Is it Hard to Get to Chiang Mai Old City From the Bus Terminal?

 

Getting from Bus Terminal 2/3 to Old City is simple and quick. It might seem baffling with the amount of information about to be provided, but it isn’t at all.

So you planned your trip to Chiang Mai by bus (possibly with the help of my ‘how to get to Chiang Mai’ guide, possibly with a lesser quality guide, it doesn’t matter).

Now you’re wondering how do I get to Chiang Mai Old City from the bus terminal?

That is the best place to stay after all, it is the most central and home to some of the best temples in Thailand.

Luckily there are about 7 different ways to complete the trip, but we’ll take walking off the table and talk about the 6 motorised options.

This will be quite a detailed guide on how to get to Chiang Mai Old City from the bus terminal, so use the table of contents above to skip the portion that doesn’t relate to you. Or keep reading for fun ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

 

Perhaps you are not arriving by bus? I have also written guides for those other two modes of transport that can bring you to Chiang Mai;

 

Is the Bus Terminal Far From Chiang Mai Old City?

 

Not at all, in fact it is quite close, but probably too far to walk for most people with all their bags and given the hot climate of Thailand.

 

As you can see the airport is an equal distance away from the Old City centre as the bus terminals are and pretty similar again to the train station. It is approximately 3.5 kilometres in a straight line.

The journey will only take between 10 and 15 minutes if you choose a direct mode of transport such as: taxi, tuk tuk or Grab.

The trip will take anywhere from 15-45 minutes for the indirect modes of transport: buses and songthaews.

*Disclaimer

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Is it weird that I am attracted to both of them?

(Shot on the Sony A7R III using the Sony 16-35mm f/4).

The Different Modes of Transport Available to You

 

Firstly, for those who are unsure, we will give a brief explanation of the different types of vehicles and modes of transport that will be available for you at the bus terminals.

These modes of transport will be common across all three of the arrival points into Chiang Mai, so these are also going to be found at the airport and the train station.

Step 1 in learning how to get to Chiang Mai Old City from the bus terminals is to know what you’re looking for in a mode of transport, so this should clear it up.

Songthaew

Toot-toot-chugga-chugga big red car, we’ll travel near and we’ll travel far!

 

The Songthaew is a very common sight in Thailand for those tourists who have at least one good eye. The name comes from the Thai words for “Two” (song) and “Bank/Row” (thaew), due to the 2 bench seats in the back.

A songthaew has two benches the length of the back section and can hold up to 8 people in the back, as well as some on the standing platform at the rear.

If you are already in Chiang Mai Old City then you can catch these anywhere within Old City for as little as ฿20-40. The base fare is ฿20 for short journeys, just jump in the back and pay as you get out.

Hail down songthaews on the side of the road that is travelling in the direction that you wish to go.

They will pick up people as they go, so don’t be alarmed if there are people in the back already. If you are wearing a cap, I suggest wearing it backwards so everybody in the songthaew thinks you’re cool. This will also allow more sunlight to get to your eyes = winning.

Because of the fact it is shared transport, it is dirt cheap. Unfortunately it also means it can be a lot slower, as it will be dropping off people who are going to different places.

 

SONGHTAEW PROS;

  • Cheapest option of all (excluding the municipality bus).
  • Direct drop off to your destination.
  • Abundant and easy to find.
  • From my personal experience they didn’t try rip me off, but be careful.
  • An experience you might want to try in Thailand.

SONGTHAEW CONS;

  • Drop-off can be slow if there are a lot of people in there.
  • If there aren’t many people and you are going a long way then it isn’t as cheap.
  • Open to the air, pollution and noise of the city.
  • Wooden bench seats aren’t as comfortable as a taxi.
  • If you’re carrying a lot of bags (like I do with my camera gear) it may be a tight squeeze with others carrying bags.

 

Tuk Tuk

The name so nice, you say it twice!

 

The Tuk Tuk is a powerful beast. Don’t get in one unless you’re willing to feel the wrath of the mighty 10 horsepower engine!

The name “Tuk Tuk” is an onomatopoeia. The name was derived from the sound the engine made in its earliest variants. The term actually started in Thailand but is now widespread.

To me they are still a novelty.

Tuk Tuks are direct modes of transport, they will take you where you need to go and allow you to remain connected to the street and the surroundings.

Prices vary, but it should be a bit cheaper than a taxi. Unlike the Songhtaew above, there is no set price for a tuk tuk, but you shouldn’t be paying any more than ฿30-50 for short journeys once you’re already in the city.

 

TUK TUK PROS;

  • Novelty factor.
  • Fits down small alleyways.
  • More direct than the songthaew, because you are the only passenger.
  • You could smoke, if that’s your style.
  • Cheaper than a taxi for the same trip.

TUK TUK CONS;

  • Open to the heat, pollution, rain, and noise of the city streets.
  • No faster than a taxi.
  • Can be more expensive than a songthaew.
  • Some of them have stupidly loud music playing. It is shit.
  • Can’t be shared between a larger group of friends.
  • Not much room for those with a lot of bags.
  • Usually have to barter the price, but some drivers are up front straight away if they know you’ve been in Thailand for a while.

 

Taxi / Grab

 

I have combined these into the same category because they are the same mode of transport, just a different way of paying for and organising the ride. Grab is cheaper than a taxi though.

Grab is the Southeast Asian ride-sharing app of choice, one of the essential apps for travellers to have. But don’t link your credit card to the app!

The beauty of Grab is that you can pay cash, so if a driver is running late, you cancel without being charged, and it is easier to split fares between friends.

Another benefit is that you can punch in your destination and be given the price up front, which you can then show to a taxi driver, so that you don’t get ripped off.

Taxis and Grabs will normally be a bit more expensive than the other options, but that doesn’t mean they are bad value for money.

 

TAXI / GRAB PROS;

TAXI / GRAB CONS;

  • More expensive.
  • May include a wait time for your ride to arrive.

 

Bus

RTC “Blue Bus”

Municipality Buses

Onto the most confusing of the options, as it is in many countries, the bus system. It is however also the cheapest option you will find, equal to that of a shared songthaew.

Firstly we’ll explain one important thing: There are 2 different types of buses that will be talked about in this post!

I have split them up, with example images above, in the hope that it will make it easier to follow along once we start discussing different routes.

 

RTC Blue Bus

This is the large, full sized bus that you see on the left. They are called blue buses, you guessed it, because of their colours. From here on out they will be called the “blue bus”, this is of no reference to the route of the bus, just its physical colour.

This bus costs ฿30 per ride, no matter the distance or route.

There are 5 different routes, only 2 of which are relevant in learning how to get to Chiang Mai Old City from the bus terminal. The routes and schedules will be shown in the detailed section below.

 

Municipality Bus

These are minibuses (and for one route also minivans). They are half sized, holding about 20 people, and are coloured white.*

*The exception to this being route #10 which has dedicated pink buses

These buses cost ฿15 for adults, for the entire length of the route.

There are 4 different routes, only 1 of which is relevant for this post, and it will be shown in its respective section below.

For a full map of the 4 different municipality buses then see the section below that details how to catch these buses.

 

BUS PROS;

  • Cheapest option available.
  • Environmentally friendlier option.
  • Air-conditioned and comfortable.

BUS CONS;

  • Indirect mode of transport.
  • Is not door to door, so you may have a walk to your hostel.
  • Slower than the other modes of transport.
  • You may have to wait 20-30 minutes if you have just missed the last bus before the next arrives.
  • Might not be as much room for large bags if the bus is filling up.
  • People will yell “BUS WANKERS!” at you. Which can damage self-esteem,

 

How to Get to Chiang Mai Old City From the Bus Terminal

 

Knowing how to get to Chiang Mai Old City from the bus terminal is important because this is a very common way that people arrive into Chiang Mai (click here to see how to get to Chiang Mai).

There are a lot of tourist attractions in the south of Thailand: beautiful national parks, amazing beaches and stunning islands to relax on. Then the density of tourist attraction peters out as you head north.

Although I recommend people apply for the extended 60 day visa before coming to Thailand, there are more people who just go with the 30 day visa on arrival that is offered by Thailand and are therefore stretched thin for time.

Because Chiang Mai is the gateway to the north of Thailand, it is often used as the point to which people visit nearby Chiang Rai and Pai, so you will be passing through the bus terminals a few times during your trip if you plan on visiting those places as well.

Chaing Mai Bus Terminal to Old City in a Taxi

 

As you exit the bus terminal 2 there will be taxi drivers parked up in the car park outside the southern exit that leads towards bus terminal 3.

If you get dropped off at bus terminal 3 then the opposite applies. The bus terminals are right next to each other, split only by the main road. This is where the taxis can be found.

As you would have seen in the map at the top of this post, the bus terminals are an equal distance away to the centre of Old City as the airport is.

This means that the prices are also the same, so it will be ฿150 for a taxi, which will take about 10-15 minutes to get to the centre of Old City.

 As you can see with bus terminal 3 on the left and bus terminal 2 on the right, there are always taxis around. There are far more taxis just off camera to the right as well.

 

What about Grab?

Grab is definitely an option, a lot of the Grab drivers will also be the taxi drivers but if you want to wait a little bit longer for a normal GrabCar, as opposed to GrabTaxi (see below) then that is always an option as well.

I personally have no experience with Grab from the bus terminal, so I can not comment on whether the prices below are truly accurate. That is what comes up on my phone though when searching the route.

 

Chiang Mai Bus Terminal to Old City in a Songthaew

 

This one is as easy as it gets.

Assuming your bags will fit, walk out the front of the bus terminal exit and look for the red car. Hopefully there are other people also going into Old City, which is quite common.

If the ride is shared, then it will only cost you ฿40/person.

If you are the only one going, then I suggest just taking a taxi, although you might still get a songthaew for less than ฿150, it won’t be by much less and the taxi is more comfortable.

These songthaews will be everywhere, you can’t miss them.

Chiang Mai Bus Terminal to Old City in a Tuk Tuk

 

The tuk tuk is probably a last resort, or the domain of those seeking novelty factor.

A tuk tuk can be found out the front, the drivers will be sure to get your attention. They will try to charge ฿150, but you can tell them that you would take a taxi for that price (which shouldn’t be a lie).

From there, try get a price you’re happy with, like ฿120 or thereabouts. I personally can’t stand Tuk Tuks, but you do you.

Chiang Mai Bus Terminal to Old City by Bus

 

Ok, for those who want to behave like a local and are in no rush to get anywhere, this is for you.

Remember that there are two separate bus systems in operation, so we will talk about them separately here, starting with the larger and easier to find of the two.

 

RTC “Blue Bus”

PRICE:
฿30

BUST STOP LOCATION:
Walk outside the bus terminals to the main road, on the side of the road that is bus terminal 2 is a bus stop, it is the bus stop for the municipality buses as well as the RTC Blue Bus.

The bus stop, sits between the two bus terminals on the main road.

So now you know where it is, all you need to do is go up there and get the right bus.

CATCHING THE RIGHT BUS:
The RTC bus has 5 different routes, two that sort of service the bus terminals. The routes are essentially 1 loop, but split up into;

  • R1 Purple – Heading west.
  • R1 Green – Heading east.

 

 

As you can see, the R1 Green route will go out to Central Festival and then change to the purple route as it comes back towards Old City.

The bus stop shown above that is inbetween bus terminals 2 and 3 is bus stop #110 on that route map.

If you want, you can walk out to bus stop #114 on the main road, it is a 280m walk from the exit of the bus terminals and it sits on the corner, shown below.

I can’t really imagine anyone wanting to walk out to this northern bus stop when they can just sit on the bus and wait for it to loop back on itself. But hey, at least you know where it is now.

Municipality Bus

 

Let me start off by saying, this is the least recommended method of all the methods. There is no room for large luggage and the scheduling is liable to change without notice.

PRICE:
฿15

 

BUS STOP LOCATION:
The bus stop has been shown twice already, both in the taxi section as well as the RTC Blue bus section. Those little buses that are visible in those picture are the municipality buses.

The bus stop is in between the two terminals, on the side of the road closest to bus terminal 2.

 

CATCHING THE RIGHT BUS:
To get into Chiang Mai Old City from the bus terminal with these minibuses you will have 2 different options, routes B1 and B2.

Both of these routes will go from the bus terminal and through the centre of Old City, with B1 also going to the railway station if that is of importance for you one day to catch a train.

Here are all 4 routes for those who are curious about where the buses go, with the bus stops in BOLD being either in Chiang Mai Old City, or being an important drop off point ie: airport, bus terminal and railway station.

B1
  1. Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (Arcade).
  2. Tung Hotel Road.
  3. Chiang Mai Railway Station.
  4. Charoen Mueang Road.
  5. Sanpakoi Market.
  6. Nawarat Bridge.
  7. Tha Phae Gate.
  8. Klang Vieng Junction.
  9. Chiang Mai Police Station.
  10. Phra Sing Temple.
  11. Wattanothaipayap School.
  12. Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital (Suan Dok Hospital).
  13. Chiangmai Neurological Hospital.
  14. Ton Payom Market.
  15. Chiang Mai University Side.
  16. Gate Intersection.
  17. Chiang Mai Phucome Hotel.
  18. Chiang Mai University’s front gate area.
  19. Rajamangala University of Technology Lanna.
  20. Chiang Mai Zoo.
B3
  1. Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (Arcade).
  2. Central Festival Chiang Mai.
  3. Thepanya Hospital.
  4. Tesco Lotus Khamtieng.
  5. Muang Chiang Mai Stadium.
  6. Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 1 (Chang Phuak Bus Terminal).
  7. Chiang Mai Rajabhat University.
  8. Khuang Singh Junction.
  9. Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Center.
  10. 700th Anniversary Stadium.
  11. Chiang Mai Government Center.
B2
  1. Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 2 (Arcade).
  2. Kaew Nawarat Road.
  3. Dara Witthayalai School.
  4. McCormick Hospital.
  5. The Prince Royal’s College.
  6. Nakorn Ping Bridge.
  7. Warorot market (Kad Luang).
  8. Chiang Mai Religion Practice Center Junction.
  9. Tha Phae Gate.
  10. Yupparaj Wittayalai school.
  11. Chiangmai Vocational College.
  12. Chiang Mai Technical College.
  13. Phra Singh temple.
  14. Northern School for The Blind.
  15. Fort of Ku-Hueang.
  16. Buak Haad Park.
  17. Chiang Mai Gate.
  18. Wua Lai Road.
  19. Airport Junction.
  20. CentralPlaza Chiang Mai Airport.
  21. Chiang Mai International Airport.
#10
  1. Baan Khwan Wiang.
  2. Central Plaza Chiang Mai.
  3. Chiang Mai airport.
  4. Suan Dok Gate.
  5. Manee Nopparat Road.
  6. Chang Puak Gate.
  7. Phra Pok Klow Road.
  8. Three Kings Monument.
  9. Ratvithi Road.
  10. Chiang Moi Road.
  11. Warorot Market.
  12. Upakut Temple.
  13. Chang Klan Road.
  14. Montfort College.
  15. Sacred Heart College.
  16. Regina Coeli College.
  17. Sridornchai Road.
  18. Chiang Mai Gate Market.
  19. Wualai Road.
  20. Central Plaza.
  21. Chiang Mai Airport.
  22. Chiang Mai-Hod Road.
  23. Baan Khwan Wiang.

As you can see will see with the map further down this page, the B1 route appears slightly more direct, but by so little it essentially makes no difference which one you catch.

I need to reiterate though, there is no room for luggage on these buses and the schedule listed below is not always reliable. I am only writing about it so that all options are covered and you can try make your own decision.

**Khwan Wiang Pink Buse service runs from 06:00 – 19:00 every 20 minutes**

A map of the 4 Municipality Bus Routes

 

See this map below for an idea of where the buses go. I made this myself, based on the bus stops, but the routes may not be entirely accurate, with the exception of route #10 which is based off an exact route map from their website.

The colours chosen for this map have no correlation with the buses themselves, except the pink buses for route #10. So don’t mistake these as official route colours.

This is at best only 90% accurate, with the bus stops being correct but the roads used possibly not representative of real life turns taken by the bus drivers.

You can toggle on and off the bus routes that you don’t want to see by clicking in the top right corner of the map and unchecking the boxes that you don’t need to see.

Conclusion

 

So now you know how to get to Chiang Mai Old City from the bus terminal, in every conceivable way. Share with friends, enemies, your goldfish and tell your mum I said hi.

At the end of the day, you will be inundated with options and none of them are incorrect. The buses are there and good to know about, but it is really unlikely that you’ll need them.

Recommended Mode of Transport

 

I personally would take a taxi, grab or songthaew.

The songthaew is the best of the cheap options, because although not always direct to your hostel, it will eventually get you right to the door for cheap.

If you have had a long day of transit, then you probably won’t want anything more than to just jump in a car and be on your way.

 

Why I Don’t Recommend the Other Modes of Transport

 

TUK TUK:
These things give me the shits, the drivers are annoying, they don’t give a fair price straight up, and they have no advantages over just getting a taxi.

I guess this might be different for those who are in Thailand for the first time, but for me the novelty is long gone, if it ever existed.

BLUE BUS:
I love the idea of the bus and by all means catch it if is there. I like to promote public transport, it is cheap. But I wouldn’t go wait outside for the bus, then sit on it as it stopped at every stop along the way.

On top of this you will have a walk to your hostel from the closest bus stop which could still be quite a distance. I think this bus is great after you have dumped your bags at the hostel.

MUNICIPALITY BUS:
Your bags won’t fit on this. Only people with 1 small backpack that will fit on your lap can take this, but there are more downsides.

These buses are inconsistent in their scheduling. The times change without notice, and there have been reports of people waiting a long time before one appeared. It is not worth it.

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