We love Chiang Mai because it’s an extremely small city and it’s very easy to navigate. Below you will find an overview of all transportation options in Chiang Mai.
Walking is a great way to explore a new destination. Chiang Mai’s Old City is particularly walkable and there are clearly marked, English signs pointing you towards main attractions. That being said, city sidewalks are pretty much nonexistent so pay attention to the traffic around you. Additionally, Chiang Mai is very busy and it can be difficult to cross the street. Sometimes you will see a crosswalk with a traffic light you can press to help stop traffic. Be aware that some drivers won’t stop even if they have a red light.
In Chiang Mai, songthaews (the red trucks) are rarely far from sight and you can flag one down pretty easily. Unlike buses, songthaews do not have set routes. The driver will decide the route based on where passengers want to go. When you hail a songthaew, tell the driver your desired destination and if it is on (or near) their current route, they will give you a flat rate. Prices typically range from 20 THB- 60 THB (US$0.60 to US$1.85), depending on how far you’re going. Much like UberPool, your songthaew may not take the most direct route to your destination since there are multiple people to drop off. For this reason, if you are in a rush, a songthaew is not your best option.
Additionally, you can hire a songthaew for a private ride, which can be economical for big groups, especially if you are looking to venture outside the city center.
Tuk-tuks are buzzing all around Chiang Mai so you will have no problem flagging one down. They are more expensive than songthaews but, unlike tuk-tuks in some other cities, Chiang Mai tuk-tuks are private, so you won’t be sharing your vehicle with anyone else. You should agree on a price with your driver before you get into the tuk-tuk. Be warned that many drivers will try to overcharge you so make sure you are familiar with the going rate. A 10-minute trip should cost you around 60 THB-100 THB (US$1.70-US$2.80) but it all depends on how good you are at bargaining.
Good news! As of November 2016, Uber works in Chiang Mai. Since the service is still new, there aren’t as many drivers available as there are in metropolitan areas in the States. Depending on the time of day, you may have to wait 5-15 minutes for your ride, so plan accordingly. We frequently used Uber in Chiang Mai because it was cheaper than riding a tuk-tuk and more efficient than hopping a shared songthaew. If you do not have an Uber account, click here, to get your first ride free (up to US$20).
In Chiang Mai, you can rent a scooter for about 150 THB-300 THB (US$4.60 to US$9.20) for 24 hours. Most rental shops will ask you to leave your passport as a security deposit. If you would rather not part with your precious passport, many establishments will let you leave a 3,000 THB deposit instead. Please note that Chiang Mai is not the place to learn to ride a scooter. There’s lots of traffic and if you are not used to riding a scooter it is very dangerous for you to be on the road.
The Chiang Mai airport is close to town and easily accessible by songthaew or tuk-tuk. However, upon arrival, we recommend that you use the airport’s taxi service. The taxi will bring you to your hotel for a fixed rate. From the airport to any accommodation in the Old City, it will cost you 150 THB (4.28 USD). When you are at the airport, exit baggage claim, then turn left and look for the signs pointing to the taxi counter. There will be an agent sitting at the taxi desk and a whole lot of drivers lined up waiting to whisk you away to your new Chiang Mai digs. Your hotel will most likely be able to book you a taxi for your return trip to the airport but maybe, by the end of your stay, (and with a little help from this blog post) you will feel confident enough to return to the airport by songthaew or tuk-tuk.
*You will have no problem finding taxis at the airport but if you prefer to book a car ahead of time, there are a number of different companies that offer online booking.
We hope you have a wonderful stay in Chiang Mai and this guide helps you navigate the streets of the city!