Transportation around Chiang Mai is quite easy. However, there are no public buses or trains as we know them. The main transport options in Chiang Mai are:
In my opinion the best “public transport” in Chiang Mai is Songtheaw. It’s more or less comfortable and will get you anywhere within the city for only 20 baht. For trips outside of the city you have to negotiate a price.
Actually Songtheaws work like taxis. You wave your hand to catch it, ask for the destination you need, confirm the price (usually drivers will ask more than 20 baht within the city if you are a tourist, but tell them 20 🙂 ) and hop in at the back. Drivers usually remember where every person needs to go out, but you can ring a bell to stop. In the evening sometimes the price can go up, especially for some “difficult” destination even within Chiang Mai (30-40 baht per person).
Another very popular means of transporation in Chiang Mai is the Tuk-Tuk. We’ve tried it several times, but it’s not our favourite. The driver whizzes around at supersonic speeds, splitting lanes when possible. We’ve even witnessed a tuk-tuk impromptu drag race (while fully loaded with passengers). Tuk-tuks emit many fumes and it’s not that comfortable to sit inside, neither is it very safe. The Tuk-tuk is more expensive than a songtheaw. The price will be 50-80 baht for a trip within the city and it can fit around 3 people. Like everything in else in Thailand, the number of passengers is flexible, and we’ve seen tuk tuks carrying 4 people plus luggage on their way to the airport.
Motorcycles are the most effective and fastest means of transportation in Chiang Mai. You can rent a bike here for 150-300 baht per day.
The price depends on the age and model of the motorbike. Monthly rates vary widely as well. It’s possible to find a bike for 2,500 baht per month. If you want something newer be prepared to pay 3,500-5,000 baht per month. We rented our scooter, a Honda Scoopyi 110cc, for 4,500 baht per month. It’s new and comfortable. We are very happy with it. It’s incredibly fuel efficient. The price for petrol here is different depending on the gas station. In the Old city you might find 1 litre for 50 baht, while on the highway it can be sold for around 35 baht.
When renting a motorbike be sure to get good helmets. Not only is this basic safety, but it will also avoid you being stopped by police and paying the 200 baht fine. It’s better to have a driving license as well, but you can rent a bike even without it, and even if you don’t know how to drive (ask a shopkeeper and he will show you how!). You can also watch my video at the end of this post to learn how to ride a scooter.
During our first month in Chiang Mai we didn’t have a motorbike and we felt a bit limited. There are so many things to see and to do here, so having a bike makes a huge difference!
If you don’t want to rent a bike but still want to have your own vehicle you can easily rent a bicycle in Chiang Mai. The prices for bicycle rent start from 50 baht upwards. For 50 baht you will get some old fashioned city bicycle, which is comfortable and easy to ride (check the brakes before you rent it!). We enjoyed riding a bike around the city. It was fun, though a bit unsafe sometimes :). There are bicycle lanes almost everywhere, however here in Chiang Mai people sometimes ride them right in the middle of the road together with cars.
Cars, as everywhere in the world, are common here as well. To rent one in Chiang Mai won’t be a problem. The average price for 1 day of car rent is 1,000-1,200 baht. You might find a cheaper price, but it would be some special offer. If you want to rent some fancy new car the price can rise up to 3,000 baht per day.
Do you think I’m a good driving instructor? 😉
I hope this post was useful for you. If you have any questions about transport in Chiang Mai, please leave a comment below. Do you have some interesting transport related story? We will be happy if you share it!