There are various travel options covering the route between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, You choice will be effected come down to budget and time constrains, but there are some nice ways to travel if you would like to see a bit more of what central Thailand has to offer
There are 5 airlines covering the route between Bangkok and Chiang Mai each with multiple daily departures. Outside the peak holiday periods prices are very reasonable especially if you book ahead and search out the cheap fares with the low cost carriers. Typically expect to pay between 1,500 and 2,500 baht depending on airline and time of year. All airlines have efficient online booking! Flying time is a little over an hour
Low Cost carriers
Full serviced Airlines
These buses are only licensed to carry foreign travellers and therefore are often referred to as tourist bus services. If you are booking your ticket at a travel agency in Bangkok then this is usually the type of bus you will be booked on. Most operators will class their service as “VIP” in reality the actual comfort level varies a lot and most services are not as comfortable as the “VIP” services operated by the government licensed companies. The services are always air-conditioned. Tourist buses usually do not depart from official bus stations but are allowed to depart from any location the operator feels appropriate. If you are booking a bus at an agent on Khao Sarn Rd then you will normally be booked on a tourist bus service. The ticket price will usually include a transport service to the point of departure if the point of departure is not within walking distance of your hotel. If you are booking your bus on Khao Sarn Rd then the buses park up nearby and a representative from the bus company will collect you from your hotel and walk you the short distance to the bus. Travel time is around 10-11 hours. prices vary between companies and the time of year but typically prices will between 350-500 baht
3. Government licensed Bus
For these buses you will usually need to go to the departing bus station to book your ticket, although some travel agencies may be able to make a booking for you. If booking at an agent a service fee will usually be added to the ticket cover price as the government licensed buses do not offer commission on their ticket sales. Most Government licensed buses depart the very large and busy Mochit Bus station in Bangkok’s northern suburb. Travel time is around 10-11 hours depending on the class of bus. You can turn up before travel to buy your ticket, however most buses do fill up and there are no guarantees there will be space on the next departing service, advance bookings can be made days or even weeks before departure but will usually require an advance trip to the departing bus station to make the ticket purchase. If you are taking a government licensed bus you will usually need to make your own arrangements to get to the departing bus station yourself and if comparing costs this will need to be factored in. Prices vary depending on class, for the air conditioned services expect to pay around 600-900 baht
Train is much slower than the bus. Travel time is usually around 13 hours as compared to the bus at around 10 hours. However train travel does have its advantages. Sleeper births are available on the night trains and provide a relatively comfortable bed for the night. Even on the night train you do get to enjoy some of the passing scenery either before night fall or early in the morning and you can stand up stretch your legs and take a walk down to the catering carriage for either an evening meal or breakfast (although if you prefer food can be delivered directly to your seat) There are three classes of sleeper birth second class fan, second class air and first class air conditioned cabin. Price depends on the class and wether you take a lower or upper birth but starts at around 500 baht for an upper birth in a fan cooled carriage to 1500 baht for a lower birth in a first class cabin
5. Take a Tour
There are companies who offer tours from Bangkok to Chiang Mai usually done over 2 or 3 days taking in some of the points of interest on the route. Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are both popular stops. Travel Hub offer a couple of Bangkok to Chiang Mai tours and more information can be found on the website.
6. Self Drive
There are lots of car hire companies in Thailand and all the big players have operations here including Budget, Hertz and Avis. Cars can be picked up at the airport or delivered to you hotel. Driving style here is a lot less orderly than in many countries and you may find yourself having to drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to, but if you feel confident enough to deal with this then driving is a great option which gives you plenty of flexibility and allows stops on the way and to explore some of the sites on the route from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are very popular stops!