From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport

From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport

From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport

This year we spend our mini-break in Thailand. As we live and work in the Maldives, Thailand is the perfect location to go for our short holiday because it’s easy and cheap to get there. We booked a flight with Bangkok Airways that takes us directly from Male to Bangkok in four and a half ours only. To board the aircraft we leave the airport terminal building and walk on the airport ground to the aircraft. This may not be possible in the future because the construction of  a new passenger terminal with finger docks is in process.

Bangkok Airways at Male International Airport - Ready for boarding

Bangkok Airways at Male International Airport

On our journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport we use different means of transportation. We love to travel on wheels. Travelling through Thailand by local transportation, on two or four wheels, is by far our favorite way to tour through Southeast Asia. We either use public transportation or we rent a scooter. This time we have two weeks only. Not too much time but better than nothing. Enough time to travel slow from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport.

Transportation in Bangkok

We arrive in Bangkok in the evening. There are different options to get into the city. We could take the Airport Rail Link, a train service to Bangkok city, go by bus or we could choose a taxi. The last is exactly what we do. This time we prefer the easy way. On the taxi stand we book a metered taxi from the airport to our hotel. Of course taking a taxi is not  the cheapest way but compared to European standards it is not expensive either. If you arrive during rush hour, taking the Airport Rail Link is probably the better option. It’s definitely an easy, fast and inexpensive way to get into the city.

Taxis in Bangkok

Colourful taxis in Bangkok

The first two nights we stay at the Millennium Hilton hotel which is located on the Chao Phraya river. The Chao Phraya river is one of the most important routes of transport in Bangkok. From the Chao Phraya many channels (klongs) branch off and that creates a dense network. There are ferry boats with a fixed schedule and smaller vessels for individual passengers. Our hotel is located opposite the city center therefore the hotel offers a shuttle boat service to the other side of the river or the next BTS (Skytrain) station.

Shuttle boat Millennium Hilton

Passing the river by shuttle boat of the Millennium Hilton

Long-tail boats are very popular and mainly used for individual passenger transportation. The long-tail boats are powered by a car or truck engine. This engine is mounted on a long shaft which can rotate through 180 degrees, allowing steering by thrust vectoring. The boats are very fast but the engines are very loud and we can hear the long-tail boats from a long distance.

Long-tail boat in Bangkok

Long-tail boat on the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok

From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport

We start our journey by train and our next stop is Ayutthaya. At the main train station Hua Lamphong in Bangkok we buy two tickets to Ayutthaya. The cheapest option is a 3rd class ticket in an ordinary train. There is no air-condition but we can open the windows what is even better. It takes us 90 minutes by train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. Of course there are faster options but as we like to travel slow, we enjoy the stops and the action in and around the train.

Train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya

From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport

By bus we reach our next stop: New Sukhothai. The bus terminal in Sukhothai is outside the city center. At the station we take a tuk-tuk, a very popular way to travel short distances. A tuk-tuk is a tricycle that offers space for two to four people.

Tuk-tuk in Ayutthaya

Nicely decorated tuk-tuk in Ayutthaya

The bus network in Thailand is very well developed. Regular bus services connect the cities and remote places . The buses vary from modern, spacious and air-conditioned to old, dilapidated with little comfort. The bus we take from Ayutthaya to Sukhothai is very modern and air-conditioned. Just perfect for a five-hour bus ride.

Bus from Ayutthaya to Sukhothai

Travelling by bus from Ayutthaya to Sukhothai. On the way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport.

In New Sukhothai we stay in a family run guest house. Our plan is to explore the ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai,  which is located 12 kilometer outside the new city. There is a shuttle bus service between the new and the old city. The bus is operating every 20 minutes and it takes us 30 minutes to get to the ruins. The shuttle buses are very old and basic. We get a ticket and take a seat on the wooden benches in the back. The bus has no windows, so we enjoy the wind blowing in our faces during the ride.

Shuttle Bus in Sukhothai

Old bus with wooden benches in Sukhothai

The ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai are widespread and only the main temples are in walking distance. We decide to rent a bicycle and go for a tour. It’s a very convenient way to explore the ancient city and very cheap. A day rental is 30 Bath (USD 1) only.

Bicycle Old Sukhothai

Marcel on tour by bicycle in Old Sukhothai

In the Si Satchanalai district are more ruins to explore. The Si Satchanalai historical park is 56 kilometers north of Sukhothai. To visit these ruins we rent a scooter. The roads are in good condition and luckily there is not too much traffic. The only thing to remember: Keep left.

Scooter in Sukhothai

By scooter to the historical park in the Si Satchanalai district

From Lampang to Chiang Mai we choose to travel by bus. This time we take an ordinary local bus without air-conditioning. For a two hours bus ride we definitely do not need an air-conditioned bus.

Bus from Lampang to Chiang Mai

From Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport. Local bus from Lampang to Chiang Mai

Our guest house in Chiang Mai is very central. Within the old city everything is in walking distance. To visit more distant temples we either rent a scooter or go by Songthaews. A large part of passenger transportation is handled with Songthaews. Songthaews are converted pickups with a cabin and two benches. For locals and tourists Songthaews are a very popular way of travelling within the city and to the suburbs. They operate on fixed routes but it’s also possible to charter one for individual trips.

Songthaew in Chiang Mai

Songthaews are a very popular way of travelling within the city and to the suburbs.

Chiang Mai is the last station of our tour to the north of Thailand. We fly back to Bangkok, where we spend the last night of our Thailand trip. Our hotel is centrally located and there is a terminal of the Airport Rail Link nearby. The next morning we take the Airport Rail Link to Suvarnabhumi Airport. A very convenient way and extremely efficient. It takes 20 minutes only to get from the city to the airport.

Airport Rail Link in Bangkok

Airport Rail Link in Bangkok


Have you traveled from Bangkok to Chiang Mai by public transport? What was your experience? Let us know and write a comment.


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