CHIANG MAI travel GUIDE: Budget, Itinerary, things to Do

planning a trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand? Here’s our latest, many extensive CHIANG MAI travel guide blog with hotel recommendations, things to do, list of expenses, and sample Chiang Mai itinerary. feel totally free to read and share!

I will always remember Chiang Mai as the place where I felt like a backpacker for the first time.

I was backpacking around Southeast Asia when I first set foot in Chiang Mai. It wasn’t my first stop, but it was here when I found myself alone for the first time. In Singapore and across Malaysia, I was traveling with Vins. In Siem Reap and Bangkok, a Thailand-based friend joined me. It wasn’t until I was on the overnight train to Chiang Mai when solitude finally kicked in. I was traveling alone in a foreign country for the first time in my life. I was nervous, dreading the possibility of realizing that this whole travel thing wasn’t really for me.

But Chiang Mai [turned out to be] an ideal place to have one’s solo backpacking debut. because that trip, Chiang Mai has become my favorite destination in Thailand.


Chiang Mai: essential travel Information
Best Time to visit Chiang Mai
How to get to Chiang MaiBangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane
Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train or Bus
Chiang Mai airport to City Center
Chiang Mai Train station to Old City

Where to stay in Chiang MaiTop Chiang Mai Hostels
Top budget hotels in Chiang Mai
Search for much more Chiang Mai Hotels

Internet connection in Chiang Mai
How to get around Chiang Mai
Things to do in Chiang MaiChiang Mai temple Tour
Chiang Mai Food Trip
Thai cooking Class
Flight of the Gibbon Adventure
Chiang Rai and golden triangle Tour
Doi Inthanon national Park
Night Markets

Sample Chiang Mai Itinerary
Frequently Asked QuestionsIs Chiang Mai safe?
Are there scams in Chiang Mai that we need to worry about?
What is tipping policy in Chiang Mai?
Where can I see elephants in Chiang Mai?
Where to exchange money in Chiang Mai?
What is the power socket used in Chiang Mai?
Do I need a visa to visit Thailand?

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Chiang Mai: essential travel Information

Chiang Mai has all the best qualities of a backpacking hub in ideal balance. It has a tourist-friendly atmosphere, dynamic markets, irresistible cuisine, cost effective cost of living, and warm, helpful locals. It is the largest city in northern Thailand with lots of commercial establishments, but it retains a peaceful, conventional vibe. No wonder it has become one of the most popular bases for digital nomads in Asia.

Chiang Mai was the capital of Lan Na, a kingdom that occupied what is now northern Thailand from the 1292 to 1775. Chiang Mai literally implies “new city,” a reference to its new status after replacing Chiang Rai as capital. For centuries, it was a walled city surrounded by a defensive moat to keep away the invaders. Today, the walls remain standing, marking the boundaries of the city’s historic core called the “Old City.” (Yes, it’s the Old City of a city whose name literally implies new City. Teehee.) outside of the Old City walls, a much more modern commercial area sprawls. For travelers, Chiang Mai is best known for the numerous temples that fill its streets and crown its mountains, and its lantern festival that illuminates the night sky every November.

Here are much more facts about Chiang Mai.

Language: Thai. Their language can be quite daunting to non-native speakers, especially its lengthy words and tongue-twisting pronunciations, but as with every other language, it only intimidates in the beginning. English isn’t widely spoken, but what the locals lack in English fluency, they make up for with their friendly attitude toward tourists.

Currency: Thai Baht (THB, ฿). THB100 is roughly USD3, EUR 2.6, SGD 4.2, PHP 164 (as of August 2018).

Modes of payment: Cash. Although some restaurants and hotels accept credit report cards, smaller establishments only accept cash.

Electricity Info: 220V. many common sockets are sort of a combination of types A and C. They have two holes that can accept both flat and round pins. This type of socket can take plugs that are types A, C, and F.

Best Time to visit Chiang Mai

November to mid-February, because of the mild weather and festivities. However, this is also the top season, so prices are a bit higher, which isn’t much. even in high season, Chiang Mai remains a typically cost effective destination.

Graph courtesy of world Bank
Chiang Mai enjoys a tropical climate with three distinct seasons: dry, hot, and wet. but don’t take it by name.

Dry season (mid-October to mid-February). This season sees pleasant, comfortable weather, ideal for sightseeing. This is also the top season so expect to share the city with a big crowd, especially around Christmas and during the Yi Peng lantern Festival, which typically falls in mid-November. Although it is also called “Cool Season,” the cool part isoften visible at night. It can still get pretty hot during the day.

Hot season (mid-February to mid-June). avoid it if you can help it. It can get too hot for comfort, in some cases going over 40C in May. One thing you ought to also be aware of is the so-called Burning Season, which happens from late February to mid-April, when farmers in the region burn the waste from their harvests, filling the air with smoke. This slash-and-burn practice coupled with forest fires (both natural and intentional) creates a layer of haze that reaches the city. If you have asthma, this season is not for you.

Wet season (mid-June to mid-October). It’s the rainy season but it doesn’t imply it’s raining every day or all day. It rains often but they don’t typically last long. My first visit in Chiang Mai was in September and I barely discovered the showers. It’s always pretty cloudy but it remains humid. The rain and the clouds keep the temperatures from going to burning levels, which is nice.

How to get to Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai and the greater northern Thailand region are served by Chiang Mai international airport (CNX). It is the fourth busiest airport in Thailand, next only to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, and Phuket.

Over two dozen airports fly from and to Chiang Mai Airport. many of them connect the city to the rest of Thailand, Southeast Asia, and China.

Many travelers access the city by land from Bangkok as part of a much more fancy multi-city Thailand or ASEAN itinerary. For this, the most typically used gateway is Chiang Mai Train Station, about 3km east of the city center.

If you’re coming from Manila, there are no direct flights but you still have plenty of options. the most economical is to fly to Bangkok. AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, and Philippine Airlines all offer cost effective fares. From Bangkok, you can either take the train or another flight to Chiang Mai.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Plane

From Bangkok, you can fly to Chiang Mai with another inexpensive carrier. The most affordable flights are typically operated by Thai Lion Air, Thai AirAsia, Thai VietJet Air, and Nok Air. You can find fares for as low as ฿775 (USD24, PHP1270).

Here’s a quick flight scan on Traveloka.

It is essential to note that Bangkok is served by two airports: Suvarnabhumi airport (BKK) and Don Mueang international airport (DMK). If you’re connecting in Bangkok, make sure you’re flying to Bangkok and to Chiang Mai through the same airport so you don’t need to switch.

Bangkok to Chiang Mai by Train or Bus

If traveling by train, the first thing you ought to do is to get to Hua Lamphong station (aka Bangkok railway Station), where trains bound for Chiang Mai start their journey. If you’re coming from Suvarnabhumi airport or Don Mueang Airport, here’s how to get to Hua Lamphong: airport to Hua Lamphong.

At Hua Lamphong Station, you have a choice to ride a daytime train or an overnight sleeper train.

The journey to Chiang Mai takes 11 to 16 hours, depending on what train you’re taking. The daytime seat-only express Train #7 takes 11 hours, leaving Bangkok at 8:30am and arrives at 7:30pm. भाँडा ฿ 89 0 (USD27.32, PHP14600) हो।

Hence, I recommend the overnight sleeper train so you won’t waste a day and you actually save a hotel night.

All overnight sleeper trains have second class berths, but not all have first class. केही रेलहरू वातानुकूलित छन्; others use fan only. double check before booking.

दोस्रो-वर्ग भाडा: ฿ 8300 (केवल फ्यान मात्र) बाट ฿ 10000 (वातानुकूलित)

पहिलो श्रेणी भाडा: चारै तिर ฿ 17533 (USD54, PHP287575)

What I took was Train #13, which left Hua Lamphong at 7:35pm and arrived in Chiang Mai the next morning. Our train got delayed but it was a good experience overall. just bring snacks onboard in case you get hungry.

Daytime and overnight buses are also available, leaving Morchit station and reaching Chiang Mai Arcade. Fare is from ฿530 to ฿830.


Bus and Train Search

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