Chiang Mai, Thailand
The largest city in northern Thailand rests between river and mountains, is home to hundreds of incredibly intricate Buddhist temples and boasts a cool and funky Old Town that’s surrounded by 12th-century walls and moats. You can see live Muay Thai three times a week in Chiang Mai, and this is THE place to find craft Thai goods on the cheap. Our guide will help find things to do in Chiang Mai, as well as everything else, needed for a great trip!
Things To Do in Chiang Mai:
There’s really so much to do, this place could keep you busy for days. Here’s a list of our must-see’s when visiting Chiang Mai.
Oh, The Chiang Mai Temples!
With over 300 temples in and around Chiang Mai, there’s no shortage of beautiful temples to be seen. Just make sure to wear clothing that covers knees and shoulders, as well as slip-on shoes for easy removal before entering. Here are a few of our favorite Chiang Mai temples!
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep
Enter Wat Phrathat by climbing a dragon-lined, 300-step staircase to the top of Doi Suthep mountain! Once inside the beautiful Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views and some of the coolest breezes in Chiang Mai.
Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang is a large complex of Buddhist temples and shrines, located in the very center of Chiang Mai’s Old Town. The oldest and largest temples at Wat Chedi Luang date back to the 15th century.
Wat Phan On
Also within the Old City walls, Wat Phan On can be found just past the east gate. The temple is very pretty and the courtyard is a great place to find high quality, locally made goods.
And If You Love Shopping…
Of all our travels in Southeast Asia, Chiang Mai is one of our favorite places to shop for quality handmade goods at bargain prices. Bring your negotiating hat and be prepared, these sellers are pros!
Sunday Walking Market
It seems that all of Chiang Mai shows up for the Sunday Walking Market. Located just inside the east gate of Old Town (Tha Phae Gate) stalls stretch down the streets in every direction. With great shopping, entertainers performing, and lots of street food this is a great way to spend a Sunday night. Just be prepared, this place gets packed!
Kalare Night Bazaar
Operating every night of the week, the Kalare Night Bazaar is a sight to see. Here you’ll find some of Chiang Mai’s best seafood restaurants, a muy thai arena, and (of course) stand after stand of knick knacks and knock-off Nike’s.
How About A Night At The Fights?!
Muay Thai, or Thai kick-boxing, is Thailand’s national pastime and can be seen three nights a week at the Kalare Night Bazaar Boxing Stadium. Ringside tickets are only $10 each, and beers are only about $1.50. Muay Thai is easily one of our favorite things to do in Chiang Mai!
Bonus: A Free Virtual Guide!
We’ve teamed up with GPSmyCity and converted our Chiang Mai travel guide into a downloadable application that comes complete with a GPS map of our recommendations and operates offline without any need of data plan or Internet connection. You can check it out here.
Getting to Chiang Mai:
Our recommended option for getting to Chiang Mai. One hour flights leave hourly from Bangkok for as little as $18. While most flights into Chiang Mai include a layover in Bangkok, there are a few cities offering direct flights: Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Luang Prabang (Laos), Singapore, and Yangon (Myanmar).
Chiang Mai Flight Deals
Bus travel can be a more affordable way for getting to Chiang Mai, although increases travel time dramatically. The bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes about 10 or 11 hours, with daytime and overnight routes available, and run about $20.
Similar prices to flying, yet getting to Chiang Mai takes exponentially longer. Only recommended for train lovers. The train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai takes about 12 hours. Standard tickets start at $16, a 2nd class seat with a/c is about $18, while a 1st class lower berth sleeper with a/c runs about $41.
Airport to Chiang Mai City Center
You can fly into Chiang Mai International Airport, which is about 3 miles from the Chiang Mai city center(Old Town). How will you get there?
From Chiang Mai International Airport:
Look for the red Chiang Mai Airport Taxi sign with blue lettering just outside of the arrivals area. Expect to pay about $5 to most destinations in the city.
Make sure to check with your hotel, as some offer a free transfer. Just be aware that some also charge up to $10 or $20.
UberX is now operating in Chiang Mai, and a ride from the airport to Old Town should run about $4.
Getting around in Chiang Mai
You can grab a tuk-tuk at just about any corner in Chiang Mai that will zip you to your destination for about $3.
If going further, wave down one of the bright-red pickups called Songthaews. Just remember, prices are negotiable, so make sure to agree on an acceptable rate before hopping in.
Walkscore.com gives Chiang Mai a score of 93, calling it a “Walker’s Paradise.” We agree, if staying in the city center, Chiang Mai is very walkable. Otherwise, you’ll need the help of a Tuk Tuk to get around.
Where To Stay in Chiang Mai:
Where To Stay in Chiang Mai: HOTEL
There’s a nice selection of hotels in Chiang Mai, with four stars hotels starting as low as $40/night. When it comes to hotels, we recommend shopping Agoda.com, far and away the most competitive resource when searching for hotels in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Hotel Deals
Where To Stay in Chiang Mai: HOSTEL
There are many hostel options in Chiang Mai. A popular, affordable option, prices generally range from $3-$11 per night. Hostelworld is our recommended resource when searching for hostels in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Hostel Deals
Where To Stay in Chiang Mai: AIRBNB
We love Airbnb! From private rooms to entire homes, there are plenty of choices when visiting Chiang Mai. If you’re a first-timer with Airbnb, use this coupon and enjoy $35 off of your stay.
Where To Stay in Chiang Mai: NEIGHBORHOODS
Choosing a neighborhood is an important part of trip-planning that should not be overlooked! Here are some neighborhoods worth considering when deciding where to stay in Chiang Mai.
This area inside the walls and moat of Chiang Mai dates back to the 12th century and is where all the action is. In Old Town, you can expect restaurants, shopping, and temples galore.
Nimmanhaemin is the chic and trendy area of Chiang Mai. This neighborhood is also a bit more expensive and westernized than most of the city.
This busy neighborhood is located to the east of Chiang Mai’s Old Town. This is a touristy area with plenty of shopping, restaurants and Muay Thai!
This upscale neighborhood runs alongside the Ping River and is home to many of Chiang Mai’s five-star hotels and romantic restaurants.
Chiang Mai Travel Tips:
Chiang Mai Travel Tips: Money
Thailands’s national currency is the Baht, which is currently exchanging at just over 35baht to 1 USD. ATM machines are on every corner, which is good because everyone wants cash, although westernized establishments are more likely to accept a card.
Chiang Mai Travel Tips: Tipping
Tip tour guides $10-$20/day for say trips. $1 for taxis. Tuk tuk drivers and Housekeepers don’t expect tips. Tip restaurant servers $1 unless they’ve charged 10% to the bill.
Chiang Mai travel tips: Insurance
Traveling through Chiang Mai is exciting and safe, but you never know when some good travel insurance could come in handy. World Nomads offers the best coverage in the business, is affordable, and is quick to act should something go wrong. For more info, check out our recent World Nomads blog post.