The Best Ways To Get Around Chiang Mai
Once you arrive in Chiang Mai, you will almost immediately realize there is no shortage of options for getting around the city. You should also know by now that there are so many different types of transport and ways of charging/pricing them, that you can easily be confused and end up paying more than necessary.
Read the basic guide below to get around Chiang Mai easily and as cheaply as possible.
There are the traditional/Thai ways of getting around and then the new/imported newcomers making life much easier for foreigners and Thais alike.
The traditional/Thai options are pretty well known and some (Songthaews) have already been covered in previous posts. We’ll add the links so you can can read a bit more detail about how they work.
In a somewhat chronological order:
Saam Lor (3 Wheel)
This is oldest public transportation method still in semi-normal use in Chiang Mai. You don’t see them everywhere, but there are a still a few working in the Old City area. Good for short distance trips (like from the market back home) they are definitely not the transportation mode of choice when trying to get across town. There are no set fees so you will need to negotiate your price if you want a ride.
My recommendation: I can not confirm, but I would suggest not overloading the Saam Lor nor its driver. If you’re on the larger side, you may want to try a different mode of transport. The drivers legs and heart will thank you for it.
Everyone in Chiang Mai has smelled one of these before. There are the small, motorized three wheelers “tuk tuking” around the city. Yes, they got their names from the popping or “tuk, tuk, tuk” of the old style engines they used a while back. While they have successfully created louder, smoke belching engines, they continue to call them by the old name of Tuk-Tuk. There are no set prices or routes for Tuk-Tuks, and they will travel pretty much anywhere in and around the city you want. They have a reputation for greatly overcharging riders at every chance. Unfortunately, my few experiences with them only confirm the rumors.
My recommendation: Try it once. Look at it more as an amusement park ride. You’re overpaying for a bit of death defying, adrenaline pumping fun in a undersized contraption with low safety standards. Its a story to tell, but not one you’ll want to relive if at all possible.
The next on our list is the Songthaew. This is still the preferred method of local travel for most Thais. You can still get fairly good prices for going across the city. The current rate for a shared trip is 30thb. While that is not all-encompassing, most local trips will be in that price range. Longer trips will cost more.
My recommendation: Don’t ask for a specific address/place for drop off. Asking for a close cross street, intersection, temple or other landmark will get you the normal price. If they have to drive into a back neighborhood to drop you off, they will charge you more to make up for the lost opportunity to pick up other riders along the way. Click this link to read about them in more detail–> REDTRUCKS If you’re planning to go further out of the city and need to find a Songthaew with a specific router try clicking this link: When Red Trucks Aren’t Red
Taxis may not be seen as a “traditional/Thai” way of getting around, they are here and ever prevelant. HOWEVER, in and around Chiang Mai, taxis do not use their meters and NOBODY can make them. But “wait!” you say, “the Fromer’s says that I should make sure the taxi uses the meter or threaten to exit the taxi….” Yes, in other parts of Thailand this is actually watched and you can call the taxi company or police if necessary. In Chaing Mai, you pay the flat fee the driver says or get out. They do not use the meters and its a “known” thing.
My recommendation: Take a taxi from the airport to you hotel. Most places in the city area are a flat fee of 160thb from the airport. That is the last time to ever use a taxi in Chiang Mai.
Yes, its Thailand, but its also 2018. Uber and GRAB have come into Chiang Mai with and amazing rush. There were the usual objections from the older modes of transports, news of harassment from taxi, tuk-tuk, and redtruck drivers. However, that has quieted down over the last year and now Uber/GRAB are free to operate on a normal basis. Consider this: There are no translation issues when telling the driver where you go, its pinpointed on the map/GPS. There is no haggling over prices, its fair and derived from the distance traveled and time taken. There is no foreigner tax, everyone pays the price listed on the app. No exhaust fumes from tuk-tuks and redtrucks nor Thai heat, you are in an air-conditioned car that will take you point to point.
My recommendation: Download both apps before you come. Use one of these services for every ride, other than from the airport to your hotel. On a ride to ride basis, GRAB tends to be slightly cheaper. However, Uber counters this by sending discount codes a couple of times a month. If you have a discount code (Usually good for 10 rides) Uber is the clear winner.
Affiliate ALERT!!! – ehh, why not try!
Both Uber and Grab offer discounts for referrals. Use the GRAB link and Uber code to sign up for both services. Both you and I will get discounts on your next rides!