bridge featuring decorations for the Lantern Festival during a vibrant sunset in the evening in Chiang Mai, Thailand / Chiang Mai Airport to Old City

Chiang Mai Airport to Old City: 5 Best Ways

Are you trying to find out how to get from Chiang Mai Airport to Old City? This transportation guide covers the five best ways to do just that!

No matter your budget or travel style, I’ve included transportation options below to accommodate all travelers.

Transportation methods covered are Chiang Mai’s Airport Taxi, Grab, Private Airport Transfer, Bus, and Songthaew.

Before we get into things, let me just say Chiang Mai is one of my cities in the world. It’s both lively and slower-paced at the same time, making it quite a unique city. Also, it’s the best city in Thailand to experience Thai culture!

Chiang Mai’s airport isn’t big, so you don’t have to worry about it being too busy when you land. Also, walking towards the exit doesn’t take too long once you’ve deboarded your plane; it’s straightforward.

From Chiang Mai International Airport to the Old City, the average travel time is 10 minutes, with a distance of just 3 kilometers. Leaving the airport on foot isn’t possible despite the trip being short.

See which of these five transportation options is right for you and others you may be with!

TRANSPORTTIMECOST
Airport Taxi10 minutes$5 US
Grab10 minutes$5+ US
Private Airport Transfer10 minutes$15 US
Airport Bus13 minutes.60 Cents
Songthaew30 minutes$1.50 US
views of the Chiang Mai river, surrounded by trees and floral flowers

Airport Taxi

Taking the prepaid taxi is the easiest, quickest, and most convenient way to Old City from Chiang Mai Airport. Best of all, it’s a fixed price, so there’s no chance of getting ripped off.

As soon as you leave baggage claim at the airport and walk into the arrival hall, you’ll see an Airport Taxi desk with a woman yelling out numbers to visitors to go to their taxi.

To take one of the airport taxis into the city, simply approach the desk and ask for a taxi. The lady will ask you for your hotel/address and give you a paper with a number and a receipt.

Then you must wait in line for a few minutes, no longer than 5-10 minutes, for a taxi driver to come to call out your number. Once you hear your number, follow the taxi driver and be on your way!

The Airport Taxi costs 150 THB/$5 US, and you must pay in cash. If you need cash, there are ATMs at the airport. You will pay the driver once they’ve dropped you off at your hotel, not prior.

What you shouldn’t do is leave the airport and begin negotiating with random taxi drivers; that’s an easy way to overpay for your ride. The official airport taxi desk is the way to go.

the main river that goes around Old City Chiang Mai at sunset / scams in Chiang Mai

Grab

If you haven’t traveled around SouthEast Asia before, get familiar with Grab. It’s similar to UBER but a superior version, if anything. Grab offers a wide variety of services, including taxis, food delivery, grocery delivery, and much more.

To use Grab to leave Chiang Mai Airport and get into the Old City of Chiang Mai, do the following:

Download the ridesharing app, set up your profile, and order a Grab taxi to the airport; walk to the Grab pickup area in Chiang Mai Airport, find your driver, and be on your way!

Make sure to put in Chiang Mai International Airport; as your driver approaches, you can see how close your driver is on the app.

Once you’re in the city, using Grab Taxis is one of the best ways to get around Chiang Mai. Prices are always fair, and you don’t have to worry about any taxi scams in Chiang Mai using the app.

If you’re traveling around Thailand and curious if you can use Grab at all the airports. Well, you can, but some airports don’t have a designated Grab Airport pickup area; Chiang Mai opened its Grab pickup area not too long ago!

An example of this is at Phuket International Airport, where you can’t take a Grab directly from the airport, and you must walk to the main road to catch your Grab taxi.

So, depending on the airport, you may or may not be able to catch your Grab taxi directly from it in Thailand.

By the way, Grab operates in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. If you’re traveling around Southeast Asia, it’s a must-download app!

scooters and cars driving by near the ancient old City walls in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Private Airport Transfer

Another convenient way to leave Chiang Mai Airport and get to the Old City of Chiang Mai is by pre-booking a private airport transfer.

The biggest advantage of a private airport transfer is the various vehicle types offered to pick you up from the airport.

For those visiting Chiang Mai with family or who have plenty of luggage, a private airport transfer makes the most sense!

You’ll have a driver waiting at the airport holding a sign to pick you up. You can also request an English-speaking driver.

The price of a private airport transfer from the airport to the city depends on your vehicle of choice but should range from $15 to $20 US.

Flight details must be provided when pre-booking your airport transfer; no matter what time you land or if your plane is late, your driver will know and be waiting for your arrival.

Airport Bus

Taking the Airport Bus from Chiang Mai Airport to the city is by far the cheapest option to leave the airport.

Again, because the airport is small, you don’t need to walk far with your bags to get to the airport bus pickup area.

To get to these buses, as soon as you’re in the arrivals area and exit the airport, look for the white bus sign, and you may also spot a bus departing.

Both airport bus routes conveniently operate every 30 minutes from 6:30 AM to 11:30 PM. If you land in the middle of the night, you won’t be able to take the airport bus into the city.

The price to take the bus into the city is only 20 THB/.50 US

From Chiang Mai Airport, two different buses operate two routes into the city.

R3 Red Bus: This bus first goes to Nimman Road in the Nimman area and then goes to Tha Pae Gate, on the east end of the Old City.

R3 Yellow Bus: This bus first goes to Tha Pae Gate, the east end of the Old City, and then goes to Nimman Road.

When taking the bus, understand that there’s a luggage limit of one piece of luggage per passenger. If you’ve got more luggage, taking an airport or Grab taxi into the city would be best.

TIP: Use 12GO to book cheap bus, train, and minibus trips in Thailand. If you have time, make a trip out to Pai from Chiang Mai!

clear grounds at Chiang Mai airport with mountains in the distance in the morning

Songthaew

If you’ve traveled around Thailand before, you’re well aware of songthaew and have possibly used it before.

Songthaew is the main public transportation in Chiang Mai and is also the cheapest way to get around in Chiang Mai. You’ll spot these red pickup trucks constantly when walking around the city.

Once you’ve exited the arrival area, look for the many red pickup trucks at the airport. Songthaew pickup trucks can be found at the airport at all times of the day and night.

To take a songthaew into the city, you must tell the driver your destination, and if he’s headed in that direction, he’ll give you a price for your trip.

If he’s not headed in that direction, he’ll say no because he’s not headed that way. Do not worry; simply approach the next red truck and speak to the next driver.

bright red songthaew shared taxi driving around Chiang Mai on a sunny day

The standard cost to take a songthaew from the airport into the city is only 40 THB / $1.10 US. This standard price assumes the driver has enough passengers in the pick-up truck to charge this rate.

It’s common for the driver to ask you to pay more if the songthaew isn’t filling up with passengers. The extra cost shouldn’t be more than 100 to 150 THB/$2.80 to $4.21 US. By the way, you can always haggle with the driver if you’re proposed with an extra fee.

TIP: If the driver does propose an extra fee, honestly, at that point, it will make more sense just to use any of the other transportation methods on this list because, cost-wise, it’s the same.

Songthaew operates in the sense that it’s a shared taxi service for passengers going in the same direction but with different drop-offs. That’s exactly why rides are made more affordable than a traditional taxi.

clear road with a beautiful temple in the distance during the evening in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai

InterContential – 5 Star / A contemporary, luxurious modern hotel located in the Old City of Chiang Mai, with nearby shops, restaurants, and massage parlors

Shangri-La Chiang Mai – 5 Star / Swanky hotel with excellent amenities in a fantastic area; a few minutes walk away from many restaurants and the city’s vibrant night markets

Pingviman Hotel – 4 Star / Stunning relaxing boutique hotel near Nong Buak Park in the Old City; it’s also near the Old City River and many restaurants/shops

Phor Liang Meun – 4 Star / A well-decorated hotel with a modern and old-school look, located on the edge of the Old City in an excellent location

Hidden Garden Hostel Top-ranked hostel offering exceptional clean and beautiful decor, with a pool, working space and located right by a night market

Revolution Hostel  Known for its vibrant communal space, offering both private and dorm-style rooms. Located a minute’s walk from many night markets and Old City Chiang Mai

enterance gate into Old City Chiang Mai in the as the sun is shining onto the clouds / Is Chiang Mai Expensive

Things to Do in Chiang Mai

Explore the Old City: Located in the center of Chiang Mai is the Old City, a historic district home to famous ancient walls, well-preserved Buddhist temples, and many narrow streets full of restaurants, shops, and more!

Doi Suthep National Park: A stunning national park famous for being home to Wat Phra That Doi, a golden temple located at the top of a mountain, offering exceptional panoramic views of Chiang Mai. It is also known for being home to the highest land point in Thailand.

Visit an Elephant Sanctuary: Chiang Mai is the most famous place in Thailand for elephant sanctuaries because of its location and ideal climate for these large, gentle creatures.

Chiang Mai Sunday Market: On Phae Walking Street, the city’s largest night market is every Sunday. This walking street is taken over with countless street food and good vendors.

Take a Cooking Class: Chiang Mai is one of the best places in Thailand to experience a cooking class. The city is known for its Nothern cuisine. On this organic farm cooking tour, you’ll learn to cook several Thai classics.

Explore the many Buddhist Temples: As you go for a stroll around the Old City, you’ll continuously be met with remarkable temples to explore. Most are free to enter, but some charge a small fee to enter.

Visit Chiang Rai: One of the most popular day trips from Chiang Mai is visiting Chiang Rai, a popular destination known for its famous white temple, blue temple, and much more!

photo of the elaborate famous White Temple in Chiang Rai

Chiang Mai Airport to Old City — Final Thoughts

Those are all the best ways to get from Chiang Mai Airport to the city. Determine which of these transportation methods best works for you, and be on your way to Chiang Mai!

Refer to my other in-depth guides on Chiang Mai for everything you need to know when visiting!

Chiang Mai is a must-visit when in Thailand; the city is home to plenty of fun excursions to experience, it’s famous for Nothern Thai cuisine, and it’s also one of the cheapest places in Thailand to visit!

Money TIP for Chiang Mai: Many places in Thailand operate on cash, but this is especially true in Chiang Mai. When withdrawing Thai Baht currency out of the ATM, fees are high in Thailand at around 250-300 TB/$7 to $8.50 US.

So try to figure out how much money you need and withdraw accordingly; by the way, the limit is 20,000 TB/$561 US per ATM transaction

three monks standing outside a famous temple in the evening in Chiang Mai

How to get to Old City from Chiang Mai Airport?

You can either take an airport taxi at a fixed rate or use the Grab app, airport bus, or songthaew to get to the Old City from Chiang Mai Airport.

How much is a taxi from Chiang Mai Airport to Chiang Mai?

It costs 150 Thai Baht/$4.20 US for a taxi from Chiang Mai Airport into the city.

Can I get a Grab from Chiang Mai Airport?

Yes, you can; once you’ve requested a ride, make your way to the Chiang Mai Grab Pickup area and look for your driver.

What’s the easiest way to get around Chiang Mai?

The easiest way to get around Chiang Mai is by Grab, Tuk-Tuk, or Songthaew if you’re not in a rush.

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