Transportation is always one of the problems we have while traveling. First-time Chiang Mai visitors might get confused about what and how you should take to go to your destination, because the city has no subway or Skytrain like Bangkok. But don’t worry! For those who are planning to visit Chiang Mai, this is the ultimate Chiang Mai transportation guide that you can definitely rely on.
1. Rot Daeng (Song Taew)
When you are visiting Chiang Mai, you shouldn’t miss taking a Song Taew!
The local people usually call Song Taew a “Rot Daeng” which means Red Car. You can see Rot Daeng everywhere in the city because it is Chiang Mai’s signature transportation.
There are two types of Rot Daeng. You can take either the public version which they will follow their actual routes or the rent type, which you can rent for the car to take you to your specific destination.
There are 13 lines of Rot Daeng that drive along their routes similar to the bus.
Line 1: Chiang Mai University – Central Festival Chiang Mai
Line 2: Huay Kaew – Arcade Transport
Line 3: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Tha Phae – Chiang Mai International Airport
Line 4: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Nimman – Chiang Mai International Airport
Line 5: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Central Festival Chiang Mai
Line 6: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Warorot Market(Kad Luang) – Nong Khwai Sub District Administration Organization
Line 7: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Chiang Mai Provincial Government Center – Nakornping Hospital
Line 8: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Wat Nong Si Chaeng
Line 9: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Baan Buak Khrok
Line 10: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Yupparaj – Montfort High School
Line 11: Arcade Transport – Chiang Mai International Airport
Line 12: Chang Phueak Bus Terminal – Warorot Market(Kad Luang)
Line 13: Baan Khwan Wiang – Chiang Mai city
You can download CMTRANSIT free mobile applications to check more details such as stops and time schedule of each car. They provide in Thai, English, and Chinese version!
For the private services, Rot Daengs will cruise along the street to find the passengers. When you see Rot Daeng arriving, you can lift your thumb or wave your hand in order to hail the car. The driver will ask where you want to go and the simple tip in order to accurately communicate with the driver if you cannot speak Thai is preparing the destination name in Thai. You can easily find the name from Google Maps in advance. You can even show them the destination point on your phone. Most of them will understand rapidly and calculate the fare. The fare is pretty cheap compared to other transportation, and Rot Daeng doesn’t have a meter as the taxi service, so the fare is negotiable!
2. Uber and Grab
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The language barrier is not a problem anymore! Uber and Grab are the popular mobile ride-sharing applications that allow you to book the taxi service or personal driver at your fingertips.
Both of them are very similar but we highly recommend you to use Grab because it provides more car options than Uber. You can select a GrabCar Economy (mid-size sedan private car), GrabTaxi, Grab Rot Daeng or GrabCar+ Premium (luxury private car) depending on your mood and occasion.
After you download the applications from either App Store or Google Play Store, you can set the destination point, select the car’s option (different prices shown in advance), and book the trip.
Although using mobile ride-sharing apps would be the wise decision for the short distance, sometimes when your destination is further away, you might fail to get grab a car. It can be hard to get one especially if you want to go to some interesting attractions around Chiang Mai city such as Chiang Rai, Pai, and Mae Hong Son which take 3~6 hours from Chiang Mai city. In this case, we highly recommend you to book Chiang Mai ↔ Chiang Rai/Pai/Mae Hong Son/Sukhothai Transfer – Private Taxi via Trazy. You can choose either Sedan (2 passengers), SUV (4 passengers), or Minibus (9 passengers) depend on the number of your trip members.
One of the coolest transportation could be the Segway! Segway is a self-balancing personal transporter with two wheels, and it is popularly used by global travelers.
Chiang Mai is a nice place to explore by Segway. Not only can you discover the long history of the ancient city but also can feel the fresh air at the same time.
While cruising on a Segway in the city, make sure that you’re doing it safe.
During the 2-hour tour, you will visit Tha Phae (famous street market), Three King’s Monument, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh, Wat Pan Tao and Wat Chedi Luang the most popular Chiang Mai attractions.
See some of the segway options:
- Book Chiang Mai by Segway: Old City Tour
- Book Flight of the Gibbon – 1 Day Zipline Adventure from Chiang Mai (+Segway Tour/Elephant Sanctuary Visit)
- Book Flight of the Gibbon – 2D1N Zipline Adventure from Chiang Mai (+Segway Tour/Mountain Biking)
Another transportation for Chiang Mai local people is riding a bicycle. You can easily find the bicycle rental stores at every corner of the streets, or the bicycle hire stations (insert coin) around the city. You can rent a bicycle for a day with only 50 Thai Baht from the rental store.
If you stay at the guest house in the city, most of them will also include a bicycle rental service as well. Some guesthouses even offer their residents free bicycle using!
5. Motorcycle taxi
(This is a motorcycle station in Bangkok.)
If you see a group of motorcycle riders with a pink vest, you are in the right place! Motorcycle taxis are one of the popular forms of transportation in Thailand. Not only in Chiang Mai, but you will also find the motorcycle taxi services in every big city such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket, Hua Hin, and etc. The riders in different areas will wear the different colors of the vest. The vest of Chiang Mai riders is bright pink.
The motorcycle taxi is different from the normal taxi, Rot Daeng, or Tuk Tuk because the riders will not ride along the streets looking for a passenger. They instead gather in a group at the motorcycle taxi station. If you want to take a ride, you have to go to their stop, tell them the destination point, and negotiate for the price.
You can find the motorcycle station at the major spots of the city such as Arcade Transport, Chang Phueak Bus Terminal, and Vieng Pink.
Finally, Chiang Mai public bus has 8 lines in total.
Even though the buses operate only 8 routes in the specific area of the city, they include more than 100 stops with most of them being famous travel spots such as Nimman road, Tha Phae market, Three Kings Monument, Wualai market, Chiang Mai international airport, Old city and etc.
All of the buses can be divided into 2 major types: Chiang Mai Municipality Bus and Chiang Mai Smart Bus by RTC.
Click here to expand the picture
There are 4 lines operated by Chiang Mai Municipality. The following are the bus routes and their major stops:
B1: Arcade Transport – Train Station – Chiang Mai Zoo
B2: Arcade Transport – Tha Phae – Chiang Mai International Airport
B3: Arcade Transport – Chiang Mai Provincial Government Center
AC 10: Baan Khwan Wiang – Chiang Mai city
There are 4 lines operated by RTC Chiang Mai smart bus. These followings are the bus routes and their major stops:
R1 (Purple) and R1 (Green): Chiang Mai Zoo – Central Festival Chiang Mai
R3 (Red) and R3 (Yellow): Chiang Mai International airport – Nimman – Khu Mueang – Night Bazaar
R1 and R3 buses have been fully renovated with comfortable seats, bicycle zone, disabled passenger seats, tracking application, CCTV and free wifi router.
You can download CMTRANSIT and CM Transit by RTC free mobile applications to check more details such as stops and time schedule of each bus. They provide in Thai, English, and Chinese version!
7. Tuk Tuk
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When thinking about Thailand, Tuk Tuk is one of the signature forms of Thai transport that come up in a tourists’ mind!
Tuk Tuk is another popular transportation for both tourists and local people. It is similar to Rot Daeng and Taximeter because the Tuk Tuk drivers will ride along the streets looking for passengers. The fare is flexible, and it is usually higher than the one compared to Rot Daeng and motorcycle taxi for the same distance.
Even though the Tuk Tuk fare is a little bit higher, it is one of the highlights that travelers from over the world prefer to try!
Feeling inspired? Make sure you put these experiences and activities on your bucket list and cross them off one by one when you’re in Chiang Mai!