Find a fun way for getting around Chiang Mai

Getting Around Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is not a very big city while many of the attractions is within pleasant walking distance of the main hotels. Getting around Chiang Mai on foot is really a fun way to appreciate the city’s unique charm. An afternoon strolling the winding alleyways of the old city is an amazing way to reward yourself a genuine Thai life.

If you don't want to go on foot, there are still plenty ways of getting around Chiang Mai. The song thaews, the commonly seen red open-air buses are a cheap and slow method for getting around Chiang Mai. These vehicles are constantly orbiting the moat. The tuk tuks are three wheeled, open-air taxis, which is much flashier and faster. They can be seen in ranks close to the major hotels and tourist regions. They are a lot quicker but a little more expensive way of getting around Chiang Mai, compared with the song thaews.

Car and motorbike hire are also available and getting around Chiang Mai on your own vehicle is a great way, which is useful in exploring some of the landmarks and attractions around Chiang Mai. Depending on your budget and the places you would like to go, this article provides the latest information and guides to get around Chiang Mai so that your visit to this beautiful city will be easy and without any trouble.


Walking around Chiang Mai


Car Hire

If you travel with families and want a more relaxing road trip, consider renting a car. Rate starts from 800 ~ 1,000 baht per day (24 hours) for the most common 5-seater sedan. Most cars don’t come with any GPS device. However, there should be no problem using the mobile app such as Google Map as your navigator because the 3G/4G coverage in Chiang Mai is very good even if you are planning a road trip to a mountain.

If you need a vehicle immediately upon arriving Chiang Mai International Airport, there are two companies operating at the airport -- National Car Rental and Avis Rent a Car. Please contact the company to reserve ahead, to make sure they have one available for you.

Note that Thai people drive on the left side of the road. A valid Thai or international driving license is required to be legally driving in Thailand. Some car rental company will insist that you should have a valid driving license, otherwise they won’t rent the vehicle to you.

All rental companies provide insurance with their vehicles and remember to check your rental agreement carefully. Do make sure that you keep a copy with you all the time.


Car hire in Chiang Mai


Song Thaew

Songthaew (aka Road-Daeng, Red Taxi or Red Truck) is the most common and preferred mode of getting around Chiang Mai. It’s a converted pickup truck named after its two rows of seats (in Thai language: song taew). Riding a songthaew is the perfect way to meet local Thais.

It is very easy to find songthaew in Chiang Mai either day or night all over the city. Simply wave one down the street (or find a waiting driver) and tell the driver where you want to go.  Ask the price and hop on. The fare is by person. For only 30 baht during day time (after dark you may need to negotiate a little) you can get a songthaew going to anywhere and everywhere in the city, so long as you don’t mind sharing your ride with the other passengers and pick up & drop off as they go.


Song Thaew in Chiang Mai


Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuks are usually a second choice for getting around Chiang Mai. Everyone knows about Thailand’s tuk-tuk – they are quick, noisy, they go everywhere, and depending on your bargaining skill, they are inexpensive. Tuk-tuk is, after songthaew, the second most common mode of transport in Chiang Mai. Compared with songthaew, tuk-tuk is more expensive. Rate starts at 60 baht for a short trip and 100 to 150 baht for a longer distance.

If you are going somewhere far and not in a hurry, it is better to take songthaew instead of a tuk-tuk, as tuk-tuk driver tends to charge more (and some drivers are likely to rip you off).


Tuk Tuk


Motorbike Hire - Bike Rentals

If you know how to ride a small and speedy motorbike (scooter), this could be the best (and cheap) way of getting around Chiang Mai and to the towns nearby. It’s a fun way to discover Chiang Mai and it also brings you closer to the community.

Renting a motorbike is very cheap in Chiang Mai. With 99 baht per day (24 hours), you can get a 100cc motorbike plus 2 helmets. A more common 110cc – 125cc motorbike costs around 150 to 200 baht per day.

Rental & charges are pretty standard at different shops, and they will keep your original passport as collateral. But if you feel uncomfortable leaving your passport there, you can pay a cash deposit, which is around 2000 baht to 3000 baht per bike. The motorbike shop normally won’t check (or won’t bother at all) whether you have a valid driving license. A valid Thai or international license is legally required when riding a motorbike in Chiang Mai. The policeman frequently fine drivers (200 baht) without a valid driving license or for not wearing a helmet. Normally there will be a small payment counter whenever a roadblock is conducted and a fine ticket will be given upon payment. Do remember to keep the ticket with you and show it in case you meet with another roadblock on the same day (you won’t be punished twice for the same offence).


Motorbike in Chiang Mai



You can rent a bicycle in Chiang Mai, normally for 50 baht a day (24 hours). It’s very easy to find a bicycle shop or a guesthouse which have bicycles for rent. Some hotels/guesthouses even offer free use of bicycles for their guest.

Riding a bicycle in Chiang Mai is a very good way to explore the ancient capital especially within the old city moat, where the historical attractions, temples, cafes, shops, restaurants etc, are located not far from each other. Riding a bicycle gives you the freedom to make a short stop for a sip of coffee, pause for a snapshot of a beautiful temple, make a u-turn anywhere you like etc.


Bicycle tour in Chiang Mai