machine (approximately 6.88 rubles); for motorbikes in a new condition and with a volume of 150 cubes, they ask for 300 baht (approximately 8.26 rubles). As a deposit, they are asked to leave money 2000-3000 baht, sometimes a passport. But it depends on the specific distributor and how you agree with him, there are no uniform rules on this. It is dangerous to leave a passport, but alternatively you can give an internal passport, we did so and the distributor accepted it without any problems.

Now you can book a motorcycle and get it on arrival without difficult searches on the spot through the service 🏍 BikesBooking.com:

The cost of renting a car in Thailand starts from 1000 baht when booking for a short time, and reaches 500 baht when booking for a long time. There are rentals at the airport and in the old town. It is most convenient to search and book a car for rent via the Internet using the search form and price comparison from different rental companies:

A bicycle can also be an excellent option for exploring not only the city, but also its surrounding neighborhoods. You can rent them everywhere in Chiang Mai, usually they are available at the hotel and in motorcycle rentals. For a simple single-speed bike, you need to pay from 50 baht per day (approximately 1.38 rubles), for a mountain bike with a gearshift, which is perfect for trips around the neighborhood, you will have to pay already from 250 baht (approximately 6.88 rubles).

Bicycles for rent in Chiang Mai

Learn more all about transportation in Chiang Mai and how to get around the city and province told here...

Chiang Mai sights, what to see

Attractions are exactly what tourists and travelers go to Chiang Mai for. After all, there are no beaches here, and there is not so much riot of nightlife and entertainment, but there are plenty of interesting sights. The main ones among them, of course, are the temples, of which there are more than 300. There are also interesting museums, a zoo, an aquarium. And in the immediate vicinity of the city there are many man-made attractions, including parks, waterfalls, mountains.

Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai

There is not much entertainment in Chiang Mai, but be sure to visit one of the night markets where you can buy unique souvenirs and taste national cuisine. In addition, you can watch various entertainment performances here: traditional dances, boxing matches, transvestite shows. Cooking schools for tourists are also very popular in Chiang Mai, where they will teach you culinary art in the cuisine of Thailand. And it is worth saying - these courses are worthy of the highest praise. And, of course, Thai massage and spa treatments are offered.

In addition to the city attractions, interesting places in the province are of great interest. First of all, these are exotic tribes living on the slopes of the mountains and preserving their traditional way of life for many centuries. The most numerous of them are: Karen, Meo, Akhi, Lahu, Lava, Lisu and Yao. These peoples live in their villages quite closed, but they are always very hospitable and welcome guests.

The long-necked Karen Tribe

In addition to the tribes, outside the city, you can visit numerous waterfalls, caves, mountains, gorges and parks. From the city of Changmai, for this purpose, many options for excursions around the city and the lands of Chiang Mai province are organized. Among the options for such excursions you can choose rafting on local rivers, trekking trips, elephant rides and mixed excursions. One of the most interesting, but also difficult excursions is climbing the highest point of Thailand – the mountain Doi Inthanon (2565 m).

Of particular note are multi-day excursions to the Golden Triangle and the province Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son province and the ancient city of Sukhothai. All these places are also located in the north of Thailand, but in other provinces far enough from Chiang Mai and are usually visited as independent destinations for several days. But, if you do not have the time and opportunity to visit them yourself, excursions of various durations are organized from Chiang Mai, so you can get to know them saving time.

There are excursions from Chiang Mai to even more remote places. From here you can go to Myanmar (Burma), Laos or southern China.

Read our detailed guides:

You can download ⤓ points of interest, important transport points (bus stations, airports, etc.), districts and beaches from our map in KMZ/KML format. These files can be downloaded to the navigator or smartphone for use with offline or online Google Maps applications, Organic Maps and others that support this format, and use them to navigate and explore resorts.

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Useful information about Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai sausages

Clothes. Despite the fact that Chiang Mai has a tropical climate, it can be cool at night, especially during the winter months and especially in high mountainous areas. Therefore, when going here, take warm clothes, for example, a light jacket and a turtleneck or sweater.

The map. Free map of Chiang Mai you can find at the reception of most hotels and guest houses. All the most important sights of the city are marked on such maps.

Sightseeing. Sights within the old town can be viewed on foot, armed with a map. But stock up on time, because to at least briefly inspect only the most famous temples within the old town, it will take at least two days.

Food. Do not forget to try the signature dish of Chiang Mai - Chiang Mai sausages. They can be found in many places in the city from 40 baht per serving. One portion can be quite full.

Trekking in Chiang Mai. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Chiang Mai is trekking to the mountains and villages of exotic tribes. Read the practical information "trekking in the north of Thailand".

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