Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Get in Chiang Mai

By plane

Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) handles both domestic and regional international flights. The route from Bangkok is one of the busiest in the country (Thai Airways flies daily almost every hour, with additional flights in the peak tourist season). Other airlines operating direct services from/to Chiang Mai include:

International departure hall at Chiang Mai Airport
International departure hall at Chiang Mai Airport

The airport is some 3km south-west of the city centre, only 10-15 minutes away by car. Legal airport taxis charge a flat 140 baht for up to 5 passengers anywhere in the city; if you take a metered taxi, the fee will start from 40 baht + a 50 baht service fee from the Meter Taxi counter. The taxis operate from the exit at the north end of the terminal - after baggage claim and/or customs, walk into the reception hall and turn left. Alternatively, take bus #4 to the city center for 15 baht, or charter a tuk-tuk or songthaew for 50-60 baht. Most hotels and guesthouses offer cheap or free pick-up/drop-off services.

By bus

Buses to Chiang Mai leave from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit). The cheapest, non-aircon, stop-everywhere government buses take around 12 hours; non-stop VIP 24-seaters manage the trip in 9 hours on a good day. Chiang Mai also has good bus connections to practically everywhere in the North, and major destinations/hubs in the North-East (Isaan); there's even a direct service to Pattaya and Rayong in the East.

By train

Various rapid, express and sleeper services leave from Bangkok's Hualamphong Train Station, taking 12-15 hours depending on the service selected. Sprinter trains are entirely second class air-con, have no sleeper berths, and are the only ones which cannot transport bicycles. Daytime trains are entirely second and third class, with no sleeper berths; the first "overnight" train of the day departs Chiang Mai at 14:50 and arrives in Bangkok at 05:30.

The overnight trains - especially second class sleeper berths - are very popular, safe, comfortable and fun, and good value too - sleeper fares start at 531 baht for an upper berth in a 2nd class fan carriage. 2nd class lower berths are slightly more expensive than, but also slightly wider than, upper berths; air-con is of course a little more expensive than non-aircon. Those who wish to avoid sharing the relatively basic second class "bathroom" facilities can book a private first class two-berth cabin (the attendant cleans the first class bathrooms frequently).

Tickets can be purchased up to 60 days in advance; advance booking is advisable year-round, but especially between November and March - see SRT timetables and prices.

SRT charges 90 baht to transport a bicycle between Bangkok and Chiang Mai.

No comments: