I have been living in Chiang Mai for a while now, and have also been on holiday here before, so I am obviously aware of some of the transport options that are available in this city.
The first thing to say is that there is no public transport system as such. For example, there is no metro or bus service that everyone uses. Instead you will find a number of different transport options for you to choose from.
So here are some of the best ways to get around Chiang Mai:
One of the major benefits of living in and around the Old City is that you can walk pretty much anywhere on foot. The center of the city is surrounded by a square moat and it doesn’t take very long at all to walk from one side to the other.
Plus if you are near Thapae Gate, for example, which is where many tourists gather, you are just a short walk away from the Night Market and the trendy riverside area.
2. Motorbike / Car
If you are too lazy to walk, or if you are living outside of the Old City, then your best option is to use your own transport.
A car is always very useful, and obviously a lot safer than riding a motorbike, but the traffic can be horrendous at certain times, and it can be really difficult to find somewhere to park a car in some areas of the city.
So renting a motorbike is a really good option because you can zip around the roads a lot quicker, and you will find that it is a lot quicker to find somewhere to park.
A songthaew (pictured above) is essentially a converted pick-up truck that has two benches in the back to hold passengers. These are very common in Chiang Mai and are one of the cheapest ways to get around.
All you do is hail them over and tell them where you want to go. If it is a common route, then the price will be very cheap, but if he needs to take a detour or go somewhere a little further afield, then the price will obviously be more. It is also more expensive if it is just you or one other person, and there is no-one else in the back, but the price will still be pretty reasonable.
4. Tuk Tuk
Tuk-tuk drivers are notorious for ripping off tourists, but if you haggle with them and know the price you should be paying, it is still a quick and easy way to get around the city.
If you can speak Thai and act as if you live here, you should get a reasonable price, ie 100-120 baht for most journeys around Chiang Mai, although it can get more expensive at certain times of the day.
The final option is to get a taxi. I have to admit that I don’t use taxis very often, but they are useful if you want to get to the airport, for example, because they will have a lot more space for all your luggage and will offer a more comfortable ride than other modes of transport.
They can also be hired out for the day, which is useful if you are visiting Doi Suthep, for example, or are planning a day trip somewhere else because you will travel in comfort and won’t have to put up with traffic fumes, like you would if you were to hire a songthaew.
So these are some of the top ways to get around Chiang Mai if you are new to the city, or are just passing through.