getting around

Getting Around

There are many different kinds of convenient transportation in Thailand.

Tuk-Tuks

Within the city, you can take a tuk-tuk. These 3-wheeled, motorized cabs are perfect for travelling short distances. Tuk-tuks are great for getting around, but aren’t the best for taking in the sights of Chiang Mai – and after sitting in traffic for a while the smog might start to bother you. Tuk-tuks are usually a better deal than a cab because they cost less, and the drivers don’t think twice about weaving between cars. While tuk-tuks are officially a two person vehicle, you can usually squeeze in a third – maybe a fourth. We’ve even seen one adventurous driving hauling eight happy people in one tuk-tuk. Be warned, tuk-tuks are not metered like cabs are so you should talk to the driver in advance about your fare.

Red pick-up trucks  (Songthaew)

A songthaew is a pick-up truck that is used to take people around the city – drivers convert their trucks by adding two rows of seats and covering the back. These red songthaews don’t have a fixed route, you just tell the driver where you are headed and he’ll let you hop aboard if he is going that way. You can usually catch a ride for 20 baht. There are songthaews in other colors (blue, white, green etc) that have fixed routes throughout the city and also make trips outside of the city.

Metered Taxis

Like any big city, metered taxis are an easy way to get around the Chiang Mai. These taxis are also available for trips into the surrounding area. Taxis are often the most comfortable way of getting around because they have air conditioning which might make or break your experience when you are sitting in traffic during a hot day. Drivers are supposed to only charge what the meter says, according to the law. However, some drivers will try to turn off the meter, especially if they pick you up late at night. If this happens, you should insist that they turn it on or negotiate a fare before you leave the curb. If the driver refuses, get another taxi.

Motorbike taxis

Some regions like at the Train Station have motorbike taxis, where licensed cyclists are allowed to transport you around the area. When it comes to motorbike taxis, you need to negotiate your fare ahead of time, then hop onto the bike. Locals use the motorbike frame to hold on, but as a foreigner you can pretend you don’t know about that and wrap your arms around the driver for safety. 

Rental motorbike

You can rent a motorbike of your own all over the city relatively cheaply – you just need to leave a large deposit or your passport. You should probably know how to ride one before doing so. If you don’t know how to ride a motorcycle, you probably should avoid this potentially dangerous mode of transportation. The roads are pretty filled with obstacles (potholes, children, dogs, other drivers) and you have to remember to drive of the left – if you can master these, you can master the motorbike. Of course, you’ll need a helmet, and probably won’t have insurance. 

Rental bicycle

In some places, you’ll have the option of renting a bicycle, which is a really nice way to get around (not in Bangkok, but you can in Ayutthaya). If you find yourself in a bike friendly area, or you just see other farangs (the Thai word for foreigners) riding bikes, chances are a bike is the best mode of transportation. It can be hard to find a good bike, and unlike most of the other bargains in Thailand, a bike rental costs about the same in Thailand as it does at home. 

Samlor

Samlors are three-wheeled bike rickshaws similar to the tuk-tuk, and are good for traveling short distances. The driver pedals you around – it’s not the fastest mode of transportation, but they are pretty readily available in Chiang Mai. Negotiate your fare in advance with the driver before hopping in.

Rental car

Renting a car is a possibility, but you will need an international driving license. Traffic and driving conditions can be confusing in major cities, and it’s best to use another mode of transportation.

Airports

  • Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok (International and Domestic)
  • Don Muang Airport, Bangkok (Domestic only)
  • Chiang Mai International Airport, Chiang Mai (International and Domestic)

Bus Stations

  • Mo Chit bus station, Bangkok (also known as the Northern Bus Station)
  • Arcade bus station, Chiang Mai (the main bus station)
  • Chang Puak bus station, Chiang Mai (mainly used for local buses andsongthaews)