Getting Around – Chiang Mai, Thailand

Getting Around – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is essentially a city within a city. The everyday hustle and bustle of urban life is kept at bay by a square moat enclosing the heart of Chiang Mai. Although the “old city” is equipped with every modern convenience, it maintains a subtle charm that makes it incredibly popular with tourists. Ratchadamnoen Road runs east-west through the middle of the old city; you’ll get to know it well for its wide selection of guesthouses and eateries. The most notable landmark outside the moat is the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar; this huge market runs north-south on Chang Klan Road near the Ping River.

Tuk-tuks and taxis: Taxi touts here are worse than in Bangkok, especially at the train station. Often people will come up and push guesthouse business cards into your hands and keep selling to you even as you try to leave. Some tuk-tuk drivers receive commissions from guesthouses, so be wary of anyone who insists on taking you somewhere other than your destination.

Motorbikes: Motorbikes are ubiquitous in Chiang Mai, so you’ll have no trouble fitting in with the horde of locals on two wheels. We rented a manual 100cc Honda Dream, an extremely popular model because of its good mileage and easy handling. Mr. Mechanic (4 Soi 5 Moon Muang Road) supplied the bike for 160 baht per day (helmets included). IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t forget the insurance! This may seem trivial, but the minimal cost (20-50 baht a day) is worth the tradeoff. We had a minor accident on our motorbike (a wheelie on a steep mountain grade at 2 km per hour!). Because we had insurance, we only had to pay the minimum for repairs and were soon on our way with a new rental.

Buses: There are two bus stations in Chiang Mai. The Chang Pheuak bus terminal (0-5321-1586) is for travel within the Chiang Mai province; the Chiang Mai Arcade bus terminal (0-5324-2664) is for travel outside the province.

Trains: The Chiang Mai Railway Station is just outside central Chiang Mai, along Charoen Muang Road. You can store bags there for 10 baht per bag per day for the first five days, then it goes up to 15 baht. Taxis and tuk-tuks will be fighting for your business the minute you get off a train, so be prepared to bargain.