Thailand is an incredible place to travel around whether on holiday or on a backpacking trip around the world you will find it one of the easiest countries in South East Asia to navigate! However, it is still a relatively large country with great distances to be covered from one region to another. Chiang Mai and Bangkok are two of the most incredible and must visit places in Thailand and two cities we very much fell in love with, Chiang Mai and the nearby town of Pai in particular! But this trip takes you from the central region of Thailand all the way up to the Northern stretches of the country and there are several ways to make the journey. From the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai to the Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus or even a short domestic flight. The times, comfort and price are all factors. Here we run through each option so you can decide the best way to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
Taking the Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus
Ahh, the night bus, the dreaded foe of the weary backpackers but a great friend to your long-term travel budget. These marathon journeys can seem never-ending, countless stops and of course a complete lack of sleep! But on the plus side they are very cost-effective, save a nights accommodation and are very easy to organise.
Having taken two long night buses in Thailand, one from Chiang Mai to Bangkok and the other from Phuket to Bangkok I have found those in Thailand to be much more comfortable, reliable and generally of a better standard than many across other countries in South East Asia and Eastern Europe. However you package it though, a 12 hour night bus is never enjoyable but having endured some packed out night buses with people sleeping in the aisles in Vietnam and many very old buses without AC in places like Moldova these are among the best we’ve experienced.
The night buses in Thailand offer large comfortable seating with a good amount of reclining, some of the newer buses even offer charging ports too and all have on board AC. Most offer out water too and many have on board toilets or make regular spots through the night for toilet and food breaks which is both good and bad depending on whether or not you’ve manage to fall asleep or not!
Booking your Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus:
Booking night buses in Thailand is easy and there are several ways to go about doing it.
At the station:
* One way is to make your way to the station, often Mo Chit in Bangkok, and to buy your tickets a few days before. Though this does mean making an unnecessary trip across the other side of the city and eats into your time.
With your accommodation:
* Another popular way to book tickets in through your hostel or hotel. They can usually go through all the options with you and often speak better English than those at station. They can also often arrange a pick up too direct from your door but you will usually pay slightly more for them to organise everything.
* The way we usually book tickets is online. This way we pay the going rate and can take our time to go over all the details, print off the tickets and make our own way to the station, deciding if we might want a tuk tuk nearer the time. We recommend 12GoAsia as a reliable and competitive site. You can print off your tickets once purchased.
Book your Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus here:
Price and time of the Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus
* Time: The Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus takes between 10-12 hours and usually leaves in the evening to arrive early in the morning though there is usually one every hour between 05:30 and 22:00.
* Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus prices range between 530 Baht (£12.90 / $16.60) to 850 Baht (£20.75 / $26.60) each depending on the company you choose. We paid around 650 Baht each.
* Buses leave Bangkok from Mo Chit station (Also know as Northern Bus Terminal or Chatuchak ) which is close by to the Mo Chit BTS station. However the walk is quite far in the heat, though we did do it! You can take the local buses 136, 145 or a tuk tuk but be ready to negotiate!
* Buses leave and arrive from the Arcade Bus station (Often called the “Bangkok Bus Station”) in Chiang Mai which is close to the train station and around 3km outside the city centre moat. Take a Songthaew or “red car” if you don’t want to walk. This should cost around 30-40 baht each but be prepared to negotiate!
Tips for taking the Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus
* Book your Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus few days in advance as this route is popular and sells out fast.
* Always bring your valuables on board with you and never leave them in your bag in the hold. Try to secure them to something for when you are sleeping. The night buses in Thailand are very safe but they do stop often with people getting on and off in the middle of the night. Pacsafe bags are ideal for this.
* Bring along a jacket or a blanket as it can get cold overnight on the Bangkok to Chiang Mai bus. In South East Asia they love to blast the AC so be prepared to be hot one minute and cold the next!
* Bring a travel pillow. Some routes do provide these but not always and it does make a huge difference. Likewise an eye mask is a good idea as many of the buses have intrusive lights or even just the street lights or people on their phone can keep you up!
* Bring a portable charger to keep your devices charged up as most won’t have charging facilities
* Bring some snacks and drinks as well as toilet roll! You will likely stop often at places serving food through the night but sometimes it can feel quite random. We’ve had 12hr buses only stop once for food or others that seemed to stop every few hours. Also the food at these stops can be quiet limited and very local so bringing some crisps/ cereal bars/ nuts/ fruit/ biscuits to tide you through just incase! Also many rest stops only have squat toilets without roll!
A guide to the overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai
We LOVE night trains and whenever they are available and reasonably priced then we always try to catch them, in fact, train travel is hands down our favourite way to travel as its comfortable and seems to capture the romance of travel! Though, we do love travelling on motorbikes too but that is a whole other challenge in itself, catching the train is much more relaxing!!
The distance between Bangkok and Chiang Mai is such that the night train is a great option. There are different classes of compartment but for the first class option you will have to book very early.
The sleeper trains in Thailand are really great and offer so much more than others we’ve used in places like China. The overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai is really a great option for this trip.
Each bed has fresh linen, a sheet, blanket, pillow and pillow case as well as a curtain which makes a huge difference to sleep quality. It’s really quite easy to get a good nights sleep on the overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
The beds are very comfortable to sleep on and during the day the bottom section can be turned into seats. There are also great amenities on board including toilets, wash basins and a food carriage offering a good selection of reasonably priced food including vegetarian options.
Price and time of the overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai
The travel time between Bangkok and Chiang Mai takes anything from 11 to 14hrs
Departure times Bangkok – Chiang Mai
* Departure: 6:10 PM – Arrival: 08:15 AM (New train)
* Departure: 7:35 PM – Arrival: 09:55 AM
* Departure: 10:00 PM – Arrival: 1:05 PM
Departure times Chiang Mai – Bangkok
* Departure: 3:30 PM – Arrival: 05:25 AM
* Departure: 5:00 PM – Arrival: 06:15 AM
* Departure: 6:00 PM – Arrival: 06:50 AM (New train)
First class offers a two bed room with a wash basin and a closing door.
Expect to pay around 1700 Baht (£41 /$53) to 2000 Baht (£49 / $63) depending on whether you choose the older or newer trains. These sell out WELL in advance, we’re talking months sometimes as they are often taken up by tourists on package trips.
Here you will get a bed in the aisle with curtains as described earlier on. Some compartments have AC, some have fans and prices do vary. Second class is what we recommend for this journey.
Expect to pay between 830 Baht (£20.25 / $26) and 1300 Baht (£31.70 / $40.70 ) depending on whether you get fan or AC or the newer or older trains. The average price being around 1100 Baht (£26.80 / $34.50)
In third class there are no beds, only seats. So it is a much more uncomfortable journey though it is dirt cheap and where you will find your everyday Thai people making this journey.
Booking your overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai:
There are several ways to book your overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
At the station:
You can make your way to Hua Lamphong station, queue up and buy tickets there. This can be a little stressful though as some attendants don’t speak great English and with a large and impatient queue behind you you can feel a little under pressure. However you can ask more questions in person if you dare!
You can buy tickets for other routes and destinations from the station too. However you will have to bring your passport along with you to buy them. Tickets go on sale 60 days before until the day of departure if any are left.
Buying online is a much more laid back approach as you can search different dates, classes and times quickly to see what is available. You can also book several months in advance through 12 Go Asia which is especially useful when travelling in the high season or if you want to book first class.
Book your overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai:
When buying online you will need to either collect your tickets or have them delivered. When collecting the tickets you need to have printed off the PDF confirmation and we would bring passports just incase.
You can pay 100 Baht to have Thailand Rail ticket delivered within Thailand or 1000 Baht for international delivery.
Pick up locations in Bangkok:
12 Go Asia office:
Opposite to Hua Lamphong Railway Station, on the first floor of the DOB Building. Collection is between 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM and is free of charge.
Don Muang airport train station:
Ticket window where trains bound North leave. Collection is between 09:00 AM – 8:30 PM and is free of charge.
Opposite to the train station at the Bossotel hotel reception. Collection is 24 hours a day and is free of charge.
Tips for taking the overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Getting to and from the stations:
* Trains leave and arrive at Hua Lamphong Railway Station which has an MTS station which connects with the other metro services of Bangkok.
* Trains leave and arrive from Chiang Mai train station which is close to the Arcade bus station for long haul buses. It is 3km outside of the city moat. Take a Songthaew or “red car” if you don’t want to walk. This should cost around 30-40 baht each but be prepared to negotiate!
Overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai: Tips for the journey:
* There is a food carriage but bring along snacks and drinks as it closes at 10pm. It does have vegetarian options but its best to bring something else just incase. You can also pre-order food to eat in your seat or buy a take away meal from the station before you set off too.
* Bring an eye mask, even with the curtain it can be a little bit light as the carriage lights stay on all night!
* Bring toilet roll with you incase it runs out! There are western and squat toilets on the overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
* Bring along a jacket and socks as it can get a bit chilly with the AC on all night.
* The lower bed is more comfortable and is less effected by the light at night. However the upper bed can feel more private. The lower bed can be a seat during the day and the attendant will come along and make it into a bed in the evening. The lower bed is slightly more expensive than the upper and it does have a window.
* The attendant will wake you an hour before your stop
* Pick a train that runs through the night and arrives early in the morning to make the most use of your time, save on accommodation and have more time to explore!
Or you could book some airline tickets from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Of course, you could always fly! It’s the fastest way and if you are pushed for time there is no competition as to which mode of transport take you from Chiang Mai to Bangkok the fastest! However it is also the most expensive and personally I hate flying so avoid it at all costs!
Information on air travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai:
* Flights take 1hr 15 minutes between Bangkok and Chiang Mai
* Flights from Bangkok leave from Don Muang Airport which is connected to the BTS via the airbus.
* Prices range from 2100 Baht (£51.30/ $65.80) to 5500 Baht (£134/ $172) each. Remember to factor in baggage too as most of these flights will be with budget airlines.
Book your air travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai here:
Our feelings: What is the best way to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai? The overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai!
A backpackers we are always looking for budget options so for us taking a flight isn’t an option as it just eats too much into our budget. Taking the bus or train overnight is not only cheaper but it also saves a nights accommodation too. For us though we would pay a touch more for the comfort of the train which means waking up after your journey much more refreshed as well as having the option to eat and go to the toilet whenever you want!
What do you think is the best way to travel from Bangkok to Chiang Mai? Is it our choice of the overnight train Bangkok to Chiang Mai?
Book a tour for Bangkok or Chiang Mai here:
Book your accommodation here
Hey, you’ve got your Travel Insurance sorted haven’t you?
Travelling and especially backpacking is a wild adventure, but make sure you are covered just incase something goes wrong, which if you’re living it up to the fullest it’s always a possibility!
Check travel insurance prices with World Nomads here!